OPINION: Kickstarter won’t explain their blockchain protocol, so I will

Comic News

By Erin Ptah

Have you been reading Kickstarter’s official statements about their Mystery Blockchain Protocol, and found them vague or confusing? Have you heard people criticize the whole idea, but you don’t feel like you understand it enough to know whether you agree with the criticism? Do you wish someone would break down what their claims mean, in plain, everyday language?

So did I. And once it became clear Kickstarter was never going to bother, I set out to do it myself.

Let me walk you through it.

(Spoiler alert: a lot of it means Not Very Much.)

A bit about me: I’m a creator and a big fan of webcomics, which means I have a lot of experience with crowdfunding in general and Kickstarter in particular, from both sides of the campaign. I’ve been running my own websites for more than a decade, so I have hands-on experience with the software behind it.

I have enough of a tech background to pick out which parts of Kickstarter’s statements are oblique euphemisms for real things; which ones are marketing spin with no substance underneath; and which ones have glaring gaps where the basic details should be. (Plenty of other people have done this in high-level coding jargon, but most of them aren’t stopping to translate.)

And I have a lot of experience with rubbernecking flops, scams, and general drama in the blockchain community.

Find yourself a comfortable seat, because this is going to get long.

Official statements I’ll be referring back to, plus some abbreviations: The Original Blog Post (TOP), The “Full Announcement” (TFA), Kickstarter Protocol FAQs (FAQ), The Exclusive Interview in The Beat (TEI).

One more important note: Those of us who create and back campaigns will interact with a bunch of individual staffers — tech support, project reviewers, outreach teams. Overwhelmingly, we like and appreciate these people! They seem smart, competent in their fields, and sincerely invested in making the site good for its users.

None of these people were involved in the Mystery Protocol decision. The regular Kickstarter staff weren’t even told this was happening until the same public announcement where the rest of us found out. All the goodwill and credibility they’ve earned — none of that implies any extra goodwill or credibility for the Mystery Protocol.

And with that, let’s get into the translation.

When they say “rewards”, they mean cryptocurrency

The official statements say a lot of things like “Blockchain will also open the potential to be rewarded for contributing to [our] systems” (TOP) or “It’s easy to reward participation [with a blockchain]” (TFA).

Which is puzzling if you take it at face value, because people are already rewarded for participating in this system.

As a creator, I have 6 funded projects on the Kickstarter platform. My participation is rewarded with the funds to print my comics!

And I’ve backed over 400 projects by other people. By contributing to the system as a backer, I’m rewarded by getting comics.

The posts also describe other contributions to the crowdfunding ecosystem: “Imagine your dream tool for crowdfunding your project […] Communities can collaborate to decide on the tools they want to see, build them, and get rewarded for it” (FAQ).

People are already building these, too.

Take BackerKit, a suite of tools for project creators, including a survey tool that’s way more powerful than the one the Kickstarter website offers. They take a per-project payment, on a scale that corresponds to the size of your funding.

Or take ComixLaunch, a set of crowdfunding resources, tailored for comics but covering a lot of general principles that work for anyone. They provide a ton of free information, and take a one-time upfront payment if you want to join a paywalled course.

Those are just a couple of the tools out there right now — and, again, they get rewarded with money. Including some of mine. For me, both of them turned out to be dream tools! Which leads to me telling other people about them, which gets them new customers, which means they get rewarded with more money.

(Note: I’m talking about real money, here. Blockchain fans refer to that as “fiat currency”, which just means money that’s not backed by a tangible commodity in the way US dollars used to be backed by gold. You might notice that cryptocurrency isn’t backed by any commodities either. In the rare cases where it is backed, it’s by…real money.)

So you’re already rewarded by getting paid, and/or by receiving products you like. If you’re not too much of a cynic, you might also count less-tangible things like “the satisfaction of helping other people” or “the joy of seeing more creators succeed” as rewards you were happy to get.

The official company line from Kickstarter is…none of that counts. The only real reward is the kind delivered over a blockchain.

Which means cryptocurrency tokens.

They aren’t upfront about it, but that’s what they’re talking about. The Mystery Protocol is going to have a token involved.

Not a big-name one like Bicoin or Ether, either. Those are hosted on other chains. Kickstarter is building this on the Celo blockchain, which means it’s going to use a Celo-specific token.

