Problems with crowdmatching + proposing an alternative

long-form-discussion

#1

Dear Snowdrift.coop,

you are so good at identifying game theory problems but you are so
vague about how the crowdmatching system would adress that. It seems
to me that it will just amplify the problems. I’m going to go over the
issues and also propose an alternative protocol for Snowdrift.coop to
adapt. You can even keep the “Snowdrift” name! :heart:

Some problems with the crowdmatching models, and you’ve already
identified these on your wiki, are:

  • Niche projects get pennies. Might as well get nothing because it’s not
    something they can live on.

  • Popular projects might get more than they can use.

  • The model amplifies the unfairness of a traditional market-style
    “popularity contest” system.

On a normal market, you get [amount of supporters] × [price]. But with
crowdmatching, you get [amount of supporters]² × [price]. In other
words, the distribution curve becomes exponential since one of the
factors are squared.

That’s not a helpful way to coordinate a market-like network. It’s
making it more blunt, more swingy, more unreliable, more risky, more
unfair, and less efficient.

Using the “shoveling a snowdrift”-metaphor:

Normally, the more popular a road is, the higher the chance that enough
people will pitch in and start clearing that road from the snowdrift.

If a road is unpopular, maybe one or two people have to carry the
burden.

If a road is popular, maybe ten people will help each other shovel that
snow away.

This is obviously not a great situation.

On popular roads, everyone who shovels the snow will have their
shovels transformed into a motorized flamethrowing excavator. This
will effectively clear the snow, in perhaps an overkill fashion.

On unpopular roads, the few people who do show up will have their
shovels transformed into toothpicks. Making their efforts completely
pointless. If they increase their amount of digging with those
toothpicks to compensate to at least try to clear their road,
because they love their particular road so much, they also increase
the risk to bump into their monthly ceiling, if those toothpicks are
suddenly transformed into motorized excavators.

This seems like an even worse situation to me.

Also. The core of the Snowdrift Dilemma is that you hold off and see
that maybe some sucker will end up paying it all on their own, and you
can get away with not paying. The crowdmatching model doesn’t really
adress the Snowdrift Dilemma.

The best strategy is still, even with the crowdmatching system, to
hold off on donating and see if other people donate enough for that
public good to be funded! To see if someone else will shovel that
road!

Instead, I tried to come up with alternative protocols and here’s the
one I like the best out of those.

The “precise-threshold” protocol.

  1. Patrons donate money to projects, similar to other subscription
    sites like Patreon. You might give project A $5 a month and
    project B $25 a month.

  2. Every project sets what’s a desired monthly income for them.

    If they get less, they don’t get anything. That’s similar to
    Kickstarter. The new thing in “precise-threshold” is that if they
    get more, they don’t get the overpay either.

    They don’t want to set their wage too low because then they will
    have too much overspill. They don’t want to set their wage too
    high because then they will have a higher chance of getting zilch.

  3. Any overspill or underspill will be refunded to the patron.
    Pre-emptive refund, that is – at first you only pledge the
    amount, then you’re only charged the actual lower amount later.

    So say you give project A $5 and project B $25. Project A
    overfunds, getting 113% of its wage, and project B underfunds. You
    will get the entire $25 back from project B and you’ll also get
    ¢57 back from project A.

    This is meant to be an appealing pitch to the public.

    • Pledge to projects you like!
    • Get it back if the projects aren’t funded!
    • Get it back if the projects are overfunded!
  4. Also, patrons can have this re-funding be optional. Two separate
    checkboxes when you pledge: “Do you want some of the money back if
    Project A overfunds” and “Do you want the money back if project A
    fails to meet its funding goal”, separate for each project.

    Indiegogo has this system called “flexible funding” where you
    don’t get the money back. Campaigns using that are usually less
    popular, and for good reason – you run into game theory dilemmas.
    “If I contribute, and no-one else contributes, I just wasted my
    money.” But with “precise-threshold”, that flexility is in the
    hand of the patron, not the project.

The Snowdrift.coop community has identified some problems with
traditional threshold systems. First of all, gaming the system by
donating to yourself. This is equivalent to just setting a lower
threshold, which in and of itself wouldn’t problematic as long as the
de facto lowered threshold is still enough to actually get the project
done and not just turn the pledges into donations – with the
difference that you can do it near the end of the funding period to
prevent underfunding. You end up with an untrustworthy “flexible
funding” fiasco a la Indiegogo.

On precise-threshold, such self-funding also has an effect: it can be
used to give yourself more leeway and a bigger window, and subverts
the preciseness of the “precise-threshold” system. Let’s say you set
your monthly target at $2000. You donate to yourself $1000. Then if
you receive $3500 in pledges: you get $2000, and the $1500 in overpay
is returned to your patrons proportionately. But, you (via your
confederate) are a patron, too, and would receive $428.57 back from
your pledged $1000 (since the overpay is refunded proportionally).

To me, the easy fix is to make this an overt part of the system. Add a
function for this so that projects don’t even have to go via a
confederate donor. The more laws there are, the more crime there is.
If people want to self-donate like that in order to widen the
preciseness and get some extra cushion, let them. They would need to
scrounge up the funds to do so.

A $2000-a-month project self-donating $0, and then being pledged $2500 will
get a total of $2000.

A $2000-a-month project self-donating $1000 and then other patrons
pledging $2500, for a total of $3500 in pledges, will get a total of
$2000 - $1000 + $428.57 = $1428.57. I.e. their “cushioning” came at a
pretty hefty price, and benefited all of their other patrons, who got
to split over $570 amongst themselves!

But, the cushioning does prevent against underfunding which makes it
an interesting decision. Just make it a legal and allowed decision,
part of the UI for projects, and it’s no longer “gaming the system”.

Of course, it’s the proportional overpay refund nature of the
“precise-threshold” system that allows this. On a vanilla threshold
system, a project self-donating $1000 would get most of that back,
minus the site’s transaction- and operating fees, making the
“cushioning” free and completely undermining the mutual assurance
contract that’s the intent of threshold system.

That’s why, with the “precise-threshold” system, the “progress bar” is
better off hidden, so that you just can’t last-minute snipe-donate the
missing amount to yourself. You have to take a chance of
over-donating, which will benefit your patrons.

Other problems that you identify with threshold are arbitrary
deadlines and limits. Deadlines, sure – most real-life projects such
as apps and art are ongoing, not a one-shot thing. But limits? Such
limits are the core of directly addressing the Snowdrift Dilemma. The
snowdrift either gets cleared – the project gets the money it needs
– or it doesn’t, and no-one has to get cold and wet. That road will
just have to go unused.

Thanks for reading all of this. :heart:
Sandra


Tagging and filing valuable broad philosophy topics
"respect" and "agree" vs "like" (and other ideal reaction options)
Suggestion for new top-level general discussion, separate from "clearing the path"
Feedback on a proposed "Preshold" protocol (an alternative to crowdmatching)
Feedback on a proposed "Preshold" protocol (an alternative to crowdmatching)
Starting set of tags?
#2

Welcome, and thanks so much for the thoughtful input!

I’ll aim to address the concerns here. Besides clarifying, there’s always the potential to tweak, adjust, pivot, etc. to whatever is truly the most promising approach to our mission. We find the best path forward through this type of conversation!

Niche projects get pennies

That’s only true if we stick to a fixed crowdmatching level. To just get going at all, we’re starting simple. But actually, our very first prototype included a concept of a “share” such that anyone could pledge any number of shares, thus encouraging more generosity per patron and flexibility for niche projects. In principle, this would solve the problem. It provides not only the ability to pledge extra but had extra matching of the extra shares, tapering off logarithmically. It’s just that explaining this was just not working, it was too complex, elevator pitches required asterisks…

We started with that more complex formula specifically because we have been thinking all along about the concerns of niche projects.

Bringing back that formula or using other adaptations are certainly possible in the future. Another option: a project could understand that they are niche and maybe just set a different base crowdmatch amount (without the logarithmic share-matching). Or at least we could allow larger starting matches on a per-patron level…

The decision we’ve made at this point is to focus on working for non-niche projects first and then come back to this concern later. It’s certainly a real issue.

Popular projects might get more than they can use.

This is discussed on the limits page. First, if that happens, we’re a success! When our problem is public goods getting too much funding, it will be a great day. That said, a project could say, “we have enough funding, go support these other projects we like”… patrons shouldn’t feel motivated to contribute to projects that don’t need the extra funding. I’m not sure we’ll actually reach this point. Worrying about it now is early optimization.

The model amplifies the unfairness of a traditional market-style “popularity contest” system.

That’s indeed a concern, but I’m not sure we can solve all problems at once. If we can move funds to public goods away from restrictive ones, it will be great even if it doesn’t solve the popularity-contest problem. And the issues above apply too.

the distribution curve becomes exponential

That’s technically incorrect, it’s quadratic not exponential. I.e. it keeps squaring, but it never increases the exponent to start cubing or beyond.

more blunt, more swingy, more unreliable, more risky, more
unfair, and less efficient.

The quadratic curve is not particularly risky or inefficient etc. It’s much more reliable and fair than if it were exponential.

[toothpicks…worse… etc]

The crowdmatching model may not work for all projects, and we not asking those who can already get by to switch to our system necessarily. But some amount of failure is appropriate actually. We currently see lots of fragmentation: tons of little roads that aren’t getting cleared well where if a few people abandoned their roads and helped the other roads, we’d get some actually clear. It’s a good thing if some projects give up and decide to help competing projects instead. Cooperation over competition.

Whether that’s actually good or not will vary case-by-case, but there certainly are cases where fragmentation is a primary source of failure. Consolidating everyone to work together on the most popular project can, in many cases, make the difference between one successful project and zero.

The crowdmatching model doesn’t really address the Snowdrift Dilemma.

I disagree. Crowdmatching addresses it because there’s no longer any reason to delay pledging. In the Snowdrift Dilemma, the strategy is to wait and see what others do. If you need the work done, you will do it yourself… but you wait to see what others do… you might even be happy to cooperate with others, you’re just trying to avoid being the sucker while everyone else freerides.

With crowdmatching, if you are the first patron, you do not become the sucker, and you also don’t leave it to others to act first. So, the core of the snowdrift dilemma (waiting to act) is solved.

The best strategy is still, even with the crowdmatching system, to hold off on donating and see if other people donate enough for that public good to be funded

That’s only the best strategy if your primary goal is to remain a freerider. People who really want to freeride probably can never be made to do otherwise. And we can minimize this through extra things outside crowdmatching like honoring patrons and building a culture of volunteering etc., broader social stuff. The real dilemma is people waiting to avoid being the sucker — people who are happy to contribute if it’s more fair and effective. For those people, there’s no reason to wait to pledge in crowdmatching, and those people acting create the initial foundation inviting the more hesitant to join.

Precise threshold

This has almost all the problems with existing threshold systems (which you’ve clearly read, but for anyone else viewing this).

Problem with choosing a pledge level

The one aspect you didn’t address is the weirdness of even choosing what level to pledge at. Even with a threshold… should I give $10 or $100 or $50 or…? I have much more than that if I were to dump my life savings into this… What’s “right”? I dunno. I guess I’ll give $1 and see what others do? If it hits the threshold, great. If not, I guess it was hopeless anyway. Maybe it’s not even worth my time to pledge. Or maybe I make all the difference if I go high with $100, but I dunno. Maybe I’ll wait to see what others do…

To some degree, this is choice paralysis. Patrons truly do NOT have a good objective way to know what level is “right”. And these things are highly socially signaled. People donate an amount that seems like the socially normal level…

In fact, this was a big part of the problem with our first share-based prototypes where people had trouble thinking about the “right” level to pledge.

Our crowdmatching launch plan now removes all this and just says you’re in or not. You donate more as others donate. That’s it, you can still control your budget overall. Once this is working and familiar to people, we do hope to add more options to best serve the needs of various projects and patrons.

Overfunding isn’t a problem (yet)

The problem over overfunding is mostly solving a problem that doesn’t exist in FLO public goods today. We would rather create that problem and then we can certainly add thresholds or other approaches to solving it. That said, it still makes sense to have projects express goals and describe what different amounts of funding will accomplish — this is not about projects profiting with more funding than they actually use well.

The fact is, most public-goods projects that I’m aware of have so much need and so much potential that these thresholds become quite arbitrary. There’s the next-step immediate funding goals, but there’s a huge amount of potential growth and value if a project could be funded way beyond that.

Gaming

You’re right about the gaming issues. That’s not the core concern about thresholds, although it’s one. To be clear, crowdmatching doesn’t solve this either, and we very well might do the overt thing you’re mentioning within crowdmatching, but there’s details to work out there.

Crowdmatching + thresholds

To be clear, real situations that call for thresholds, i.e. cases where projects actually know that less than X is effectively useless and more than Y won’t make a difference, are compatible with crowdmatching. It’s easy enough and fine enough for us to add these thresholds, very much like you suggest but while doing crowdmatching. I think it makes perfect sense to have that if it makes sense to a project.

So:

  • a project sets a minimum
  • crowdmatch pledges come in but aren’t turned on for actual donating until the minimum is hit
  • an optional maximum (this is all the funding we need) is specified
  • once that’s hit, then any amounts over that are distributed as a reduction for all the patrons’s charges
    • Thus, each new patron actually just takes a share of the burden, reducing the burden for others

I see no problem with these ideas.

The first minimum-threshold part could be easily added to Snowdrift.coop soon. But today, many projects are minimizing losses currently. Like, I personally have only spent money while volunteering for Snowdrift.coop. We can happily accept an extra $5 here and there because it just means less extreme burden. The places where a minimum make sense are those projects that will actually give up (or not take on an extra initiative etc) if they don’t hit their minimum.

So, the minimum should be a project option. Focusing on the threshold as the way to solve the Snowdrift Dilemma is not a great approach and is a bad fit for many projects (specifically those that aren’t using this as a decision to go forward or not). But for those where it fits, it can work with crowdmatching just fine.

The maximum threshold is the problem we don’t have now but where we want to make that the problem. If we succeed, then a max threshold is a fine option for how to address it.


I hope that answers your questions / addresses your concerns. But happy to discuss further.

Thanks also for helping us test this new forum!

Cheers,
Aaron


Seeking (simple) clarification on Crowdmatching
#3

Welcome, and thanks so much for the thoughtful input!

Thank you for the welcome and thank you even more for reading my post!

We find the best path forward through this type of conversation!

In the true spirit of cooperation!:heart:

Niche projects get pennies

anyone could pledge any number of shares […] because we have been thinking all along about the concerns of niche projects.

When I first tried to grok your system, that’s (the shares) how I thought it worked before I read that it didn’t work that way.

However, I think the criticism absolutely applies – even more so – with that system.

Think back to the original “shoveling a snowdrift” analogy. You’re amplifying that problem if one person (or just a few) is alone out there shoveling snow with multiple shares.

(My “optional flexibility” clause for the “precise-threshold” system does is similar – you can opt to pay even if the project is underfunded. However, then you know – it addresses the issue of “am I going to have to be one of the only ones caring about this project or can I trust that enough others will chip in?”)

Popular projects might get more than they can use.

This is discussed on the limits page. First, if that happens, we’re a success! When our problem is public goods getting too much funding, it will be a great day. […] I’m not sure we’ll actually reach this point. Worrying about it now is early optimization.

I read that and most of the wiki. But it’s not only that “this problem only matters after crowdmatching becomes a success”. It’s also a real obstacle to success since it makes the pitch (to both patrons and projects) less appealing.

That said, a project could say, “we have enough funding, go support these other projects we like”… patrons shouldn’t feel motivated to contribute to projects that don’t need the extra funding.

Similar to your answer in the FAQ. However, you’re thinking is so grounded in game theory, and this answer goes against game theory.

The model amplifies the unfairness of a traditional market-style “popularity contest” system.

That’s indeed a concern, but I’m not sure we can solve all problems at once. If we can move funds to public goods away from restrictive ones, it will be great even if it doesn’t solve the popularity-contest problem. And the issues above apply too.

the distribution curve becomes exponential

That’s technically incorrect, it’s quadratic not exponential. I.e. it keeps squaring, but it never increases the exponent to start cubing or beyond.

A much appreciated correction, thanks. I’ve studied game theory but
I’m not great at calculus and things like that♥

The quadratic curve is not particularly risky or inefficient etc. It’s much more reliable and fair than if it were exponential.

The linear “curve” (er… line) of a supply/demand market is already risky and inefficient. The quadratic curve amplifies the problems in both directions. The best case scenario is the middle of the curve where it’s the most similar to a normal market like Patreon, LiberaPay etc.

The best outcome of crowdmatching is where a large-enough-but-not-too-large amount of people contribute a reasonable monthly fee enough to keep the most important projects running, and noone contributes to unpopular projects so they can die or find alternate funding (“keeping their day job”). When is it better than something like LiberaPay/Patreon etc?

There certainly are many cases where a Patreon-style system is bad. Crowdmatching isn’t better in those cases.

It’s a good thing if some projects give up and decide to help competing projects instead. Cooperation over competition.

I agree and I based my post on that premise, too. ← btw hope I don’t sound terse/harsh etc, I don’t want to come across as rude/irritated etc etc, I’m not! I’m not the best writer.

