Problems with crowdmatching + proposing an alternative

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 (although, like most things at, 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. 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.

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.

Just to go super-concrete with the ivy example.

Here are two ways preshold can help it.

  1. Our goal is to keep the park clear! That’s where we’ve set our goal, but every bit help so please check the “no underfund”-tipping box! [er, again, preshold’s terminology need’s some marketing polish]


  1. Help us hire two full time ivy pullers! That’s where we set our goal right now! If we don’t reach it, you get your money back so relax & pledge!

We seem to still be talking past each other just a bit. What you say here I already understood. The single point I’m trying to make is that (go with my concrete example), having the ivy fully clear (not just from an arbitrarily small area like the playground but actually controlled as an invasive species in this region) is such an ambitious goal that using any threshold model at that scale is truly hopeless, which relates to this point from you:

Right, and I’m acknowledging that preshold is at least functional for that sort of thing. But I’m trying to explain that I see all sorts of problems that come from the nature of creating clearly-defined-subgoals as thresholds.

In other words, if we take a clearly defined subgoal threshold as a given, I have less complaints about preshold. It’s still not perfect, but there’s no perfect solution.

Again, go with my concrete ivy example: we aren’t able to define a threshold that isn’t useful to half-achieve or that isn’t useful to push beyond. Clear the park? A half-cleared park is still good, and clearing the woods surrounding the park is good too.

I have no real complaints about preshold within threshold models. In many ways it’s superior to the one-off-kickstarter approach. Basically all my complaints are about problems with setting an arbitrary threshold. I could go on about why I dislike them. So, for those cases where the threshold isn’t arbitrary but truly is a complete goal and when that is useless if half-done then I fully support preshold. And beyond that, I acknowledge that even though I object to arbitrary sub-goal thresholds, I admit that they can be useful both in planning and in gaining the positive effects of thresholds and feel happy when they do work.

Going back to my ivy example, it’s clearly possible to define these subgoals, for preshold to work, and what I really care about is clearing the ivy, so I do not want to reject this suggestion. But there’s real work in planning and organizing such a threshold-based sub-goal, and it would really stink to do all that work and then fail to reach the threshold.

Yeah, but I don’t want to even start this campaign if it means all my efforts are wasted and marked a “failure” when we don’t reach that goal. It would still be useful to hire one full-time ivy puller or one or two part-time pullers. Again, the threshold ranges from too low to have the mutual-assurance effect to high and risking failure, and going either direction trades off these two negatives, they don’t go away. Mutual assurance and risk are tied together with thresholds, more of both or less of both.

I’ll add one last point: if everyone else involved in decided “preshold has its place, let’s plan to offer that too so projects can decide whether crowdmatching or preshold is the best fit for them” I would support that! What we really care about is our FLO public goods mission, of course.

You can read the rest of my points as aiming to communicate to you why crowdmatching is good and fits some (perhaps most) cases. I mean, you can prefer preshold and have reasons for that, but I want you to understand why crowdmatching fits the morals you have. You mention this idea of lightening-the-burden as more people join etc. and you should acknowledge that because crowdmatching is specifically for before everything is done, it’s not in conflict with your views. I’m not trying to bash preshold, I’m trying to help you understand and better respect crowdmatching.

In which case all of many your points related to “Do I want to pull less ivy if someone else comes along to help?” are very misleading.

Yes. This is good project management. Set goals and do them.

That’s why I gave you two suggestions; you chose the one you didn’t want instead of the one that would fit you better:

If you go that route people can donate and you can discretionarily spend those donations.

But if I were in charge of the park project I would choose:

Then choose one useful thing and then set the threshold there.

Or, set the goal at one full-time ivy puller but encourage patrons to voluntarily choose both tipping boxes – “no underfund” you can still hire someone part time, “no overfund” you can hire more people.

See, this is the misunderstanding we need to hammer out.

The burden-per-person isn’t lightened before there is enough.

