Introductory video is missing the point


I was watching the introductory video for the nth time and, although I really love the graphics (kudos to the designer), I find the narration is really missing the point.

First of all, what is said from 0:00 to 0:24 could be said of a lot of crowdfunding platforms (Tipeee, Liberapay, OpenCollective…) so it looks like SnowDrift is trying to address a problem that a lot of services have already dealt with.

I don’t see how the reference to advertisement applies either to music, research, and esp. free software where, I think, it is hardly every used.

What bothers me the most is what smichel17 reports from family members in a related thread:

I think the introductory video should make that point very clear.

And the analogy of
funding public goods = cooperation on a snowdrift
is not clear. The fact that we start with a road with ads and cameras make it more confusing again. The visual metaphor is too complicated for someone who doesn’t already know the chicken game and would be more understandable if translated into a explicit comparison, with the narration matching precisely what is displayed in the animation.

I would say something in that spirit:

A lot of us would like to contribute to public good. We would be eager to give to a beggar, a charity, a project we like, a free software we use, or a video creator whose videos we watch. But there is always this little voice in our head: am I being the sucker? Why would I donate my precious money? Imagine if you wanted to drive where a lot of snow has rendered the road impracticable. Would you clear it all by yourself? Or would you rather every driver to join forces and participate in the shoveling? States solve this problem through public taxation. Companies solve this problem by making the user pay in a form or another, either through paywalls, advertisement or selling user data. But what if you don’t want companies’ advertisements and paywalls, and the State isn’t interested in funding things you want, like free software development, ad-independent journalism, independent research, or DRM-free music? Are you doomed to choose between being a parasite free-rider and being a sucker? That’s where comes into play: you start shoveling just a little, and wait for others to join in to shovel more and clear the road completely. This way, each one shovels about the same amount, and no one feels they are taken advantage of.

When I discovered SnowDrift, it really reminded me of Cipolla’s 5 Basic Laws of Human Stupidity:

Where the users that contributes or donate falls in the “helpless people” category, and the user that neither contributes nor donate falls in the “bandits” category.

To me, SnowDrift could to make us fall in the “intelligent people” category.

This makes me think of the idiom:
You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours
which in French would translate by:
C’est donnant-donnant” (= Tit for tat)

I think that is what should be conveyed by the intro video.

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Ok, I had a go at it:

Sorry for the French accent and pronunciation errors ^^

Not fully satisfied with the script ; it’s just a draft.

Maybe it would be useful to explain why other crowdfunding platforms don’t work for certain types of projects (to add to the “wrong solutions” sections of the copywriting formula).

Not satisfied with the transition from the metaphor of shoveling to what we are really talking about (donating).

Plus, I’m not convinced we can picture the “shovel a little” part (does that mean shovel slowly? or without enthusiasm?).


Imagine there is a SnowDrift on a road you want to take.

You might shovel the road all by yourself, and let others benefit from your efforts. You will probably find this to be unfair to you.

If a company owned the road, it would shovel the road for everyone, but it would be funded by making everyone pay to go on the road, or watch ads, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?

If the State owned the road, it would fund the shovelling via public taxation.

Now what if the State isn’t interested in funding the shovelling?

What about free software development, copyleft music, ad-independent journalism, independent research?

That’s where comes into play: you start shoveling just a little, and wait for others to join in to shovel more and clear the road completely. This way, each one shovels about the same amount, and no one feels they are taken advantage of.

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Hello Boris,

I agree the video has serious issues. You highlighted only some of them, and in my eyes the true problem is that the exact message we want to convey isn’t clear enough to our selves. As long as we know the mechanism needs an update (and there is no clarity about what will be) I personally won’t work on the video. But that’s only me.

Thanks for mentioning the looks of the video in a good way :slightly_smiling_face:.

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I’m not sure I know what you refer to with “the mechanism”. Is this about the limits and start amount and such?

To me, the message could be more efficient if we talked about the way SnowDrift creates more motivation for everyone to participate in a public good project than other crowdfunding platforms. And talk about how some project might benefit from campaigns like Kickstarter, while for others Snowdrift is better suited.

I think the message would be more understandable if we put the emphasis on the difference between SnowDrift and other crowdfunding platforms, instead of talking of the could world WE would like to build. Because SnowDrift could be use to fund other stuff, like helping a beggar get back on its feet, or helping a poor village in Somalia, or any charity…

Snowdrift = “I give if you givepact

To me, the precise mechanisms and parameters of Snowdrift don’t seem that relevant for the intro video. This might be developed in a second video or via text and images.

I think the intro video should focus on what makes Snowdrift special: the fact that it is deeply rooted in the psychology of motivation.

I see a lot of similarity between Snowdrift and the French streamers strategy on r/place 2022. French people were motivated to stay up all night to make the individually boring and ungratifying act of clicking a pixel every 5 minutes, because Kamet0, Fukano and ZeratoR synchronized them, which made the picture change radically in 15 seconds, and gave to each follower the impression that they had a real impact on what happened, an impact way beyond what their individual act could accomplish.

Snowdrift = “your contribution matters more (than on other crowdfunding platforms)

I’ve learned recently that French streamers use the same strategy during the zEvent (a yearly game streaming event that raised 10M€ for charity last year): they create “1€ raids” : punctually, they ask each follower of the event to give 1€, and they thus manage to reach a new floor, and each one feels they are part of the reason the floor was reached.

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Yes. “Mechanism” is the the part that decides what EXACTLY happens as the consequence of peoples actions on the platform.