Both of the alternative protocols I came up with was based on that principle too – don’t waste too much money on niche/“penny” projects, but make sure “the most traveled roads are cleared from snow”.

The crowdmatching model doesn’t really address the Snowdrift Dilemma.

I disagree. Crowdmatching addresses it because there’s no longer any reason to delay pledging.

There is a very big reason to delay pledging with crowdmatching.

Pledging early / niche project: Your pennies will trickle away from you and they won’t even do any real good. + You’re liable to suddenly experience a jump up to your monthly ceiling if the project becomes non-niche.

Pledging middle / normal project: Works like a normal subscription site e.g. Patreon.

Pledging late / popular project: No need to pledge. You can stay indoors and watch TV while the road is getting cleared for you. All who have already pledged are obligded to match each other so you can rest assured that the road is getting cleared for sure.

E.g. it makes pledging early unappealing and holding off on pledging very appealing.

Now, arguably having your pennies trickle away from you is to some patrons (and I’d guess that the designers of crowdmatching fit this personality type) more appealing than having a 1$ or a 5$ monthly fee being trickled away from you. But. To a lot of people, it’s paradoxically enough a lot less appealing. It just feels so soulcrushingly meaningless.

But the biggest problem is how very appealing delay becomes.

In the Snowdrift Dilemma, the strategy is to wait and see what others do. If you need the work done, you will do it yourself… but you wait to see what others do… you might even be happy to cooperate with others, you’re just trying to avoid being the sucker while everyone else freerides.

Yes. The fact that you have identified this core problem with crowdfunding public goods (unlike many “product” Kickstarters or “perk” Patreons) is a major breakthrough. We both understand and agree with the problem.

With crowdmatching, if you are the first patron, you do not become the sucker, and you also don’t leave it to others to act first. So, the core of the snowdrift dilemma (waiting to act) is solved.

Being the last patron (i.e. being a non-patron but enjoying the
public good) is still optimal. Which of course is a great benefit of public goods – I’m completely broke (which is why I’m interested in crowdfunding systems – so I can work on public goods and still get paid) and I can’t afford to spend money on things. The fact that I still can benefit from projects like Krita and Wikipedia without paying is great. (I send patches though.)

The best strategy is still, even with the crowdmatching system, to hold off on donating and see if other people donate enough for that public good to be funded

That’s only the best strategy if your primary goal is to remain a freerider. People who really want to freeride probably can never be made to do otherwise.

Yes, and that’s a good thing when it comes to public goods. The problem arises when remaining a freerider is so much more appealing than pitching in.

Again, clearing the snowdrift is the perfect analogy. Attempt to freeride, and you run the risk of not seeing your favorite road get cleared. Pitch in too early, and you risk carrying the burden alone. (Which is why, in game theory terms, a chicken race is equivalent. You lose if you swerve first, you lose if you swerve too late.)

A protocol that specifically addresses the core of that dilemma – addresses both loss conditions – would have to be designed to make it appealing to pitch in, and to make it relatively harmless to pitch in, but still make sure the road gets cleared. Not everyone who uses a road can pitch in, not everyone has the physical means to shovel (health reasons, for example).

So the word “pledge” is core to many of the possible solutions.

The thinking is: “If enough people work on this road, I can help. Many hands make swift work. But if not enough neighbors will help me, then never mind. I’ll take the long way around. So lets all pledge that when enough people have signed up, we’ll do it”. Core to that solution is a concept of enough. That’s part of Kickstarter’s success – if not enough people pitch in, you don’t lose anything.

And, if you really want a particular road cleared, you can try to recruit your friends to also pledge. No shoveling is being done until enough people have signed up, shovel in hand.

And with crowdmatching there isn’t really that “enough”. It’s still just random, chaotic “best effort” shoveling. “Oh, we are two people shoveling? Then we better double our efforts. Oh, we are three people? Then everyone needs to shovel for three.” It’s so backwards.

This has almost all the problems with existing threshold systems (which you’ve clearly read, but for anyone else viewing this).

The one aspect you didn’t address is the weirdness of even choosing what level to pledge at.

OK, so sort of similar to how it would be if you brought back shares to crowdmatching. (Edit: Whoops, you address that below – I missed that on my first readthrough.)

And also similar to how snowdrift.coop is now because you have to
choose which, and how many, projects to pledge for, even if you can’t
set the amount for each. There’s already enough choice to have the
paralysis effect. However, Kickstarter and Patreon both seem to be at
least a partial success inspite of both having this problem.

Even with a threshold… should I give $10 or $100 or $50 or…? I have much more than that if I were to dump my life savings into this… What’s “right”? I dunno. I guess I’ll give $1 and see what others do? If it hits the threshold, great. If not, I guess it was hopeless anyway. Maybe it’s not even worth my time to pledge. Or maybe I make all the difference if I go high with $100, but I dunno. Maybe I’ll wait to see what others do…

The way “precise-threshold” tries to mitigate this problem, (and you’re right, it doesn’t eliminate it perfectly, which is something to have in mind for future protocols), is that it removes a lot of the risk from the choice.

Say you pitch in $100. (The snow equivilent of really digging in, you love that road.) If that’s still not enough, you get your money back. Or, if the project is overfunded, you get your money back proportionally.

Say the project needed $2000 and got $4000, $100 of which came from you. You would get $50 back.

To some degree, this is choice paralysis. Patrons truly do NOT have a good objective way to know what level is “right”.

Yes, that’s a good solution.

You’re making a great observation here. It took me a long time to get used to PWYW prices on RPGnow, Bundle of Holding and Soundcloud.

However, many people prefer the paralysis of choice over the chaotic, frightening non-choice of crowdmatching. ← Again my lack of command of tasteful and non-hyperbolic language make that sound more hostile than intended, I apologize. I have a hard time finding the right words.

And these things are highly socially signaled. People donate an amount that seems like the socially normal level…

I see now that that’s just as much a big a benefit to the various reward tiers on Patreon and Kickstarter as the other benefits to that system. (That’s game theory benefits, not social benefits, to be clear! Our shared interest in this problem is that we love public goods and are disturbed by the hijacking of these protocols by “product” campaigns.)

Our crowdmatching launch plan now removes all this and just says you’re in or not. You donate more as others donate. That’s it, you can still control your budget overall.

Yeah, you don’t really address the issue. ← (I’m starting to sound like a broken record with that phrase.)

You have so many choices to make – your monthly ceiling is a big one of these.

The problem over overfunding is mostly solving a problem that doesn’t exist in FLO public goods today. We would rather create that problem and then we can certainly add thresholds or other approaches to solving it. That said, it still makes sense to have projects express goals and describe what different amounts of funding will accomplish — this is not about projects profiting with more funding than they actually use well.

Oh, I’m aware. (I heard that it happened one year that Wikipedia got funded early, which I would guess would cause them snowdrift-like problems the following year.)

But the reason I’m addressing overfunding isn’t based in any “Oh no, it’s unfair, someone got a lot of money” fear. As you state, that hasn’t happened.

The reason I’m addressing it at all are all based in optimizing the elevator pitch to patrons – trying to somewhat mitigate the core two loss conditions in the Snowdrift Dilemma.

It tries to make it appealing to pitch in early and pitch in a lot. And to recruit others to pitch in because the more overfunded it gets, the better it is for all patrons because then you’ll get a larger percentage of your pledge refunded.

You’ll never net money (you get back a percentage of what you pledged), but, the more people join in, the better it is for all patrons. It’s… reverse crowdmatching!

There’s no real benefit in joining late to a FLO kickstarter/patreon that has already been funded “enough” but if you join a “precise-threshold” campaign, you’re easing the burden of everyone else. There’s social value in that.

Heck, you could even think that one person might care so much about a project that they alone pitch in enough to keep it rolling. (Equivalent to "the early shoveler’.) And then if other people also join in, that big-spender patron will get refunded!

That’s the magic of pledging. “Refund that amount” means “not even charged that amount”.
Not even having to have shoveled that amount of snow.

If a group of neighbours could join up to try to address clearing the snow from their road, what scenario is best:

  1. People pledge to shovel to the best of their ability. The more people join in, the less people have to shovel – and through the magic of pledging, it’s “retroactive” (sort of), no one got wet and cold before everything was settled. Many hands make the burden lighter.

  2. People pledge to shovel a little bit. The more people join in, the more the ones who have joined in have to shovel. Early shovelers are punished because they have to increase their shoveling. Many hands make the burden… heavier!

The first scenario is straightforward and that’s what I had in mind when I came up with “precise-threshold”. The second scenario is so backwards and unappealing. ← (I mean appealing/unappealing to me, and to the best of my reasoning game-theory-wise. But I haven’t done an testing/experimenting on real crowds of real people. Just so we’re clear. I’m an game theory nerd not someone who has access to a social psychology lab.)

The fact is, most public-goods projects that I’m aware of have so much need and so much potential that these thresholds become quite arbitrary.

Yeah, that’s true… :confused:

But the snowdrift analogy, and its solutions, are especially apt when you have thresholds.

Setting the right thresholds is a difficult and interesting game for projects. Being able to justify the thresholds to the public (“we have this many employees and such-and-such costs”) can be one way to do it. Just trying to find out what you can get away with can be another.

There’s the next-step immediate funding goals, but there’s a huge amount of potential growth and value if a project could be funded way beyond that.

Right, and that’s a big appeal of period-based subscriptions over one-shot projects. That’s why you set monthly goals. Those monthly goals can grow as your project and your organization grows.

And, as you’ve noted in your FAQ, sometimes crowdmatching works best if a big, popular project splits into subprojects (in order to lessen the risk of people hitting their monthly ceilings). (Again, crowdmatching works best in the sweet spot of the s-curve – when it is closest to the straight line of normal supply/demand.) With “prec-shold”, projects can grow and set thresholds to match that growth, or they can have subprojects, it’s up to what’s best for that project and not something dictated by the protocol.

You’re right about the gaming issues. That’s not the core concern about thresholds, although it’s one.

I was especially interested in it because I had never thought about it before. I’ve been a big fan of threshold systems since Kelsey and Schneier’s 1999 article in First Monday so that was a bit embarrassing.

And I was happy to see that prec-shold had a good solution for it.

To be clear, crowdmatching doesn’t solve this either, and we very well might do the overt thing you’re mentioning within crowdmatching, but there’s details to work out there.

The problem (in “non-precise” threshold) is that it undermines the whole thing and makes it just a “flexible campaign” a la Indiegogo, i.e. in practice just setting up a Paypal and saying “donate to me I’ll do good”. (I mean Kickstarter takes what, 5%? 15%? So it’s not completely painless…)

The problem in crowdmatching is more serious. Let’s say you have three pledgers. You then hire twelve confederates. Bam, those three pledges are now in for 15× each instead of 3× each.

It’s easy enough and fine enough for us to add these thresholds, very much like you suggest but while doing crowdmatching. I think it makes perfect sense to have that if it makes sense to a project.

So to get things straight: the reason you are so into crowdmatching is because your case is that it diminishes the drawbacks of early pledging, right? There’s no other benefit?

(Since I don’t believe – yet – that crowdmatching helps address the core dilemma (repeating myself, I know, I know), I don’t see any advantages to crowdmatching and I see so many disadvantages. I’m like… “why would anyone want to do that?”)

So:

  • a project sets a minimum
  • crowdmatch pledges come in but aren’t turned on for actual donating until the minimum is hit
  • an optional maximum (this is all the funding we need) is specified
  • once that’s hit, then any amounts over that are distributed as a reduction for all the patrons’s charges
    • Thus, each new patron actually just takes a share of the burden, reducing the burden for others

I see no problem with these ideas.

So the issue is that you have two “engines” pulling in opposite direction.

Earlier, while writing this reply, I realized mid-sentence that prec-shold in some sense is “reverse crowdmatching” – that the more people join in, they ease eachother’s burden rather than add to it.

Like crowdmatching gives me this vibe of wanting to be: “OK, the job is tough, but let’s bite the bullet and if you can do it, so can I” (I don’t believe, from where I stand right now, that it succeeds in delivering on that vibe, but that vibe I get as sort of the intent behind crowdmatching.) Whereas with prec-shold it’s more like “OK, the job is tough, but I’ll comfort you, I’ll help you, I’ll pitch in and it’ll be easier for both”.

Let’s do it with some examples. Not real living wages, I’m going to try to choose simple numbers to illustrate the “game”.

  1. A project sets $50 as the maximum threshold.
  2. Ten people pledge 10×$1 each for a total of $100.
  3. They get refunded 10×¢50 each – equivalent to 5×$1 each. I.e. halving the crowdmatching effect.

compared to:

  1. A project sets $50 as the maximum threshold.
  2. Five people pledge 5×$1 each for a total of $25.
  3. They get refunded 5×$1 each, for underfunding. I.e. the crowdmatching didn’t do anything.

or

  1. A project sets $50 as the maximum threshold.
  2. 20 people pledge 20×$1 each for a total of $400.
  3. They get refunded 20×¢87.5 each – equivalent to 17.5×$1 each. I.e. erasing seven eights of the crowdmatching effect.

It “works” in as much as it works against the crowdmatching and I don’t really see the two ideas as synergic. And, it makes the elevator pitch much muddier. Remember, part of the charm of prec-shold is the (hopefully…) appeal to patrons. “Pledge this much – if it underfunds, you can get it back, if it overfunds, you can get part of it back”.

(Aside: You mention setting a separate minimum. (For the purposes of the math in my examples, you can say they set $30 as a minimum.) That’s might a good UI for the “self-funding”/“self-gaming” idea. It’d work like in my first post but presented as “you pay to increase the window”. It’d cost $20 to have a $20-wide window (e.g. min $100, max $120) and you’d get part of those $20 back proportionally as discussed in the last post.

The first minimum-threshold part could be easily added to Snowdrift.coop soon.

Well, too many cooks spoil the broth when it comes to that.

The biggest assets of Snowdrift.coop is your thourough analyses of competing platforms (both FLO and proprietary), along with your ideal of being grounded in game theory insight.

But today, many projects are minimizing losses currently.

Yeah… I’m aware. Like, snowdrift.coop itself has like… 81 patrons? or 91? Something like that?

  • Part of that is the immaturity of the platform implementation so far (I had a lot of trouble trying register an account at this forum, for example).

  • Another part is just dumb luck – some platforms/projects go viral and create a network effect and some don’t. Not usually sorted by merit.

  • But I think, and this is hard to hear and I might of course be wrong, that part of this is because crowdmatching itself just doesn’t make sense, just isn’t a good idea, just doesn’t address the core dilemma, just isn’t an appealing pitch. Again, from where I stand with my limited perception, through my filters & wordview. It’s just one person’s opinion.

Don’t lose heart. (Well, I wouldn’t mind if you did lose heart in the crowdmatching part but don’t lose heart in Snowdrift.coop itself.)

Like, I personally have only spent money while volunteering for Snowdrift.coop.

Yeah, I figured as much from looking at your project page. :confused:

That sucks. I spent a week working on my first post (including so much work that you never saw, discarding protocol ideas I came up with that I later found flaws in etc) and hours writing this reply. Of course, that work hasn’t really benefited anyone (yet), on the contrary, it’s been a burden – a time cost to you to read and reply to it.

Sometimes we do things in the hope that it’ll pan out later.

Humanity needs to find better ways to divide resources and labor and projects and protocol like these are the way to do that. It’s important.

So, the minimum should be a project option.

I want to clarify that my proposal isn’t to add minimums to the existing crowdmatching system. It’s to replace crowdmatching with precise-threshold.

Focusing on the threshold as the way to solve the Snowdrift Dilemma is not a great approach

I disagree (as discussed above).

and is a bad fit for many projects (specifically those that aren’t using this as a decision to go forward or not)

I agree.

But for those where it fits, it can work with crowdmatching just fine.

I disagree (as discussed above).

The maximum threshold is the problem we don’t have now but where we want to make that the problem. If we succeed, then a max threshold is a fine option for how to address it.

I disagree (as discussed above, but to recap: you might’ve misunderstood the reason for the maximum, and that the problem is less “this is a problem we hope will arise because it can only arise in optimal conditions” and more “this problem is an obstacle to success”).

Thanks also for helping us test this new forum!

OK, so what happened was that it kept saying that my token (at first I just visited the URL in the email, then when I got that message I pasted the token in a couple of time, but the same result) was invalid and I didn’t manage to log in. Then when I reloaded the page I was already logged in somehow.

OK and I found another issue when posting this reply. It said “new users can only post two links”. I had one, but I had quoted two from you. It feels a bit unfair that links in the quoted text is counted.


#4

This post was flagged and temporarily hidden.


Some bugs with Discourse
#5

note: I don’t quite know (without a lot of work editing this) how to make this sort of thing shorter, the mere length below will discourage most people from reading this thread, and that’s unfortunate. This sort of thing might even be best as a live discussion rather than this forum medium, but oh well; I will aim to not make this a habit. Maybe I’ll find time to edit later.

[with the old formula] You’re amplifying that problem if one person (or just a few) is alone out there shoveling snow with multiple shares.

Yes indeed! That’s the other reason we dropped it. We want, first and foremost, that public goods get funded. So, we want to encourage generosity. But allowing multiple shares that way let people undermine the crowdmatching — i.e. pledge a lot and then pull their pledge when others chip in, counteracting the network effect.

