SEC Crowdfunding Exemption action: File No. 4-605


When I guestblogged here last year, I wrote about crowdfunded securities. The upshot was that crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter can't support investment, because that's illegal; they can only offer tiered "perks" for donations at various levels. But I (and others) believe that crowdfunded securities should be legal without expensive SEC registration under certain conditions, starting with if individual investment is capped at a relatively low figure, like $100.

In that post, I also floated the idea of crowdfunding a campaign to pursue such a "crowdfunding exemption." I invited people to contact me if they wanted to keep up with such efforts, and got nice feedback from a bunch of folks. Encouraged, I dug in some more and found out that getting something like this going would actually be easier than I thought. First of all, the SEC has the authority to rewrite its own regulations, without any congressional review (which sounds like a recipe for corruption, and indeed...). Second, the SEC, via its website, lets anyone submit Petitions for Rulemaking and solicits comments on these petitions. You send it, and they will post it-- and then also post all the comments they receive. This quiet backwater of the SEC's website struck me as good territory for some crowd action.

Now, a half year later, all the pieces are in place. A campaign on IndieGoGo quickly raised the money to fund the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) to draft the petition, which was completed last week. I'm thrilled at how the petition came out-- it's very well researched and argued, and joy to read. The SELC sent the petition to the SEC last Thursday, and as of this morning, the SEC has posted it to their website, as File No. 4-605. You can see the list of funders in the first footnote, at the bottom of page 1. Huzzah!

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Adventures in Ex Ante Crowdfunded Securities Law

I'm thrilled at the success of Kickstarter and Spot.Us, which partly fulfill a longtime dream scheme of mine. These sites are primary sources of great stuff, and you should check them out if you aren't already familiar with them. The idea behind both is to help people raise funds for ideas that they want to pursue; Kickstarter is designed for any personal projects, and Spot.Us supports journalism.

Donors can get a little something in return through these sites if the projects they fund come to fruition, like a signed copy of a book that's produced (Kickstarter), or reimbursement in credit if a news organization buys the story (Spot.Us). But what if a crowdfunding site could offer donors a piece of the action, not just some thank-you goodies? That's what I would want, and I don't think I'm alone. I want investors for my schemes, not patrons, and if people support me to do something that flies, it would only please me to give them a cut.

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Absolutely, positively need a beard now? Simply enjoy looking at photos of cute girls sporting fake beards? Yeah. There's an Etsy for that.

imadeyouabeard store on Etsy. Thanks, Christina!

And, yes, I am getting a little obsessed with the whacked-out wonder of Etsy. Why do you ask?

Map shows US marriage and divorce rates

divorce rate map.png The Pew Research Center has an interactive map that shows marriage and divorce rates in the United States. The adjacent report, released this weekend, has some interesting statistics for trivia-hounds; for example, the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of single men (72%) as well as the highest median age of women at the time of their first marriage (30). Interactive map — the state of marriage and divorce

Power To the People

As a huge fan of FlowingData, NPR and electricity, I'm super excited about this interactive map that gives you a clear view of the structure of the U.S. power grid. Clicking through, you'll see how areas of the country currently are (and aren't) connected to one another, what's in the works to improve the system, and why that matters (a lot) when you start talking about alternative energy sources. Good stuff.

In this picture, you can see the yellow lines that really seem to do a good job of efficiently linking up the whole country. Those power lines haven't been built yet. In the interactive part, you can take those off, revealing a clearer view of our current transmission infrastructure that looks more like a series of occasionally connected river systems than a grid.

It's Time To Play...Is! It! Sinful!?

Say you're an average medieval Euro-Joe and you want to have sex with your wife. But first, you need to know, IS IT SINFUL? Digging through all those manuscripts of canon law can take forever (plus, as average medieval Euro-Joe, you can't read, anyway). Luckily, James A. Brundage has prepared a handy flow chart for sexual decision making the summarizes the medieval Christian church's take on when sex was OK (Think: In the dark, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays only), and when you were totally going to go to hell.

Unfortunately, I'm not cool enough to figure out how to gank a picture from a Google Books page, so you'll have to follow this link to see the flow chart in all its glory.

A Farewell and Edhi

Bassam Tariq is a Boing Boing guestblogger who is the co-author of 30 Mosques. A blog celebrating the NYC mosques during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He lives in Harlem, NY.

Dear boingers,

These past two weeks have been nothing short of amazing. Thanks for letting me share my stories and experiences with all of you. I will be contacting those who won the haiku competition via private message to coordinate the giveaway. I would like to stay in touch with everyone, so please feel free to follow me on Twitter or even add me on Facebook if that's not weird.

