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Putting kickstarter out of business
January 16, 2012 8:02 PM   Subscribe


 
It never occurred to me that Kickstarter takes a cut of what you get for your project, though of course that makes sense. What exactly is the plan to put them out of business? It didn't really say. "Start another website that would do it for cheaper" sounds good, until you get really popular and you need cash to keep things working.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:08 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


In other words, Kickstarter is a web hosting company that charges over 6,000% more than a comparable service.

...that's true of Kickstarter roughly to the same degree as it is of, say, EBay or Amazon Marketplace.
posted by Artw at 8:09 PM on January 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


It's an interesting article about why Kickstarter deserves to be put out of business, though it is more accurately a fusillade against the hypocrisy of socially conscious capitalism, using Kickstarter as an example.

What it definitely isn't, however, is a PLAN for putting Kickstarter out of business, unless there's some plan of attack I failed to notice.
posted by chrominance at 8:10 PM on January 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


A more lighthearted approach
posted by -harlequin- at 8:12 PM on January 16, 2012


Perhaps he should post a business plan to make a better Kickstarter on Kickstarter.
posted by elwoodwiles at 8:12 PM on January 16, 2012 [35 favorites]


Oh, and just so I'm not just posting snark: what I was actually hoping for was something nifty, like a self-contained module you could stick on any web host that could build a Kickstarter-esque website for you. But that would have problems of its own (there are reasons why most people have moved away from hosting their own web software in favour of a service-based model) and Kickstarter is a recognized, trusted brand for this sort of thing in a way self-hosted solutions will likely never be. We are, after all, talking about a service that takes your money, but only if the project you're donating to succeeds. How do you know some random fly-by-night site won't just take your money regardless of whether they meet the goal or not?

And that's why Kickstarter.
posted by chrominance at 8:15 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Everybody's gotta make a buck.
posted by planet at 8:15 PM on January 16, 2012


"Start another website that would do it for cheaper" sounds good, until you get really popular and you need cash to keep things working.

Business plan: Just like Kickstarter, except take a 2% cut instead of a 5% cut.

Kickstarter then lowers their own prices in order to more effectively compete with the newcomer in the free market, and the people are the winners!


HAHAHA who are we kidding?! Patents will be unveiled, threats made, counter threats, claims contested, all progress for the betterment of humanity will end up on hold in favour of protracted court battles, and the only winners will be lawyers.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:17 PM on January 16, 2012 [19 favorites]


An ambitious plan back of the envelope sketch for putting kickstarter out of business.
posted by zippy at 8:18 PM on January 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


So...what was the plan? Because all I could see is bitching about how much money Kickstarter has made.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:18 PM on January 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


I don't know, elwood, I've heard Kickstarter takes a really big cut of the money they raise. Somebody should start a better Kickstarter, and then he could put his business plan for a better Kickstarter up on that.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:18 PM on January 16, 2012


The author seems to have missed that huge value add of the Kickstarter brand. They have specific rules on what projects they will accept and (apparently) try to keep scammers out. If your project is on Kickstarter people are more likely to pledge money than to the author's (currently imaginary) version.
posted by justkevin at 8:22 PM on January 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


and the only winners will be lawyers.
We... like to win one now and then too, you know. All those long nights in the office with the law books finding loopholes to exploit, it's lonely and grueling. We're people too.
posted by planet at 8:22 PM on January 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


My understanding was that Kickstarter began with the idea of getting comedy fans to show enough potential spending power that big entertainment corporations wouldn't cancel their favorite shows .... Not exactly pro-social, lefty, philanthropic intentions...

Did you know that Kickstarter was originally conceived as a way to save Arrested Development?  Arrested Development happens to be one of my favorite shows of all time.  The idea was to raise enough money in preorder DVD sales to warrant Fox picking up the Emmy winning show for a 4th season. ( David Cross AKA Tobias Funke was an early supporter/investor )
posted by Bwithh at 8:22 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kickstarter is a recognized, trusted brand for this sort of thing in a way self-hosted solutions will likely never be.

This. That reputation is worth a lot of money.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:24 PM on January 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


So...what was the plan?

Self hosted kickstarter. He devotes a sentence to it before bitching about neo liberal capitalism for half a page.

Looking through his site, this seems to be a running theme. Talk about something, then switch to bitching about it's actually part of neoliberalism, then saying it undermines the conditions for revolution.

Also, the lawyers have already come and gone. I doubt kickstarter will be on the prosecuting end of a lawsuit.
posted by zabuni at 8:25 PM on January 16, 2012


That article is kind of dumb.
posted by empath at 8:27 PM on January 16, 2012 [24 favorites]


a fusillade against the hypocrisy of socially conscious capitalism, using Kickstarter as an example

Exactly right, and thanks for putting it so neatly. It's a very good essay, with a very misleading title.
posted by RogerB at 8:28 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


At first I thought I was reading some kind of satire. I for one am happy to pay companies like Kickstarter to do a lot of the legwork for me! There's a huge community built up around the site, giving project creators access to many more potential backers than just launching their own website. Nobody is saying you can't also use your own website or other online presence to help spread your message either.

As far as competition goes, I have yet to see other companies doing anything like this as well as kickstarter seems to be. Once the competition has come up to the level of Kickstarter, I'm sure prices will drop. But by then, Kickstarter should have raised enough capital to do fine with a lower rake.

The way I see it, everybody wins. Competitors will make their way into the market. Overall prices will drop. Hundreds and thousands of project creators will have successful projects.

Yay, internetology!
posted by Jesse Hughson at 8:29 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


At least 5% of Kickstarter funding comes from strangers so I don't mind the fee. Of course, my friends might have been able to support me more if they hadn't funded strangers' projects on Kickstarter.

I think we can all agree Good is weak reading, at any rate.
posted by michaelh at 8:30 PM on January 16, 2012


Not only is Kickstarter recognized and trusted, but this:

In other words, Kickstarter is a web hosting company that charges over 6,000% more than a comparable service.

isn't really true. Kickstarter is a web hosting company that charges not one cent unless you get a certain amount of money coming your way. That, in itself, is worth something.
posted by kenko at 8:31 PM on January 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Business plan: Just like Kickstarter, except take a 2% cut instead of a 5% cut.

''Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin' there, there's 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?"
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:31 PM on January 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'll grant that kickstarter charges hefty fees if you view hosting as their service, but 5% sounds way way cheaper than credit cards, venture capitalists, IPOs, etc., who don't provide hosting.

Also, isn't all specialized hosting overpriced? Google "anonymous hosting", not expensive, but way more than $30 per year.

How about creating an actual plan to put kickstarter out of business by doing the same thing for 2%? You could reduce fraud by requiring that funded organizations publish records of their relevant spending, for example.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:33 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


They take credit cards. This costs money, and benefits from economies of scale.

The thing missing from self-hosting is a tip jar that people actually put money in.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:35 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


anotherpanacea beat me to it -- I work in nonprofit theater in Chicago and credit cards are always the stumbling point in all fundraising endeavors.
posted by HeroZero at 8:37 PM on January 16, 2012


Is this just about 5% on successful projects? Really - the value in branding is significant, as was noted before me.

Consider that (3 years ago) I would take in 30 cents on the dollar for candy sales and 40 cents for soft drinks at a c-store. People who buy things they want drive a market.

Consider also that employees coming from headhunters can take a large (10%+) cut from the hiring salary just to get a job. Employers who pay for expertise they need drive a market.

This is a market - and the cost of entry is zero. The cost of success is between the markup on gas and toilet paper.

Doesn't seem noteworthy to me.
posted by timfinnie at 8:38 PM on January 16, 2012


The credit card fees seem to be an additional 3-5% that Amazon Payments takes, though, not included in the 5% Kickstarter takes.