The obvious question now is, “Are any of Kickstarter’s owners, staff or investors also investors in CELO and/or Celo (either the token or the company)?”

People have been asking this since December.

If this was a traditional type of investment — if the Kickstarter higher-ups were holding Celo stock — they would be legally required to tell us!

In the blockchain space, those requirements don’t exist. (Not yet.)

Anyone can promote a token as amazingly valuable — possibly by promising it’ll be used for a specific, pre-existing Thing People Want — without ever needing to disclose how much they already own. Many of them turn a staggering profit by selling their tokens while the price is high…and if the promised value/utility never materializes, no worries, they still get to keep the money.

You can see how it would reassure a lot of users if we had an official Kickstarter statement denying they stand to make personal profits by driving interest to the Celo blockchain.

So far, they haven’t said any such thing.

Sidenote: in late March, Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan announced he was stepping down, for personal reasons that definitely have nothing to do with the Mystery Protocol. I’m not going to accuse any specific person of having undisclosed investments in Celo, but depending on whether or not the whole project gets quietly shelved after Hasan’s departure, I’ll certainly have my own theories.

When they say “governance”, they mean DAOs

Another running theme in the official statements is, a blockchain “enables everyone who is interested in the promise of crowdfunding to help build its future and have a say and stake in how it works” (TOP).

With a blockchain, they can “give governance rights, potentially, to participants in the system” (TEI). “Users have power, not just voice, in decisions and how they’re implemented” (FAQ).

This is the point when readers started asking “wait, if you want us to have a say, why didn’t you ask if we supported this blockchain idea in the first place?”

We do, in fact, have the technology to put a poll on a website!

If the Board was using any other justification in the book, you wouldn’t expect them to ask for users’ input before making a change in the direction of the company. But they’re claiming the Mystery Protocol will let them get user input — and this is one of the reasons the Mystery Protocol is great, because of how much they want user input.

Their actions don’t back up this claim.

What they really want, it seems, is a DAO.

Like many things in the crypto world, DAOs (pronounced “dow”, like the Jones) have a…misleading name. It stands for “Distributed Autonomous Organization”, but most of them aren’t particularly distributed. Or autonomous. Or organized.

The important thing here is, you can run blockchain-based polls through DAOs. A person becomes a member of a given DAO by buying its crypto token. Members submit proposals, some/all of those get released as polls, and members get to cast their votes — also using the token.

Exact setup varies based on the DAO, but a lot of them boil down to “1 token = 1 vote.”

When Kickstarter’s announcements wax poetic about “alternative governance models” (TFA), the model they mean is “whoever can afford to buy the most votes, wins.”

And the killer feature of DAOs, that can’t be achieved through pre-existing poll technology, is “when a poll comes out, members trying to buy more votes for their side will drive up the price of the token, and anyone who was already holding a bunch of the token can turn a profit.”

(Sidenote: a similar deal is going on with the Celo blockchain as a whole. The chain uses Proof of Stake validation…and the “stake” you need to prove, here, is “I’m invested in this blockchain’s cryptocurrency.” The users who get to validate Celo blockchain updates are the users who own the most Celo tokens.)

This also explains the need for that “independent governance lab” to engage “the notoriously challenging problems and critically important goals of good governance” (TFA).

You see, there’s one situation where the vote-buying model breaks down. If there’s any potential exploit in a DAO’s code, the winner is the first person who spots it.

Consider the case of BuildFinance DAO.

Recently, a member released a poll with the clause “if Result X wins, the entire treasury assets of this DAO get turned over to me.” It wasn’t just a text option on the poll — it was built into the underlying code, so if that result won, the transfer of funding would be triggered automatically.

This is the feature the Kickstarter posts are referring to, in a roundabout way, when they describe a “decentralized model” where “users have power, not just voice, in decisions” (FAQ). If a transfer like this gets voted on, no central authority, including the original team who launched the DAO, has the power to get the money back.

Long story short, this enterprising pollster now has all of BuildFinance DAO’s money!

This is not an isolated incident. It’s not even rare. It’s definitely not a possibility I want anywhere near the code that handles my campaign funding.

Someone behind the Mystery Protocol is aware that they don’t want this either. Which is why so many resources are being sunk into the notoriously challenging problem of “designing a non-exploitable DAO.”

