There is no such thing as a pure meritocracy.
Every few months, it seems like, when the Internet gets its big knickers on and does something righteous, invariably, someone somewhere gets up on a stage and declares that anyone, if the idea is good enough, can be successful on the Internet. Whether that’s a business plan, a political campaign or a cultural meme: you, too, can make it big. It’s our American rugged individualism, intertwined with what looks like an open digital frontier, all packaged up into an utopian bliss for the new century.
What’s true is that more people than ever have access to information, tools and networks that make things happen. And while the news often covers the darker sides of connective technologies like the Internet and mobile devices becoming mainstream, there’s plenty of good to celebrate. Look at just this past week in Internet do-gooding: A video showing a school bus monitor being gut-wrenchingly harassed by 13-year-old boys until she cried sparked a fundraising campaign for her, one that’s now reached over $650,000.
Where things go awry in the analysis of these kinds of situations is two-fold: one, that there is a secret to making something “go viral” (short answer: there isn’t), and two, anyone can create explosive story at any time if the story has merit. If you’re good enough and smart enough, doggone it, people will like you. And you will win the Internet.
Though it’s been eight months since I actually launched the crowdfunding for my book (and then wrote about how it was going), it seems to have kicked up a new firestorm of discussion over the past weekend. Much of it began on Twitter; then a few people wrote up blog posts covering it. I only discovered the discussion after it was well underway (evidently I’m difficult to track down online, and not much of a conversationalist anyways, heh), so the last few days have been spent correcting factual errors and offering catch-up insight as to why I believe so deeply in this model. I’m hoping now to sum up a few of the arguments I’ve made elsewhere, but moreso I’d like to pull back and look at some big picture issues.
For background, here are the series of posts that sum up the first discussions on Twitter, and subsequent responses:
There seem to be two sets of argument made against crowdfunding in much of the discussion I’ve seen: one, it reveals the funding seeker as a shameless self-promoter and snake-oil salesperson; two, it destroys the ethos of publishing either by allowing publishers to never have to produce advances again, or by allowing just any ol’ work to be produced without blood/sweat/tears.