Before we started posting our source code on GitHub, someone (a Kickstarter backer) called my team… well, a word inferring we were fathered illegitimately. The word slipped by Kickstarter’s swear word filter. In context, he was inferring we were defrauding backers with delays from upstream technical partners.
Post-upload (and now satisfied we are delivering as promised. since our code is now on GitHub), he/she calms down and starts asking relevant questions. I answered them myself, but I think this opens up a new community-management topic. How do you handle backers that become abusive?
Backers are more than customers – they’ve made (at least an emotional) investment in your project. Kickstarter doesn’t let us mute them, even if they sour, particularly even if they become abusive.
I fear if we just let backers become abusive when things become rocky, that it sets a bad precedent. Those makers also need to aim for an It’s a Wonderful Life outcome too, especially when things get really bad. So do we act like Jimmy Stewart – or do we pull out the banhammer?
The best line that I can posit to walk is an infirm one – Outreach, try to assuage personally, and then use the banhammer as a last resort. I have no problem with criticism, particularly if it’s constructive… but just because someone chipped in to a Kickstarter, doesn’t give them permission to be abusive. And if needed, makers should have the power to put it to a stop.
Update: I’ve posted a follow-up article here.