Still, $184 is an incredible bargain for credibility. Usually that sort of thing costs way more. Just ask any of the Republican primary candidates.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:39 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Short version: "I don't like something and don't want to use it, so therefore it should be made to go away." Oh FFS...
posted by twsf at 8:42 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not so sure about this blog. I clicked around a bit and found this post, which claims that the iconic UC Davis pepper spray photo was a result of (wait for it) somethingaweful photoshopping other pictures together.
posted by rebent at 8:42 PM on January 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


I like Kickstarter because it rewards people who think outside the box.

Recently they had a really great project with a really great product and I totally supported it until I ordered the product and it came in a box.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:43 PM on January 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not so sure about this blog. I clicked around a bit and found this post, which claims that the iconic UC Davis pepper spray photo was a result of (wait for it) somethingaweful photoshopping other pictures together.

What. The. Fuck.

Maybe he should use Kickstarter to raise funding for the surgical removal of his tinfoil hat.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:46 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Even if that guy had an idea -- which he doesn't -- he's confusing having an idea with doing something -- which he won't.
posted by unSane at 8:47 PM on January 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


It never occurred to me that Kickstarter takes a cut of what you get for your project, though of course that makes sense. What exactly is the plan to put them out of business? It didn't really say. "Start another website that would do it for cheaper" sounds good, until you get really popular and you need cash to keep things working.

I know this really great website where you can raise cash to start projects . . .
posted by Ironmouth at 8:47 PM on January 16, 2012


I don't know, isn't the value in kickstarter in that they made micro-financing available to the masses? Prior to their existence it wasn't a realistic expectation to fund an idea, business, venture, etc. by having a lot of small investments made by many different people. Now it's a pretty acceptable concept.
I think they deserve something for making the concept viable.

--Also, they have the two floors in my building just above my bar, and when I am in the backroom working on a project or something I can hear them laughing. A lot (it's an old loft building, sound travels). Makes me a bit jealous of their work environment, actually. They also seem to have great holiday parties. I do however suspect them of sneaking into my space (which they used to lease from the landlord) when they shouldn't, using keys that they shouldn't have, so there's that against them.
posted by newpotato at 8:49 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Short version: "I don't like something and don't want to use it, so therefore it should be made to go away." Oh FFS...

A little more nuanced than that. Just a little.

It's more, websites like this make progressive lefty types feel warm and fuzzy inside, and that stops them from calling for REVOLUTION and destroying the CAPITALIST SYSTEM. He says the same thing about open source software.

I see the point, but marxists of his type tend to be very one note. Neoliberalism is seen in everything, and the good is the enemy of the perfect, as it channels energy and people from the REVOLUTION.
posted by zabuni at 8:51 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


So so dumb. "Socially conscious??" Who said Kickstarter was meant to be? You support things you want to support and you get things in return.

I see so many musicians making their albums this way; by essentially selling it up front. It helps people make art. Making art costs money. Unless you're the "information wants to be free" type who aggressively wants artists to starve, there is no drawback*. The end.

*Actually I find the fact that you don't get the money til you raise it all a little weak, which is why I use indiegogo, one of the many alternatives. But the underlying principle is utterly sound and a force for good.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:53 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Branding your own blog as one of "philosophical reflection and speculations" pretty much means you're an asshole.
posted by xmutex at 8:53 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is his philosophy in a nutshell:

Rather than advancing the bounds of the beachhead, we should turn back and destroy it – not just the new forms of peer production and social enterprises that are emerging, but the traditional system of charitable giving and volunteering and the ideal subjectivity of sharing, altruism and cooperation that supports both. These must also be killed so they do not die.

I love you, progressive circular firing squad.
posted by zabuni at 8:55 PM on January 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


That blog post is full of Metafilter logic. Sure, the points seem to be more or less true. But the "fees, therefore, evil..." way of framing it falls flat for most folks, who know pretty much what they're getting in to.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:56 PM on January 16, 2012


But there’s no reason why you couldn’t, since the technology itself is trivial, and could be written for a fraction of the millions of dollars of somewhat dubious value that Kickstarter provides.

Security audits that write themselves, trivial.
posted by benzenedream at 8:59 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hm, I thought this was going to be about the complaint I have regarding Kickstarter projects, which is that I've never actually received the whatever promised when I donated to a project that became successful.
posted by troika at 9:01 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lots of tabletop roleplaying games get funded on Kickstarter. My problem with Kickstarter can be summarized with a story about that scene:

Palladium Books publishes gonzo, unbalanced, crazy RPGs like Robotech, Rifts and Beyond the Supernatural. They don't revise anything and don't like people adapting their work to other games. Their house layout style is dumb. A lot of RPG communities loathe this company.

Palladium Books may also be the oldest independently owned RPG producer of note (those which are older, such as Flying Buffalo, barely have a pulse). TSR was swallowed by WotC was swallowed by Hasbro. White Wolf was acquired by CCP. A number of independent-looking companies are actually owned by the UK-Based Rebellion Group. But Palladium is still owned by a single, eccentric dude named Kevin Sembieda, and anybody he doesn't piss off (and he's pissed off people in his day) seems to stay employed for a very long time. Also, in an industry where books often wither after 90 days, Palladium keeps most of its back catalogue in print -- one of the reasons they rarely revise anything is to keep that back catalogue relevant.

A few years ago, one of Palladium's employees cooked the books and outright stole property (Kevin Sembieda was also an indie comics artist, and a massive collector of comics and other valuable, nerdy stuff) to the tune of a high six to low seven figures. For an RPG company, this is a catastrophic loss.The company also licensed to the Nokia NGage, which faltered, and was having licensing woes as the US economy started to slow down. This put the company in dire straits. Sembieda swallowed his pride and asked his loyal fans for money -- not money for nothing, but for a numbered, limited edition print that he would draw himself (artist, remember?) and sell for $50 a pop.

Communities like RPGNet spewed venom on this man, his company, and the entire idea of saving it. They clamoured for it do die. They especially mocked him for trying to raise money with a $50 print, which they equated to a handout to an undeserving son of a bitch. Never mind the fraud and theft; if the company couldn't survive that without *begging* it obviously didn't deserve to live.

Then, at the end of a couple of discussions, folks talked about ripping off the system and core ideas and publishing a clone (which is legal) because they had to take control of whatever they could from Palladium's steaming corpse rather than indulge some fucking beggar.

And of course, they floated the idea of using Kickstarter to raise funds for it.

You get me?
posted by mobunited at 9:04 PM on January 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Neoliberalism is seen in everything, and the good is the enemy of the perfect, as it channels energy and people from the REVOLUTION.

Zabuni, I just quoted this on facebook. Thanks!
posted by rebent at 9:06 PM on January 16, 2012


A local writer/musician that I know has been annoyed by the tendency of "major acts" to use Kickstarter.
posted by drezdn at 9:07 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


You get me?

No. How is that a problem with Kickstarter? That sounds like a problem with hypocritical arseholes.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:08 PM on January 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I used to hate on Kickstarter as being overrun by people with really half-assed ideas that do just the right amount of marketing to get their stupidity funded until I came across two projects that were really important to me. One so much that I offered my services, pro-bono once they launch. There are still a lot of morons on there, don't get me wrong, but people vote with their money. You can't blame these things for getting funded when it is the general public that makes it so.

I would have never known about these or been so carefree about throwing money in a pot if it wasn't on Kickstarter. The admins can (and do!) communicate with donors (and donors amongst themselves) through the site, you're able to continuously poll and get information from them on where the project should go next. Hell, I've never donated anywhere else where you are guaranteed to get something at the $5-10 range, no less go up to some really cool stuff.

I could design and code up something similar to a Kickstarter page, but it would take days and even after all that work, I'm still ending up with a site that isn't stumbled across by the hundreds of thousands of people who surf Kickstarter just to look at cool stuff, it probably wouldn't function as well and even if it did, people just don't trust one-off sites for this kind of stuff, I'm automatically out of hosting and domain costs up-front, I would have to create a mailing list with Mailchimp or something, design out my newsletters, create a forum for only my donators and hope they not only register but show up.

