The Vast Superiority of All-or-Nothing Crowdfunding Compared to Silicon Valley’s Wealthiest Companies

john pratt crowdfunding silicon valley
Im Gastbeitrag erklärt John Pratt, Mitgründer der in den Jahren 2005-2009 aktiven Plattform Fundable, warum das Crowdfunding-Prinzip seiner Meinung nach den Modellen der weltweit führenden Digitalunternehmen überlegen ist.
Von John Pratt am 03. Juli 2019

There are reasons why all-or-nothing crowdfunding benefits everyday society more than most types of websites. For one, unlike the majority of online activities, this kind of crowdfunding can uplift a person’s spirits in a meaningful way. I have been told that personally or seen it written online many times. If web users look more closely, they will realize that all-or-nothing crowdfunding exists in a category by itself and cannot be lumped in with the rest of the Internet’s history. This statement is simply a reminder of what everyone first understood from 2012 to 2013, and then later forgot because of shifting trends: physical products come into existence because of all-or-nothing crowdfunding; the entire modern VR industry owes its existence to it. All-or-nothing crowdfunding can make the Internet a better place by opening up previously blocked economic and social pathways. Collecting money inside a conditional mode does not merely lead to online shopping storefronts, as was the general plan for the Internet in the 1990’s by investors in Silicon Valley. It goes further than simple commerce and makes use of the coordination capabilities presented by a global computer network, turning normal social processes into real-world objects, events, and organizations. In short, all-or-nothing crowdfunding serves society by forcing Internet users to relate their online activity to what they do in the real-world; if what a person is trying to do is of no value to an audience of buyers, most likely his or her project will not get funded at all. Get-rich-quick schemes don’t work very well on this type of website because each project must justify its existence in at least one respect. All-or-nothing crowdfunding has also served to wipe out the naive misconceptions of online users who believed they could raise money for self-centered, unrefined hobbies instead of producing helpful products that a community might want. It is the best thing the Internet has ever had, and until programmers and tech entrepreneurs come to understand why that is the case, it will exist alone, on a level apart.

I intend to explain, from a few different perspectives, why all-or-nothing crowdfunding is different from other categories of website and why it has always been superior in respect to the benefits it provides the Internet. Various, shallow developments in the technology industry over the last decade have led to degenerative effects across the Internet. In particular, there is now a startup environment that is entirely devoted to its own reputation and profit, uninterested in making the web a healthy, interactive place and instead has become obsessed with achieving startup fame and direct cultural influence. The result is a web that is stagnant, reducing itself to four or five major websites, filled with rancor and junk. The majority of startup tech companies are not truly aspiring to help the world in a genuine way, especially when doing so means that they cannot make oversized amounts of money for themselves. When Facebook offered free Internet to certain areas of India in 2015, it did so with a condition: “you will only be able to use Facebook and a few other websites that do not compete with Facebook.” What kind of exploitative philanthropy is this company trying to get away with? It is frequently overlooked that other types of websites (e.g. social media, video game streaming) can hardly manage to contribute to society in a positive way like all-or-nothing crowdfunding does, without it ever needing to donate to charity. Very few all-or-nothing crowdfunding websites have gone through an IPO (initial public offering on the stock market) and the biggest Silicon Valley companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have yet to acquire any as part of their corporate portfolios. It sure looks to be that case that the most financially-successful technology companies end up playing the most counter-productive roles for the world, working against any person or society that wishes to live a virtuous and normal life, and breeding social and economic insecurities in people. Nothing comes close to all-or-nothing crowdfunding in terms of benefits for society (despite recent trust issues occurring as a result of negligence by Kickstarter and IndieGoGo). It seems that everything else on the web can be labeled a scourge at some point or at the minimum a privacy offender. This has to do with how those websites came into existence.