This is a really core part of preshold.

I don’t presuppose that there will be enough. I just have a mechanism for what happens if there is enough, and have made that mechanism a carrot to encourage people trying to get to enough. Instead of stretch goals – a lightened burden. Money that can be spent on other projects, or on a more ambitious version of the current project.

Before there is enough, everyone contributes as much as they can or wish. Their contribution is not contingent on the amount of people next to them. Someone (an organization perhaps) can put in $100 and another (an individual perhaps) only $1 without worrying that other contributions are going to raise or lower their own.

Going back to the original snowdrift game theory dilemma:

There are two reasons people hesitate to join in to shovel to the best of their own ability:

  1. They are afraid of being the only one [or among the only few ones] doing all the work
  2. They are hopeful that they can get away without doing any work.

What’s typical for situations where these Two Hesitation Reasons apply?

They are finite. They have finite goals. Road cleared from snow and traversable.

There is no “doing all the work” in an infinite project because there is no all the work, there is only as much work as you possibly can do.

There is no “getting away” in an infinite project because it never ends, there is no “away”.

When faced with an infinite project, you either think “OK, this can ever be done fully but I can still make it a little bit better” or “OK, this is hopeless, fuck this, I’ll just go around.”

This means that for an infinite project, probably the best solution is just your plain old tipping jar. People give what they can give. In other words, my proposal “1” for the ivy campaign.

But different facets of problems can be framed as infinite or finite projects.

Like this filthy house that I live in (hundreds of people) is never getting clean. People just keep re-dirtying it. But sweeping the stairs once, that I can tackle. And I held off on it for a while hoping that someone else would do it, and finally I did it.

Keeping the house clean – infinite project
Sweeping the stairs once – finite project

This means for an infinite project, you can identify finite subgoals, and then work to overcome the Two Hesitation Reasons for that subgoal, via preshold. Both the underfunding-refund and the overfunding-refund help with both hesitation reasons in different ways.

I have a hard time with crowdmatching because it doesn’t address the Two Hesitation Reasons that are core to the entire game theory metaphor of the snowdrift dilemma. Instead, it adds more hesitation reasons: pledging to crowdmatching is scary both because you might end up giving too much and that you might end up giving too little.

And I think that’s why you keep going back to phrasing problems as infinite projects, so that they don’t even have anything to do with the snowdrift dilemma in the first place.

I’m happy that our conversation so far has been driven by mutual curiosity and charity.

But, to others, who know Wolftune better than I do, and who understand preshold: a little help here?
We have a hard time getting through to each other right now.

That would be a very satisfactory solution for me. Good idea.

With the caveat that I think part of what makes many people hesitate when it comes to indiegogo is that projects can decide if it’s threshold or “flexible funding” (i.e. just tipping jar disguised to look like threshold).

Adding in both the preshold and the crowdfunding options, or more if we want to add in other more well-known (and, on this site, criticized for good reason) systems like

  • plain threshold
  • plain tipping jar
  • subscription tied to delivery of FLO goal (as per Patreon when they draw $2 everytime they upload a comic)

might need some care in design to make sure people know what type of project it is. Like perhaps one solution – and to be clear, I’m not insisting on this at all, it’s just an idea that came to me right now – is to set up different sites, different CSS (color, design), different brand names etc to make it really clear that this is, this is etc, all ran under the same umbrella.

I dunno!

(And again the terms in preshold are made for game theory wonks. Need to be rebranded♥)

I did not before this see a reference to preshold offering a “take my money whether we hit the goal or not” option. That certainly offers more flexibility and gives patrons more control.

But as to setting the goal, there are still problems with the nature of setting arbitrary sub-goals, and crowdmatching is in part about being more flexible instead of these hard thresholds.

This is still misunderstanding. The issue is that you aren’t here only promoting the benefits of preshold, you’ve stated problems with crowdmatching. But those problems seem to be based in misunderstanding.