The list goes on and on. It's just laughable dude doesn't understand that businesses have overhead that he can't -- in this magical world he seems to live in -- understand.
posted by june made him a gemini at 9:09 PM on January 16, 2012


There are lots of alternatives to kickstarter already, including indie-gogo, which charges less. Soooo...hmm?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:10 PM on January 16, 2012


So so dumb. "Socially conscious??" Who said Kickstarter was meant to be? You support things you want to support and you get things in return.

I guess what annoyed me about it is the need to see every goddamned thing through a political prison. Kickstarter is cool because it makes it easy for you to pay people you like to make more stuff that you like. There's nothing liberal or conservative about it.

Not everything needs to be about goddamned politics. The guy must be a painful bore in real life.
posted by empath at 9:10 PM on January 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


(prison/prism)
posted by empath at 9:10 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I clicked around a bit and found this post, which claims that the iconic UC Davis pepper spray photo was a result of (wait for it) somethingaweful photoshopping other pictures together.

No, it doesn't. It claims that all the remixing and jokes are what made the one particular image iconic.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:14 PM on January 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


How is that a problem with Kickstarter? That sounds like a problem with hypocritical arseholes.

It's both.
posted by mobunited at 9:14 PM on January 16, 2012


Is there something like Kickstarter for businesses?
posted by ofthestrait at 9:18 PM on January 16, 2012


Here are the list of benefits that are offered... I. A very small website... That's it.


What. How about this benefit: II. Organize fundraising for projects, coordinate payment among many small donors, and do it in a way that's simple enough that non-geeks can donate $5 to support their favorite Brony fanfic or whatever and that ties in to social networking sites.

Is Kickstarter skimming too much off the top? Maybe. Maybe they're rent-seekers (and, by the way, fuck rent-seekers). But is Kickstarter a scam? No. Because there's no deception: They take a percentage, and they're totally up front about it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:27 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hm, I thought this was going to be about the complaint I have regarding Kickstarter projects, which is that I've never actually received the whatever promised when I donated to a project that became successful.

I was half thinking about starting an FPP based on mathowie's lessons from one kickstarter project, where the project creators didn't communicate well, especially in the face of setbacks.

A problem with Kickstarter seems to be that it's very much buyer beware, with the kicker that buyers often expect finished products, but projects don't always have a smooth path to mass produce said products.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:29 PM on January 16, 2012


He's missing the fact that kickstarter provides legitimacy and marketing. He's also missing the fact that if you accept money online, you have to pay a commission. So if you put up a paypal button, paypal gets 3.99% or something, So kickstarter is only charging a 1.01% premium. They provide visibility put listing you on their site and they provide legitimacy. People trust kickstarter to handle the funds, they trust that kickstarter has reviewed the plans, etc.

I don't like Kickstarter all that much, I don't like the fact that they have to approve projects. What happened with Diaspora was ridiculous, those guys got way more money then they deserved. I think the process should be more democratic. But a 5% fee is not that much.
posted by delmoi at 9:31 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't see how Kickstarter are rent-seekers, unless you consider as any brand with a reservoir of goodwill as a rent-seeker. 5% as a finders fee, which is essentially what this is, is EXTREMELY low.
posted by unSane at 9:32 PM on January 16, 2012


Ha - the argument that the article states is bad.

EVEN if we ignore the fact that Kickstarter brings a lot of attention to the project, EVEN if we ignore the social cache aspect to it,

EVEN if we assume that the only benefit that is offered is A Very Small Website, it's still a deal. $184 for a CMS-driven website, plus a blog, with commenting, secure credit card/payment handling, plus web hosting? With a not-horrible design? That's amazingly cheap, especially in the world of web design.
posted by suedehead at 9:33 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


These 'rent seeking' ills flow from the fact that credit card companies have managed to become the middlemen and gatekeepers for essentially all e-commerce. If anything, fuck credit cards.
posted by Pyry at 9:34 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: full of Metafilter logic.
posted by drklahn at 9:34 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


How is that a problem with Kickstarter? That sounds like a problem with hypocritical arseholes.

It's both.


I'm sorry, mobunited. I still don't understand. You're annoyed that Kickstarter is potentially accessible to douchebags? Or that jerks can rip off ideas and fund them through Kickstarter? Or that Kickstarter is held to a different standard than a single guy trying to fundraise on his own?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:35 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't believe we're even discussing this incoherent rant, which reads like a Markov chain seeded with snippets from random Objectivist blog posts and Andy Rooney moaning from the grave.
posted by gwint at 9:42 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, hey... that's my blog post! :)
posted by AlsoMike at 9:42 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, mobunited, I'm not seeing the "both" part.
posted by kenko at 9:46 PM on January 16, 2012


He makes it sound very easy to do what Kickstarter does, yet here is a lengthy blog post instead of a product launch announcement.
posted by the jam at 9:56 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kickstarter=good. Angry blog=bad. Metafilter logic=0
posted by Jesse Hughson at 9:56 PM on January 16, 2012


He's missing the fact that kickstarter provides legitimacy and marketing.

This is what I see as a huge plus for Kickstarter. The very concept seems to have caught the imagination of lots of creative folks, which draws more creative folks. I've wondered about the risk involved with it's availability to half-assed ideas. Right now, the momentum of interesting ideas seems to reflect well on Kickstarter, attracting more interesting ideas. But if the balance of half-assed ideas reaches a tipping point such that Kickstarter loses its cachet among visionary folks, then it becomes a quack factory and spirals downward into oblivion. I'm not familiar enough with the site, but does this seem like a possibility? Does Kickstarter vett ideas?
posted by 2N2222 at 9:57 PM on January 16, 2012


The author seems to have missed that huge value add of the Kickstarter brand.

He's not missing it, exactly, he's just hugely underestimating the value and importance of the brand.
posted by asnider at 10:02 PM on January 16, 2012


I wonder if matthowie got financial compensation for creating a metafilter branded page on kickstarter.
posted by joost de vries at 10:03 PM on January 16, 2012


From the article: The reason it ought to be put out of business is that it is overcharging its customers for the value it offers, i.e. it is a scam.

A scam is when you overcharge some who doesn't know better for a service they can get for much cheaper. Charging as much as you can get away with when you're the best game in town is, for better or for worse, capitalism.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:06 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ok I didn't read everyone's comments, but aren't we missing the fact that Kickstarter provides one of the most painless escrow experiences available (in partnership with Amazon). All my experience with Kickstarter has hinged on this fact -- that people can donate knowing that they won't be charged unless the project hits its goal.
posted by nímwunnan at 10:07 PM on January 16, 2012


Does this guy have hammocks in his lair? Because this is exactly the kind of misguided, malicious evildoing I could get behind.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:12 PM on January 16, 2012


It's more, websites like this make progressive lefty types feel warm and fuzzy inside, and that stops them from calling for REVOLUTION and destroying the CAPITALIST SYSTEM. He says the same thing about open source software.

Yeah, I read his ranty bits about open source with a lot of interest. He went on for pages and pages about how everyone thinks that "Peer to Peer Production" (which he uses synonymously with open source, missing the point entirely) will destroy capitalism, and that they're wrong. He tosses off a bunch of cites to various academic papers about the destruction of capitalism via open source, but doesn't even refer to some of the best actual long-term research into the nature of disperse user-driven product development (Eric Von Hippel's Democratizing Innovation).

By the time I hit his teaser, "In Part III, I look at this phenomenon through Foucauldian and Lacanian lenses..." I figured there wasn't really much meat there -- just the same argument repackaged for a new topic each week.

Fap? Fap fap?
posted by verb at 10:16 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The magazine [Inc. owned by the father of Ben Goldhirsh, the founder of Kickstarter]has very positive and supportive coverage of Occupy Wall Street, because people with Good™ values have no problem with a certain kind of anti-capitalism, the kind that implies that the problems are not with the system itself, but with the people in charge. Those people have the wrong values — they’re greedy and selfish and have no goals in life except making money.
The bold, above is mine and the place where this piece goes from being somewhat compelling to utter over the cliff bullshit. The Problems are indeed 150% systemic, and to not understand that as being the very linchpin of OWS, as stated by the OWS manifest itself, is just wrong. So wrong as to destroy the whole argument against Kickstarter.

