State of Metafilter, and funding update June 8, 2015 9:40 AM   Subscribe

It’s been a busy year on Metafilter, with some big changes over the last twelve months.  Some of the hardest changes were the result of the financial difficulties that came to a head last May with significant staffing cuts.  And the best thing to happen for the site was the tremendous outpouring of generosity from Metafilter’s members in response to that financial crisis, through voluntary funding of Metafilter.  

I want to thank all of you again for your support, and give you an update on where site finances are now, how funding has helped, and how we’re trying to make it easier to support the site in a way that works well for you—including a new alternative to PayPal.

~~ About supporting the site ~~

1. Here’s the funding page if you want to contribute. (Thank you!)

2. New PayPal alternative: Stripe payments
We’re now offering Stripe payments in addition to PayPal, for both one-time and recurring payments. Stripe is a newer payment processing service that allows us a little more flexibility in how we handle payments, including support for quarterly and yearly recurring payments. It doesn’t require you to set up an account. We’ve built a basic set of payment options on the funding page in addition to the existing PayPal options; if you have a specific funding setup you’d like to use that isn’t there, you’re welcome to contact us directly about setting up a custom plan.

3. What’s up with unexpected PayPal cancellations
For folks who do recurring monthly payments with PayPal, we’ve found over the last year that PayPal does a poor job of handling expired credit card situations. So, if you’re using PayPal for this and get an email saying that your payment has been canceled, don’t worry: it wasn’t canceled by us. It’s generally just your card data on PayPal needing an update when you’ve been issued a newer card. The simplest fix we’ve found for that case is for you to log into PayPal, cancel the original recurring payment, and start a new one when you’ve updated your card data.

4. Help Mefi through Amazon shopping
If you’d like to support Metafilter a little bit more in an indirect way, you can be sure to do any shopping you do on Amazon by reaching the site through our affiliate link, which you can always find on the funding page as well. A minority but non-negligible amount of Metafilter’s monthly revenue comes from Amazon affiliate income, based on the site replacing/inserting our code in most of the Amazon links people post, but this is another way to try and help Mefi out with revenue while doing something you were already doing anyway.

And if you ever have questions about payment processing or related things, please feel free to drop us a line at the contact form and we’ll be happy to help.


~~ What’s happened in the last year ~~

Last May we were broke and operating at a loss; to avoid having to literally shut down, Matt announced Mefi was staffing down and talked about the major financial downturn we’d been dealing with for the previous year and a half that got us to that point. We expected that to be the new normal: a much reduced staff and hoping against hope that ad revenue wouldn’t drop further and force even more drastic measures.

What actually happened was different: Mefites asked to help. Insisted on helping. Told us, rightly, that we were wrong to think that community support of the site wasn’t something that could make a difference. And folks tracked down the old tip jar link we hadn’t thought about in years and started, unprompted, an enthusiastic funding campaign. We were bowled over, and worked to put together a more flexible and well-developed funding page to make it easier for people to give what they wanted to give.

Folks in the Metafilter community have been incredibly supportive of the site since that moment of crisis; you’ve helped Mefi by funding on the order of a hundred and forty thousand dollars in the last year, which represents a significant chunk of our total site revenue over that period. And that has made a huge difference in where we are today vs. where we expected we’d be when things were at their worst.

Specifically, funding has meant a few different concrete things for the site:

- We have not had to staff down further. 
The cuts last May got us to the point where we were not losing money month to month any more, but hard as it was to lose jessamyn, LobsterMitten, and goodnewsfortheinsane, we were for all that still just barely keeping our heads above water.  Any sort of downturn would have meant having to trim down staffing even further. Your funding meant we haven’t been living with that constant threat. 

- Some part-time mod hours.
We were able to bring gnfti back at reduced hours within a few weeks of the initial cuts, and bring LM back for sporadic fill-in shifts after a few months.  Having some extra mod hands in the mix made moderation duties far more manageable over the long term; instead of worrying about an immediate threat of always-on burnout, we’ve been able to spread around the site responsibilities more, and provide more flexibility in terms of relief coverage and time off as needed.

- We’ve been able to rebuild cash savings. 
Last May, we were broke; the company bank account was functionally empty, as our spending even after significant pay cuts and a lot of other belt-tightening had been outpacing still-declining ad revenue.  But now, for the last year, we’ve been able to consistently put money in the company account, and at this point we have a healthy and growing cash buffer for dealing with any new financial challenges without facing an immediate crisis.