First, examine Facebook. If a website that was originally designed as a sort of popularity contest in a college dormitory propagates on an international scale, what will that be like in society? Its earliest objective was to rate people by their appearance. The next version was designed to be a place where people could talk to each other. Will web users feel beneficial or harmful psychological effects after using this website, then? Given where it came from, won’t this website lead an individual to seek after approval (“likes”) from other people, as if maintaining popularity is the objective of Internet use? The origins of these websites (e.g. Twitter, Instagram) are hardly inspirational, nor can any valuable startup lessons be learned from them for the next generation of technology. What actually matters in business life is whether a company provides value to society, not that it can manage to make enormous piles of money for itself or insert its name inside every social crevice of society. There are plenty of issues that arise when discussing the typical Silicon Valley success, then. A person can ask: is it true that the founder of Facebook automatically became qualified to set the framework for socializing on the entire Internet, across nations and cultures, simply because his website went from dormitory room hobby to global online presence in a few years? Is the business story of Facebook exhibiting a correct path of development for the most central social website of the world, which influences international interpersonal communications? McDonalds is by far one of the most wealthy restaurant companies in the world, but are its meals the most beneficial for a person’s diet? Like Facebook, McDonald’s does make the most amount of money compared to nearly any other business in its category, but if your child loves to eat at McDonald’s, should you take him there all the time on account of this? In large part, McDonald’s has been successful because quick access to food is a necessity in the United States, where commuting and driving culture predominate amidst everyday urban life, for both the poor and wealthy. While driving around, there is often a need to consume some food so as to avoid interruptions in the flow of daily tasks. Fast food then fills a necessary role, although not in an acceptable way. Similarly, people who use the Internet will want to do more than search the web for information while they work; they will want to talk to other people intermittently while using the computer. This is a need. Facebook has managed to make a monopoly out of providing social functionality for the Internet in a way that is analogous to unhealthy fast food. The world will want to socialize on the web, to make use of the social dimension provided by the Internet, and so something or someone is going to fill that role. When examined, the path that Facebook took to sit on top of that role has to be described as accidental rather than planned in advance by its founders or it would certainly take on a superior appearance compared to today. As a result, there is often a feeling that anyone could replace McDonald’s or Facebook if he or she tried to do a better job, looked out for the interest of customers, and also didn’t demand an enormous amount of money at every step of the business model. It’s just that this mindset does not accord with Silicon Valley venture capital or typical startup entrepreneurs’ ambitions. It is thus that all-or-nothing crowdfunding sits on the edge of the web while simultaneously playing a vital role for many industries’ advancements, such as product launches in film, software, computer hardware, and even kitchen appliances.

Perfunctory Website Concepts Underly The Most Famous Websites Today

In contrast with social media, all-or-nothing crowdfunding did not come into public awareness through a rushing torrent of “viral” usage, entertain the public for a few years, and then attach itself to people’s lives, making them feel that they cannot escape it because it steers their emotions and social life. Rather, crowdfunding had to be sold to the average web user, an all-or-nothing premise was something that had to be tried out by dozens of people to demonstrate its viability, and it needed a few years to catch on and become well-known. This represents a more healthy path of development and has led to the following: it is often the case that a person is pleased to learn of a new all-or-nothing crowdfunding project because it will likely produce something of value for people or facilitate production of an object that could not normally get investment. Today’s group-based funding phenomenon was enabled by the Internet, it is true, but not in a direct way because the Internet left by itself will not lead to all-or-nothing crowdfunding; it will endlessly produce pages of data, news, and reference information, as this is the most immediate use for a global computer network. The Internet is merely a technological medium, onto which something is deposited— if an online activity is actually positive for society, it will have required a large amount of contemplation and deliberation for it to develop and also appeal to the public in a morally respectable way. So far, the only type of website that fits that description— and whose origins are on the Internet itself— is all-or-nothing crowdfunding.

This is the case because all-or-nothing crowdfunding did not originate from engineering or Internet software development discussions alone. The early 2000’s was still a relatively new period for the web and at that time the only people who knew how to make websites from scratch were those who were interested in computer programming, especially people who had majored in computer science. But computer science is not the study of what computers can do for people, but rather the study of computers themselves and how they are to be organized functionally before being programmed to do a given task. Unknown to the average tech reporter, it is this field of engineering that has driven the vast majority of famous websites over the last two decades and not conceptual goals. It is as if there has been no Steve Jobs making new computer products (websites), only Steve Wozniak, who cares most about what is taking place inside the case of the computer and he starts from that place to make new things. Fundable, the first all-or-nothing crowdfunding website that set the stage for today’s all-or-nothing crowdfunding industry, was an exception in 2005 because it was not formed from a computer scientist’s starting point of focusing on the web’s technologies themselves and then backwards-forming a purpose from those technologies. Although few people have heard of Fundable as the first driver for all-or-nothing crowdfunding, it did actually open the door for later crowdfunding websites to be founded by non-engineers and business people (at IndieGoGo and Kickstarter) who were not programming-oriented or sometimes even technically-inclined (such as Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen of Kickstarter, who said they knew little about HTML or computers when they started). Prior to Fundable, all major website categories introduced on the web were founded or directed by computer-science-oriented people (Amazon: Jeff Bezos, eBay: Pierre Omidyar, PayPal: Max Levchin/Elon Musk, Craigslist: Craig Newmark, Friendster: Jonathan Abrams) and the majority still are today (Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg, Instagram: Kevin Systrom/Mike Krieger). It is a programmer’s web that we use today because programmers still have the most influence on a company’s mission. Programmers also collaborate more with each other than with people who have studied different fields when they decide to found a startup project. As stated, they start with technology for the basis of any web or app startup and then try to formulate some kind of purpose that actually derives from their programming expertise and not what people need.