I understand the frustration with this idea of Good™ (capitalist) values, and there's something to that, but there's a huge disconnect. These are two separate arguments and both are too superficial and not thought out enough to float of their own accord and that connection he claims with OWS is dumb.
posted by Skygazer at 10:20 PM on January 16, 2012


So...what was the plan? Because all I could see is bitching about how much money Kickstarter has made.

Likewise.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 PM on January 16, 2012


God, that was a joke. Kickstarter was something new. 6,000% of what a webhosting company makes? Yeah, it's not a webhosting company.

If someone makes a better service that people use, mazeltov. Articles like this though are just whinging instead of doing actual work. You'd make a better kickstarter if you could, anonymous author, but we really know you're just gonna watch Downton Abbey and masturbate.

That's cool. It's what I did too! I guess I'm sick of articles like this. I feel like I've read a lot of them lately. I feel like it cheapens the aspects of capitalism we should actually be angry at. They are legion.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:39 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I keep expecting someone to pop into this thread, Folgers Crystals-style, and say "We've secretly replaced the MetaFilter you usually read with a bunch of Hacker News tech-industry cheerleading, poor reading comprehension, and anti-anti-capitalist ressentiment — let's see if you notice the difference." But I guess mostly this thread was just doomed by the post's title attracting people who wanted to read a techy/business piece about Kickstarter — which seems to be pretty universally liked, and knee-jerk defended, indeed — rather than a critique taking it as a symptom of a certain web-tech-booster culture and its marginally, weakly left-liberal politics.

I liked the bits about "Good™ values," anyhow. It's a phenomenon closely related to, but slightly distinct from, what I think of as "Adbusters politics." And I do think Kickstarter, as a slickly organized form of fundraiser voluntarism, is pretty closely connected to a certain kind of liberal political mindset, of the "NGOs and fundraising can save the world, pay no attention to the structural exploitation behind the curtain" variety — and agree that that's something well worth critiquing.
posted by RogerB at 10:55 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


How about Kickstopper?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:01 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I think these sorts of things are just a way to get more publicity for companies. I'd never even heard of Kickstarter before this.
posted by Malice at 11:05 PM on January 16, 2012


rather than a critique taking it as a symptom of a certain web-tech-booster culture and its marginally, weakly left-liberal politics.

Not to use a tone argument, but this was a really bait and switch article. The only way we would be reading this critique is that it was attached to a link-baiting anti-Kickstarter article and first half. The second half could be attached to damn near any other topic, which he does on the site. Repeatedly.

Marxists gonna marx, I guess.
posted by zabuni at 11:12 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was a terrible article. He started off exhibiting a love of hyperbole and disdain for actual numbers with the idea that "170,795 likes" equates to 'universally loved on facebook' - does he even know how many users facebook has? Hint: these likes are coming from around 0.017% of the userbase. He proceeded to completely ignore what I think are the biggest value adds KickStarter has, the financial processing and escrow handling, and then builds a political/philosophical rant based on his imaginary theory of why people would like KickStarter if it was as useless as he said it was. It's like saying "so bunnies are evil, right? And frogs eat bunnies. This is evidence of ". The only people listening to your idea are people who don't know enough to stop after the first couple of sentences.
posted by jacalata at 11:24 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


this is evidence of accidentally using angle brackets in your comment. Should have said 'insert worlds greatest idea ever'
posted by jacalata at 11:25 PM on January 16, 2012


Not sure if it's worth responding to this, but 5% is totally reasonable. And Kickstarter is an amazing bit of goodwill for the world, it's nuts anyone can complain about this.

And by the way, you don't have any clue what Kickstarter provides. It's the community, stupid. Do you know what happens if you start a Kickstarter project on your own little website? Only the people who already know you will bother to notice.
posted by lubujackson at 11:46 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: It's the community, stupid.
posted by Skygazer at 12:01 AM on January 17, 2012


Not sure if it's worth responding to this, but 5% is totally reasonable. And Kickstarter is an amazing bit of goodwill for the world, it's nuts anyone can complain about this.
Yeah, I was surprised at how little they were charging.
Yeah, I read his ranty bits about open source with a lot of interest. He went on for pages and pages about how everyone thinks that "Peer to Peer Production" (which he uses synonymously with open source, missing the point entirely) will destroy capitalism, and that they're wrong. He tosses off a bunch of cites to various academic papers about the destruction of capitalism via open source, but doesn't even refer to some of the best actual long-term research into the nature of disperse user-driven product development (Eric Von Hippel's Democratizing Innovation).
Wait, was he for OSS and for Capitalism, or against OSS and Capitalism? Or was he just rambling on?

While certainly people make money both by using and writing OSS (Android, being the most obvious example) A "socialist revolution" wouldn't even be possible without it. Without Linux: you have no Facebook or twitter. You look at the Egyptian revolution, there might be some commercial system integrated into the OS (There would be no firefox browser to compete with IE) -- such a system would be much more amenable to the demands of the local government, because they would need to do business there to collect license fees.

It also seems like, had RMS not invented the GPL back in the day, someone else would have come up with something similar. It seems like it's too obvious not to exist. But, you know, path dependence. Who knows what the world would be like without stuff like the GPL/GNU tools/Apache/Linux kernel/Firefox and now android...
posted by delmoi at 12:03 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


When you give 5% to Kickstarter, you are giving them 5% for the pleasure of NOT having to set up your own website, for NOT having to sort your own ecommerce option that isn't PayPal, for the credit card transaction fees Kickstarter is itself charged, and for NOT having to build all of the exposure yourself. And in point of fact, after Kickstarter pays their transaction fees, I'm pretty sure their profit is closer to this golder 2%.

Whatever. Whiners gonna whine.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:04 AM on January 17, 2012


Since everyone is pretty much universally shitting on the actual article, I just thought I would add that I thought the website design itself is quite lovely, though.
posted by empath at 12:05 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Business plan: Just like Kickstarter, except take a 2% cut instead of a 5% cut.

You like 7 minute Abs? Let me tell you about my 6 minute Abs workout!
posted by arcticseal at 12:09 AM on January 17, 2012


You like 7 minute Abs? Let me tell you about my 6 minute Abs workout!

You guys are why I don't have a six pack.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:23 AM on January 17, 2012


His thoughts were red thoughts: "You like 7 minute Abs? Let me tell you about my 6 minute Abs workout!

You guys are why I don't have a six pack.
"

Why, man? one minute per pack!

By the way, kudos to AlsoMike for admitting to being the blog's author, bang in the middle of MeFi tearing it down.
posted by vanar sena at 12:38 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


RogerB, the bits about “Good™ Values” are indeed interesting, and terribly difficult to articulate without seeming like a total bastard. I’ve had a lot of friends raise money on Kickstarter and I’ve happily donated to a number projects, but I find it really troubling that the site gets used as a thinly-veiled capital raising scheme for mass-produced trinkets.

It’s one thing to help someone pull the money together to write a book or film a movie, quite another to drop $20-$50 to assist in the prototyping and manufacture of some tchotchke that rightfully belongs in the dollar bins by the checkout lane at Ace. Pieces of metal you put in your coffee? A thousand different thingies you can stick to your iPhone? Give me a fucking break.

I’ll keep using Kickstarter to help people fund projects, but I’ll look for creative works rather than manufacturing scams.
posted by migurski at 12:52 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remember, their cut will include the fee the bank takes for processing the credit card. That's likely at least half of their 5% (ex: Square charges 2.5% for processing a credit card, and they are one of the cheaper ones)
posted by rjnerd at 1:17 AM on January 17, 2012


Business plan: Just like Kickstarter, except take a 2% cut instead of a 5% cut.
Yeah have fun with the 3% credit card processing fee. Dwolla charges a 25¢ flat rate, but both people need Dwolla counts and any donation less then $5 would mean a greater then 5% base transaction fee.

