Thursday, 29 December 2011

Crowdfunding The Occupied Times

As the global Occupy movement continues to grow, encouraging debate, calling for change, as well as angering the establishment, keeping track of relevant news and opinions has daunting. The Occupied Times, a free newspaper that publishes news and information regarding the movement, has taken up the mantle for Occupy London, with the first six issues proving to very popular. The paper is now turning to UK crowdfunding platform 0sponsume, to fund further issues whilst finding a way to make the publication more sustainable.

The Occupied Times, whilst not the official voice of the movement, does provide a platform for those within the movement to relay news and information, as well as offering entertaining and insightful views. The paper's mission is principally to provide individuals involved in the movement and passing members of the public with the latest updates as well as provoke debate over the issues spurring the movement. It was originally funded from donations made to the sustain the Occupy movement, with the first issue costing £200 to produce and subsequent five issues at £350 each. 

In order to become sustainable, the publication needs more funding which is proving to be a drain on the movement's limited purse. The goal is to raise £2,000 to fund a further four issues of the Occupied Times, and work to increase its size and distribution to 16 pages twice monthly. Any remaining funds will be donated to the Occupy movement. In return for supporting the project, investors will receive an assortment of rewards including thank yous & acknowledgements, copies of the paper, and an original copy of the historic first edition (currently on  display at the Museum of London). 

To date the project has secured over 70% of the target, with just over a week remaining. Whilst the project will accept donations from all over the world, it will only be able to post rewards to UK investors. The Occupy movement continues to grow becoming a thorn in the side of both financial giants and political leaders alike. With your help, the Occupied Times could play an integral role of maintain the flow of news and insights on the issues of the movement. To find pledge your support, and generally learn more about the the Occupied Times (even download a copy) visit the project's sponsume funding page.

Image Credit; The Occupied Times

Monday, 19 December 2011

UK Steampunk Movie Looks For Crowdfunding Support

The genre of steampunk science fiction has enjoyed a little resurgence this year with the 3D reboot of Alexander Dumas' Three Musketeers, and Martin Scorsese's latest feature Hugo, based on the book by Brian Selznick. A new independent film, Nova Initia looks set to help with the steampunk revival set within a dystopia world, whilst challenging the current stable of big budget Hollywood remakes and sequels. The makers of the film are looking to raise part of the budget through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

Nova Initia is set in a desolate world of crumbled cities and split factions trying to make sense of their scorched earth. Amidst the desolation, a young woman is on the run but she does not know why or nor have any clue as to her identity, carrying a satchel that cannot be lost nor fall into the hands of her pursuers. Cardiff writer/director Dale Jordan Johnson, along with producers James Morgan and Daniel Lyddon of the Welsh film production company Seraphim Pictures, hope to present steampunk to mainstream audiences with original stories, fresh characters and whole new worlds to explore. To help bring the world of steampunk to life, the services of The Little Steampunk Shop will be employed, developing props for the film, which will also feature as rewards for donations.

The project needs $10,000 to help cover location costs, insurance premiums, set design & construction as well as wardrobe and catering. In exchange for a monetary pledge, donors can expect various rewards including, acknowledgements & credits, various official merchandise, set visits and premier invitations, as well as DVD and BLU-RAY copies of the film. To date the project has only raised $835 through 11 backers with less than three weeks till the deadline. So if you want to support this steampunk adventure then visit the project's Kickstarter page.

Image Credit Used with kind permission of Seraphim Pictures Copyright 2011 
- All Rights Reserved.  

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Supporting a Crowdfunding Campaign, The Perfect Christmas Present?

Note from the Editor

The Christmas season is almost upon us and you can guarantee that there will be lots of last minute panicking, uncertainty as to the perfect gift, as well as frantic mad dashing to the high street. Shopping online is risky due to the closely looming last day post, and there is no guarantee that the shops will still have that perfect gift in stock. So why not take the money intended for present shopping and pledge it instead towards a crowdfunding project? 