This is a major reason why all-or-nothing crowdfunding is so much better than all of the fatiguing garbage found on the web today, like Twitter. It is a website category whose origins are not rooted in teams of software engineers who base their entire startups around programming whatever random things they have come up with inside the programming systems themselves. Furthermore, all of the major websites on the web we use have been funded by venture capital at some point. This issue is relevant because venture capital is characteristically obsessed with investing in engineering-focused startups, driven mostly by technology, and so the Internet world we live in is bereft of concepts that go beyond the technical implementations of computer programs. The central focus of Twitter, for example, is how short the data length of its posts is, not even what people are saying or doing with the posts themselves with the Internet’s wide array of available technology features. This is why it is a social free-for-all on Twitter and there is no order to much of the Internet interactivity we all live with. The programmers at these startups have to stretch themselves very hard to justify what they have done using website technologies. To illustrate, according to Twitter founders, the reason for choosing the word “twitter” for the website’s name was that one of its dictionary definitions is “inconsequential chatter” (as if that could be, in any way, a good thing for the web). Certainly, that would not be a priority for anyone who is tasked with coming up with a website concept first and then required to program it afterwards (“Let’s program a website filled with inconsequential chatter”). The founders were obviously struggling to come up with a coherent purpose and they ran across the word “twitter” and thought it would justify their programming project not having any overall direction in the first place.

Fundable— the first all-or-nothing crowdfunding website— changed the trend of having engineers set the conversation for a website’s purpose (in particular for crowdfunding websites) because it was a team made of both a computer science engineer and a political science major working together. Louis Helm and I were not working on a computer science or web programming problem for Fundable, but rather a social science one that made use of computer programming. This distinction is critical. Furthermore, unlike the myriad of second-generation crowdfunding entrepreneurs, both individuals behind Fundable (2005-2009) did have technical interests prior to starting the website. We had both been playing with website technology prior to starting the website and we programmed it ourselves. This is not true for either IndieGoGo or Kickstarter, whose founding teams are comprised of business majors or people who studied the humanities, with no technical interests in their earlier lives, and who hired programmers and designer friends to implement what they wanted (mostly borrowed from Fundable, to be blunt about it). The dynamic of having non-technical people lead websites, like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, is very rare in the Internet industry outside of crowdfunding, in fact. Since our website assisted in the coining of the word “crowdfunding”, I can talk about why other companies are not like that, why they are almost always driven by engineering first and have to make up a purpose for their engineering later.

Making a website for the public that spreads on a large scale should be considered a hefty personal responsibility, requiring a certain amount of research. But today, for most websites and apps, the process usually contains no conceptual research by Silicon Valley’s founders, who have been encouraged and taught by venture capital culture to dominate the world somehow foremost in whatever they do, without taking into account the validity of their business purpose before they start. It is often shallow and technical schemes that take root on the web, making enormous amounts of money, and they end up representing core technologies embedded in the computer, such as online video streaming. These startups often play out as follows: an engineer works at an online payments company called PayPal and learned a website technology called PHP (a programming language for web page content) and SQL (a type of database) and he likes to be part of startup companies. He also has a computer science degree. Then one day he thinks, “why don’t I store, on a server, videos that people shoot in their spare time? I’ll make a website that retrieves videos from a database and serves them on web pages. Then, the public can upload its own videos and watch them.” He doesn’t have any filmmaking interests. He doesn’t even care about quality of camera work, audio work, or anything related to video production, nor does he bother to look into those topics in the slightest before programming a website consisting entirely of video “content.” He just knows how to push data into a database and serve it on a website— the base functionality built into the web and the expertise carried by a programmer. In this case, the data is in the form of video (instead of digital pictures or text). Then, because he worked at PayPal, he knows individuals in Silicon Valley who have lots of money to help him try out the startup he is doing. The startup’s goal is just to let everyone in the world upload whatever they want to the website’s big database that sits behind the web pages. This is the story of YouTube.