Seriously, 5% is a fantastic deal.
posted by delmoi at 1:33 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, I didn't write this to get it on Metafilter, I don't even link to my blog from my profile because it's not the right audience. I write for myself and a handful of people who are some species of anti-capitalist, anarchist, marxist or whatever. The title of the post is kind of a joke. What would be accomplished politically by putting Kickstarter out of business? Not much. The "ambitious plan" is a kind of Swiftian "modest proposal." And, as many have helpfully pointed out, there isn't really a plan anyway. Not that I'm against it being on Metafilter, it's definitely... an experience.

The point is that even if you think crowdfunding is some kind of anti-capitalist practice (which I don't, but some anarchists and autonomists do), the parasitic nature of Kickstarter's business model means that they are definitely not it. So it's a bit awkward to have people outside of this sphere chime in with "What do you guys have against having money?" The people on the Anarchism subreddit got it when it was posted there -- they started talking about Bitcoin as an alternative, the need for independence from credit card companies and so on.

zabuni, I know what you're talking about with the one-note marxists, but I think you are seriously misreading me if that's what you think I'm on about. Most of what I write about (this piece included) is very critical of the left, and often ruffles the feathers of my leftist friends. The Peer Production Illusion is partly about these Scrooge McDuck stereotypes that many leftists have of capitalists, that they are these cold, immoral, calculating machines who care about nothing except for the next buck, unlike we Marxists who truly care... I'm totally opposed to this cheap sentimental moralizing (sometimes derisively called Beautiful Soul Syndrome), not only is it annoying, it actually makes for terrible Marxism. I insist that the ideal capitalist subject can be quite warm-hearted, generous, helping the community and all of that -- Good™ people.

I do talk about what is part of neoliberalism -- as a critique against Marxists like David Harvey and Wendy Brown, and even Marx himself (or at least one reading of him.)

Thanks everyone who read the piece and liked it; or read it and thought I'm an asshole. My wife just read through the comments and said "Wow, that was rough!"
posted by AlsoMike at 1:37 AM on January 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


rjnerd: According to this it looks like that Amazon's card processing fees are on top of the 5%, so the total vig is about 5-10%.

Wikipedia has the total amount of funding they've procured at $125 mil (may be outdated), which would presumably equate to a gross turnover of about $6 mil. Whether or not that is wandering into rent-seeking territory really depends on what their overheads are, it doesn't really seem like a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.

There certainly is considerable value added by their centralisation and normalisation of the process, much the same as etsy add value for crafties compared to sales on their own websites.

Also, the bit where the creators get to maintain control over their means of production, rather than having it leveraged away from them by vulture capitalists is actually rather bordering on socialism...
posted by titus-g at 1:37 AM on January 17, 2012


ed: 8-10%, not 5-10.
posted by titus-g at 1:42 AM on January 17, 2012


From the Kickstarter FAQ:

"If a project is successfully funded, Kickstarter will apply a 5% fee to the funds raised[...]When a project is successful, Amazon will apply credit card processing fees, which work out to roughly 3-5%"

I still think it's worth it. A friend of mine just raised more than double his $18,000 target for a film project he is working on, which in all likelihood would not have been possible without Kickstarter. I see nothing wrong with a company charging for such a great service, especially when you consider that they charge nothing for the (many) projects that don't make the cut.
posted by omnikron at 1:48 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


To make that case, first we should look at what Kickstarter offers to projects. Here are the list of benefits that are offered: A very small website

It's as if someone offered you a bunch of cash money, but you refuse it, because you don't know what to do with all that paper, and anyway you can't use it because there's already green ink all over it.
posted by romanb at 2:03 AM on January 17, 2012


I think it's a foolish post.

First, let me say that I'm biased. I've helped launch three projects on Kickstarter that have raised over $80,000 in total (A History of the Future in 100 Objects, Balance of Powers, and Zombies, Run!). I can say with a great deal of confidence that they would not have happened, or they would not have been anywhere near as successful, without specifically Kickstarter.

Kickstarter has become somewhat synonymous with crowdfunding, despite the fact that it has many, many competitors that do essentially the same thing, or even more things. The fact that the author claims that "there is presently no real alternative to Kickstarter" shows that you can ignore the entire post because it's, to put it not so lightly, utter bullshit. Just take Indiegogo as an example - founded before Kickstarter, available international, more funding methods, more types of projects allowed, smaller cut (4% + 3% to Paypal).

But then... why is Kickstarter more popular, if someone is doing the same thing but cheaper? Marketing? The fact that Kickstarter's founders have lots of cool friends? I don't think so. It's because the user experience is miles beyond anything else out there, for both creators and contributors. It is surprisingly easy and pleasant to set up a project on Kickstarter once you've gotten past the necessary Amazon Payments hurdles, and it's even nicer to run projects. Here are some reasons why:
  • You can send out surveys and email newsletters to people following the project, all backers, or backers at specific tiers
  • You get a blog and a very simple chat page for free
  • You get a private messaging system to talk to backers
  • There are very nice analytic tools that show your pledges are coming from
Of course, you could roll all of this yourself - if you know how (let's say Wordpress, Paypal, Mailchimp/Mailman, bbPress, Google Analytics). And as someone who does know how, I can happily say that I do not want to because they do it better and in a more attractive way (ditto for Indiegogo), and I have better things to do with my time, like starting projects.

This is despite the fact that I just discovered, through Kickstarter's own analytics, that I get rather less passing trade via Kickstarter than I had predicted (probably just 10-20%). Most pledges came from Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs and websites. For two of my projects, the majority of pledges came from people I know or had heard of, and who knew our work. The third project went viral. But even then, I recognise the fact that people trust Kickstarter (and that many people already have logins) and that my time is better spent doing something else.

Here's the problem. You think that Kickstarter is ripping people off because it's doing something really easy but charging 5% for it, and that they're hypocrites because they claim to be championing the little guy, and that they're only successful because we're all chumps who drink their koolaid. Fine. Go and do something about it. Make a cheaper, better Kickstarter. Prove us all wrong.

It'll probably take quite a while, too long to do in your spare time if you have a job. It may also require some capital, and you might need some extra skills that you don't have. But it's a service that other people would use and would benefit from, so perhaps you could raise money from them somehow...

Kickstarter has changed the entire way I approach creating projects. Instead of pitching projects to people in power - commissioners, publishers, investors - I can go directly to the public. If it's a good idea, it gets funded quickly and I can make this stuff with far fewer of the compromises required when dealing with people who, frankly, do not have the time or, frequently, the experience to contribute usefully. If the idea isn't good and I can't convince enough people to fund it, I haven't wasted a lot of time.

It would be great if Kickstarter didn't charge 5%. But they need to eat as well. Maybe they could eat fine on 3%, but I don't begrudge them the money because they've made something incredibly useful. In any case, Kickstarter will get cheaper, I'm sure of that. Either that or it'll continue offering more and more features that put it ahead of cheaper competition.
posted by adrianhon at 2:38 AM on January 17, 2012 [16 favorites]


AlsoMike, I don't think you're an arsehole, but I do consider that your argument against Kickstarter is poorly constructed and deeply uninformed.

Not that I'm against it being on Metafilter, it's definitely... an experience.


However, you get big props from me for owning your article in the face of near uniform opposition, and handling such vocal criticism with grace. Bravo, sir.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:49 AM on January 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


"However, you get big props from me for owning your article in the face of near uniform opposition, and handling such vocal criticism with grace. Bravo, sir."

Yes, I agree, as well.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:32 AM on January 17, 2012


Why use the post office? You could just hand-deliver all your mail.
posted by hudders at 4:53 AM on January 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


The point is that even if you think crowdfunding is some kind of anti-capitalist practice (which I don't, but some anarchists and autonomists do), the parasitic nature of Kickstarter's business model means that they are definitely not it.

