But it's spot-on.
Short term, this is going to bring a lot of publicity and attention towards kickstarter, and that will also benefit the projects on there. If you'd like to launch something via kickstarter, now is the time to do it.
Because, odds are, what these guys roll out just isn't going to live up to the $100,000+ raised for it, and when that happens, that's going to reflect badly on kickstarter. I would guess that potential donors will be far more critical of future kickstarter projects; the foremost question on those projects is going to be, "Is this another Diaspora?"
The funding for this thing stopped being about getting this project off the ground, and has started being about a protest against Facebook. There's more than enough money in there to launch Diaspora now. People are donating now just to moon Facebook, and that's gonna end up hurting kickstarter later.
The people who donate money on Kickstarter aren't donating with the expectation of a real return. In a sense, they're "voting with their wallet". I don't think people give Diaspora $20 bucks thinking "hey, this is going to be a Facebook killer!", I think they will donate with the idea that they'd like to see someone give it a go.
Sorry for being so bipolar about it; I figured I'd delete the comment before having to defend a position I no longer agreed with.
I still don't think it's great for Kickstarter, but I don't think it's as big an issue as I initially did. I was hoping nobody had seen my comment, but they did; and I wanted to explain the reason I deleted my comment.
It sure encourages brevity though.
Those of us who are serious, with actual working code and real customers, welcome the extra scrutiny. No one ever said that Darwinism was painless.
eg. If the total is over $5,000 then the first $5k is cleared as normal, and any additional funds are delivered on meeting a milestone.
But if I were them I'd shut down the pledge site now, thank everyone and say that if after the launch they feel they need more funding they'll do a second round.
Like that expectations stay within the realm of the feasible.
On another note, this funding round is feeding off the facebook name recognition, not on the track record of these people.
Everybody loves an underdog.
I do see two problems here.
1. Diaspora is now awash in money - which might go to their heads or not, but which in any case creates new, non-code responsibilities for them. $100k is not chump change, and you can't just stick it into a petty cash box. As soon as Kickstarter transfers it to a bank account, being greater than $10k it will trigger an automatic report from the bank to the IRS. So before they write any more code, the Diaspora team need to hire a lawyer and create a trust or some other appropriate legal vehicle...might I suggest our own grellas?
2. For Kickstarter, this raises questions of how funding is managed. Now, most things on there offer a straight trade - send me $1 and I'll send you an mp3 of my new song after I've bought the guitar I need, or whatever. It's a sales contract, basically. However, it's not obvious what the terms of this contract are - for example, their FAQ doesn't address the question of what happens if the project owner doesn't buy the guitar but flees to Lichtenstein instead. I'm guessing recourse and other issues are governed by the terms of the Amazon payments agreement (https://payments.amazon.com/sdui/sdui/about?nodeId=6019), but Kickstarter need to address this upfront to avoid potential heartache, especially given that they allow projects to solicit commitments of up to $10k. Sooner or later some project will fail in such a way that a donor feels victimized and there will be blowback for Kickstarter. Given the large amount of money involved here, it would be a good idea for them to clarify the legal context in which donations take place. I find it surprising that they don't have any stated policy about donations exceeding the requested amount - though given the usual difficulty faced by artists begging for money, they probably haven't had to confront it seriously before. Most projects that overshoot their target do so by a fraction, not multiples.
Incidentally, Kickstarter's own rules do not allow a project creator to halt the project early, so even if Diaspora want to shut off the flow of donations, they can't.
Disclosure: I kicked them some $ too.
2) Kickstarter will likely learn as much from this particular event as anybody (including the diaspora team), they have seen their model validated in a way that you can only dream of when you run a service like that with a ton of free publicity to boot. If diaspora is only marginally successful that would be enough, but they should be careful to show their independence from the project.
I'm going to watch this very closely in the next couple of months, it is imo the biggest story in the year to date with respect to start-up financing.
I sincerely wish those kids the best of luck, they'll need it. Their biggest problems will be that they will be sitting on a significant sum of money and that alone will attract all kinds of sharks, which is not good when you're a goldfish.
I've suggested they apply to YC, that's one of the ways in which they could get the expertise they need in order to at least make it to a launch of sorts. They'll be in dire need of people they can trust.
However, I bet that "canceling funding" may not even be possible. Most founders will transfer the money from Amazon to their bank account. Even then, a project's viability may not even be obvious for another year so I doubt chargebacks could occur.
To pause the contribution round now and to show they can deliver would help them in avoiding the enormous risk of as someone else here already mentioned of becoming 'the next cuil'.
