How to Anger a $25,000 OLPC Donor

   
   
   
   
   

Wthout a doubt, One Laptop Per Child has experienced quite a few difficulties in distributing XO laptops to the Give One Get One donors. And to an extent, we can excuse their errors.

OLPC's priority is getting laptops to children in the developing world and delivering 1,000 laptops to one country is easier than distributing 1,000 laptops to 1,000 individual addresses. But I wonder what the explanation is for Brent Oxley's experience?

olpc $100 laptop
I would also like to announce that I feel used, abused, and completely violated on a $25,000 donation hostgator made to One laptop per child. OLPC has a mission to develop cheap laptops for children to educate and express themselves on.
Brent is mad at OLPC because his company donated $25,000 to One Laptop Per Child during the G1G1 campaign, but only received an automated email response. When Brent followed up with surprise that such a cash donation was treated so casually, he asked a very pertinent question: "How many $25,000 donations do you receive?"

Working off G1G1 sales and donation numbers, OLPC received $2.6 million dollars in direct donations, in addition to the $32.4 million in G1G1 XO order pairs. Now much of that would be in $200 direct XO donations, easy enough to auto-respond to. But just how many people were like Brent, and stepped up with serious donations?

I know that in a traditional nonprofit organization, every $5,000+ annual donor is tracked with great care, and a $25,000 donor would certainly receive special attention. Sadly, it looks like OLPC has dropped the G1G1 ball in yet another area. Brent will not be a OLPC supporter in the future with OLPC's lack of follow-up:

Twenty days later and we still have not had a follow up response or anyone in the company making any type of contact with us other then what's listed above!!!

Based on our experience it's quite obvious OLPC is being mismanaged to the point of failure. I now feel our donation would have been put to better use had we mailed 25,000 one dollar bills for the children to use as toilet paper.

While I don't agree with his conclusion, I do agree with his frustration. From $250 to $25,000, OLPC has lost much support with its too-lean approach to donor relations.

Oh and as much as they mean well, emails from OLPC volunteers don't count. At $25,000, Brent should be getting a call from OLPC's leadership (Walter Bender, at least), thanking him and sending a free XO for his efforts. That would spur more good will and better OLPC press than randomly passing out seventy XO's to Linux Australia attendees, which is an insult to the G1G1 donors still waiting for their XO's.

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38 Comments

I am not surprised at the lack of communication from anyone at the OLPC organization. I have found that the level of customer of service is seriously lacking, especially in light of the wonderful mission of the organization.

The website provides little to no information about the GIGO program, not even a report about the number of orders in the program. Now, lets talk about actually speaking with a Customer Service Representative. Customer Service that does nothing more than to quote the company line about demand exceeding supply and the corresponding need to build more, yet unable to provide a reasonable answer as to why my credit card was billed before the item shipped.

Also, when I aksed about the cancelation procedure, I was informed that I could cancel my order right then and there. While I am pleased to know canceling my order would not be a problem, if that is the decision I make, I am dismayed that the response was so cavalier.

My problems stem in part from the fact that I "gave" this laptop to my 8 year old nephew as part of his Christmas present, for practical and philanthropic reasons and patience is not yet a virtue embraced by 8 year old boys. I can buy him a decent laptop for the same money and lose out on the lesson to do for others less fortunate.

I don't have $25,000 to donate, but I deserve some respect for the small part I was able to play. Don't I?

How many others like me are out there?

I donated some laptops prior to G1G1 via paypal, and received no confirmation from OLPC whatsoever. I was a little disappointed, primarily because I use gmail stars to keep track of charitable receipts. The G1G1 program went very smoothly for me though, and I am very happy with the machines.

Perhaps you'll correct your post - the link you posted noted that they gave away several dozen and not seventy as you noted. 36 is not 70 if my poor math skill hold out.

Secondly, wondering if you read the links you post? The OLPC gave out those XOs to Aussie Linux developers because they didn't have access to the US/Canada G1G1 program. Seems like handing out some XOs to highly skilled and motivated Linux developers would do much more than sending them to random folks.