- Ad experimentation.
With a savings buffer built up, we’ve been able to do some small experiments with ad placement and new ad providers, to see if we can improve revenue. The results have been mixed, no home runs so far, but being able to try out these things knowing we won’t be in serious financial danger if we lose a day or two of revenue means we aren’t frozen in place with our existing revenue approach.

- New features and security measures.
We’ve been able to put some energy into site improvements, rather than just scrambling to put out fires.  FanFare has grown a lot over the last year, with new media types and subsite features like My FanFare, tag subscribing, and FanFare Clubs added over time. We were also able to put in the time and effort to improve Metafilter’s password security to help protect Mefites’ account info in the unlikely event of a data breach on the server, and to make miscellaneous improvements like revamping the post/comment formatting buttons and adding the long-asked-for Add to Activity function to posts to make it easier to follow discussions with Recent Activity without having to comment.

- New mobile-friendly design.
Among the most significant improvements to the site was the rollout last September of the new Modern theme for the site, a thorough reworking of the site’s display code designed to work better in a variety of browsing contexts, particularly mobile devices with smaller screens. This has been a good thing for a lot of mefites (and for those who prefer the Classic theme we continue to support that as well), but it’s also a good thing for how the site appears to third parties, notably Google. With their recent focus on mobile accessibility in how they assess and rank some search results, having a site that passes Google’s mobile tests with flying colors (which the Modern theme does) means we’re unlikely to see any negative consequences with whatever changes they make on that front.


~~ Change of leadership ~~


That I’m posting this, and not mathowie, may be notable for some long-timers who don’t watch Metatalk closely, so if you didn’t hear when it happened: in March, Matt stepped down as moderator and manager of Metafilter to take a new job at Slack. I’ve taken over the daily management of the site from him, and with his payroll freed up we were able to hire LobsterMitten back on full-time to handle the moderation duties he’d been covering since the crisis last May. Matt is still the legal owner of the site, and continues to hang around on the site, but beyond that he’s getting the chance to focus entirely on non-Metafilter things for the first time in sixteen years. We had a goofy going away Metatalk to celebrate his last shift.


~~ Moving forward ~~

Metafilter remains my favorite place on the internet. I’ve been a member for almost fifteen years now; it’s been my show-up-every-day home base for a solid decade, and my employer for almost as long. That it’s still here after all these years, still a vibrant and thoughtful community, still one of the sites people regularly point out as an exception to the standard "don’t read the comments" advice, gives me hope for what the future of the web has in store, and for what part this site will play in it. I’m glad to be here, and so very glad you all are too.

As a site and a community, we’ve weathered a difficult few years, and a scary low point last May; a year later, the site is stable and doing well. Matt’s departure is a big change for all of us, staff and members alike, but the transition has been smooth and things have been working well under the new setup.

We have a lot of site improvements we’re looking forward to putting time into, both visible (further FanFare developments, for one) and behind-the-scenes (ongoing improvements to admin/mod tools and site infrastructure), and we’ll continue to explore ways to improve and diversify Metafilter’s revenue streams to help keep things financially steady. And we’ll continue to support the funding process, and provide regular updates on how the site is doing.

Because we have, absolutely and undeniably, made it through this year because of the willingness of all you folks in the Metafilter community to help out with your financial support of the site, both at the moment things went from bad to terrible last year and in the months since then. The generosity of the Metafilter community has been more than we could have asked for.  I can’t express sufficiently my gratitude for what you all have done, and continue to do, to help Metafilter be an oasis on the internet.

I can only say thank you. Thank you to those willing and able to help keep the site afloat financially, and above all thank you to all of you helping this place be better just by being around, caring about this place, and reading and participating here as part of the thing that fundamentally makes Metafilter what Metafilter is: a community.
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 9:40 AM (223 comments total) 270 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for the update, cortex! I really appreciate how transparent Matt & you and all the mods are in sharing what's going on with the site. Hooray for a financially stable Metafilter!
posted by aka burlap at 9:51 AM on June 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thank you so much for this update, cortex! Getting basically a Metafilter Annual Financial Report is making me feel like a fancy Board Member. To support this feeling, I will come up with some vital questions about ROI and CDO and other things you get when you google "business acronyms".

