All posts by danieltt

Crowdfunding scam victim implores donators to think cautiously

Justin Mitchell thought he was contributing to a worthwhile investment when he made a $160 donation to mPrinter, a portable thermal printer that was campaigning on the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. What he received were false promises and a product that was neither completed nor fulfilled its duty to refund his money.

Unwilling to let others fall victim to crowdfunding scams, Mitchell, a web designer and developer, started his own site, kickscammed.com, hoping to expose fraudulent Kickstarter campaigns so that the public becomes more aware of these scams.

“I had gotten to the point where I lost the most money in one sitting on that project, and that was just the last straw. I had to do something,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell is representative of thousands of backers on crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter who have been duped out of their money – a total that has exceeded an estimated $27.7 million as of May 2015 – attempting to fund projects that could not deliver or had no intention of delivering their promised products.

Exposure of these scams has come to the forefront in recent years. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission successfully settled a case against a scam perpetrated by Eric Chevelier, showing the governments willingness to crackdown on people preying on the generosity of others.

However, Mitchell feels that there are bigger fish to fry.

“Kickstarter has created a platform and they’ve just backed out completely, and in essence have created a platform for scam artists to thrive,” Mitchell said of Kickstarter’s refund policy. “There’s no process for the creator to go through the refunds, none of the money is held in escrow; there’s just no way from them to do it.”

Another problem that Mitchell points out with Kickstarters is their policy of taking 5 percent of the money donated to successful campaigns – even ones identified as scams.

“Kickstarter made money off of [Chevelier’s project],” Mitchell said. “He’s being sued for failure to deliver, but Kickstarter got to keep all the funds.”

Though Mitchell has made it his goal to expose scams and revealing holes in crowdfunding platforms’ refund enforcement policies, it is not his only aim. He also holds awareness in high regard and does not hesitate to spread a message of caution when contributing to campaigns.

“Looking up the creator’s name, Google search the images, and check the comments before you back a project,” Mitchell says of the steps to take. “Take the time to go through back through those comments and see if there’s people saying, ‘this isn’t real.’”

Mitchell may have been a victim, but his resolve to prevent anyone else from falling into the same trap he did may help the community recover from its latest outbreak of frauds.

No lion around: South Los Angeles reacts to Cecil the Lion

Intro: The reported killing of beloved lion, and Zimbabwean celebrity, Cecil Rhodes by American dentist Walter Palmer has resulted in an explosion of rage by animal conservationists. Annenberg Media reporter Daniel Tran set off into South Central Los Angeles asking people for their opinion about Cecil’s death. The answers may surprise you.

Outro: Though Palmer has expressed regret for his actions, the American public has been relentless in their shaming, bashing Palmer on social media and inscribing “LION Killer” with spray paint on his vacation home in South Florida. Zimbabwe is currently seeking to extradite Palmer from the United States so that he can face charges of funding an illegal hunt.

Digital Radio Pioneer Returns to Where it All Began

mark-mcneill-infographic

In 1999, the thought of streaming anything digitally seemed impossible. All Mark McNeill saw was potential.

With a vision in his mind and a passion that began with attending free cultural music festivals as a child with his mother, a 21-year-old McNeill set out from the comfort of the University of Southern California, hoping to imprint himself in the early digital radio scene.

McNeill succeeded in contributing to digital radio’s still-expanding reach and built a digital radio station, DUBLAB, from concept to reality, providing a wide array of songs that pushed the boundaries of experimental music domestically and internationally over the internet to countries like Japan, Brazil and Germany.

With all that McNeill has accomplished with DUBLAB, it would be difficult for artists and digital radio consumers to imagine a world where this playground does not exist. Many of them aren’t aware that world nearly existed.

“I nearly stayed at USC,” McNeill said about his decision to create DUBLAB, leaning in slightly with his tall, wiry frame as if to tell a secret. “I was working at KUSC Radio managing the student radio station, so I was in this safety zone where I had a lot of momentum and I probably could have gone to school for free at that point.

“But I decided it would be much more interesting to generate the platform that they were going to talk about in classrooms. I wanted to go out there because it was a blank slate and I wanted to help shape it instead of talk about it.”

