How I Ruined Crowdfunding: OpenOctave IndieGoGo Raffle Takedown

My overly sensitive spam sensors caused an open source project’s crowd funding page to disappear for about 20 hours because when I asked the funding service provider to double-check, they noticed that the funding page violated their terms that prohibited raffles.

What Did I Do?

When I first found out about the fundraiser for OpenOctave, I suspected that it might be a scam. When I found the the git repository to be inactive, I unfortunately became convinced that it was a scam, instead of researching further. I sent an email with following content to IndieGoGo support:

I am under the impression that… is a scam.

See my reasoning at…

I ask that you perform an audit of this project.

Then I talked to people on a different audio software’s IRC channel and was reassured that the project is real. I talked to OpenOctave developers and was explained that the git repository that I saw was not being used and that another public repository existed. All these things I could have found out on my own, if I had researched instead of panicking earlier.

I then received an email from IndieGoGo support, saying:

We have added this campaign to our watchlist and will continue to monitor this campaign for any and all fraudulent activity. We have also temporarily hidden this campaign, as it is against our Terms of Use to offer a raffle in exchange for a contribution on Indiegogo. The campaign owner will need to remove any elements related to raffles or lottery before allowing their campaign to go live again.

The following part of IndieGoGo terms probably served as reasoning:

You may not use the Service for activities that: […] (vi) involve gambling, gaming and/or any other activity with an entry fee and a prize

I wrote two letters to IndieGoGo support after that but received no reply. I uploaded a screenshot of them – if at all interesting.

In the end, the fundraising campaign was taken down for about 20 hours and all mention of raffles have been removed. If I understand correctly, the raised amount stayed the same but users might consider opting out, now that the raffle feature is gone.

On Spam Paranoia and Report-Button-Trigger-Happiness

Why was I so quick to assume spam?

I delete spam on a daily basis as moderator of the open source gaming sites Free Gamer and FreeGameDev.

I witnessed Linux hardware scams, for example the Evo Smart Console.

Open source software is being sold on eBay, as discussed in a thread on Ubuntu forums for example. This can be legal, as reminded in this reader comment but I believe that the licenses’ requirements are often not fulfilled.

In this particular case, there was a git repository with no activity present (which by now is up-to-date), which I interpreted as false promises about development. I didn’t even took the time to check whether the project linked to this repository from their website and assumed from the bug tracker activity, that it was still in use.

Teaching Terms and Enforcement on Fundries

Both Kickstarter (KS) and IndieGoGo (IGG) prohibit lottery and raffles. KS does so on a guidelines page (screenshot) that is shown before a project can be started. IGG only requires acceptance of its terms at the end of the creation of a campaign (screenshot).

Ignoring the convenience and readability of the difference in how KS and IGG explain the terms, it is more important to look at how these rules are actually enforced: If you search for “raffle” on KS, only one (failed) project shows up. On IGG, currently there are more than 100 projects – 10 of them ongoing – that use “raffle” as a feature.

Hints by IndieGoGo, including a link to successful projects, some of which used "raffles" as a feature

Email hints by IndieGoGo, including a link to successful projects, some of which used "raffles" as a feature

IGG actually encourages users to get inspired by successful past IGG projects, which means that the 30 projects that successfully used “raffle” as a feature and thus violated the terms of IGG are supposed to serve as guidelines.

OpenOctave’s Reactions

There was communication on IRC and besides that, OpenOctave’s Twitter timeline shows some of the feelings felt during the situation. See the 18 hours after the takedown below:

Tweets by OpenOctave since the takedown

Tweets by OpenOctave since the takedown

What I have learned

Don’t panic. Even if there are donations involved. Especially when there is a deadline of more than a month.

Nikki and the Robots: Story Episodes
Buy the cute Überpixel™ style platformer now!

outrageously blatant self-promotion

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3 Responses to How I Ruined Crowdfunding: OpenOctave IndieGoGo Raffle Takedown

  1. Quarko says:

    The reason why that campaign failed is because nobody likes the software enough, you had nothing to do with it. In fact, it nearly is a scam because it is more or less a re-skin of another Linux audio software.
    The ruinic outcome of this campaign is certainly not due to 20h unavailability.

  2. Michael says:

    You mention that:

    “Open source software is being sold on eBay, as discussed in a thread on Ubuntu forums for example.”

    Could you please add a few words to this to make it crystal-clear that this is, in many cases, perfectly legal? And that it is actually one of the advantages of Free Software that you, me and everyone else who complies with the respective licenses’ terms is allowed to sell it?

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