Kit and Patreon (and The Whole Earth Catalog)
We launched Kit a little over two years ago with a simple idea: help people discover the products worth getting — and create a new kind of experience where your creativity and knowledge actually earn you money. We were excited to see the idea take off as YouTubers, Twitch streamers, bloggers, and creators of all types used Kit to share their favorite products with their fans and followers.
Today, we announced that Kit will be joining up with Patreon.
At Patreon, team Kit will continue the commitment to connecting creators and fans, by building tools to enable creators to share their life’s work and making it easier to reward creativity and expertise.
It got me thinking back to the early days of Kit.
Like many other communities before it, Kit was inspired by the Whole Earth Catalog and by the counterculture movement and thinking started by Stewart Brand in 1968.
The Whole Earth Catalog was sort of a Google before Google and online review sites were around: people coming together to create a publication to help one another with tips and products to make life easier. “Things worth getting”, Kit’s tagline, was inspired by lines from the opening page of the 1969 Catalog:
The WHOLE EARTH CATALOG functions as an evaluation and access device. With it, the user should know better what is worth getting and where and how to do the getting.
An item is listed in the CATALOG if it is deemed:
1. Useful as a tool,
2. Relevant to independent education,
3. High quality or low cost,
4. Not already common knowledge,
5. Easily available by mail.
CATALOG listings are continually revised according to the experience and suggestions of CATALOG users and staff.
We are as gods and might as well get good at it. So far, remotely done power and glory—as via government, big business, formal education, church—has succeeded to the point where gross defects obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG.
We found ourselves aligning with these original ideas and purpose. One of the first things we did at Kit, almost before we wrote the first line of code and did the first user study, was to write down our purpose and our values and how we wanted to treat one another and to treat creators (and how we saw ourselves as creators too – photographers, writers, designers). We set out not only to build a successful product and team, but a long-lasting community as well.
We started thinking of Kit as a modern-day Catalog: what the catalog was in the late sixties in the medium that was possible then (a magazine put together by hand), we were doing in 2018 with tools and community and technology that we have access to now.
The strange magazine – part tools catalog and part how-to book – was re-imagined as an online community in Kit where creators and experts could share their learnings about photography, arts & crafts, DIY, health, music and so many more topics. People came to help people: creators and experts helped amateurs and those that wanted to know more. Build tools for the individual, share that knowledge with whomever is interested and allow people to find inspiration and conduct their own education.
The Whole Earth Catalog turned fifty this year.
In a bit of coincidence, later this week, there will be an event in San Francisco with Stewart where he will look back on the impact and long legacy of the Catalog. (I wish I could be there!) It is wonderful to pause and think of how many ideas his movement touched: the early internet, the maker movement, health and wellness, online communities and, of course, Kit.com itself.
Thank you to all who helped work on Kit over the years: Camille, Will, Grant, Armand, Tom, John, Miles, Aloke, Jen, Jico, Eli, Kevin, Mia, Tim, Leslie and Julia.
In the words of the Catalog: Stay hungry, stay foolish.