You were objecting to crowdmatching because of the idea of doing more as more people join goes against what seemed intuitive to you. And I’m emphasizing that this do-more aspect of crowdmatching only applies when you haven’t reached the goal. The quote above wasn’t about preshold but about your critique of crowdmatching.

  1. Also, they are worried about what to focus on given their own limited resources (i.e. the problems with fragmentation and lots of failing projects instead of a few successful ones).

Both crowdmatching and preshold work against fragmentation by discouraging people from putting in all they can without coordination from others. Both approaches help coordinate the resources to have a critical mass of support for some projects so that at least some succeed.

This does seem closer to the core distinction here. I agree that I’m focusing on infinite projects when it comes to crowdmatching, but I disagree with much of your characterizations.

An infinite project may never be completely done, checked off, but it still has real results and can do more or less. There’s just as much of a freerider dilemma with infinite projects because freeriders get 100% of whatever results are available from infinite public goods projects. Yes, unilateral contributors also get some value back from their donations, since they give the project more resources, but their return on that investment is less than the infinite return of a freerider and also less than the return they’d get if their donations are matched or if they are part of a mutual-assurance threshold situation.

Finally, infinite or not, cost estimates are often just guesses. Projects in general go notoriously over-budget, but if you start out by asking for a huge buffer to cover that possibility, it looks bad, wasteful, and is more likely to not get supported. Better to work transparently, state goals for budgets etc. but not have some hard threshold. Patrons can decide month-by-month if a project is being effective or not with the funding they have and whether they deserve continued or additional funding.

A plain tipping jar is very ineffective at converting more freeriders into patrons. Matched donations make a real difference, as shown by a long history of matching pledges in one-off campaigns and in things like employer-matched donations to charities. The plain tipping jar without mutual assurance has been clearly shown to be typically pathetic.

Crowdmatching really does addresses point 1: you won’t be the only or among the few doing “all you can”. You will either be among the few doing little more than minor tipping that costs you very little or you will be part of a larger group doing more.

Neither crowdmatching nor preshold fully address point 2. As long as something is public goods, freeriding is possible. In crowdmatching, people could just not pledge and take whatever results others achieve (little or a lot). In preshold, people could not just not pledge and hope that others hit the threshold without them or reasonably conclude that if the preshold goal fails without them, it was likely to fail regardless (their one minor pledge wouldn’t have made the difference).

That latter point is the same as not voting in an election. Your one vote is almost guaranteed to have no impact on the outcome.

So, accepting that fully addressing freeriding is impossible with public goods:

Crowdmatching offers hesitant patrons the opportunity to get matched and a better ROI… since there isn’t a hard threshold, their matched input really will mean some extra resources for the project and thus really mean more return, and it’s the infinite nature of the project that makes this work. They can’t say, “it’ll just get there without me” because with them it will get further, regardless of how far it would get without them.

Preshold offers hesitant patrons some mutual assurance and threatens them with the idea of getting nothing at all when the project fails, so there’s at least some increase in the chance of getting a result by participating, even though that’s weighed against the chance of success while still freeriding.

I think you may be missing the holistic aspects of the platform we’re building around crowdmatching.

There’s NO risk of giving too much because we can and will adapt the platform by the time any project is even in sight of the idea of “too much”. We won’t even accept for crowdmatching projects that actually only need a modest amount and no more — they aren’t even our focus. They do exist, and preshold is a good model for them. But unless/until we add preshold, we won’t* allow such minor, finite projects. We won’t even give patrons the opportunity to be scared about giving too much.

Besides everything else, if a project doesn’t seem to deserve all its getting, patrons can and should drop their pledge. That accountability is part of why sustaining patronage is superior to one-off campaigns.

Giving too little? Besides the fact that you can still donate outside of, this concern is more real. The point is that we’re emphasizing that the way to give more is to recruit more patrons. But this is the biggest tension point for crowdmatching and while it involves some risk, it doesn’t come with the threshold risk of being marked a “failure” because an arbitrary sub-goal threshold wasn’t reached. Crowdmatching is thus a lot safer for projects who have that reasonable fear of running threshold campaigns.

