No posts referencing Kickstarter projects? May 14, 2011 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Apparently, we're not allowed to reference Kickstarter projects in FPPs.

See here.

First, if there is such a policy, shouldn't it be listed somewhere?

Second, does this apply to all organizations that are soliciting money for good works, and if so, why, if not, why just Kickstarter?

(Surely the "no self-links" rule will prevent people from linking to projects that personally profit them....?)
posted by lupus_yonderboy to Etiquette/Policy at 9:30 AM (68 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

All the explanation you seek is on the comment left by Jessamyn. Otherwise great posts can be fine without a "donate to kickstarter" or "sign the petition" or "paypal them money" aspects. When a post includes that, it sometimes seems like the whole point of the post was fundraising, which makes for a dodgy reason to make a post. Depending on how big of a thing the donation/petition part of a post is determines if the post can be salvaged without the link. If that's all there is to a post, it's usually deleted, if there's a gratuitous "donate! sign here!" on a post we sometimes remove it (especially after a rash of complaints, as in this case).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:37 AM on May 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Question: if you set up a post like that, without the donate link, and then at the end of the post, under the fold, in tiny letters said "if you'd like to donate to the project, here is the Kickstarter link," would that be ok? What if you put the link as the first comment on the post?
posted by phunniemee at 9:41 AM on May 14, 2011


So kickstarter links are fine so long as it isn't framed all sketchy-like right? It is an awesome site that does have some of the best of the web on it.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:42 AM on May 14, 2011




the untimely death of the deleted threads blog does make getting a sense of where the lines are harder
posted by Blasdelb at 9:45 AM on May 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Using the deleted threads mefi GM script will restore your linear sense.
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:47 AM on May 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


First, if there is such a policy, shouldn't it be listed somewhere? Second, does this apply to all organizations that are soliciting money for good works, and if so, why, if not, why just Kickstarter?

There is a general basic guideline that says don't link to "sign my petition" or "help Karen raise money for her operation" posts. This one was different. We talked about it on the mod list and all agreed that it's sort of important that posts on MeFi not turn into "Here's a set up for a Kickstarter fundraising link" This is not at all what we thought that post was about, but after the adrianhon fundraiser and subsequent MeTa it seemed like it was a better idea to avoid Kickstarter links instead of trying to draw a line between what was an "okay for MeFi" Kickstarter-linked post and what wasn't. Sometimes running a big site means that you err on the site of making general rules instead of case-by-casing all of these.

So generally speaking "Here is an awesome thing" posts are great "Here is an awesome thing and here is how you can donate to it" are less great, and always have been. Having a Kickstarter link is just a very clear and obvious "donate to this" link that we can see. If you'll notice in that thread, of the seven or so threads that have been tagged Kickstarter in the past on MeFi only one is linking to an active fundraiser by a non-MeFite.

So, as mathowie says, we got a few complaints, talked it over and made that decision. I wouldn't have discussed it too much in-thread but the OP seemed concerned about it, and so I explained it there. Not really optimal, but seemed better than privately MeMailing him or leaving a terse "take it to MetaTalk" note.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:50 AM on May 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have certainly always flagged any posts with Kickstarter links.

The points of posts on this site, as I have always understood it, is to be fairly objective and journalistic and let people make up their own mind. That's why editorializing in the post is frowned upon, and linking to a "donation" website or petition is about the most extreme form of editorializing you can do.

Post something and let people make up their own mind. It's not your own blog or fundraising campaign. (And what you consider a "good cause" may not be everyone's idea of one. I remember one kickstarter post to a documentary that seemed to be cheerleading for Sudan's reprehensible president Al-Bashir. I was aghast that it a) existed and b) wasn't deleted within seconds).
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:51 AM on May 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the clear info on this one! Seems like a reasonable and moderate policy, wanted to see if there were something new I had missed...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:02 AM on May 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I was going to flag that FPP but was running out the door at the time. The framing did really sound like a solicitation set-up since the "donate" link was the last one on the front page (if I remember right.) People here are smart. If they read about a subject and think, "Fabulous/tragic, I'd sure like to donate to that," I'm betting they have the skills to find out how and where, without any guidance on the part of the OP.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:14 AM on May 14, 2011


I support the general policy of nixing any/all links to kickstarter and/or any other fundraising options from FPPs. As I wish I'd said to a Greenpeace fundraiser the other day whilst out walking in my neighborhood:

"I support your organization and always have. But I HATE being sold to on the street. The world's bad enough with branding/advertising everywhere I look. I don't need it walking up to me when I'm just out looking for a loaf of bread. In fact, I consider such tactics just pollution of a different kind, and I thought you guys were against all that."

What I actually said: "Sorry. Not interested."
posted by philip-random at 10:42 AM on May 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


philip-random - Yep. I have the same response you do. I can't get groceries without getting hassled by someone with an armload of petitions. And if you sign one, they have 20 more. I think they get paid by the signature.

They say "Do you love our oceans?" or "Do you support gay marriage?" or "Do you want better schools?"
I say, "Yes, but I don't support this method of solicitation."

It pisses me off because I probably would support those petitions, but I don't like getting harassed on my way to buy milk. I feel like if I stop and sign one, I'm encouraging the activity I really don't want.
posted by 26.2 at 11:25 AM on May 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


My personal philosophy with what makes for a good FPP is that the focus is on education, not an agenda (or the agenda is education).

"Here is something cool / interesting / amazing" predominates the list of most popular FPPs ever for Metafilter. There are definitely some threads there that devolve into axe grinding, but it appears that those threads are ones mentioning already hot topic issues already, so folks are bringing more to the table than just the information provided in the links.

And then if the topic generates enough interest that people go out on their own and come back with "hey, this idea is awesome, for people who are interested in taking classes / supporting their project, here is their donate page or a list of places that do similar things" great, that is why I read the threads here on Metafilter on subject matter I am interested in.

