Rats -- someone here said, "I'd be worried if I was kickstarter at this point...", and as I went to reply to that, they deleted their comment.
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.
Sorry, that was me. I thought a little bit more about it and decided that I was mostly wrong.
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.
And now everyone will know my secret shame of not being able to make up my mind.
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.
I don't think it's a shame at all. You should take pride that you're trying to construct well-reasoned arguments, and in the course of that, sometimes you change your mind. Only cranks and trolls never have that experience.
There really isn't any motivation to shut it down now though as far as I can tell. It seems like they're getting money with essentially no strings attached - might as well get it now while it's easy to get.
That's true. But they would come over a lot more credible (at least to me, that may be different for others). I you've misjudged your initial funding requirement by more than 10:1 you are already showing that you've done something wrong, so since they've received what they said they needed the logical next step would be to put up some proof they can deliver.
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.
But Jacques, they haven't misjudged their original funding requirement - at worst, they've underestimated potential early investor/market interest in the product they are proposing to create.
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.
as to 1) Yes, agreed fully, a trust is the way to go. Grellas would be awesome.
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.
It seems to me that their FAQ tries to get around the question of what happens if a project isn't completed. Specifically, it says the project manager is "expected" to cancel funding. Otherwise, it might lead to "damage to your reputation" or even "legal action on behalf of your backers."
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.
Yes, absolutely. They initially asked for $10K. They now have 10 times as much.
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.
By your logic, a person winning the lottery should cap at 100K and say no thanks, I rather not piss of my friends family and colleges.
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.
It's not about personal morality, but legal responsibility. For example, just what are their tax and commercial obligations right now? You can't just hand the IRS a copy of the GPL; a large sum of money like this will require them to spend some time and $ just to document and report it correctly so it doesn't get treated like a scam.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime no repeatable event. And the money is really not that significant in the whole scheme of things for four people over a summer. Now, if they could get it to go over $400k, then it would be substantial.
Because of the context, I parsed that as "if I were [Kickstarter] I'd shut down the pledge site now", and was having a hard time following your reasoning. Assuming you meant Diaspora, your point is a lot more reasonable.
I disagree. For Kickstarter, I think this is what the "Paris Hilton cell phone hack" was for Digg. It has proved their model and their platform and will mainstream their service. Only good things for them - I actually think Kickstarter is the big winner in this entire situation, Diaspora is now saddled with sadly unreasonable expectations.
I'm not clear on how this will damage Kickstarter's reputation. They're only hosting the project's donation collection system.
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).
Is anyone else mildly depressed by the inequality between money raised and reality here?
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.
Is that necessarily the case though? I'm hoping to see a lot more open source projects popping up on Kickstarter. While I'm not donating to Diaspora* (yet) I think I would be happy to donate to plenty of open source projects and Kickstarter seems to be a great platform for collecting those donations.
kickstarter isn't about donations, it's supposed to be about microfinancing startups. They are investments.
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.
Ah, they are explicitly not investments, so as not to fall afoul of securities laws. Kickstart donors get exactly zero property interest in any IP - check the FAQ. It's a sales outlet for custom products offered on a promissory basis.
Well, if nothing else, this is certainly proof of an innovative fundraising strategy. Why sell equity in your company when you can appeal to masses of tiny investors with a "battling evil" story? I don't think Facebook has anything to worry about from a product perspective, but from a PR perspective, this shows that a lot of people hate them enough to put money down.
Am I the only one that finds this statement distasteful? I would understand if you said the project looks like it has vaporware written all over it, but saying the "group" looks like they have vaporware written all over "them" suggests you're basing your opinion on their physical appearance. I expected more out of HN.
All this proves is that a bunch of nerds got caught up in an open source telethon and gave some money. I highly doubt anyone at Facebook gives a damn... especially if they've watched the "pitch" video in which these guys come off like a bunch of 18 year old goofballs.
Enough people are pledging different stuff besides just money to give them a serious amount of resources to use, all it takes is for one or two experienced systems architects from the big G, skype or some other project to hop on board and they're going to get a lot more legs. Diasporas biggest negative asset at this point is the egos of the founders, judging by their videos. But then again, who wasn't cocky at 18.
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 re-read your comment and I don't see where you pick up that diaspora is a couple of google developers away from being big.
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.
Even if Google could do something like Diaspora at near zero cost, they wouldn't. Their goals are opposite.
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.)
And how do you propose Mark Zuckerburg came off to his friends when he first started talking about writing a website to get pics of girls (if that story is indeed accurate)? Probably like a horny college nerd.
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?
This seems like a great opportunity for Google to "donate" some senior talent to the project, blow this up into a fully functioning platform (optionally backed up on Google's servers), and one-punch KO Facebook.
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.
Exactly. All this amounts to at this stage is a signal to facebook. A powerful signal, absolutely. But not by any stretch of the imagination a threat.
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.
