Loomio
Tue 11 Jun 2019

E-Money #1: Funding the Web Commons, Or, How Do You Fund Crowdfunding?

DS
Danyl Strype Public Seen by 300

TL;DR summary of intent might be, 'to create a well researched summary of the useful, sustainable funding tools currently available to commoners'. The opening post and blog piece linked in it were an attempt to explain the needs I want to address. If you have any specific questions, I'm happy to answer them as best I can.

Late last year I wrote a blog piece on the challenges of trying to collect contributions from people who appreciate work contributed to the online commons:
https://www.coactivate.org/projects/disintermedia/blog/2018/04/19/funding-the-web-commons-or-how-do-you-fund-crowdfunding/

I've been meaning to write a series of follow-up posts, investigating the terrain in more detail, but I haven't yet found the time. There's a lot I can say about the tech stacks various sites use, whether they are free code and so forth, as well as some of the political-economic dimensions. But I'm painfully aware of my lack of expert knowledge on the commerce and legal aspects of the problem, which are just as important if not more so.

It occurs to me that this would make an excellent group research project. Does P2PF/ CT have any formal work going in this area? If not, any other groups of academics, activists, techies or otherwise, investigating this area that may be keen to collaborate? If so, I'd much rather pitch in than go about reinventing the wheel. Failing that, would anyone involved with P2PF/CT be interested in working with me on this?

MS

Matthew Slater Tue 11 Jun 2019

Thanks for thinking of me Strypey. I've studiously avoided fiat money payment systems my whole career and my interest in them is less than ever. So I don't think I'll have much to contribute to this question.

DS

Danyl Strype Wed 12 Jun 2019

Looking at ways of interfacing with existing money systems is unavoidably necessary to a useful piece of research on funding the work of commoners. That's not limited to fiat money, it could also include existing alternatives like crypto-tokens, mutual credit systems and so on. But it does have to grapple with the question of how commoners can buy the goods they need in the real economy (housing, food, clothing, computer gear, internet connections etc) right now. Any system that doesn't facilitate that is not a money system (not yet anyway), it's a reputation or social network system in monetary drag.

THP

The hOEP Project Mon 17 Jun 2019

Strypey, You wrote "But it does have to grapple with the question of how commoners can buy the goods they need in the real economy (housing, food, clothing, computer gear, internet connections etc) right now"
so there are number of projects that grapple with the problem. most of them I know of are open source cryptocurrencies for special use like "Devcoin". https://devcoin.org/ . Devcoin is basically a crowdsourced funding solution to pay open source programers for producing open source work based on their contributions they get paid in Devcoin which can be converted into regular coin for spending.

The other solution I know of for grappling with the problem is my personal favorite and works very different. It's basically a reputation or social network PRICE system for use to by sellers to make a profit by giving price discounts to people based on their social metrics. the hOEP project studies how sellers can make more profit by giving price discounts to people who are good for the community. As it turns out, clever sellers can make a lot of profit by giving contributors to a good project price discounts while raising their regular price for all higher at the same time. More info if you google "The hOEP Project". The hOEP project (hOurs Equals Price) is a crowdsourced public domain collection of research into the behavioral economics of shopping and purchasing. It describes a completely voluntary, highly profitable, non-government, free market place solution to reduce poverty, solve politics, and distribute political economic power to consumers. You might think of The hOEP Project as similar to the Chinese social credit system except, hOPE is run by the free market and consumers voluntarily participate. The Chinese Social credit system works similarly to lower prices for good citizens or customers, but it's state controlled. Both the Chinese social credit system or hOEP are designed to connect a social network with a real price difference at the cash register when buying things. In either system, your programers or researchers or developers would, in theory, get price discounts based on their social reputation for producing value to the community.

JR

Jeff Regino Tue 11 Jun 2019

Hello Strypey, which specific topics do you want to focus your research on? Thanks for sharing your link.