I'm really glad that Metafilter is in a more stable financial place. A bonkers number of my close friends, both IRL and Twitter (the two primary categories of friends), are people I met through Metafilter (and a few people I knew before who also read Metafilter) and I would be very sad if it went away. Thank you so much for your transparency and for keeping us posted and working to keep Metafilter going and make it easier to donate.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:53 AM on June 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


Thanks for this! reminded me to quickly do a one time 'tip' in the tip jar in celebration for this place staying awesome
posted by darsh at 9:54 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Josh! Shhhhhhh! The keynote is starting!
posted by churl at 10:00 AM on June 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


your mom
posted by the phlegmatic king at 10:00 AM on June 8, 2015


*shakes fist at Apple*
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:00 AM on June 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


Metafilter makes me more kind in real life. Sometimes, when I am feeling snappish and impatient with someone I know and I'm on the verge of saying something sarcastic or biting, I think to myself "you wouldn't say that on Metafilter, and so you definitely shouldn't say it right now."

aka: THE MODERATION IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE SELF

Seriously, thank you for being a place where maturity (of a certain sort) and mutual accountability are explicit and consistent values. It not only makes this place a better place, but it makes me want to make other places better too, and it often gives me ideas for how to make that happen. And that's amazing.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:02 AM on June 8, 2015 [118 favorites]


you’ve helped Mefi by funding on the order of a hundred and forty thousand dollars in the last year,

Jesus H. Tap Dancing Christ. Go us! Whoa.
posted by corb at 10:03 AM on June 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


The generosity of the Metafilter community has been more than we could have asked for.

The sentiment is wonderful, and I am so happy that our efforts have been successful. But it isn't generosity, not quite. Generosity is giving to others, but that isn't what we have done. I give $5 a month to Metafilter, for my own sake. Because, what would I do without this place? What would I do without the mods? What would I do, if Metafilter couldn't run the way that it does?
posted by meese at 10:09 AM on June 8, 2015 [35 favorites]


Metafilter Annual Financial Report

Oversized Pastries:                $6,732
Vaudeville Hooks:                    $456
Goat's Blood:                      $1,922
Server Expenses:                   See "Goat's Blood"
Paphnuty Cryostorage Black Site:   $6,500
Echo Chamber Acoustic Maintenance:   $452
Royalty payments for "$20 SAIT":     $775
Catch of the Day:                  Market Price

posted by griphus at 10:18 AM on June 8, 2015 [103 favorites]


I've easily learnt more from MetaFilter, stuff which has been practical, useful and sometimes downright essential in real life, than combined stuff I've learnt from my degree and masters courses and from MOOCs and other online courses. Some of this from posts, and comments, on the blue. Some from discussions here on Talk. And a lot - a frighteningly large amount - just from reading other peoples questions and answers on AskMe.

Note to self: I should throw in another donation, or move to the monthly thing. And send an (overdue and promised a long while back) package of finest tea to the architect of AskMe, in deepest Vermont.

Also, thanks Cortex for this (epic) 1,861 word update.
posted by Wordshore at 10:19 AM on June 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thank you! With all the challenges of the past year, I'd be psyched if this place merely stayed the same, so it's extra-fantastic that it actually gets even better.

Are the fees the site pays different depending which service we donate through, and how often? Any other pros or cons from the site's perspective for either the service used or the frequency?
posted by daisyace at 10:23 AM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the update! (And also the reminder to change my card details on PayPal - grown ups probably manage to do personal admin like that without prompting but not me, no siree.) I'd be lost without the site so it's great to hear that things are more stable. Thanks everyone, staff and MeFites, for keeping the lights on.
posted by billiebee at 10:26 AM on June 8, 2015


Thanks for the update! 15+ years here and I seriously would be lost without MetaFilter. I would have no idea where to start my day, and that's no exaggeration.
posted by litlnemo at 10:32 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are the fees the site pays different depending which service we donate through, and how often? Any other pros or cons from the site's perspective for either the service used or the frequency?

The per-transaction fees are comparable, so either Stripe or PayPal will have similar associated costs. It's on the order of $0.30 + 3% of the payment.

In general, for smaller funding amounts it's a little more efficient to do fewer lump payments instead of more smaller ones, since less will be lost to that flat $0.30 every time; if you're considering donating e.g. $1/mo, donating $3/quarter or $12/year instead would make the most of your money, for sure. For larger payment amounts there's diminishing returns there.

That's part of why the Stripe addition is nice; being able to schedule less-frequent-than-monthly recurring payments is something a lot of people have asked for that we weren't able to support with PayPal's system. Now that's available. And as I said in the post, if you want to do a custom recurring payment plan with Stripe instead of one of the standard options we have, you can drop us a line about it and we'll set it up for you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:35 AM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


❤️ is the new .
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:52 AM on June 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Metafilter remains my favorite place on the internet.

And functionally, MetaFilter is an excellent walled garden, too. If I only visited MeFi I think I'd still be better informed and more highly entertained than most other webizens.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:59 AM on June 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Thanks!
posted by OmieWise at 11:00 AM on June 8, 2015


So there's been no change from Google's part on the ad revenue thing?