To some extent, we’re asking skeptics like you to let the system get launched, consider participating, give it real world experience and see if the giving-too-little really can’t be addressed by just giving the right set of options to projects and patrons to find the balance that works. Our current pledge options are just a place to start.

Besides options like differing pledge levels or projects setting different base pledge amounts, we can offer projects a sort of threshold where crowdmatching doesn’t kick in until it’s a certain level. There’s a lot of room for adaptation of crowdmatching without losing the core concept. But maybe it won’t even be needed because the basic concept will work fine once we promote it and bring on some projects, which is our immediate focus (aside from necessary steps for a working platform, governance etc).

This is well-put enough but too strong. Tweak the snowdrift dilemma from the one-off to iterative. Then accept it as fuzzy. It’s not all-clear or nothing, it ranges from partly-cleared enough to struggle through to mostly-cleared-for-now etc. and can be stretched to think about the idea of generally maintaining a usable road etc. The core ideas of the dilemma remain throughout stretching the game that way. And all those stretches move the game closer to reality with its real-world infinities and fuzziness.

To say “don’t have anything to do” is simply not right. It’s very much to do with the dilemma, just not in a strict, original simple game form.

I’ll reiterate the general welcome for perspectives from anyone else as obsessive as we are (not because I want that quality but because I assume only such people will read through this massive topic! :wink: )

Thanks @sandra.snan for the in-depth and thoughtful exchange

But my critique wasn’t about non-lightening of the burden, it was about making it heavier.

Great point!

Matching employers isn’t the same as matching each other. It’s kind of the opposite? We want to stick it to the man not to each other!

I usually pledge on traditional treshold (Kickstarter for example) when I see a public good I really want being near its deadline. And if it’s over I can freeride and if it’s not funded I pledge. That’s actually where the idea for preshold started, that if there was an overfunding refund I could pledge earlier and not worry about whether or not the project was close to reaching its goal.

No, it comforts them with the idea of being refunded (well, not charged) if the project fails and also comforts them them with being refunded partially if it overfunds. It’s a super comfy cozy system♥

But those stretches still don’t lead me to crowdmatching… :confused:

I hope this continued discussion is useful. I do find it interesting and think we (and hopefully other readers [please anyone else feel free to chime in]) get an increased understanding through this. I’ve done what I can to edit well.

There’s so much to hash out still, but the point is: heavier than very-little is not heavy and not a problem. If I go from giving 1¢ to an underfunded project to giving 50¢ as part of a huge increase in patrons, I’m not thinking “hey, my burden got heavier!”. My burden is still super light, and I’m thrilled about the crowd growing.

The core issue goes back to finite goals versus infinite. Burdens are proportional. Crowdmatching does decreases your relative burden as people join.

  • One month I’m giving $2 as part of 2,000 patrons putting in $4k total
  • One more patron joins, the project gets ~$4 extra funding, and my burden is reduced from being one 2,000th of the funding to being one 2,001st of the funding.
  • If the project reaches 5,000 patrons, my $5 means I get the full results of a project funded at $25k/mo while only having to chip in one 5,000th of the total (far less burden than before).

For my $3 extra, I get a massively more successful project. This is not a heavy (or heavier) burden.

Consider the chart @david first thought of early on:


In crowdmatching, every tiny extra I put in is matched many, many times over. Every increase in project funding requires less burden from me than the one before.

The only time crowdmatching means a growing burden is when a project is fully-funded so funding growth doesn’t return more results. So we won’t continue crowdmatching at that point.

As a very blunt metaphor: Say I was paying $1 per pound for a box of pasta and then the store switches to the only option being $1.10 for a 2-pound box. It’s unreasonable to complain that the price went up. The price of pasta there is dramatically reduced. I get far more for my money. And that’s what happens with crowdmatching.