To me it very much is. This is why:

  • We don’t need to paint in bright colors what wonderful world there could be with us – because it could be there with others already, too.
  • We don’t need to tell people how we may have found the holy grail of human psychology that works as a lever to catapult us right into a bright future – because we don’t know that for sure, nor what exactly that grail is.
  • We do need to show people how snowdrift is a mere TOOL. I mean that in the most condescending and objective way. It is an inanimate thing, with no capacity to do anything by itself. It can enable others to do great things, though!

We need to make clear how to use that tool.
More instruction manual, less utopia.

Unfortunately it is very hard to write a great or even a superb instruction manual when all you have is a prototype that is subject to change. :unamused:

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I agree with the idea that the intro video needs not talk about utopia, because like you say Snowdrift is a tool, and it could be used for a great variety of purposes, some of which one might not consider participating in their definition of what constitutes “good”. Generally, crowdfunding platforms have rules and guidelines to censor what the founders don’t consider “good”, but this is very subjective. We had the case in France with Leetchi censoring a crowdfunding to help a protester who had an altercation with the riot squad get a lawyer.

On the other hand, it’s more efficient in general to talk about benefits than features.

A common saying in marketing is:

Features tell, benefits sell

And this is the major difference we see between great copywritting done by marketers in private companies and poorly written websites when they are created by developers (which is typical in the FOSS world). Exception might be made for the sites of softwares aimed at developers and frameworks and libraries, because developers seem to have the superhuman ability to deduce the benefits from the features.

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In general, maybe. But I think there is no doubt about the “benefit” of giving money. We don’t even have any “features” to brag about. A robust understanding of the very mechanism in place makes all the difference.

But maybe I’m misunderstanding what “benefits” you have in mind “sell”?
Arguably the mechanism IS the benefit, but that would also make my point: we can’t sell what we don’t know.

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The logical target of the homepage is people who want to get more money for their project.

The benefit for them is getting more money.

This would be the main point of the video : when you use to fund a project, you raise more money than with other crowdfunding platforms.

And then develop:

  • the limits of other crowdfunding systems for some types of projects:
    • time-limited crowdfunding campaigns (such as Kickstarter)
    • fundraising events (such as Z Event or Telethon or concerts…)
    • recurring donation with restricted content (Patreon, Twitch)
    • recurring donation platforms but without crowdmatching (OpenCollective, Liberapay)
  • why theses limits exist ; how the psychology of donating works (fear of freeriding etc…)
  • how crowdmatching solves the limitations of other crowdfunding solutions

The mechanism (crowdmatching) is the means to the benefit (get a project funded, raise more money).

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Finally reading this months later.

Those are pretty obscure in the world. If they were dramatic solutions, they would be competing with Patreon for prominence. Even OC is unheard of by most people out there. Patreon is now widely known.

Music is hugely connected to ads and paywalls, both. Spotify, YouTube, other streaming services… they focus on putting ads alongside music and telling people to pay in order to make the ads go away. That’s the dominant thing today in most artistic media (podcasts, journalism, music, movies, etc). It’s a form of ransom. Annoy people with ads and say “don’t like it, pay for ad-free”.

As for Free-Software, that’s not a category of media. The category is software. Free Software is the ad-free and paywall-free stuff that goes unfunded mostly whenever it comes to end-user software. For end-user software, the dominant thing today is the Google Play or Apple App Store model: either ads or paywalls or both.

The point is that we need to say right away that the issue isn’t that software or music can’t get funding, the point is they can’t get funding if they are ethical FLO public goods.

On all the rest of the ideas, I appreciate the feedback that the intuition and issues aren’t expressed ideally with the video. I don’t quite agree with the assessment of the framing though.

Adam Grant talks of givers-takers-matchers as attitudes toward social relation. We do not want to turn everyone into petty obsessive matchers. Yes, crowdmatching is matching, it’s obviously matcher-style. Except, it’s people willing to join the crowd of givers while the rest of the public is still free-riding. It’s nuanced, but it’s more let’s-do-this-together cooperation style matching.

We are not wanting to push tit-for-tat. We are wanting to push pro-social cooperative movement we-can-move-mountatins-working-together.

Instead of the idea “it’s unfair to you to work alone”, the focus is more on the daunting sense that we can’t do it alone, it’s too much, and if a small group of us do a lot, it will still be a rough, very incomplete result.

I appreciate the reordering of public-goods dilemma first and then saying that proprietary ads and paywalls is one way, what happens when we fail to work together for public goods. I have to agree also that mentioning taxes really helps with making things clear. I’ve been scared about people jumping to conclusions about political views when taxes come up, but they are clearly the status-quo for most public-goods, and it seems disingenuous to avoid mentioning it.

Yes, that’s well put and the explicit thing we care about. Social-psychology specifically, not individuals in isolation.

I see the target as just as much all the people who, like me, want public goods and are fretting about how awful it is that creative work in our society is driven by ads and paywalls, social-media-tracking etc. and the powerful organizations are all advertising companies (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tik Tok) while the public is mostly disorganized and uncoordinated.

I’ve often talked about the idea that we have a supply-side economy, the producers are in charge. I want the demand-side more organized so we can dictate the terms, we can say “no, don’t lock down my device and brick it, let me keep it working longer with updated software” etc. So, I think our audience is the general citizens, the “consumers” as much or more than the people who want their projects’ funded. And project teams will be inspired if they see something that they imagine will inspire their users to organize and donate.

I hesitate always to go this way, but part of my thinking is always, “look, if we could just get more actual democracy, we could direct public funding to really serve the public interest” and that basically, crowdmatching is a substitute for effective state tax regime because the current governments in the world are too corrupt, captured, out of touch, etc. and while others work on government reform, we’re working on an alternative way for the public to organize together to have a functional system.

Anyway, I hope that this reply sparks further thinking on this. I do think we need to update and redo how we frame things.