At the beginning of September I was contacted by Sidney Sherman, a Hollywood film producer who enthusiastically informed me about a film project that needed funding. I posted the article all about the film Reboot, and it has enjoyed much success, exceeding its funding target. As I was reading all about the project, my schoolboy enthusiasm spilt out vocally and my partner sitting nearby was on the receiving end. As I was drafting the post, my partner was asking me all sorts of questions about the project and before I knew it she had pledged $100 to Reboot, declaring it an early Christmas present. I am a self confessed film buff and fan of all things science fiction, cyberpunk included. I also consider myself a champion of independent films so this was a perfect gift that ticked the boxes of all my passions.  So for Christmas I have a stake in an independent cyberpunk film as well my own high definition digital as well as a personalised DVD copies of the film, and CD of the film's soundtrack. 

Investments as a whole always carry an element of risk and for crowdfunding projects the principle risk is that they do not reach their funding targets. So instead of an investment in a project along with an assortment of gifts, there is the risk that for Christmas you have a failed project, no gifts and you're money back. However given the risk involved in purchases generally are no different especially those instances where goods are ordered, and deposits paid only for the company to close. 

It might seem a ludicrous idea, however donating to a crowdfunding project can probably be the most thoughtful gift. You could choose to support a charitable project that you know a person is passionate about, invest in a film or other creative form, or even an entrepreneurial or technological project which suits that person's interest. It says much about how well you know that person, the level of affection held for them, and the little rewards that come with the support add a further level of excited anticipation. For tips on projects to support and platforms to visit, keep your eye here on the Gazette.

The future could see more people giving crowdfunding pledges as gifts which would see more projects get the funding they need. If this does become the norm then perhaps platforms such as Kickstarter and RocketHub might introduce gift vouchers purchased at any denomination. Recipients can then choose for themselves which project to support or even multiple projects. So if you are still searching for gift ideas why not try crowdfunding.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Crowdsourcing the Perfect Irish Burger

With the current economic crisis taking its toll the Republic of Ireland is turning to crowdsourcing to meet the challenges of a struggling market. The Irish Food Board, Bord Bia has launched a a scheme to encourage the Irish food and beverage to use collaborate with their customers on devising new products to be sold in a range of outlets. People from all over Ireland will be invited to collaborate in shaping the future of Irish beef products.

The first outlet, Big Al's Kitchen, forms part of Bord Bia's foresight4food programme aimed at supporting Irish food and drink brands to produce with innovative customer focus. The crowdsourcing platform to be used was developed by Giraffe The Agency, one Ireland's leading marketing agencies, working in partnership with Chaordix, one of the world's leading crowdsourcing providers.
This crowd engagement is one of the first of its kind in Ireland and follows a global trend of leading brands turning to crowdsourcing to encourage consumer collaboration in the development of insights and ideas. Bord Bia have spotted this trend and have been very quick to seek ways to drive innovation of Irish food and drink brands through crowdsourcing - Mark Skinner of Giraffe The Agency
Participants of Big Al's Kitchen register with the platform, and begin engaging and contributing ideas. Through this collaborative effort customers can create new products to be sold in the store. In return for their efforts, members of this creative culinary crowd will have an opportunity to win an assortment prizes including an iPad 2, digital camera, or even a portable DVD player. So register today and help Ireland create the ultimate beef dish.

Image Credits; Gabriel Amadeus

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

More Questions on Social Media and Employers

There is still some controversy and much uncertainty surrounding employers vetoing candidates based on their social networking profile. It is generally considered that a person's Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account is off limits, and that no employer, potential or otherwise, has any right of access to what is considered a personal domain. Yet, from a lay person's point of view the law seems to be somewhat unclear on this issue, so let us consider it carefully.

As far as can be determined there is no law either prohibiting or allowing employers to access an employee's (or potential) social networking page. This means that an employer has a right to ask but is not necessarily entitled access to a person's social networking account. In the case of existing employees, with whom extensive interviews, references, and (for sensitive roles) background checks have led to their acceptance in the role, this would seem less of an issue. The real concern is when employers want to make a hiring decision based on the contents of a candidate's Facebook page or Twitter stream. It seems there is a genuine fear of potential employers learning about a candidate's partying habits, political affiliations, a few embarrassing photos, or possibly an admission to acts bordering on criminal or certainly anti-social that might influence their decision. So is there anything wrong with potential employers glancing at our social media accounts to get a more rounded picture of the person they are entrusting a job to? Well, yes and no.

