Can Europe Make It?

The birth of an idea: done.com

This story is about truth, business, the power of the Internet and that of the spoken word – and how it can help you find yourself, but also how it can help everyone.

David Stephens
28 April 2020
Team Syntegirty, Barcelona, 2017.
Team Syntegirty, Barcelona, 2017.
|
Cameron Thibos still.

Act 1

In 2001, a young Californian entrepreneur, Benjamin Padnos, bought what would nearly 20 years later, become an idea to improve the world. He purchased a number of domain names, ones he thought he might be able to turn into businesses. One of them was done.com.

This was the inception of our story.

Ben wasn’t quite sure exactly what to do with it at the time, but he called his company “DONE! Ventures”. Having spent 4 years working at Yahoo! among the first 200 employees, Ben knew the potential of the Internet was limitless, and that domain names would someday become valuable “Internet real estate.”

A couple of businesses rose and fell on the domain over the years, as happens in entrepreneur-land. And while they were solid ideas, none of them had a profound effect – nothing ever touched him at his core.

Then, the Coronavirus pandemic swept across the world.

Millions of people got infected.

Hundreds of thousands died.

And one day, the entrepreneur, a bit wiser and much greyer at 46 years old, decided to do something.

He decided he was tired of words – and wanted to see actions.

He wanted to see and share something being done.

Act 2

Several years ago, I was sitting on a baking balcony in Barcelona during the openDemocracy #TeamSyntegrity, discussing the future of the Internet with a group of course members. Every one of us was specifically chosen by an amazing geometric teamwork formula by Stafford Beer and our opinions on the subject varied.

However, we all agreed that the Internet was going to be an even more powerful force in the years to come – and that when young people came to dominate it, they would eventually create the world’s discourse. Also, we concluded that misinformation is a huge problem, and the first step to establishing legitimacy is being 100% factual and truthful, with plenty of proof to back it up.

At this point, I had been a freelance writer and journalist for over 7 years, and I knew the Internet could be a great way to make my living – all I had to do was be smart, careful and invest my energies. So, I started looking for ways. I had a content company planned out for a year-and-a-half, but slowly realizing that was too big to start with, I bought a little dropshipping store and planned to slowly phase out my writing while focusing on retail. The coronavirus pandemic kept me locked up (as it still is!), so I had plenty of time to learn about dropshipping, spending 6 hours a day perfecting my new knowledge – and loving every second of it.

But then, fate took a turn.

Somewhere in the cogs of the universe, a wrench brought things to a screeching halt… And just like that, on its own launch day, my little store was deleted without explanation. I had spent 2 months planning it all down to the last detail, and when it disappeared, that really got to me.

So, a day later, I went back to writing and started looking for more work. Can’t be broke, right?

The first job posting I found was a man saying that he was looking for a person to help him flesh out an idea. Not many of these posts around, and it sounded interesting, so I sent an application.

Side note - as a loud critic of unjust, non-transparent and morally corrupt behaviour, my dream job was getting to finally write about what I like, not what I have to. And what I like is integrity, realism and a fair bit of style.

But I had no idea that after years of searching, I had finally sent the right message to the right place.

Act 3

Meeting Ben was a wild ride. He told me about his idea, I told him about my background, and soon, we were exchanging documents, fleshing out the tone and goals of the project. I used the perspectives I had gained in #TeamSyntegrity to think like my audience, like those that had suffered injustice at the hands of wealthy people, or those in need of their aid.

I mind-mapped my progress, refined my proposal, and wrote down some ideas.

He loved them. It finally happened – decades later, he knew exactly what to do with the domain.

A team quickly formed, new people were introduced, and the enthusiasm in the group went up a few notches. We’d finally have a voice – one that could call for integrity and justice, as well as holding positive ethical and moral positions. Ben’s vision fit beautifully – he wanted to enable the general population to be able to crowdsource a moral currency based on accountability.

Done.com is the first site of its kind, as far as I know. There are no other sites that deliver news on philanthropy – or villainous behaviour – during crises. And when misinformation is blooming in the midst of a global pandemic, something must be done.

Regarding tone, the editorial team consists of experienced ghostwriting journalists who have just about given up on their bosses’ ignorance and their attempts at misleading rhetoric. So, we decided the team gathered at done doesn’t care about rhetoric – just facts. Ones we can back up a hundred-fold. We believe that when faced with only facts and the right questions from social and humanitarian perspectives, people will, over time, change their mentality to include giving as a natural, cornerstone feature of their personalities.

What better way is there to leave your mark on humanity?

Here’s a quick question: When you read news about someone making a donation, do you click to read the full report?

Yeah? Well, most people don’t.

Most people are fooled into thinking those we glorify in peacetime support us whichever way they can in crises. Most people believe their favourite celebrities or leaders are great people, but do they have up-to-date information?

At done.com, we only care about facts, and in this pandemic, we’ve seen facts go down two roads:

  1. Who helped? Where did they donate? How much? Why? How much does it mean to them?
  2. Who profiteered? Who did they make money on? How much? Why? How can we make this right?

Both of these scenarios have been present in global news media for months now – but nobody had gotten around to organizing them.

“What have they done?” Not “what have they said?”

Done focuses on cutting through the interference to provide context to people about what a donation truly means to its donor. Who is gladly giving to help others, and who is giving a headline number that’s relatively small in comparison to his or her fortune? One deserves to be classed a hero. The other, perhaps, a villain -- or at least someone who should be challenged to do even more!

But that’s not where it stops.

Soon after launch, we plan to add an opinion system to each and every article we publish, so that you can tell us where you think the reviewed subjects fall on our philanthropy scale. That way, it wouldn’t be just a fact-laden site, rather “The People” will form the discourse with us and let us know what they think – every time. This “crowdsourced” input will eventually help us to develop a scoring system – a “Done Score,” you might say.

That is the most important takeaway from this article. If news media is to evolve, it must change at the fundamental level. It must jointly create the public discourse, alongside the public. The public discourse of the future cannot be based on material benefit, spinelessness, confirmation bias and conspiracy. Creating the discourse jointly, with the public, is the only way to guarantee complete truthfulness and full transparency.

With that in mind, the future looks great for the idea behind done.com.

With a young and energetic staff, plenty of new source material, heads full of ideas and eyes gleaming with idealism, we look forward to creating an atmosphere where billionaires feel uncomfortable if they’re not using their enormous wealth for enormous social benefit, companies actively strive to be more socially responsible, and celebrities and influencers use their platforms for maximum good. A potential by-product of this will be that the hoarding of wealth becomes a non-concept, and everyone treats one another with more kindness.

For the benefit of all human kind, but most of all, the truth.

Team Syntegrity 2
Team Syntegrity, Barcelona, 2017. | Cameron Thibos still. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 and the human side of globalisation

Usually, profits come before people. But this year, governments across the world have been forced to shut down their economies and put life first. Why?

Join openDemocracy for a live discussion on what the coronavirus tells us about globalisation, neoliberalism and our shared experience as humanity. Thursday 28 May, 5pm UK time/6pm CET

Speakers

Anthony Barnett Founder of openDemocracy, and author of ‘Out of the Belly of Hell: COVID-19 and the humanisation of globalisation’, which looks at how social movements since 1968 have reshaped the world.

Achille Mbembe Leading post-colonial philosopher who developed the idea of necropolitics: how politics can dictate who lives and who dies.

Thea Riofrancos Author of ‘A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal’ and ‘Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador’. She is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Providence College.

Chair: Réka Kinga Papp Hungarian journalist and editor-in-chief of Eurozine.

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