Also, would it be possible to make it so this page contains a link to this page, the use of Popular to describe both links implies they are related but there is no way to go from the Popular page to the Popular Favorites, you have to go to the homepage first.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:27 AM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did once ask if I could post a Kickstarter thinger with a cute song I thought people would enjoy. The project was already fully funded but not ended yet, and I was told it wouldn't be a great post. Which is totally true. ANYWAY, now the project is ENDED so I am going to post it HERE for anyone who is grumpy and needs a pick-me-up (will only work on some of you). Here you go! Bess Rogers' KS song starts at 0:39.

(I also think this is a great way to do a KS project video. I mean, I've seen some truly horrendous ones. And btw, if you're trying to collect money for a music project and don't put any music in your video - wtf?)
posted by Glinn at 11:59 AM on May 14, 2011


Glad you posted it, Glinn. Good luck with the hamster!
posted by bjrn at 12:39 PM on May 14, 2011


(It's not me, I don't know her! Really. I just liked it a lot.)
posted by Glinn at 12:41 PM on May 14, 2011


why do you hate karen and want her to die?
posted by nathancaswell at 12:47 PM on May 14, 2011


Oh, oops. Well, thanks for posting anyway!
posted by bjrn at 12:47 PM on May 14, 2011


why do you hate karen and want her to die?

Because she has a tea party bumper sticker.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:09 PM on May 14, 2011


I probably would support those petitions, but I don't like getting harassed on my way to buy milk

I usually have to give the street solicitors respect for bringing something to my attention that I wouldn't have otherwise seen, in a much more cost intensive (per name) method than just doing some Facebook thing. They're putting their money or volunteer time way out there to find new supporters and reaching me (often a new audience to their issue) in the process. What I don't like are the fundraising ones, but that's because I already have a giving plan, whereas ampaign info often provides me with some new information.
posted by salvia at 1:25 PM on May 14, 2011


*Campaign
posted by salvia at 1:26 PM on May 14, 2011


Because she has a tea party bumper sticker.
posted by hal_c_on

I see what you doing there, marbles.
posted by clavdivs at 1:53 PM on May 14, 2011


Wait, so it's okay to post a Kickstarter project as long as it's run by a Mefite? I figured it would be the other way around, as linking to a stranger implies less of a personal connection than linking to a fellow user. Then again, Projects re-posts are fine, so I guess this is just an extension of that.

That makes me wonder what the general policy on "linking to friends' projects" is when that friend is also a member of the site. Does helping out another user trump the rule against linking to people you know?
posted by Rhaomi at 2:40 PM on May 14, 2011


"I support the general policy of nixing any/all links to kickstarter and/or any other fundraising options from FPPs. As I wish I'd said to a Greenpeace fundraiser the other day whilst out walking in my neighborhood:

"I support your organization and always have. But I HATE being sold to on the street. The world's bad enough with branding/advertising everywhere I look. I don't need it walking up to me when I'm just out looking for a loaf of bread. In fact, I consider such tactics just pollution of a different kind, and I thought you guys were against all that."

What I actually said: "Sorry. Not interested."
"

Having been one of those guys out there in public, first let me thank you for just saying that you weren't interested. That's fine and cool, usually folks who aren't interested are ones who will only waste the time for the canvasser anyway.

But as far as the mode of fundraising and persuasion go, they're important for progressive causes.

Part of that is because of the response rates — while roughly one in ten thousand pieces of mail ends in an effective response (either vote changing or contribution), and the numbers I've heard are around 100 emails and 75 phone calls, the efficacy rate of face-to-face canvassing is around one in ten. Per response, it's just a lot more effective.

Further, comparing it to pollution is a pretty big stretch — the reason why people are against pollution is because it leads to negative outcomes. The negative outcome in this instance is that you have to spend literally three seconds saying, "No thanks. Not interested." (Or, if you really want to get by with zero static, the white lie of "Already did, thanks," works even better).

I do understand the complaints regarding grocery stores, but you have to realize that the public square in America has been deprecated as the populace has become more and more alienated from each other — the very sense of encroaching comes from that expectation of not having to engage with anyone else. Because of that, canvassers go to where there are a lot of people, and where people generally have an openness to social engagement.

But on some level, I kind of think that people who don't want to get engaged with canvassers are looking for excuses for their apathy and laziness, and don't understand that, particularly with respect to progressive causes, this is one of the most effective ways to campaign, and progressive causes don't have the inbuilt network of churches that are the backbone of conservative movement politics.

There are efficacy concerns about petitions, and I understand that — they tend to be only effective in local issues, and they often are dodgy when you read the language (which everyone should), but canvassers do hard work for good causes, and, believe me, they hear every single possible excuse and insult you can imagine.

But most of the ways that moderate liberals engage their political process are facile and masturbatory — "I liked your cause on Facebook! I'm raising awareness!" — and canvassing is real action, even when it's inconvenient for the people getting canvassed.
posted by klangklangston at 2:53 PM on May 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Wait, so it's okay to post a Kickstarter project as long as it's run by a Mefite?

No, it's not. In the past there had been a few and they were okay but we basically had to make the judgment call "this is okay because it's awesome" but that's not a place we're totally comfortable being and we talked about htis in the adrianhon MeTa threa. Now the general rule of thumb is "don't ask for money or signatures on MeFi." This is not to say it never happens but that we'd prefer it didn't, and the rule of thumb is "not okay"

That makes me wonder what the general policy on "linking to friends' projects" is when that friend is also a member of the site.

If the person is a friend, then please do not link to them on the blue. I mean obviously promoting a project to the main page is something that is helping out a user, but if it's someone you know well enough to feel like they're a friend of yours, you probably shouldn't do it. I know it's a messy line between someone who is a friend on the site and someone who is a friend on and off the site, but we'd like people to use their best judgment. Our general feeling is that if the thing is terrific, someone else will link to it. If you're promoting it not because you think the project is awesome but because you think the person is awesome, that's less desireable.