Next up for me? I will be leaving to Pakistan shortly to start filming a documentary on Abdul-Sattar Edhi. For those who do not know his work, here's a decent article on his work. In the 1950's he bought an old blue van and began transporting the sick and dead to their fated destinations. This small van called The Poor Man's Van was the first ambulance in the history of Pakistan. Though Edhi single-handedly created one of the most successful health and welfare network in Asia, he never lost his simplicity. He owns only two tunics to his name, sleeps on the floor of his foundations office in Karachi, and eats only a piece of stale bread every morning.

I met Edhi in August when he was on his yearly visit to New York. He shared with us the plight of the Internally Displaced People in Pakistan and said he never saw a situation so bleak before in his life. Edhi has been with Pakistan since its inception and has seen many leaders and governments come and go. There is not very much written about him in English, but you can find a translated copy of his autobiography at I remember asking him if he could sign a copy of his autobiography for me. Edhi doesn't speak or write much English, but he took his pen and wrote in English, "love human beings." As I read aloud what he wrote on the flap he looked to me, smiled, and said in Urdu, "it's really that simple."

Thanks again everyone.

(Picture of me taken by Omar Mullick.)

Edhi Foundation Website

Raising money to air an anti-special-interest ad with Lessig and Olbermann

Adam Green sez, "On Friday, Lawrence Lessig's reform group Change Congress released a new ad calling out "Blue Dog" Rep. Mike Ross (D-Arkansas) for siding with his special-interest contributors over his constituents on the issue of health care. The ad features an extended cameo by Keith Olbermann -- and is narrated by Lessig. Rather unique. Within hours, it was featured by ABC, NBC, Politico, Huffington Post, and Rachel Maddow. Lessig's group is asking folks to chip in to air the ad on Arkansas TV."

Help us get this ad on the air in Arkansas! (Thanks, Adam!)(

Campaign to get UK government to apologise for hounding Alan Turing to his death

Robbo sez, "Genius mathetician Alan Turing was arrested and convicted of 'gross indecency' because he was a homosexual. His brilliant career was destroyed, his service to his country was ignored and he was hounded throughout the rest of his life until his death by suicide. Time to clear his name and give him the honours so long overdue."
John Graham-Cumming, a leading British computer expert who launched the campaign, said: "I think that Alan Turing hasn't been recognised in Britain for his enormous contribution because he died in his forties and almost certainly because he was gay.

"It is atrocious that we don't recognise this man and the only way to do so is to apologise to him. This man was a national treasure and we hounded him to his death.

"One of the things for people in the computing world is that he was part of the war effort but we don't give him recognition in the same way as other heroes. To me, he was a hero in the second world war."

Since his death, plaques, buildings and statues have been raised in Turing's honour. The computing world's equivalent of the Nobel Prize has been called the Turing Award since 1966.

Campaign to win official apology for Alan Turing (Thanks, Robbo!)

R. Crumb unsuccessfully attempts to flatten a 78 record in the oven


Todd says:

Here's Robert trying to flatten a warped 78 record by heating it in the oven. It's a difficult process, and one that can easily destroy the record as well. His efforts were unsuccessful this time, and we're asking you for your help. Robert is looking for this 78 record by DOC HOPKINS – "OLD JOE CLARK" and "21 years". Released on Paramount 577. He needs a clean copy, Any leads would be appreciated.

R. Crumb tries to fix a warped 78 record by melting it flat in the oven

Aung San Suu Kyi found guilty by Burma court, will return to house arrest

"It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it." - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

No surprises here: A court in Myanmar (Burma) has issued a guilty verdict for Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She was accused of "violating an internal security law," and will serve an additional 18 months imprisonment under house arrest. She has lived under detention for 14 of the past 20 years. Reuters, CNN. Guardian UK has a timeline of events related to the case.

Keeping the Googling Good Life Going in a Post-Box Store era: Doug Fine

We covered Doug Fine's radical off-the-grid lifestyle experiment last year on Boing Boing TV -- embed above. He is the author of Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, and he's still going strong out there on the Funky Butte Ranch. When he's not out in the fields turning the compost heap or feeding chickens, he's working on his next book, which I'm looking forward to reading. Doug has a thought-provoking piece out in this Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section, here's a preview:

I have a fiancee and a son to provide for, so I decided to take a hard look at our prospects for survival if our consumer safety nets went away. For now, my green lifestyle choices at my remote 41-acre outpost in the American Southwest are optional. You know, growing lettuce instead of buying Chilean. Using organic cotton diapers instead of buying Pampers. But what if one morning in, say, 2049, I wake up to milk my goats and find out that supplies are no longer streaming in from China and California? What would I do if both box stores and crunchy food co-ops suddenly were no more? In other words, I'm examining my place in a hypothetical post-oil, post-consumer society 40 years in the future.

Now, I'm not rooting for such a thing. Slave labor, forest depletion, climate change and global resource wars aside, globalization has a lot going for it. I love that I can email a musician in Mauritania and ask to download his latest album. And anyway, lots of people still see globalization as the economic model for the foreseeable future. But when I was covering the former Soviet Union as a journalist in the 1990s, every single person I met told me that they'd thought pigs would fly before the Politburo crumbled.