Also, I have no idea how much running Metafilter actually costs, but $140,000? Wow. With my current, admittedly very low expenditures, I could live on this money for... like a decade?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:02 AM on June 8, 2015


<3
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:06 AM on June 8, 2015 [24 favorites]


So there's been no change from Google's part on the ad revenue thing?

Google's a cipher. We've seen some ups and downs over the last year, with a dip around the end of 2014 and then some recovery in a couple stages since then. Right now we're doing a little better there than we had been for the first few months of 2015, which is great and will hopefully stay steady or improve, but the nature of the Adsense revenue situation is that we can't really know what Google will change and when.

That's a big part of why the support from the community has been such a big deal; even if it doesn't account for the bulk of our operating costs, it creates a big reliable buffer on top of whatever the hell might happen with Google on any given week.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:07 AM on June 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


$140,000? Wow. With my current, admittedly very low expenditures, I could live on this money for... like a decade?

Part of the difference between MeFi as a workplace and most other places on the web that employ people is that the employees here have real jobs. They have health care. They are paid living grown-up wages and, at least at some points in the past, had retirement funds and a bunch of other minor perks (phones, tech, etc). One of the things that Matt brought to the place, which had upsides and downsides, was that he wanted himself and his employees to feel that these jobs were real, not paid with bullshit could-evaporate-at-any-time startup $$ and not "the bare minimum you need to live" wages.

Ultimately I think there were some downsides to this (see: economic crisis and some of the handling around that) but it was mostly because Matt really gave a shit about quality of life stuff surrounding job type stuff. That was something I tried to bring to the table as well and it makes me just stupidly happy that that's been an enduring part of working here, for everyone.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:12 AM on June 8, 2015 [222 favorites]


Awesome, thanks!
posted by rtha at 11:15 AM on June 8, 2015


In short: Matt, and everyone else on the MeFi team, current and former, are just absolutely awesome.

MeFi is, and there's no other way of putting it, my "internet home".

(Also a home in which I lurked for eight years, for some reason.)
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:18 AM on June 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is wonderful. It's a little head-spinny with the staffing changes and I think the MeFiWiki is mostly up-to-date, but this means the current Mod Team is cortex, r_n, taz, LM, and gnfti? Nice bench strength!
posted by psoas at 11:19 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't vacapinta sometimes modding?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:22 AM on June 8, 2015


Yep, psoas. We try to the keep FAQ up-to-date: Who is in charge here?
posted by pb (staff) at 11:22 AM on June 8, 2015


Oh, I just realized my "$140,000 is a lot of money" comment may have come off wrong. I didn't mean "lookit you swimming in all that money", I was just amazed and glad about the stunning support for MeFi for their donations, which for me would basically be a bazillion moneys. And I'm glad to be a part of it.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:23 AM on June 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


That's right, psoas. It's restless_nomad, LobsterMitten and I doing US daytime moderation, and taz full-time and goodnewsfortheinsane part time for the nightime shift; and pb remains our indispensable code wizard.

Isn't vacapinta sometimes modding?

Every once in a while he helps out for a night shift when taz and gnfti's schedules collide, probably once or twice a year at this point. But his willingness to keep an eye on the site in the wee hours now and then remains one of the many great things about him.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:25 AM on June 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, I just realized my "$140,000 is a lot of money" comment may have come off wrong.

I pretty much had a similar reaction; I don't think it's anything to be ashamed about or anything - that's a wodge of money!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:26 AM on June 8, 2015


Cortex, your love for this community beams so brightly in this post. Thank you for all that YOU have done.
posted by kimberussell at 11:35 AM on June 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


It's kind of a shame fully three quarters of it went to that massive flamethrowing chrome statue commemorating the new era of the Regnum Cortexianus

Metafilter Annual Financial Report

Left off the books, too. Typical
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:35 AM on June 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


It's nice to read all the site improvements that have taken place - many thanks for the team's work and continuing efforts to improve how the site functions. 💕💕💕
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:37 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's kind of a shame fully three quarters of it went to that massive flamethrowing chrome statue commemorating the new era of the Regnum Cortexianus

But it's so shiny. And it helps us remember that we are awaited in Valhalla!