Okay, fair enough, it’s not a perfect analogy. But matching donations are effective even if it’s a charity doing the matching. If you care about the thing you are donating to more than you care about the match-offerers keeping their money for something else, then matching is highly motivating. You get to move more funds to the cause you like without bearing the whole cost (again, it’s your portion of the burden that matters, unless you are truly at your absolute capacity and any extra would be a dramatic sacrifice for you).

Yeah, it says “I know it stinks that this project you wanted failed and gets a big ‘failure’ mark, and all their effort promoting the campaign was for nought, but you can be comforted by knowing you aren’t out any money.”

It’s the comfort you get when something bad happens. It’s far far better than actually losing significant money to a failed project, but the patron wanted to give money to a successful project.

Consider, the point about it being common enough for people to game campaigns via a confederate putting it over the threshold. That’s not about just saying “threshold campaigns can be gamed”, the point is to emphasize how arbitrary (fake even) many thresholds are. If a project really could not go ahead with anything less, then such gaming wouldn’t happen. Every case of such gaming is a case of people deciding that it is worth going ahead with less than the threshold goal. And those cases I know of did deliver something in the end.

So, the point is that it’s potentially common for a project to be worth going ahead with less than the optimal goal.

Consider my ivy-in-the-park example again. So (despite my insistence that ivy-clearing is effectively infinite, more is better than less), we set this sub-goal threshold of clearing the ivy in the playground area. But when we show up, there’s not quite enough people to do even that much. Well, it’s discouraging and negative to just say “damnit” and go home. It may be better for the handful of people who showed up to do something and half-clear the playground before going home (along with discussing how to organize better in the future to continue the work later). They might work less than if enough people showed to fully do everything, but it feels good to make some progress. It feels bad to show up and admit failure and accomplish nothing. I don’t go home feel comforted about not having to pull any ivy.

Yes, there are cases where accepting failure is better and allows reconsideration and freeing resources to other projects. But that acceptance should come from the people using good human judgment, not from the failure to reach a relatively-arbitrary threshold goal.

Crowdmatching still allows people to realize when they aren’t getting much support and should give up, but it doesn’t have a rigid all-or-nothing setting that makes this determination for them. And if they really have a non-arbitrary minimum need, we can certainly not turn on donations until that threshold is met, and we can do that while crowdmatching also.

1 Appreciation

Finite and infinite goals

I also want to add (or maybe I said this before) that the reason that the orig snowdrift dilemma was formulated was because with finite goals, there is freeriding. There is absolute failure (road still blocked), and absolute success (road clear). In an endless onslaught of ivy-snow, there is no freeriding and thus no problem with funding FLO public goods.

If our shared dream of FLO public goods outperforming Photoshop and Facebook is an infinite goal, that’s saying it’s an unachievable goal. Achievable = finite.

And regardless of whether or not a goal is ultimately finite or infinite, the way towards it is expressable as finite steps.

Absolute and relative burdens

I would. My [absolute] burden literally increased by 49¢. If I am ok with pledging 50¢, then I’m ok with pledging 50¢ right away.

Every donation system of all time, from tipping jar to Kickstarter to Patreon to, yes, crowdmatching too, decreases your relative burden as more people join.

Let’s say you tip 1¢ and then three other people come by and also put in 1¢ each. Your relative burden went from 100% to 25%.

Let’s say you tip 1¢ and then three other people come by and put in 4¢ each and tell you “now you also have to put in 3¢ more”. Your relative burden went from 100% to 25%. The same.

And that still only works as long as your donations are locked to match exactly. I’m a game theorist, not a charity-researcher, but many donation systems I’ve seen encourage people to put in extra or various amounts. It’s the classic economist thing where offering a range of coffees at various prices (and various profit margins) tend to increase the overall average profit margin. Someone who wouldn’t be able to afford the super fancy coffee might buy a cup of plain freshly ground. And someone who have money to spend and feel like they want to treat them selves might buy the fancy variety (I don’t drink coffee so I don’t know a lot but maybe some sorta… hm… latte macchiato?). Or, from the left pov, it’s “from everyone according to their means” instead of “everyone pays the same”.