That’s another reason we’re now focused on launching with just a single low basic pledge for everyone. The idea is to withhold your potential funds until you’re matched by others. It’s very much like the concept of a threshold, but it’s smoother instead of one hard line.

[lack of a maximum for projects is] also a real obstacle to success since it makes the pitch (to both patrons and projects) less appealing.

I find that overstated. Some people worry about this, but it’s simple enough to just say, “You control your budget limit anyway. Beyond that, if we ever have a problem with too much funding for a project, we have ways to deal with it. That’s far from the problem now.” etc. and most everyone is fine with that.

In practice, the issue is merely having a fully running system so people can experience it and use it for real. When you go past debating models and theory and instead are actually using the system, nobody will find the issue of over-funded projects relevant to pledging to an under-funded project today. It’s mostly a rhetorical question.

… this answer goes against game theory

Game theory is only useful to the extent that it matters in reality. We’re not here to play a game, we’re hit to fund public goods. That said, there’s nothing wrong with the game theory acknowledging that no patron has motivation to shovel the snow from an already-clear road.

We’re building the design to emphasize project needs and not to encourage patrons to pledge to every project they like blindly just because they like it.

quadratic

FWIW, I learned this term through Snowdrift.coop, just like you. It was in working out the concept that this was clarified.

The best outcome of crowdmatching is where a large-enough-but-not-too-large amount of people contribute a reasonable monthly fee enough to keep the most important projects running

Well, we want a hell of a lot more than to only keep the most important projects running. That’s a modest minimum goal. Long-term, we want all sorts of projects to be thriving and growing, not merely maintained. We want FLO public goods to out-compete proprietary stuff. We want proprietary club goods to recognize that they can get fully funded without restrictions and use crowdmatching to become public goods.

LiberaPay/Patreon etc

are not solving the snowdrift dilemma much. They both are already totally doing the thing you object to: giving pennies to struggling, fragmented projects (and I’m not saying this is necessarily bad — again, every penny that goes to a project that both matters and won’t give up is not itself a bad thing (ignoring whether the penny would be better spent elsewhere), it’s only the projects that will inevitably die where small donations are completely wasted.

Patreon encourages most projects to be proprietary club goods. Since they fail to address the snowdrift dilemma, they rely on paywalls instead, albeit in a freemium style.

Liberapay rejects paywalls and emphasizes FLO more (yay) but doesn’t address the snowdrift dilemma, which is at least part of why they are only getting negligible amounts of funding (perhaps mostly captured rather than being an increase over what would be donated without their existence).

There certainly are many cases where a Patreon-style system is bad. Crowdmatching isn’t better in those cases.

Not all of those cases, but this is too vague a claim to evaluate.

Keep in mind: our real goal isn’t to just get a few more (e.g.) Inkscape users to donate. Our real goal is to get so many patrons for Inkscape that they can fully compete with Adobe Illustrator, i.e. become the true professional standard; and they may need a budget closer to Adobe’s to truly compete at that level, although there’s lots of efficiencies that FLO offers which is part of why Inkscape manages to be what it is are already.

agree… don’t want to come across…

No worries, you’re fine, it’s all clear, and we do largely agree. I see it mostly as figuring out how to communicate to you what you’re missing about crowdmatching and why it’s compatible with your concerns.

Your pennies will trickle away from you and they won’t even do any real good

That’s not inherent to crowdmatching, that’s merely a question of whether we have the feature of a minimum level before funding is turned on. As I said, that’s fully compatible with crowdmatching. Plus, losing pennies is negligible, and we’re focused on ongoing projects, not new kickstarting of projects. Going with my Inkscape example, it’s not a waste to give pennies to Inkscape. They are doing good work, struggling, and extra pennies are not wasted, you’re helping share the burden of the struggling (but guaranteed to go forward) project.

You’re liable to suddenly experience a jump up to your monthly ceiling if the project becomes non-niche

That’s a good thing if you actually care about the project! That’s not a problem.

Pledging middle / normal project: Works like a normal subscription site e.g. Patreon.

I don’t agree. I don’t feel like pledging to most Patreon projects, even the ones I support. All it does is lose me $1 or $5 or whatever and give it to them. I’m much more motivated to pledge to public radio when they have a matching offer. With crowdmatching even a middle/normal project, my pledge gets matched by the existing patrons, so I get to give $5 but get $10 of project-progress… I’m much more motived to pledge at all in this case.

Besides, lots of Patreon type things rely on a few large donors. We want to spread the burden and maximize the quantity of patrons for all sorts of reasons, such as making the project not dependent on / biased-toward their large donors.

Regardless, if FLO projects are truly reaching all the funding they need from Patreon / Liberapy or similar, then we have no real need to capture that ourselves, they can just keep using those other platforms. If, long-term, there’s a demand for us to offer multiple funding models just so everyone centralizes in this one cooperative, strongly-FLO platform, we could maybe offer such options. But clearly, our goal today is to address the market failures, the places where current models are not adequate (which is the norm for FLO projects, the vast majority remain grossly underfunded).

Pledging late / popular project: No need to pledge

Sure, but only if I don’t care about it growing further still. And that’s fine. Again, there are ways to tweak things to encourage spreading the burden / allowing widespread participation etc. if we ever reach the day when fully-funded is the state of any project on Snowdrift.coop.

All who have already pledged are obliged to match each other

Not really, they can drop their pledge at any time. There’s nothing holding you to this contract, it’s just that if you are out, you’ll stop getting matched. Likewise each person who drops out (or, similarly, doesn’t pledge in the first place) means reduced input from those who stay in.

The only way you can simply freeride and let others take care of everything is if others actually are doing that. And while we want to spread the burden fairly, it’s basically fine to freeride if the projects are succeeding without you. The whole reason to pledge is because the projects need more support, and you want the results of that. The reason to pledge specifically with crowdmatching is because your pledge provides extra matching incentive for others to join and gets matched by the other patrons. I.e. you get more returns in project progress than what you put in.

To be clear, even within the game theory:

  • The goal is not to freeride as an end in itself, the goal is to get the results of a successful project
  • The hesitance is primarily from not wanting to be the sucker who really does it all yourself (or with a few other suckers), chipping in a little along with many others is fine enough even if there’s also freeriders out there (although it might be ideal for everyone to chip in, that’s not really the issue)

To a lot of people, it’s paradoxically enough a lot less appealing. It just feels so soulcrushingly meaningless.

The goal is clearly not to just have many months go by just trickling pennies. And, again, if this is the concern (and we can see this when we get real experience from real patrons in a fully working system, not just speculation and early testing), then it’s easy enough to just add some minimum threshold where you don’t chip in at all until some reasonable-enough level to feel it’s worthwhile. That’s 100% compatible with crowdmatching.

In the end, once we even have things working and have the ability to really promote pledging, it will be easier for any viable project to have people pledge and work to invite others so it goes beyond meaningless levels. It’s not okay to just sit at meaningless, obviously.

I would argue that effectively as bad (and soulcrushing for some) to have a plain threshold model in an ongoing way where you keep hoping month by month to hit the threshold or even get closer but it just doesn’t happen. It’s arguably more meaningless to have 200 patrons pledging but giving zero than to have them giving you a total $40/mo bonus that is effectively at least a thank-you-tip that reduces your losses in developing your FLO project.

But the biggest problem is how very appealing delay becomes.

I really just think this isn’t true, almost at all. I don’t find your arguments convincing. We don’t yet have adequate real-world evidence from a fully-working system, that will be the real proof. There are real reasons that not everyone who’s ever heard of Snowdrift is already pledging in our testing semi-live system today, but they have nothing to do with crowdmatching and everything to do with the fact that there’s questions about the status of the project, we’re doing near-zero promotion, the site isn’t fully built, and most people haven’t even heard that pledging is possible yet (we’re waiting until everything is more in place to really announce it more boldly).

…The fact that I still can benefit from projects like Krita and Wikipedia without paying is great…

Absolutely! The only way to have no freeriding is to have no public goods. And anyway, we obviously want everyone who can’t afford to chip in to freeride as much as possible. It does no good to just exclude such people. Furthermore, people who can afford to donate to like 10 projects should still be freeriding for the 10,000 other projects out there.

The problem arises when remaining a freerider is so much more appealing than pitching in.

The only way to deal with this core fact of all public goods (regardless of funding model) is to use the extra stuff outside the funding model such as pro-social culture (focusing on honor, volunteerism, cooperation, giving public acknowledgements, some extra influence in project direction, etc.). If we can move from 0.1% of folks donating to 5%, it will make a massive difference. There’s no way to remove the incentive to freeride entirely.

… But if not enough neighbors will help me, then never mind. I’ll take the long way around…

Indeed, you’re expressing this stuff excellently! That’s why you’re totally right about the value of some minimum threshold where no funding goes ahead until that’s hit. Again: compatible with crowdmatching and a feature we’ve had in mind for a long time as a secondary thing to add optionally.

Where you’re missing: there are roads where some sucker is always managing to struggle and make it usable enough though not really fully cleared, certainly not nice and fast. That’s a fundamentally different scenario then the not-enough-neighbors means plain failure.

In the case where some sucker is going to do it, no matter what, but it’s slower than you’d like, done incompletely (but still usable)… then doing a quick kick of a little snow while you walk by is still better than just walking by and freeriding. Shovel one or two loads and you’re really making a difference. There might still be the one sucker, but they’re less likely to burn out if 100 others are at least coming by to help a little and express their thanks.

In practice, this means crowdmatching works primarily for projects that are basically not going to fail until the suckers holding them up burn out. You might even think of it as the idea that the most core part of the dilemma is already solved because someone already acted first: the project maintainer who isn’t letting the project die. Thus, it’s safe for you to pledge without hesitating. But there’s still a broader coordination problem of not become just the second-sucker and of wanting to see enough neighbors come help that it actually changes from a slow, mediocre result to a truly fast, efficient, wonderful result.

For those projects that could actually fail, you’re right, pennies (or a few spoonfuls of snow shoveling) are meaningless or worse. Those type of projects need a minimum threshold.

So, we’re focusing on starting with the former (projects with suckers who are already keeping the project going but not reaching its potential). When we have the basic system in place, we can add a minimum threshold option for any project where that makes more sense. I’ll even say that, given your feedback, I can see pushing that minimum-threshold option as a higher priority…

Say you pitch in $100…

The real risk that you aren’t addressing is that this risks you becoming one of the suckers. The project passes the minimum, thanks to you and similarly generous pledges. But it doesn’t hit the maximum, so you don’t get any reduction. Specifically, all the freeriding-inclined folks can look at your pledge and say “whew, this generous pledge got it over the threshold, I can just freeride now”. If it’s approaching the maximum, it’s even worse. They can say, “huh, if I pledge now, the project won’t even get any better, it’s already all funded, no reason for me to pledge at all”.

You have so many choices to make – your monthly ceiling is a big one of these.

Well, currently (the incomplete alpha site), that’s not even a choice, and once it is (definitely planned ASAP), we’ll still have decent defaults and also try to build in some amount of social guidance to understand norms, etc. deal with this choice.

The point of the budget is not to make it about choosing the “right” budget actually. It’s about giving people the clear idea that this isn’t a limitless obligation, they’re not risking suddenly breaking their real-world budget. For someone wealthy enough to donate $500/mo if they found it worthwhile really, we’d hope they just increase their budget each time the limit is hit — assuming they find that the results from the projects justify their continued support. They will not be ready to commit $500/mo at the beginning, but over time, they could be comfortable and happy with the impact and the matching. Thus, they’ll pledge to more projects and up their budget. The decision is about checking whether the projects still deserve the growing support rather than about setting a fixed “right” budget for yourself. Unless you actually can’t spend that much without risking your own basic financial needs, at which point you need to stick to your limited budget, and that’s fine.

…Wikipedia…

Actually, they generally have more funding than necessary. But they do good stuff with it to serve their mission broadly. They are the rare example that is so well funded because the same tiny fraction of donors as for most projects is so massive because their audience is so massive. But if they stopped doing their fund-drives, it wouldn’t work out, they still need that, and they push to have a buffer and be really healthy, not just struggling.

optimizing the elevator pitch

Sure. In my experience, the best pitch starts with pointing out that FLO public goods are orders of magnitude underfunded. They get near-zero funding compared to proprietary club goods. So: crowdmatching to get over the coordination problem…

The question of “what if a project gets too popular?” always is post-elevator pitch where someone is already finding Snowdrift.coop compelling. Having the ready answer, “Boy, we just long for the day when our problem is too many patrons for FLO public goods!…” is good enough for the quick pitch, and if time, there’s “…but we could have a fully-funded setting that works differently, maybe just encourage new patrons to help struggling projects instead, here’s a link about this stuff if you want to think about the details” If we settled on the idea, we could say “if we reach that point, we’ll have a change to the pledging based on a maximum threshold…” (as you suggest) just for simplicity.

In short: I’ve never had trouble with the “That will be the day when that’s our problem!… but yeah, we’ve thought about it and have ideas if we get there” being fully satisfactory to everyone with this question.

Crowdmatching is a form of threshold

People pledge to shovel a little bit. The more people join in, the more the ones who have joined in have to shovel. Early shovelers are punished because they have to increase their shoveling…

This is a bad framing. The early pledgers have ONE core goal: that the road is cleared as best as possible. They aren’t punished when their goal is realized. They’re saying, “I’m not gonna be the sucker. I’m in, I’m helping, but I am pledging to do more if others help!” They WANT to do more because they WANT the result. It’s the opposite of punishment. Doing more WITH others means getting the result they want.

Think of how a bike-a-thon works. A cyclist says, “please pledge to donate $1 for every mile I bike”, and people pledge to support them. Then the cyclist says, “I can make these people donate MORE by biking harder and longer!” and they are motivated to do so because of this, not less motivated. They care first and foremost about the cause they are biking for. They don’t think they’re being “punished” by the pressure to bike an extra mile in order to get more funding from the pledgers.

The early patrons will not / do not / should not think that donating more is bad. Remember: their goal is NOT to freeride. Their goal is to see the project reach their dreams of massive success and progress. They know they can’t do it alone. They know that if they do ALL they can up front, that will make freeriding-inclined folks MORE likely to freeride, not less. So, they’re making a deal to others: I can do more than this, but I am waiting for you to help me (just like with a threshold).

Crowdmatching is a threshold of sorts. It’s mathematically like a threshold campaign where the threshold is 2 patrons, but this threshold is repeated for every pair of patrons. Just like I could donate $0 until others pledge enough to total $1,000, I can also donate $0 more than I already am until 1 other patron pledges. For each new pledge, the previous state is a given, and there’s a threshold campaign where all the existing patrons have already pledged, and are wanting to give an extra 1/10¢ toward the new threshold, and your pledge is the one that will reach the threshold. The only quirk is that you’re agreeing to then join them in a new threshold campaign for the single next patron.


supply/demand

You’ve mentioned this a few times. Keep in mind that there’s no real thing as “supply” for public goods. The limited supply is developer/author time, and the demand for that is the public wanting to see progress. But this doesn’t really work in quite the same way as pricing by supply and demand. The analogy doesn’t quite work here.

confederates

Yes, we’ve thought about this a bit, but we’ve ended up with realizing that if the actual income to the projects, reported transparently isn’t seeming to match up with their real progress, it will be easy to see any significant gaming. Worst case, as in Kickstarter, if the results are still delivered, it’s not tragic. And there’s ways to reduce gaming.

We’ve decided to not do early optimization but to do research on gaming and look for it in practice and address it if we see evidence of it being a problem in reality.

the reason you are so into crowdmatching is because your case is that it diminishes the drawbacks of early pledging, right? There’s no other benefit?

That’s too simplistic. That’s one factor. We also think that matching in general (e.g. traditional public radio gets a matching pledge from a big donor, inviting others to donate) is hugely motivating and effective (this is strongly supported from all sorts of empirical research on the topic). We’re combining matching with ongoing memberships (also hugely effective and valuable in fundraising). And crowdmatching achieves this without requiring big matching donors or the mediocre and complex problem of matching up lots of paired small donors.

Let me put it this way: “if you pledge, 840 current patrons will donate more” is hugely motivating to me and many others. And I’m furthermore happy to then be part of the 841 patrons offering that to the next patron. It feels social, reinforced, amplifying my own impact. None of the blunt threshold systems feel like that. They all feel like, “it’s gonna hit the goal or not whether or not I participate” unless I’m a sucker who gives an outsized donation.

So the issue is that you have two “engines” pulling in opposite direction

That’s not a problem. We have one engine getting the project fully-funded. Then they switch to a different engine for just managing the fully-funded state. The two wouldn’t happen at the same time.

FWIW, I lean toward the simple optional labeling of “fully-funded” or something by the project, no new engine (no max threshold). Visitors to such a project can be redirected to just pledge to other projects. Any actual excess income that comes in anyway can be donated by the project to upstream stuff or aligned projects they like. It’s kinda of like if Wikipedia gets way more than they need, they might start funding other aligned initiatives and you can keep donating to Wikipedia, understanding that they’re making the decisions and doing good with the funds.