Obviously we're not going to be able to get a bright line rule here, and we don't want one, but those are some of the things we think about when examining whether a post or a link in a post is or is not okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:53 PM on May 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


klangklangston,
Here's the thing (and sorry if I am derailing here). I have had canvassers literally get in my face and block my path, in the middle of a crowded street.

As a socially anxious person, and as a woman who gets exposed to street harassment frequently, I often find myself at the point where I just cannot deal with one more person who wants my time and attention, no matter how good the cause.

That's just me and if it's a thing that's effective then I'm glad it works out for you, but I have gotten to the point where I don't talk with strangers on the street ever for any reason.
posted by Jeanne at 3:09 PM on May 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Downtown Portland in summer is basically a non-stop game of PLEASE NOTICE MY "LEAVE ME ALONE" LASER EYES that varyingly demoralized or obnoxious twentysomethings seem insistent on losing. All arguments about the efficacy of street canvassing aside, it's surely a goddam annoyance in practice for the person on the street.

Having been the canvasser myself once upon a time makes me somewhat sympathetic to the plight of the clipboard bearer but also if anything leaves me more annoyed at a lot of the weaksauce gambits they try for lack of actual straight up engagement. Blame it on liberal apathy if you want; I blame it on kids with clipboards being the meatspace equivalent of an ad that plays twice every commercial break for a month.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:24 PM on May 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


But on some level, I kind of think that people who don't want to get engaged with canvassers are looking for excuses for their apathy and laziness, and don't understand that.

When approached by someone on the street with a clip board, one is faced with a choice: Cut them dead, or waste time and/or resources. Either way it causes social discomfort --- while I'm sure everyone had a time or two when being horribly rude to someone's face was satisfying, for the most part well-socialized people try and avoid treating others like dirt, and blatantly ignoring someone who is obviously seeking your attention and aid is, as far as I know, an extremely rude act in pretty much every human society. Fulfilling the requirements of courtesy does little to avoid this discomfort, because as even you suggest, 9 times out of 10 one is going to reject the request.

Of course, that's the whole point of canvassing --- leveraging the rules of polite social interaction to coerce people into donating time and money they otherwise would not have given. I suppose it must be a comfort if one is convinced that the goal being canvassed for is such a moral imperative that such considerations are trivial in comparison.
posted by Diablevert at 6:42 PM on May 14, 2011 [4 favorites]



Of course, that's the whole point of canvassing --- leveraging the rules of polite social interaction to coerce people into donating time and money they otherwise would not have given. I suppose it must be a comfort if one is convinced that the goal being canvassed for is such a moral imperative that such considerations are trivial in comparison.


Yes, and everyone caring enough to get out there and canvas is of course certain that their thing is worth the imposition. Fortunately I am not from polite society so I blow these people off quickly.

By stopping and engaging them you encourage this behavior - it is a market thing. By making this activity successful for the clipboarders you are saying "I want people to interrupt me in my day-to-day business with whatever issue they feel I should give my money to."
posted by Meatbomb at 8:52 PM on May 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


While canvassing may be the most effective method, to me, the ends do not justify the means. I do suspect that there are some canvassers who make a bad name for all just as there are some very effective yet unobtrusive ones.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:31 PM on May 14, 2011


Question: if you set up a post like that, without the donate link, and then at the end of the post, under the fold, in tiny letters said "if you'd like to donate to the project, here is the Kickstarter link," would that be ok? What if you put the link as the first comment on the post?

Using tiny letters on Metafilter actually draws more attention to the small text. That's how I made you read this.
posted by John Cohen at 9:36 PM on May 14, 2011


I have had canvassers literally get in my face and block my path, in the middle of a crowded street.

I really hate this. It is a pushy thing that these people do, threatening to the point of being almost-but-not-quite-violent. Cities are crowded enough without having one's meagre space violated in this way.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:47 PM on May 14, 2011


the untimely death of the deleted threads blog does make getting a sense of where the lines are harder

I mentioned it in the other thread about this, but I'm running an automated one here until I can get hold of p&c. I do recommend the GreaseMonkey script, though.

posted by cj_ at 2:32 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


But on some level, I kind of think that people who don't want to get engaged with canvassers are looking for excuses for their apathy and laziness

The canvasser believing in the project does not automatically mean that everyone thinks it's valuable. That's not apathy and laziness; that's priorities.
posted by galadriel at 4:04 AM on May 15, 2011


Not to mention that a lot of clipboarders aren't volunteers at all--they're paid by something like a temp agency that rents itself out to groups like Greenpeace.

I have no compunctions about cutting them (often in the soft way, by wearing headphones and pretending not to hear, but sometimes in the blatantly-ignoring-you way too). I'll engage with your causes on my own time, and if you have to force your way into my social territory to pimp yours, I only respect it less. Apathy and laziness? Maybe. But mostly I just want to be left alone by intrusive assholes.
posted by nasreddin at 8:43 AM on May 15, 2011


"When approached by someone on the street with a clip board, one is faced with a choice: Cut them dead, or waste time and/or resources."

Not to get into an argument on canvassing here, but not really. You can say, "No thanks," and have that be it. That's neither cutting them dead nor wasting time, unless you want to get absurd with your view of what time is wasted.

"Here's the thing (and sorry if I am derailing here). I have had canvassers literally get in my face and block my path, in the middle of a crowded street. "

Sorry to hear about that. That's a bad canvasser. Not just because it's rude to you (though that's important) but also because it's the wrong way to get someone involved, and everyone else on the street just became less likely to stop for the canvasser (and for other canvassers).

"The canvasser believing in the project does not automatically mean that everyone thinks it's valuable. That's not apathy and laziness; that's priorities."