Also, crowdmatching is worse at decreasing your relative burden than any other system.

Let’s say you tip 1¢ and then three other people come by and put in 4¢ each and don’t tell you “now you also have to put in 3¢ more”. You can stick with your 1¢ because this is a normal tipping jar that works as normal tipping jars have always worked. Your relative burden went from 100% to less than 8%. A much bigger decrease than with crowdmatching.

This goes back to some of my original points at the start of this thread. Markets have problems but crowdmatching can amplify those problems. It’s a swingier, riskier, less intuitive, wilder, weirder system.

Decreasing your absolute burden

Uniquely, preshold also decreases your absolute burden once you overfund.

That makes it a better fit for the snowdrift metaphor. In real snow, you don’t go out and shovel one shovelful alone, but two shovelfuls if your neighbor also does so. In real snow, you clear a percentage of the snowdrift and that percentage decreases as your neighbor joins in. In real snow the relative and the absolute burden is isomorphic. (Because it’s a finite goal.)

Clarity, human judgment, and arbitration

Right, clarity & straight-forward information about where your effort is going.

Yeah, that was really interesting and what caused me to be interested in your work originally. I had that part particularly in mind when I was coming up with preshold.

Preshold realizes that the thresholds can be arbitrary and fake but also realize the value in having a protocol for setting/negotiating an explicit treshold.

The protocol is the system itself. If the tresholds keep underfunding then they are too high and have to lower their ambitions.
If the tresholds keep overfunding then the project is popular and can raise their ambitions.

Pledging to a pre-set, fixed treshold is valuable even when – especially when? – the underlying treshold is partially arbitrary. Because it gives clarity, focus and purpose to the campaign.

Ivy example: “Gee, ok, only one other person showed up. OK, let’s set a goal to just do this part of the park. Does that sound OK to you?”

That’s the equivalent of an underfunded preshold campaign trying again next month with a lower goal, leaner team.

Yes, I really value this clarity and peace of mind.

We have systems in order to help groups decide on things, together. Having the public reject a threshold as too high (by underfunding it) or too low (by overfunding it) is them exercising their collective judgment, instead of a vague nefarious supposedly beneficial project leader.

Please don’t take the following paraphrase of what you wrote as too snarky:
“The amount of money that patrons donate to a project should come from the people using good human judgment, not from being set by a arbitrary matching system.”

Adding under- and overfunding tresholds to crowdmatching


While I can read this as you saying that crowdmatching can be improved by adding thresholds, both traditional floor thresholds a la kickstarter, and also preshold’s innovation of adding a ceiling threshold, think of it the other way around. Is preshold really improved by bolting crowdmatching to it?

A unicycle goes faster from New York to Ontario if tossed in the trunk of a car, but a car is only slowed down and weighed down by having a unicycle in its trunk. (Not that unicycles aren’t great to use once you’re in Ontario, I love unicycles and I hate cars, this analogy is only about the trip itself.) Again I’m not trying to be snarky, I don’t like snark. I want to express myself clearly and these metaphors is the best way I can come up with right now.

I need to add that I’d never have come up with the idea of preshold if it hadn’t been for the work and thoughts expressed here on this wiki.

2 Appreciations

I don’t know how you get to that assertion. The Snowdrift dilemma is simplest in a finite fashion, but freeriding is totally independent of that. Freeriding can and does happen with infinite scenarios.

While it definitely makes sense to break infinite general concepts like “developing Inkscape” into concrete, finite goals, it doesn’t eliminate the infinite aspect. And to be clear, I’m not focused on infinite, I’m focused on fuzzy. The problem is that few goals actually deserve to be all-or-nothing thresholds.

