11 August, 2012


Crowdfunding has certainly enjoyed a bit of time in the sun recently. While the idea has been around for quite some time (think of charity drives - they're essentially a giant crowdfund initiative to fund something with a massive budget), it's only really recently with the rise of social media that they've kicked off as a popular way of raising money.

They're used for many things - the arts, charitable works, startup funds (or top up funds) for profit-driven entities.

As anyone who has used one of the popular crowdfunding websites (Kickstarter or Pozible, for example) knows, usually what is offered in return for the funding is a reward. These rewards usually increase on a sliding scale - the bigger the investment by the user, the bigger return they should see once the funds are raised and used.

And this, I think, is key.

I've been quietly watching a story unfold in the Australian knitting world. Without going into too much detail, people who invested through the crowd fund are being told (by the person who was raising this money) that they weren't investing in a business venture, but an idea. That because of this they have no right to complain that they haven't received their finished product, even when the finished product was being sold to the public at a recent agricultural show. They're being told that they have no recourse to complain to the site that hosted the crowd fund.

Well, I can't speak for those affected, but I can say for sure that I would be pretty peeved if I was in that situation.

It has certainly gotten me thinking about the risks of crowdfunding. As a user investing into someone's idea, you'd have to assume that they'd created a comprehensive plan, had costed everything out and had determined that they were capable of running/producing/doing whatever they're promising. It's worrying that it appears that there are people out there seeking money for ventures without having put the idea through what I would call an appropriate amount of scrutiny.

At the same time, I don't want to hold back from putting money into a crowd fund for a reason or product I believe in... (hah, fencesitter much!)

Does anyone have any ideas on how to handle this sort of thing?

01 August, 2012

Olympians, Women and Internet Trolls

*WARNING WARNING WARNING* Angry McRantyPants post ahead.

Important lesson: Don't insult an Olympic diver on Twitter. You'll end up on the news and get arrested.

funny facebook fails - ROFLympics 2012: People are Horrible

Yes, after that charming exchange above (which is pretty tame by troll standards, even though it is still abhorrent), that teenager found himself arrested.

Good? Yes. About time? Sure. Make threats on the internet, and you should be prepared to face the consequences. (Let's overlook the fact that there doesn't appear to be much of a threat made in those tweets though, okay?)

How many women (or indeed other men) have been abused and threatened over the internet? I'd hazard a guess and say millions. How many of those have had actual threats of violence and death made against them, simply because they exist? Too many.

Kathy Sierra stopped blogging, tweeting and doing public speaking events because of threats of violence against her. This New Statesman article outlines the experiences of several female bloggers, not all of a unanimous opinion, but all sharing in common the threats of death, rape and violence against them. One that struck me the most was Dawn Foster's account:

The emails rarely mentioned the topic at hand: instead they focussed on my age, used phrases like "little girl", described rape fantasies involving me and called me "ugly" and "disgusting". Initially it was shocking: in the space of a week, I received a rabid email that included my home address, phone number and workplace address, included as a kind of threat. Then, after tweeting that I'd been waiting for a night bus for ages, someone replied that they hoped I'd get raped at the bus stop.

Slightly more explicitly threatening than "your just a diver anyway a over hyped prick", right? It's certainly the kind of threat that I would hope the police would take note of, and possibly even make arrests over if it was made towards me.

But then, I guess the countless bloggers, columnists and journalists who get threatened in this sort of way aren't a famous diver whose father died recently. Who also has a massive following on Twitter.

Will this latest troll arrest make a dent in the threats posted by trolls on the internet? We can only hope so. Somehow though, I don't think it's going to make much difference to many out there who continue to get abuse over the net. What do you think?

The full content of the article referred to in my reference to Kathy Sierra above can be found here.
Another good article for anyone interested in reading further about this topic is located at The Guardian.