Lastly, where's the actual PROOF that this guy actually donated $25,000. I looked at his blog and he had only 1 short entry where he apologized for donating from outside the US via Google Checkout?

What email did he send the request to? If I was donating $25,000 I wouldn't be sending it to some random email address.

Wayan,

This was my response to Brent on his site:

_______________

Hi Brent,

Your post makes me wonder what your motivation for donating is - doing good in the world or getting recognition and PR.

Try donating anonymously sometime. Pure motivations can be good for the soul.

All the best,

Doug

______________________

To tell the truth, he comes off as sort of an ass to me.

Interesting scenario.

Doug

@tsd guy
Delivering a product to people who paid for it is not the same as 'sending them to random folks'. A lot of the people who PAID MONEY TO OLPC are also Linux developers who are as deserving as the folks who got them free as convention swag.

@doug
So what if he is an ass? Why do hospitals and universities have people's name all over them? It doesn't matter why he donated. $25,000 should engender some respect.

TSD Guy,

I don't know how "several" became just "three" in your math world, but I ran with ZDNet Australia's figures: "Seventy XO laptops were also given out at the Linux conference last week" http://tinyurl.com/yvzmjg

And it was the Linux.au folks who say they handed them out to random people. G1G1 donors are not random - they've already proven to be directly committed to OLPC and should be the first in line for XO laptops (after the kids int he developing world).

Last but not least, I will put more credibility in Brent, who lives his life in the public eye than someone who will not even comment using his real name.

Doug,

I'll agree with you on the shallowness - Brent was looking for some love and attention for his money. And the last time I checked, we all did, from Xmas to Valentines Day. Human nature is what it is.

I have no idea why this was not published a bit more widely, but on 26/01/08 (or 01/26/08 if you like mm/dd/yy) Walter Bender put this in the community news mailing list:

2. OLPC and Brightstar, along with Quanta, are reviewing current
inventory and the immediate production schedule to fulfill the balance
of the Give One Get One program. At present their is a gap in supply,
given the need for US keyboards and power supplies—most of the
remaining "Get" laptops will likely ship in March.

It appears that Brent Oxley is attempting to make back his alleged $25,000 donation to OLPC by generating free advertising for his webhosting company.

As the entrepreneur that he obviously is, he has seen the benefit in shouting out how his alleged $25,000 donation has gone astray. Perhaps I should have donated from my company and then I'd have the chance to tell everyone how I got stiffed.

But I'm not the kind of person who attempts to profit from charity.

I pay fairly for my advertising dont I Wayan...

Brent Oxley,

"Maybe I’m being a drama queen so please come to your own conclusion based on the following experience……."

Yes, you're being drama queen...

The great problems of the g1g1 program seem to be due to three factors.

1) the decision to launch the program was made only shortly before manufacturing began, so there was not time for adequate planning or hiring of personel

2) OPLC had no people with experience in commercial distribution

3) demand was unexpectly large.

It seems that olpc is slowly but surely digging itself out of the mountain of problems that resulted, and in the future will be able to handle things better. In particular, Olpc America presumably will be set up from the begining to handle commercial distribution. In addition, we have Mary Lou's new company, which has a similar focus.

So the the overall message is yes, there have been some major screw-ups, but things will get much better in the future.

I'm afraid I find it humorous that the lack of a thank you makes OLPC "mismanaged to the point of failure". Personally I use other criteria to judge them. At worst I'd say that makes OLPC "rude" instead.

I suspect most non-profits track big donors specifically so they can ask for another donation at a later date. While that might be good "business", I'd prefer if they spent my donation on their cause rather than on thanking me and asking for more money.

Then again I'm not the type that would just donate $25,000 when there are other options. I'd probably do a G50G50 instead then give out most of my 50 to System/Activity developers and keep a few as my thank you so what do I know. =P

@Wayan
Don't let the OLPC apologists knock the wind out of your sails. Your post is right on.

It is curious how many people seem to crawl out their holes to come and blame the messenger.

Rule number one at non-profits is to thank their donors. When they don't, they get to watch their funds dry up. Without the G1G1 donors, one wonders if OLPC could have continued.