After accomplishing what he set out to do and finding that risks actually yield rewards, McNeill finds himself back in his safety zone, attending USC in the fall of 2015. This time, his recent success has given him the courage to take another risk.

McNeill was growing content with the role he built for himself professionally. Backed by the support of his wife, Nara Hernandez, McNeill decided to go back to an environment where he would be challenged intellectually and enter a place where he was no longer comfortable – a place where he saw untapped potential.

“I’m in classes where I’ve never done any of this stuff.” McNeill said in reference to the curriculum. “It’s intimidating, it’s scary, but ultimately, if you talk to anyone who takes risks, risks are usually rewarding.”

Digital Radio Pioneer Returns to Where it All Began

With the introduction and integration of broadband and fiber optic networks in recent years, a 56K modem in all of its dialup glory not only feels like ancient history, but it also feels severely limiting that the thought of streaming anything would seem impossible. Back in 1999, All Mark McNeill saw was potential.

With a vision in his mind and a fire in his heart, a 21-year-old Mark McNeill set out from the comfortable confines of the University of Southern California in 1999, hoping to be the first brush strokes on the empty canvas that was digital radio.

Not only did McNeill succeed in contributing to digital radio’s still-expanding reach, he built a digital radio station, DUBLAB, from concept to reality, providing a wide array of songs that pushed the boundaries of experimental music worldwide.

Since its humble beginnings in 1999, DUBLAB has become one of the signature symbols of creativity in Los Angeles, giving artists free-reign to expose their unique sounds across the globe, reaching audiences in Japan, Brazil, and Germany.

With all that McNeill has accomplished with DUBLAB, it would be difficult for a lot of artists to imagine a world where this playground does not exist. Many of them aren’t aware that world almost came to be.

“I nearly stayed at USC,” McNeill said. “I was working at KUSC Radio managing the student radio station, so I was in this safety zone where I had a lot of momentum and I probably could have gone to school for free at that point.

“But, I decided it would be much more interesting to generate the platform that they were going to talk about in classrooms. I wanted to go out there because it was a blank slate and I wanted to help shape it at that point instead of talk about it.”

After accomplishing what he set out to do and finding that the grass was indeed greener on the other side, McNeill finds himself back in the safety zone, attending USC in the fall of 2015. Only this time, the green pasture he left 16 years ago is now lush with opportunity.

Growing content in the role he built for himself, McNeill wanted to go back to an environment where he would be challenged intellectually and enter a place where he was no longer comfortable – a place where he saw potential.

“I’m in classes where I’ve never done any of this stuff.” McNeill said in reference to the curriculum. “It’s intimidating, it’s scary, but ultimately, if you talk to anyone who takes risks, risks are usually rewarding.”

The risk McNeill took on potential 16 years ago worked. Armed with experience and a fresh thirst for knowledge, the risk he is taking now will end in similar success.

Mark “Frosty” McNeill Turning Up the Heat at USC

Mark “Frosty” McNeill may have a nickname that suggests a cold demeanor, but his warm energy and fiery passion for music burns bright at the University of Southern California, where he hopes to use a Masters of Arts in Journalism to build an even more successful career in digital radio.

McNeill is already an established digital radio fixture in Los Angeles, CA, where he co-founded DUBLAB, a non-profit music internet radio station in its 16th year that promotes musical experimentation. However, his insatiable love for music has brought him back to USC in the summer of 2015, where he will gain the necessary skills to help expand DUBLAB’s worldwide reach.

A Google search of McNeill yields a bevy of results, rich with interviews from major publications like the Los Angeles Times and Billboard; every article reinforcing McNeill’s healthy obsession with music and his mission to expose it by any means.

In LA Weekly six years ago, McNeill recounts having to move into the studio in 2001 when funding went dry and a multimillion-dollar deal fell through. “I rolled out a bedroll every night, slept amongst whirring computer fans, and rolled it up the next morning as people would be coming in to record,” McNeil said.

With that kind of commitment and a new degree coming in the spring of 2016, those nights of being serenaded by the white noise of computer fans will be far behind him.