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Localizing Kickstarter: Mapping Mashup Helps Keep Cash Close to Home

ThingsWeStart brings geo logic to Kickstarter data with mapping and alerts for potential donors of nearby projects.

How do you decide which creative projects to back on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter? Are you compelled by a unique story? Do you just donate to your friends? Or do you like to support projects that bring money and impact back to your hometown?

If you're inclined to think local, you're not alone, according to Justin Wilcox, a software developer who interviewed Kickstarter backers to gain insight into their perferences. “There was a real desire [among interviewees] to send more of their money and more of their investments locally,” says Wilcox. "Kickstarter has some rudimentary capabilities to find projects around you"—like searching by city—"but we saw a need, an interest, to develop that to much more depth.”

For example, looking for projects under the cateogry 'New York City' won't necssarily turn up projects tagged as Brooklyn. If you live in Los Angeles and want to support projects there, Kickstarter will surface the ones inside the city limits only, not even if they're in contiguous communities like West Hollywood or Pasadena. It's difficult to connect with projects in your area, regardless of how municipal boundaries are defined.

A few months ago, Wilcox began collaborating with a few other developers to build a website that could grab Kickstarter data and plot it geographically, so anyone could locate all the projects in their area on a map—similar to what PadMapper did with Craigslist data, before Craigslist cut them off. The team named the project ThingsWeStart and launched it to the public yesterday.

Those who want to support local projects—or more specifically, local design or food projects, for example—can use ThingWeStart to sign up for email notifications whenever a project of that ilk launches. Or they can just explore the project-tagged map as a new way to discover the lastest in creative local ideas. Wilcox believes that adding a layer of geographical organization could potentially support an expanded set of Kickstarter users—whose projects are great but whose social networks are small.

“Basically, the only way to get your project funded now on Kickstarter is if you do all the legwork of publishing out via Facebook, social media that your project is happening—or if you go get press,” he says. But given the interest in supporting local projects, “It’d be cool if people could just put their project out there and get automatically matched with people interested in funding it. Even if they don’t have the media savvy to go and tell their story to everybody, if someone has said, 'I want to be notified about food projects in Seattle,' that organic food share will automatically be surfaced to them.”

Kickstarter doesn't ask users to submit their zip code or neighborhood, so ThingsWeStart can’t yet completely pinpoint a project's location in your city. But the website appears to be one of the first external sites to do something interesting with Kickstarter's increasingly large set of data—and hints at a future of more mashups of this kind.

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