As it is, buried in the OLPC support meeting minutes of Feb 3, is this "We're still not really meeting the original minimum quantities we said we were going to build, so when you're not meeting sales expectations...", a quote from OLPC's Richard Smith, who handles many hardware issues. Enough said.

As to the $25K Oxley donation, and whether OLPC is looking into it, down near the end of the Feb 3 support group minutes is information that the issue has been forwarded "to the new financial comptroller...."

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Support_meetings

@Wayan

G1G1 has really exposed and continues to expose how poorly OLPC is managed. OLPC keeps hiding behind the argument that they are a charity and thus shouldn't be held to account. That is really unfair to the great majority of non-profits that are well-run.

It sounds like Negroponte still thinks he is running an academic institute not an organization that has to deliver a real product. That's not a business thing, that's an organizational thing. Many, many non-profits and charities deliver real products everyday, only in their case the product is a social benefit.

A big part of int'l development work and int'l education work is logistics. If OLPC can't get its relationship w/ its logistics supplier Brightstar right, whether for G1G1 or for the pilots, then it will have failed in a key area.

I am ashamed by all the OLPC apologists who are unwilling to acknowledge OLPC's mistakes. OLPC the organization will continue to be run like a research project until the larger community calls them on their faulty management.

This is not about open-source vs. proprietary or non-profit vs. charity. OLPC is poorly managed "period" Many open-source projects and non-profit organizations are much, much better managed than OLPC. OLPC shouldn't use open-source and its non-profit status as an excuse for its failings. That's an affront to all the open-source projects and non-profits that do great work year after year.

This guy has every right to complain about his $25,000 being ignored. He could have put that $ towards another worthy cause.

Hopefully OLPC will look into this and send him a nice thank you email. I also see on the comments under the blog that 2 olpc volunteers were responding and trying to handle the issue, and at the very least were bringing it to the attention of the proper people at OLPC. If indeed this blog turns out to be correct-it may very well be the wake up call that OLPC needs.

I also read on the wiki link above how the volunteers are all going to party like there is no tomorrow once all the laptops are delivered. I have a feeling that their might be several Donors doing the dance along with them.

Poor guy. Didn't get a personal note of thanks for his company's tax write-off? Someone buy the guy a bottle to cry in.

Brian,

Give the guy a break! So what if it effectively cost him slightly less than $25000 to donate $25000 worth of kit? It is still a massive donation in real terms, with a massive cost to him.

I think we can all agree that OLPC has not handled G1G1 well, but that doesn’t mean there is something critical wrong with the rest of the project (I’m not saying there necessarily isn’t anything wrong, just that this is not proof that there *is*) which is, after all, about getting laptops into the hands of children at this point.

I think the best thing would be for OLPC to start selling the laptops wholesale (minimum order of 1000 say) and let the resellers handle the distribution and support – competition should then create an efficient distribution market with better after-sales support.

Cheers,

Justin

Aww, people, give the guy a break. It's basic gratitude. Oxley deserves better. Mind that WE DON'T KNOW THE MOTIVATION BEHIND THE GIFT. Even if it is selfish, Good Work has been done for selfish reasons. I prefer to think he and his company honestly believed in OLPC's mission. I still do, though their methods and management are imperfect and the XO was "rushed to market".

For those who have kids, if you gave one of them a brand new $25,000 automobile, you'd expect a bit more than a "Gee, thanks" as they drive off, right? OTOH, if you give him/her $2.50 of McDonald's food you should expect no better. Extraordinary gifts deserve a bit more thanks than menial ones. Many charities DO acknowledge large anonymous donations.

It probably wouldn't have taken much. A personal letter of thanks from Negroponte, Bender, or Jepsen would be quick and cool. Of course, it must be printed on the Good Paper and possess a Real Signature. For extra credit, throw in some pictures or a DVD of some happy kids using XOs to build up the warm fuzzies inside. Maybe they could have managed a phone call? Really nice would be face time and photo ops, but that's quite difficult to coordinate.

Any other possible ideas?

I wonder when they are going to tell the people who donated their XO to OLPC by shipping them to the OLPC offices, that even those orders are missing?