I’m not opposed to expressing finite steps, I’m emphasizing the importance of leaving lots of fuzzy room. I want projects at to express clear, finite goals. I just think they need to be estimates about needed dollar amounts, not hard thresholds. In most cases, they should be working as best as they can with whatever they’ve got and continually updating their estimates and goals as they go.

Patrons should be pledging with understanding of the finite goals they are supporting but with the understanding that the project budgets are estimates and the goals can be achieved better or worse, not all or nothing.

You mean in the context of mutual assurance right? Because 50¢ on your own is just wasted, and if you do that for 100 projects, you’re out $50 with nothing in the world any different. Which is to say that preshold is a real improvement over unilateral donations. The problem with it is the hard threshold, or rather the benefit of crowdmatching is the flexibility.

Let me put it another way: I think anyone who has more than 50¢ to their name is simply deluding themselves if they think 50¢ (and not 51¢) is the precise amount they are okay with. There’s tons of psychology understood around this, like all the awful things crafty marketers do to get people to spend more money (anchoring to fake higher prices to make sales look good, showing expensive items next to the one actually expected to sell, using social pressure, and on and on).

The idea that patrons themselves have a hard threshold of the amount they are okay donating is also wrong. Their view of how much to donate is as vague and fuzzy as the estimates from projects about what they need to accomplish goals. I don’t know precisely how much I can or should donate.

…except the one where you are the one big donor agreeing to match all the other donors, as in a traditional public-radio campaign scenario.

I happen to share this value with you, and we’ve covered above how there’s a desire to work this into crowdmatching more. I’ll furthermore admit that preshold obviously enables this more simply than crowdmatching.

…unless the other systems do a poorer job at reducing freeriding. Crowdmatching is indeed worse if you assume the same number of donors. The whole point of crowdmatching reducing your burden is about the hypothesis that it will do a superior job at getting greater numbers of patrons, and that is when it would reduce your burden better than other systems.

I understand your hypothesis, but it’s not a logical given. Markets as we know them are not that intuitive to people totally unfamiliar with them from other cultures. I don’t think crowdmatching is necessarily any of these things you suppose.

At the cost that the project ends up with less extra and because you aren’t the only one getting refunded, others are reducing their input too. I think this makes total sense for those cases where the threshold really is all that’s needed and not so fuzzy.

Okay, I think we’ve finally gotten over talking past one another. Everything you write from there on makes sense to me.

In the end, I’m convinced that preshold is superior to about all the current options for funding FLO. I’m not opposed to it per se. I’ve been writing largely to emphasize that I think you’ve been unfair in your assertions about crowdmatching. They are both workable systems with their differing pros and cons.

I’m open to the possibility that real-world evidence will prove preshold to be superior, and even to showing that crowdmatching won’t work as we hope. But my view today is that both systems have merits and that there are good reasons why some people embrace crowdmatching in particular (how many? yet to be seen, I suspect large number once it’s a real thing people can experience and appreciate).

Strictly public goods focused?

I don’t know if this is a sub-conscious aspect to my overall judgment, but I argue that crowdmatching makes little sense for club goods or private goods. Unfortunately for preshold, it’s much harder to make that argument. People who want to produce totally restricted, exclusive, proprietary club goods could very well use preshold and make participation be the fee for access. While it’s not impossible to use crowdmatching this way, it would be weirder for sure. I dunno, I guess that’s a weirder bigger topic. Suffice to say, I wish that no funding were ever available to such club goods, as they are an abomination aside from being themselves a solution to freeriding…

I think we have very different philosophical perspectives on the relationship between patron and project, and between patron and patron.

My perspective:
I don’t feel obligated to provide meaningful support to the project, the project is obligated to provide meaningful value to me. In fact, I expect to get more value out of supporting projects then I invest into them. Traditionally, this would only be possible through traditionally copy protected software development. With distributed international funding, FLO, and near-zero distribution costs, it’s economically more viable, and more convenient to fund FLO projects then it is to prop up copy protected items.