No I don't. Not many people care about there privacy (otherwise facebook would have been bust). And even if they had pledged 200% or 300% that would have been enough to send a strong signal but 1088% of pledging is just not right.
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.
I really doubt it would be that easy to KO Facebook. Remember Orkut? Google is great at a lot of things, but building online communities is not one of them. Also, as has been pointed out in other discussions: most Facebook users don't care and aren't going to leave unless there's a compelling reason. A lot of their photos are already locked into Facebook -- it's going to take a lot to show them a greener pasture, and I doubt "better privacy" is going to be one of them.
Google provides for consumers. From the spec of this project it is an interesting idea - but I don't think it will be a consumer project/site/resource like Facebook is (i.e. it won't pass the "dumb blonde" test).
(on the other hand there may be some interesting technical ideas they would find useful - so perhaps from that perspective...)
What I don't understand about Diaspora is why can't one guy just start hacking out his own "distributed Facebook" replacement today. No team needed (not at start.) No money needed. Use F/OS/OTS software, all the pieces are just laying there. Actually I wouldn't be surprised if there were already several people out there doing exactly this already, but without the PR splash made by Diaspora.
Ok, maybe I've just answered my own question. It's only about the PR splash!
If they keep this up they'll cross a million bucks in the next 18 days.
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.
Their current funding success will generate another round of publicity, that's already happening. Everybody loves to hate facebook so you can just about cue the next round of blog posts and press coverage.
Agreed; 10K seems a reasonable "investment" to see if they can come up with the goods. 100K (or more) smacks of people jumping on the current "Down With Facebook" train and not considering what they are putting money into properly.
They don't really need 100K - and if it ends up being all about the money it's never going to end well :(
100k will give them more time to work on this comfortably after the initial release. It's an ambitious project and 100k is still chump change - they should raise as much as possible now. Maybe they won't need to ever take VC funding later on.
Success is all about incentives. In this case, by the end the kids probably end up with $100K-200K each. Perhaps the biggest incentive for them will be not to be those guys who got a jackload of money from donations and never delivered. Google remembers forever.
Related to the whole Facebook fiasco, I just found this. I wonder how credible it is - that information is hard to verify. Basically, Zuckerburg allegedly IM'd his friend, and called early Facebook adopters "dumb fks" for trusting him with their information.
At their age? Not a whole lot. But then again, Zuckerberg was about that age when he built the first version of facebook.
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.
What they are proposing is significantly more difficult than what Facebook initially wrote. Facebook, at one point, was just another web app with a nice story for bootstrapping new users via the college networks. These guys are trying to build a distributed, secure, encrypted network on which to build social networking functionality. If they do it correctly it could be the basis for a whole lot more. And even if they don't work it out entirely as long as they release the source code it is a step in the right direction and others can continue to work on it or something similar.
Yes, but if they hire say cperciva or someone with credentials and experience like that I can see that part as 'solvable'.
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.
I am happy they are getting this much money, but what is more interesting is to find out who is behind these guys. Who had the connection to the NYtimes, why did the story get picked up. They went from 0 to 3,000 followers in 1 day on twitter.
I have done some analysis kickstarter fundraisers, and why some fundraisers go viral and others don't.
here is a quick example, same subject but only one was able to raise money http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/search?term=obama
I was personally going to donate to this project, but unfortunately, there seems to be little evidence that these guys actually are competent coders (not even code samples from their uni). So I fear that people are paying money simply because they hate Facebook, and that it may be mostly wasted.
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).
I'm all excited about this too, but does anybody even know these kids? Is anybody out there vouching for so much as their ability to program? 10k is a nice thing to risk at them, but 100k is pushing it in my opinion. 100k towards "a decentralized social network" sounds good, but 100k towards one particular decentralized social network sounds like trouble. At least it'll be open source so somebody else can take it and fix it if they screw up.
On the other hand, perhaps this money is useful for the market signal in itself, that this sort of thing is in demand.
While I haven't followed this story all that closely, what makes people so confident that this particular project will have legs?
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.
I'll be interested to see if, by the end of the summer, they have a working project and the turn-key hosting solution.
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.
I see a lot of people worry about if they fail. I think in the community there are a lot of people here to make it a success, and I think at this point that showing a little opportunism would be good right now.
Identify ways you can help that can create a win-win for both you and diaspora. Don't say you miss the party for this one.
I'm entertaining myself with the notion that a great deal of this money is from Zuck himself, funneled in via small amounts in a fiendish Xanatos Gambit to make the inevitable flameout more spectacular.
Leave of absence I'd say. 3months may be enough to build the basic infrastructure before turning it over to the open source community, but the odds of Diaspora succeeding in the long run will be significantly better if its guided by the people who created and live it as long as possible. Thinking of Linux as the model.
They're starting to look at some serious cash. I hope these kids use it wisely. A reasonable amount should be used for living expenses, but there's enough left over to hire a good quality graphics designer, and other contractors to help with the load.