From the Support Meeting Notes:

"Richard Smith: I didn't get mine either. Got a notification. I've got lots of laptops to mess with at work, so I'm not so concerned. But I mentioned something to Kim Quirk, and she said, "Really?". We dug through and apparently a lot of people at OLPC had them shipped to OLPC.

What happened in most cases is that very few at OLPC have received them. The business address got stripped, it ended up going to "Richard Smith, 1 Cambridge Center". There's 50 companies here, it's downstairs, they don't know me, so it got returned. I never got an indication. Only after digging through I found the FedEx shipping number.

I guess I'm lucky that I found it. I suspect that may have happened in a lot of cases, part of the shipping address info didn't make it. There's enough to verify the address, but not enough to uniquely resolve it."

I wonder if Brent Oxley even donated anything. There are a couple of things wrong with his story. 1). Google checkout! NO - OLPC uses paypal or for large donations direct contact. 2.) Amex card from a foreign IP would have been tagged. If you look at Brent Oxley pages he is a publicity whore and his pages have satirical articles. He is looking for cheap publicity off of the backs of a worthy cause. Fits in with his business model in my humble opinion of reselling other peoples services as his own.
When I first saw Oxley's diatribe a few days ago I smelt a fish.

I think Wayan has shown poor judgment in posting the article. If he had done some basic research into the inconsistencies plus checked with OLPC about their investigation he would have a more interesting and informative story.

Remember OLPC and the XO are bringing a disruptive technology / approach to the world which some people want to profit off of by riding its coat tails while others are fearful of the change it will bring.

Wayan the OLPC group is much more open than any other organization out there as shown by the very minutes you are quoting, while you are implying they are secret. But they aren't. The minutes are there for any one to find. If this had been Intel or Apple or another established industry player you would have been shut down a long time ago by restraining orders. That is another thing that is disruptive the OLPC's openness. If people are complaining it is because they are too lazy to read all the info available. Instead of complaining help out.

I have far worst experiences dealing with so called established businesses.

@Vamoose: Nice one taking out of context the following from the OLPC support meeting minutes of Feb 3, "We're still not really meeting the original minimum quantities we said we were going to build, so when you're not meeting sales expectations...", a quote from OLPC's Richard Smith, who handles many hardware issues. The context was in regards to the ability to put pressure on the original design manufacture Quanta to publish the schematics. To do this they need to get over a certain sales figure. This is clearly stated in the minutes!

Wayan,

Having worked most of my life (professionally and voluntarily) in the not-for-profit world, and having graciously and casually accepted (and quickly pocketed, counted, and deposited) cash donations and payments of $10,000+) there is something to be said for a smile, handshake, and personal, grateful recognition of the gift.

I am certain that if I sent one email, or made one phone call, I could personally give $25,000 directly to Mr. Negroponte. After all, he's a sophisticated man, knows the ways of giving, and has a stake in receiving such generous gifts.

On the other hand, donate $25,000 on the internet, it's just another electronic transaction, and may never have much (or any) recognition for the size or gravity of the gift.

Thus, even today, large donor gifts are courted and collected (gasp!) in person.

Here endeth the lesson.

@CallHimOut
http://laptopfoundation.org/participate/ uses google checkout to process payments. They use it because it's free to nonprofits (usually Paypal takes a commission for processing). Google checkout does accept AMEX.

My question, why doesn't OLPC know if he did or didn't donate $25000? You would think that wouldn't take long to check, assuming somebody's keeping the books. Sloppy bookkeeping shuts down non-profits as quickly as anything else.

@hmbuhler
If he showed up with a media crew and insisted on handing the money to Negroponte personally and splashed that all over his website what would people be calling him?

What happened to the 'old' financial comptroller?

(from Vamoose)
As to the $25K Oxley donation, and whether OLPC is looking into it, down near the end of the Feb 3 support group minutes is information that the issue has been forwarded "to the new financial comptroller...."

