Right now, one of the hottest trends on the Internet is crowdfunding. These days, it seems like practically everywhere you look there’s someone out there trying to get random people off the Internet to fun their pet projects for them. Granted, it’s usually a lot more complicated than that, but basically it’s a fancy way of buying stuff that doesn’t exist yet in hopes of making it actually exist some day. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Occasionally you hear about some big-name project that draws in millions (and subsequently disappoints pretty much everyone, but that’s beside the point.) but those seem to be far more the exception than the rule. The vast majority of projects on sites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo arrive with far less ambitious goals, and typically just squeak in.
Really, there’s just one problem with the whole thing: There’s really no way to stop it. Sure, you can just not contribute to a project you don’t care for, but that doesn’t do much good if there’s thousands of other people throwing money into the thing and funding it anyway. Most of the time you can just ignore the whole thing and move on, but every once in a while there’s a project that’s just so obnoxious, so hipsterish or so just-plain-stupid that you just wish you had some way to tell the people behind it to just shut up and get a life already. And there’s no good way to do it. aside from random Internet trolling, and we all know how well that usually works out. What we need is a way to “vote against” Kickstarter projects like that, and put money behind that vote.
Since the obvious name for something like this has already been appropriated for a far less interesting idea, we need to come up with a different name for this. For lack of anything better, I think I’ll call it Kickswatter for now. Basically, it works just like any other crowdfunding scheme would work, aside from the fact that there’s also a “Defund” option added to the page, which will allow people to put up money to be subtracted from the project’s funding goal. For example, if a project has raised $7,520 and someone puts up a $50 anti-contribution, that puts the total contributions for the project down to $7,470. Basically, the anti-contributions go against the other contributions, possibly putting the project at risk of not being funded if enough anti-contributions are made.
Of course, there’s just one minor flaw in this whole thing: Nobody in their right mind would go anywhere near a crowdfunding site like this, unless they had a really good reason to do so. Which means we have to provide some sort of an incentive for people to use this system, which is where things really start to get interesting. Let’s say that in spite of numerous anti-contributions being made, a project ultimately reaches its funding goal anyway. If this happens, then the project not only gets all of the contributions that have been made to it, but also gets all of the anti-contributions added to their total. They are under no obligation to provide any sort of donation incentives to any of the anti-contributors although they are welcome to provide such incentives as they see fit. I’m picturing something like giant color glossy photographs of a middle finger in cases like this. Actually, in (almost) every scenario, you have to guarantee that the anti-contributors “donations” are paid out to somewhere in order to make sure that people don’t just put down a bunch of anti-contributions on everything they see. I suppose there’s always the ever-nebulous “charity” that they could be put to, but that seems like it could be open to abuse as well. Then again, given the fact that I don’t even pretend to think that any of this is a good idea in the first place, I suppose I can just figure out that part as I go, right?
Anyway, here is what I figure some of the potential end scenarios for a crowdfunded project under this system could be, along with what I would expect the results to be:
- If a project doesn’t reach its funding goal in the first place and the anti-contributions are irrelevant, nobody pays anything (thinking in gambling terms, this scenario would be considered a push.)
- If a project reaches its funding goal, but is brought back below it by anti-contributions, then the project does not get funded, and the contributors don’t have to pay. The anti-contributors do have to pay, and their money goes to the unspecified charity mentioned above.
- If the anti-contributions to a project outnumber the contributions (resulting in a negative end total) then the result is the same as above, but the creators of the project are then prohibited from posting any new projects on the site for at least a year (yeah, I know there are other presumably less evil crowdfunding sites they could use instead, but we’ll just conveniently pretend they’re going along with the whole thing for a minute.)
- If the anti-contributors manage to contribute enough to reach the inverse of project’s funding goal (for example, if a project with an $50,000 funding goal manages to end up at $-50,000,) all of the contributors’ funds get sent off to charity along with the anti-contributors’ funds, and the funding site sends someone personally to tell the project creators to get a life, and permanently bans them from the site.)
- As outlined above, if the project manages to meet its funding goal in spite of anti-contributions, then the project gets the contributors’ funds plus the anti-contributors’ funds, regardless of the amount contributed against the project. Presumably the anti-contributors get to feel really stupid at this point.
I’m sure that there are some minor details I’m not considering here (like the fact that I’m probably running afoul of about a dozen different gambling laws with the whole thing) but those can be worked out later. Probably the biggest problem with this right now is figuring out a good place to put the anti-contributions. Well, that and making sure that you don’t get about half a zillion undersupervised preteens using their parents’ credit cards to make big anti-contributions to everything on the site, but I’m sure an appropriate safeguard could be devised for that scenario. There’s also the question of whether to permit people to create incentives against a project they don’t like (but I’m leaning toward no on that since there’s too much potential for it to be abused.) Either way, I’m pretty sure nobody in their right mind would actually bother with this kind of thing in the first place, so it’s all pretty much academic anyway. But it might make for a few amusing trainwrecks to watch for a while. I’m sure it’s all quite amusing until you’re the one trying to fund your project.
Like I said up front, this was pretty much the stupidest idea I’ve had in a while, right?