The more we move towards a formal set-up, the more we head into territory that normally people are monetarily compensated for.
Design: from Logos to themes and other UX elements.
Content: if we want a blog, it won’t write itself.
Moderation & other behind the scenes site management.
All of these take time and effort, and while we’re a small community of refugees from Another Place, it’s all well and feels good (maybe) to volunteer, but as we grow…
I know we’ve got a broad and deep set of professional skills in this community, but that’s the point: professional means “not for free”.
Maybe it’s time we got our hands dirty and discussed compensation for those who are putting in the extra work to make the place look shiny. Yes, we have to figure out our funding, so we have somewhere for that compensation to come from, but I would feel better if I knew our eventual logo designer, for example, would be getting at least a small stipend for their contribution. The same with our hardworking management.
Personally I wouldn’t expect to be paid for blogging and would prefer to do so in an ad-free environment. As long as I’m voluntarily blogging about stuff that interests me, readers are enough of a reward.
I don’t have a problem with compensating moderators, admins, or people offering their professional skills, but in most cases we’re not going to be able to pay them more than a token amount for what they’re putting in. To make them feel adequately compensated, we need to think about meaningful social currency.
One of the things that brought this to mind, however, is the Logo thread. Logo is a huge part of brand identity, and I know we have a few designers in this crowd. If we’re going to do it, we might as well have it done well. But because it’s going to be linked to the community even if the designer drifts away, and because it’s an identifier, I would definitely want to see some sort of compensation at least offered for it.
I guess that depends upon how collaborative the project is. If the logo evolves like a meme then there’s no clear designer, but if there is a central figure then I’d be happy to chip in so that we can do it proper. In fact, I’ve suggested that that sponsoring creative people could be part of our mission.
Realistically, though, if we end up with people putting in serious time as moderators and such, it’s going to be really hard for us to pay them anything like a fair wage without the site assuming a strong profit motive. And that’s part of my argument for keeping it small—we’re here to have fun, so let’s not make it into a demanding thing. If you don’t have thousands of users, then you don’t need an Orenwolf.
Like I said, we need to get the financials sorted out first, and it wouldn’t likely be much more than a stipend (and what the recipient(s) choose to do with it – keep, donate back, give to charity) would be their business, but I am uncomfortable with what seems to be an expectation that some of our big “brand” things should be given over for free.
Creative work is still work. Not to mention some of the things that have been paid for out-of-pocket by one or two individuals for the benefit of us all.
This may not be a fun or comfortable discussion, but I think it’s one we need to have.
allow me to share some random thoughts that occur to me about this issue. they’re in no particular order and may in part represent me missing the point
like @Haystack i would prefer to continue our venture here as an ad-free environment.
to this point everything has been done by volunteerism and collaboration which is cool and has gotten us pretty far along. where compensation would be important would be when volunteerism creates more hardship for the volunteer than the sense of community such volunteerism helps to generate.
i’d like to know what tasks would need to be compensated and whether those tasks would require on-going compensation or at the end of a particular task.
what are our “brand” items?
i’m far enough away from what you’re talking about i may not grasp what you’re talking about. i’m also in a career for which uncompensated efforts are so expected it’s almost taboo to bring them up as something that might ought to be cpmpensated, it’s certainly considered bad manners to bring them up so i’d appreciate more clarity and specificity. i’m a public school teacher, btw.
My proposal is that, as soon as we have a legal entity, we ask each existing member to subscribe at the rate of $1/mo and require new users to do so. This keeps the site small and manageable while ensuring that we don’t need to resort to ads and native advertising to fund our operating expenses.
The “how” might require an outside service like Patreon, or some kind of ecommerce plugin.
A good point - the need to juggle both sides of the equation.
Assuming not-for-profit, it seems like the thing to do (and purpose of this thread) would be to define first what are the core necessary costs (hosting, management/moderation, logo, etc.), possibly some stretch goals / nice-to-haves, and then figure out what levels there are and how to fund them.
An opposite approach would be to try to raise as much money as possible and then figure out what to do with it / how to budget it out.
Assuming that this is not a capitalistic venture, the first sounds more appropriate to me. I think that if people can see the costs, and what it’s going toward, it would be easier to raise funds than a sort of nebulous ‘for the greater good’.
So far I think we have:
hosting, maintenance, domain, any costs re:email service (ongoing expense)
design (probably mostly one-time costs but possibly with future changes/updates that would also be one-time costs?)
moderation and management (ongoing expense)
content production/editing (ongoing expense, but production may be in discrete chunks)
Volunteering may cancel out the need to fund some of those. But may be good to get an idea of what would be needed without volunteers. And priorities.
if there are no funds or volunteers (or they’re on vacation), we could probably recycle something or otherwise get by without a fresh blog post, but if the domain or hosting’s not paid for then everything would break.
a custom theme might be nice, but of little consolation if the site gets overrun with spammers/trolls due to lack of moderation.
maintenance is not really an option with modern web apps, we don’t all want to get pwned and while others may be creating fixes for discourse/wordpress, etc., someone has to keep up with the updates and apply them.
I know discussions on that front have been happening. As is the discussion of creating an LLC or similar entity to transfer risk away from individuals. But I haven’t seen any discussion, yet, about this issue. Which is why I wanted to start it before the bystander effect took over and everyone assumed someone else would handle it.
But also uncreative work is still work. Again, I’m all for paying a graphic designer if we use one, but I’m also anticipating that somewhere down the road a moderator or administrator speaks up and says “Hey, I’m spending 15 hours a week sorting out boring issues with this site. Why don’t I get paid like the graphic designer did?”
Since we can’t pay everyone for everything, how do we decide who gets rewarded with karma and who gets rewarded with money?
