Ideas on how to present crowdmatching and budget limits

@fvila789, I understand you feeling uncomfortable. I feel the same. The reasons why the snowdrift team made the decision to have a limit was because they were concerned that supporters of projects would be uncomfortable with no limits. They were also concerned about supporters having monthly budgets and were afraid that if there wasn’t a monthly limit that people would be hesitant to sign up.

My medium-term position has always been that limits are fine, but that each project you support should have a limit, and your total limit is the sum of all those project’s limits.

My long-term position is that there should be no per person limit, and that granular items within a project should be an option for people to donate to.

For now, they have made the decision to have one universal limit per person. Which, to be honest, is fine, because so far there is only one project, so from a technical standpoint, the limit is per project at the moment in practice anyways.

The limit would not necessarily be a long way off if you have multiple projects you are committed too.

I think that people should should set the limit indirectly, through their commitments which would be communicated to them clearly, as apposed to directly, by setting a master limit for everything.

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So it seems the objective now is to explain the limit thing without making it look like the patrons are being “bowled out” or “excluded”.
Here are a few images that come to mind:

  • a relay race: you are transmitting the baton to a new wave of runners
  • a seedling nursery: you’ve looked after a potted plant in a greenhouse, now it’s time to plant it out in open air, for others to take care of
  • the traditional wedding, where the father “gives away” his daughter as a bride (very patriarchal when you think of it…)
  • the first stage of a rocket, that lifts the project into the stratosphere, to be pulled into orbit by the following layers
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@CANAWEN once there are multiple projects available to crowdmatch, it may be best for us to offer both per-project and overall limit options. For some people, one master limit will probably work well and provide helpful simplicity since they don’t have to think about what limit they want every time they pledge to a project. I certainly think that in future we’ll need to offer various ways to relate differently to different projects, including in this way, but I think as a starting point, one master limit is better. It is also more in the spirit of crowdmatching since it means you’re being more flexible about tying your donation level to what others do. For example, compare supporting 10 projects with one master limit of $10 versus supporting 10 projects with 10 individual limits of $1. In both cases you’ll never be charged more than $10 in a month, but in the individual limit case, any project that gets over 1000 patrons will lose your support. Although the max you’re willing to donate through crowdmatching is $10/month in both cases, your actual level of willingness to crowdmatch is less with the individual limits than with the master limit.

@fvila789 I really like your framing of the objective for explaining the limit, and your ideas for how to frame the limit as a handover rather than dropping out. That should also help avoid the misunderstanding that lots of people hitting their limit at the same time could cause a sudden reduction in what the project receives. An image in terms of “passing the baton” or something like that is really more accurate, as well as much more emotionally positive, than being “bowled out”. What’s really happening is that you’re handing over your spot in the crowd to a new patron whose limit is higher than yours. This frees up of some of your budget, enabling you to support one or more other projects. So maybe we could find some way to depict not only “passing the baton” but also the suggestion that you use your freed up budget to pledge to other projects that don’t yet have as much support. A related image that comes to mind for me is:

  • A grade-level teacher who hands their students over to the next teacher at the end of the year, and then has a new incoming class for the next year.
  • Another is angel investors where the fact that a startup they supported got to the point of needing and getting attention from big name venture capitalists would make the angel investors feel proud of the success they’d helped make possible (rather than feeling like they’d failed because they couldn’t give the startup the amount of investment they needed for their next phase).
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I think this is really important to emphasize. Crowdmatching has 2 major benefits over traditional monthly donations:

  1. Encourage more people to join the crowd (by providing mutual assurance and low commitment/risk for pledging early)
  2. Consolidate donations to the projects with the most support

We tend to talk about the first one more, but the second is also really important, because money is less useful when spread thin. One project getting $10k/month ($120k yearly) can afford to hire an employee or two; ten projects receiving $1k/month can’t hire anyone.[1] From this perspective, crowdmatching is a system that solves the problem of consensus building at scale.

It works because patrons agree to give up some control. By conceding (to the system) the choice of how much to donate, we get the low risk/mutual assurance. By conceding the choice of which projects to prioritize, we get consolidation. Separate limits for individual projects give patrons more control, but at the cost of the consensus-building power of crowdmatching.


  1. At some scale, this consolidation becomes a problem, but today fragmentation is a bigger problem for FLOSS (and other public goods?) and the rising amount of the pledge provides a natural counterbalance. ↩︎

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thanks @msiep for the positive feedback. The images of the teacher / angel investor make sense to me. I’ll try to offer a graphics+text suggestion based on these ideas as soon as I get the time.