Sure, however apathy and laziness are a pretty big part of it.

And, though I'm using my polite canvasser voice here in disagreeing, when I was canvassing for gay marriage, yeah, frankly, that's important enough that you should get involved. If you don't, that's fine, but I'm not going to lie — I tend to think that a lot of people have pretty bullshit priorities.

That's another part of why canvassing works — it's the candy bar of activism. You grab it on impulse, you do some quick good, and you should be out of there in under three minutes.

"But mostly I just want to be left alone by intrusive assholes."

Sorry, man, I kind of think that deriding all canvassers preemptively as "intrusive assholes" is pretty bullshit.

And to take on the paid thing for a moment — there are two big modes in America for paid canvassers. There are companies that pay on commission and there are companies that pay by the hour. But frankly, canvassing is often pretty shitty work that people wouldn't do if they weren't getting paid. Volunteers flake like crazy, they're harder to train to ensure professionalism, and they do make a difference. I personally raised over $100,000 for EQCA, and got vote change pledges from around 2000 people, working for about a year at it. I would talk to between thirty and forty people a day, and had a yes rate of around 50 percent. It makes sense that I would be paid for that work, and the pay structure meant that none of the money I was paid took away from the contributions I raised.

"and if you have to force your way into my social territory to pimp yours, I only respect it less"

You realize that you're drawing weird divisions between social territories, right? I mean, I don't respect Obama less because he asked for my vote. It seems like a weird aristocratic alienation to think that these things shouldn't happen in social spaces.
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 AM on May 15, 2011


It seems like a weird aristocratic alienation to think that these things shouldn't happen in social spaces.

I think it's a disagreement about what social spaces mean. To me, they're social. Someone approaching me with an agenda that's political or financial is using social spaces and social graces for non-social purposes, and I resent that. I'm happy for people to be in social spaces promoting something, but there's a huge difference between being visibly there and open to interaction, and starting 'conversations' that aren't really social at all - where social implies mutuality, but all about you and your agenda. I think it makes social spaces less friendly for better uses - now I'm wary when anyone approaches me, even though plenty of the approaches are appropriate (asking for the time, for directions, etc).
posted by Salamandrous at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sorry to hear about that. That's a bad canvasser. Not just because it's rude to you (though that's important) but also because it's the wrong way to get someone involved, and everyone else on the street just became less likely to stop for the canvasser (and for other canvassers).

The practical problem is that in my (admittedly largely limited to Portland) experience, that's a typical canvasser, at least once you discount the fair pile who are hapless, useless dead weight to their causes because they lack either the will or the skill to engage anyone who doesn't basically walk up to them and insist on being recruited.

There are talented, savvy canvassers out there who combine genuine activist drive with good social sensibilities to make on-street engagements work in a non-obnoxious way. I would bet that you are of that cohort in the canvassing you have done, klang. And it's possible that the folks you have worked with, and the folks you have encountered on the street, are more generally like that than what I've run into in Portland and on occasion elsewhere in US cities.

But there are an awful lot of flakes out there who are not trying very hard at all, and hardsells who seem to have mistaken being an obstruction on the street for being a good activist. I'll take the former any day of the week because they seem to actually be able to read "obviously not interested, don't make me tell you to fuck off" in my eyes when we exchange glances, but the latter make up a good portion of the typical downtown experience.

The super genial, talented, not-in-my-face folks don't really make up the bulk of typical experiences, by any stretch. I respect the hell out of what they do and why they do it even if it's not in any specific case a cause I'm going to jump onboard with when pressed on the street.

But as you note, flakiness and training issues are a hard problem with bringing on staff for volunteer or low-pay positions; and while from an organizational perspective it may be effective to churn through a bunch of not-great staff bringing in some volume of cash/memberships/signatures/whatever along with a core staff of more reliable and effective superstar activists, the net result for the people swimming through mostly-not-great canvassers is feeling burnt the hell out on the idea of someone with a clipboard trying to stop you on every street corner.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 AM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm happy for people to be in social spaces promoting something, but there's a huge difference between being visibly there and open to interaction, and starting 'conversations' that aren't really social at all

Don't know if it's the same all over, but in my town, this is how the Jehovah Witnesses behave: a visible presence and that's it. If your curiosity is aroused and you care to interact, I'm sure they're no doubt happy to engage. But otherwise, the only incursion you get is a polite, humble, visual one.

Compare this to the Greenpeace canvassers who invariably set themselves up in a busy spot and sort of scout for eye contact. If you make it with them, you seem to be fair game, and a game it is, much like dealing with panhandlers.

And, though I'm using my polite canvasser voice here in disagreeing, when I was canvassing for gay marriage, yeah, frankly, that's important enough that you should get involved. If you don't, that's fine, but I'm not going to lie — I tend to think that a lot of people have pretty bullshit priorities.

This, of course, is where shit gets political. Your prerogative of required action versus my right to my uninterrupted "social space". And bluntly, I don't think either of is right/wrong here. Sometimes I do need my eyes (mind) opened to certain issues and, conceivably, an active canvasser is the only one who's going to do it. Sometimes, that canvasser is only wasting his/her time, possibly forcing my opinion in entirely the opposite direction of where they want it to go. Certainly, if I had a stake in my organization's decision making process, choosing to use canvassers to press our case (our cause) would be one of last calls I'd make ...
posted by philip-random at 10:19 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, obviously by "intrusive" and "force your way into my social territory" I don't mean those canvassers who exist in a space and are eager to talk to somebody not otherwise engaged. They have as much right to be there as anybody else. But when you try to block my path, or get my attention under false pretenses, or occupy a crowded sidewalk rather than an open area like a plaza, fuck yeah I'm gonna be cultivating my aristocratic alienation.
posted by nasreddin at 10:29 AM on May 15, 2011


What I wish is that the canvassers were more about action than about money. As I said above, I respect the person's dedication (even when I do the headphone thing or lie "already talked to you guys - thanks!"). And I respect the organization's decision to put people on the ground.