On My Ranch, Ready for the Great American Meltdown (Washington Post)

Digital Open tech innovation expo for global youth: 10 more days to submit projects!

Boing Boing and Boing Boing Video are partnering with Institute for the Future and Sun to support the Digital Open, in which youth around the world are invited to submit technology projects "that will change the world--or even just make life a little easier or more fun."

The final deadline for submissions is August 15, 2009, but projects posted before the deadline will benefit significantly from feedback from the Digital Open community. We are giving away more than $15,000 worth of very cool prizes including laptops, video cameras, recycled billboard backpacks, solar-powered gear and more. We've already received 49 projects from eight countries: Argentina, Canada, India, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, the UK and the US!
More online:

Student challenges prof, wins right to post source code he wrote for course

Kyle Brady writes, "Thanks to some perseverance and asking the right questions, SJSU professors are now prohibited from barring students from posting their code solutions online, as well as penalizing their students for doing so. A win for students, programmers, and copyfighters nationwide!"

Kyle's a student at San Jose State University who was threatened with a failing grade for posting the code he wrote for the course -- he wanted to make it available in the spirit of academic knowledge-sharing, and as code for potential future employers to review -- and when he refused, his prof flew into a fury and promised that in future, he would make a prohibition on posting your work (even after the course was finished) a condition of taking his course.

Kyle appealed it to the department head, who took it up with the Office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development and the Judicial Affairs Officer of SJSU, who ruled that, "what you [Kyle] have done does not in any way constitute a violation of the University Academic Integrity Policy, and that Dr. Beeson cannot claim otherwise."

There's a lot of meat on the bones of this story. The most important lesson from it for me is that students want to produce meaningful output from their course-assignments, things that have intrinsic value apart from their usefulness for assessing their progress in the course. Profs -- including me, at times -- fall into the lazy trap of wanting to assign rotework that can be endlessly recycled as work for new students, a model that fails when the students treat their work as useful in and of itself and therefore worthy of making public for their peers and other interested parties who find them through search results, links, etc.

But the convenience of profs must be secondary to the pedagogical value of the university experience -- especially now, with universities ratcheting up their tuition fees and trying to justify an education that can put students into debt for the majority of their working lives. Students work harder when the work is meaningful, when it has value other than as a yardstick for measuring their comprehension. I've always thought it was miserable that we take the supposed best and brightest in society, charge them up to $60,000 a year in fees, then put them to work for four years on producing busywork that no one -- not them, not their profs, not other scholars -- actually wants to read. Might as well get them to spend four years carving detailed models of ships from sweet potatoes (and then bury the potatoes).

And in this case, it's especially poignant, since Kyle's workflow actually matches the practices of real-world programmers and academic computer scientists: coders look at one anothers' examples, use reference implementations, publish their code for review by peers. If you hired a programmer who insisted that none of her co-workers could see her work, you'd immediately fire her -- that's just not how software is written.

Kyle's prof's idea of how computer programmers work is exactly what's meant by the pejorative sense of "academic" -- unrealistic, hidebound, and out-of-touch with reality. Bravo to Kyle for standing his ground!

How I Won a Copyfight (Thanks, Kyle!)

Licensed to Drink

(Bill Gurstelle is guest blogging here on Boing Boing. He is the author of books including Backyard Ballistics, and the recently-published Absinthe and Flamethrowers. Follow him on Twitter: @wmgurst.)

From Drinking Learner Permits for Under Age Persons:

In more than 30 states, drivers aged 16 and 17 gain driving experience while holding special licenses that restrict when and how they may drive (for example, no late-night cruising). This permits a slow introduction to an adult privilege. The same concept should apply to drinking.

What could be the elements of a provisional drinking license? There could be time and place restrictions. The license holder could drink, for example, only in an establishment where at least 75% of sales receipts were for food (no bars, no liquor-store purchases). No service after 11:00 pm. Moreover, a 19- or 20-year-old could have to undergo formal instruction about alcohol and pass a licensing exam.
I'm fully aware that this may seem ironic given that I've already posted stories on absinthe and the 1974 Cleveland Indians 10-cent beer night debacle. But I see too many people drinking too much booze way too often. Recently, I came up (over beer with friends, another irony) with an idea for a drinking license. Turns out, several others have had the same idea.

While it may sound counterintuitive, would it not make sense to lower the drinking age from 21 to 20 or even less, provided the less-than-21-year-old imbiber obtains a separate license for drinking. And in order to get the license, there is a "drinking skills" program to pass. Not how to drink more, but how and why to drink like a mature grown up.

I think a lot of people (I could drink at 18, so this didn't really apply to me) go kinda nuts on reaching their 21st birthday. And because they're young, inexperienced, and uneducated in drinking, they do dumb things. People could be educated to be "better" drinkers.