It might seem like it would be cheaper, simpler, and easier to just not make a DAO.

But remember, then you lose the killer feature of being able to sell votes.

When they say “decentralized”, they mean “centralized on the Celo blockchain”

The original post touted that the protocol will “live on Celo.”

A truly decentralized protocol wouldn’t “live” in any one specific place. Think about email. Anybody can set up an email service — governments, private companies, nonprofits, you could launch one yourself — and communicate with anybody else’s email. One specific government or company can put controls and blocks on their specific service…but there’s no overall central authority to say “this is the server where email lives, every communication must go through here.”

Right now, a lot of crowdfunding is concentrated on the Kickstarter site. That’s because they’ve built a good platform, and are rewarded with recommendations, and the ongoing cut of user profits that comes with it.

But it’s not truly “centralized.” The Kickstarter organization doesn’t have control of the arena.

Competitor platforms exist. Side tools like BackerKit surveys, which can connect to any platform directly rather than both of them connecting to a central service, exist. Tools to run a crowdfunding project on your own website exist.

As I write this, Iron Circus Comics just made 45 grand with an independent crowdfunding project using a WordPress plugin.

(The developers of the plugin were also rewarded, with a one-time upfront payment.)

If the Kickstarter higher-ups truly wanted to make valuable crowdfunding tech “available for collaborators, competitors, and independent contributors from all over the world to build upon, connect to, or use” — why not apply this idea to the current codebase?

Put the whole thing up on Github, declare it open-source software, and I guarantee there would be an instant flood of interest. Collaborators would study it to propose new plugins. Competitors would study it to improve their own sites. Programmers and entrepreneurs would make their own forks and start changing things. Independent creators would launch free mini-installations on our personal websites. (It would go great with my free wiki mini-installation and my free store mini-installation.)

This is another thing you don’t need a blockchain for. You could do it right now. Today.

I sent this question to the official “ask us about our protocol” email, and the response from Support was “that’s an interesting idea, we’ve passed it on to the appropriate parties.”

…yeah, they’re not doing it.

These puzzle pieces don’t fit together until you realize, the final picture isn’t “a less-centralized crowdfunding space.”

The guiding vision is a space where a bunch of currently-unrelated crowdfunding parties — platforms, collaborative side tools, payment processors, independent creators — are all squeezing through the same centralized bottleneck, which lives on the Celo blockchain.

When they say “protocol”…they don’t know what they mean

Another recurring question from Kickstarter users is: what is all this supposed to do?

What’s the purpose of all this rewarding and governing and tokenizing, aside from driving up the price of this token? What are the exact processes it’s going to handle? What benefits will it have for the people who are creating and backing campaigns?

The original post compared it to HTTP and SMTP, two massively-popular (and truly decentralized!) communication protocols from the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP). HTTP(S) is the one your web browser uses to talk to web-hosting servers, while SMTP is the one email servers use to talk to each other.

Another question I sent to the “ask us about our protocol” address is, if they’re making a communication protocol, exactly who or what is going to communicate over it?

And the response I got was “that’s still in development, we will pass on your concern to the appropriate parties.”

So…look, they’re just name-checking big protocols because you’ve heard of those. They want you to mentally associate the Mystery Protocol with that level of credibility and cachet — that’s all. If you start asking for actual technical specs to back up this association, they don’t have any.

Back in December, the announcement included a link to what it said was “our white paper”, a document that’s supposed to cover questions like these. The “white paper” was just a generic promotional blog post for the Celo blockchain.

This was quickly replaced with a statement that a white paper was in development. At first the ETA was “in January”, a date reflected in Kickstarter United’s response statement. Some time later, I checked back to find that it only said “in the coming weeks.”

A lot of concerned viewers, including many of the ones with technical expertise, were willing to say “all right, we’ll withhold further judgment for a month until they cough up the actual details for us to judge.”

As of the start of February, the stock response Kickstarter Support is giving to Mystery Project inquiries includes “the white paper has not been released yet, and there’s not a definitive timeline for its arrival.” All mention of it has been quietly edited out of whichever public post(s) it was in.

