A New Brave World

When tipping goes wrong

I tried to send this out last week but I think I messed it up, so here it goes again.

Disclaimer: This story is a fictional rendition of what it would be like if there was a company that chose to accept payments on the behalf of content creators without their knowing about it, and then give them away if not claimed in time.  There is unlikely to be any resemblance to real life events because there is no chance anyone would do that right?  It was also meant to be satire, but sometimes when you live in the craziest possible world, the best you can do is a retelling.

It was a long evening of grinding away on his stream.  John had been working for months and finally built up a couple thousand followers on Twitch.  He was far from a major name who could do it exclusively, but he did have a few people who were willing to subscribe and make sure he had a few dollars every month.  They seemed to enjoy his dry wit and his ability to break down certain strategy games that were a little bit less common on Twitch.  He figured he was going to playing anyway, might as well share his love of the games with a few others.

Erin was a huge fan of John.  As often as she could she would tune into his streams.  She had never met someone in real life who played these same games as her, and especially not someone who could make even the watching exciting.  She was a huge supporter of her favorite content creators online, and luckily her browser had a couple of buttons that made it super easy to tip people she loved watching.  She logged on to watch John stream and soon found herself laughing uproariously. She clicked a couple buttons and sent him a few dollars, glad to help someone who brightened up her days.

John’s lifeblood as a subscriber was the few people who chose to invest the money to subscribe to his channel.  Those who chose to do this got a couple of little perks: a badge they can use in the chat, a subscriber only chat,  no ads, and the pleasure of knowing they were supporting a content creator.  He didn’t have a ton of subscribers, but the few he did have he started to gradually develop relationships with.  Since they got access to the subscriber only chat he would pop in and talk to them, many of them fans of his same favorite games.  It was a good arrangement.  Besides those subscribers there were some people who were willing to hop in to his streams and “cheer” which acted as a small tip for John.  This right now only added up to a about a hundred dollars a month for him right now, but this amount helped convince him it was worth continuing, and kept his equipment up to date.  He was hoping in a couple of months he would able to justify an upgrade to a brand new keyboard, one he had been eyeing for a while.

Erin had continued to tip John through the browser, and finally decided one day to send him a message noting her appreciation for his channel.

Hey John,

Just wanted to send you a quick message to say that I love your channel.  Not often do I find someone else who loves these games, and you make watching them fun and funny.  I hope you keep doing what you are doing, and I hope my few small tips of RAT is helping to make that happen :).

Your fan,

Erin

John opened up his messages and was confused.  He had never before heard of a tip of RAT and was totally confused what Erin might be doing.  He decided to sent Erin a quick message back to find out what was going on.

Hey Erin,

I wanted to say thank you for your message, support like yours is why I keep doing this.  I was wondering though what a “RAT” is, obviously I know the furry little rodent, but I’m guessing that is not what you are sending me.

-John

Erin was now the one confused, when she had opened up her tipping page on her browser, she had seen a total profile for John, complete with his profile picture and his information.  It had seemed like all of her favorite content creators had pages, and so she would send them a few dollars when she can.  Now she was a little bit confused, because it seemed like John had never gotten any of her tips.  She decided to start digging and went looking through what she could find out about how this tipping worked.

In the meantime John who had a small but loyal following on Twitter decided that he wanted to describe his experience. 

I want everyone to know that if you have been tipping me RAT that I am not set-up to receive it.  I have shared no information with that company and I am not receiving those tips. 1/

It appears that this company decided to make a fake profile for me and they have been soliciting these tips on behalf of me and other creators. 2/

Glancing through the ToS for this company it also looks like they do not refund these tips to the people who choose to tip, but instead use them for their own purposes.  3/

This company seems to be exploitive and seems to take advantage of both creators and their fans.  It is not right to use my image to solicit money that will never get to me. 4/4

This quickly became one of John’s most interacted with post he had ever made on Twitter.  Turns out that RAT had previously been quite popular.  Even the CEO of the company that made RAT decided to chime in on the issue.  He wanted everyone around to know that he saw no problem with what he was doing, and that furthermore it was okay to be doing it because he saw himself as a Nietzschean Ubermensch.  It turns out that many content creators had been “receiving” tips that they never received, and many people had been tipping people who never received.

It seemed that the goal of this company was to get content creators to opt-in by convincing them they were missing out on these tips, which then makes the platform look better to people because there are more people using it. Quite possibly one of the worst tactics in the sleazy growth-hacking playbook. John considered for a second signing up in order to receive these tokens, because every dollar did help, but the simple truth is he refused to support a sleazy model like this. He hoped that if he refused to participate and drew attention to it, other creators may eventually see some of the problems.

Erin seeing this whole debacle made a simple choice.  It was time to find a new browser, and she decided to sign up as a channel subscriber to John.  She still loved his content and wanted to do what she could to support him.

Disclaimer: I am not signed up to receive RAT or any similar products, please do not send them to me.

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