If you were trying to clarify your point with this sentence, you didn't.
posted by jeremias at 5:04 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


AlsoMike: Thanks for the post. I like the Good TM stuff, but the earlier part misses the transaction fees and escrow services that separate crowdfunding from webhosting. Perhaps these seem like mere quibbles, but it's a mistake that is easily fixed and you lose nothing from accuracy. Obviously, the large profits indicate that Kickstarter is charging well over costs, and precision would only enhance this point.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:31 AM on January 17, 2012


I have a small publishing company. We publish knitting books. There are over a million registered users on Ravelry.com (a site that could be compared to, say, a Facebook for knitters). So obviously, I don't even have close to a 1% familiarity with everyone in the knitting community online, and this is despite my also being the author of 12 major-publisher books.

My company did a Kickstarter to raise money for an emerging designers series. We raised over $12,000 -- a godsend for a small, one-person company. It has helped us move things along where a tip jar (tacky on a business website, even a tiny one like ours) would not have, and judging from the people who pledged, many were friends of friends of friends who I never would have met otherwise.

tl;dr? Fuck this guy. The fees to Kickstarter and Amazon Payments are a cost of doing business. The overall gain makes them well worth it. Would I have liked to pay less? Sure. But the intrinsic value of being on Kickstarter is no small value.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:15 AM on January 17, 2012


-harlequin-: "HAHAHA who are we kidding?! Patents will be unveiled, threats made, counter threats, claims contested, all progress for the betterment of humanity will end up on hold in favour of protracted court battles, and the only winners will be lawyers."

Are you aware of this?
Kickstarter was founded in 2009, but it looks like someone else had already had the crowdfunding idea. Brian Camelio, a former musician, filed a patent in 2003 for "Methods and apparatuses for financing and marketing a creative work," and was granted said patent this year. Camelio founded ArtistShare, which allows fans to help fund musician's recording projects in exchange for "access to the creative process."

The patent is for a system of "raising financing and/or revenue by artist for a project, where the project may be a creative work of the artist." The method includes "registering, by at least one artist, with a centralized database, at least one or more projects, offering, by the at least one artist, an entitlement related to the artist in exchange for capital for the project of the artist."
...
Camelio reportedly told PaidContent in an e-mail that, "As an artist myself, I feel that KickStarter may be hurting artist by focusing on 'donating money' rather than celebrating the artist for what they do. Their model does not build fan relationships but just continually asks for handouts."
posted by symbioid at 6:21 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


tl;dr? Fuck this guy. The fees to Kickstarter and Amazon Payments are a cost of doing business.

Although I don't really agree with the original posted article, I don't think "what do I care? I'm still making money!" — which is the essence of several criticisms in this thread — is a valid retort. The author's argument is surely that Kickstarter helps perpetuate a certain approach to economics and business that he rejects, and that people maybe don't realize this, because of the general ambience of Kickstarter. The fact that they're not the only people to benefit financially from this approach doesn't invalidate that argument.
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:25 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally, Gruber linked to this posting on el blog del Numero Uno about Kickstarter.
posted by tommasz at 6:51 AM on January 17, 2012


and the only winners will be lawyers.

We... like to win one now and then too, you know. All those long nights in the office with the law books finding loopholes to exploit, it's lonely and grueling. We're people too.
posted by planet



Umm, cry me a river?

Corporate litigation is a win for the lawyers regardless of who (if anyone) else actually "wins." It's capitalism in churn mode. It's a huge drain on the economy when it is pursued in favor of innovation or price competition as a way to drag out the game, hobble worthy opponents, and put justice firmly in control of those with the deepest pockets. A similar corruption, as we all know from being inundated with ambulance chasing advertising, has also overtaken (undertaken?) personal injury law. The lawyers on both sides get paid when the suit is settled.

I'm assuming you don't mean criminal law, where "lose" and "win" have meanings that can't be measured in money.
posted by spitbull at 7:03 AM on January 17, 2012


[Not to say there aren't issues of justice in corporate litigation or personal injury law, just that they seem to have been subsumed by the process of squeezing as much productive capital as possible out of the economy. Essentially, parasitism.
posted by spitbull at 7:04 AM on January 17, 2012


What a fucking idiot. My company charges $180/month for websites in a niche industry, because we add enormous value in the types of content and services we provide out of the box, not to mention marketing, reputation and industry connections. The same is true for Kickstarter.

If he thinks they are a rip-off, he is free to prove it by competing with them. But I suspect he doesn't know the first thing about doing that, judging by the article.
posted by chundo at 7:09 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If he thinks they are a rip-off, he is free to prove it by competing with them.

Yeah 5% for the sort of exposure Kickstarter's offering you, given that it's free if you don't succeed in raising the funding you're aiming for, is a bargain. It's worth mentioning that, as usual, the number of people saying that out-competing Kickstarter (and Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and so on...) is be a trivially easy thing to do is a lot bigger than the people actually trying to do so, which is in turn a much bigger number than the zero people currently succeeding.
posted by mhoye at 7:16 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reading Matt's post, I find it amazing that more Kickstarter projects don't fail entirely and ship nothing. Especially the ones where they make 10x their goals.
posted by smackfu at 7:29 AM on January 17, 2012


I think it's a great service. Sure, you have to wade through a fair amount of crap, but I can't wait for my copies of some terrific looking stop motion animation films I will be receiving for the very reasonable admission price of $25, give or take. This one, for instance.
posted by Glinn at 7:37 AM on January 17, 2012


Add me to the list of people who thought this was going to be about Kickstarter projects not delivering, or delivering extremely late or a non-working product. A friend of mine who funds Kickstarter projects (mostly on the rpg end, to take it back to mobunited's comments) was mentioning on twitter yesterday that he'd funded 13 projects that had made, and of those 1 had delivered on time, and 8 are or were late. His prediction for 2012 was that people were going to notice that Kickstarter isn't guaranteed.
posted by immlass at 7:38 AM on January 17, 2012


Yeah 5% for the sort of exposure Kickstarter's offering you, given that it's free if you don't succeed in raising the funding you're aiming for, is a bargain. It's worth mentioning that, as usual, the number of people saying that out-competing Kickstarter (and Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and so on...) is be a trivially easy thing to do is a lot bigger than the people actually trying to do so, which is in turn a much bigger number than the zero people currently succeeding.

I especially liked one of the commenters, who boldly announced that they could "duplicate Kickstarter's functionality in a week with Rails."

As another blogger said, ""Trivial" is programmer slang for "I understand what to do and I'm ignoring how much time it will take to do it," much as one might say that adding two large numbers by representing them as piles of pennies, pushing them into one pile, and then counting the pennies is a "trivial" exercise. Trivial exercises are not necessarily swift exercises. Furthermore, like most people, programmers are often wrong about whether an exercise is trivial when it is outside of their area of expertise. Things a programmer claims are "trivial" can be mission critical and require domain-specific expertise to get right."
posted by verb at 7:40 AM on January 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


His prediction for 2012 was that people were going to notice that Kickstarter isn't guaranteed.