“OK, the job is tough, but let’s bite the bullet and if you can do it, so can I”

That’s more like what blunt thresholds say. Crowdmatching says, “hey, I’m in, I’m doing something, but I’ll be far more motivated to do more if you’ll come help me. I don’t really want to do all I can if everyone else is just freeriding and the results are still just mediocre in the end”.

Or like “OK, the job is tough, and I don’t want to do it, I want you to do it, but if we both think like that, it won’t happen. I guess I’m willing to help, but only if you help, and I’d really rather we get a lot of other folks so I don’t have that much burden. But I’ll still do something even if we just get a few because I do care about this, but I’m not gonna go all out and burn out here… of course, if there were a million people with me and together we were really changing the world and only because we all agree to work our hardest together, then I’d work damn hard if I really believed we were truly changing the world dramatically for the better…”

…if it overfunds…

I’ll be blunt: I’m gonna stick with “this is not our problem”. Discussing this hypothetical future of overfunded projects is not good use of our time. I really mean it when I say that all these ideas are merely to illustrate that there exist ways to handle overfunding. It will be amazing if we get to overfunding, even if the result is “okay, now crowdmatching makes no sense anymore, everyone should just switch to a totally different model” or “now that we’ve destroyed Facebook and gotten Adobe and Google to become completely FLO public goods projects and abolished copyright and implemented taxation dedicated to sustaining public goods, Snowdrift.coop and crowdfunding are obsolete!” to be totally hyperbolic…

There will be tons to learn and lots of pivots and better explanations and elevator pitches and shifts of culture (just like Wikipedia existing blew people’s minds and changed our culture’s sense of what was possible or how economics of motivation work) before we reach the FLO projects are overfunded problem in a serious way.

snowdrift.coop itself has like… 81 patrons

Nearly all of whom somehow figured out how to pledge without us even announcing that it was possible. We have done very little broad promotion and have something in the thousands of generally interested folks, almost none of whom are even aware that they can pledge.

It’s not even immaturity. If I made the effort over the next few days to just actually fully get out the word to only those who already know about and like what we’re doing, we’d get a lot more pledges, even while everyone knows it’s just an early test.

We’re not doing that because we want to be in a bit stronger of a place before even aiming for that attention. We want this forum to be tested and improved. We already have totally new homepage and other stuff in the works. We have core code and security issues to get totally solid on…

In short: I can suspect that the low number of patrons we have now is, in your mind, already biasing you to feel pessimistic. And that makes sense and is an issue in that we need to frame things well. People need to have an understanding of the context in which they are seeing initial early numbers.

In this case, it’s probably that you just didn’t understand the framing. We literally got almost all of the current patrons without telling anyone (not even friends and family) that it was possible to pledge. It’s like renting a location for a grocery store, getting some early shipments, putting up a sign with the name, and not even getting around to listing the hours or telling anyone that the store is open and getting a decent handful of people lining up at the door unexpectedly. It’s the opposite of discouraging.

What’s discouraging is the challenges of actually finishing a core working thing we actually feel good about promoting. What’s stressful is having hundreds, even into thousand(s) of people expressing interest and hopes and struggling to deliver… it’s like the people coming to the store and saying, “aw, man! I’m so excited, I want to shop here, aren’t you stocked and ready yet??” It’s stressful, but not in the sense that people are hesitant.

Currently, it seems patrons are not at all hesitant. We’ll see what happens when we really get somewhere.

For even your case: we barely told anyone that this forum exists. In fact, I was told to STOP mentioning it until we have more early testing with just the team. But somehow you showed up and posted thoughtful feedback! We expected zero newcomers at this point… the team hasn’t even started using this ourselves really.

Overall, I don’t agree with your conclusions about crowdmatching nor about how your threshold proposals would go. I understand that you were proposing an alternative without crowdmatching, but at this point I just hope that my further clarifications help address the ways I think you’ve misunderstood crowdmatching. It’s also possible that you are among the people who just have a bad first impression of it. And we can work to minimize that, but as long as most people have good impressions (which they do so far), it’s not a problem. It seems that you’re an open-minded person who would likely be happy to be proven wrong by a successful crowdmatching system (you care about the public goods result above all).

It’s fine to be a skeptic and share your skepticism, and I do hope I’ve addressed your concerns even if you remain feeling skeptical. It’s good to hear your impressions nonethless, and feedback and discussion is always welcome and influential.

On forum meta stuff

I hesitate to post this, but I’ll do it this once. We want to segregate topics (discuss things about the forum separately from discussing crowdmatching in this case). Thanks for the notes about the forum issues. I will try to figure out how to move these comments to the appropriate place.

Our sign-on should just work for the forum once you’ve signed into Snowdrift.coop. If you have issues signing into Snowdrift.coop, those are separate design or implementation bugs we need to fix. This is among the reasons we are not promoting widely. The system is not ready for much attention yet.

The issues with linebreaks are frustrating. I myself want that fixed and to use markdown standard for that if possible. Thanks again for the feedback and testing. This is the type of thing that has cost us so much time and energy (and even money) in trying to get to a working system. Yes, we could have crowdmatching working without this, but we need good communication tools as a team even… so it’s hard to find the clearest path, and there’s some trial and error and learn-as-we-go.


#6

Game theory is only useful to the extent that it matters in reality. We’re not here to play a game, we’re hit to fund public goods. That said, there’s nothing wrong with the game theory acknowledging that no patron has motivation to shovel the snow from an already-clear road.

Yes, and the Snowdrift Dilemma game as traditionally funded has two loss conditions. Being too early and being too late.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a discrete-state game. You cooperate or you don’t. But the Snowdrift Dilemma (just like the Chicken Game) doesn’t have that same atomicity. The more you wait, the more optimal it becomes – until it’s too late and you lose.

Crowdmatching makes that problem harder.

It’s the opposite of the solution to that game theory problem.

Where as precise-threshold makes joining in a successful outcome every step of the way along the x axis. Joining in early and no-one else showed up? N.p. you’re not out anything. Joining in late and many others joined in? N.p. many hands made very light work.

We want FLO public goods to out-compete proprietary stuff. We want proprietary club goods to recognize that they can get fully funded without restrictions and use crowdmatching to become public goods.

Yes. We share the same ideal over FLO public goods over proprietary club goods.

And we agree that humanity needs to find a way for public goods to thrive in order to build a post-scarcity economy, and that many currently existing forms of markets are obstacles to that goal.

Well, we want a hell of a lot more than to only keep the most important projects running. That’s a modest minimum goal. Long-term, we want all sorts of projects to be thriving and growing, not merely maintained.

The problem that markets are trying to solve is distribution of labor and resources. It’s not a zero-sum game, there’s some generation of labor and resources, but it’s not an endless cornucopia either, even though the pyramid scheme nature of “the American dream” myth wants to present it that way. The money is coming from somewhere.

Currently the money from patrons is coming from their participation in mainstream market capitalism.

Of course, the magic of public goods means that use of those public goods is an endless cornucopia (no matter how broke I get, I can use Inkscape), which is why we want to build towards a post-scarcity society. But in doing so we need to be aware of the parameters of the current economic situation and how many resources – especially scarce resources, like water and food – are distributed today.

In bluntness: where is the money coming from?

If and when there is more money coming in – and Kickstarter and Patreon have seen a lot of money moving already – with prec-shold projects can grow, bring in more people, increase their monthly threshold, and are free to split and join as they wish.

Patreon encourages most projects to be proprietary club goods. Since they fail to address the snowdrift dilemma, they rely on paywalls instead, albeit in a freemium style.

Yes, this is a big problem which both our proposals (crowdmatching and prec-shold) try to address. When we speak of the success of Patreon, we mean that it’s been successful for the “enemy” – for proprietary club goods – and not that it’s been successful for the public interest.

Liberapay rejects paywalls and emphasizes FLO more (yay) but doesn’t address the snowdrift dilemma, which is at least part of why they are only getting negligible amounts of funding (perhaps mostly captured rather than being an increase over what would be donated without their existence).

Full agreement. However, refering to my diagram above, I believe that crowdmatching’s attempt of addressing the dilemma is even worse than a Patreon/LiberaPay-style model.

No worries, you’re fine, it’s all clear, and we do largely agree. I see it mostly as figuring out how to communicate to you what you’re missing about crowdmatching and why it’s compatible with your concerns.

Right. If you want to find words that can convince the public, convincing someone like me who has spent many hours trying to understand it would be a good step in that direction.

You’re framing the argument correctly. We share the same values, but one of us (either you or me) have a misconcieved mental model of the benefits and drawbacks of crowdmatching, and we’re trying to figure out what those are so our mental conceptions can match and then we will probably agree. That’s very different from a partisan or religious style argument.

That’s not inherent to crowdmatching, that’s merely a question of whether we have the feature of a minimum level before funding is turned on. As I said, that’s fully compatible with crowdmatching. Plus, losing pennies is negligible, and we’re focused on ongoing projects, not new kickstarting of projects. Going with my Inkscape example, it’s not a waste to give pennies to Inkscape. They are doing good work, struggling, and extra pennies are not wasted, you’re helping share the burden of the struggling (but guaranteed to go forward) project.

Plotting it out, I was wrong in thinking of the crowdmatching as an “s”-curve, it’s instead parabolic. But I was right in thinking that compared to a straight line, early on it underperforms and later on it “over”-performs.

“Sorry, users can only put one image in a post.”
OK, here’s a link to the image that went here.

You’re liable to suddenly experience a jump up to your monthly ceiling if the project becomes non-niche

That’s a good thing if you actually care about the project! That’s not a problem.

Is that an opinion most of you share?

You spoke earlier of the paralysis of choice.

To most people, is it more appealing to be able to set your fixed monthly donation a la Patreon, or, to set a window within which your donation can jump around chaotically, a la crowdmatching? It seems to me that the latter combines the paralysis of choice (setting the target) with the fear of the unknown (chaotic increases in spending).

I’m much more motivated to pledge to public radio when they have a matching offer. With crowdmatching even a middle/normal project, my pledge gets matched by the existing patrons, so I get to give $5 but get $10 of project-progress… I’m much more motived to pledge at all in this case.

Yes, definitely. Something you wrote in the other thread is relevant here:

[W]e care that people understand that they are in or out of crowdmatching — that the negotiations around cooperation can’t work if they want their cake and eat it too (i.e. they want to match others, but only to a point)

This is another way where crowdmatching feels backwards.

“They want to match others” brings to mind the idea of your effort matching the efforts of others.

But your take on crowdmatching is that your effort needs to match the amount of people making an effort, rather than their effort. It’s a mismatch. (I’m aware that a side effect of that mechanism, despite the mismatch, is that everyone pledges to put in the same effort after all.)

Donation matching is an established practice where for example the organization you work for pledges to match whatever their employees donate. But crowdmatching is about your donation matching… the size of the crowd.

Besides, lots of Patreon type things rely on a few large donors. We want to spread the burden

Again, I’m not arguing for Patreon-style – I’ve proposed the “precise-threshold” model, which is also intended to spread the burden to a greater extent than Patreon-style.

Where I’m bringing up Patreon-style markets, which I’ve done even more in this post, is to make the point where crowdmatching’s behaviour seems to me that it will match (best case) or underperform (more likely case) compared to even the low bar of Patreon-style markets.

and maximize the quantity of patrons for all sorts of reasons,

Yes, and I designed prec-shold with maximizing the quantity of patrons in mind. As far as I understand it, crowdmatching has several mechanisms that work against maximizing the quantity of patrons.

Pledging late / popular project: No need to pledge

Sure, but only if I don’t care about it growing further still.

Also, with crowdmatching, you might not be able to afford pledging to a popular project, no matter how much you care about it.

With prec-shold, pledging late eases the burden of everyone else. There’s great social cue value in that. You are a fan of say a particular podcast, and you share the burden of other fans of that podcast.

Not really, they can drop their pledge at any time. There’s nothing holding you to this contract

I understand, but it’s either matching the amount of people who are in, or donating nothing. That’s what I meant

To be clear, even within the game theory:

  • The goal is not to freeride as an end in itself, the goal is to get the results of a successful project

That’s not how the Snowdrift Dilemma game is traditionally framed. Instead, you want the maximum benefit (e.g. successful project) at minimum cost to you.

The goal is clearly not to just have many months go by just trickling pennies. And, again, if this is the concern (and
we can see this when we get real experience from real patrons in a fully working system, not just speculation and early
testing), then it’s easy enough to just add some minimum threshold where you don’t chip in at all until some
reasonable-enough level to feel it’s worthwhile. That’s 100% compatible with crowdmatching.

OK, so the most important point I want to bring across in this discussion is:

Please take care when mixing and matching models.

I think crowdmatching is a bad idea and I fear that mixing in elements of other models might create a muddled mess.

(I agree that a minimum thresh would solve the “pennies trickle away” problem, but that problem isn’t the biggest issue I have with crowdmatching.)

I would argue that effectively as bad (and soulcrushing for some) to have a plain threshold model in an ongoing way
where you keep hoping month by month to hit the threshold or even get closer but it just doesn’t happen.

Don’t confuse what’s soulcrushing for projects with what’s soulcrushing for patrons if the goal is to increase the quantity of patrons.

The only way to deal with this core fact of all public goods (regardless of funding model) is to use the extra stuff
outside the funding model such as pro-social culture (focusing on honor, volunteerism, cooperation, giving public
acknowledgements, some extra influence in project direction, etc.).

Yes, along with sense of participation and there are some other strong social codes to work with here.

Precise-threshold matches a lot better with my own idea of how the pro-social aspects of current culture operate whereas crowdmatching strikes me as a complete mismatch and very dysergic and confusing to those pro-social aspects. Crowdmatching feels like patrons are being punished.

However, that’s just my own idea and my own mental model. “Always be testing” is a good motto, you’re right about that.

But game theory and analyses can give you a lot of ideas on what to test, why some things seem to work and some don’t etc.

In the case where some sucker is going to do it, no matter what, but it’s slower than you’d like, done incompletely (but
still usable)… then doing a quick kick of a little snow while you walk by

And here is where the crowdmatching’s quadratic curve diminishes the impact of such walk-by kicks even compared to the straight line of traditional donation markets.

is still better than just walking by and freeriding.

If the road is blocked I cannot freeride.

To clarify that statement precisely and unravel the analogy a bit:

A FLO software project that doesn’t have any full-time, paid employees – I can use it, and send patches, and I can freeride on the existance of the project itself.

But if the project gets enough funding to pay for someone to work on it full- or part time, I can freeride on the benefit of that arragement as well as freeride on the project.

In funding terms, either there is enough money for someone to put in actual paid hours on the project, or there isn’t. Which is why prec-shold should emphasize living concrete wages and practical, concrete living expenses for develemopment on the project, on a month-to-month basis.

“Tipping” the sucker as a social gesture and loss-minimizing for them is something we humans do for many reasons – I’ve donated to projects in the past before I went as broke as I am now – and in prec-shold I put in the option, for patrons, to decline refunding, for underfunded, overfunded, both or neither for exactly that reason.

To address the game theory part of the snowdrift, enforcing such tipping is counter productive. But having the platform enable such (voluntary) tipping is very important, because as you state very little of human interaction conform to optimal game playing.

Say you pitch in $100…

The real risk that you aren’t addressing is that this risks you becoming one of the suckers. The project passes the
minimum, thanks to you and similarly generous pledges. But it doesn’t hit the maximum, so you don’t get any reduction.

In prec-shold the minimum and the maximum is the same level. They can be separated, but only through the mechanism of “self-donating”, and this means that if the minimum is hit, so is the maximum.

Specifically, all the freeriding-inclined folks can look at your pledge

In prec-shold, the progress bar is hidden.

So you have a couple of misconceptions about the precise-threshold protocol.

They can say, “huh, if I pledge now, the project won’t even get any better, it’s already all funded, no reason for me to pledge at all”.

They will ease the burden of all other fans.

Sure. In my experience, the best pitch starts with pointing out that FLO public goods are orders of magnitude
underfunded. They get near-zero funding compared to proprietary club goods. So: crowdmatching to get over the
coordination problem…

This is not an appealing pitch to me.

  1. A well known problem
  2. ?? the magic of crowdmatching ??
  3. Profit!

(Edit: Down below, with the 840 patrons thing, you made a slightly clearer pitch. So if you’re replying-as-you-read, hold off on trying to write the perfect pitch until you’ve gotten to that part.)

post-elevator pitch where someone is already finding Snowdrift.coop compelling.

For the record, here’s how I found out about you. I was looking at a software, it was either gimp or krita, and they had an attempt at a LiberaPay funded employee. I was like “LiberaPay, what’s that, a FLO Patreon, that sounds great” and on LiberaPay’s website, they refered to your (excellent) wiki walkthrough of various funding sites.

So what I find very compelling about Snowdrift.coop is the awareness of game theory (I used to work for The Journal of Games and Puzzle Design) and the awareness and analysis of other sites. Neither of those two things have carried over to finding crowdmatching compelling.

The question of “what if a project gets too popular?”

This makes me believe that you still don’t understand the question.

The question isn’t “I’m scared of the vague and mysterious future of a project getting ‘too rich’ and that’s unfair and that’s etc etc etc”

It’s all about not wanting to be a sucker.