But the approach I've seen on the streets of San Fran seem to be 90% about panhandling. They ask "do you have a minute to save the earth?" and I say "um, yeah, well, that's also kinda the goal of my day job, so I guess I have a minute, but I already have planned my non-profit giving so I am not giving you any money." Then, within about 90 seconds, it turns into a pitch for money. So I say, "sorry, don't have any money for you," and walk away over their objections. Dude. You guys could be getting postcards sent to whichever elected official; you could be asking for people to go help canvas in Nevada; you could be educating people on whatever the new, complicated issue is; you could be collecting names and emails for future actions or whatever. Instead, you're going to burn that contact for "anything, even $5, even a dollar," really?
posted by salvia at 11:13 AM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


After a year working in prime canvassing territory, I'm pretty much against the practice completely. The degree to which I felt physically intruded upon was high enough that I will never, ever do business with Greenpeace because I feel that they basically bankroll barely-socially-acceptable assault. That's not every canvasser ever, certainly - it really was just the Greenpeace dipshits here in downtown Austin - but my visceral reaction to a person on the street with a clipboard is now pretty much exactly the same as my reaction to an obvious, belligerent drunk.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:25 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


yeah, frankly, that's important enough that you should get involved. If you don't, that's fine, but I'm not going to lie — I tend to think that a lot of people have pretty bullshit priorities.

That is, however, not your decision to make for me. You think it's important. I think talking to a canvasser is the opposite of important, no matter what the topic.

Due to chronic illness, I have a limited amount of energy when I'm out. I simply do not have time to stop and talk to someone who isn't on my list of errands, or I won't get them all done.

I know someone with severe social anxiety. One more interaction with people, particularly unsolicited, may mean that he's used his tolerance for the day and has to go home, leaving whatever he was out there to do undone. It's hard enough for him to go in the first place.

There are other issues that mean that interacting with people is not just an inconvenience, but an outright strain and possibly can genuinely ruin someone's day.

Not only that, I've become extremely cynical about canvassers. I've seen them soliciting for signatures with language I *know* is false, because I'm familiar with the issue already. In other cases, I've sat through the spiel, read the petition, and agreed to sign--only to have them ask how much I'll donate and show me that everyone else who signed has donated at least $X amount. That kind of bait and switch is also dishonest, in my opinion. If they ask for signatures, they should take signatures when they are offered. I am no longer interested in listening to the spiel.

You may disagree with my priorities, but they're mine to decide. Even if it's just that I think canvassing is rude and I shouldn't have to listen, that's still my priority to set. You believing in your cause doesn't mean I have to stop and listen. Your priorities do not place responsibility on me.
posted by galadriel at 1:11 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's fine — I tend to think that the folks with the special circumstances regarding social anxiety or who have chronic illnesses are an incredibly minority of cases, and (again) if your illness is so dire that saying "No thanks," is enough to destroy your day, I'm very sorry for you, but I don't think it's worthwhile to consider that as a normative objection.

"Even if it's just that I think canvassing is rude and I shouldn't have to listen, that's still my priority to set."

No, if you think it's rude and you don't want to stop, that's fine, even though I think it's fair for me to disagree that it's rude — especially when it's predicated on being able to make assumptions about the state of your health without knowing you. But I do believe that in public, it's not rude to interact with other people, even if they're strangers. It's not rude to ask someone the time, even if they've got such social anxiety that this is the only interaction they can have that day. I don't even think it's rude for people to panhandle, though I think that's fairly distinct from canvassing, and though I think it's totally legitimate to note that there are a lot of rude ways to panhandle, but I don't think the underlying interaction is rude.

"You believing in your cause doesn't mean I have to stop and listen. Your priorities do not place responsibility on me."

No, but you're regarding the situation wrongly, at least from my perspective. My believing in any given cause doesn't mean that anyone has to stop, though they can if they'd like — even if they disagree. I tended to find persuasion a lot more rewarding when I was out there than I did fundraising. But the difference is that it's not the canvasser placing the obligation on you — it's your set of ethics.

Canvassing is a pretty effective method of both fundraising and persuasion, and does things like tap into the social network effect (people within the first degree of social network are more likely to get involved even if they're not canvassed directly, similar to how people who pledge to vote influence their social network to vote more frequently). If you already support a cause, like same-sex marriage or Planned Parenthood or the ACLU or the Red Cross (just to mention causes where I've worked with their canvassers), then this is a pretty effective way to get involved quickly. In addition to the vote pledges and the contributions I collected, I also signed up an average of ten volunteers a day to go do the scutwork of the ongoing Repeal 8 campaign.

It may be more important for you to get home or finish your errands than to help with, say, same-sex marriage. THAT'S TOTALLY FINE. That's the difference in priorities. That's also why it's pretty important for a canvasser to be fine with someone blowing them off — it takes an average of about twelve contacts face-to-face to get someone to even stop. You've got to be cool with that, because if you're a dick, then no one will want to stop for you in the future.

But if you believe in the cause, and you've got a little time, then yeah, according to most sets of ethics, you should get involved. The obligation comes from you, and my sense (from canvassing) is that a lot of times, people don't like to be reminded that according to the views they espouse, they should be getting involved, or that the other ways they get involved aren't very effective — it goes from the level of "It would be nice if that happened," to "I'm going to try to make that happen."

And ultimately, people who are recruited face-to-face end up being more involved — they're the ones who volunteer at a higher rate, they give at a higher rate, and they get their friends and families involved. I want to win on the issues that I care about, so I'm not going to apologize for working hard for them.
posted by klangklangston at 2:45 PM on May 15, 2011


"You guys could be getting postcards sent to whichever elected official; you could be asking for people to go help canvas in Nevada; you could be educating people on whatever the new, complicated issue is; you could be collecting names and emails for future actions or whatever. Instead, you're going to burn that contact for "anything, even $5, even a dollar," really?"

