Thoughts from an outsider

crowdmatching
questions

#1

Greetings,
I want to offer feedback. I only mean it to be useful so I hope it is.

Every month I have $X amount of money in my budget that I spend on donations at Patreon to support people/products I like. I know people like to complain about Patreon, but for my needs - it is exactly what I want. I know exactly how much I spend every month and I know exactly what day the one payment hits my credit card but more importantly, I know where every dollar goes.

I almost exclusively use FLOSS. I want to be able to send the project/creator of the software a regular donation. Maybe the application on my tablet (mild use) from f-droid gets 1$ and f-droid gets 2$ while the applications on my daily-use desktop get 5$. I don’t know what the final tallies are, but that’s what I would like to see happen.

So if Patreon is working so well, why have I spent the last few hours poking around at snowdrift and writing this?

Because I’ve been encouraging several Open Source Projects to get on Patreon for a long time, but overwhelmingly many of them want nothing to do with Patreon due to its requirements and issues for creators. They don’t want to deal with Patreons hassles as they would rather be coding. Instead, many of them set up their own donation system.

What is wrong with that?
Well, take IPFire for example. I love IPFire for my firewall - I’ve been using it for years and I’m so tweaked-and-tuned around it at my house that I honestly don’t know what I would do if it went away. I’ve tried several times to donate. Took me a month to get the bank to finally get my first donation to them because they are overseas and my bank freaked. Even after I told them I wanted to do a regular donation the bank was none-too-pleased. Especially at the little-a-month-I-could-afford prices. So I tried Paypal. That was 3 months of misery where Paypal basically stole my money (in various “fees” but the point is the money never made it to IPFire nor back to me).
The big projects like FSF or Debian? Oh yeah, trivial to donate to them and they are 401c tax donation setup. But that isn’t my intent when I try to convince projects to sign up for Patreon. I just want to send a portion of a “Thank You” that I can afford on a known budget to the projects I care about.

What about liberapay as an option?
I’ve really considered them, but I’m not sure I like their wallet system for payments and with them based in France I am hesitant to try - considering what happened with my attempts at donating to IPFire. :-/

So why this feedback?
Well to start - my skill set lays elsewhere and so I’m reading these posts about game-theory and it is all going over my head. So I am relying on the basic stuff for my information that I hopefully understand correctly (https://snowdrift.coop/how-it-works). However, I have a couple of things that I haven’t resolved while reading wiki/posts/Gitlab (Kudos on that BTW. Love love love Gitlab.)

One - I worry about not knowing how much is coming out of my budget every month if a project has enough contributors or if the price has changed on me. I would much rather specify “this gets exactly 1$ and not a penny more” than have even a slight chance my budget fluctuating on me.

Two - I’m not sure I want a “kickstarter clone for FLOSS”. Some of the posts I read it seemed a little iffy on if this was to support existing projects or new ones. I’m assuming the majority will be existing projects, but just to be clear - I REALLY want to support the projects that make an impact on my daily life.

Three - Even if this platform isn’t something that suites my wants/needs/desires, if it can be useful to the projects that I care about I would want to tell them. But it is not clear yet as to how I can do that or even what to tell them. Using the above examples of f-droid and ipfire, I have accounts in their community so I feel it might be more likely to be heard if I (or other users) were to say “I use this software, I’m in the community, and I want to fund you by using this new site - please take a look.” But I would want to give them information on how to contact and be a part. I don’t yet see that information (I am assuming it is coming soon, but again, felt like I should be upfront and clear about it as something I would like to have before approaching projects).

Four - I worry about funding “a developer” over “a project that developer created”. I’m still not quite sure how that works in your system. I would like to ask that is made a bit more obvious/clear. It’s not that I don’t want to fund a developer, but I can give examples of where one project is high on my list but the developer does 30 other projects that I have no intention of using. I would like my “Thank you, here’s a $X” to be specific to the project I use so they know why I’m donating to them. Also, if the lead dev gets bored but the project community carries on - I would like my “Thank you, here’s a $X” to go to the project community that is supporting what I use.

