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The Ransom Model
June 7, 2005 4:27 AM   Subscribe

The "ransom" model. "It works like this: They described the basic gist of the game on their web site, and set a ransom of $600 for it. If they received $600 in donations by September 2005, they would finish creating the game -- and then release it on their site, for anyone to download for free. (If they didn't get the full $600 in time, they would donate whatever money they'd received to a homeless shelter.)" And it worked! Here's some additional links described in the comments: The Street Performer Protocol and Fundable.org.
posted by gsb (15 comments total)

 
I chose the weblog, rather than the main meatbot site, because the post was well written and the comments are quite good. It was pretty hard to find a decent/accessible resource for "threshold public goods game" stuff.
posted by gsb at 4:33 AM on June 7, 2005


I like the idea. However, I don't like the name 'street performer protocol.'

Street performers do not work like that. They don't stand there and wait until their hat is full before singing a song... They sing because they want to sing and ask their audience for donations based on what that audience thinks the performance was worth. They don't hold the song hostage until they get paid. If they did that, there would be a lot of street performers standing around doing nothing, waiting for tips.

Street performers basically work on the 'shareware' model. The ransom model is totally different.
posted by evoo at 5:19 AM on June 7, 2005


Neat stuff.
posted by klangklangston at 5:26 AM on June 7, 2005


evoo: Some street performers, especially the ones who do stunts — acrobats and magicians and the like — do hold off on their best tricks until the hat is full. The ones I've seen do an eye-catching routine to draw a crowd, then a lot of patter promising something even more impressive if they get paid. Once enough people pitch in, then they bring out their final trick.

Along the same lines, Joey Comeau of A Softer World published a novel on this model a while back. After each chapter, he waited for a few hundred dollars of donations to roll in before putting up the next chapter. He got the money surprisingly fast. (Of course, it helps that — like a good street magician — he'd already gathered a big crowd with his webcomic who would pay to see his next trick.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:34 AM on June 7, 2005


Kind of cool. It would, however, be a disappointment to contribute money and then not have the game come out. Despite what this comment by the inventor: "From where I sit, there is no conceivable way anyone can feel ripped off with this setup, since no one is being asked to front more than they're comfortable spending," it would seem that the chance to be completely disappointed is greater then in a model where you are actually paying for something you get regardless.
posted by OmieWise at 9:36 AM on June 7, 2005


I guess the concern is that this a new way for Vaporware to pay.
posted by OmieWise at 9:37 AM on June 7, 2005


See also The Spriggan Experiment

According to the latest email update, the novel is almost, but not quite, paid for already.
posted by notbuddha at 9:38 AM on June 7, 2005


nebulawindphone: Some street performers, especially the ones who do stunts — acrobats and magicians and the like — do hold off on their best tricks until the hat is full. The ones I've seen do an eye-catching routine to draw a crowd, then a lot of patter promising something even more impressive if they get paid. Once enough people pitch in, then they bring out their final trick.

I'm not trying to derail the thread with a debate about street performing, but I just want to address this point.

I know a lot of street performers. There are SOME performers (the extremely aggressive ones, usually breakdance crews with several members) who WILL pass the hat and collect money before their 'finale' stunt. However, I'd say over 95% of variety acts out there on the street will make their pitch for money before the end, but won't actually collect money until the show is over. The aggressive acts who do their collecting before the end are looked down upon by most other acts. It's considered greedy and not in the spirit of how street theater has been done for centuries.

The street performers I know really do consider what they do "shareware for the streets." They put the show out there and know people will pay what it's worth to them. It's a truly honest form of entertainment.

Films, theater, concerts and everything else are the opposite. You pay as you walk in the door and THEN get to see the show. If the show sucks, you don't get your money back. On the street, you see the show and THEN decide what to pay (if anything.) I always thought it would be great if more things followed that model... Imagine walking into a restaurant, eating and then the waiter would come over with a hat and ask you to pay what you thought the meal was worth.

Sorry for the sidebar.

I do like the idea of the "ransom model" for independent writers, musicians, software creators, etc. I just don't think they're accurate comparing it to how street performing works (in general.)
posted by evoo at 10:31 AM on June 7, 2005


why do those doners hate the homeless!?
posted by delmoi at 10:36 AM on June 7, 2005


Steven King tried this a couple years ago, and then just gave up after being paid.
posted by delmoi at 10:38 AM on June 7, 2005


The Stephen King issue that delmoi refers to is the publication (online) of "The Plant," a story written in several short sections. Readers were requested to put in $1 or $2, something small, for each copy they downloaded. Publication would continue as long as over 75% or so of readers paid. It worked for, what, six installments of nine, before the reader payment fell below 75%. Story here.
posted by whatzit at 11:42 AM on June 7, 2005


Interesting and hopeful stuff, thanks!

BTW - has anyone actually played the game in question?
posted by freebird at 3:40 PM on June 7, 2005


OmieWise: Kind of cool. It would, however, be a disappointment to contribute money and then not have the game come out.

that's what i was thinking.

wouldn't it make more sense, and be more in tune with the "ransom" concept, to have a finished product before demanding ransom?

granted, doing it this way the author has no way of gauging interest in the product while it's in production...
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 8:34 PM on June 7, 2005


Or, even better, wasn't there a post in the past month about a system online where individuals contribute to purchase something as a group, and if the target amount isn't reached by a certain date, the money is returned to those who payed?
posted by nobody at 9:18 AM on June 8, 2005


I think that's the link to fundable.org I put in the post.
posted by gsb at 4:55 PM on June 8, 2005


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