Category: think

When to Lie

 

Question #1

Your grandma has Alzheimer’s disease. This morning she woke up and could not find her husband. He died 5 years ago. If you tell her, she will be sad and upset… at least until she wakes up again tomorrow. Should you lie?

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trumpWap – Make the web great again

Remember when almost every image on the internet was trump?

With trumpWAP, we can make the web great again. This is huge.

TrumpWap_Housing_2016-Jun-04_02-29-43AM-000_CustomizedView22652486299.png

Plug in the trumpWap and on day-1 you’ll get between 20% and 90% more trump (depending on your browsing habits). It’s that simple.

salon

Continue reading for more examples of trumped up websites & apps, a perfunctory video demonstration, and info on getting your own trumpWAP!

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Why did Google declare war on HTTP?

Google is waging a war to force websites to only serve content over secure
https connections by demoting the search ranking of websites that continue to use normal http connections. “…we’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure.”

At first take, this seams like a magnanimous move by the internet’s benevolent dictator. Security is a good thing, so by forcing lazy websites to finally go secure we are all better off… right?

Unfortunately, things are not so simple and Google’s motivations are likely not so benevolent…

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“Prove me Wrong” Kickstarter Campaign

I just submitted a new campaign to Kickstarter where I ask backers to prove me wrong. The larger story is that I think the new Orison Power System Kickstarter is destined to crash and burn like way too many others have. My campaign is an experiment to see if anything can be done before everyone looses. My past efforts to intervene in crash and burn crowdfunded tech have been painfully ineffective, so I will keep trying new stuff until I get it right!

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KickStarter On Track project management feature

The majority of crowd-funded product projects I’ve backed fail in predictable and preventable ways…

  • Ready, set, fail.
    They have everything ready to go for mass production with manufacturing and shipping partners. Once the campaign closes, manufacturer goes out of business taking lots of the money with them. They can not find new manufacturing partner because product really can not be made and shipped at the promised price point. Backers get back pennies on the dollar.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing.
    Real product and they know they can make 20 in the basement in a couple of weeks, but end up with 1,000 orders and no experience on how to ramp up. In the post campaign euphoria, they quickly waste most of the money frantically and inefficiently ordering materials and equipment. Years later the orders are still being filled slowly and sporadically.
  • Seemed like a good idea.
    Had built prototypes and all the remaining issues seem trivial. They aren’t. In the weeks following the campaign, they start trying to put together a final shippable product and find blocking problems at every turn. There is a reason no one ever made this product before – and it is not because no one ever had the idea. They end up shipping basically a box of parts that can not be realistically made into the promised product.
  • Someone else thought of it first.
    As soon as campaign closes, they get served with a patent cease and desist. The money is spent on lawyers.
  • Sucker.
    There is no real product – just a few paragraphs of text that sound superficially like a great idea. They take the money and run.

The root cause of all these failures is misplaced incentives. Founders get all the money up front, and so have absolutely no incentives to plan correctly, execute quickly or efficiently, or satisfy backers1.

These could all be mitigated or prevented by proper project management. I’d call it something like “KickStarter On Track” and it would be an opt-in feature.

Every KickStarter On Track project would additionally have a list of specific milestones, each with a date and a disbursement amount and recipient. The very last milestone would always be “Backers agree that project is complete”, and the disbursement would be any remaining balance to the project creators.

Some examples of milestones might be…

Date Milestone Amount Recipient
1/20/2014 Tooling and setup fees $1,000 Fei Wu Tap and Die
3/15/2014 Raw materials for 1st run $4,500 Sunny Day Plastic Corp
4/12/2014 Packaging and Shipping $1,200 Boss Fulfillment LTD
5/1/2014 Project complete (balance) Founders

Practical benefits of the On Track system:

  • founders do not see any money until backers are satisfied. You can still have project failures, but now the incentives are in the right places.
  • when projects fail, they fail quickly and predictably (at least compared to the infinitely long failure arc of the current system)
  • residual funds are available for an orderly refund process at each possible failure point

But I think the real benefit of the system is that is requires people to actually think concretely about these steps rather than just imagining their end goals. This can make all the difference.