And on February 17, they released a new post saying, among other things, they won’t proceed with a white paper until they “better address [users’] concerns.” Quietly ignoring the fact that “the total absence of any concrete detail” is one of the biggest user concerns.

Meanwhile, The Beat was able to get one single interview, released on February 18…with a Kickstarter executive who frankly admitted he’s “not the technical expert on this.”

Look, I don’t want to come down on him, here. Being the technical expert is not his job.

So…where are the technical experts? Why wasn’t one of them taking the interview?

Why couldn’t the Kickstarter organization, and/or the Celo blockchain stakeholders, field a single person who’s actually working on the development of their Mystery Protocol, who can answer basic programming questions about it?

None of the suggested “features we might add with a blockchain” require a blockchain, and many of them are, in fact, things the Kickstarter site already does

Across the various official posts and announcements, there have been a few crumbs of specific proposals for “things the Mystery Protocol could do.”

They’re not particularly grounded in the actual limits or capabilities of the code. They’re wildly disconnected from any knowledge of “the features we already have.”

Let’s look at a few examples.

Reaching a bigger audience?

“The world of people who would enthusiastically support a project extends well beyond a creator’s network and Kickstarter’s existing user base. […] What if a small percentage of Kickstarter’s fees went to project referrers or apps that helped campaigns find new backers?” (FAQ)

These exist!

Anyone who’s run a campaign on Kickstarter knows they exist. You can’t avoid knowing it. The minute you launch a project, half a dozen of them will show up in your DMs.

BackerClub is one. BackerKit recently introduced their own. There are endless sites that let you advertise directly to their users, from niche groups like ComicAd Network to massive social-media mileus like Twitter.

Each individual creator gets to decide which service(s) to use. If you’re new to crowdfunding and don’t know how to evaluate them, reach out to the community! We’re happy to talk with each other about which sites produce legit results, and which ones are wastes of money.

The developers don’t need any special new incentive, in the form of “being rewarded with cryptocurrency,” to create these services. If they work well enough, they’re already incentivized just fine by real money.

And if the question of “which service do I use, and how much do they get paid?” was mediated by a site-wide blockchain protocol, instead of by the choices of individual users…this makes things worse. This brings us back to the DAO problem. There’s no need to pursue crowd-pleasing goals like “build a functional service” or “demonstrate its value to creators” when you can buy votes directly! All you have to do is pay enough to win a poll that says “the protocol just gives us All The Money, no matter what.”

Increasing user trust in projects?

“What if we designed the protocol so that some small percentage ofKickstarter’s fees went to people who are helping to reduce risk through expert peer review? This could help backers see whether a project is making claims that can be trusted.” (FAQ)

The Kickstarter website has a Trust and Safety team.

This is their whole job.

They know, from long experience, what problems the community faces! I’m sure they have ideas for how to address those problems! Maybe listen to the experts, and give their suggestions a try?

None of their suggestions will be “use a blockchain.” You can tell because the terms of service, as developed by Trust and Safety, actively ban blockchain-related activities in Kickstarter projects. (The public list of prohibited items doesn’t use the word, but it’s covered under the “financial services/instruments” section.)

The risk-reducing experts have already evaluated this specific tech — they’re probably re-evaluating it on a regular basis — and their conclusion, based on years of experience with What Makes Crowdfunding Safer, is “using our site for anything to do with cryptocurrency will make it unacceptably riskier.”

And this whole premise of “perhaps it would benefit backers if we paid these experts more? But, gosh, only if the Mystery Protocol tells us to” is a heck of a line. Just…pay them more. Do it right now. There’s nothing stopping you.

Look, when people talk about “trust” in the blockchain space, they’re usually talking about something a lot more specific than this. There’s a narrow little slice of things that a blockchain won’t let you do. You can’t spend the same Bitcoin twice. (…Except when you can.)

None of the trust-related issues in crowdfunding in general, or the Kickstarter company in particular, have anything to do with “can I trust Kickstarter not to spend the same dollar twice?”

Making campaigns longer?

That interview with The Beat suggested that some users don’t feel confident launching campaigns because of the “really short 30-day window.”

This is a really striking example of Not Knowing What Your Site Already Does.

The actual limit on Kickstarter — and you don’t need any special access or coding knowledge to find it out, anyone can create a new campaign draft, and it will tell you! — is 60 days.