Agreed. They are due for something like what happened to AirBnb, where the worst case which always could have happened does happen. Namely someone taking $100k in funding and running for it.
posted by smackfu at 7:57 AM on January 17, 2012


Mike: take this post as a lesson about writing for a larger audience (i.e. everyone else but yourself). The main thing to learn here is that you need to be more clear in your usage of certain terms, especially the ones that you think are obvious in their meaning - like 'parasitic'. It's not unambiguously clear what you mean by this term - whether you are only referring to the huge gap between the fees Kickstarter charges and their 'real' costs (which is pretty easy to refute by pointing out that what they're actually selling is not web hosting but some sort of surplus value), or whether it should be read as an argument against the reality of 'surplus value' in general, or whether you think all middlemen are parasites, or maybe it's about something else instead. This also makes the rest of your argument much less clear; it's difficult to tell whether your problem is only with the unethical people at Kickstarter or the whole system itself. Please revise and resubmit, kthxbai.
posted by daniel_charms at 8:31 AM on January 17, 2012


Kickstarter provides the same thing the publishing industry has always offered: an audience.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:46 AM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like to hear from people whose projects were rejected. I've had a couple of ideas, but they're so niche and non-hipster, for lack of a better term (ie, kind of mundane blue-collar sort of things) that I've never gone through the motions. Anyone care to illustrate what kind of kickstarter projects are rejected?
posted by maxwelton at 8:55 AM on January 17, 2012


Wait.. just so I can plan my life accordingly, which version of capitalism is acceptable? Apparently socially conscious capitalism is hypocritical?
posted by pwally at 9:07 AM on January 17, 2012


AlsoMike: "The point is that even if you think crowdfunding is some kind of anti-capitalist practice (which I don't, but some anarchists and autonomists do), the parasitic nature of Kickstarter's business model means that they are definitely not it. So it's a bit awkward to have people outside of this sphere chime in with "What do you guys have against having money?" The people on the Anarchism subreddit got it when it was posted there -- they started talking about Bitcoin as an alternative, the need for independence from credit card companies and so on."

The thing is, there is nothing parasitic about Kickstarter's business model, except I guess to the extent that projects with huge investment are subsidizing the smaller projects. The fee they are charging makes much more sense than an up-front fee and is easy to measure. I guarantee you that unless the person starting the project also has web design expertise or a friend who will develop the site for free, they're not going to be able to beat Kickstarter on costs.

NearlyFreeSpeech is a great deal, true, but they work because they do little to no hand-holding when it comes to setting up a website, and forget about instructions on how one might promote a project. Not only that, but if you're not keen on running the website on PHP you're mostly out of luck, since two of the more popular languages/frameworks for running websites -- Django and Rails -- aren't supported whatsoever on NFS. So, you have to be able to set up a PHP website.

Even if it were cheaper to set up a website with bitcoins used as currency (I doubt it) how many investors would you be able to get if the requirement was payment in bitcoins? Unless I already had an established reserves of bitcoins, I'm going to have to purchase bitcoins from someone else to make that purchase, and somewhere along the lines that means processing fees.

In my opinion the capitalist system is never going to go away short of a post-apocalypse-type situation. Kickstarter is a great service is provided for a reasonable price, a service that allows the little guy to reach huge audiences.

It's not like anyone who posts a project on Kickstarter actually gets shafted by them. It's an expense, and expense you can even factor in when specifying the amount of money you need.

If you swap it with a bare-bones website accepting bitcoins only, best of luck raising enough money.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:33 AM on January 17, 2012


Wait.. just so I can plan my life accordingly, which version of capitalism is acceptable? Apparently socially conscious capitalism is hypocritical?

While I'm still a bit unsure about AlsoMike's leanings, I get the impression that he is a Marxist. As such: no version of capitalism is acceptable, except in so much as capitalism is a necessary step in order to achieve the sort of communism that Marx envisioned.
posted by asnider at 9:35 AM on January 17, 2012


Most of what I write about (this piece included) is very critical of the left, and often ruffles the feathers of my leftist friends.

Oh, I know. I mispoke a little. It's not that you're an old school liberal, you just see everything as pointing towards the nexus of neoliberalism. It's a bit like Rob Horning, who I've said could find the taint of neoliberalism in a cup of yogurt.

In many ways this is a valid interpretation, just like, if given your priors, this piece makes logical sense (I just happen to disagree with your priors). But it's the issue with hard core feminists, old school marxists and other ideologues, that their viewpoint differs from the majority in fundamental ways. This makes it hard for people to find common ground to agree with, and colors your view so that everything is reflected through that prism. Which means that you will constantly "ruffle feathers" of people who would ostensibly agree with you on a lot of pragmatic political objectives.

Wait.. just so I can plan my life accordingly, which version of capitalism is acceptable? Apparently socially conscious capitalism is hypocritical?

See, this is where people aren't getting it. Capitalism is not acceptable to him. Dressing it up in feel good semi-progressive speak does not make it not capitalism. And like I said above, this is letting people feel warm fuzzies without doing the hard work of bring forth non-exploitative economic systems. Now, if you are a liberal who doesn't believe in the destruction on capitalism, it's going to be hard to have a conversation about this, as your base philosophical underpinnings as vastly different.
posted by zabuni at 9:38 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had a very positive Kickstarter experience. It payed for principle photography for the documentary I am working on. Frankly, I resented the credit card fees for failed transactions more than Kickstarter's vig.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:51 AM on January 17, 2012


The "ambitious plan" is a kind of Swiftian "modest proposal."

Ah, I see. The title was satire, guys. We're just not smart enough to get it.

Seriously, though: it was an interesting post with a very bad title. If it had been less about Kickstarter and more about why generally progressive people consider some capitalism acceptable and other capitalism not (the "Good TM" bits), then I think it would have been more interesting.
posted by AmandaA at 10:46 AM on January 17, 2012


mobunited: "Lots of tabletop roleplaying games get funded on Kickstarter. "

It turns out that since some changes last fall, new HERO books are coming out via Kickstarter. (The Book Of The Empress made it, and I know there are more books coming.) It's probably the thing that will actually get me to start donating there.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:52 AM on January 17, 2012


As someone who has used Kickstarter a couple times, I get hit a lot about the internals and externals, and I ended up writing this entry: Kickstarter: All I Know

I don't expect everyone to read this, so the summary is:

- Kickstarter works REALLY HARD for that 5%, stuff that isn't obvious
- The amount of slickness and ease in admin for a project can't be dismissed
- The quality-checking happens on every level
- I did it and got $120,000 last time

I love those people.
posted by jscott at 10:53 AM on January 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


mobunited - Heh. That's sort of funny, but not really a problem with Kicksstarter.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on January 17, 2012


Without dipping into the ideology of donating via Kickstarter vs. SomethingThatMayExistInTheFuture, I can say that it's generated a revenue stream from me that wasn't there previously. Once I realized they don't depend on PayPal, I found I was able to contribute to a couple projects that I thought I wouldn't be able to. And yeah, anecdote is not the singular of data, but JourneyQuest, e.g., got a HUGE bump by putting their project on Kickstarter. They'd had a PayPal tip jar out for a while, and I suspect most of their KS contributors were aware of that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:25 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Kickstarter and capitalism, Capitalism Works For Me! True/False (a public art project) was funded there.
posted by exogenous at 12:03 PM on January 17, 2012


AlsoMike: I think:
People who think outside the box, creative types who don’t want to be told what to do, trailblazers and mavericks with new ideas. They’re rethinking everything, breaking down barriers, and bringing their fresh, youthful flair to overturn staid, conventional, old-fashioned paradigms. These people support local artists, local musicians, local bakeries, local apps and locavorism; social enterprises, organic food, micro-breweries, open source software, peer-to-peer production, collaborative consumption, volunteering, making the world a better place, community-supported agriculture; simplicity, minimalism, spiritual but not religious, being a maker, not just a consumer; digital nomadism, owning less and experiencing more; being your own boss, being passionate, being connected, being involved; DIY and knowing exactly who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning.
...is a sophisticated and excellent bit of perceptive, sociological type analysis. Present it as the egregious BS/Madison Avenue fed culture of GOOD(tm) "Capitalists" from OWS, being an element of that, but rather as something the movement absolutely needs to be aware of from the get go, as being a trap it must not fall into, and you will have done something incredibly valuable, and perhaps even great.

I don't really know that much about Kickstarter, but it would seem to me maybe you wanted to raise eyebrows and get some attention mostly with using that as an example, but it seems to me the Kickstarter types aren't the oily unctious GOOD(tm.) people who you characterize so well above but rather more the creative and innovators and tinkerer types.

