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Kickstarter addresses blockchain concerns with Advisory Council and more

Company will seek input from creators before switching to new blockchain-based system

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By Sean Z. and Heidi MacDonald

Acknowledging that they have held “thousands of conversations with our community,” Kickstarter announced some moves aimed at addressing the pushback they’ve received since making their decision to move to a blockchain-based platform. They’ve announced more information in an updated FAQ.

This switch was announced in vague terms back in December, igniting an uproar in the creative community, and sending some of Kickstarter’s most lucrative categories – games and comics – to different platforms. In the last few weeks alone, Spike Trotman has announced her own crowdfunding platform, TopatoCo has launched TopatoGO, and gaming companies are leaving Kickstarter for non-blockchain based services. Comics outreach consultant Jamila Rowser resigned back in December over the controversy. 

In today’s statement, Kickstarter addressed some of these concerns, pledging “We Won’t Make Changes to Kickstarter Without You.”

“The environmental issues, scams, speculation, and risks are real, and we share these concerns,” they wrote. “These new technologies are tools that are only as good as what they’re used to build. It’s our responsibility to make sure they serve creators, backers, and the entire creative ecosystem, and that we are designing thoughtfully with full awareness of the challenges.”

You can read the entire statement below, but among the moves, they are establishing an advisory council drawn from “a diverse range of Kickstarter users and participants to inform our next steps….As we start work on the protocol, this group will help inform the list of problems and parameters we need to solve for.”

Stating “offsets are not enough,” Kickstarter reiterated that their new blockchain based protocol will be environmentally friendly, and “We will not build the protocol on a carbon-intensive blockchain.” This has been a major criticism of blockchain based platforms – a single transaction on the Etherium network (used for NFTs) uses 35 kWh of energy (for comparison, the average American household uses 30kWh per day). As Trotman puts it, offsets are basically the equivalent of vowing to spend a half hour on the treadmill every time you eat a piece of cake – the cake is still eaten.

Kickstarter also pledged that the new blockchain-based infrastructure would be extensively tested before deployment, saying “we’ll never put your livelihoods at risk by making you try something untested.”

All in all, the announcement seems to be an attempt to walk back the move to the blockchain for now – at least as more than a theoretical idea to lure in all the investors who are in a crypto feeding frenzy these days. Given that the general reaction among Kickstarter creators has been drastic,  at least beginning to address their concerns is a smart move.

Statement below:

We Won’t Make Changes to Kickstarter Without You

Recently we announced that Kickstarter is supporting the development of a decentralized crowdfunding protocol—new infrastructure designed to open new opportunities for creators, backers, and our entire crowdfunding ecosystem. If you haven’t read these posts, check out our blog post, our official announcement, and our FAQ.

Since our announcement, we’ve had thousands of conversations with our community over emails, support tickets, social posts and zoom calls to understand your concerns about these technologies. The environmental issues, scams, speculation, and risks are real, and we share these concerns.

These new technologies are tools that are only as good as what they’re used to build. It’s our responsibility to make sure they serve creators, backers, and the entire creative ecosystem, and that we are designing thoughtfully with full awareness of the challenges.

We have many ideas about how a new protocol can help creators and backers, and we initially thought that a white paper would be the best way to communicate these thoughts. It’s clear to us now though that before we do anything else, we need to listen to your feedback so that we can better address your concerns.

Here are the actions we’re now taking:

  • We will not move Kickstarter.com onto the new protocol unless it has been tested.

We’re not going to force this on creators and communities for whom Kickstarter is already working well. We’re not going to automatically shift all of Kickstarter to a new infrastructure. We’ll never put your livelihoods at risk by making you try something untested. We’re going to invest in experimenting, by supporting an independent organization in its effort to build new infrastructure that has the potential to serve more of the creative communities who aren’t fully served by crowdfunding today. We’ll make sure there’s a proof of concept with the creators who want to use it. We’ll look to integrate the pieces that offer value to the larger community down the line, but not without your input shaping the direction.

  • We will establish an advisory council made up of a diverse range of Kickstarter users and participants to inform our next steps.

We heard from you that you want us to address immediate creator needs on our core platform. We’ll work with the council to prioritize the development of features on Kickstarter—features that you have been long asking for—as well as potential new solutions to make the platform better and safer for everyone. As we start work on the protocol, this group will help inform the list of problems and parameters we need to solve for. Sign up to receive email updates about this and other developments here.

As we said in our earlier announcement, this protocol will be built through an independent organization. It will be separate from Kickstarter but similar in that it will be a PBC that will develop its own clear mission and guiding charter. This organization will do its work out in the open, the protocol code will be open-source, and available for anyone to view. We see this openness as a tool for accountability and collaboration.

  • We’ve committed in our PBC charter to limiting our environmental impact, and we’ll hold the new protocol to the same standard.

We agree with what we’ve heard—offsets are not enough. So we’re not relying on offsets alone (more info in our FAQ). We will not build the protocol on a carbon-intensive blockchain.

We believe this new toolkit can help address longstanding challenges in crowdfunding—but we’re just at the beginning. Each distinct creative community has different needs, and we’ll need your help to define the problems and design solutions that meet them.

Thank you for working with us to help us better understand your questions, concerns, criticisms, and/or support, whether you reached out publicly or privately. We’ll continue to update our FAQ as well as kickstarter.com/protocol with information on how to stay engaged.

 

We’ll have more on all of this including an interview with Spike Trotman and comments from Kickstarter execs later this week. 

 

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