If we settled on the idea, we could say “if we reach that point, we’ll have a change to the pledging based on a maximum threshold…” (as you suggest) just for simplicity.

Again, please don’t mix in crowdmatching with precise-threshold and create a mess.

(I mean, technically and legally yes you could – I’ve given away the idea of precise-threshold freely of course, it’s not a proprietary protocol at all.)

In short: I’ve never had trouble with the “That will be the day when that’s our problem!… but yeah, we’ve thought about it and have ideas if we get there” being fully satisfactory to everyone with this question.

Everyone except me… and everyone I’ve talked with about crowdmatching.

They’re saying, “I’m not gonna be the sucker. I’m in, I’m helping, but I am pledging to do more if others help!”

Good, this is a more NPOV way of framing crowdmatching.

However, that’s still a lot less appealing to me than “I’m in, I’m helping, but as more people join in, my burden will be eased, and if not enough people join in, I don’t have to do it alone.”

They WANT to do more because they WANT the result. It’s the opposite of punishment.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the core Snowdrift Dilemma game theory.

The more people join in as patrons on a crowdmatching project, the heavier everyone’s burden becomes.

Think of how a bike-a-thon works. A cyclist says, “please pledge to donate $1 for every mile I bike”, and people pledge to support them. Then the cyclist says, “I can make these people donate MORE by biking harder and longer!” and they are motivated to do so because of this, not less motivated.

I talked about this above: matching others effort is a lot different than matching the crowdsize itself.

There are Patreons that say “please pledge to donate $1 for every episode” and that motivates the project to make more episodes. That’s a very similar model to the bike-a-thon. It’s not “please pledge to donate ¢0.1 multiplied by the amount of other patrons for every episode”.

They don’t think they’re being “punished” by the pressure to bike an extra mile in order to get more funding from the pledgers.

Please don’t confuse what’s punishing for projects (the biker) with what’s punishing patrons (the donators) if the goal is to get many patrons.

Crowdmatching is a threshold of sorts.

In Blender and Synfig when you work on the timeline curves, they differentiate between quadratic curves and threshold/“constant” curves and I think that’s an important distinction to keep.

but this threshold is repeated for every pair of patrons

Which makes it a curve system rather than a discrete system, i.e. not a threshold.

I can also donate $0 more than I already am until 1 other patron pledges.

Please don’t confuse the threshold of “enough to make concrete, practical difference in working on the project” (clearing the road) with the “threshold” of seeing more patrons.

The only quirk is that you’re agreeing to then join them in a new threshold campaign for the single next patron.

And that’s another crucial difference between a threshold system and crowdmatching. A threshold system is designed to ease your mind. Crowdmatching lacks that.

You’ve mentioned this a few times. Keep in mind that there’s no real thing as “supply” for public goods. The limited
supply is developer/author time, and the demand for that is the public wanting to see progress. But this doesn’t really
work in quite the same way as pricing by supply and demand. The analogy doesn’t quite work here.

That’s backwards — patron money is the limited supply, and project funding needs is the demand. But yes, I’ll drop the analogy. It’s close enough (while still being wrong) to be more confusing than helpful.

We’ve decided to not do early optimization but to do research on gaming

That’s absolutely fair enough, however it’s very hypocritical of you (plural “you”, nothing personal) to (on the wiki) use gaming the system as one of the strongest arguments against threshold pledge systems when your own proposal is much more sensitive to the same flaw.

That’s too simplistic. That’s one factor. We also think that matching in general (e.g. traditional public radio gets a
matching pledge from a big donor, inviting others to donate) is hugely motivating and effective (this is strongly
supported from all sorts of empirical research on the topic).

(Discussed above.)

We’re combining matching with ongoing memberships (also hugely effective and valuable in fundraising). And crowdmatching achieves this without requiring big matching donors or the mediocre and complex problem of matching up lots of paired small donors.

So the way I’ve seen some other PWYW sites encourage matching donations is by printing the average donation.

If I was to design a system appropriate to the name “crowdmatching” I’d say that you’d pledge to match the average donation instead of matching the amount of people (and then add on the monthly ceiling etc etc). Even then I’d argue against it but that would be a lot more straightforward.

(Again, that isn’t my proposal. I outlined my favorite proposal in the original post in this thread and that hasn’t changed.)

Let me put it this way: “if you pledge, 840 current patrons will donate more” is hugely motivating to me and many others. And I’m furthermore happy to then be part of the 841 patrons offering that to the next patron. It feels social, reinforced, amplifying my own impact.

OK, this paragraph did make a difference in my understanding of why you are so into crowdmatching. So there was a value mismatch after all.

For me, “[Big Corporation] will donate $1 for every $1 you donate” is motivating because it’s the faceless corp that I can influence. I’m glad to increase their burden.

Increasing the burden of my fellow individual patrons a la crowdmatching is demotivating to me personally. And then pledging to become one of those who can have my burden subsequently increased is also demotivating.

The reverse pitch that prec-shold presents is “if you pledge, 840 current patrons will have their burdens eased” and that’s very appealing to me. (Note that the amount of current patrons might be hidden under prec-shold to counteract gaming.)

This is good. We have concrete, competing, testable, falsifiable hypotheses. Which of the pitches, crowdmatching (taken as a whole, including the way you just put it – that way should be the core of your elevator pitch, btw) vs precise-threshold (taken as a whole) is more appealing to most people?

Further analysis can hinge on the results of such research.

None of the blunt threshold systems feel like that. They all feel like, “it’s gonna hit the goal or not whether or not I participate”

That’s right. That’s exactly what precise-threshold addresses.

Before I went completely broke but still was low on funds:

The way I, as a backer, approached Kickstarters for goods where the pledge rewards seemed like a bad deal to me but I very much wanted the project as a whole to be funded, was to wait to the last day. If it was funded by then, then I would not fund. If it was not funded by then, then I would pledge (no matter how far away from funding it was).

(I’m not saying this is common behavior at all! I’m saying that it was my own strategy to cope optimally with an unappealing game situation.)

FWIW, I lean toward the simple optional labeling of “fully-funded”

That’s a good label. I used the label “desired monthly incom” on the project side in my original proposal.

However, “thresholds” is good vocabulary when working with designers and game theorists.

That’s more like what blunt thresholds say. Crowdmatching says, “hey, I’m in, I’m doing something, but I’ll be far
more motivated to do more if you’ll come help me. I don’t really want to do all I can if everyone else is just
freeriding and the results are still just mediocre in the end”.

Yes, that describes crowdmatching well.

In other words: “I won’t be putting in my best effort unless others are too. Others must suffer as much as I suffer.”

Compared to prec-shold: “I can have ease of mind pledging my very best effort. If that effort wouldn’t be enough, I can save it. If that effort would be more than enough, I only have to do what’s enough.”

Or like "OK, the job is tough, and I don’t want to do it, I want you to do it, but if we both think like that, it
won’t happen. I guess I’m willing to help, but only if you help, and I’d really rather we get a lot of other folks so I
don’t have that much burden.

That matches the Snowdrift Dilemma well but doesn’t match crowdfunding well since the burden-per-person is higher when there’s a lot of other folks joining in.

I’ll be blunt: I’m gonna stick with “this is not our problem”.

We are talking in circles at this point. Before writing your next reply please try to understand with a charitable why I’ve introduced the idea of a precise threshold and refunding of “overpay”. My idea might be bad but you can’t know that unless you understand the issue.

Discussing this hypothetical future of overfunded projects is not good use of our time.

You are making it very clear that you haven’t understood the issue at all.

I’m getting emotionally frustrated with this discussion at this point.

In short: I can suspect that the low number of patrons we have now is, in your mind, already biasing you to feel pessimistic.

The truth is that I had finished my alternative proposal writeups and selected my favorite among them before I knew how many patrons you had. Then when I saw that you had a low number and still had very few, I was relieved, because it indicated to me that you were still in an early stage and that you had a chance to… I’m going to use the word “course correct” because it’s the word I thought, from my perspective as someone who is not sold on crowdmatching.

Overall, I don’t agree with your conclusions about crowdmatching nor about how your threshold proposals would go. I
understand that you were proposing an alternative without crowdmatching, but at this point I just hope that my further
clarifications help address the ways I think you’ve misunderstood crowdmatching.

Your clarifications have:

  • made me better understand the appeal crowdmatching has for you.
  • strengthened my initial belief that crowdmatching does not adequately address the Snowdrift Dilemma.
  • made me realize that crowdmatching has other (non-related to the Snowdrift Dilemma) motivational qualities that applies to you but not to me.
  • made me believe that you have not understood the the impilications of my precise-threshold proposal.

It seems that you’re an open-minded person who would likely be happy to be proven wrong by a successful crowdmatching system (you care about the public goods result above all).

That’s right.

To summarize, and then I can feel that I’ve said my piece and can drop out of this…
this is repetition but it’s also a TL;DR of my position:

  1. I agree with the FLO public goods goal.
  2. I agree with the Snowdrift Dilemma game theory as an obstacle for public funding of public goods.
    • The Snowdrift Dilemma has two loss conditions.
      • Shoveling too early, having to do too much (swerving too early in the “chicken” variant of the game).
      • and shoveling too late, leaving the road blocked (crashing and getting hurt in the “chicken” variant).
  3. I disagree strongly that crowdmatching adequately addresses that dilemma.
    • It does attempt to address the early shoveling by decreasing your pledge proportionally to other pledges. However, that comes at the cost of making the early shoveling less impactful.
    • It makes late shoveling a worse problem since it happens earlier and less predictably.
  4. I hold that crowdmatching as a concept is based on several conceptual mismatches.
    • “Amount of effort per participant” is mismatched with “Amount of participants”, increasing the burden per person as more people join in.
    • What’s demotivating for projects is mismatched with what’s demotivating for patrons.
    • What’s punishing for patrons is mismatched with what’s punishing for projects.
  5. My counterproposal is called “precise-threshold”.
    • Projects set a desired monthly income.
    • Patrons set up monthly donations to projects freely. They can set $1 to one project, $3 to another, or whatever they want.
    • Refunds:
      • If a project gets less than their desired monthly income, patrons will get their money back.
      • If a project gets more than their desired monthly income, patrons will get that excess back proportionally.
    • Tipping:
      • The patrons can opt out of that refund. It’s completely voluntary on the patron’s part. The projects can’t affect this.
      • They can set that option differently for different projects if they wish.
      • They can set that option differently for “underfunding” and “overfunding” if they wish.
    • Projects are allowed to donate to themselves.
      • So that this self-donation can’t be last-minute just-enough-to-make-the-threshold which would undermine the “threshold”-ease-of-mind effect, the projected monthly income should be hidden.
  6. Purpose of this proposal:
    • The underfund refund is there to address the “early shoveler” aspect of the Snowdrift dilemma.
    • The excess refund is there to address the “freerider” aspect of the Snowdrift dilemma.
    • The tipping is there to address that not every human interaction is driven by the same dilemma, other aspects of human nature are at play.
    • The self-donation, along with the max threshold, is there to make overt and mitigate the “gaming the system” of other pledge models.

This was very expensive for me. I spent five hours of work that I desperately needed to spend elsewhere. I am going to unsubscribe from the thread and check back in a couple of weeks. Thank you for reading charitably.


#7

Thanks for taking the time to engage! I think your perspective makes perfect sense when one has the value judgment “paying more to a project is a burden.” I also think a lot of people feel that way, and that it’s kind of built in to the proprietary paradigm we all get born into. I mean, I feel that way about a lot of things.

But it’s a cultural norm, not an absolute, and it’s often subverted by people or (for an individual) by particular contexts. Anyone who does any work to improve public goods (park cleanups, tree plantings, attending city council meetings, putting on free concerts, pouring sweat and tears into OpenPGP in relative obscurity, …) is making a different judgment. They want to contribute more to improve what everyone is already getting for free.

Crowdmatching exists to empower the value judgment, “Paying more to projects is a reward.” If it turns out there aren’t enough people who feel that way, crowdmatching will fall flat on its face. And we have to position ourselves carefully to signal that’s the judgment we’re looking for. But I believe in it, which is why I’m still here, volunteering…

Thanks again, and I totally feel you re: taking breaks from emotionally draining conversations. :slight_smile:

Cheers,

-bryan


#8

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for taking the time to write so clearly and thoroughly.

I did indeed misunderstand or at least not see the whole picture of your proposal before. I think you still do not see the big picture for crowdmatching. We’re not likely to drop crowdmatching and go with your proposal, but I like a lot about it and want to encourage you on this. The two approaches could co-exist (but not merge).

I can see how you’d want an institution with the mission and overall perspective that we have as the place for your overall good idea, and I think I understand why you have your bias against crowdmatching.

Meta comment: I am learning that in-line replying is not so good in this medium. A live conversation could go much better as a back-and-forth of that style (but it lacks the ability to think through and edit etc). I’d like to think about how to use this forum where we encourage short replies, wait for response, like a slow-motion live conversation…

I started replying-while-reading, but instead, here’s my new thoughts about it all:

Precise threshold overall

Your proposal is a fine enough system for what it is. It does address the snowdrift dilemma in terms of game-theory.

I’d characterize it as basically monthly-recurring-threshold-campaigns. Instead of the high costs of mounting a new, distinct Kickstarter every month, it’s recurring by design. It has mutual assurance from the threshold and sustainability (unlike any other system we know of aside from what we’re doing).

In the end, I think your proposal is actually great and is just a different model. It might work very well for smaller, niche projects that actually have a clear real threshold that isn’t just a guess at what will work with the game. For example, a minor fantasy author with a small but dedicated following who wants to just quit her day job. Both crowdmatching and precise-threshold are good systems that will work for different sets of projects that only partially overlap.

I actually think we should keep in touch and continue this discussion further. There’s a number of ways forward. We could have your system as another model (but that would have to be much later, can’t spread too thin at launch). You could take what you like about Snowdrift.coop and build a new platform for your approach. We could formally partner, integrate, but maintain separate systems…

On the differences between project fit

If you have in mind the prototypical best-fit for precise-threshold (ongoing, niche, knows what a good-enough salary is that would allow to quit a day job, is a make-or-break question for the project going ahead etc), then I can easily see how all the intuitions around that would lead to disliking crowdmatching.

Similarly, thinking of the prototypical best-fit projects for crowdmatching, precise-threshold seems bad. Right away, the first step “projects set a desired monthly income” being more than a general vague estimate but is an all-or-nothing threshold… that in itself already feels bad for the prototypical crowdmatching-best-fit project. And the idea that only optional tips will be encouraged beyond this is even worse.

So, I really think this is a matter of what sorts of projects fit each system. Which is to say, I think it might be best for both models to be available in some form. I’m also very happy about your consistent FLO public goods emphasis.

Someone could provide precise-threshold with too much proprietary crap and other stuff bad for the public interest… unlike crowdmatching, precise-threshold could make sense for even rivalrous goods. Precise-threshold could even work for a CSA farm, for example. Each new patron would reduce both the burden and the rewards for existing members. Subverting supply-and-demand, farmers need a certain salary; that salary is paid by any number of members as long as it gets paid; everyone gets their proportional share of the produce in the end. That’s a weird twist, but it should be obvious how crowdmatching couldn’t fit that case. That highlights some of the major differences.

Projects for precise-threshold

I could see some artists of various sorts, the type who don’t care to expand into broader things being good fit. Say a blogger who just wants to keep writing their essays, or a programmer who works on some quirky things that never need more than the one person, or a musician who has no ambitions beyond recording their music at home and publishing it online.

Those example all need enough reliable salary to feel safe quitting their day job. They appreciate tips. But they just want to do their work, get by well enough, and engage with their audiences.

Crowdmatching, even with a minimum threshold, makes little sense here. They can’t quit their dayjob until they have their threshold, and yes it feels weird and bad to punish (I’ll accept that term in this context!) the patrons by making them pay more just because the author is getting more popular. All your intuitions hold up in this context.

And yes, the single road snowdrift metaphor here applies well.

Projects for crowdmatching

Consider, for example, the real-world case of Task Coach, the initial motivation for crowdmatching. There were two volunteer developers and one volunteer support person (me). One dropped off. A few extra dollars are similar to a tip, it just helps cover costs and keep volunteers form burning out. But bigger budget is needed to get a part-time dedicated programmer or freelance help or even multiple full-time devs.

The project could certainly use a whole team, programmers, support people, marketing, user research, design specialists… So, while an amount that could fund a freelancer to spend 5 days a month would be definitely worthwhile, a funding of multiple full-time people would be even better. Small improvements would be nice, but the potential is much further.

Ideally, Task Coach would be ported to various contexts, web app version, mobile, etc. and eventually be able to out-compete all the proprietary task-management tools…

Precise-threshold here is not awful, but it’s not great. Should the threshold be the minimum get-a-freelancer-some level? The one-full-time level? Or…? As it gets more popular, we don’t want (neither the project nor the patrons) to have the funding level off. We want it to grow, add more to the team, prosper, become the wonderful, reliable tool we dream of…

Maybe this applies even more to something much larger like a major news organization. We want Common Dreams to grow to compete with the NYT. They need multiple journalists, editors, tech people… but just being able to have some extra funding to pay one more freelancer is still a good thing…

Crowdmatching in these cases mean that we do something positive but small in the beginning, and as we see progress and invite more people, we’re all thrilled to donate more to this thing that is on track to being the wonderful institution we dream of but still has a ways to go. Each extra set of pennies I put in are part of getting dramatic improvements over the next months… I’m not being punished, I’m taking an ever smaller portion of the burden as part of a growing community changing the world!