But there is the risk of assuming too much burden. This is a problem with between patron and patron. I’m acting in my self-interest by minimizing the amount of money I support a project with, and I’m assuming that every other patron is acting the same way. That’s why you have crowd-matching in my opinion, to minimize risk, while organizing capital and accumulating patrons. It’s lowering risk for first adopters and forcing late adopters to accept more risk. I love it.

If you have up to $10 in your monthly budget for supporting projects you like, but only $2 actually gets distributed, I don’t view the leftover $8 as a waste, because you have could have given more, and you ended up giving too little to make a difference. Instead, I view the $8 as money saved, that would have instead been wasted supporting a project that doesn’t have enough support.

Currently I’m supporting, and with the current funding structure, it means I could be supporting it with up to $10 a month. I’ve budgeted for that, and if ever gets to that, that’s not a problem because that’s how much I’m willing to contribute. If it never gets that high, also not a problem, because that means that is not a project that has enough distributed support to be viable on a long term time frame.

If you view through the perspective of “getting things done” then yea, it’s a terrible system. If you view it from the lens of patrons, and “avoiding flushing money down the charity hole” then it’s a great system.

1 Appreciation

Precise threshold makes it hard for stretchgoals, tier levels and similar.

But sure, it could be used for club goods, private goods, or public goods with some private or club components.

They suck, and I remember being stoked over the original First Monday “Street Performer Protocol” publication and disappointed when Kickstarter made it a platform partly for private goods.

But… TBH making a tool/protocol that private goods / club goods can use doesn’t feel that bad to me. (Also, each platform can set its own rules, if becomes a preshold site, it can still have a “only public goods” restriction.)

(Not sure that “X protocol makes little sense for club goods or private goods” is that big of a selling point for it. Like a wooden spoon makes little sense to be used for painting cars, that doesn’t make it automatically good for painting houses.)

This is similar to preshold. Actually preshold is much stronger (in this particular regard) because instead of spending $2 out of $10 on “charity hole”, it can be $0 out of $10. Depending on your settings as patron. (You could check the “no underfunding refund”-checkbox in order to donate all $10 unconditionally.)

In that particular aspect preshold is better.

We agree fully here. ABT: always be testing. Speculation is just speculation.

My belief, my speculation, my hunch, my reckoning is that crowdmatching is not good. And that either preshold, normal treshold, normal subscription, or normal open-ended tipping jar is going to end up being better. And out of the four, I’m right now most curious about preshold. It has some weird limitations that could end up powerful benefits, or just weird people out.

But my speculation is worth zilch compared to Actual Testing.

I think the intended analogy was more like: “Knife A is good for cooking and stabbing people. Knife B is good for cooking and bad for stabbing people. To knife retailers (ie, crowdfunding platforms)*, knife B’s unsuitability for stabbing people is a feature.”

*edit: and to people who believe stabbing people is wrong

In this case, crowdmatching is a compromise between what’s best for patrons (nothing down the “charity hole”) and what’s best for projects (sometimes less-than-fully-funded is still better than nothing).

2 Appreciations

Yet I am losing the incentive that that $2 demonstrates to other patrons. I’m voting with my dollars, showing other people that I support it, and will support it even more, if they also support it. It’s an invitation to join the group, with preshold, that invitation goes away at the closing time.

2 Appreciations

Ah, that presupposes the cooking-usefulness of both knives. In which case, sure.

Like arguably, and this is a bit of devil’s advocacy because I’m not into private goods either, a protocol can gain traction for private and/or club goods and then it’s suitability for public goods can make public goods overtake private goods. Public goods are so powerful once the funding protocols are in place.

Like if a lot of people buy knife A because it’s so good at stabbing, but it’s so good at cooking that cooking overtakes stabbing globally.

Every month there is a new chance.