Kickstarter and Blockchain

The fact that I don’t support and won’t use environmentally disastrous cryptocurrency and distributed blockchains is not a secret. I’ve also said that I plan to start using Kickstarter more often. Kickstarter has said they have a blockchain strategy. Are my stances contradictory?

Not yet, but they might be in the future.

One of the many annoying things about large companies are the busybodies who don’t really know the company’s business or how the trade works, but have leverage and demand that the firm be buzzword-compliant. These busybodies include but are not limited to investors, brokers, and auditors.

“Blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” are buzzwords. Busybodies are demanding that all their firms have strategies for them.

When a busybody demands you become buzzword-compliant with something that’s irrelevant to your business, what do you do?

The first step is to see if you’re already technically buzzword compliant. Do you have an existing system or product that fits that buzzword?

About ten years ago, systems that let you identify and track intruders were big news. I was in a meeting where an important client asked if we had that ability. My employer had no intrusion detection system. Most of the corporate hosts had to reside on the public Internet, without even an external packet filter. We had invested zero in dedicated intrusion analysis capability.

Nevertheless, I answered “yes.” Truthfully.

I had not installed our flow sensors for the primary purpose of identifying intrusions, but I certainly used them as such. The boss picked up on it and said, “We employ the man who literally wrote the book on the topic.” The client shut up and moved on. Zero-effort buzzword compliance, there.

Suppose you don’t have an existing system that fits the buzzword? Further, suppose that the buzzword is utterly irrelevant to your business but the busybodies demand that you have a strategy for that buzzword? You engage in Performative Buzzword Compliance.

Figure out the minimum amount of effort that you can spend on the buzzword, and the minimum amount of resources you can “invest” in it. Take an employee who is temporarily dysfunctional because they’ve been diagnosed with cancer or have a newborn or care more about their side gig writing than your stupid job. Tell them to spend one hour a week keeping up on the tech and brainstorming what the company might do with it.

This lets you perform Performative Buzzword Compliance. You publicly issue:

  1. A press release
  2. A FAQ about your efforts.
  3. A statement that you have dedicated staff to the task.
  4. If the buzzword is actively harmful, all of these must address the harm and state that your approach will negate those harmful effects.
  5. A vague lie that it will revolutionize your business.

You tell your busybodies that you have a buzzword strategy.

And you move on.

I am not authoritatively declaring that Kickstarter has done this. I have no inside knowledge.

I will say that Kickstarter’s public statements show all the signs of Performative Buzzword Compliance.

They have a press release and a FAQ. They’ve said folks are working on this. The FAQ says that their blockchain is special, and won’t destroy the planet.

The last point is the most important here. When Kickstarter said that they were starting a blockchain project, the general reaction among users was “why?” Kickstarter’s FAQ lists the problems their blockchain will help with, and most of them are not technical problems with Kickstarter itself. Yes, rewards can be delayed. That sucks. Blockchain won’t help. Yes, spreading the word is hard. Blockchain won’t help with that either. And so on.

Can Kickstarter admit this? No. The first rule of performative compliance is you don’t admit you’re doing it.

But after decades in tech, my nose is highly attuned to performative compliance. This stinks of it.

Every company will have a blockchain strategy. Ford Motor Company has one, Fiat has one, and General Motors has one. Blockchain is wholly irrelevant in automotive, but the busybodies demand a strategy. Amazon’s blockchain strategy is to sell managed blockchain services–they know the tech is not useful to their business, but they’re gonna make money off the suckers and simultaneously satisfy the busybodies.

Don’t dismiss an organization for buzzword compliance.

See what they’re doing with the buzzword.

At this time, I see no sign that Kickstarter is actually doing blockchain. Like many businesses, they are miming blockchain.

Given current knowledge, I intend to run three Kickstarters in 2022. If Kickstarter’s blockchain strategy starts spewing carbon and heat, I will change my plans.

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