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Support_meetings

seventy?
several dozen?
one hundred?

someone said sloppy bookkeeping?

http://lwn.net/Articles/267113/
"This picture was taken on Wednesday, January 30 at linux.conf.au 2008. The OLPC project brought several dozen machines to the conference to be handed out, at random, to attendees who would promise to either do something amazing with them or give them to somebody else who would."

http://wiki.laptop.org/wiki/Current_events
"9. Roadshow: Dave Woodhouse, Bernie Innocenti, and Jim Gettys attended Linux Conf Au (LCA), which is considered by many to be the best Linux conference in the world at this time. The LCA organizers and OLPC combined to distribute a 100 machines to developers at the conference. (The lack of G1G1 in Australia is, of course, frustrating to people here.)"

March... March! I was told in January (1st week) that my "laptop was being configured for shipment" the in the 3rd week of January that it was "in the warehouse and awaiting shipment" -- now they tell me it's out of stock until the *end* @#$% or March.

Ridiculous. And I hate being lied to.

WC

Lack of communication only makes people more frustrated -- no matter what business you're in.

I've been waiting for months for my laptop. Three times they've told me that my shipping address was invalid, and I told them the correct one, and there's been no further response -- not even a "thanks for your message, we'll look into it when we can."

At some point, the ineptitude becomes willful.

Please remember that OLPC has only 25 employees and most of the people answering the phones for support are volunteers.

Overlooking the $25,000 donation is pretty poor donor development; it's not making the most of what people are willing, even eager, to give. Blaming it on subcontractor issues doesn't exactly inspire confidence, either.

But it's the Australian giveaway that really gets me. Here's part of my response on the official OLPC forum:
"I'm a first-day G1G1 donor twice over, I got my laptops before Christmas and I love them, I've been helping out a bit on the forums and (just a little so far) on the wiki, and I just co-presented on the XO to a local Linux group this weekend. I do understand the value of involving more Linux lovers with OLPC, but I find this giveaway -- before resolving all outstanding G1G1 donor issues -- shocking and totally unacceptable."

Full response: http://en.forum.laptop.org/viewtopic.php?p=533694#p533694

"I think the best thing would be for OLPC to start selling the laptops wholesale (minimum order of 1000 say) and let the resellers handle the distribution and support – competition should then create an efficient distribution market with better after-sales support."

If you want to do this, go right ahead. Becoming a middleman is a wholly non-trivial business, involving complex business deals, shipping, financial, and data-handling logistics, and tremendous amounts of start-up capital.

I got up early November 12 and made my G1G1 donation. I got an immediate confirmation that PayPal had accepted my order and had charged my credit card. I was supposed to get my XO before Christmas. So, roughly a month to wait. After repeated inquiries and a dispirited comment on the forum, I got a call from someone named Michelle, who said I would have to wait maybe two months more. She offered no additional information. Then I got a mass email from Professor Negroponte, also threatening a further two-month wait and offering no additional information.
As a donor (a modest donor, to be sure), my impression is that Negroponte and the OLPC are being completely contemptuous of their donors. I find their lack of responsiveness simply offensive.
I haven't seen any numbers on the G1G1 program or on XO production and delivery, only accounts of random photo ops of XO giveaways, so I find their vague announcements irritating rather than reassuring.
I was initially enormously enthusiastic about the XO and OLPC's idea to spread its use throught the world for kids, and I was intrigued by the possibilities that it might have for use by elderly persons who can no longer find their email buried many windows below their pc screens. At this point I'm looking elsewhere for ideas for computers for the elderly.
David Amundson

I think this is less of "wanting recognition" and more of just getting an acknowledgment that he is somehow involved with the vision of OLPC as a result of donating so much.

As a donor myself, I wanted to be part of the OLPC team almost as I shared their goals. A simple thank-you letter, while nice, kind of creates separation still from the project. A detailed letter saying how and where the money will be used would've been much better...as it would have confirmed that the large sum was being put to good use (even though it's likely to be anyway).

If that is the case, I can see where he's coming from.

Well, if I were a potential big donor and I read through these comments, I would RUN, not walk, as far from OLPC as I could get, but then I am not a potential big donor so maybe I don't understand the rich as well as Nick and pals.