Some roles do contractually place their employees under certain restricted behaviour, beyond the workplace, depending on the nature of the work involved. Any employer working in a profession/market dealing with sensitive matters such as law, finance or intelligence and defence departments of the government would need some reassurance that a potential employee can be trusted. If a candidate has a tendency to talk openly on the web in detail about their job thus revealing protected information, or whose behaviour compromises the sensitivity of the role they are entrusted, any employer would want to know. Surely employers should be allowed to view any information, not normally included on a CV or disclosed during interview, as a precaution to safeguard their interests in making sure they can hire the right person for the job.

There is an argument against employer access to social media accounts on the grounds of privacy principles. Yet many argue that social media is actually not protected by privacy laws.  Twitter hashtags, unsecured Facebook and Google + status streams are largely in public domain. In fact, in his article Should Social Media Determine Your Employment Status  Jeremy Simmons argues since the aim of social media is to convey personal information to an ever increasing circle of friends, family, and followers, it can hardly be considered private. He states; "It is not called 'private media' but 'social media', arguing that with some social media users whose circle of followers are equal to the population of a small village it is difficult to maintain any semblance of privacy. So it follows that when requested by an employer for access to their social media accounts, those who refused could be hard pressed to base it on privacy.

However, the privacy argument is far from defeated. It is true to an extent that a large social circle on Facebook, et al could negate the privacy factor however users have the option to determine with whom information is shared. Facebook allows users to choose which list to direct information to, Google+ has its circles, and Twitter gives users the option to protect tweets or use direct messaging. By only sharing information with select groups, privacy is maintained within that circle of trust. It is worth noting that employers cannot discriminate employees and recruits on the grounds of age, race, religion, nationality, handicap, or marital status. Much of this information should be provided although religion and race are not required disclosures, so an employer having access to information deemed confidential could leave themselves liable to legal action if it is successful shown that such undisclosed information, later uncovered, affected the decision of that candidate's employment. 

Employers can get a fuller picture of a potential employee based on their social networking posts. However, aside from the fact that any such access would have to be approved, a user can always clean up their profile to make it more acceptable before giving access. That said, using social media to determine the suitability of a candidate based on their personal life is drifting dangerously close to invasion of privacy. Whether a person has ten friends & followers, or thousands, this does not constitute an implied surrender of the right to privacy. 

An employer has every right to concerned about a potential employee's outside activities affecting or compromising their business. However such suspicions cannot surely be accurately determined just because someone enjoys a heavy night drinking or might express frustrations in their current job, or even have less than savoury political views, has little bearing on their potential to be good workers. Employment should simply be based on qualifications, experience and references, and not personal activities that may or may not put a business into disrepute, since the process already settles this. The issue of employers demanding access to candidates' social media profiles remains a controversial one lacking some legal uncertainties and setting a concerning precedent over the fine line between the much coveted work/life balance.

Monday, 12 December 2011

UK Crowdfunding Workshop to be Held February 2012

There is no denying that crowdsourcing in general, in particular crowdfunding, is becoming widespread in the UK. At a time when, to quote Simply Red, money is too tight to mention, crowdfunding provides access to funding that might previously been sought from more wealthy investors. Yet for many there are still questions and uncertainties surround crowdfunding, question which will be addressed at an upcoming crowdfunding workshop.

The event "Crowdfunding for building community, raising finance or market testing ideas" has been organised by Anne Strachan to provide extensive insight and information about crowdfunding. Anne has over 20 years experience working in the third sector, as well as extensive knowledge and success as a fundraiser. Through her blog Crowdfund UK, Anne provides an easy to follow guide to finding the right crowdfunding platform and shares her thoughts on fundraising in the digital age. 

Whether you're interest is academic or you are looking to raise funds for commercial enterprise, charitable causes, or need money for education, Anne's crowdfunding workshop is definitely for you. The event will be held at Bridge 5 Mill in Manchester, on Thursday 2nd February 2012, and tickets are now available. Lunch will be provided and there will be opportunities for one to one support and networking. If you are interested in taking part then you can click here to book tickets as an early bird participant, brief details of the agenda, and directions to the venue. 