I'm interested in this because I'm also planning to do crowdfunding for my project (the world's first worker-led, FairShares-modeled, cooperative-social enterprise hybrid-powered online jobs platform of its kind, details here: http://bit.ly/2KJWbxN )

I may not be able to join your research project, but I may be able to provide relevant tips or links I've come across.

JR

Jeff Regino Tue 11 Jun 2019

Kia ora Strypey :D Saw your post here:
https://www.loomio.org/d/sK40SA2B/hello-introduce-yourselves-/9

I'd like to point out that my ideal country of incorporation is NZ. :D NZ plans to create a new legal structure: Impact Company, and I'd like to be one of the world's first to use that structure. :)

DS

Danyl Strype Wed 12 Jun 2019

I don't click on shortened links anymore, there be dragons ;) I'd love to learn more about your project though, please share the full link? I'm intrigued by the proposed Impact Company entity. Particularly how it will be similar to and different from the existing Private/ Public/ Cooperative Company entities. Steven Moe who hosts the Seeds podcast is a lawyer with a special interest in the Social Enterprise sector of NZ business.

JR

Jeff Regino Wed 12 Jun 2019

I use bitly as link shorteners to track where I get readers from. My link's legit and has no dragons. https://www.onlinejobsplus.com/bfb-platformx/#2

It would be NZ's for-purpose legal structure. An Impact Company would be quite similar to CIC (UK); PBC and SPC and others (US); and CCC or Community Contribution Company (Canada).

Steven helped create the report. You can read it here: https://www.theimpactinitiative.org.nz/reports/structuring-for-impact

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 13 Jun 2019

@Jeff

I use bitly as link shorteners to track where I get readers from.

This is exactly the kind of dragon I was referring to ;) A poll on your
site that asks visitors how they found it would be less effective but
also less creepy. This aside, link shorteners are one of many things
that over-centralize the web, making web archiving harder, and
contribute to linkrot. I think they're best avoided but YMMV :)

Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. Since this is drifting off-topic
for this thread, I'll follow up with you via whatever contact info you
supply on the site.

Steven helped create the report.

Ah OK. There is an audio version of the report on his podcast. I've been
meaning to have a listen.

GC

Greg Cassel Tue 11 Jun 2019

Thanks for addressing this super important subject @strypey . Many big social, cultural, economic and political variables connect here. It's not hard to create funding channels, but it's hard to consistently reduce "the free rider problem".

FYI I've prototyped broad frameworks with apparently similar motivations. One is Open Intermedia Commons. That was initially intended to jumpstart the development of a global commons "platform"; later I recognized the preferability of protocols & networks to platforms. The other is Open Ongoing Crowdfunding. That aims to increase the effectiveness of any project, such as Open Intermedia Commons, which relies purely on voluntary contributions. It integrates several separately-usable features which could IMO prove triumphantly synergistic.

Unfortunately those are two of my most-neglected models; and while I've advocated closely-related business models in a couple of groups, I haven't been able to create serious usage yet. But that's all I've got for you now; maybe it's useful as food for thought.

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 2 Aug 2019

A bit of a tangent, but ...

@Greg Cassel

it's hard to consistently reduce "the free rider problem".

I'm not convinced this is a real problem, at least not when it comes to non-rivalrous goods. It doesn't matter how many people read articles on the Guardian website without paying, as long as there are paying readers to keep the lights on. In theory, everyone contributes to the commons as a whole by giving what they can (whether in cash or unpaid labour) to the digital commons they care about the most, or are in the best position to help. For example, programmers contributing their time and skills to SecureDrop, or academics improving Wikipedia articles used by Guardian journalists for initial research on stories, might benefit the Guardian more than if they donated 20 bucks a week directly.

GC

Greg Cassel Sat 3 Aug 2019

I think the free rider problem is very real and well-defined, even though you're right that it might not be a significant or systemically critical problem in some cases. Depends on all the variables involved in each system.

SS

Sybille SG Tue 11 Jun 2019

may you sum up your intent and needs please

DS

Danyl Strype Wed 12 Jun 2019

A TL;DR summary of intent might be, 'to create a well researched summary of the useful, sustainable funding tools currently available to commoners'. The opening post and blog piece linked in it were an attempt to explain the needs aspect. If you have any specific questions, I'm happy to answer them as best I can.