If users want an even longer window, you can comparison-shop to find a competing platform that offers one. (Unbound, IndieGoGo, and “your own website” are examples.)

Most of us choose a window of 30 days or less. Making it much longer doesn’t actually help us. You wouldn’t see that in the code, but if you just ask the community — if you tap into that collective vault of knowledge, of people willing to share our real-world practical experience of running campaigns — you’d get the answer pretty quick.

Transferring your data between services?

Let me share a few experiences with data transfer.

Several years ago, I was unhappy with the hosting service that my website was on. So I downloaded all the data from the entire website, uploaded a multi-gigabyte tarball to a new hosting service, changed my domain name so it pointed to the new service, then closed my account with the old service.

The first time I had a funded campaign on Kickstarter, I downloaded my backer data as a CSV file, selecting “Stamps.com” as the output format. Then I logged into my Stamps.com account, uploaded the CSV file, and it automatically generated every shipping label with every address I needed to print.

When I connected Kickstarter to BackerKit a few months ago, I didn’t need to download anything at all. You just click a few buttons, and the backer data gets imported directly from one site to the other.

There’s a bizarre claim in the Full Announcement that a blockchain can make crowdfunding “more effective” because “creators can take their data to other platforms without asking a company for permission.”

Do the Kickstarter higher-ups think we need to ask their permission now?

Awfully high opinion they have of themselves, don’t they?

Creators “owning” our campaign data?

The announcement also says a blockchain lets users “own their own data,” and the Beat interview claimed that, with a blockchain, “data can move in a much more efficient and effective way between services, including Kickstarter.”

When people transfer “ownership” using a blockchain, they are, overwhelmingly, not transferring the actual data.

All those animal pictures you see with NFTs? They aren’t encoded on any blockchain. (The chains literally do not have enough storage space for images bigger than about 24×24 pixels.) They’re uploaded to regular servers — usually with no security, no encryption, no restrictions on who can access them.

What you transfer is a blockchain token, which has a link to the image. This creates secure and verifiable proof that you own…the token with a link to the image.

Let’s work through how this could apply to crowdfunding data. I connect a cryptocurrency wallet to the Kickstarter website. When a project funds, it airdrops me a token that…represents the backer data, somehow?

The token can’t contain the data. Even if the file size is low enough to fit — can you imagine how many laws it would break, to put all those wallet names and addresses on a public blockchain? Their lawyers are probably having nervous breakdowns just thinking about it. The site won’t even let creators access that data without regularly reviewing the privacy regulations, and affirming that we’ll follow them.

So the token has a link? Maybe it links to a backer report page? Of course, that link alone is meaningless unless you’re logged in as the project creator. The actual information is encrypted on the Kickstarter service — if you don’t have the access credentials, the URL gives you nothing but a login screen.

If I want to transfer this data to a service like BackerKit, I give BackerKit permission to use my login credentials. It only takes a few clicks to make a quick, secure, site-to-site transfer of all the backer information.

In theory, I guess I could also connect BackerKit to a crypto wallet, and it could confirm that I have a token with the URL to my project? But the token is not the data. There are many legal reasons why the token can never have the data. So BackerKit still needs the direct connection with Kickstarter in order to get the data.

Have you spotted any benefit to “shoehorning a blockchain token into this process” yet?

Me neither.

Exporting your campaign to other platforms?

These posts also claim a blockchain can help by “standardizing the way that crowdfunding campaigns and their data are structured” (FAQ), and that, by exporting the campaign data, creators “could list on multiple platforms to maximize reach” (TFA).

Our backer data already has an “Export” button.

If the Kickstarter site wanted to expand that functionality — to create an “Export” button that bundles all the campaign data in a neat little package, which could be uploaded to any service with an “Import” button — they could just do it.

It would be child’s play compared to that “transfer an entire functional website — multiple software installations, each with multiple interconnected SQL databases, linked to three domain names and a flurry of subdomains, currently totaling over 13 GB of data — from one hosting service to another” move I pulled a while back.

And, honestly? I think this would be cool. It could be a genuinely useful and interesting feature!

Trying to make a perfect standard that encompasses all possible use cases is a fool’s errand, but if they make a Kickstarter Company Format? And other platforms configure their software to recognize it? That basic jump of interoperability can be valuable.