YouTube as The Case Study of Shallow Website with Extreme Success

That is far from an admirable reason to start YouTube. What would a later generation draw from that strictly-technical setup (database of videos + web pages)? In fact, the very first YouTube video, uploaded by one of the website’s founders, features the programmer deliberately blathering about elephants at the zoo, to test out the website. What would a second version of the website look like, then? I can tell you, personally, that the first examples for all-or-nothing crowdfunding projects were intentionally crafted to show what crowdfunding could do for people in the future, to anticipate what all-or-nothing crowdfunding could be and how the public could best use it. There were no such considerations at YouTube in regards to video uploads, nor are there any at the typical Silicon Valley startup for whatever it happens to be doing. Did the YouTube founders want the first “Me at the Zoo” video to set the stage for millions of people to upload rambling videos of themselves, with low-quality camera work? It’s not like YouTube followed that first video with a better one and said, “this is really what we want YouTube to be.” They didn’t have any goals for what videos would be on their website when they started. In fact, they didn’t have any broader plans for their video startup because they were programmers focused entirely on the software engineering side of the situation, as is usually the case. The result corresponds to that.

Today, YouTube is not much more than a growing, mountainous heap of video files where rants with shaky handheld camera footage sit right next to multi-million-dollar music video productions, as if every executive who works at YouTube is content mixing his socks and underwear inside his t-shirts drawer. This situation satisfies tech reporters nonetheless, who fail to understand what an achingly shallow move it originally was to simply place video data into a database and then serve it on a webpage, affixing a title and view count to the video data. News stories that talk about YouTube and its various dramas never step back to see the larger picture: this website amounts to very little from an interactive media perspective. When it does require complex technical solutions in data centers, it is only because the its user base has grown. YouTube is something extremely mundane that grew extremely large.

Since the YouTube website is not much more than a technical linking of video files and data storage at a basic level, it isn’t serving society very much compared to what a lot of people believe. The purpose of mentioning this is to illustrate how different all-or-nothing crowdfunding is from the typical Silicon Valley startup that does whatever it takes attract attention and money, always believing that focusing on software engineering by itself will lead it to positive conceptual outcomes. YouTube didn’t have any broader objective than to provide a place for uploading junky, random, homemade videos, yet it is a huge “success.” At the time of its introduction, its goal was the “democratization” of video uploads, to allow the masses a chance to somehow compete with television (hence the name YouTube). But its ability to gain a foothold on the web was actually a result of an unexpected development, that it became a storehouse for copyrighted television shows, uploaded by the public. This phenomenon is, by many accounts, what helped it gain popularity in its early days. YouTube was not, as the founders had planned, increasingly successful because large numbers of people had become respectable video producers overnight on account of the website providing upload space— a naive idea that could only originate from insular programmers in Silicon Valley with nothing more than an interest in startup success. A major initial attractor of YouTube was not that it was really “your alternative to the fixed entertainment of the television tube,” but that many people began to upload professionally-produced television clips and song files, either current or old. Alongside this was always the rambling videos. Wouldn’t YouTube be more aptly named VideoHodgepodgeMountain? At some point, well-known celebrities and public figures began to recognize the website and upload their own professionally-produced videos. As I said earlier, there is a need being fulfilled, just in an unacceptable way; people need a place to upload videos when their computers and smartphones have such powerful capabilities. YouTube assists people in doing this, very lazily, in the same way that Facebook provides a forum for socializing that is unpleasant to use.

