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The Resident Attacks Crowd Funding - I Say She's Wrong.

Ever since Video Producer and Youtube Ranter Lori Harfenist, better known as The Resident, produced her video Kickstart My Fart (embeded below), a rant against crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter that basically accuses people of begging and fostering a culture of entitlement, I've found her rants increasingly harder to stomach. Which is a shame since I've been subscribed to her Youtube channel as far back as 2006, when she first started posting to the site.



My problem with this video, and Lori's general delivery of many of her videos, is that she puts up a proposition and then proceeds to ram that proposition home as if it is a fact.

In this particular video she does highlight some of the positives of Kickstarter but when she states something that supports her proposition she'll shout it louder and with more energy, giving that thought more weight and thus making it more memorable for the viewer.

I thought I'd take a page out of her book and not be a 'sheeple', as she sometimes calls people who don't take an active role in understanding, government, big business, current events etc. and question her point of view.

Lori's proposition is that Kickstarter and sites like it could be seen in another way...

"They could be seen as proof of, or the impudence behind, the fact that we have become a nation of self entitled beggars who think that we all should get money for nothing!"

She immediately follows this statement by pointing out several different crowdfunding projects of supposedly dubious nature - millionaire actors funding their films, faux journalists raising money to buy incriminating videos and kickstarters that simply pay people to travel around and post to Facebook. All true (yes I looked them up).

But are they dubious really or is Lori just imposing her moral judgement on projects that you can choose to invest in or not? Is she glossing over the fact the the study she's about to reference notes that quality projects tend to me more successful in achieving their funding goals?

Based on my research people have more faith in millionaire actors and faux journalists than they do people who simply wish to travel and post to Facebook (didn't spot too many of those successfully reaching their funding goals).

Next Lori points to that research I mentioned saying that:

"75% of products funded through Kickstarter are delivered late, if at all."

Proving that Lori is not above skewing the data to support her own proposition - yes question everything, even The Resident.

If you follow the link given in the video you'll discover that's not actually what the research is saying. It says that 25% of projects studied (from a sample size of just 381 products) were delivered on time and only 3.6% of projects failed to deliver at all. That's actually 96.4% of products delivered, albeit 71.4% were delivered late - but still delivered.

If you look into the report even further the potential for fraud, whilst quite high, has been rare. In this study, 3 products issued refunds and 11 had stopped responding to backers (this is actually where the 3.6% figure mentioned above comes from).

Yes the potential for fraud is there with Lori quoting from Wired Magazine (like they're some kind stalwart for factual and balanced reporting). The article she cites is talking about businesses using crowd funding to raise capital and the need for them to be transparent about raising money this way.

Everything is susceptible to fraud, that's not unique to crowd funding (as someone who's managed to be caught out by an auction fraudster on a now defunct auction site, I'd rather be defrauded out of my $20 kickstarter donation than the $300.00 I paid for a Laptop I never received).

Next we get to listen to Lori debunk four reasons, pulled from the study, that people invest in kickstarters with her opinion. The four reasons are:
  1. Access to investment opportunities.
  2. Early access to new products.
  3. Community participation.
  4. Formalization of contracts.
Lori quickly dismisses item 1 by linking it to equity. Since Kickstarter isn't about equity at all, and the study was about Kickstarter, clearly that's not the kind of investment opportunity it refers to. In my opinion the 'investment opportunities' here are in the more general sense, where you invest in a kickstarter to earn one of the projects rewards and/or to see the project succeed.

Item 2, Lori dismisses right away because "since products aren't always delivered or are available anywhere on the web... ...that's a bit of a stretch". What the? I don't even know how she reached that conclusion? Products that need funding to even be built are available anywhere on the web?

I know of at least one relatively prominent Youtuber that has contributed funding to kickstarter projects to get them early and has even reviewed kickstarter products on his channel.

Item 3 she dismisses because "the entire web is community participation!" Which is like saying participation in the web can be discounted since people are already participating in life on planet Earth. Obviously community participation refers to the community developed around specific projects and is extremely relevant if the members of that community are all excited to see their specific project/product succeed.

Lori thinks, then, that it all comes down to formalization of contracts. She then spouts that crowdfunding sites "legitimize our own projects making our pretend time real." Again WTF. What the hell is 'pretend time' and what is wrong with wanting to legitimize something that you care about?

Then she goes on, complaining that "we're living in this culture where everyone wants to be the boss and no one wants to work for anyone, or work at all in general". Implying that all Kickstarter projects are created by unemployed people who don't want to work and that there is something wrong with wanting to work for yourself.

She continues that people just want to work on their "Personal brands... whatever that means?" as if she isn't aware that she's been working on her own personal brand since 2000 according to her own website. She claims social media has turned us all into "micro stars with brands, so why shouldn't we get paid for whatever we want?"

Here's the real kicker. Lori includes this statement towards the end of her video:

"It's true that a kickstarter campaign is only as stupid as the people who invest in it"... did you notice the source on this 'fact'... "source: Me. Just now"... so not actually true then, just Lori's opinion. What if every investor is a Mensa Genius?

Finally, her bottom line is that "not everybody deserves to get paid for doing whatever they want". Implying that posting a project on any crowdfunding site is a surefire guarantee to getting paid for every little whim of an idea you had today. Even though the study that she references notes that people tend to back projects that they perceive to be of quality. Many kickstarter projects, worthwhile or not, simply fail to reach their funding goals and receive no money at all.

In the end she pretty much tells you to go out and get a job and earn your own damn money. Stop 'begging' because eventually your social media friends are going to get sick of you mooching off them all the time.

My bottom line is, she's entitled to her opinion but her superficial view point lacks vision or understanding. She assumes the people putting money into crowd funded projects don't weigh up the value of the project they're supporting before donating their 'hard earned dollars'. She also assumes that the people starting kickstarter campaigns do have a sense of entitlement and no work ethic.

There will always be negative aspects to crowd funding but Kickstarters can achieve amazing things that actually do require hard work, don't necessarily give a big return on investment or can be funded by a weekly pay cheque... like human powered flight... it's one way to spend your 'pretend time'.

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