The snark of the crowd

Part of the whole point of crowdfunding is that you leverage the “wisdom of the crowd.” That is, a start-up company presents the relevant information about its idea, its team, and its financials to the crowd, and the crowd weighs in with questions and commentary. The crowd may ask about the company’s competitors, challenge the valuation, ask for further information about the company’s plans and draw the company’s attention to issues management hadn’t thought about.

Crowd comments have the ability to improve disclosure and increase the knowledge of potential investors. This is why the regulators insist on crowd communication channels being clear, and examine closely funding portals’ removal of any posted comments.

The problem is that, as anyone who has ever glanced at social media knows, some members of the crowd should not be allowed anywhere near a keyboard without adult supervision (and a dictionary).

I recently had cause to examine the crowd communications channel for one of our funding portal clients. The young folks who review these comments deserve danger money. In addition to posts by those talented people who make oodles of money working at home, you have the guys who think every time they touch the keyboard they need to explain the faults of the Left or the Right in excruciating but inaccurate detail, the founders of competitor companies, and the out-and-out loonies.

Funding portals generally have Terms of Use which we are constantly updating in response to the crazy that is posted every day, but sometimes removal of crowd comments is by necessity a judgement call.

So I have two requests.

First, I hope that the regulators will show some understanding of the subjective judgements that have to be exercised every day by the portals in deciding whether to remove comments that are irrelevant, offensive or just nuts. This isn’t promoting one company’s offering over another, it’s just trying to make this system work.

Second, crowd members: Just cool it. Save the political screeds, the self-promotion and the detailed explanations of why your fellow commentators are just Wrong for other forums. This is why we can’t have nice things.

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