That whole dream of really building a better public goods economy and economic democracy feels hopeless with precise-threshold which is so modest and small scale and is only likely to have much impact in the aggregation of lots of little valuable niche projects.

Combinations / adaptations?

There may still be ways to adjust the numbers in crowdmatching or otherwise make more flexibility to broaden the set of projects that fit well. Similarly, there are surely ways to adapt precise-threshold.

And they could be combined still, even with “shares” or other approaches that might match efforts rather than number of patrons. Etc.

But we should be wary of complexity and muddling. So, I think at this point that having the two systems seem sensible. I really think the amount of non-overlapping projects (where one system is good and the other bad) is large enough that there’s real demand for both approaches.

(Side note: if Liberapay were more really strictly dedicated to public goods instead of sorta whatever-but-we-like-libre-stuff, I’d be that much more inclined to suggest you bring your idea to them. I would like to see your system available, especially in a way that lives up to ethical ideals.)


Some edited in-line replies for reference:

On game theory

Without going into details, you’ve discussed the game theory without adequate emphasis on the effects of iteration. But you’re mostly right about things by my reading overall.

a successful outcome every step of the way

The key point (made before) is that small donations from crowdmatching are positive not negative for a project that is going ahead no matter what. It’s better for the “suckers” who are clearing the road anyway to get some help and encouragement rather than to take on the costs of promoting a threshold campaign that doesn’t succeed and then be marked a “failure”. That mark is only good if the right thing is actually to give up (which it is, in some cases).

Joining in early and no-one else showed up? N.p. you’re not out anything. Joining in late and many others joined in? N.p. many hands made very light work.

Same in crowdmatching, since the amount you’re “out” when you’re early is small and is still something positive and you’re getting matched, so your pledge gets the project more than just your pennies.

where is the money coming from?

(all you say is right here)… the long-term goal is for the money to come from the pot going to proprietary stuff. We want people to stop funding Adobe and fund Inkscape instead. In essence, it’s the existence of robust proprietary stuff that proves we have the resources to make it, it’s just a matter of directing them to FLO public goods instead.

“Sorry, users can only put one image in a post.”

UGH! I plan to go through this thread with @Salt and fix things like this and then delete this meta comment.

Issues with your graphs

Besides not including crowdmatching + min. threshold option, there’s a major oversight: given people simply being aware that the road is now getting cleared enough, all of the graphs should taper off. Once good-enough funding happens, traditional subscribers stop joining, crowdmatching stops getting as many new pledges (especially since people are even more hesitant to accept the now-high pledge value), and plain threshold new pledges drop off too.

In short: accelerating beyond what’s valuable is a problem that is speculative and dubious. Nobody will pledge a $100/mo crowdmatching to a future Inkscape that is already so well funded, it does everything everyone wants. Regardless of any mechanism, it’s easy to just spread the concept that it’s fine to freeride for an already well-funded project.

(side-note: a popular author is more likely to get people just wanting to pledge anyway out of excitement versus something like Inkscape, so again, project-fit is relevant)

So, we predict a natural equilibrium with crowdmatching. It gets expensive, so people start dropping out, which itself reduces the crowdmatching. If too many patrons drop, it will go low enough that others feel fine joining and think it’s important for the project. The prediction with crowdmatching is that it will not overperform because of the natural behavior of patrons, no need for a precise threshold (but, as stated before, we could add a top threshold to crowdmatching if we’re wrong).

To most people, is it more appealing to be able to set your fixed monthly donation a la Patreon, or, to set a window within which your donation can jump around chaotically, a la crowdmatching?

People individually like the former. And it fails to fund public goods.

The point isn’t that people want to give up the control of setting their fixed monthly donation. The point is that patrons retaining that control is an obstacle to flexible negotiations. It’s similar to people wanting to freeride and have successful public goods. We’re saying, “sorry, if you want public goods, you have to accept the discomfort of giving up some control and focusing on working in solidarity with others — but we at least give you a hard budget so you can limit the risks until you feel comfortable raising that limit”.

Crowdmatching is not the natural thing everyone wants, it’s a cooperative negotiation we need to get at least partly over the freerider problem.

And while I think threshold systems in general are weak in these negotiations, I’m sympathetic to your suggestion that hiding the progress in precise-threshold is helpful. I totally see how that feature fits with the refund-past-threshold assurance to make the game-theory work far better than it does with a Kickstarter-style threshold!

But your take on crowdmatching is that your effort needs to match the amount of people making an effort, rather than their effort.

Hence the earlier “shares” formula. Matching efforts (instead of people) does make some sense, but makes everything far more complex (feedback loops even if the matching were designed wrong). So to be clear: my intuitions match yours, and we started with the effort-matching idea.

Over time, in negotiating with everyone involved and difference ideas, we moved to simplify the system (for now at least). You seem clear on our shared appreciation for maximizing the number of patrons as independent value from the total dollars. I won’t belabor that.

One anecdote though:

I was told by someone about a charity campaign that explicitly refused any donations over $25. That was interesting, why would they do that? All sorts of reasons, but it gets at this idea of focusing on inviting more people, knowing that you can’t just hope for a wealthy patron to come solve it, and people can’t feel guilty for not doing more etc. and the campaign was a great success (it was a medical thing, I think, like support for a child with cancer). I encourage you to reflect on that example.

As far as I understand it, crowdmatching has several mechanisms that work against maximizing the quantity of patrons.

like what? You mean like this next quote?

Also, with crowdmatching, you might not be able to afford pledging to a popular project, no matter how much you care about it.

…which is why the limits page offers ideas like sub-projects etc so if too-expensive is our problem, we do have ideas to address this.

With prec-shold, pledging late eases the burden of everyone else

And, again, speculative future but… we can do this with crowdmatching, as I’ve stated. I know that’s not your proposal, but it’s completely compatible. We can run a new engine the other way once a “fully-funded” threshold is hit. It would have the same effect whether we arrive at fully-funded via crowdmatching or not.

Instead, you want the maximum benefit (e.g. successful project) at minimum cost to you.

Yes, but it depends on the numbers of the benefit and the cost. The game plays differently if the benefits are minor and the costs are high versus the other way around. In crowdmatching for public goods, the costs of participating are not high (but are higher than the true minimum of freeriding), but the benefits are high (assuming valuable projects). And your pledge being matched means a greater increase in benefits than in costs.

Crowdmatching feels like patrons are being punished.

Besides my points above how this framing makes sense for some types of projects and not at all for others, there’s cultural context maybe:

If you live in a world of people who care about public goods and tend to be thoughtful etc., it’s easy to feel like crowdmatching is discouraging

Out in the world of people who use Facebook all day, have never used an adblocker, think a just-world fallacy (that rich people deserve their wealth and vice versa) and buy into other corporate capitalist propaganda, they are still pro-social in a way (as healthy non-sociopaths are inherently), but they don’t contribute on Patreon or whatever, and they think the idea of FLO public goods is an absurd fantasy. They still think somehow that Wikipedia is just a bizarre anomaly rather than an example of what’s possible. Those people have their own biases, but they recognize correctly that the economics of FLO stuff are pathetically near-zero compared to everything else, and they see people like you and I as totally Quixotically delusional.

All the fuzzy stuff in between, there’s people who get that maybe FLO public goods aren’t hopeless but they sure seem that way, and they are already pretty damn discouraged. I know that feeling.

It’s a very uncomfortable thing to say, but we are actually self-aware guilty of basically going to the most optimistic, hard-working FLO activists who volunteer and donate now and are telling them: you live in a weird semi-delusional bubble — your optimism may drive some real successes here and there, and we’re hesitant to pop the bubble, but really it’s a lot worse than you even realize, and most of the things you’re supporting are doomed. We would like to convince you to face the facts, and stop optimistically doing the not-actually-adequate Patreon / Liberapay thing. Instead, we need to build a new social contract to figure out how to get all those sympathetic folks who are not us activist / donating insiders and bring them on board. And they may mean something like a strike. We STOP being suckers clearing the road on our own…

And this is a lot like your threshold model except… we don’t go on strike and say “we’re doing no work until our demand for X is met”. Instead, we’re saying “we’re doing a work slow-down and going to invite more of you to help, and we’ll not only get back to where we were but are up for going a lot farther if we get far more of you bystanders to join in”.

My core point is: Maybe this is part of why you feel uncomfortable (we’re, in crowdmatching, potentially discouraging the suckers who are already doing something), and that this is backwards. And yet it’s still the right way to build the movement we need long-term. You’re not the first person who expressed this discomfort (or if I’m guessing wrong, I can tell you others do feel this way), but it comes nearly exclusively from the sort of people who are really active and engaged already and are inclined to invest the sort of serious time that you and I have put into this conversation. The sort of people who insist (but are wrong) that people want to donate all they can (I know that isn’t you though).

From the people who are not donating or volunteering or even hopeful today (and I was once one of those incidentally), crowdmatching can feel like a real fresh hope in a way that threshold systems do not (but now that I understand your proposal better, I do think it’s a real improvement over existing threshold models, at least for some projects).

If the road is blocked I cannot freeride.

It’s not black-and-white. A road can be semi-clear, enough to struggle through slowly.

In funding terms, either there is enough money for someone to put in actual paid hours on the project, or there isn’t.

Yes and no. When this is true, a minimum threshold makes sense. It’s often not true. It may be someone volunteering and losing money on hosting costs, and they will be able to keep going better if we at least cover those costs better. It may be a freelancer who has to take on more or less proprietary clients depending on how much funding their FLO project has. Or it may be a team on a big FLO project who are thinking about whether or not they can fund some extra training or travel to conferences… For many (most?) FLO projects, it’s not all-or-nothing in terms of the value of income.

On tipping, I agree with everything you said, with one caveat: small income from some crowdmatching patrons still has the effect of “these people support me at least”. And anyway, we’re not stopping anyone from also tipping outside of crowdmatching.

In prec-shold the minimum and the maximum is the same level.

[my original thought while reading:] Can you come up with any real-world example where this is a good fit? Nearly all the FLO public goods I can think of do not work this way. Any that even have a minimum that makes sense also could greatly benefit from income beyond that and would not have any desire to cap that. And they’d be extremely hesitant to refuse valuable income that was less than what a true maximum cap would be. And self-donating as the only means to break the levels apart feels like an awkward hack, even if it’s publicly acknowledged.

[addendum after finishing:] I’m still skeptical somewhat (the author could still grow significantly, hire a better editor, illustrator, promoter, maybe expand into film adaptations… etc), but I accept that many niche projects (including many who have come to us and we knew were not a great fit) really would be appropriate for your model.

This is not an appealing pitch to me.

Sorry for the confusion, that wasn’t the pitch itself, it was my description of the pitch. The pitch itself is more like “so, instead of donating on your own, you make a pledge: I’ll donate a tiny bit for each other patron who gives with me!” and consistently, most people feel good about this and intuitively see how it could work well.

It’s all about not wanting to be a sucker.

Let me put it my way (which probably means a tweak to the game in the game theory): If I could be the sucker who completely transforms the world for the better, I’m okay with that. I actually want the result, first and foremost.

It’s not about avoiding being a sucker as the priority or as freeriding as the priority. It’s about avoiding the WORST case scenario: being a sucker with big costs and nothing in the world really changes, no good result even comes of it.

If I donate $5,000 to Inkscape, it won’t go that far, but it will be a HUGE burden for me. I take solace in the idea that working on Snowdrift.coop has been an interesting learning experience etc. etc. but it’s still not worth it if we don’t succeed at making real value in the end.

The worry is that I could shovel a TON of snow and still have more snow fall than I can shovel, so it’s all a total loss. But let’s consider a situation where there are already enough other suckers shoveling that it’s sorta working. It’s a job for 20-50 volunteers working really hard or for 10 full-time, well-funded paid folks, say. There’s fluctuating 18-25 volunteers, so it’s ups and downs but sorta working. Should I join the volunteers? It seems like a huge burden with very uncertain results, and some risk of others burning out etc. I can’t afford to pay a single full-time person on my own. Should I donate to a threshold campaign to add 1 full-time person? Maybe… still seems like a big personal burden for a questionable nothing-really-changes in the big picture…

What I want is a vision of how to get 50 great volunteers and 50 backup ones or get the full 10 paid folks (and, I want the hope that if we get there we push forward to expand the project and really take on the proprietary competition even harder!). But that’s such a fantasy. If anything I do (even clicking “pledge”) is nothing, just marked “failure” short of reaching the dream, then it’s not even worth it. I want to tell others that I’m in on my part of reaching the dream if there truly are enough others to help, and if we get half-way there and at less burden to me than getting all the way there, that’s still positive. And I’m willing even to come volunteer if the understanding is that I’m not going to take sucker-level burden with nothing else changing.

My willingness to contribute isn’t black-and-white / all-or-nothing. And it’s somewhat proportional to how great I see the outcome being.

please don’t mix in crowdmatching with precise-threshold

We won’t. But we’ve had notes forever about “what happens if we reach full funding” and one of them includes the run-in-reverse (refund), i.e. allow new pledges and just divide the total among everyone so that new patrons reduce the burden for others. That’s not something we got from you.The only reason it’s not currently on the limits page (it might have been in the past, not sure) is because we’re doubtful that it really makes sense.

This has usually come up when someone asks, “I give more when more donors join, that seems backwards, I thought I’d be able to give less when others join” and our answer has always been, “well, that would only make sense if the project was fully-funded. We’re focusing on getting to fully-funded in the first place!”. I’ve had nearly that exact exchange a number of times.

Whether we add a minimum “funding is off until it hits X” (likely to be an option) or a “fully-funded, spread the burden” maximum (doubtful, again, hoping to get to where this is even worth considering), it won’t be because you brought up your precise-threshold model or an attempt to combine them per se.

The more people join in as patrons on a crowdmatching project, the heavier everyone’s burden becomes.

I think this is reiteration but: that claim is not true relative to the result! As co-founder David emphasizes, if you’re okay with being 1 of 1,000 patrons putting in $1, then by being willing to put in an extra $0.001 when the next patron joins is comparable to being matched 1,000 times over (and so on)! Your burden goes up a fraction of a cent, but the project gets $2 more funding. Or if we scaled this to other numbers… the point is: in crowdmatching, your burden goes up MUCH slower than your increased BENEFIT from the funding improvements for the project. Your relative burden is being constantly REDUCED, not increased.

It’s like if we were all cleaning up litter in the neighborhood. You agree to pick up an extra piece of litter for each volunteer who joins the litter brigade. This isn’t a bad deal with a heavier burden. This is like “YAY, I just pick up one more piece of litter to getting 500 pieces removed from my neighborhood, thanks to the new volunteer!” That benefit is absolutely worth the miniscule extra burden. This is perfectly fine game-theory.

Please don’t confuse what’s punishing for projects (the biker) with what’s punishing patrons (the donators) if the goal is to get many patrons.

It works the same way the other way. The patrons are happier when the bicyclist goes the extra mile. They like that they give extra $, knowing that the other patrons are also and together (and due to the social signals of the bicyclists effort), they are doing that much more for the cause. Nobody is punished here — because we’re talking about a case where more funding directly means greater results from the project/cause. The punishment framing only applies in cases where there’s no further returns beyond the threshold.

A threshold system is designed to ease your mind. Crowdmatching lacks that.

You mean in terms of risk? Crowdmatching is different, but it’s still true that my risk is low, much lower than plain unilateral donations with no matching or threshold.

gaming the system as one of the strongest arguments against threshold pledge systems when your own proposal is much more sensitive to the same flaw.

Thanks, I’ll fix that. It’s a good point. The actual reason we put that in, however, was not to say that gaming itself was fatal. The point was to illustrate how arbitrary the thresholds often are. If a threshold at Kickstarter was always the actual minimum needed to go ahead, then the gaming would never be rational. It only ever happens because the thresholds are so arbitrary / badly set etc. and so people game when they change their mind and realize they’d be okay with a lower threshold.

This gets at, I think, our core difference of viewpoint. Your focus is on projects with a clear threshold, they need X and no more. Less is no good, more does little good. They need that amount. Our focus is on projects that have no such point clear at all.

Consider the snowdrift game. You’re viewing it as yes or no: is the road cleared? We’re viewing it more as a continuum from more blocked to more clear. Furthermore, we’re focused on the broader question of maintaining the road and keeping it clear iteratively, ongoing maintenance. Finally, FLO public goods aren’t all like the prototypical snowdrift case, though they all have aspects of the dilemma.

Increasing the burden of my fellow individual patrons a la crowdmatching is demotivating to me personally.

Aha! This is a core insight. It’s personal, social, emotional… not part of game-theory math. At first I guessed you just personally didn’t like this way of negotiating cooperation. And in this, you’d be in a minority but not the first I’ve heard. But I now think this is amplified by the framing you have of thinking of the type of project best-fit for threshold approach, so it’s that along with some other personal feelings.