Five - I’m still not quite sure how “mega” projects are going to work. Take Nextcloud. Love it! However, it comprises a LOT of projects. 132 as of right now!! (https://github.com/nextcloud) I didn’t even know it had that many until I just looked it up! I certainly don’t use that many aspects of Nextcloud. However, if Contacts, News, and Notes went away…oh…I would have a very very bad day. I would probably be forever frozen on the last version those three worked. Honestly, if I lost just one of those three I would be hurting in my personal workflow because I use them so much. It would be far far FAR more valuable to me that Nextcloud KNEW without out a doubt that at the very least I was donating $X total to Nextcloud but $Y1 was for News, $Y2 was for Contacts, and $Y3 was for Notes. I’m not clear how that would work with Snowdrift.

I hope that this feedback from a complete outsider with just a few hours of reading was useful. If I completely missed the mark - then I am really sorry for taking your time.

Thank you for reading.


Adding a "Feedback & Support" category
#2

Hi, thanks for the thoughts and welcome!

This is the heart of most confusion. That state of a project having enough contributors happens nearly-never in the world of FLO projects today. All the game theory stuff is about why this is the case.

You mentioned “Patreon works so well…” and it was in context of that being a supposed claim, so you understand it’s not that rosy. Patreon (and similar sites) do a mix of successfully promoting the basic nature of patronage (there are projects that simply hesitated to even ask for donations until Patreon encouraged it as more of a social norm) and capturing some of those donations (many projects on Patreon would get similar donations through whatever other platform, Patreson may not be increasing the donations).

In short: The entire crowdmatching concept at Snowdrift.coop is based on accepting the fact that “enough patrons” is nowhere in sight for most FLO public goods. We have such a long ways to go to get there. If you participate at Snowdrift.coop, you’re part of reaching that dream. If we reach that dream, it will be a different world, and everyone will know it.

A world with FLO projects truly funded enough will look really different from today. And in that world, we could and would offer some form of simpler fixed donation, as long as it wouldn’t undermine overall stability. We don’t care to get into the details of that fantasy now, we’re working to get critical-mass of patrons to get us on the right path at all, and simple fixed donations simply won’t do that from this point.

The game-theory can be summarized like this: many people do think just like you, that they want to donate an exact fixed amount. But in most cases, that simply won’t get enough funding. We already have that option in many ways, and it’s just not working (much). People need to get comfortable with cooperation and the uncertainty and negotiations involved in order to collectively have a greater impact.

As long as I know you only donate $1 (and same for everyone else), I know that adding my $1 will basically accomplish near-zero, it’s just $1 more for the project and $1 less for me. The only way to make a real difference is to get all the other people who are hesitating to donate or to donate more to give together, and I’m willing to be part of that.

It’s not a price, everyone gets the results whether they contribute or not. It’s a donation. That’s picky about the words, but “price” implies paying in order to get something.

We’re not that, but those already exist, see our review of existing threshold platforms

We’re focusing on existing projects. Snowdrift.coop is about sustaining and growing, not big start-up investments.

We’re working on that, and getting all that clear is a major step toward making the whole platform function. I can’t take the time or space to explain the status here, but it’s a current task in progress several of us volunteers are focused on.

Incidentally, F-Droid is a great example of a project we’d love to have!!

Indeed, and we’re focused on the projects not the developers. Our emphasis is on delivering real public-goods value to the end-users. Our mission isn’t about developers getting paid, that’s actually only a means to the real goal of having great public goods. In practice, this is one of the challenges in designing the system. To fund a project, we need clarity about who is actually getting funded at any given time and how it is helping the projects, and patrons should expect that clarity.

Ideally, we want as strongly as we can to require that all funds actually go directly to furthering the projects. They are not thank-yous for past work but funding for further improvements.

Mega projects like Nextcloud are actually more of our focus initially. We want to get high quantity of patrons donating serious money to large projects like that. The projects can prioritize their work based on patron requests, but the managers of the projects need deference at the end of the day.