Even a non-technical person can see that YouTube is not much besides a big video file dump with a search box at the top. In fact, the “YouTube creator” culture, in which the average joe and television watcher could venture online and make nicely-produced videos, gain millions of regular viewers, and gain some kind of recognition in society comparable to television show hosts, came much later. In reality, there were no conceptual objectives for what to do with the uploaded videos, what the public would be directed to do before uploading them, or how they would be presented and organized. As is the case with a multitude of other “successful” Silicon Valley startups that dominate the web today, from the very beginning there was always a mismatch of intention and outcome behind the founding of YouTube: the way it turned out was not what they were going for because what they were going for made no actual sense, that the common man would produce quality videos anywhere near the standard of television productions. If you don’t hire anyone who knows anything about television screenwriting and production when you program a brand-new video website, shouldn’t you expect to get a bunch of junk uploaded to your website? Even today, the most popular YouTube “creator channels”— the channels that originate from YouTube itself— are filled with cheap stunts to get video views, lazy commentary, fluff content that is deliberately cranked out to make easy advertising money, and all sorts of videos that lack basic editing self-discipline to cut out the chaff before publication. The majority are a little bit unhinged and interspersed with product endorsements— for videos as short as 10 minutes long. The number of YouTube “creator channels” dedicated to making product reviews for computers and smartphones is astonishing— there are people who buy video editing equipment setups just to make a video review about the editing equipment they just bought and used to make the video. Frequently, YouTube “creators” will make videos talking about how they make their videos or how to start a YouTube channel and get lots of viewers like they have. It is no surprise because, as stated, YouTube’s foundation was the most superficial a person could put out on the web: take technology A (video files) and merge it with technology B (database information served on web pages). Then, somehow equal access of video production for the masses was going to occur and make a nice website for everyone to use. This is what you can expect when software programmers are tasked with devising a website from within computer technology itself.

Mixtures of Default Computer Functionality Drive Major Websites on The Web

It isn’t that there is no useful side to YouTube today or that no one can find anything valuable on it. The problem is, with all of these websites we use, not just YouTube, they should be considered undeveloped examples of Internet applications, something the lay person has a hard time knowing unless it is explained. They aren’t doing anything of uniform and dependable value like many all-or-nothing crowdfunding websites do. The majority of Silicon Valley startups have done little more than combine default technological functionality provided in every desktop computer operating system (e.g. databases, image and video processing) and then mixed those functions together in slightly different ways— exactly what a software engineer would do if left to direct the web using raw technologies at his command as a starting point. In truth, this is a pattern across the entire web. Instagram is definitely the same technical setup as YouTube in regards to the technologies it uses and their general form: just upload your photos or short videos from a phone and Instagram will process them and store them in a database for later retrieval. Instagram’s servers display photos on smartphone apps or web browsers, ordered by date, from the database, and they are organized in the database by the screenname of whoever uploaded them. The only major difference between YouTube and Instagram technically is that photos are the main feature of Instagram and they have been presented on the web page or phone app in a different manner. This is like doing nothing at all from a tech entrepreneurship perspective; it is an engineering distinction. There is absolutely no digital media academic theory behind any of it, and it is the Silicon Valley norm: a slight degree of difference in technical implementation is all that separates the most famous websites today from each another. Maybe on one website or app the video clips will have a technically-imposed time limit, which will be the entire website’s scheme to attract web visitors (e.g. TikTok, where clips have a 15-second time limit). With the smartphone app Snapchat, the chat’s text has been programmatically instructed to disappear after a certain period of time. But, it is all basic database storage and retrieval, detached from any larger purpose, something available to programmers since the beginning of the Internet, just with faster computers and larger storage. For all major social websites today, the interchangeable subject for what their company works on is data type (image, text, video, etc.) and the company is centered around programming with that one data type in its own narrow, idiosyncratic way. Something may be restricted artificially, like character count (Twitter) and that will be the supposed core feature provided by the company.

Is that what crowdfunding is? Not at all. Crowdfunding does use the default technology built into desktop computers, but it has an actual purpose for using any of it at every point of the process. This is a major contrasting feature: there is an actual, overall purpose for each technology used. If there are videos produced, they exist for the objective of persuading an audience to join the mission of an all-or-nothing crowdfunding project. If there are images and text presented to web visitors, they are communicating something about the larger end-goal. If there are comments from the audience and exchanges with the project organizer, it is because something is happening on an all-or-nothing crowdfunding project and there is movement towards a definite resolution— even if that outcome is an unsuccessful one for the project organizer, who has to write his project in a different way next time. What occurs on an all-or-nothing crowdfunding website will frequently produce a new, real-world object or event. The activities and discussions taking place on the all-or-nothing crowdfunding projects are not necessarily tethered to the digital realm of the Internet or to the crowdfunding websites themselves; the websites truly act as a tool or medium for what people need to do in real life instead of chaining them to the web or a smartphone app. Usually, all-or-nothing crowdfunding is not self-referential either— it doesn’t create crowdfunding projects to fund more crowdfunding websites that exist to just talk about crowdfunding. Finally, all-or-nothing crowdfunding is a lot more than the direct digitization of an existing real-world activity, like shopping at a store (e.g. Amazon), taking out a classified ad in the newspaper (e.g. Craigslist), or ordering take-out food from a restaurant (e.g. GrubHub). Those are the most straightforward startup pitches for the Internet— the ones that anyone who was business-oriented might have mentioned when the first Internet websites arrived— and they comprise a large portion of wealthy Silicon Valley companies.

