Innovation, funding and FS

Paul Boddie paul at
Tue Sep 18 19:56:23 UTC 2018

On Tuesday 18. September 2018 18.25.26 Andreas Nilsson wrote:
> When I think about crowdfunding I have stuff like "smaller hobby
> projects" in mind such as a design for an electric circuit that can do
> a funky thing. I don't have insight in the crowdfunding projects today.

I only tend to keep up with things on Crowd Supply. The other platforms seem 
to have a poor reputation. There have been pretty big campaigns for hardware, 
even ones that have delivered the anticipated product, so not Ubuntu Edge but 
things like Novena (open hardware) or Gemini (proprietary but "alternative" 

For software, I don't see as much going on. I have mentioned Mailpile and 
Roundcube Next before, and here there is a difference in outcome. Mailpile 
struggled along with a fairly meagre sum (for what they wanted to do), then 
found some Bitcoin from donations under the sofa cushion (metaphorically) and 
managed to ramp up again, meaning that they may be close to some kind of 

Roundcube Next raised substantially more money than Mailpile, but this money 
hasn't been spent and seems to have been resting in an account in Switzerland 
for three years waiting for people to spend it. There was some brief activity 
on GitHub a year or so ago, but nothing since. The backers seem to be resigned 
to using "classic" Roundcube or other things, if the comments on the campaign 
page are any indication.

> With the lack of a middleman, or a team to communicate in between the
> funders and fundees, there is bound to be a stress related task at hand
> that is endured by the fundee. Be it a person, a team or a company.

Often, these kinds of campaigns are trying to squeeze out the last drops of 
efficiency in the economy, being low-priced, low-margin efforts. There isn't 
going to be any extra money to pay people for publicity, although I believe 
there are companies who offer promotional services, perhaps directed at 
getting campaigns funded more than anything else, though.

And lack of communication erodes trust. There are campaigns where every last 
setback is described, potentially leaving those responsible open to criticism, 
but even so, people are a lot more receptive to such tales of apparent failure 
and will forgive delays and even non-delivery if they feel that something took 
place and that the effort was genuine. When nothing is said, people start to 
get suspicious about nothing being done, even if the same efforts are being 
made, and they are less likely to be as forgiving with similar outcomes.

> I am taking guesses at what this is lacking is something called "demand
> specificaton" in Swedish (directly translated). When a customer (here
> funder) is having an idea for a product, then they are thinking in
> terms of a finished product and as front end and concrete as possible.
> Their ideas could be that they want the software to have certain GUI
> components here and there, while clicking on them should execute a task
> explained outside of coding terms.
> What I'm trying to say is that the human component for tasks like this
> are probably going to lack in the crowdfunding platforms. It could and
> should be taken a look at if volunteers, organizations or even
> profitable companies could pitch in here.

Certainly, the notion of pitching an idea and getting people to back that idea 
with their money is not particularly compatible with the kind of iterative 
design that contributes to the production of good software. And another 
pitfall that might be even more likely with software is that of the campaign 
creator overselling what they intend to achieve.

[Bounty funding]

> Sounds like an auction of developmental work. I don't know much about
> it. It's an interesting approach.

Actually, I saw some presentation by someone from Mozilla about their pet 
project for funding projects that involved "futures". That would be similar to 
auctioning in certain ways, but it all sounded ghastly and yet another 
potentially exploitative application of financial industry practices.

We can be sure that as soon as any auction concept gets applied to work, it 
will result in people underbidding to get the opportunity to work. This is, of 
course, familiar from any observation of procurement processes where companies 
offer to do work for unsustainable sums and then cut corners or exploit their 
workers to make the numbers add up.


> > It is true that you cannot just have people doing exactly what they
> > want and expecting to get paid for it, no matter what it is. (Well,
> > actually you can: it is called art.) Then again, by "what they actually
> > want to do" I meant the work of writing software, as opposed to things
> > like meddling with dubious financial instruments, executing foreign
> > exchange transactions, drumming up business on a speculative basis, and so
> > on.
> I have a hard time following here.

Really, this was just me observing that where work needs doing, people want to 
get paid for actually doing the work and not being distracted with other 
activities that are unrelated to the work getting done.

So, when someone claims that everyone can get paid in today's cryptocurrency, 
it sounds great to them, but this would mean that people would need to deal 
with setting up their cryptowallet (or whatever), figure out how to exchange 
cryptomoney into real money, and all sorts of things that nobody should have 
to be troubled with.

> I agree that the best approach is to blend various methods. Auction
> payments sound much like the market is in control of almost everything,
> while recurring payments sound more geared towards good software.
> Almost two opposites here. Crowdfunding is special, I don't know if you
> can talk about a market in that case, in the classical sense of it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!


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