Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Indiegogo Life Is the Newest Frontier in Digital Panhandling
by Mike Pearl/Vice Indiegogo plays second fiddle to Kickstarter in the crowdfunding world, and it compensates by being willing to fund what Kickstarter won't, including porn, energy drinks, and charity drives. Now, seemingly out of the goodness of its heart, Indiegogo has launched something called Indiegogo Life, a standalone site that will help people raise money for personal causes. Does a four-year-old need reconstructive surgery after being attacked by a dog? Do Ferguson protesters need legal fees? Indiegogo Life is there to help! But some petitioners on the site are looking to fund what might be called luxuries—a wedding ceremony, say, or a "guitar for my birthday!" By opening a panhandling platform with no pretense of "funding" anything other than a person's needs or wants, did Indiegogo essentially build an entire site just for the potato salad Kickstarter guy? According to press materials, Indiegogo Life, which launched on Monday, "does not charge a platform fee, enabling fundraisers to keep more of the money they raise" (a third party does charge a 3 percent transaction fee). It's clearly a move meant to raise Indiegogo's profile rather than a bid for short-term profits. But just a couple days after its launch, the site seems like a messy free-for-all of charity cases, some of which seem suspect. There are no big nonprofits on Indiegogo Life—a company spokesperson said that those organizations would need to use the original Indiegogo platform, where some donations are tax deductible—just a lot of individuals asking for a lot of different things. Take this one, for example: Raising money for Gaza sounds really important, but how are you supposed to help out Gaza's "homeless & poorly people" when you set your funding goal at a measly $6,000? Donors would probably be better off sending their money to Save the Children's Gaza Children in Crisis Fund than handing it over to this mysterious account. Indiegogo representatives assured me that the company "has a stringent verification procedure that includes a dedicated team of experts, automated algorithms, and other procedures." But even if these campaigns aren't scams, some of them don't exactly describe dire situations that require the kindness of strangers to remedy. Here's a guy who wants a better computer so he can make art: It's clear that these platforms have enormous potential for allowing people to request money in emergencies, though they also allow people to treat the internet like an ATM. At the moment, the signal-to-noise ratio on Indiegogo Life is terrible, though that may change in the coming weeks or months. Hopefully, the site will demonstrate the internet's generosity, rather than its gullibility.