Compare all of what all-or-nothing crowdfunding does to advance physical activities in the real world with what Facebook does: relay random, and often unneeded, communications data from databases back to people’s phones and desktop computers, with no conceptual objective behind it. There is even a box at the top of Facebook prompting people to talk when they have nothing to say (“What’s on your mind?”). If you don’t want to speak, why is Facebook asking you to speak? The telephone company does not say in advertisements, “why don’t you pick up the telephone and for no reason give someone a call today?”, but now it is as if someone does exactly that. This answer is, Facebook and Twitter are trying to the fill the web with anything, even junk and chatter, to keep their network talk machines going. Doesn’t this sound a lot like YouTube, whose founders are content to have anything deposited onto their servers, just to show people doing something and driving video view counts and therefore advertising money to the website? One way to realize how decayed the web has become is to remember that there was once a thrill in “surfing the web” in the 1990’s because of all of the entertaining things a person might run across— a kind of fun you can often still have when browsing all-or-nothing crowdfunding websites. But today, if anyone were to talk about “taking a break and surfing all kinds of web pages on Facebook,” he would make others feel ill just by saying it. Telling someone that you are browsing videos on YouTube will also make someone grimace, knowing that it’s not exactly a bad thing to do, but that YouTube presents all kinds of unpleasant video encounters for a person who browses it. The unsuspecting public, with no knowledge of how shallow today’s major websites are at a technical level and how far away the Internet is today from what people thought it could be, believes that everything has to be this way. Today, whatever exists on the web is attractive enough for large numbers of people to use it and admire its founders for making millions (or billions) of dollars because the majority of people do not know when the web is in a technologically pathetic state.

Crowdfunding Is Less Profitable for Website Investors, But Causes Few Social Problems

Since the majority of popular Silicon Valley website companies have no conceptual foundations for what they do and are essentially storing and retrieving data (for Facebook: “here is your first and last name, the name of where you went to school, your list of friends and their names, etc.”) what happens is they become empty spaces for the worst, most lazy societal behaviors. A person can become a successful video “producer” on a YouTube “channel” without ever learning how to produce video. A video producer also does not have to have a passable speaking voice to become a famous host on a YouTube channel. A bad television show will go off the air, but a half-hearted YouTube channel will stick around as long as the person has free time to perpetuate it. Most of this is invisible to the lay public because of how profitable YouTube is for its parent company, as well as the video-makers who use it.

All-or-nothing crowdfunding is less profitable for website owners by comparison and has virtually no chance of becoming a multi-billion-dollar venture for a corporation. This is an underemphasized point in Internet industry discussions. All-or-nothing crowdfunding’s business model is immediately honest in an old-fashioned way and that is a major reason it won’t make anyone a millionaire simply for coding a heap of website junk: every penny taken from customers has to be earned somehow because if all-or-nothing crowdfunding websites do not produce real value and foster a healthy environment for themselves and their project organizers, there will be no percentage cut for them. They have to expend actual effort to make it easier for project organizers to get their projects done and often need to guide them through the process to produce better sales copy or videos for their projects. Today, if they don’t fix public trust issues that they created because they failed to punish scam projects, they risk losing much their business in the future. There is accountability built into every level of this industry.

On YouTube, there isn’t even an open video production training program for the general public, to assure some quality level for content. This is the sort of thing you are supposed to do when you start a website that does something: you make sure that people know what they are doing when they come to your website. A person can gain hundreds of thousands of video views while exhibiting a poor command of presentation, repeatedly, and YouTube executives simply do not care because it will still drive traffic to the website just the same. Disturbingly, there are entire YouTube video “channels” devoted to destruction of brand-new, sometimes expensive, electronic goods and there are countless exhibitions of repugnant waste (e.g. a person shooting his own car windows, someone filling an entire backyard with sponges), with YouTube users doing almost anything to get large view counts. There is one particular YouTube channel that uploads video after video in which a father and son use saws and knives to cut in half commercial goods to “see what is inside” them, such as toys and household objects. These YouTube videos are never “demonetized,” the term YouTube uses for suspending ad revenue sharing. Frequently, a person runs across these wasteful, detestable videos and thinks, “someone could have used that machine you just destroyed!”