You have to hit the Good (tm.)-types, who think the system is completely fine as long as everyone's lovin' weed and lovin'money, somewhere closer to home. Perhaps in Portland (Portlandia identifies the type, no?) or in Berkeley or in Williamsburg.
posted by Skygazer at 12:35 PM on January 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please, please, please don't stereotype an entire city and metropolitan area based on a ridiculous comedy show--there is no one "type" of residents in Portland, and I'm pretty sure the same is true of Berkeley and Williamsburg (btw--one of these is not like the other).
posted by nonmerci at 4:06 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Deathalicious: "The thing is, there is nothing parasitic about Kickstarter's business model..."

To me, what it comes down to is this: for being Good™ people and helping out the "little guy", should the founders of Kickstarter become members of the 1%? Because that's where they are headed.

If you say yes, we need more of these Good™ guys in the Halls of Power, unlike the greedy jerks we have now, you're a progressive. This is a causal model of how society functions that says our morality determines our economic system. If we're greedy and bad, our economy will be greedy and bad, and this leads us to a program of moral or legal reform where we try to punish, disincentivize, or otherwise get rid a few bad apples that are spoiling the barrel.

Marx turns this causal logic around: the barrel is spoiling the apples. If you stick apples inside a cramped space with poor airflow where moisture can collect, they will go bad. The solution is to get rid of the barrel (the economic system of capitalism), not the apples.

So once the founders of Kickstarter become extremely wealthy (their position in the barrel changes), they'll start to perceive their class interests differently. (Although arguably this happens when you start thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur.) This doesn't mean they will all turn into corrupt Scrooge McDuck figures -- they may continue to have warm, charitable feelings and do good things with their wealth, similar to the charitable efforts of Carnegie and Rockefeller.

The very fact that they are Good™ people is how they justify to themselves defending their class interests. "I'm doing so much good with my money, probably even more efficiently than the government! Maybe I need a tax break so I can do even more good! And just think of all the good I will be able to do once I get these burdensome labor costs under control..."

Maybe Kickstarter are providing more value than I'm giving them credit for, although I think the value of their traffic is way overestimated. I've seen numbers from a successful, promoted project featured on their homepage and newsletters - less than 50% of donations came from those methods. And what percent of projects are actually promoted by them? The claim that Kickstarter provides a community is also specious. Kickstarter does not generate the value that the community brings, the community generates the value.

To your point about capitalism not going away, I'm not the type that relies on cheap moral outrage thinking that this will convert people into communists. I'm more of the opinion that the believing the system can go on indefinitely is unrealistic and utopian. You may disagree. But I think we have to get rid of capitalism for pragmatic reasons, not lofty idealistic moral ones. Basically my position is, maybe it would be nice if capitalism worked, it's a very nice dream, but we have to face up to the facts.

I'd also add that when I thought of myself as a progressive during the Bush years, I felt powerless and demoralized most of the time, but at least we had a goal. I can't even imagine how I would feel today with Obama in office. Even if he gets another term, what's the game plan for after that? Another Obama? It's a dead end.

You can choose to feel powerless. Or, you could feel like the right's worst nightmare. At the same time, I think the progressive uncertainty about the far left is partly warranted. We aren't remotely close to having a ready-to-go political system for people to just pick up.


zabuni: "It's a bit like Rob Horning, who I've said could find the taint of neoliberalism in a cup of yogurt."

Rob Horning is one of my favorite bloggers -- he draws attention to important features of capitalism that are frequently missed. I suspect that many people react to his kind of paranoid style -- advertisers are luring him, tempting him, tricking him and so on -- and maybe think it's an example of how extreme Marxists can be, finding sinister plots in yogurt cups. I have a different reaction, I think here he's doing something that's not too far from Consumer Reports, uncovering the secret corporate plans to trick us into handing over our personal information. It's not a case of being too extreme and losing common ground, but rather having too much common ground and saying something that's already obvious.

So for me, this is an example of not being radical enough rather than being too radical. At least in that post, Rob seems to have a more traditional Marxist view of how ideology works that I think is outdated today. I would critique the yogurt cup by saying that the ideology is present in the way that it pre-emptively accounts for this consumer reports critique. It's saying "Get your money's worth, don't get suckered by us!" allowing you to feel like a vigilant consumer on guard against corporate tricks even while you hand over your personal data.

Skygazer: I agree with you that OWS has focused on systemic issues to a large extent. There are some elements of reform minded people, but the point of my essay is that Good&tm; people embrace OWS, not that OWS embraces Kickstarter. But if you're implying that this Good™ phenomenon is Madison Avenue coming in and corrupting the movement, I have to disagree. If someone said to me that the problem with capitalism was that they had a cool idea for a documentary or really awesome artisan salami, and couldn't make it happen. Sorry, no. You can't build a movement around making things and selling them, and then complain that you were "co-opted" by Madison Avenue, whose job it is to sell things that people make. There's nothing revolutionary about not liking stuff from Target.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:13 PM on January 17, 2012


Hmm, seems like this project which I posted about is in danger of becoming a cautionary tale.
posted by Artw at 8:57 PM on January 17, 2012


Mike, thanks for coming and posting here when there was a relatively high level of snark.


Maybe Kickstarter are providing more value than I'm giving them credit for, although I think the value of their traffic is way overestimated.

I'm a software developer who builds web properties for nonprofits, commercial companies, and myself. Kickstarter is providing more value than you give them credit for, and your posts demonstrate a fundamental ignorance that I find fascinating. Your comments on Open Source caught my attention as well, because the sort of myopia your Kickstarter post demonstrates is very common in Open Source communities -- presupposing that everyone with a goal also possesses the skillset and/or time needed to build all of the supporting tools to accomplish that goal.

If you have an idea for a project that needs funding, and you have the knowledge of web development necessary to set up, promote, and maintain the equivalent of Kickstarter, your project is starting with a significant advantage over similar perhaps more deserving projects. You iterated over many of the benefits that Kickstarter brings to the table, but curiously enough brushed them off as essentially valueless. Where would you draw the line? "Cheap hosting" still costs more than the electricity needed to run the servers; is it parasitical? Running the servers is essentially valueless as well; perhaps Kickstarter should just charge per kWh.

I understand your annoyance at the "Good Guy Capitalism" vibe, but if that's your problem, then critique it and critique it well. Linkbait about popular web sites -- especially linkbait that demonstrates fundamental ignorance about the thing claim to be talking about -- just makes me think that you're wanking.


'The "ambitious plan" is a kind of Swiftian "modest proposal."'

Unfortunately, the comparison only makes the weakness of your Kickstarter critique stand out more. At least Swift offered a proposal.

I've watched no fewer than three people do precisely what you've suggested -- start up a "Kickstarter cheaper than Kickstarter." They failed, and discovered that it's hard. This is not to say that there aren't legitimate critiques of Kickstarter as a company, their business model, the assumptions that underly their sponsorship model, the view that some third parties may have of Kickstarter and its promise, etc. I wish you'd written those things, because they would have been interesting and valuable.

Instead you offered a "that shit costs too much" critique that is (ironically) rooted in the adversarial relationship between workers who've been pitted against each other.
posted by verb at 12:11 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone just linked to a Kickstarter project I wanted to fun on Facebook and I was reminded about the real reason Kickstarter sucks: it's US only.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:03 AM on January 18, 2012


Not true. Non-US people can't start a project, but they can fund it.
posted by smackfu at 6:32 AM on January 18, 2012


I couldn't -- Amazon won't let me use the payments function.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:47 AM on January 18, 2012


Great title for a blog post, it has caused threads here and at reddit to blow up. Talk is good.

We are mid way with our Kickstarter project and we have never had so much fun. We don't sweat about the fees, the social contacts at the site are priceless. Art for arts sake, even if the sake costs 5%.
posted by Qubits_Toy at 8:01 AM on January 18, 2012


Really? Now we are mad about a company with a great idea making 5-fucking-percent before expenses!?
posted by mincus at 7:22 AM on January 21, 2012


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