That's terrible canvassing, and honestly, Greenpeace is pretty hit-and-miss as an organization. My sense is that they don't screen applicants very well, and kind of throw everyone into the grinder as much as possible. But Greenpeace doesn't have very cohesive policy goals, at least not ones I've ever had explained succinctly. As far as I can tell, they exist to fundraise.

How long ago have you talked to Greenpeace canvassers, though? When I was last talking to the ones here in LA, they weren't allowed to take any cash at all, and basically just filled out contact vouchers — they'd take down your name, address and phone, and then their manager would call you that night and collect the credit card info for the contribution. With EQCA there was a weird tension, because the canvassing organization (GCI, who subcontracted) wanted a minimum of $20 if it was cash (on some theory of having to process the cash contributions), but for EQCA it was more valuable to get the rest of the contact information and so they'd press for you to take anything so long as it wasn't anonymous.

I also volunteered with EQCA when I wasn't canvassing, so that meant that I was a lot more motivated to sign up volunteers than the normal canvasser might have been, but that also meant that I could give pretty good info on when the next, say, phone banking or march was, and was happy to sign up volunteers.

But I'll totally admit that part of why I was a good canvasser for EQCA is because I think Prop 8 is a fucking travesty and that the lack of same-sex marriage is a pretty huge and obvious social injustice that I feel motivated to fix, and because EQCA was doing good work on that while I was there.

(They are doing much less good work on it now, which is a pretty big shame, but whatevs.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:00 PM on May 15, 2011


I think that's fairly distinct from canvassing, and though I think it's totally legitimate to note that there are a lot of rude ways to panhandle, but I don't think the underlying interaction is rude.

I'll say this for panhandlers: They don't often and deliberately block your way as you walk down a crowded, busy street. That's definitely one important way panhandlers differ from canvassers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:04 PM on May 15, 2011


I think where I live has better canvassers and worse panhandlers, then.

Especially Santa Monica.

(The secret of positioning yourself is to be where people are already going to be walking toward you, but where you won't stop anyone from getting past. And then you try to take folks you talk with and gently reposition them so that they're not blocking the way for anyone else, which is often harder than it seems.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:06 PM on May 15, 2011


How long ago have you talked to Greenpeace canvassers, though?

The money-only canvassers were Environment California, I believe. Though come to think of it, the EQCA interaction felt the same.

It may just be my own ignorance, but I don't see how canvassing actually has a big impact on a campaign except for voter registration and ballot measure/electoral canvassing. I also often don't feel like the engagement being requested of me will be meaningful. I mean, take Prop 8. It's in the courts. The public won't get a vote until whenever it comes back to the ballot. So why was I getting canvassed about it? Pure fundraising? Environment California was talking to me about ... was it dams? power plants? A regulatory agency. How did my $x and email address help the campaign? Just boosting membership so their letters have more impact?
posted by salvia at 3:35 PM on May 15, 2011


With EQCA, the campaign planning for 2012 has been going on since 2009. They were — I don't know if this is still true — sending out masses of persuasion canvassers to areas where Prop 8 won and talking to voters face to face. They were having pretty great results, getting a lot of people to make public pledges to change their votes.

Part of why it has to be done early is that once television ads start airing, people make up their minds and just shut off on the issue — then GOTV is the only effective canvassing.

Prop 8's overturning looks a lot better now, and EQCA was working on shifting things out of persuasion canvassing and into court work too when I last worked for them, but I have to say that I disagree with the tack they're taking (arguing against standing).

But EQCA was also canvassing for local elections, for legislation and also runs a bunch of teen centers. So, there were a lot of non-8-things they also canvassed for, as well as recruiting volunteers and fundraising.
posted by klangklangston at 4:05 PM on May 15, 2011


It may be more important for you to get home or finish your errands than to help with, say, same-sex marriage. THAT'S TOTALLY FINE.

Except that earlier, you said that it's "apathy and laziness," then later said that it's "bullshit priorities."

The existence of canvassers does not mean that I have to care about their topic, discuss it with them, sign their petitions, or donate to their cause. Not when they present me with it, not ever. Even if I do care about it, and might otherwise be supportive of it, I don't have to engage with them. Canvassers existing does not place an obligation on me, no matter how well-meaning their topic is. That's not laziness. That's not apathy. That's me getting to decide what I do.

No matter WHY. There may be invisible health reasons...or there may simply be a preference not to deal with canvassers. Setting my own priorities is my legitimate prerogative.
posted by galadriel at 4:39 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


klangklangston, your experience as a canvasser is very different than the norm here.

The canvassers here literally have a stack of petitions, maybe 20 different issues. The canvassers do not know or care about these issues. The are getting paid to get me to sign whatever they have been given. Pro-gay marriage, anti-gay marriage - they don't give a shit.

The other day as I was walking into Fresh N Easy, a union organizer stopped me and gave me one piece of paper which explained their issue. He asked me not to shop there during their protest. I got back in my car and shopped somewhere else. That's someone who cares about their issue. I can respect that.

Compare that to the guy who just hassled me at the farm market. He blocked my path and refused to take no for an answer. It would be far easier for me to sign whatever he's handing me, but I will not sign a petition until I've read and considered the issue. My priorities are fine, thank you. The fact that someone wants me to sign something so that he can get paid is not my problem. And I definitely do not want to encourage the practice of harassing people at the entrance to every market in town.
posted by 26.2 at 5:15 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Except that earlier, you said that it's "apathy and laziness," then later said that it's "bullshit priorities." "

Well, not really. I said that I think a lot of people have bullshit priorities, and that a lot of people who don't get involved with canvassers don't get involved because of apathy and laziness.