Just like YouTube in preceding examples, Facebook does very little work to positively shape the contents of its website, which earns it so much ad revenue, and the same is true for Twitter. I watched a video online in which a former executive at Myspace (the social media company that existed opposite Facebook in the late-2000’s) said that a major selling point that helped the founders sell their company to Fox for hundreds of millions of dollars was that there were no website content production costs for them and they could make money just by hosting what people talk about all day. In the interview, he thought that it was a pretty clever way to have made a fortune. What this tells us is, these companies do not even care that they don’t contribute to the “content” that they serve and they consider it a form of business savvy to be doing so little while making their fortunes. In regards to what their website users talk about, the executives at these companies usually don’t have much of a plan for the future apart from letting people blather like they always have. Yet, reporters at publications like The New York Times want to write books about sordid dramas behind these websites or other Silicon Valley companies, such as a troubled online taxi company that was estimated to be valued at 10 billion dollars someday— even though there isn’t a respectable technology story to tell there. Don’t you want to know how the world can make more IndieGoGo websites, tech reporter? No, they don’t. They have told me that, at least in their unresponsiveness. So what if there is an online taxi service that hires contract drivers (so that it doesn’t have to pay them much) and rips people off, including the drivers, so that it can make huge profits? The stories reported by American tech new media are not reflective of the true situation of what matters today. Why are politicians up in arms about all of the degenerate phenomena in social media, but they are usually quite positive about the economic and spiriting effects of all-or-nothing crowdfunding? They are even trying to help all-or-nothing crowdfunding by passing new laws to let it do more things, expanding its range for business activity. By contrast, they want to restrict social media websites and punish them somehow. Some American legislators even want to break up Facebook into smaller companies. Privacy issues are largely irrelevant for all-or-nothing crowdfunding websites, as the information tracked by the websites usually isn’t anything a person would be afraid to reveal. Why is all of this the case? It comes down to how all-or-nothing crowdfunding came into existence.

Without the web’s specific technological format, there cannot be a Twitter or Facebook because those companies are inextricably tied to the technologies of the web, like HTML. But, in fact, a person could re-implement all-or-nothing crowdfunding on a variety of technological media besides the web. To give an example, a cable television channel could have hundreds of people call a phone number and provide their credit card number, then report the results of an all-or-nothing crowdfunding project on a live television show, similar to an unfolding election. Then, if the collection goal were not reached, the cable channel would refund the credit card payments to everyone who called in. This is still all-or-nothing crowdfunding. The most flexible medium today is the Internet, though, and this why all-or-nothing crowdfunding takes place there instead. The key point is that it isn’t technology that drives all-or-nothing crowdfunding, but rather Internet technology is the best vehicle for what all-or-nothing crowdfunding is doing. But take away the web or Internet, and nearly every other website category will cease to exist and be unable to find another technological space (unless its business category already existed beforehand, such as shopping at a store, taking out a classified ad, or ordering take-out food).

The superiority of all-or-nothing crowdfunding comes from how it asks the public to do something to get something. Internet users often must go out of their way to make good crowdfunding pitch videos and write convincing sales copy for the crowdfunding web pages because they know that doing so can make the difference for their project’s success. If you would like to exhibit your most vain personal moments, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are all out there to assist you, to let you do it right away on your smartphone. But, if all-or-nothing crowdfunding is going to do something for you, you are going to have to put out significant personal effort to get support from other people and this is a good principle for a website. For the world to improve, it will take more than startup entrepreneurs giving everyone more of what they want, like more chit-chat, more celebrity personal photos, and more streaming videos of whatever is uploaded by the impetuous public.

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John Pratt

John Pratt

John Pratt hat im Jahr 2005 Fundable mitgegründet. Die US-Plattform hat weltweit als erstes Crowdfinanzierungen nach dem „Alles-oder-nichts-Prinzip“ für verschiedene Projekttypen angeboten. Im Jahr 2009 musste Fundable jedoch den Betrieb einstellen.
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John Pratt
03. Juli 2019
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