retail news in context, analysis with attitude

An MNB reader brought my attention to the following story, suggesting that it is instructive and Eye-Opening. And I agree...

The story has to do with, the crowdsourcing venture that allows entrepreneurs in a wide range of venues to raise money from potential customers, allowing them to begin or complete whatever project on which they happen to be working.

One such entrepreneur was writing a book about how to seduce women, and his Kickstarter post was aimed at getting enough money to finish the book, but the tone and content raised a lot of hackles. On a public posting last Friday, here's what Kickstarter had to say about the issue:

Dear everybody,

On Wednesday morning Kickstarter was sent a blog post quoting disturbing material found on Reddit. The offensive material was part of a draft for a “seduction guide” that someone was using Kickstarter to publish. The posts offended a lot of people — us included — and many asked us to cancel the creator’s project. We didn’t.

We were wrong.

Why didn’t we cancel the project when this material was brought to our attention? Two things influenced our decision:

• The decision had to be made immediately. We had only two hours from when we found out about the material to when the project was ending. We’ve never acted to remove a project that quickly.

• Our processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained. We feel a duty to our community — and our creators especially — to approach these investigations methodically as there is no margin for error in canceling a project. This thinking made us miss the forest for the trees.

These factors don’t excuse our decision but we hope they add clarity to how we arrived at it.

Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter. If a project page contains hateful or abusive material we don’t approve it in the first place. If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn’t), it never would have been approved. Kickstarter is committed to a culture of respect.

Where does this leave us?

First, there is no taking back money from the project or canceling funding after the fact. When the project was funded the backers’ money went directly from them to the creator. We missed the window.

Second, the project page has been removed from Kickstarter. The project has no place on our site. For transparency’s sake, a record of the page is cached here.

Third, we are prohibiting “seduction guides,” or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter.

Fourth, today Kickstarter will donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization called RAINN. It’s an excellent organization that combats exactly the sort of problems our inaction may have encouraged.

We take our role as Kickstarter’s stewards very seriously. Kickstarter is one of the friendliest, most supportive places on the web and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re sorry for getting this so wrong.

It seems to me that this is a perfect example of how to be transparent, how to apologize, how to explain, and how to retain and even increase credibility by being honest and acknowledging a mistake. The folks at Kickstarter may have to rethink their processes a little bit, but in general, it seems to me that they've done the right thing, and they've done it right.

BTW ... I don't want to spend a lot of time on another apology that was offered over the weekend, but compare what Kickstarter did to the anemic apologies offered by celebrity chef Paula Deen, who now has to deal with the fact that she seems to have a history of being racially insensitive. (I'm being nice here. She actually seems like a terrible bigot. I don't care where she grew up or how she was raised or what her cultural influences are.) Now, I realize that she may be constrained in some of what she says because there's a lawsuit involved, but that's no excuse. (I don't care about the excuses, I don't care about the rationalizations.)

If I recall correctly, this is the same woman who has has long specialized in shows that celebrate Southern cooking and recipes rich in butter and sugar, but when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, only went public years later when she got an endorsement deal with a company that makes a diabetes medication.

There's only one thing that's transparent about Paula Deen ... and that's the way her actions and words seem to be catching up to her. She's often done the wrong thing, and she's done it wrong.
KC's View: