DIY crowdfunding and bitcoin
Well, my git-annex crowdfunding campaign is half way to its August 15th conclusion. So far it's raised more than five times what I hoped it would. I wish I could say I'm like some canny NASA engineer who intentionally sets low expectations for their Mars rover, but in both the previous kickstarter and this campaign I've really had no idea how far it'd go. I'm glad that I'll be working on git-annex for another year.
I was particularly unsure if it'd be successful to move off Kickstarter. During the git-annex assistant Kickstarter campaign, I saw many small contributions from people who learned of it due to it being a successfully funded project, a staff pick, etc. Losing that easy network effect is a gamble.
So far I've had only half the number of contributors that I got on Kickstarter. I've basically missed out entirely on the $5 level casual contributors. On the other hand, my backers have generally been more generous (and some have been exceedingly generous). And I've avoided rewards that will cost much money, so I may end up in the same ballpark funding level in the end!
I also was curious to experiment with Bitcoin in this campaign. Partly because Paypal isn't available everywhere internationally, and takes really obnoxious percentages of transactions (though probably not as bad as Kickstarter taking its percentage followed by Amazon payments taking its percentage..) and partly because there seem to be interesting possibilities for supporting free software with Bitcoin. (Especially if any of the microtransactions on top of Bitcoin take off.)
So far 5% of backers have used Bitcoin. It's been quite strange to actually have significant amounts of bitcoins in my wallet. Wordpress has had 94 bitcoin payments over 9 months since starting accepting them. I've had 47 payments in the two weeks my campaign has run so far. Wow!
Most of the bitcoin payments have come in via Coinbase (a few people have found my direct payment address), but of those very few were using bitcoin purchased on Coinbase. Most are probably transfers of bitcoin they already had, or perhaps bitcoin purchased on other sites.
The one technical issue I've had with using bitcoin is that Coinbase has not provided details about who sent most of the donations. Probably some of them are intentionally anonymous, but I suspect Coinbase's interface to claim incoming bitcoin transactions failed for some of them. (If you donated bitcoin and want to actually get a reward, please email me.)
By the way, I'm converting most of the bitcoins back to USD pretty quickly. I'm not interested in speculating on currency exchange rates with money that has been donated so I can accomplish a particular task..
I put up the campaign website without any means in place to handle updating it. This is because I never automate anything until I've done it at least 10 times by hand. ;) After the first trickle of donations became a flood, I quickly realized I needed at least something to handle keeping the numbers straight.
What I whipped up in an hour of coding is a system where I enter incoming payments into a hledger file and a small haskell program parses that and writes out various files that are included into the website. Amusingly the percentage calculation and display code was copied from git-annex, so part of git-annex is helping run its own fundraising campaign. The campaign video is itself hosted in a public git-annex repository, come to think of it.
The rest of the site is built using ikiwiki. Given that it's hosted at Branchable, this is a high level of dogfooding and DIY. There are certianly better crowdfunding platforms, but all I miss in this one is automated transaction entry. And I have total flexability, double entry accounting, and a powerful static website generator that handled being on the top of Hacker News without a sweat. Oh, and some money. What's not to like?