It's an interesting approach to running a non-profit, that's for sure. I will be watching to see if insulting, denigrating, ignoring, and requiring pureness of heart in large donors works better than the traditional method of courting them and making sure they feel appreciated and special when they make generous contributions.

The author might have added what this donor plans to do with approx 62 laptops. From what I have read there is a major effort on the part of OLPC to fix their issues. So sue them for not expecting people to order so many. I'm sure many other charities would love to suffer such a fate. Plus, what if there were bigger issues at hand (like trying to keep ahead of Intel's illegalities.) Have the heart you think you did when you ordered back in November.

Eagerly Anticipating
& Patiently Waiting

@Eggs "what this donor plans to do with approx 62 laptops". My understanding when reading this article is that it wasn't a massive G1G1 donation, but a straight, no-OLPC-expected-in-return, $25.000 direct donation.

I know Brent Oxley and he's a spoiled jerk with the education and mentality of a grade schooler. A rich kid with rich parents that had success with his web hosting company by the hard work of everyone under him (everyone he totally lacks respect for). He thinks he's special and expected some special treatment. He only made that donation to get attention and the fact he'd think it would get that many more clients because they think he's a good guy. Seriously, Mr. Oxley just likes to talk and act big and it impresses some people, but everyone that knows him, know that none of his company's success can be attributed to any skill, experience or good business sense by Brent.

I think only 2 or 3 of the original staff are left, because they work hard all day to make the company a success only to have Brent throw his random tantrums. Indeed, I would want verification my donation was actually used for what it was claimed to, but unlike Brent, I would not plan out every stage to brag in public about it; from the initial plan, to the donation, to the follow up, to the complaint about lack of special treatment. Perhaps if he used some other means rather than an email reply from a form letter email thank you, he'd have been complacent, but that's not his character. I find it offensive that people like him have it so easy and expect everyone to bow before them. He even goes so far as to continue to repeat the same BS story about how "he" started his company with only $1,000 in a bank account, pretending his parents didn't bankroll it, acting like he came up through hard times. The kid has a $30 Million inheritance coming to him, for goodness sakes and his parents paid for everything, while the original few admins/staff actually did all the work AND put up with his ego (and all eventually left due to him). A friendless, self gratification, brag boat of a worthless person. Not everyone that donates is of good will, he had ulterior motives from the start. Don't let his blog crap and whining deter you from considering donations.

Wow, that's one of the nastiest posts we've seen on this site!

... and it's not even from one of the usual suspects ...

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  • Bonjour Mokifisi!
    Je suis bien d'accord avec vous. Je travaille depuis 4 ans dans un petit …

    Comment on The XO Tablet - A First Impression in 750 Words

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  • You just follow the same route upstream how you got the 2XO Tablets? How did you get them? Bring …

    Comment on The XO Tablet - A First Impression in 750 Words

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  • quelle adresse envoyer mes deux XOTablet qui ne fonctionnent pas?

    At what address to s …

    Comment on The XO Tablet - A First Impression in 750 Words

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  • That's called "Death on arrivals". They happen. That's why there's always some additio …

    Comment on The XO Tablet - A First Impression in 750 Words

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  • What is a shelf XO? If you tell me what did you buy and from whom, perhaps I will have a suggest …

    Comment on Goodbye One Laptop per Child

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  • Voici mon message en franais...

    Bonjour,
    Je viens d'acheter 2 tablettes XO. Les d …

    Comment on The XO Tablet - A First Impression in 750 Words

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  • I just bought 2 shelves XO. Both tablets are not working. One does not start and the other touch …

    Comment on The XO Tablet - A First Impression in 750 Words

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  • I just bought 2 shelves XO. Both tablets are not working. One does not start and the other touch …

    Comment on Goodbye One Laptop per Child

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  • I just bought 2 shelves XO. Both tablets are not working. One does not start and the other touch …

    Comment on Goodbye One Laptop per Child

  • Warning: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /nfs/c03/h05/mnt/54379/domains/olpcnews.com/html/includes_c/sidebar.html on line 1473

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  • OLPC is not death; eg. this One Laptop per Child San Francisco (OLPC-SF) June 21, 2014 Meeting a …

    Comment on Goodbye One Laptop per Child

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