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Or maybe an image of them passing off, you know, a shovel?
To match the whole snowdrift theme?
:yum:

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Makes sense, but it would be best if the new person brings their own shovel and the departing person takes their shovel with them, since hopefully they are now looking for a different snowdrift to help with - one that doesn’t require as big a time commitment as the one they’re departing from.

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Here’s my latest suggestion. If people like it I’ll convert the images to Inkscape so that others can open-sourcely edit them, suggest new versions and improvements:


Shoveling snow…

… is discouraging if you feel you’re the only one doing it.
It’s the same with contributing to an open source project. I’m willing to start giving, but I don’t want to be the only one, because if I am, I’m not going to go very far, now am I?

Enter Snowdrift.coop. Being the first one to help is painless because the very first contribution is one tenth of one cent per month. It’s only when more people start chipping in that the contribution rises.

As the number of participants rises, the overall contribution to the project expands quadratically (meaning it hits the roof). In the meantime, your own contribution rises linearly, just adding one tenth of one cent for each new shoveller joining the effort.
howItWorks1b

To avoid overreaching your budget, you set a limit to what you are ready to give.

howItWorks2b

Once you reach your limit, you pass on the baton to other incoming shovellers. You have successfully picked an embryonic project and seen it grow into a successful proposition. You have uncovered and blazed a trail so that larger vehicles can now move ahead.
howItWorks3b

How about picking another seedling project and help it grow into a mighty tree?

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I think “linearly” is the word you want, here.

go for linearly, changing now

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tl;dr: good work, good progress, notes: we need to drop the extra-cent-worth-$200 bit, maybe → instead of =; baton hand off is great, but have 2 equal bars at that point, and text shouldn’t emphasize “embryonic” or similar.

Per discussion earlier with @mray, he vetos the framing of “each extra you give is worth…” as too potentially confusing. It’s arguably something of a deepity — it’s trivially true or profoundly false.

So, the math is right that you can know that when you see your donation go up by 1¢ and there’s ~10,000 patrons, they all also get the same increase, giving the $200 increase for the project. But that’s not really much more remarkable than just saying in general, “with 10,000 patrons, that many others are increasing their donations with you” which is just another framing of the basic crowdmatching concept.

The false impression is one where someone imagines that they actually have a choice of whether to give their extra 1¢ or not, and thinking that if they choose to, then it gets the project an extra $200. Of course, we aren’t offering everyone a choice about every ¢, and if we did, then it would disconnect the the 1¢ and the $200. We don’t want to open up potential misunderstandings around this.

So, that’s just a long explanation about why we won’t use the matching-of-each-cent framing.

I think the earlier stuff in the images is okay but not with the = sign. There is something about just showing the concrete math. You (and everyone else) at pledge value X means Y total for the project. That’s nice to show. And the specific numbers are helpful.

Making progress, but there’s issues here. We aren’t emphasizing embryonic projects at all, so we don’t want people to focus on the idea that this is about early startups. We also don’t want people to think that they should pass on the baton.

We need to emphasize that the limit is a failsafe that we don’t intend for them to hit per se. We hope they will raise the limit as they gain confidence in the value of crowdmatching.

Like: “Hmm, I dunno, but I’ll try it, and $10 limit seems reasonable for now… oh, now that I’m putting in $8 and see the result and success of crowdmatching, this is really great, I’m gonna raise my limit to $25…”

And then we could say, “what if you really can’t afford to chip in any more?” Then we have the hand-off-the-baton idea (which is a nice image!) and we can emphasize continuing to support other projects (not that they are necessarily young seedlings, it might just be a matter of supporting a lower number of total projects).

One picky detail: the baton is handed off where the level stays flat. So, a patron is at their limit, and then the new patron replaces them, so the total stays flat, but then hopefully grows from there. So showing just two spots in a row at the same level could be good.

Of course, that hand-off is likely between crowdmatch points, so the actual donation points are likely to be below and then above the limit and unlikely to ever have precisely 10,000 patrons at the charge time. But I think illustrating the concept by showing two same-level bars at the hand-off is the clearest.

The baton-hand-off itself is a marvelous way to present this.

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I think the key concept is that each pledge is a promise to give $10 a month. Every month that a crowdmatch is done, I am pledging $10. I just lock/restrict/restrain/what ever a portion of the $10 to act as an incentive for other people to also promise to give, and so on.

The key positioning or perspective I have adopted is that the starting point is $10 month, which is then dialed back down to whatever the current crowd size is.

One idea is to pre-authorize $10 from everyone’s credit card 7 days before the crowdmatch date, and then on the actual date reduce the amount charged down to whatever the crowdmatch amount is.

The key point that needs to be communicated is that the commitment is for the full $10 amount a month. That is what people are pledging, just with a community based condition.

edits following comments


Shoveling snow…

… is discouraging if you feel you’re the only one doing it.
It’s the same with contributing to an open source project. I’m willing to start giving, but I don’t want to be the only one, because if I am, I’m not going to go very far, now am I?