As for the first, that can be as broad as thinking that it's more important to cut the deficit now than it is to provide health care, or any number of other things. For the second, yeah, a lot of people are lazy and apathetic regarding political processes. Actually being effective isn't very important to them, and yeah, on some level, I think that's kind of bullshit.

But I can also recognize that not everyone's going to get involved, and that not everyone's going to get involved right then, and that's also fine. I can disagree with their priorities while still thinking they can have different priorities.

"The existence of canvassers does not mean that I have to care about their topic, discuss it with them, sign their petitions, or donate to their cause. Not when they present me with it, not ever. Even if I do care about it, and might otherwise be supportive of it, I don't have to engage with them. Canvassers existing does not place an obligation on me, no matter how well-meaning their topic is. That's not laziness. That's not apathy. That's me getting to decide what I do."

And again, you're both framing this incorrectly and combatively. The only external obligation you have is the general one of social conduct, and even that's not tremendously universal — however, under most systems of ethics (like I said) people have an obligation to act consistent with their beliefs, and engaging with a canvasser is a decent way to do so. It isn't the only way, nor is it always the best way, but to pretend that somehow the canvasser is taking away the decision is weird, and yeah, I don't have a problem saying that if you're not an engaged citizen in some way that you're apathetic and lazy (and, you know, bad for democracy). I don't see this as particularly controversial, except that you seem to want to justify not dealing with canvassers as some moral imperative, and I'm pointing out that's pretty silly and, in some cases, actively counterproductive and inconsistent.

"The canvassers here literally have a stack of petitions, maybe 20 different issues. The canvassers do not know or care about these issues. The are getting paid to get me to sign whatever they have been given. Pro-gay marriage, anti-gay marriage - they don't give a shit. "

If it makes you feel better, canvassers pretty universally loathe petitioners, not just because they're often misinformed, actively deceptive and overly aggressive, but also because they make people believe that a petition is an effective way of addressing non-local issues.
posted by klangklangston at 5:29 PM on May 15, 2011


In my experience, the apathetic and lazy are the ones who give money on a whim to the god-damned canvassers. People who can think for themselves have already made up their minds on their relationship with $CAUSE, or aren't going to make it in 30 seconds after hearing your spiel.

Even if a canvasser managed to remind me of my obligation towards some group, or alerted me to something I was unaware of, there's no way in hell I'd encourage them and give them the satisfaction on the street. I'll go home and donate on the main website or something. But more likely, I'll just write off whatever group it was that pissed me off. I will never, ever even consider donating money to Green Peace or Save The Children. If it's not clear, I really don't like smiling people with fucking clipboards or binders.
posted by floam at 7:27 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


erm, I meant Children International.
posted by floam at 7:36 PM on May 15, 2011


"Even if a canvasser managed to remind me of my obligation towards some group, or alerted me to something I was unaware of, there's no way in hell I'd encourage them and give them the satisfaction on the street."

Even if my nose reminded me of a pleasant smell, there's no way I'd give it the satisfaction of inhaling! I'd cut it off and yell, "How d'ya smell now?! Terrible!"
posted by klangklangston at 7:47 PM on May 15, 2011


My general impression of canvassers is that their activities are incredibly poorly planned. Almost without exception, they seem to choose their locations simply to target the largest number of people walking past with no thought to the availability of those people. When you set yourself up on a narrow section of footpath that is incredibly busy, you put yourself in the position of being an impediment to the task that people are trying to do (usually catch a bus/train on time) and really have little chance of engaging them. These people never seem to be able to get anyone to stop and talk to them On the other hand, those that set themselves up where there is room to work without impeding traffic flow and at times when people are more likely to be amendable to discussing an issue seem to have much more success in engaging people and, I assume, a better 'success' rate.

Unfortunately, the vast majority seem to take the 'numbers' option and find themselves swamped with a torrent of people to try and engage (all of whom are too busy to do so), where those that are more careful about locations and times always seem to be engaged with people whenver I walk past. To me, it's about giving people the choice of whether to engage, not forcing them to pay attention to you, even if it's to say 'no thanks'. The actions of the most aggresive of these people are bordering on assault and I can't imagine they are doing their cause any favours - more likely quite the opposite. Unfortunately, Greenpeace seems to be one of the worst offenders on this.
posted by dg at 8:18 PM on May 15, 2011


For the second, yeah, a lot of people are lazy and apathetic regarding political processes. Actually being effective isn't very important to them, and yeah, on some level, I think that's kind of bullshit

Whereas my critique of (or question about most) canvassers comes from really caring about effectiveness. I can't tell what the value is of bugging people in San Francisco's nonprofit alley to say "be against Prop 8" three months after the vote. I'm willing to assume there was one (membership?). But judging by the super-liberal and wealthy blocks where I most often see canvassers in the Bay Area, it actually seems like their goal is 90-100% fundraising, and that's annoying to me. You talk about bullshit priorities and the responsibility of civic engagement, klangklangston, but the thing is, I actually have considered my giving priorities to the point that I don't want to give to random-enviro-group-whose-activities-I-don't-know. I'm still open to taking productive civic action, but there seems to be nothing on offer. To interrupt someone's day, there should be something more urgent, and more dependent upon those particular individuals' participation, than just "our organization needs money."
posted by salvia at 8:34 PM on May 15, 2011


But on some level, I kind of think that people who don't want to get engaged with canvassers are looking for excuses for their apathy and laziness,

Um, pardon me for preferring to consider my philanthropic choices more deliberately than "whoever happens to catch my eye while dashing out to grab a snack."

And fundraisers getting paid by commission is unethical.
posted by desuetude at 8:41 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Canvassers have succeeded in making me suspicious of talking to any friendly person on the street, because it's likely to be them just trying to get my money. So bravo for making the world a less friendly place. I'm just sorry it's apparently an effective enough tactic that it makes it worth it for organizations I would otherwise be fully supportive of.