We would only have Nextcloud split into separate sub-projects if the main overall project gets so well funded that they need a way to let low-budget patrons direct funds to smaller things like Contacts etc. That’s stuff we’d see in the long-run if our initial launching is successful with the overall project first.

It’s useful to the extent that we always welcome engagement, useful if my answers (and/or further ones if you have more questions) help you understand things. Having more people clear, especially those who understand and care about our FLO mission is itself important and useful. Plus, there’s some level where engagement from outsiders is part of keeping volunteers like me engaged and pushing forward.

Oh, one last thing to clarify for now: several of your concerns, such as with Liberapay and Paypal, emphasize the complex challenges of dealing with money and donations internationally and legally etc. We have no grand solution there. The fact that this stuff is hard is one of our own biggest obstacles to getting launched. We know some things from seeing what works and doesn’t elsewhere, but overall we’re just one among all these platforms trying to grapple with this deep challenge.


Problems with crowdmatching + proposing an alternative
#3

Thanks for responding!

The game-theory can be summarized like this: many people do think just like you, that they want to donate an exact fixed amount. But in most cases, that simply won’t get enough funding. We already have that option in many ways, and it’s just not working (much). People need to get comfortable with cooperation and the uncertainty and negotiations involved in order to collectively have a greater impact.

I am in the belief camp that says “Humans as a whole do not like uncertainty” but even putting that aside, those of us who live on a budget really can’t have an unexpected amount over the allotment taken out.

Also, even if I am the only person out there who donates a dollar to a project - I still would rather have that dollar to go the project every month (I understand sometimes transfer fees make this difficult - so buffering until a certain point is also understandable - but I think you get the point I’m making).

As long as I know you only donate $1 (and same for everyone else), I know that adding my $1 will basically accomplish near-zero, it’s just $1 more for the project and $1 less for me. The only way to make a real difference is to get all the other people who are hesitating to donate or to donate more to give together, and I’m willing to be part of that.

I guess this is the part that isn’t clicking for me. I’m wanting to donate because I want to - not because of social pressure.

Also, when I’ve inquired about donating I’ve heard from several FLOSS projects that are basically along the lines of “I do this because I love it and it is useful to me. Thanks for the thought but I’m good.” One of my own FLOSS projects has received requests to which I replied basically the same and added a “Please consider donating to the FSF instead”. The point I’m trying to make here is that with many FLOSS projects, money is not in the scope.

The concept of “my $1 will basically accomplish near-zero, it’s just $1 more for the project and $1 less for me” is just one that isn’t resonating with me. Not from a personal view nor from many that I’ve worked with in the community.

Rather, my view is that I am essentially wanting to say “Your work is valuable and I want to buy a couple of coffees every year by giving a $1/mo as a thank you for keeping this project alive.”

Thank you for working on a message to send to projects. When that is out, I would love to contact many of the projects I am interested in supporting.

They are not thank-yous for past work but funding for further improvements.

A good distinction. Thank you.

We would only have Nextcloud split into separate sub-projects if the main overall project gets so well funded that they need a way to let low-budget patrons direct funds to smaller things like Contacts etc. That’s stuff we’d see in the long-run if our initial launching is successful with the overall project first.

Fair enough. However, if at all possible to have the project know that the donors have a preference in sub-projects - that would be nice - even a simple comment box. I would still fund Nextcloud on Snowdrift as the primary project, but it would be (I think anyway) valuable to both the project and the donor that the project knew what sub-projects the donor used/preferred.

Another great example of this would be KDE and Gnome. I use several sub-projects from both of them daily, but I haven’t run either as a Desktop in /years/. I am not opposed to donating to them, but I think it would help both donor and project to at least know the subproject reason for the donation.

useful if my answers (and/or further ones if you have more questions) help you understand things. Having more people clear, especially those who understand and care about our FLO mission is itself important and useful. Plus, there’s some level where engagement from outsiders is part of keeping volunteers like me engaged and pushing forward.