Say, if a creator had a campaign already built on the Kickstarter platform, but before it launched, the website made a decision they couldn’t support — now that creator wouldn’t have to rebuild the campaign from scratch on another platform. They could transfer the whole finished setup, with just a few clicks.

I can think of a few creators who would have been delighted to use a feature like that.

It has nothing to do with blockchain!

And, again, there’s no reason in the world to drag a blockchain into it.

Backers getting our rewards more reliably?

The FAQ lists some risks of crowdfunding that they think a blockchain will solve, including the unavoidable risk that “project rewards are late, below expectations, or not fulfilled at all.”

(For once, this claim is talking about the meaningful rewards a backer gets for pledging to a project, not the theoretical crypto rewards you get by exploiting a DAO’s code…uh, I mean, by contributing to the Mystery Protocol.)

If I had to pick the single most absurd claim in this whole mess…that would be a strong contender!

Anyone who follows blockchain news for about five minutes will know that the space is overflowing with “creators who promise big rewards and utterly fail to deliver.”

Not only that: on Kickstarter, even if the creator of a crowdfunding campaign runs off with your money, they only get whatever funds the backers actively pledged.

In the crypto world, a scammer can also get direct access to your financial accounts, and easily make new charges for any amount they want, at any time.

Mixing and matching software components (like Lego bricks!!) to unlock new oh my god this is so patronizing I can’t even.

This is just code.

Nothing about this is new or special or unique to blockchains. Nothing about this is complicated. This is how all code works.

Have you ever downloaded an add-on for Chrome? Installed a custom mod for a video game? Connected your Twitter account to some other site and used it to sign in? Supported someone on Patreon, and got access to a Patron-exclusive channel on their Discord server?

Congratulations! You have mixed and matched software components! And you managed to do it without any blockchains, or without needing the process explained using children’s toys before you could understand it! Look how special and advanced and innovative you are.

Seriously, can we maybe give the Kickstarter Board an Etch-a-Sketch and tell them it’s a blockchain, and that will make them happy, and they’ll leave the actual code alone?

Here are some other things they’re confused about

In no particular order…

Blockchain technology is not new.

Some more poetry from the official announcements: “Like the internet in the early 1990s, the blockchain is a nascent technology whose story is not yet written” (TFA).

Would you like to guess when blockchain technology was invented?

If you guessed “also the early 1990s“, you are correct!

“Okay, but cryptocurrency blockchains specifically, aren’t those newer?”

True. The bitcoin network, the first decentralized blockchain, wasn’t launched until January 2009.

Kickstarter hit the scene in April 2009.

This “hot new technology that Kickstarter needs to embrace as the Inevitable Future” is older than Kickstarter.

Blockchain networks don’t scale.

Whoever wrote this has a way with descriptions, if nothing else. Now they claim blockchains allow for “networks of people…at scales that only governments and mega-corporations can fathom” (TFA).

The non-poetic reality is more like this: “i serve a playerbase larger than most countries and have built networks spanning the globe. […] i did my due diligence every time this has come up since 2015. it is my job to find new technologies and use them if they’re better. these are not. they are bad, embarrassingly bad.” (Chris Pollock)

Traffic on blockchains regularly reaches scales that the chains, it turns out, can’t fathom. The Ethereum network can only handle 30 transactions per second. (Compare to the Visa network, which can do over 24,000.) When too many people want to use it, the transaction fees surge — they’ve been spotted going over $2,700 for a single payment — until all the traffic the network can’t handle is simply priced out.

Try to imagine if the only way you could back a crowdfunding project, even for $5, was by setting aside an extra $2700. Just in case that’s what the blockchain miners are charging today for the effort of processing your $5 pledge.

I would love to put some numbers here for the Celo blockchain — how much traffic it has, how high the fees are, how much they’re projected to go up if the Mystery Protocol is popular — but those would be concrete technical details, so obviously we don’t have them.

Here are some details we do have:

As of February ’22, the number of active Ethereum accounts with a non-zero balance is a little over 18 million.

As of December ’21, the number of Kickstarter accounts that have backed at least one project is over 20 million.

So I would love to know what blockchain-based networks the Board is referring to, here! Which networks have such Overwhelming Scales they’ve never seen before, and handle them more cheaply and effectively than the Kickstarter website does already?