You can also follow Anne on Twitter @crowdfunduk

Image Credit; Kennisland

Friday, 9 December 2011

Crowdfunding the Latest Car Racer Game

Candella Software, one of the UK's leading developers and publishers of video games for multiple platforms, are looking for funds to develop their latest game. Cargasm HD will revisit the classic arcade car racing game format but will incorporate on line sharing and social networking for the modern day gamer. Candella Software have turned to crowdfunding with 8-bit Funding, a platform dedicated to supporting fund raising for new video games.

Based in Bedford, UK, the team of Candella Software are no strangers to successful game development.  Since it was founded in 1999, Candella Software has developed some of the industry's most successful games for PC, games consoles, and hand held devices such as Playstation, and Xbox. Some of Candella's popular titles include Juiced, Fast and the Furious; Tokyo Drift, and Pyroblazer

Cargasm HD blends classic racing with photorealisic graphics depicting real - world locations including San Francisco, London, Egypt, and even Yosemite National Park.  Players will be able to choose from an assortment of super cars and participate in numerous races. One of the most unusual features of the game is the Cargasm Harem. An assortment of women will cheer on the players encouraging them to race faster, and those that race the fastest can collect their female supporters for their own harem. Players can earn points along the way and depending on the number of points accrued, will even be awarded some interestingly named trophies. 

The concept of the game will also be designed to incorporate social networking. Players will be able to upload race statistics to sites like Facebook and Google +. They will also be able to provide and compare race achievements with their friends and even issue invites for multi-player sessions. This component will also enable the game to be played inside a browser.

Candella Software are aiming to raise $25,000 and have 55 days to reach their target. In return for funding, backers will receive an assortment of rewards including Executive Producer credits, exclusive game content, and input into development of the final product. For more information about the project and to make a pledge visit the game's funding page.

Image Credit; Candella All Rights Reserved

Social Media Not to Blame for UK Riots

The riots that erupted in various cities around the UK made newspaper headlines and top billing on the nations news channels. Whilst accusatory fingers were pointed at many aspects of society  for the escalation of the riots, whether it was single parents inability to control the children, or a backlash response to the government's public sector cuts, only one was afforded the lion's share of the blame; social media.In response to one or two arrests which revealed that Facebook and Twitter, as well as Blackberry were used to incite criminal acts, the government responded in true knee jerk fashion, called meetings with police and the intelligence community to discuss possibly shutting down access to social networking sites in the likelihood of any similar trouble erupting. Yet a study conducted by academics at the University of Manchester concluded that the role of social media during the riots was quite the opposite.

A multidisciplinary team made up of experts from universities around the country, led by Professor Robert Procter of the University of Manchester, undertook an extensive review of the use of social networking sites during the riots. Using an extensive JISC funded project known as the National e-Infrastructure for Social Simulation (NeISS), the team analysed over 2.4 million Twitter messages. They concluded that there was no evidence to support the call for a nationwide shut down of social media should riots every break out again. In fact the study has supported the notion that social networking was more valuable as a source of breaking information, some factual whilst others were rumours, that was shared across the country ahead of the mainstream media.

Where social networking played a vital role however was in the co-ordination of major clean up operations around the country. As the Prime Minister and security experts were condemning how social networking sites were being used to organise the riots, calls were put out on Twitter under the #riotcleanup hash tag for manpower and resources to help clear away the remnants of the destruction. This unifying aspect underscores the argument as to value of non interference in the daily functions of social media, and if the government still needs convincing then perhaps a reminder of the role Twitter played during the protests in Iran two years ago is in order. 

In my first editorial I challenged the mainstream media's perception of social media users, specifically an article in the Daily Mail that claimed to source scientific studies as to it's negative qualities. The almost witch hunt-esque pursuit by the UK government depicting social networking as the spark that lit the fire of the riots is an extension of those prejudices highlighted in my editorial. Thankfully however this scientific study by leading academics as to just how vital social networking site were for conveying information and helping communities in the aftermath, will hopefully lay much of those negative assumptions to rest. The results of the studied were printed in the Guardian newspaper as part of it's Reading the Riots blog.