D

dilgreen Wed 12 Jun 2019

|I wrote this about incentivising FOSS coding: https://medium.com/@dilgreen/you-say-12648c587cca

D

dilgreen Wed 12 Jun 2019

The person I was responding to now works here: https://gitcoin.co/about

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 2 Aug 2019

Intriguing. As I understand it, Gitcoin is pretty much implementing what you propose in your piece on Medium. What do you think about it?

D

dilgreen Fri 2 Aug 2019

I see gitcoin as different, in that it is not mutual credit, but fundamentally priced in dollars. Anything priced in dollars is likely to to be owned as a dollar denominated asset, and thus framed as part of the debt-based, scarce-by-design, hegemonic issuance world of the dollar.
Anything in that world seems pretty much doomed to be sucked into the (distinctly sub-optimal) 'dollar optimiser' AI that western imperialist culture has built - the one called corporate capitalism.
My proposition was for a Mutual Credit approach - where currency is created by any participant in a trust network who is willing to commit future value production capacity to that network (with credit limits established on the basis of their productive capacity).
This unit is not priced in dollars, but in trust.
That doesn't mean I dislike gitcoin. I suspect Eric Berry was in conversation with Gitcoin in Dec '17, as he joined with them in Jan '18. At the time he responded to my piece, saying 'I want to introduce you to some people' - but then went silent. Their model is profit-extracting, afaict, so for me it will tend to feed into the flow where OSS coders build stuff that FAANG leverages to build neo-feudal corporates.
Not anything I want to actively support.
Here's my economic manifesto, fwiw.

JR

Jeff Regino Wed 12 Jun 2019

https://www.loomio.org/d/Yx8h0TZS/e-money-1-funding-the-web-commons-or-how-do-you-fund-crowdfunding-/6
It would be awesome for you to add the TLDR on your main post.

There are currently many such tools, depending on needs and niches:
Crowdfunding platforms;
Creating your own website and payment facility (could be thru PayPal etc.);
YouTube (thru ads);
Patreon and similar platforms;
Substack and Revue (for writers);
Twitch;
Those you've mentioned and in the links you've shared

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 20 Jun 2019

It would be awesome for you to add the TLDR on your main post.

Good idea, I'll do that now. FYI this is something you can do yourself. Context boxes in Loomio threads can be edited by any group member.

JR

Jeff Regino Thu 20 Jun 2019

Thanks for that info. It seems my account doesn't have that feature.

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 27 Jun 2019

Hmm. Normally you click on the little triangle icon next to the page title, and click 'edit'. You ought to be able to edit both the title and the content of the context box. I guess the coordinators of this Loomio group have limitd the ability to do that in this group?

THP

The hOEP Project Fri 14 Jun 2019

Best part of your article IMO. "But seriously, figuring out which of these are honest, and viable, is a high-stakes research project in and of itself. With real money involved, there’s no kind of software more attractive to bad actors, idealistic incompetents, and venture capitalists. They all take time to set up and learn to use well, and you can’t get any benefit out of them without giving them real personal details and banking information. "

-- My thoughts: Also, most of them require you to create private exclusive content that you don't share freely elsewhere. This is the same problem I have. The current systems seem to be using the difficulty of being proficient at their tools as a quality filter. The economics of running a site for new ideas to become big ideas seems to be that any site delivering attention minutes to your idea should require more time of your to set up then you receive. The optimal marketing strategy for these sites seems to be that they require to you invest a significant amount of your time as part of their screening and filtering system to eliminate jokers and those not dedicated. So you have to pass their dedication and determination tests before they will start making money for you. But maybe not after that either. I tried patreon and a few others and they sucked more of my time then they gave back. But I didn't try really hard or dedicate myself to mastering promotion on their platform, so maybe it was just a case of me not trying hard enough. I've tried getting attention in other venues and getting published in articles and blogs, but mostly people aren't interested in a good idea from a non-professional publications producer like a lone inventor or lone creative. There's a lot of creatives with great presentations skills, but lame ideas who suck up all the media and funding attention. IMO. I suspect a sort of money filter is present to prevent people without large money sums for advertising buys from being heard. If you think about competition and how it works, then it seems like Patreon, for example, has an interest in flooding the market to try to corner the market and gain monopoly advantage for Patreon. So Patreon or other business models like gofundme have a market incentive to increase barriers to entry for others who don't use their systems and they can increase barriers to entry by sucking up all the attention and funding supply.