It's like when nice lefty organizations sell my information to every other organization because I gave them $5 once, and I get mail solicitations forever after. And they feel this is justified because they get good money for selling me on.
posted by smackfu at 7:24 AM on May 16, 2011


(Although it sounds like canvassing is much worse out West, so I can count my blessings on that one.)
posted by smackfu at 7:26 AM on May 16, 2011


Someone mentioned in an AskMe thread once on some sort of relationship thing [I think a guy was asking "Why shouldn't I make a weird grand gesture" but I don't think it was the banjo thread though maybe it was] that many people are wary if people who seem to be ignoring aspects of the social contract because then it's not clear what parts of the social contract they will honor. And for some of us who have been very seriously burned by people who have poor or different boundaries [or who, in short, just want to harass or assault us] dealing with being vigilant about this sort of thing is somewhat tiring.

So, my issue is that if someone gets in my way on a busy street or asks me a question that turns out not to be the real question, my first thought is not "Oh how am I going to shake off this guy who wants my money/signature?" my very first thought is "Is this person trying to find an opening for harassing/assaulting me?" It's certainly possible I'm just paranoid. I live in a small town, this shit does not happen where I am, and so I don't have a game face and I don't have a finely-honed detector. Additionally, if someone is getting in my way on a busy street here, it's pretty clear they are either in an emergency situation and need help or they are messing with me, and it takes about five seconds to figure out which. More often than not, people who are talking to me in random ways on busy streets are hassling or harassing me. The social contract says that I should be polite about this, just in case someone's in trouble. The social contract, in my mind, actually allows for street harassment of women. This is neither here nor there as far as canvassers goes, but it's worth keeping in mind. Getting into someone's space in public isn't really a minor inconvenience, it's unnerving. And I'm not some timid flower, I manage this all internally and usually give people a polite "no thank you" but it rattles me just the same.

I get that everyone has to make tough choices about how they get their income and how they advance their political positions, but I'm sorry this one is effective, same as junk mail. I think the outlines of how both of those systems work relies on some negative (if possibly true) assumptions about how the world works and how it shoud work that I find disheartening.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:38 AM on May 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can't remember encountering canvassers like the ones described in this thread when I lived in the US (although, in fairness, I never lived in a particularly large city there), but in both Copenhagen and Paris it's common for organizations like the Red Cross to hire canvassers to solicit donations on busy streets, and sometimes in workplaces if they can get access (I once had a pair that came to to my office tell me that I should donate through them and not through the website because supposedly the overhead of the website was higher---yeah, right).

If you make eye contact with the canvassers on the street, their behavior is exactly the same as that of the people standing on the sidewalks of Pigalle (the Paris red light district) who try to convince you to enter their particular strip club. Their attitude is that they're being completely reasonable, and your decision to keep walking and not listen to their sales pitch is rude to the point of hostility; I've had both canvassers and strip club solicitors try to block my path, but usually it doesn't come to this.

The thing is, interacting with any of these people never fails to leave me annoyed: the fact that they force me to violate the ordinary rules of social conduct---don't walk away from me when I'm talking to you---makes me feel like I'm being rude even though they're the ones who are breaking an even more important rule of social conduct: don't be a manipulative douche.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 10:00 AM on May 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hrm. Limited amounts of attention and care that can be given. Let's write a sci-fi novel about it and call the book Beggars in Seattle.
posted by adipocere at 10:33 AM on May 16, 2011


OTOH coming from a small town to the big city, without canvassers I probably would have learned a harder way to not acknowledge or interact with people on the street. In terms of people who want to waste your time and take your money, they're the harmless variety.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:44 AM on May 16, 2011


It may also depend on the locale; I have a feeling that canvassers are more aggressive in really crowded places like New York, because they just plain have that much more to compete with. However, this also makes some of them -- in my opinon -- all the more grating.

I usually tell most I'm not interested, but for the really aggressive ones I either bust out some Irish Gaelic (there's no chance of any of them switching to it in an attempt to continue canvassing), or I bust out a non-sequitor like "no thank you, I already own a penguin."

It's a bit hinky, but it's not aggressively rude (even the penguin one -- you would be surprised how many people just plain don't notice what I'd said).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on May 16, 2011


I bust out a non-sequitor like "no thank you, I already own a penguin."

It's a bit hinky, but it's not aggressively rude (even the penguin one -- you would be surprised how many people just plain don't notice what I'd said).


EmpressCallipygos, you didn't happen to say something about an iguana to a canvasser in Boston or Cambridge 5 or 6 years ago, did you? My husband is a canvasser, and I guarantee if you said that to him or one of his coworkers you would make their day, even if they didn't react outwardly.

Funnily enough, despite being married to one and friends with many, I agree with all of the anti-canvassing sentiments above. However, I also know the Klang is correct about it's effectiveness as a tool, at least for the org my husband/friends work for.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 4:06 PM on May 16, 2011


Where do you draw the line, though? I made a post about the second Humble Bundle game deal, and nobody expressed that it was inappropriate for MetaFilter. Not exactly a Kickstarter donation project, but close enough to make me wonder.
posted by ymgve at 6:29 PM on May 16, 2011


Where do you draw the line, though?

Something that is a fundraiser for a being-created project = likely to get deleted.
Something that is a "here is some stuff for sale that is truly terrific" = less likely to get deleted
Something that is a link to "buy this thing" = likely to get deleted.

I see a pretty large gap between "This is a cool thing these people are selling" and "This is a really cool project, help this get funded" Many "this is a thing for sale" posts get the axe, yours was good and so it stayed.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:41 PM on May 16, 2011


« Older What are some of AskMe's fastest, most amazing...   |   Good Evening Dusseldorf! Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments