Co-founders David Thomas and Aaron Wolf (the Woz and Jobs of the project) have been working on for at least 2 years (project announcement thread). I’ve been following their progress since, and occasionally offered advice (including on the linked thread).

Snowdrift is crowdfunding platform for ongoing (as opposed to one-off) funding, with scaled (as opposed to thresholded or unqualified) contributions, exclusively for free/open/libre (as opposed to unconditioned, mostly non-open) outputs. These features raise my interest:

  • I’ve been eager to see more nuanced crowdfunding arrangements tried since before relatively simple one-off threshold systems became popular — probably in part due to their simplicity. Snowdrift’s mechanism is both interesting, and has been criticized (see linked thread) for its complexity. It’ll be fun to see it tried out, and simplified, or even made more complex, as warranted.
  • If Snowdrift were to become a dominant platform for funding free/libre/open projects, scaling (contributors increase their contributions as more people contribute) could help create clear winners among the proliferation of such projects.
  • Today’s crowdfunding platforms were influenced (by now, mostly indirectly) by Kelsey and Schneier’s “Street Performer Protocol” paper, which set out to devise an alternative funding system for public domain works. But most crowdfunded works are not in the commons, indicating an need for better coordination of street patrons.

Snowdrift has additional interesting features, including organization as a cooperative, an honor code that goes beyond free/libre/open requirements, and being developed in the programming language Haskell. I’ve barely mentioned these things in the past, but they’re all interesting — alternative institutional arrangements, post-software-freedom, safety. The Snowdrift wiki has pages covering many of these topics and more in depth. They’ve also generally chosen to develop an integrated platform rather than to use existing software (e.g., for wiki, discussion, issues, mailing list) except for revision control hosting. Clearly Snowdrift is not trying to innovate in only one dimension.

Now, Snowdrift is doing a “traditional” one-off crowdfunding drive in order to get itself to production, such that the project and other free/libre/open projects can be funded on an ongoing fashion using the Snowdrift platform and mechanism.

Donate, share, and critique if you’re a fan of interesting mechanisms and freedom.

4 Responses

  1. Aaron Wolf says:

    Thanks for the post, Mike! Wonderfully written. And thanks for your support and advice!

    Minor nit-pick: We generally refer to the site and organization by the full URL “”, although casual reference to “Snowdrift” is fine when people know what it refers to.

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