I described above my characterization about cultural context. If you are mostly concerned about reducing the burden on everyday citizens and getting corporations and the wealthy to do their part (I’m sympathetic), crowdmatching is backward. But for me, I’m thinking about how to get people to move their funding to public goods and away from the wealthy corporations…

So, I’m not thinking of crowdmatching as just increasing the burden of others. I think of it as moving other people’s money from Adobe to Inkscape, so to speak. It’s certainly not that simple. But the more we all work together to give Inkscape real major funding, more funding, not mild low-threshold funding, but outcompete-Adobe funding… the more we’re freeing everyone from Adobe and their influence and putting capital in the hands of FLO projects and citizens and not in the hands of the corporations. Our goal isn’t to burden people, it’s to move where they put their resources so that they are actually more freed.

Go with my litter example: all the volunteers picking up litter are the responsible citizens, not the litterers or the profiting producers of all the disposable waste and trash that shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Yeah, I’d rather McDonald’s be responsible for all the litter of their products or to figure out how to stop litterers entirely. But if we successfully clean up the neighborhood, yes on the backs of all of us innocent, burdened residents… then we have a clean neighborhood. We can also try the other things to pursue justice more broadly.

[Kickstarter] I’m not saying this is common behavior at all!…

Well, there’s mounds of evidence that threshold campaigns get almost all their pledges at the beginning and end. The early-adopters join right away, then everything slows down. At the end, maybe people step up to try to help push it over the top (or to buy the thing in a product-type scenario of a met-the-threshold). So, you might be pretty normal here.

“I won’t be putting in my best effort unless others are too. Others must suffer as much as I suffer.”

It’s more like a refusal to suffer a lot for a poor result. We can all enjoy an amazing result if we work together, and my motivation is proportional to how amazing the impact will be. Again: if I have a slightly higher burden but get an amazing Inkscape (and the results of economic shifts to public goods overall), I’m totally winning out. That’s not suffering.


#9

4 posts were merged into an existing topic: Feedback on the Preshold protocol


#10

Oh, no, I just realized that I did that thing where you only reply to the contrary points or questions and not really acknowledge good parts. There were many. Here is one of my favorites:


#11

I tried to cut this short and get to the points that matter…

While a legitimate concern, this only works indirectly against maximizing the quantity of patrons. Specifically, it reduces the patrons who really dislike such uncertainty. But those who prioritize absolute certainty in the amount of their donations can just donate already via other donation mechanisms. And we’ve argued that crowdmatching will increase participation among all those who hesitate now, and that’s the point.

To be clear, I think there’s a lot of people who will misjudge their own feelings and state speculatively (and maybe deny that it’s speculation) that they care about certainty. Yet, when they see others comfortable with crowdmatching, those same people may decide to give it a try and find it’s just fine and even feels great to be part of the crowdmatching and encouraging others.

This is classic stuff about product design. Before cars, people would say they just want faster horses with less smelly poop, etc. Before the iPhone, most people wouldn’t have expressed a desire to lose the buttons on their phones.

Most people are pretty awful about actually understanding and reporting their own desires and values. That doesn’t mean anyone should just blindly deny the feedback from people. It’s arrogant to assume we know better than everyone else… except when/if we really do.

Judge people’s actions today and we conclude most folks are interested in wasting their day away on addictive, ad-focused superficial crap…

The point in the end is to lead people to solutions that are actually good for everyone and design a good experience that they will feel comfortable with. It’s a balance between understanding people, meeting them where they are, and pushing forward to a better future. Just giving people what they say they want now is not actually a good approach.

In our work on crowdmatching, we need people to get comfortable some uncertainty and interested in the cooperative end result. You acknowledge this yourself in the preshold design. People would say they want to see a progress bar, and yet you know it’s better not to show it in the case of preshold.

uncertainty that my donations are truly needed (because the chaotic matching)

I see no connection between those two issues. Matching doesn’t have to be that chaotic even, that’s speculation and a pessimistic framing. Regardless, whether the donations are needed is entirely a matter of the project’s needs, communicating them and reporting on them fully. And that is the core issue here, the crux of the biscuit in this whole discussion.

discomfort with perceived mismatch of “matching” concept, general “I don’t get it…?” sensation… fear of gaming…

These seem to be just a question of whether we develop a solid enough presentation or whether people take the time to get it or if people spread FUD. This isn’t a problem with crowdmatching itself. Of course, some ideas are harder to communicate than others, and that’s why we dropped the initial too-complex shares formula. We can minimize these fears through a combination of good design, good presentations and writings, and experience over time.

Project focus of crowdmatching and the fuzziness of FLO “needs”

This is the core issue, and there seem to be ways we may disagree some, you may not understand the other aspects of Snowdrift.coop focus around crowdmatching, and also this is where we can agree that crowdmatching and preshold fit different cases.

First, we propose to not even allow projects to participate unless they have unmet needs. There’s no question about whether your donation is “needed”.

“Am I donating to a project that’s doomed anyway”

No you aren’t. We won’t even accept projects like that. We’re only focusing on projects that already exist, have history, are struggling, and need more help.

“Am I donating to a project that’d be successful anyway”

No you aren’t. We won’t even accept projects that are fully funded and don’t need more funding. And we will implement methods to stop the funding growth, either programmatically or socially the moment any project we have actually reaches a state anyone could describe as “fully funded”.

So, these two main fears simply won’t apply. [I hope you read that assertion charitably, not trying to belittle your concerns, trying to answer them.]

Precise-threshold is about the concept of enough. You can’t get by with less than enough, and you don’t need more than enough.

There are some cases where “enough” is definable and less-than-enough is effectively wasted or worthless. We are not focusing on projects like that. Furthermore, we doubt that applies for most FLO projects.

Most of the projects we have in mind are already operating (and not giving up) but have less than truly enough. Any extra to these projects is not a waste. It’s not a matter of all-or-nothing, quitting a day job or not. It’s a matter of taking on a few more outside clients or spending a few more hours on the FLO project.

Fuzzy logic

You know about fuzzy logic, right? These things are super fuzzy in most cases. Living expenses fluctuate, people can move to more expensive or cheaper arrangements, eat cheaper or nicer food etc etc. This all revolves around the concept of buffer. People shouldn’t quit a day-job etc. unless they can build up enough buffer or have a flexible enough lifestyle to be able to withstand various normal ups and downs. Without a buffer, everyone is just one something (illness, house or car damage, unexpected bill) from catastrophe).

There is no hard line in most cases, there’s a wide fuzzy area. A low-risk threshold would need to be high enough to offer a significant buffer. But often people (like my case) have enough buffer already to be able to take risks and manage with a lower threshold. But having a buffer is not the same thing as actually having higher income overall.

To me, the idea of precise threshold is a lot like the price of a good in the marketplace. We together as patrons need to get to a certain price in order to buy a result from the project. We can tip if we like, sure. You may see that as patron-oriented, but it feels to me more like an artifice, a market transaction, and I’m a customer / consumer instead of a community-member / patron / citizen.

A personal perspective

I teach music lessons for a living. I spend money to work on Snowdrift.coop. Every bit of reduction in my expenses means a bit less stress about maximizing my music teaching load.

If I started getting a modest income for work on Snowdrift.coop, I might stop putting in as much time recruiting new students. If we had a bit more income, I’d feel okay traveling to more valuable conferences. If I got really substantial income I might really reduce my teaching load, but before that happened, I’d hire other people with different expertise where it might be more valuable for Snowdrift.coop… and so on and so on.

In my teaching, I hate setting prices. The work and satisfaction etc. varies student by student as does their wealth and ability to pay. I find bartering often far more satisfying, especially when it moves from strict arrangement to just a more communist (lowercase C) to-each-by-need, from-each-by-ability: I do what I can to give the best education to the student and they in turn help me in (real examples: studying spanish, home improvement, volunteering for Snowdrift.coop…). We don’t measure everything, we just try to be the best we can be helping one another and tend to be friends more than some contractual arrangement.

I want to be a friend and patron of Inkscape, giving some money, promoting, inviting others, reporting bugs… I don’t actually want a strictly contractual arrangement. Ironically, crowdmatching is, for me, a contract designed to skip a lot of the aspects of contractual negotiations. We patrons band together, we’re flexible and put it what we can, we don’t shame freeriders but we invite them to join, and we expect the project to do all it can with our support and deliver wonderful products. We want an ongoing social collaboration around building a cooperative community and society, not a game-theory set of numbers and rules.

The idea of the original shares formula was that it was so flexible, it really let anyone both fit in at their level while negotiating the crowdmatching with everyone else. But that also made it just too damn complex.

What’s enough for Snowdrift.coop?

I honestly have no concept of what’s “enough” here for Snowdrift.coop. All income helps us do better and truly fully-funded is so far off, I can’t even estimate what that would be. If the project grows enough, we might need funded forum moderators even, who knows. Not that we want make-work or just to use up any possible funds, but the really substantial entities that change the world have enormous budgets because there really is that much to do potentially.

What we want is for every extra dollar that could go to Snowdrift.coop to instead go somewhere that is truly more important if that clearly exists. Obviously, there’s systematic questions and it’s complex.

The same situation applies to tons of FLO projects. People skip vacations, live on the cheapest but lower-quality groceries, do their own X… (legal research even) instead of hiring professional help…

The idea that there’s truly a clear “enough” for many (most?) projects is usually a fiction or just wishful thinking. I think that is the primary difference in how we view all these things.

And yes, the Snowdrift game requires specifying a clear “enough” in that you clear the snowdrift and are done. But obviously it’s just an imperfect simpler example. We’re trying to deal with more complex realities.

Enough for who, by what standards?

As RMS puts it, when proprietary programmers complain about not being able to live writing free software, they often mean not being able to be rich by global standards. There are people who consider “enough” to be having their own private house in a nice neighborhood etc. and others who get by living with a bunch of roommates and never taking any costly vacations etc. These things are so complex.

There’s certainly a true “enough” where a person has a healthy life, takes vacations, has true stability (health coverage, healthy food, access to valuable services like personal assistants / coaches, etc.) and anything more really is just indulgent. They’re as secure and healthy as they need to be to maximize the quality of their lives and the effectiveness of their time. So few of us can even imagine getting to that level of “enough”.

This tangent could go on and on. It’s obvious that some projects have a minimum before income will make any difference, and we can support having a minimum to turn on crowdmatch donations (as stated before).

As for a maximum (let alone a min=max single threshold), we’re far more interested in requiring projects to make good use of extra income. If Inkscape had all the programmers, documentation folks, publicity, etc. that it needs, extra income could be given upstream to the folks working on the SVG spec even. We could reach truly “fully funded” some day, but it really is so far off that setting a preshold level for it would be entirely ludicrous. So, the threshold you’re talking about is not even in the same order of magnitude as anything that is actually enough.

But we do care about the donations going where they are needed. So, we’re working to design clear ways to honor the most needed projects. We want policies that all funds be used to really further the projects and not just to make well-off people richer.

Your concrete example

Comics: I’m a reader of the comic “Two Guys and Guy” and they post comics as long as they get $500 on Patreon.

Great, maybe they’re a bad fit for crowdmatching. I hope they have a small group of patrons happy to keep them going. Sure, we’d be happy to see them succeed via Liberapay instead.

But you know, they could potentially join Snowdrift.coop, get enough patrons potentially, and we could offer the tools for the max-cut-off where extras to them go to Inkscape or whatever tools they use, or even the feature where the crowdmatching does go in reverse since they truly have “enough”… but maybe it’s not actually enough, it’s just enough to be stagnant in their non-ideal state…

We want all such comics to be FLO and published with full source materials. That’s extra work. They should also be using exclusively FLO tools. Is that stuff already the case? If not, maybe they need more funding to make those things a reality. We’d also like to see them have a solid website using exclusively FLO software…

Now, maybe that stuff would truly be enough and they’d have no interest in going further and growing into being an animated video series or whatever. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with stopping at a reasonable point. But our reasonable stopping includes all those FLO values I just mentioned.

When we have a future where tons of webcomics are made exclusively with FLO software and published under FLO terms with all source material available… then we’ll have succeeded and will be at the “enough” stage where we grapple with those issues.

I think supporting full time programmers to work on Inkscape is a good fit for precise-threshold.

As I said earlier, pre-thresh is a good system overall, has some benefits over anything out there (it involves inherently ongoing donations, does actually have a mechanism to address the snowdrift dilemma). It could work for these cases, but it’s not better than crowdmatching per se. We are both speculating too much now, but from what I know, even setting an exact budget to hire a full-time developer is itself an artifice in the same way that the threshold is. The salary needed by full-time devs is itself a wide range, especially globally. And why full-time? Why note part time, or some full, some part? What about sending those devs to regular in-person conferences for Inkscape (perhaps specifically funding attendance at Libre Graphics World)… Sure, there’s the tips-over-the-threshold…

Personal feelings

The short of it is: when I pledge in crowdmatching, I feel like I’m announcing to the rest of the world, patrons and potential patrons alike that I’m in and want them to come to. I feel like I’m putting my money where my mouth is and inviting everyone else to join.

In preshold, I don’t feel that way. Aside from wanting to hit the goal, I don’t feel my pledge is an invitation to others that much. And I also don’t feel at all capable of even making a good decision about how much to pledge in that system (not that it’s impossible to develop preshold to have some better guidance there…)

On Patreon

We’ve both been dismissive of Patreon in the past but in many ways I see precise-threshold as “improved Patreon” or “fixed Patreon

I knew from the moment Patreon announced that they’d succeed. They’re doing lots right. I’m mostly critical from the FLO ethical perspective more than the game-theory perspective. They make patronage easy and incentivize it with paywalls for premium stuff — perfectly logical.

Projects vs patrons

appeal to patrons rather than appeal to projects

I don’t see the conflict here. The appeal of being a patron is partly the good warm feeling of donating (being a part of things, a good person etc). Beyond that, what patrons want most is the results they dream of from the projects (and yes, at minimal cost to themselves).

On this and the stuff around it: I relate. I was throwing out the ideas of what became crowdmatching just out into the world hoping someone would just do it, just like you. I didn’t want to make a system. But my friend convinced me to act on it, and I realized nobody else would (just like nobody else made a video for my Brain Parts Song just because I published it under CC-BY-SA, so I had to do it myself, and that’s how it became the most popular video out there among songs that teach neuroanatomy).


#12

When I first found crowdmatching I thought:

“Whiskey tango foxtrot is this? This is something I’d never want to participate in as a patron.”

That was my own reaction.

Then when I started thinking of my own alternatives I also fell into the mistake of mixing up carts & horses here and there. Sometimes thinking of what made sense for the project, sometimes what would make sense for the platform community, and sometimes what would make sense for the patrons.

My first idea, and this is not meant as a currently relevant proposal (preshold remains as my proposal), was something I called “equality-drift”.

This is how it worked: Patrons signed up to donate any monthly amount, of their choice, to the platform. They indicate which projects on the platform were worthy of support. They can stack rank these or leave them unsorted. Then, using these lists that patrons have made of worthy projects, all projects across the entire site are sorted to find a condorcet order. (Some smart mathematician needs to step in to create the algo, I skipped that step when thinking up the proposal.) Then all the donated money, from all the patrons, is lumped in together and distributed such that the top-voted projects all get a living wage and the bottom-voted projects get zilch.

I.e. let’s say there happens to be 100 projects. And the coop (the platform community) has determined a current living wage to be $2000 (or whatever! just an example, I dunno!). And the total amount donated a particular month happens to be $8000 that month. 8000/2000 is four, that means the top four projects get $2000 each and the 96 other projects get $0.

The hat I was wearing when I came up with that system was this sort of… “architect of society” hat, this “how do we distribute resources fairly” hat, this sorta syndicalist FLO idealist hat. And I was pleased as punch, I thought: “this is going to have the least possible waste of money and resources”.

But after thinking about it for a couple of days, I found a big drawback. Where would the money come from? “Equality-drift” has one ingredient that makes it a very unappealing pitch to patrons: you might be supporting your “enemy project” and your “pet project” will get zilch. Especially when things get political, but even small little issues like Qt vs GTK…

So when I set out to design another proposal I had one goal in mind:

Optimize what’s an appealing pitch for patrons

And I re-examined the original snowdrift shoveling metaphor and came up with preshold.

Wolftune, we both think that market capitalism is flawed. But whatever system we come up with needs to (at least initially) interface with it. Interface with people – with patrons – spending their own money that they somehow managed to make in the cruel and random world of market capitalism (and/or in its keynesian aspects i.e. public sector, or even UBI if we get patrons from regions that have implemented UBI).

That’s why in preshold it’s all about easing the mind of the patron.

Afraid of underfunding? You’re covered. Afraid of overfunding? You’re covered. Not afraid? Disable that aspect of refunds so your donations will be more unconditional. But that’s your choice as a patron, not the project’s.

Now to some other issues you bring up:

Personal feelings

Yes, good. The personal, emotional reaction here is the heart of the argument. Very important.

But we’ve got a good thing here: our propositions are concrete & falsifiable, which makes this debate unsually resolvable.

