Ming the Mechanic:
Ransom economics

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Ransom economics2005-06-09 02:12
23 comments
by Flemming Funch

Collision Detection talks about a different way of publishing. A couple of board game designers wanted to publish a game online in PDF format, but were worrying about not getting paid, because people easily could pirate their work. So they thought about a new way of doing it.
Last December, Stolze and Holis invented what they call "the ransom model". It works like this: They described the basic gist of the game on their web site, and set a ransom of $600 for it. If they received $600 in donations by September 2005, they would finish creating the game -- and then release it on their site, for anyone to download for free. (If they didn't get the full $600 in time, they would donate whatever money they'd received to a homeless shelter.) As they explained, the ransom model is a win-win for lots of reasons:
"First off, it makes piracy a non-issue: As soon as the property is available to anyone, it's free for everyone. Secondly, it keeps the prices reasonable for the buyer, by definition. From where I sit, there is no conceivable way anyone can feel ripped off with this setup, since no one is being asked to front more than they're comfortable spending."

And it worked. In only four months, Stoltze and Solid got the full $600 they asked for, and now anyone can freely download the game from their site.

I had actually thought about such ideas as a possibility for how one would finance large scale projects in grassroots economies. Like, if we all were trafficking in alternative currencies that weren't issued by banks or governments, and if there weren't huge corporations on the stock exchange, and we maybe even arranged for most things to be free, how would we get bridges built, and how would expensive movies get made?

It isn't unfathomable that the same approach could be used, with some refinements. Essentially you would put out your proposal, what you would like to do, and what you think it would cost. And people would examine it, and they would examine your reputation for doing good things. And then they would vote with their currency, in advance, before the product gets made. If enough people think it is worthwhile, it gets made. If not, it doesn't. I bet Star Wars would easily have been financed that way. And the war in Iraq wouldn't. And we'd have space elevators and expeditions to Mars much faster.


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23 comments

9 Jun 2005 @ 02:22 by bushman : Ya :}
Could be used to pay taxes, people vote for certine things thru how they decide where thier tax money goes before they pay it. Like most my tax money would go to education and health.  


9 Jun 2005 @ 05:13 by Ge Zi @24.126.199.23 : taxes
This is how the taxes were originally planned in the US - and this is how they still are when you look at the law. The government defines projects, finds out how much money they need for it, then this sum is apportioned amongst the states and people then pay it through their property taxes - whatever.
But for politicians that would require to be accountable and this is how the income tax was invented where they first collected the money - as much as they could - and then find out what they want to spend it on.
For the few of the readers of these pages who don't know the issue yet - a good breakdown can be found at http://www.originalintent.org/ - a gem amongst a lot of crap ;-)  



9 Jun 2005 @ 15:56 by dewf @69.45.164.2 : rational street performer protocol
"One objection that can be made about the Street Performer Protocol is that contributors do not seem to gain a reward (in terms of production of the public work) in proportion to their contribution. This means that it makes sense to freeload, and just wait for other people to put up the money.

"In this web-page I propose a variation on the Street Performer Protocol in which it is rational to contribute money towards the production of the public work, based on a system of conditional pledges. I call this the Rational Street Performer Protocol. This protocol evolved out of discussions in the Melbourne University Information Economics group.

[from http://www.logarithmic.net/pfh/rspp ]

I've been interested in the idea of making a website for independent music and graphic artists to be able to sell their work this way. The main problem I forsee with it is collections. It's a bit of a bootstrap problem-- if the site were large and successful, and more-well-known artists were attracted to it, then it would not be difficult to get people to preload $20 or so to their account in order to facilitate future micropayments. But if it only has a few artists, people aren't going to want to invest that money in a website which might only produce crap that's not worth "bidding" on. And the existing payment systems (paypal, bitpass, etc) either charge a lot per transaction, or require preloading the account. And it might be hard to get people to trust such a site they've never heard of-- essentially I'd be the escrow for this stuff.

But it would be great to disengage music from the distribution companies-- artists only want 1. to be compensated 2. exposure. If they could get paid in a lump sum fee-- possibly quite a bit more than any record deal, with no strings attached-- AND be able to offer their album on bittorrent... win-win.  



15 Jun 2005 @ 11:39 by Seb @156.34.182.109 : Fundable
Fundable could be a good support for the ransom model - http://www.fundable.org/

Have you seen Save Toby too? Literal ransom. http://www.savetoby.com/  



15 Jun 2005 @ 13:40 by ming : Funding
Ah, {link:http://www.fundable.org/|Fundable} looks great.

Heheh, yes I've seen {link:http://www.savetoby.com/|Save Toby}. Yeah, I can't say that's anything other than ransom economics. $28,000 dollars, why didn't I think of that? ... Well, because I could never bring myself to do anything that unscrupulous. Toby has two weeks left, unless people donate another $22,000. I wonder what the guy's gonna do.

The {link:http://www.logarithmic.net/pfh/rspp|Rational Street Performer Protocol} looks good too. I'm glad people are thinking seriously about this stuff. I've better make a post highlighting these.  



18 Jun 2005 @ 02:42 by Seb @156.34.182.109 : Toby
I have to say I'm pretty sure Save Toby is a joke, that may make a bit of money to its creator, but not that much. In any case, it's always more profitable to push the execution date (as, I believe, the guy actually did already at least once) than to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, so I'm not that worried for Toby - he'll die of old age. http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/savetoby.asp

BTW I like your CAPTCHA. Home grown?  



21 Jun 2005 @ 18:04 by ming : Toby
Yeah, I didn't really believe he was gonna kill a rabbit. But I sort of believed his amount was right. And I'm sure somebody has donated something, but it would be comforting if the truth were nowhere near that amount. So, I'll stop plotting holding my pets for ransom.  


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