Enter Snowdrift.coop. Being the first one to help is painless because the very first contribution is one tenth of one cent per month. It’s only when more people start chipping in that the contribution rises.

As the number of participants rises, the overall contribution to the project expands quadratically (meaning it hits the roof). In the meantime, your own contribution rises linearly, just adding one tenth of one cent for each new shoveller joining the effort.

howItWorks1b

To avoid overreaching your budget, you set a limit to what you are ready to give.

howItWorks2b

What happens when you reach your limit? This means that you are participating in a thriving project. You have contributed to making it a success by picking it up when it was small and unnoticed. Now many have come to join you. You can either:

  • Up your limit to continue the adventure, or
  • Pass the baton on to others. How about picking another seedling project and help it grow into a mighty tree?
    howItWorks3b

This is actually quite wrong for what we want to say.

First, the $10 is a system-wide failsafe, so there’s no amount tied to each pledge to multiple projects. Also, when I pledge, I absolutely do not have in mind an idea of how much I’m promising. I do not think that $10 is the ideal amount I want to give, I have no idea. I want to see tons of other people donating, and I’m willing to help. And I want to just participate in seeing how far we can go. And I’m glad there’s some check-point ($10) so that the matching can’t have runaway growth that would drain my savings.

The $10 isn’t an amount I’m promising, it’s an amount I’m willing to start playing with.

In another framing (which I think we should still consider), I wouldn’t have a monthly limit, I would have a single authorized limit: so, I would say “I authorize up to $100 to be spent in the crowdmatching system” and I’m willing to see how long it takes to get charged that total… when that gets close, I can decide whether to authorize more and whether to change my pledges. I seriously think this one-time-lump-authorization might be superior enough for the psychology that we should prioritize offering this.

The downside to the one-time is that if people don’t act, then all their donations will stop, not just some of them when they push past a monthly budget cap. But the one-time authorization highlights that there’s no promise of an optimal donation, there’s just a control-point to the matching for the sake of having a fail-safe. It is not in any sense a reflection of some decision of what donation level is “right”.

That said, it’s true that crowdmatching is about withholding your potential donations in order to encourage others to join.

That sounds too much like a limit… not the best idiom here :wink:

In describing quadratic, the square graphs do help. And text can say “increase in number patrons and size of each donation” or similar to highlight that the reason for the growth is because these two factors grow together.

How about: “As a safety measure so you don’t spend more than you can afford,” (or similar: safety, control-point, etc.?

Well, someone might already be pledging to other projects, so it might be “keep your pledges to other projects and hope they grow too”?

Overall, I think the idea is getting nicely refined here, and this process is leading us to the fine-tuned framing that will succeed. Thanks for this work!

Related: Create a new page that explains the mechanism in more detail

This might be a good starting point for content on that page.

I’m confused about the scope of this thread.
Should this be a new “how it works” page?
Should this be the more detailed page that explains the mechanism?

Personally, I’m not sold on the idea of needing two how-it-works type pages. The intro video already has more detail than the explanation on /how-it-works; I’d be inclined to just put the simple explanation (just this part, not the limit) on the home page:

And then put the stuff we’re discussing here on /how-it-works.

I’m open to being convinced otherwise and changing my view, though.

I’m trying to clarify for @fvila789 and I remain confused. I don’t see where all the effort is aiming at, running the risk of remaining “just ideas”. @fvila789 if you are trying to have a real impact, start communicating what you think we are doing. Otherwise giving feedback and incorporating contributions is close to impossible (at least for me) .

@smichel17 said:

put the stuff we’re discussing here on /how-it-works

Yes, that was my idea.

The More patrons > More money per patron graphic is simple and clear, I agree it belongs on page 1.

On the other hand I found that the second graphic in the current how it works , illustrating the limit, makes it look like my contribution would be “bowled out” by the rise of crowdsourcing. I felt this to be disturbing, as if I would be excluded from participating because I can’t or won’t meet rising demands.

The suggested How it works aims firstly to reassure people that it’s OK to contribute and to set a limit, it won’t be a failure or an exclusion.
Second, it attempts to explain concepts that it took me some time to grasp from reading https://wiki.snowdrift.coop/about/mechanism , which btw is rather deep down in the about (section III / 15) . These are new concepts, new ideas. They challenge conventional thinking, which is why I find them interesting and worth discussing.

To me, a how it works page should explain the mechanism; this is the least you can provide if you expect people to commit themselves to give money every month. The purpose of the suggested content is to provide sufficient clarity for most potential donors. The best judges would be people who are new to the concepts.

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