Crowdsourcing is all about conversations with the crowd, creating and maintaining (hopefully meaningful) noise. I started this campaign with some stats, so here’s a start/end comparison to show how much noise was actually generated.
|April 13th||July 31st|
|Blog Audience (in One Day)||397||3,950|
|Blog Audience (overall)||5,199||19,109|
|Avg Daily Blog Views||35||150|
|Blog Posts in Total||37||76|
Update 7th Aug – just spotted that 2,821 people saw this post on Facebook, which made me chuckle so I thought I’d share.
I didn’t include stats on my email contacts because I had only just started going through old records. I was compiling sixteen years worth of address books, spreadsheets, exported palm pilot databases, etc, plus my social media communities. It was a mess, sitting somewhere between 3,000-10,000 names, with no idea how many of those were even still active.
This is an ongoing concern, though is slightly less of a mess these days. I’ve been moaning about the limited access to cost-effective contact management tools so much that someone has now offered to make me a CMS (Thanks Fuzz :)
The couchsurfing context
I’ve mentioned crowdsourcing my life, but I haven’t blogged much about the couchsurfing side of that. I’ve been sleeping on other peoples’ sofas (and when really lucky, in their spare rooms) for ten months now. I knew I wouldn’t have time to run this campaign properly on my own as well as work enough to earn rent money. I’ve been relying on the kindness of friends, colleagues and a few strangers to get me through.
I’m normally a hermit and have never been one for shared housing. Although no one believes me, I’m actually quite shy. Sure I’m all loud & outspoken about what I do and I can (bizarrely) stand in front of several hundred people at conferences without breaking into a cold sweat. But that’s different – and I have one particular lecturer to thank for forcing me to break that pain barrier during my MA in 1997. Personally I’ve always been a bit freaked out by crowds (I know, right?!) and have always preferred quiet-time or small gatherings over parties. Along with asking people for help, living in other peoples’ homes is really not my comfort zone. But needs must.
Just to put this campaign in context, I started on April 13th whilst house-sitting (a rare treat) in Semaphore, Adelaide. After that I stayed in four other houses in Adelaide, one in Melbourne, and and am currently in Sydney (where I’m couch-surfing on my own sofa, which is nice).
So in three and a half months I’ve lived in six homes. In the time since I left the Australia Council and started actively developing this project ten months ago, I’ve lived in twenty two homes (sharing with 34 people), three of those more than once. They were across eleven cities in five countries as well… this has been quite a journey already. Some of those times were especially not easy, not least losing a very dear friend to cancer in February this year.
Unsettling is not the word. Kindness, however, IS the word.
To all the people who have put me up, bought me dinner and given me lifts… thank you. Absolutely none of this process would have been possible without your enormous generosity, opening your homes & hearts to me. You seriously rock; my bus is your bus ANY time you want it.
An unexpected outcome of all this is that I’m now a bit less shy and have had some really good practice at house-sharing. Living with many different people is ethnographically fascinating. Everyone I stayed with had unique lifestyles. One day I might explore all that in more detail, it’s been incredible.
When my Nomads come to stay I’ll be much better at dealing with sharing a much smaller space. I already knew I’d have a tent and a swag (for that quintessential aussie experience) so we could all have the option for some ‘own space’. But now I’m going to build in dedicated ‘solo time’ where myself and my guest have a day here or there where we just do our own thing. Time out and silence is essential.
Everything I read & everyone I spoke to before launching the campaign said the same thing: you start with a ‘whoop!’, it all dies a death in the middle, and – if you’re lucky – it soars to a massive crescendo at the end.
90 days is the longest a campaign can run on Pozible. I wanted the longest time possible because I knew I had a hard sell. The fact that media arts is still considered niche and emerging was a myth I wanted to bust, but was also kind of true. I also knew I had a great international network and hoped that my strategy would keep the energy levels alive throughout.
My strategy seemed logical enough. Since I was aiming to document the amount of creative digital practice going on in the world, I would focus on each state/territory in Australia, interviewing the people I found there over skype/email and then share those little documentaries as I went, marketing to each location/network accordingly. The same model would then be applied to the UK (where I’m from), Canada (where I have regularly been a visiting artist), and then gradually work my way around the world.
I would also (cunningly, I thought) be neatening up and updating that messy sixteen year old address book as I went.
I had the kit (a laptop, DSLR camera, 3G internet dongle, Final Cut Pro X & Lightroom), some basic filmmaking & photography skills, Geoff Cobham as my awesome bus designer, and a fabulous network.
I died my hair bright red – to show confidence, creativity and just maintain my own sense of bravado. I made my first campaign video, which I hated; there’s nothing worse than videoing and editing yourself! My lovely facebook-support-group gave me feedback – “smile more!”, “edit out the ‘ums'”, “can’t you neaten up those edits a bit?”…and my favourite “no, just post it as-is; raw shows authenticity”.
I’ve pledged to quite a few campaigns run by other people, but still wanted to make sure I knew how it worked from the other side. I spoke to the lovely Rick Chen at Pozible, and had been given a campaign code (to reduce processing fees) by Kirsty Stark from Wastelander Panda. I’d interviewed Marcus Westbury, Lisa Dempster and Rosie Catalano about their own experiences with crowdfunding … for a video I then never made.
I set up my campaign page and was good to go.
Since friends & colleagues had persuaded me to launch this thing I wanted to be with as many of them as possible when it kicked off. I organised a Jelly co-working day at ANAT (Australian Network for Art & Technology), with a larger invitation to drinks that evening ‘to announce a little something’.
I have a lot of love for ANAT. They were the first organisation to bring me over to Australia as a visiting artist in 2003 under then Director Julianne Pierce. Several years later, their next Director Melinda Rackham invited me to join the team which enabled me to move to Australia in 2008. I’m hugely grateful to Gavin Artz, Vicki Sowry and all ANAT staff past and present for the massive contributions they have made to myself and to their network of media artists nationally and internationally.
The campaign started at midday on Friday 13th April – an auspicious date for such things, I felt. My favourite moment was waiting for the noon start-time before I sent out my first shoutout… and seeing that Kristin Alford had already pledged and tweeted about the campaign.
My crowdfunding project had, quite perfectly, been launched by the crowd!
Lesson Three: Take strength from your friends and colleagues; they want to help even if you don’t want to ask.
The first $1,000 merited a bottle of fizz to be opened in the office (at around 2pm…)! We trended (appeared on Pozible’s front page) for two whole days.
It was ON.