Image Credits; Dirt Licker

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Crowdfunding Art Projects to Help Economically Disadvantaged Children

Children from low socio-economic backgrounds are the focus of two crowdfunding projects that aim to use vivid artwork and the theatre to engage and improve young lives. Aiding these projects is the UK based crowdfunding platform WeDidThis, dedicated to help in raising funds for art projects that benefit communities and social causes. 

Art For Hope
This project was devised by artists Anna Jouli and Olga Krasanova of TopStroke, with the use of art and colour as a source of healing. The TopStroke team are planning to visit the Cardiac Hospital for Children in he Ural region of Russia, which provides life saving and innovating surgery & treatment for babies from low income families.  With a strong belief in the healing powers of stimulating imagery and vivid colours, TopStroke plan to visit the hospital and brighten up its corridors and play rooms. 

The creative team will prepare murals and designs of imaginary creatures and scenery which they hope will encourage the fragile patients as they undergo the long and arduous recovery stages. TopStroke hope to have the work done in time for Christmas, which in Russia, is celebrated on 7th January. The company will not a charge a fee for this venture, seeing it more as a Christmas gift however they need £2,200 to cover travel expenses and to purchase materials. Visit the project's funding page by clicking here and pledge your support

Cloud Child

The use of vivid visual theatre as a way of engaging young minds is the basis of Dynamic New Animation (DNA) latest production, Cloud Child. In partnership with The Lowry arts and entertainment centre based in the city of Manchester, DNA is developing this stage production with a child centred approach designed to get children actively involved in the story. 

Cloud Child, the story of a lost cloud who makes a special friend, is designed to stimulate the child's sense of wonder and belief in something magical. This then activates their creative side helping to generate a positive self image and give children the confidence much needed in life. The proposal behind the production's goal is based on research which shows that early engagement with children's creativity has many benefits to their development. The project will look to benefit children from the less affluent areas of Salford and Greater Manchester and only needs a total of £410. So far nearly 30% has been raised and around two weeks remain till the deadline. Click here to visit the project's funding page if you want to make a donation.

Image Credits; Anna Jouli

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Crowdsourcing the Soundtrack For The Dark Knight Rises

The latest instalment of the Christopher Nolan Batman revamp, The Dark Knight Rises looks set to be the biggest and darkest of the trilogy. In an effort to bring a new sound to this much anticipated blockbuster, world renowned composer Hans Zimmer, has taken a bold step, crowdsourcing the voices of fans to make up the movie's soundtrack.

Hans Zimmer's career spans over three decades composing  musical scores for some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters including, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean (plus sequels), Sherlock Holmes and the soon to be released Sherlock Holmes; Game of Shadows. Over the decades he has become recognised as one of the industry's leading innovative composers winning him a legion of fans (including me - Ed). Zimmer's unique flair is put to the test with his latest aural experiment in which he is "shining the bat-signal up into the sky to call you all" and add your voice to The Dark Knight Rises soundtrack.

The idea behind this venture came to Zimmer whilst working on the up coming Sherlock Holmes movie. The principle behind this bold experiment is simple; fans of the franchise are invited to visit the Ujam powered platform. First visitors have to, most importantly, read the terms and conditions and then register. Once signed up, participants must then listen to the sample recording before finally making a recording of their own chant. Participants need not worry about  having the best voice or sounding a little croaky as it will all be taken care of post production. 
You always want to create a sound that nobody has ever heard, but I think, this time, we might be doing that. As a musician, I think about what environment things are recorded in. Now, you have hundreds of thousands of voices, all recorded in their own individual environment. - Hans Zimmer, via
With excitement already building up to the much anticipated release of what could mark the final of director Christopher Nolans' Batman trilogy, fans have a unique opportunity to help shape the film's score. So if you want to participate in Hans Zimmer's grand musical experiment then click here to visit the Ujam site and add your voice to the soundtrack of the Dark Knight legend. 