Blockchains aren’t “flexible.”

Look up the story of Wolf Game, won’t you?

It was a game built entirely on the Ethereum blockchain. You can’t erase and replace buggy data on a blockchain; all you can do is add new data to the end. Which means, when the creators discovered a potential exploit in the code, they had no way to remove it.

The only thing these creators could do was re-launch the entire game from scratch. People who had already started playing it were…not happy.

Or look up the story of AkuDreams, a collectible token project. The creators tried to write code that would block them from withdrawing profits as long as there were any buyers with un-processed refunds. A clever, well-intentioned anti-fraud feature — until the code logged more “refunds due” than “buyers to refund them to”.

Again, the creators can’t patch the original code. They can launch a patched version for their next project, but the original project has 11,539 ETH permanently stuck in it. Impossible to ever refund or withdraw. If they had been able to cash that out for real money, it could’ve brought them US $34 million.

This is the tech that Kickstarter’s FAQ calls “more flexible and adaptable to change and unpredictability.”

Carbon footprints don’t work like that.

The original posts spend a lot of time comparing Celo energy usage to Bitcoin energy usage — great, you’re not actively turning Arctic lakes into bathtubs the way Bitcoin is, what an achievement! But the Kickstarter website doesn’t run on Bitcoin.

How do operations on the Celo blockchain compare to the operations they plan to replace on Kickstarter’s current system?

They have no idea.

They swear it’ll be “carbon-negative” because they buy carbon offsets. Maybe just…go read what Greenpeace has to say about that.

They also give the bizarre claim of “When we start using Celo, we can begin to decrease our utilization of cloud computing services, which is currently one of the most significant contributors to our carbon footprint” (FAQ).

This is like saying “one of the most significant contributors to my carbon footprint is when I commute in my car, so instead, I’m going to start commuting in a rental car. Which might put out more carbon than my regular car! I haven’t checked.”

Large swaths of the internet already are “designed, governed, and owned by decentralized networks of contributors.”

When they say things like this, they’re really hoping you’ve never heard of Wikipedia.

They’re hoping you don’t realize 43% of all websites run on just one open-source CMS, with almost 60,000 free plugins created by its decentralized network of contributors. They’re hoping nobody told you a community-governed nonprofit runs the seventh-most-popular entertainment website on Earth.

They’re also hoping you don’t think too hard about the time the Kickstarter staff decided to unionize, and the reaction from the higher-ups was “what?? You want to form a network that isn’t under our control? With design and governance that we don’t own? No! These are not principles we support!”

Nothing of value is here

This whole proposal was constructed by people who don’t understand basic things about crowdfunding.

They don’t grasp what users like and value about Kickstarter.

They aren’t clear on the simplest functions of the Kickstarter website.

They can’t identify the problems it really has, much less offer coherent solutions.

They describe already-available features and services, whose existence they neither know nor care about, as revolutionary new ideas they just invented.

A recent Folding Ideas video absolutely nailed a running theme in every attempt to integrate blockchains with services and industries that already exist: “They don’t understand…ANYTHING about the ecosystems they’re trying to disrupt. They only know that these are things that can be conceptualized as valuable.”

And honestly? I don’t think they’ll ever fix it.

Look, I don’t know exactly who’s driving this bus, but I fully believe they don’t want to understand. I didn’t expect them to be able to scrape together enough detail for a white paper (neither did anybody else I know), and I would be surprised if they even tried. Definitely not betting on them ever being able to produce actual, executable code.

They’re going to coast on their total lack of understanding for as long as possible, before it inevitably crashes against the real and concrete needs of the crowdfunding community. (We have bills to pay. We can’t do that with hope and market projections and vaporware.)

The only question is how much longer until the plan collapses — and how much real money they can suck out of people before it goes.


Erin Ptah is the author/artist of the comics Leif & Thorn and But I’m A Cat Person. Both are hosted on multi-database websites that integrate third-party applications, open-source components, seamless interactions with major platforms like Patreon and Twitter, and the artist’s own custom-written code. You can buy books and merchandise for both, including the complete BICP omnibus, and the first four Leif & Thorn collections. The fifth one will be crowdfunded in September, on a platform TBD.

[The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily The Beat or Superlime LLC.]

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