Agreed. It was quite useful in helping me understand. Thank you.

Oh, one last thing to clarify for now: several of your concerns, such as with Liberapay and Paypal, emphasize the complex challenges of dealing with money and donations internationally and legally etc. We have no grand solution there. The fact that this stuff is hard is one of our own biggest obstacles to getting launched. We know some things from seeing what works and doesn’t elsewhere, but overall we’re just one among all these platforms trying to grapple with this deep challenge.

Understood. Good luck!

Thanks again for the responses!


#4

That’s way too simplistic. If we simply rejected all uncertainty, gambling would not be a thing. The stock market wouldn’t exist. People wouldn’t scroll Facebook or look at the news. People have varying levels of risk-tolerance, and only a tiny minority of people have near-zero risk tolerance.

Anyway, in the aggregate, crowdmatching is about increasing certainty — the certainty that a FLO product you care about will be sustainable. I’m happy to lose the certainty over the exact number of cents I donate to projects in order to get the certainty that I’m donating with a critical mass of others leading to being able to trust that the project won’t up and suddenly die on me (an uncertainty which itself makes me hesitate to even donate any certain amount via Patreon or Paypal etc. today!)

We have a budget cap, so you’re always donating less than your budget. That shouldn’t cause you any personal trouble if one month you keep more of your money.

Okay, but besides the message of encouragement to the project, that’s accomplishing nothing. And anyway, you don’t need Snowdrift.coop to do this. There are numerous ways to send a guaranteed dollar to someone every month, and that’s been around forever, and yet the dilemma in FLO funding isn’t being solved that way at all.

I get that, but social pressure can be a positive thing, and there’s no inherent conflict between doing thing both because you inherently want to and because of social pressure. And anyway, we’re not focusing on social-pressure per se. Crowdmatching isn’t merely pressure, it’s matching. People can totally ignore all social pressure and decide simply that it makes sense for their goal of supporting a project to have their donations matched by others — it simply means more support for the project.

A huge portion of everything people care about, including many things they claim to care about purely independently are actually built on social norms. Whether you like this or not, it’s plainly true. If we want FLO projects to succeed, we have to make supporting them be the social norm.

Those projects are not ones we’re focusing on. It’s great that there are side-projects people do for fun that also provide value to the world. That part of FLO is working fine, and you can just send a “thank you” note or donate to any charity (including FLO ones) and tell a project you did so on their behalf or something, exactly as that FSF response said.

Where FLO is failing is in competing with the dominant, larger proprietary end-user products.

That’s fine, but that sort of tipping will not achieve the mission we’re working on. And Snowdrift.coop doesn’t need to exist for that purpose. There are lots of ways to send little tips already.

It’s certainly possible. We initially hoped to have integration with issue-tracking and more. We’d like to see projects be able to see how many votes for certain features come from patrons… but that’s a ways off in practice, after initial launch.

KDE and Gnome are good suggestions. They’re larger and bureaucratic and not as likely to take a chance on us as the very first outside projects, but we should communicate with them anyway. We’d love to have them.


#5

Thanks for responding. I apologize for the delayed response. Life got in the way of my hobbies this week. :smiley:

I hadn’t seen the budget cap in my research, so that is really good to know. Thank you.

I guess my problem with those numerous ways (as well as the tipping services you link to below) is that, so far, they all suck for FLOSS projects as a whole. I suppose that is what I was kinda hoping snowdrift solved.

Now I understand the target project audience. That makes a lot more sense to me.

I guess I’m still not convinced how well this will work, but I am interested and I hope to support the project as more information comes out.

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I appreciate the effort being put into this project!


#6

Exactly. If the problem were solved, we wouldn’t be working on this. And we can’t be so arrogant as to assume our solution will certainly work, but we think it’s the best shot we have.

The key point is: you don’t need to take on any real risk to participate as part of seeing whether this will work. Either it won’t, and you won’t be out much money at all, or it will work and you’ll be a part of a critical mass of patrons changing the world.