Image Credits; Brett Jordan

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Open Innovation Call Led by UK Research Body and Pharmaceutical Giant

AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company has entered into partnership with the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC), and yesterday announced an initiative aimed at the development of better medicinal treatments to benefit patients. The initiative is an open innovation call to the UK's academic community to put forward research proposals which if accepted could be in receipt of a significant cash award to fund the proposals' extensive research and development.

As the world's population continues growing so to does the need for more effective medicinal treatments. Developing new medicines can be time consuming and expensive, costing around £630 million. The first step involves developing chemical compounds which are then trialled to determine the best ones that would be transformed into medicine. However for an assortment of reasons, mainly cost and lack of resources, these trials are put on hold, sometimes indefinitely. It has been argued that some of these compounds are vital for new medicines and so AstraZeneca plan to make 22 such compounds available as part of the challenge.

The MRC has stated that AstraZeneca will provide to all those who take up this challenge, access to the compounds. The participants then have to propose how these compounds can be used in new areas of medicine. The MRC will review and select the best proposals and award up £10 million to fund the research that will cover a broad range of diseases.
Innovative collaborations are playing a crucial role in finding ways to unlock the potential of new treatments. The UK has a strong heritage of research excellence in life sciences. - David Brennan, Chief Executive, AstraZeneca
The call for submissions is now open and a two stage selection process will be used to determine feasibility of the studies. Any studies that are deemed to duplicate existing work or overlap with any of AstraZeneca's active studies will be rejected. For more information about how to take part visit the MRC's funding opportunities page.

Image Credit; Tulane Public Relations

Monday, 5 December 2011

Crowdfunding British Horror Films

The UK has an outstanding reputation for creating some of the world's most renowned horror films. Whether it is the Hammer films of old (Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein) or even new (Let Me In, The Woman in Black) British Horror has been successfully frightening the life out of audiences in cinemas and in the comfort of their homes. Looking to keep alight the flame of British Horror are two independent projects featured on some of the UK's prominent crowdfunding platforms working to bring their scary movies to life.

The Missing

When a young girl escapes her abusive life in Manchester and heads for London searching for her long lost father, her nightmare life turns even more upside down. Our heroine finds herself broke and homeless caught in the desolate world of London's seedy underworld, rife with prostitution, drugs, and gang violence. When the young girl is saved from a horrific fate she is at first grateful but then her saviour is not all she seems.

This spooky tale with an urban setting is the brain child of writers Lee Asquith-Coe and Sinitta Monero. A quick glance at the trailer and the synopsis, it has all the hallmarks of classic horror but carries with it a social message about the forgotten and destitute. The production needs£5,000 to get the cameras rolling however time is against them with only 17 days left (at time of this post). Helping the writers secure that much needed cash is the Sheffield based crowdfunding platform Sponduly. In return for funding, investors awards include, acknowledgements & thanks yous, limited edition merchandise, copies of the film, and invitations to a special screening. So if you want to see this nightmare vision become celluloid reality then visit The Missing's funding page on Sponduly and pledge your support.

Bigger and Badder

The makers of this Gothic horror tale describe Bigger & Badder as "Brighton Rock" meets "The Howling". Pete is a package boy hired to run errands for his shady and particularly ruthless boss Trevor Deacon. When Pete's first delivery goes horrifically wrong he has to explain to his boss exactly what happened. Trouble is Pete's tale could prove hard to believe, and if he doesn't succeed in convincing his boss then Pete is about to find out just how big and bad Trevor can be. 

Bigger and Badder was written by Richard Wantuch, also the film's director. Werewolves and gangsters makes for an appetisingly grisly story that should appeal to fans of Gothic horror, in particular, anything to do with wolves. The team only need £500 to finish production, and have already secured 46% of funding. This leaves only £270 still remaining and less than 28 days to reach that all important target. The team are using Exeter based Crowdfunder (see Gazette Profile) , and are hoping to tempt you the investor with an assortment of rewards. A minimum donation of £10 will secure a digital copy of the film, a thank you in the credits plus invitation to the premier screening. Other rewards, which depend on the size of the pledge, include limited edition merchandise, associate producer credits and even an original cast of "Wilbur". So if you want to see just how bad Trevor really is then visit Bigger and Badder's Crowdfunder page and make that investment.