  • You, when getting into the patron role, feel that it makes sense to you to pledge to crowdmatching projects. I feel that it’s very unappealing.
  • I, when getting into the patron role, feel that I’d rather donate to a preshold campaign (I mean I am super broke so that’d have to change first).
  • And the third option is something like LiberaPay or some other “Like Patron but FLO and for public goods” system. And honestly it might be enough. It can be “gamed” like Kickstarter but people are on it anyway. It’s a success.

But you and me are just two people. Two somewhat atypical people.

This debate can be settled by gathering data. Either implementing all three systems and see which takes off, or like questioning a lot of people etc etc.

I can’t tell what sort of crowdfunding parameters & platform will appeal to Jane Q Public as a patron. I can’t even figure out the appeal of Pinterest or Facebook. T_T
People like some pretty weird stuff.

Setting prices

Unlike “equality-drift”, in preshold each project is free to set their own monthly target. Just like on Patreon.

This means:

Feel free to “play the game”. Set a price that’s as high as you can get away with but low enough that you’ll get funded. Change it month to month. Depending on your fanbase, you might need to rationalize it to your patrons, or not. And as smichel17 mentions, adding multiple levels might be a good match for preshold and help solve this.

My recommendation is to think: What resource can I actually spend money on? Hire a programmer part time? Cut one day a week from my own day job? Pay for hosting bills? Pay for a third of the hosting bills? And use that to set the threshold.

To me this is also a big part of the appeal of preshold, as a patron. It’s not a nebulous, vague, “pls give us as much money as you can spare”. It’s a vibe of “OK, they have a plan. They’ve thought through what they’re gonna use the money for.”

People don’t know what they want

Widespread use of fossil fueled personal vehicles have been a disaster for climate change and the rise of smartphones was one of the two big nails in the sails of the formerly downhill battle of the FLO community (the other was the rise of proprietary sub-internets like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube — and both of the nails shared the property of being more able to mix & match FLO with proprietary in a way that made it hard for FLO to use but made it easy for them to benefit from the work of FLO, unlike the Microsoft/IBM/Oracle/RIAA era, which was scared of FLO and who therefore was easily defeatable). Yeah, yeah, that is an aside to an aside. And I have neither a car or a smartphone which is also why my own feelings isn’t the be-all, end-all of whether or not preshold is gonna be a success. That’s something I have to resign: I can’t know.

Anyway, your point is that people might warm up to crowdmatching after a while. And well: who knows?

But I’ve tried to make the case that not only is crowdmatching initially unappealing to me personally, it makes no sense in other ways: it creates an amplified, super-swingy market with all the worst problems of markets, and it doesn’t seem solve the problems it sets out to solve, both game-theory-wise (getting patrons) and resource-distribution-wise. But again that’s only my take. A multitude of voices is the only way to the truth♥


#13

My impressions overall, and to summarize the outcomes of this thread, are:

  1. Preshold and crowdmatching are both good systems, distinct enough that both are worth building.

    • Crowdmatching has the ambitious goal of supporting a FLO-majority ecosystem. This makes it more appealing to morally-aligned people who can imagine that outcome. However, it can be hard to grok if you do not share that vision.

    • Preshold is much closer to existing paradigms. This makes it more intuitive and easier to explain to laypeople, which probably makes it more appealing to that group. However, it probably won’t make ecosystem-scale change.

  2. Preshold is probably a better fit for supporting a few (especially, smaller) FLO projects in a mostly-proprietary ecosystem.

    • That’s the ecosystem we’re currently in.
      If we were starting from scratch, I’d support launching with preshold (and adding crowdmatching later).
@wolftune does not agree

@wolftune feels that while it would be good for preshold to exist for those cases that make sense, the vast majority of FLO projects do not actually fit the all-or-nothing threshold sort of funding needs. Almost all projects benefit from even just some funding and also have lots of use for significant extra funding and so have no actual honest thresholds to specify. He would not think it would have been worth investing in Snowdrift.coop as a Preshold platform for this reason.

  1. We are close enough to launch that I do not think it makes sense to pivot now.

    • Preshold is a good backup to keep in mind if we do not see success in the first ¿year? or so of crowdmatching.

For anyone reading this in the future, if you’d like to give feedback on or improve the preshold system, check out Feedback on the Preshold protocol.


#15

Partial agree. Disagreements first:

Crowdmatching has the ambitious goal of supporting a FLO-majority ecosystem.

My disagreement:
Where will the money come from? (Rhetorical, don’t literally answer, has been discussed to death above) Like, everyone here has the same goal: for FLO public goods to get funded.

However, it can be hard to grok

Right. There are two possibilities here:

I either understand it correctly and see serious problems with it.

or,

I have it backwards and that means it’s hard to grok. Which is in itself a serious a problem. If a game theory nerd can’t grok it after like 30 hours of working on it… :confused:

I believe it’s the former of the two (maybe I have a dash of Dunning-Kruger and just think I’m smart) but hey either of the two is bad.

if you do not share that vision

I do want FLO majority. Just to clear up any misunderstandings in that regard.

Also wrt morals:

I’m just not wired to be like “oh they’ll have to bike an extra mile if I donate so I’ll do that!” or “oh everyone else has to donate an extra tenth-of-a-cent if I join so I’ll do that!”. My morals are more like “Hey. Let me ease your burden a little. Many hands make light work. If I donate, everyone else has to donate less.” Not saying I have the correct morals here. Just that they are stuck inside me pretty deep and not easy to change.

And now to the big agreement:

We are close enough to launch that I do not think it makes sense to pivot now.
Preshold is a good backup to keep in mind if we do not see success in the first ¿year? or so of crowdmatching.

This is good. I appreciate it. Thank you for this.

Also preshold is in itself an open source idea so someone else can take it and implement it before us. And if that happens we can just join them♥


#16

This appears to be misunderstanding. The causality is reversed. The way bike-a-thons work, it’s after they biked, pledgers (supposedly) say “Wow, they cared so much about this cause they biked so far, and I pledged to donate X per mile, so here’s my larger donation.” The idea is that people (pledgers) appreciate the proof of commitment from the other person (the biker) and that social proof that others care matters.

In practice, bike-a-thons and similar that started with this premise were poorly understood by people who didn’t even bother to think about them. So, we see wrongly-done bike-a-thons where the bikers announce in advance exactly how far they will bike, and the pledgers can effectively set a fixed donation. This almost completely undermines the whole concept.

I’m not saying even the initial bike-a-thon concept makes sense. It would be far better for the activity to itself actually help the cause directly and certainly not to be a fun thing someone wants to do anyway. And there’s lots of other problems. But it’s just an example of the ways that people care about social reinforcement.

To clarify again: that’s not in conflict with my morals, there’s nothing wrong with that idea. But it just doesn’t make any sense even in a moral perspective when talking about a situation that isn’t adequate.

Pick a similar metaphor to the snowdrift: say there’s a flood and a few people are desperately trying to pile up sandbags to protect a neighborhood, but they’re going really slowly and it’s not enough. You can’t come up and say, “oh, let me help, then you can relax and do less”. The neighborhood is about to be ruined, and the few people working are struggling and burning out and losing hope. You need to come along and say, “we can do this! I’m going to help and work hard, and if you all keep going, push your hardest and don’t give up, we’ll save the day!” You can’t even think about saying, “you can relax some” until enough people show up that we’re confident the neighborhood really will be safe. Then, seeing everything going well, you can and should certainly say, “hey, you’ve been working hard, take a break, I’ve got the last few bags, thanks for all you did.”

We’re not in things-are-okay-spread-the-workload. We’re in “long emergency”, slow-scale-crisis facing down a world where a few consolidated, wealthy interests control massive AI-backed infrastructure with bread-and-circuses spectacles to keep the people from rising up with dystopian predictions looking ever more prescient. We need to get everyone we can on board and push each other to do the most just to have a shot at retaining the semblance of a free society. That may seem exaggerated, but I’m trying to clarify the perspective.

The short of it is: you don’t have different morals here, we have the same values. We want to lighten the load for everyone. But to have that be at all possible, we have to get the load to be carried in the first place.

One last attempt to clarify: I go around my neighborhood pulling invasive weeds. I do not feel better about the idea of pulling less weeds because one or two more people start helping. I want the invasive weeds eliminated / kept fully controlled. I want as many others as it will take to get there. And yes, I want enough people helping that I can do less. But to do less before we have the weeds actually under control would feel worse than doing more weeding alongside other new volunteers.

Also, I don’t want to just refuse to pick invasive weeds as I walk by until some arbitrary threshold of commitment from neighbors. Rather, the more others who help, the less hopeless it seems and the more motivated I’ll feel to work even harder myself. And I want to tell all the others who could do more that I’ll be extra motivated they more they’ll help. And that extra motivation doesn’t suddenly kick in at some arbitrary threshold. Every extra bit from others is encouraging to me.

But of course if we actually have all the invasives under control fully, my ideal is that everyone is doing their part, so I don’t have to barely do anything beyond the minimum as part of everyone chipping in. It’s just that this dream only happens when we actually have the situation under control, and we’re nowhere near that now.

My point is that this is all about the scenario, and that we share morals and should agree about what should happen in each scenario.


#17

I didn’t mean it quite in this way. I meant it more like, “if that’s a world you can envision”. I probably should have said “see that vision” instead of share.

Like, there’s plenty of people who think FLO is great but just can’t imagine FLO ever overtaking proprietary software, because proprietary dominance just seems a fact of life.

Also, the “you” was general, not @sandra.snan specifically.


#18

I don’t see a button for auto-including quoted text any more.

The first two of these were wolftunes:

you don’t have different morals here, we have the same values

I mean maybe I misunderstood what smichel17 meant with “morally-aligned”.

But to have that be at all possible, we have to get the load to be carried in the first place. […] I want the invasive weeds eliminated / kept fully controlled

And in preshold the load starts to lighten once the load is fully carried, the flood is fully cleaned up, the community yardwork is fully done. Not before. There’s no need to argue against a strawdoll of preshold.

And this next one was smichel17’s:

just can’t imagine FLO ever overtaking proprietary software

Oh, it’ll have to do that. It’s an uphill battle but humanity needs to take that step. Proprietary is so inefficient, such a waste.

My point is rather that both crowdmatching and preshold depend on money coming in — money coming in from other markets, “normal society”, the scarcity-haunted world. From people with jobs such as sweeper, cook, lawyer, teacher etc etc with paychecks coming in from private or public sector employers. And from corporate donors, a company that needs a certain FLO good to be funded so they contribute.

That restriction applies to both crowdmatching and preshold. Now and in the future. Crowdmatching depends on it just as much as preshold does. In the future maybe labor and resources are distributed very differently from today, and more efficiently, but then crowdmatching would neither work nor be necessary.

Of the many systems discussed (crowdmatching, preshold, my normal threshold a la kickstarter, normal subscription a la patreon, or some sorta calculating tip jar a la flattr, my self-rejected idea “equality-drift”), some of them will be better at appealing to patrons than others and thus better at working with that restriction. We don’t know for sure which one in practice ends up addressing actual human behavior the best. For game theory reasons I designed preshold in a way that I personally found more appealing if I were a patron – and appealing to patrons was the one biggest design goal of preshold , but I’m a weirdo so what I like might not be what others like.

Only testing will tell. And so many other random factors. As you’ve said: who knows what method catches on, goes viral, starts to work, people start to grok it? Maybe in the future, you’ll be proven right and everyone is crowdmatching while I am crow-eating. And maybe in the future preshold is what catches on, or just monthly-threshold with a bigger FLO mindset with fewer paywalls / more symbolic or orthogonal subscriber perks (or no subscriber perks). I believe preshold is the best but I don’t know that.

However. I can’t get behind this argument that “crowdmatching will work if more people are in the FLO mindset, in the ‘they can see how much good their money does because FLO rocks’ mindset, in the more generous, giving mindset, in the I’ll do more if you do more mindset”, because…

I am already in a pro-FLO mindset. I think investing in FLO is good value for money. And I’m in favor of distributing resources and labor in ways not common in traditional capitalist markets. (At my core I believe market capitalism has severe and dangerous flaws and inefficencies and is ill adapted to dealing with externalities (impact on environment and climat change) and to the digital realm.)

So this argument also seems to be based on a strawdoll view of preshold. I can’t get behind that a given person’s buy-in to the vision of a FLO world, or lack their of, is the biggest factor in whether crowdmatching, preshold, both, or neither appeals to that particular person. It’s another one of those things that both systems try to leverage.

The difference is that I’m not in the “I’ll do more if you do more”-mindset. That doesn’t match my reaction to chicken or snowdrift situations. My reaction is instead that I’ll do my best if you do your best. I’ll do enough if you do enough. And if our combined efforts still isn’t enough, we can just call it a day early without having to get our shovels wet so we can turn our attention to some problem that we can fix to improve this neighborhood.:heart:

Hmm, interesting that in crowdmatching everyone pays the same. Whereas I’m more in a “from each according to her ability” space right now. That is a non-strawdoll factor that might make crowdmatching appeal more to some. That it will seem more fair to them.


#19

(Ah, you highlight text.)

Yep! Just so we’re clear!


#20

Thanks for continuing the discussion. Though it may seems we basically covered everything, I think it’s good that we’re drilling down to where there’s remaining misunderstanding or differing opinions.

Absolutely, and that’s been clear to me. But it’s what happens before the fully-carried that I care about, basically crowdmatching is only about what happens before we reach that point.

Let’s go with my invasive-plants example (English ivy is killing trees and ruining natural areas here in Oregon, to be specific). In many respects, controlling the invasive plants is a fine, real example of public good. Everyone can benefit non-rivalrously from the benefits of controlling/eliminating the ivy, and there’s no way to exclude anyone from those benefits. In that sense, overall environmental protection is a public good, and we’d consider funding such things with Snowdrift.coop (although, like most things at Snowdrift.coop, one can argue that we really should just have a tax).

How could I use preshold or similar? I’d have to pick some arbitrary small goal like “clear out the ivy from the neighborhood park”. That’s functional enough if I can find a clear delineation for the threshold. But even at just the neighborhood park level, I’d rather we get the park half-cleared than make no progress.

In reality, a small number of volunteers work to keep the park half-cleared as is. I’m one of those volunteers. Do I want to pull less ivy if someone else comes along to help? No, I want the park fully cleared and am motivated to do more if others will come along and make fully-cleared become possible.

Perhaps preshold treats our half-cleared work as a given and then puts a threshold on getting fully-cleared? Truly, this could work. But if I participated in promoting a clean-up day (which could be a monthly recurring thing) with the idea that we’d get a threshold of commitment for the day to go forward and then we failed to reach that threshold, not only would I have wasted the promotional effort, I and everyone else will feel further discouraged. We might even burn out and stop keeping the park half-clear!

And let’s say we succeeded with a preshold system in getting the park clear. Yay! I’m not saying threshold is necessarily bad. But I’d much rather, if possible, to get everyone to feel extra encouraged and move on to clearing all the ivy in the woods behind the park than have people reduce their efforts and think we’re done.

Overall, thresholds have this sort of complex problematic effect when we’re talking about massive issues that still have benefits if they are partially addressed. Either the threshold is arbitrarily low and so doesn’t even take aim at the larger scope or it aims high but risks failure.

Given my ivy example, the impact of reaching 90% control would be absolutely wonderful, and reaching 100% is probably truly impossible. I am not going to work at discouraging people who organize threshold campaigns to clear ivy, and I may even participate. Anything positive is good. But I really want people to learn about the problem, commit to being part of the solution, and invite others to join us — and crowdmatching is just a more explicit version of stating an undeniable fact: I will feel more encouraged and work harder the more others come help.

Snowdrift.coop itself is a perfect example. In reality, us volunteers get frustrated, burn out, etc. especially when progress slows. Each time a new contributor shows up to help us get launched, the rest of the volunteers almost always feel encouraged and start contributing more not less. And if we actually get launched, we all know the workload is going to increase not decrease, and yet that’s the state we’re all hoping for.

And the points that @smichel17 was making about FLO-values is more that people experiencing the benefits and progress will feel more motivated to keep going, in the same way that I reference above. Not that everyone just cares about the values, but that through actual progress, they experience FLO and it’s a positive feedback-loop.

Clarification: again we agree completely, I have written nearly the same words myself in other contexts.

The original formula for crowdmatching did not have everyone the same. I designed it to specifically have crowdmatching effect and the communist (lowercase ‘c’) from-each-by-ability effect. Unfortunately, it just proved to hard in practice to communicate etc.

The everyone-pays-the-same is the launch-something-for-now idea, not the goal or value in itself. It does have some equalizing benefits (a project relying on a few larger donors can greatly bias the project), but as soon as we have a working launched system, we’ll be looking into (with feedback from the community etc) how to provide more options that let people contribute relative to their means. And our low starting point already is related because we care about maximizing participation, including those of lower means.


#21

Yeah, the proposals have been hammered out, and I’ve found some support for preshold and some understanding for it so I’m pretty happy with this conversation. Thanks to all involved.

Still some misunderstandings:

Again, with preshold you don’t pull less ivy as people join unless it’s fully clear. Then and only then, you start pulling less ivy.

I hope this isn’t to imply that I am confused or an invitation to rewander down points that have already been walked upthread. I’ve talking about “enough” to reach some clearly defined subgoal. That happens daily on Patreon, mostly for proprietary projects but also for some FLO projects.