The internet is a strange place. Intelligent, aware people like me quite easily approve extraction of money from their bank accounts by invisible means, and its almost simultaneous crediting to other people's bank accounts. And then, after a time of anxiety or confidence, depending on your personal level of paranoia, you receive a product or service that you consider roughtly equivalent in value to what you paid. It's not called internet shopping for nothing.
Then there's crowdsourcing. Many people using crowdsourcing to raise money offer small inducements, often worth much less than the donation. It might only be that your name and generosity will recorded for posterity. In that sense it's a bit like raising money for charity, except that the charity doesn't have to be registered and the money raised is usually supposed to fund a very specific thing. Sometimes people using crowdsourcing to raise funds will be offering a product that will only be available if the full amount is received so the project can go ahead. I suppose I'd assume if it doesn't go ahead I'd get the money I'd pledged back. I'd certainly assume that if it did go ahead I would get the goods that I'd paid for (usually paid more than they were worth because I believed in the cause) in my pledge.
And (you know where this is going, don't you?) there is trust involved. When the person who is running the scheme is very well-known, both personally and digitally to the pledgers, there is a high level of trust. And the companies who handle the pedges and access the bank accounts of pledgers also have a high level of trust in the community. One of these companies is Pozible. If you're not familiar with the idea of crowdsourcing their home page will give you an idea of how it works. If you're supporting the launch of an EP and you pledge over a certain amount you'll get a copy. If you're supporting a play at a fringe festival and you pledge over a certain amount you get a ticket. Makes lots of sense, and I see that the Queensland Literary Awards, replacing those that were axed by the new premier, have raised $142% of their goal at Pozible (Yay crowdsourcing!).
A successful Pozible project in 2011 was Ton of Wool. In the words of the organiser, Kylie Gusset:
Processing wool in Australia is fast becoming a dying art, and wool needs to stay in Australia for creation from sheep to skein in order to support small farmers and micro business.
The successful project will ensure that your money will be put into directly paying the farmer, scour, fibre processor, mill and transport companies. The whole project occurs within the 03 area code - grown in Tasmania, processed and milled in Victoria.
1 Ton Of Wool - Why so much?
1 ton of wool is being processed because that's the smallest amount we can get through a commercial scour. We're a grain of sand in their usual beach of processing, so we're rather lucky to get a foot in their door.
I was happy to subscribe, and I promoted the project to friends and through the NSW Knitters' Guild. I was very happy with the three skeins of undyed wool I received back in April: soft, smooth, buttery. But I've recently realised that a lot of people who ordered dyed skeins haven't received anything. It was very galling for these pledgers (shall we call them customers?) when the wool was offered for sale at the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show in July, but they couldn't get any response to pleas for a delivery date for something they paid for more than twelve months ago. This week Kylie responded to some questions on her Ravelry page:
” You’ve taken peoples money in return for goods. That falls under “business transaction”. ”
i’m wondering if that is what is the whole problem here. see, i used pozible. a crowdsource funding site. i took pledges in return for rewards. it doesn’t fall under business transaction. for example, as far as i know, consumer affairs in this instance is unable to do anything if someone who pledged wanted to make a complaint.
As I say, I'm not a lawyer, but this seems very disingenuous to me. Taking money in return for a promise of goods sounds like business to me. She has said that she still has to process 60 of the 400 orders - that's nearly 1 in 7. This woman is in business as a dyer, has been for years and she was trusted. More from the Ravelry site:
“We thought we were dealing with a reputable business with a track record.”
i have no track record with crowdsource funding on pozible, cormo, or dealing with wool brokers, farmers, scours, or wool processors. spinning mill? sort of, but TON OF WOOL is a different beast entirely. i used to dye sock yarn (and i’m looking forward to getting those days back)
now, together, we’re making history.
But that's not all that the 400 people who supported her were paying for. Sure, we 'got' that this was an important moral and environmental issue. Air miles, supporting local growers and businesses, yada yada yada. But we were also after the wool that we paid for. I'm not sure why that's such a complex concept.