Hype is a double-edged sword, it's great when you have it but you only get one shot at delivering and in an overhyped situation that is much harder than in one where expectations are still realistic. The more money they pull in the more this will be overhyped, the bigger the chance of a public disappointment when they launch.
Most likely the public interest in this project will die out within 1-3 months. Hopefully they will not ruin their future lives endlessly trying to reproduce this incredibly lucky strike.
But while their at it, they should get as MUCH as they possibly can and totally and shamelessly go for it, hacking, hiring other people to work with them, getting drunk in parties at the other side of the globe, whatever...
Giving that money back saying they are afraid to disappoint some anonymous crowd would be totally nuts.
If they go getting drunk at parties on the other side of the globe there is a chance they'll kill kickstarter as collateral damage besides their own project.
Taking in funding - even if it is 'throw-away' cash - comes with a responsibility, this is not a 'lottery', and the crowd is not anonymous.
If the media hype dies down it will probably freeze fairly quickly, but the media is loving this story so far.
Sorry, that reference could have been more clear.
They could have put up a simple webpage with a "Donate Now" button linking to Paypal to collect funds. Would that have made Paypal look bad? Or their web hosts's reputation?
As for "Is this going to be another Diaspora," I'm not sure I would totally connect the Diaspora project to Kickstarter - unless it was Kickstarter writing the software that wasn't delivered (in the worst case scenario).
It's great that these guys are raising money, I'm all for it. They should take what they can get. But, what about all the brilliant open source projects out there, that people are actually enjoying and using today, not sponsored by large organizations that accept donations from the community. I'm willing to bet that _none_ of them have raised even close to this much money. It saddens me that society is more willing to financially support a statement than something actually useful and real.
Perhaps this turn of events was destined to happen eventually and these lucky guys hit the media jackpot. I still can't be happy about it.
I don't know them, but if the issue is a major fundraising effort to replace Facebook, I would think that selecting teams to implement the new system would need some serious due diligence.
Should someone raise money? Absolutely. Is it these guys? I honestly do not know. More information is needed...
I'm with GP, these guys wouldn't get an inch with any angel or VC's so why are the general populace giving them their money? just because it's $20 it doesn't mean you shouldn't consider it in the same way as a $20000 investment. A punt is a punt, but you don't put money on a statement, that's what lobby groups are for.
It's a shame, but I'm pretty numb to the phenomenon at this point.
And lots of people with money to back it up.
To facebook, you just jumped the shark. Perhaps you will never die, but your days are counted as king of the social web.
They're by no means a contender right now in the eyes of the tech world, but if I were Zuckerberg I'd take notice of what happens when you fuck people over often enough and what kind of grass roots resistance can materialize out of thin air.
There seems to be a limit to consumer patience when it comes to things like this and that makes me happy.
All FB has to do to take the wind out of diaspora's sails is to announce they got the message and that they'll default all privacy settings to 'opt-in' from now on and apologize.
I doubt that will happen though.
If Facebook was 2, 10, or 100 top-caliber Google engineers away from a serious challenge, Google would already be seriously challenging Facebook. Google is a CS-hiring force of nature.
I think facebook, for the next couple of years is unassailable, but they should definitely take note.
The facebook brand has been damaged in the last couple of weeks, and the hype around diaspora is damaging it further.
That's the only way in which this will have effect. If they pull it off though (even if they just ship) I'll tip my hat to them.
They are going to get more 'legs' is not the same as being big. The only thing that I try to convey there is that if they would get a couple of high profile people on board is that the project will gain a lot of legitimacy in the eyes of the the press and the blogs and that will give them yet another round of exposure.
I did not at all mean to imply that they would be 'big' because of that, there are far too many factors against them to even give them a fighting chance. If they play all their cards right they might be a niche player, if there is some kind of act-of-god then they might get a lot bigger. But taking on facebook at this stage is like taking on google or microsoft.
Diaspora is meant to be a mean of decentralization, just like Wordpress. Google is a mean of centralization, just like Facebook. Diaspora founders would love to see the ubiquity of Sheeva plugs (or whatever cheap home server we could get). Google would hate it: that would mean the death of most of their online services. Only the fundamentally centralized ones, like search, would be left. Gmail, Blogger, YouTube… would mostly die. (I'm aware of the asymmetric bandwidth issue. But if Sheeva plugs are ubiquitous, bandwidth will be symmetric anyway.)
I would still give them the finger, I don't trust Mark to keep it that way.