JB

Jonathan Bean Sat 15 Jun 2019

I was once investigating using wordpress crowdfunding plugins like Galaxy Funder, but there are many which are reviewed in this article https://kinsta.com/blog/crowdfunding-options-wordpress/

I have also considered Startsomegood https://startsomegood.com/
A social enterprise and non-profit crowdfunding platform?

But I have been looking for a solution for not only crowdfunding but I also want something for creating user owned and governed platforms, which are crowdfunded by users and member fees.

I proposed a design for a platform for multi-stakholder cooperatives, to fund and govern them, by users, customers, workers/contributors, investors. It is called us.OS the cooptocracy platform and is outlined at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ezwXQL4Dt1-9xRtiIQV6gNi2QDaxcZInEQS09ZDMt74/edit#heading=h.o9hfbtermhg9
I am not sure how much this aligns with your needs, but it maybe relevant.

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 20 Jun 2019

I can't read your design without visiting a Goggle domain, which I choose not to do (and can't do if my VPN isn't working). It would be great if you could post this piece on a non-datafarm host and post that link here. But from your description, it sounds like you might be able to achieve your goal by working with Liberapay or OpenCollective, or perhaps by forking their software.

JB

Jonathan Bean Wed 26 Jun 2019

Thanks for sharing these resources. I like your website. It is becoming more important everyday to avoid these exploitive extractive business models. You have a lot of collab document editors listed in your collection there, but which would you recommend if I want everyone to see the document and offer them a way to comment on content or suggest edits, or give them permission to edit directly. I have a wordpress website at sustainy.org with a web host provider with cpanel. I guess I could host it somehow, but what would you suggest, so that I can share it with you and others independent of datafarm hosts. In the mean time I pasted it on wikimedia ether pad. https://etherpad.wikimedia.org/p/Us.OS

G

Graham Thu 27 Jun 2019

"a design for a platform for multi-stakholder cooperatives" sounds like some of the work that Trebor Scholz and Michael McHugh are engaged in. https://wiki.fluidproject.org/display/fluid/Current+Work+-+Platform+Cooperative+Development+Toolkit

On the crowdfunding front, I'm a co-founder of the Platform 6 Development Cooperative which is an attempt to use a platform co-op approach to deliver crowdsourced support and development services for new cooperatives and like-minded initiatives. As part of that work we've set up a cooperative host on Open Collective - https://opencollective.com/platform6-coop (every collective on OC needs a host) and we're aiming to provide that service at a very low cost as a service to pre-start and early stage cooperative projects that don't have stuff like a bank account to enable them to receive and spend fiat money accountably. Might be of interest here.

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 27 Jun 2019

Thanks Jonathon.

You have a lot of collab document editors listed in your collection there, but which would you recommend if I want everyone to see the document and offer them a way to comment on content or suggest edits, or give them permission to edit directly.

Etherpad is a good choice. It's a mature free code project that has been maintained by an open source community for many years (originally developed by engineers at Goggle). All edits are versioned and colour-coded according to who made them, see the comments I added to your Etherpad. If you want to control who can edit your working documents, rather than making it open to anyone who visits, you could try something like Cryptpad, or the online version of LibreOffice, or even just a wiki engine like Wikimedia or Ward Cunningham's experimental federated wiki project.

