I will always remember the exact time when my world changed forever.
It was last Wednesday night, sometime after about 8pm, and it seemed the universe had lined up every possible factor in a row to use up all my energy. Work, housework, a cold, looking after kids and six weeks of after-hours planning and effort to produce the Kickstarter for my planned book The Frustrated State had all come to a head, and I was exhausted. I remember finding myself lying comatose on my bed, staring at the ceiling. My brain was toast and I could barely move.
I was contemplating simply falling asleep where I lay, clothes and all. I was that tired. And then I heard a succession of gentle ‘bing’ noises, and I turned my head to look at my phone.
Now, I knew that the Kickstarter for The Frustrated State had been going well — very well. The funding effort had launched seven days previously, and hit 62 percent of its funding goal in only two days. I had prepared and had promoted it strongly, and the results had been hugely encouraging. People were already sending me congratulatory messages.
But it had been a few hours since I had checked the funding progress, and my phone had been in my study while we went through the daily routine of getting the kids fed, bathed and in bed. Any parent will know that this leaves little time for distractions.
What I saw as I looked at the screen is that a flurry of pledges had come in, and they had suddenly pushed the funding over 100 percent.
I was dazed and quite shocked. I stared at that screen until my phone got bored and faded to black again. It didn’t then, and doesn’t now, seem real that The Frustrated State had been successfully funded.
I thought very hard about what I wanted to do after working for Senator Ludlam. I spend many dozens of hours planning The Frustrated State, brainstorming and trying to work out how I could make my dream come true of writing a book about technology policy and joining the Canberra Press Gallery to keep the political sector honest.
But I never really expected it to happen. I knew the book would get some support, but never did I expect that in only one week, over 500 people would have pledged $25,000 to make my dream become a reality. I thought I would be heading to Seek to start applying for jobs right now, instead of looking forward to planning chapter structure for a book of many hundreds of pages.
The extremely rapid funding success clearly shows three things.
Firstly, it shows that hard work and passion pay off. If I hadn’t worked hard on Delimiter for four and half years, and then spent many marathon days working in Parliament on issues like data retention (thanks to my family for putting up with those long hours!), the technology community would not have trusted me to deliver this project. By now, you all know I care about these issues.
Secondly, it shows that Australians are increasingly comfortable with crowdfunding platforms to help fund journalist projects. This is the second successful crowdfunding I’ve run (here’s the first). If you have a defined goal and are prepared to work hard to achieve it, people will support your efforts. Crowdfunding is not a panacea, but it is a useful arrow which many journalists and publishers should consider adding to their quiver.
But most of all, the successful funding of the Frustrated State is a huge wake-up call to politicians and policymakers that they must fundamentally change the way they handle technology policy. We are mad as hell after several decades of terrible tech policy, and we are not going to take it any more. We have taken the first step to putting a flag in the ground of the Australian political sector to say enough is enough.
So what happens now?
Firstly, I want to note that the Kickstarter for the Frustrated State will keep going for another 17 days, and there is still a very distinct possibility that we will hit the $35,000 stretch goal that will see the book distributed to all Federal and many state parliamentarians, and other influential tech policymakers. We’re only about $6,500 short of that goal, so if you haven’t supported the project yet or promoted it to your friends and colleagues, now is a great time to help get it over the line.
From my end I still have five weeks to go in my current job, so after this article I will go quiet for that time and finish out the remaining five weeks of my contract with Senator Ludlam. I’ll surface again on 13 July, when I will start work on The Frustrated State and on new Delimiter articles.
At this stage I also want to thank some specific people who helped me along the road to this point.
To Senator Ludlam and the Australian Greens team: Thank you for an amazing year in Parliament House! I have learnt so much from you that it is going to take a long time to think about and process. We’ll be on different teams after June, but we’ll likely still be working in the same place towards many of the same aims. I consider the Greens a significant bright spot in Australia’s very flawed political sector, although obviously I will hold the party to account like everyone else. And there’s still lots of time to get a lot done — still five weeks to go ;) And now back to #Estimates work :D
To Malcolm Turnbull’s advisor Jon Dart: Thank you for your integrity and hard work. We may disagree on many issues, but it was you who first inspired me to become a political staffer through your example. I’m still relying on many of the lessons I learnt from you over the years. Labor staffers and the crossbench have also taught me much over the past year. I am grateful.
To the Australian Conservation Foundation’s nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney and ‘ST’: I have learnt many lessons from you both over the past year about politics, campaigning and results. Thank you. You have leveled up my brain, and it will be put to good use.
To Matt Sainsbury of Digitally Downloaded and graphic novelist Shane W. Smith: Thank you for going first. I studied your Kickstarter efforts in detail before trying this myself. I couldn’t have done this if you hadn’t done it first. Actually, check out Shane’s latest Kickstarter here — it’s still live now, although already funded. And click here to check out (and pre-order) Matt’s book Game Art.
A big thank you goes to George Fong, president of Internet Australia and IT guru of much renown. It’s a little known story that a senior advisor to Attorney-General George Brandis apparently wore a set of CIA cufflinks during the recent data retention Senate debate. In response, George Fong sent me a set of skull + crossbones pirate cufflinks. They reminded me, as Steve Jobs famously said, that “it’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy”. Now they sit on my desk in pride of place.
Lastly, and most importantly, to everyone who has supported The Frustrated State, I want to say a huge thank you. You have believed in me, supported the project financially and helped spread the word about it to friends, family and colleagues. Without you, this project would not have been possible. After June, I will be working directly for you.
Over the next year, I am going to work my absolute ass off to justify your faith in me and deliver a book to make you all proud. You will all be involved in that process. And I will also work hard on Delimiter to make sure that technology policy issues keep on getting raised in the Parliament and that I hold our politicians to account.
This book will be a major step taken by Australia’s technology community as we reboot our politicians’ understanding of technology policy. It will not be the only step, but it will be one of the first. I look forward to taking it together with all of you.
Image credit: Rob Reid