I'll admit the likelyhood of them succeeding in dethroning Facebook could probably be measured with several zeroes after a decimal point, but I don't believe that has anything to do with their personalities. Mabe I'm naive?
They're about to become the #1 website. They have issues, mostly PR problems at this stage, but for every person that has left FB in the last couple of months a much larger number has signed up.
A bunch of geeks living in the echo chamber are pissed about a privacy issue, so they all cruise over to a geeky website, and toss in $20 of their geek-inflated disposable income, to a vaporware project whose popularity is mostly due to politics. Meanwhile, in the time it took me to write this, ten million people logged in to Facebook.
Methinks a little perspective is in order here.
If they deliver somewhere in the fall and if it starts to draw significant traffic and if they don't have a big security breach themselves, and if there is no falling out between the four founders then they might be a contender.
But that's a lot of ifs.
Don't you mean the opposite?
There could have been so much more done with the other 80k. So many other things need money.
I don't know if it is not 'right', the signal function would have been just as strong if they would have set their original goal at $100K and people would have sent them that much $.
In some ways the $amount is a value that collapses a number of underlying elements to a single number, the amount of frustration around facebook privacy, the people that simply wish these kids luck and there are a number of people that hate facebook enough to put up a substantial amount of $.
Which portion of that $100K ($109K already, $4500 per hour right now) comes from the 'signal' portion is hard to tell.
Comments here are as insane as the amount of money these guys collected.
Did you come up with that yourself ?
Here in Brazil it wasn't until last year that people started even knowing what Facebook/Myspace is.
The social rule around here is Orkut + MSN Messenger. Unfortunately it led to a wave of "@hotmail" emails, but that's another thing.
says it all.
(on the other hand there may be some interesting technical ideas they would find useful - so perhaps from that perspective...)
I'd start to feel a little uncomfortable if I were them by now, $10K is fine, but a million is a serious responsibility, even if it was gathered as small change. The surprising thing to me is how many people pledge fairly large amounts.
edit: it looks like that was on the money:
They don't really need 100K - and if it ends up being all about the money it's never going to end well :(
At this point I think the more money they raise the bigger the chance they'll fail to meet expectations.
It's not rocketscience. The problem is, there is facebook now.
And that sets the bar pretty high. Going up against the proverbial 800 pound gorilla makes for a great story but it will probably end in some squashed egos. The book rights will be worth something though :)
Just like duck-duck-go isn't going to overtake google tomorrow though, they might find a niche they can exploit.
Facebook exiles most likely.
The technology is doable, after all, skype was built by two guys on top of a library created to distribute mp3s.
If you look at the top of the pledge page they write "Decentralize the web", they do not specifically mention facebook, so they seem to be aware of the fact that this could be the basis for a whole lot more.
Anyway, they now have enough money to hire a competent programmer or two if they get stuck :)
I'd love to see this happen, but I do feel that there is a high risk that the end product may be garbage. So I urge people who want to donate to learn more about the boys first (a computer science degree doesn't necessarily guarantee that they even know basics such as proper multithreading or have ever touched sockets).
On the other hand, perhaps this money is useful for the market signal in itself, that this sort of thing is in demand.
From a quick glance at the description of their effort, I wonder whether this will really be viable. My mom doesn't use FB for any other reason than that it's the most convenient way to send messages and pictures to friends. For her to move to anything else, it has to be easier. Try explaining to your mother-in-law that she needs to install a node.
If you are a geek, then you roll your own.
I also suspect people are donating to the money, or the publicity of the donations and not the actual project - if that makes any sense at all.
If they get this working, it'll be interesting to see what the adoption rates are. There might be some people with cash interested in using software such as this, but it still doesn't seem to have a draw beyond those with a deep knowledge of tech.
For instance, I'd wager that most Facebook users don't know what GPG is or care if it is being used or not.
Maybe I'll try something less ambitious this time around?
One interesting implementation they could strive for is rather than expecting users to host their own server, ask them for an AWS key and use that - that way Amazon handles all billing, uptime, etc.
Also the name blows, and they're self professed nerds - generally terrible at making a user experience for regular users.
1 - http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/XanatosGambit
Also, could the name be changed at all, given the attention it already received?
100k is some serious seed money.
also they should probably take a year off and move somewhere other than NYC (unless proximity to help is worth the rent).
Ok, maybe I've just answered my own question. It's only about the PR splash!
In other words, $10,000 means they can work on this all summer without needing a job to support them.
Judging by their open source activities, they are not people I'd give $100k to.
I've seen much more impressive repositories from students.