DS

Danyl Strype Thu 27 Jun 2019

every collective on OC needs a host

Intriguing. From what I read in its early docs, I thought the whole purpose of OC was to be that host, doing exactly what Platform 6 are doing. Did I misread or misremember, or did something change during OC's development since then?

G

Graham Thu 27 Jun 2019

As I understand the model, there is OC the platform sitting at the bottom, providing the tech to make it all work. That entity takes 5% of all transactions incoming through the platform. Any collective choosing to use the platform can set itself up, and if it has its own bank account, it can effectively be its own host organisation. If it doesn't have a bank account - and for me the whole point of OC is to allow groups/collectives to come together and make things happen quickly without having to worry about stuff like banks accounts, legal structures, etc. - it needs to identify what they call a 'fiscal host' organisation which is willing to have the income for the collective arrive in its bank account, and to facilitate payouts as and when. Now OC the platform has set up some default host entities itself so that there is always a host available for any collective that arrives, but the stated aim of OC is to do away with these, and rely on third party orgs, like Platform 6 for example, to fulfil this role. The default host entities charge a further 5% commission on income received through the platform (Platform 6 has opted to charge only 2% at this stage, because we see our involvement with OC more as an outreach/marketing activity and so we're willing to invest time and energy there and not expect revenue to cover costs or generate net income.
This approach may be a relatively new move on the part of OC, and I think it makes sense, enabling a diversity of host organisations to engage, and perhaps offer different approaches and some added value. For our part, we're keen to see OC evolve into something a little more than just a money tool. I've been in dialog with Alannna about the of offering some governance services alongside the financial stuff - which I labelled as 'co-operation as a service', and spoke briefly about this time last year at the Open 2018 event in London. There has also been some exchange about OC supporting some co-op fundraising, which in the UK is called a community share issue. We're also considering offering a service on that front.
For what its worth, I see Platform 6 as much more than simply a fund or a financial service, although that's clearly part of what is emerging. My vision for it is as a rich soup of resources that a co-op startup can immerse itself in, and be nourished by all kinds of support (expertise, advice, tech support, money, investors, customers, co-founders, etc.). It's very much early days, but you are very welcome to get involved - we're co-creating the thing in the open.

FS

Francisco Santos Fri 28 Jun 2019

Hey @graham2 ,

I have recently started putting some ideas for the development of peer_protocol in Rotterdam. I found a number of paralels - cooperation as a service and te use of OC. At this stage, I have applied for funding from the local government for a 6 month pilot. Going well, I would know the answer in November and start it around May.
Would you be able to share more about your initiative, including its development stages and where and how you plan to develop it?
Here's my draft website: https://sites.google.com/view/peerprotocol/home. Would be great to share experiences!

G

Graham Sat 29 Jun 2019

Hi Francisco. Many thanks for making me aware of your proposed project. Ive read through most of the information on your linked site. Some of the language and information presented is a little dense or otherwise tricky for me to fully understand the main thrust of what your proposal is aiming to achieve. However I can grasp some of the ideas there. I don't understand why people will provide €100 per month, or who will want to contribute to the proposed crowdfunding campaign, but maybe getting a better understanding of the project and the concrete benefits it will deliver to participants will make this clearer. I've been involved with some work at the Digital Life Collective where colleagues have created an interesting digital collaboration platform that provides bridges between organisations. This might be a good fit for your project.
when I first started reading the documents I thought the focus was about creating an umbrella structure under which innovation could occur, and maybe that's part of it, but it also feels like you are looking to create channels and data flows that can enable more effective collaboration across organisational boundaries. I'm interested to learn more!

JB

Jonathan Bean Sat 29 Jun 2019

I am liking Cryptpad thanks for sharing these resources. I copied the us.OS document to cryptpad if you like to see a more formatted version, https://cryptpad.fr/pad/#/2/pad/edit/ecdcgRjp7KW8vFK54B7NIpfm/
and I added responses to your input on the etherpad. https://etherpad.wikimedia.org/p/Us.OS

JB

Jonathan Bean Sun 30 Jun 2019

Thanks @graham2 for sharing these resources, I'll be going deeper into these projects and I am interested in exploring the possibilities of using platform 6, and I will be learning more about the opportunities. I think it might be what I need to fund/organize the sustainy.org coop project I have been working on.