Working World is a micro-lending non-profit. While they do provide money like lots of micro-lenders around these days, Working World is different. The money is ancillary to their mission. The real value they provide is project management. When a borrower shows up and asks for $500 to buy a new printing press, they ask stuff like…

  • When are you going to make your first payment?
  • Where will you get the money for that payment?
  • Do you have customers for these products?
  • How long will it take you to print these products once you get the press?
  • Do you know how to operate the press?
  • Do you have ink?
  • Where will you get money to buy the ink?
  • Where will you get money to fix the printer when it breaks?

They don’t know anything about the printing press business, but often just asking the questions will completely change the outcome of the loan. By nailing people down to common sense specifics (“If it will take you 1 month to complete your first order, you can’t make your 1st payment in 2 weeks”), they end up making much more realistic loans and have fantastic repayment rates.

Why would KickStarter do this?

Eventually people like me are going to get tiered of funding failed projects.When that happens, the party is over.

This could also help KickStarter differentiate themselves from other crowd funding sites and offer a high value, low risk experience to backers.

Finally, they could charge an overhead management fee that would be an additional revenue stream.

Why would a founder do this?

The obvious reason is that it will make the campaign more attractive to backers. Less obvious is that (I think) most founders are well intentioned and they want their projects to come to a happy completion. Hopefully they will welcome any help they can get.

Who would decide a Milestone has been reached?

The crowd-ish way would be to to have backers vote on it. Want the backers to approve your “completed molds” step? Invite them to a meeting where you let them touch them. When 30 backers tweet and Instigram about how awesome the molds came out, the rest will happily agree. This crowd auditing system is very hard to cheat and leverages the best of crowd wisdom. You’d want to build a nice site to make all this interaction easy, but KickStarter needs this anyway.

Any time a milestone date expires, the default action would be to refund the balance of funds to backers. Backers could also consent to extending deadlines if the founders could convince them to.

Couldn’t you do do this as an external site not affiliated with KickStarter?

Sure! You would need to get people to trusty you – which you could maybe do if you are already an established project management entity.

KickEnder.com would be a great domain- alias, it is taken.

Let me know when you get it up and running!

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1 Ok, they may have some non-financial incentives like being good people, and having good intentions, and wanting to reserve their reputation so they can successfully fund future campaigns. In practice, these non-financial incentives do not seem help much once the campaign is over and the money is gone.

A drug that is 100% adictive after a single dose

It is easy to be in favor of legalizing pot. People should be allowed to to make their own choices, even if that means they might make choices that we think are mistakes.

But what if there was a drug that was absolutely 100% permanently physically addictive after the first dose? The drug is cheap and easily available. Once you’ve had your first dose, you are miserable until you get the next one. Repeated use kills quickly and quietly. I’ll call it “Slack”.

Every person who has ever tried Slack now regrets it and wishes they could quit, but they can not. It’s addiction is too strong. Even so, new people continue to try it and get hooked.

Would you be in favor of legalizing Slack?

Invalid answer: “There is no such thing as a 100% addictive drug!” (this is the answer I once got at an otherwise very interesting a drug addiction roundtable.)

Possible valid answer:

“There is no substantive difference between making the single bad decision to try that first dose of Slack and the repeated bad decisions people make to continue to take less addicting drugs. Part of the cost of freedom is that people sometimes make bad choices for themselves – and they suffer the consequences.”

I think that is logical, but contradicts the general human principal of proportional consequences. I think we all intuitively sense that the bigger a mistake, the more severe the consequences can be.  It does not seem right to allow a Slack user to die as punishment for single moment of bad judgement. It seems like we should want to stop them from doing something that we know is a mistake – and something that even they will eventually agree is a mistake.

There is no drug like Slack today, but I’m not sure that it matters. What if a drug was only 99% addictive and deadly rather than 100% – would that change things? How about 98%? Or 90%? At some point we are talking about heroin or crack, and eventually we get down to StarBucks.

How do we define the line between a drug that should be illegal and one that should not?