Is there some other kind currency we could devise?
Quoting myself because I realized what was in the back of my brain but that I couldn’t figure out the words for. Volunteers are wonderful and figuring costs is not to devalue that they contribute above and beyond the raw monetary value with their personal effort. We should always show that they’re valued and appreciated, but also provide them a safety net. Part of valuing volunteers is being able to say “we’ve got it covered” or “it’s OK to take a break” so that they never need to feel guilt if they can’t make the contribution.
A volunteer shouldn’t have to think “do I buy the medicine that I need or pay the hosting costs?” or “my family wants to go do something, but hundreds/thousands of people are depending on me to do this…” and feel guilty.
I think that requiring a subscription, even if it’s only $1 a month, will inhibit growth and dissuade new users from joining up.
B3ta.com lets people donate and rewards them with a custom icon under their username. That way, you can give if you choose but there is no barrier to entry for new users, who might not be sure if they value the site enough to pay $12 a year for it, or who might not be able to afford it, or who might lack the ability to make online payments.
Personally, I’d be happier with either a patreon or a fund raising banner that allowed people to pay as and when a cost came up…
While I think we might get there, I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point that we have enough value to sell subscriptions yet. The subscription model is a little tricky. On the one hand, you need to be able to show prospective subscribers that there’s something here worth paying for, while at the same time restricting them as to what they can do without paying.
As many of you know, my wife is a professional blogger-- among her enterprises, she runs a subscription mommy-blog that’s quite popular. It’s a difficult market. It’s almost saturated with amateurs of various degrees of talent. But on the plus side, many of the subscribers have a great deal of time and a need for adult discussion and intellectual stimulation that they suddenly aren’t getting anymore.
She posts a few new articles every day, on a variety of topics. She also has a couple of volunteer contributors who post things that are related to their specific interests. (For example, one of the volunteers works with La Leche League, an organization that promotes breast feeding, and she posts a lot about it. Another one is fanatical about debunking fake and scam work-from-home arrangements, which tends to be a topic of much interest to this demographic.)
What we do is allow full partial read access to the mommy-blog, and the rights to post a very few messages a day in a single open free-for-all topic. If they want more, they have to subscribe. We offer a monthly option with a discount for six months at a time. That works pretty well, though as you can imagine, the open topic requires a LOT of moderating (mostly my job.)
Thank you @MalevolentPixy for starting this discussion. I agree that it is an important one to have .
Here are a few of my thoughts/clarifications:
Work is work. If someone wants to be compensated for their work, that is a completely fair expectation.
Up to this point, everyone who has worked on this site has done so as a volunteer. I don’t think anyone has been under any other understanding. If I am mistaken, I genuinely apologize.
If we start paying anyone for their services, it’s only fair (from at least that point forward) that everyone working on the site be given the opportunity to be compensated as well, with the option of declining that compensation and the further option of accepting compensation in the future as their views change.
All compensation should be negotiated and clearly defined by all parties prior to work starting, in order to avoid any confusion or disagreements.
There are a fair number of details to work out here, to say the least.
A clarification: At this point, everything that has been spent on setting up and running this site (Domains, hosting, etc.) has been paid for solely by myself.
I don’t point this out to pat myself on the back. There have been many people generously offering to help offset my costs. I’ve done so mostly out of caution. If I accept money without a clearly defined contract, I could be opening myself (and my family) up to various liabilities that I’m not prepared for.
I’ve purposely kept the costs low in order to make this arrangement work.
Once we have a revenue stream set up, I may request reimbursement for some or all of the expenses I have had up to that point. I don’t expect I’ll be requesting compensation for my work on the site. I’m not even sure how I would quantify that.
These expenses would have to be approved by the organization governing the site. I’m not planning on it just being a facade to shield me from liability. I’d really like this to be governed by a subset of the community, ideally elected by their peers.
This introduces another set of people that should probably be compensated for their work, as they’d likely be called upon to attend (ir)regular meetings.
I’m not a fan of a compulsory subscription instead of a voluntary one.
I like the Patreon model, and there is support (via a plugin) in Discourse to give patrons flair.
I’d hate to turn someone away from engaging with the community because they have to weigh whether or not they can afford it.
I’m fortunate enough that I can afford to do so, but I don’t want to pre-judge anyone who can’t or won’t.
I’m also open to other revenue streams, with the stipulations that:
We need to be open, honest, and up-front about how we are connected to those entities.
If we are using Amazon Affiliate links in a product recommendation, it should be clearly stated in the post, as well as indicated in our Terms Of Service or other similar document.
If we are using a Discourse plugin that hijacks all amazon links and adds our affiliate code, we should go out of our way to make sure that everyone is aware of this practice.
In other words, it should be nearly impossible for anyone to accidentally make us money. We should make it as easy as possible for anyone to help out the community monetarily, but it should always be because they want to. Consent is key, even in commerce.
I really wasn’t kidding about a bake sale in another topic. I think that’s exactly the sort of thing that would be awesome to attempt.
I think that’s pretty much what I’ve got for now. I’m not sure how coherent that was, so please gently take me to task if I’ve said anything egregious.
Another question: who retains the rights to submitted content? If I wrote anything for the blog, I wouldn’t really care about money. But I’d want to keep the rights to republish my work on a blog of my own, should I ever start one, or if i decided to rewrite something for an ebook. I’m guessing we could probably use Creative Commons licenses of some sort, but we’d have to work out the details.
I would lean towards an arrangement that would leave ownership in the hands of the original author, with a non-exclusive license to publish granted to the site. I’m somewhat divided about whether or not the license should be revocable by the author or not, so there’s some discussion to be had there.