FS

Francisco Santos Wed 3 Jul 2019

Hey Graham. Thank you, for going through it.
Worry not, you are not finding it complicated. The reason is that I wanted to make it flexible enough to accomodate different members and skills, so it is mostly a framework for an organisation more than a stated goal.
As for the 100e a month, this is meant to secure active participation and commitement. From my previous experience, unless you are able to actively contribute or work for a project, it stops making sense. For that, you need at least core/active contributors. Also, to cover common basic expenses.
As for the crowdfunding, it is a flexible instrument. Imagining that we are doing the accounting for one of the protocoloraised entities, then our services could be covered through it. Doing so develops expertise on a particular sector, that can probably be of service to other similar organisations. In addition, if we are managing a partnership, formal or not, then the crowdfunding would be the best way to maintain it, since it is of benefit to several partners.
You read it well. The umbrella/service/hub allows for peer_protocol to scale as a collective. Those channels and data flows that you mention is also what allows us to keep on (recurrent) crowdfunding. The innovation would occur when you mismatch the "open source" layers from different organisations. You might have an open-source technology, but do you also have a communication team? You might have a commons oriented co-housing in which, by sharing your work, you can scale the practice (not necessarily the organisation). You mix the technology and the co-housing (in this case), and you can probably develop a business model, too.
Now, considering that these practices are open, the work that you would do for any of these projects/organisations, probably benefits other (mapped out) similar organisations. At least on a city level, these should not be hard to find. Developing policy or a vision, then becomes a matter of connecting the outcome of different events (organised by peer_protocol or not) and using it alongside these organisations.
As for the digital life collective, I think it is really cool and their maps are neat. However, as far as social media goes, it doesn't seem to be that active. Platform wise, I believe simplicity is best. Though not optimal, google docs should fill this gap for most of the operations. This follows Clay Shirky's idea that change does not come from the shiniest technology, but from the most boring one (eg: twitter and the Arab Spring).
I should receive the news by the end of November, but probably will only start it by Mars/May next year, whilst giving a hand here and there to the "pre-protocol" partners.
Hey! Any comments, suggestions or improvements on the documents are super welcome :)

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 2 Aug 2019

I have a wordpress website at sustainy.org with a web host provider with cpanel.

FYI I wouldn't class that as being hosted by a datafarm. Having your own instance of a free code package like WP, hosted on a generic ISP, is the first tier of self-hosting ("shared server"). The second tier is to run your own OS and server apps inside a VPS (Virtual Private Server), but depending on your tech skills, you may need to invest quite a bit of learning time (and maybe a bit more money each month). The third tier is to buy your own server hardware and have it hosted in a rack at a datacentre, and run your own OS on "bare metal" instead of virtualized hardware.

The fourth tier is to the your servers on a computer(s) located at your own home or office. This was actually very common until the "cloud" hype moved most servers into highly centralized, commercial datacentres, which has been very profitable for Amazone, McSoft etc. This was a backwards step IMHO. AFAIK the same type of virtualization software could have been used to create a giant, distributed server, powered by everyone's home and office server hardware. That way, if any of that hardware goes down, the system loses some computing power, but every website etc the system hosts still keeps working. My understanding of that this is roughly the vision of Holochain and holo.host.

DS

Danyl Strype Fri 2 Aug 2019

Hi @Francisco Santos I'd love to take a look at your website but I can't for reasons explained here, along with suggestions for how to share your proposal without forcing readers to visit Goggle domains:

https://www.loomio.org/d/Yx8h0TZS/e-money-1-funding-the-web-commons-or-how-do-you-fund-crowdfunding-/18

FS

Francisco Santos Tue 6 Aug 2019

Hey @strypey . I copy pasted the core documents into an etherpad. Can you access it? Would appreciate your comments and suggestions.
https://etherpad.net/p/Not_google