Read this before you “contribute” to an Indiegogo campaign!

Indiegogo is a site that lets you give money to people. It is not a site that lets you buy things from people. There is a big difference.

According to their Terms Of Service….

All Contributions are non-refundable by Indiegogo and are made in your sole discretion and at your sole risk based on your sole determination and evaluation of the Campaign. You are solely responsible for determining the tax deductibility of any Contribution.

[…]

Indiegogo does not represent, warrant or guarantee:

  • Perks will be delivered;
  • Perks will be satisfactory to you; or
  • The use of any Contributions or the outcome of any Campaign. It is up to you, as the Contributor, to ask such questions and undertake such due diligence as you deem necessary before you make a Contribution. Indiegogo may, in its sole discretion and judgment but is under no obligation to, seek the refund of Contributions.

This means that you should not expect to get your money back from IndieGogo if the campaign takes the money and runs. If you don’t get the perk you were promised, it is up to you to try to sue the Campaign Owner.

This is fine if the campaign is to buy a bus ticket for your best friend’s grandma, and the perk is that she will bake you some cookies. This not fine if you think you are buying an $800 high tech product from someone who lives on the other side of the planet.

I am all for Indiegogo’s “let the people decide who to trust, we just facilitate” strategy. They are like the Criagslist to KickStarter’s curated eBay.  I love both Craigslist and eBay, and there is a role for both models. Criagslist goes out of its way to make it very clear that they are only an open listing service and that you are dealing with whoever posted the listing, so beware. Indeogogo does not.

The Indiegogo site is filled with the language and iconography of a product sale. The various “perks” are listed as products with prices and estimated delivery dates just like you’d see on Amazon.com or Gap.com. They even show a “2 of 10 left” inventory – implying that 10 of the perk actually ever existed in the first place. When the inventory of a perk is gone, it is labeled with the words “SOLD OUT”. What was sold here?

Capture

Come on guys, this is clearly designed to look like you are buying something and not just giving your money to someone.  And the users are clearly fooled. Taking a look at the comments, people say stuff like…

  • How does one change from a purchase of the $99.00 25 watt system to the $239.00 100 watt system?
  • Missed out on the 1kW deal – is there any chance that you will extend it? Would really like to have purchased 4 units.
  • I seperately ordered 2 × 500W panels and one 25W panel. I added the 70 USD shipping for the 2 500W panels to the payment of the 25W panel as I forgot before. Hope that’s ok. Looking forward to the product!
  • So if I buy one of the 500w, all I have to do is “plug n play”?

The comments speak for themselves – these people believe that they are buying a product, and understandably so.

And while IndieGogo does talk about the democratic nature of crowd funding and the need for you to ask questions and make your own decisions, you are not allowed to post a question until after you’ve committed to give your money. That would be ok, except for the fact that once you have committed your money so you can publicly ask your question, there is no way to then cancel your commitment if you don’t like the  answer you get! Kafka! This is not compatible with helping the crowd generate and share information so people make informed decisions, and I can not think of any good business or strategic or legal reason why you would stop people from canceling a contribution any time while the campaign is still running. Can you?

Indiegogo needs to get their act together. At very least make it so people can ask public questions before committing money. And then make it so people can cancel a contribution when they find out something that sours them on it. Then change the user interface so it is clear that you are giving money and not buying something. The only action button on a campaign page should be “I want to give money to this campaign!” rather than a product selection rubric. The next page can show the “perks”, but with plenty of disclaimer language like “These are some things the campaign may be able to send you as a thank you for your contribution, but IndieGogo makes no representations as to the campaign’s ability to actually deliver these goods, and your only recourse if you are unhappy to try to sue [insert campaign lister’s name here] directly.”

Not sexy, but at least honest.

UPDATE 11/29/2018

Indegogo announced a “guaranteed ship” program that sellers can opt into..

https://support.indiegogo.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003370187-Marketplace-Guaranteed-Shipping-Policy-FAQ-for-Buyers

…but note that it is only for “marketplace” orders and not for crowdfunding campaigns. Marketplace is basically a marketing and shopping cart service for existing products.