I [+], I [!], I [+] again!
posted by ocherdraco at 11:39 AM on June 8, 2015 [25 favorites]


Ultima Ratio Modum
posted by griphus at 11:42 AM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Very cool. Thanks for the update.
posted by Stynxno at 12:07 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the update cortex!
posted by Wretch729 at 12:27 PM on June 8, 2015


So, my paypal email address is not my metafilter email address but there does not seem to be a way to indicate mefi username on the paypal form. It makes no difference on *my* end whether or not it's apparent to the organization the I, crush-onastick, am a donor (much less donor with the email address associated with my paypal account) but I put this information here in case someone can tell me how to put my username in the paypal payment screen or in case it matters to the powers that be.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:37 PM on June 8, 2015


crush-onastick, if you're logged in when you donate from the funding page, we'll be able to associate that donation with your account. If you're not logged in, we won't be able to and that's ok with us. If you'd like the "I help fund MetaFilter!" note on your profile page and it doesn't happen after you donate, just let us know via the contact form and we'll make the association.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:40 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Related note: I thought it didn't matter to me that my profile didn't have a "I help fund MetaFilter!" star because of whatever I did wrong with my original donation last year.

However, now I have it now that I moved to Stripe and I was wrong not to care because it makes me happy.

YMMV but probably not.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:44 PM on June 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


❤️
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:48 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


you’ve helped Mefi by funding on the order of a hundred and forty thousand dollars in the last year, which represents a significant chunk of our total site revenue over that period.

Oh, sure, and we're just supposed to believe that this cash influx, and FATCAT HAUGHEY'S convenient disappearance immediately afterwards are unrelated. That's why you should vote for me, #1 quidnunc kid, as the new overlord of

*falls through open manhole*
posted by Mayor West at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2015 [27 favorites]


Thanks for the update, cortex.

I'd love two additional pieces of information:
1. How much are Mefites currently donating on a monthly basis? What's the median and mean donation?
2. What would you do with more money, and how much more would it take? That is: if my current montly donation is $3 what's a good reason to increase it to $6 or $9, if I'm looking for an excuse anyway?

I think the second question is sort of a holdover from my own addiction to Patreon and Kickstarter, and can safely be ignored if you don't want to gamify things further. But I'll just note that this kind of thing really works on me, and I don't think I'm alone. And this is the place where I want it to work most.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:54 PM on June 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I use Metafilter rarely now but there is no bill I feel better about than supporting this site. It's a treasure. Thanks for all the work and improvements you all have done!
posted by aburd at 1:00 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was one of those expired PayPal cards, so this is an excellent reminder and guide to restart my donation. It's also a good place to say how much I love the features of the mobile site and how much easier that's made reading MeFi on my phone.
posted by gladly at 1:01 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


you’ve helped Mefi by funding on the order of a hundred and forty thousand dollars in the last year

mostly spent on donuts and ukeleles
posted by desjardins at 1:06 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for all you've done, Cortex!
posted by naju at 1:14 PM on June 8, 2015


mostly spent on donuts and ukeleles

Flame thrower ones, I do believe.

Ukuleles, I mean.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:33 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Super cool!
posted by Matt Oneiros at 1:37 PM on June 8, 2015


Having had some experience with servers and hosting, I'm surprise you can keep the site running, let alone employ people on $140k/yr.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:42 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I understood $140k to represent donations, not total revenue.
posted by ogooglebar at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2015


1. How much are Mefites currently donating on a monthly basis? What's the median and mean donation?

It fluctuates from month to month as people update stuff, cancel, restart, etc, but over the last 12 months it's been on the order of $9000-$10000 per month. The rest of that hundred and forty k was from a lot of one-time donations right in the first couple weeks after the news broke last May, which, considering how broke and on the edge we were, was a fantastic relief even aside from the ongoing monthly contributions.

Monthly contributions have overall declined a little bit each month since then, which isn't a surprise given even just the card cancellation nonsense, but that's part of why I feel like it's important for us to talk about the funding now and then on an ongoing basis.

2. What would you do with more money, and how much more would it take?

It's tricky, because, as you say, I don't really want to gamify it. Not unnecessarily so, for sure, and for my part I'm a little allergic to the sort of bullshitty nature of a lot of stretch goals I've seen in crowdfunding campaigns. I do understand the way concrete incentives can help motivate people, and it's something we'll keep thinking about, but at the moment there's not really any smallish "and with another x hundred a month, we can..." sort of things we can put out there to directly correlate with donations levels.

The biggest "what could $x pay for" thing we could talk about is really a big one, both in impact on the site and in terms of how big x would have to be: if we could afford to hire another mod and still have the kind of breathing room we have right now in terms of building and maintaining savings, I'd like to be able to do that.

But like jessamyn said, a big part of Matt's philosophy for years, and one I value strongly and intend to carry on with, is that these jobs should pay well, should be real with-benefits jobs instead of fragile/sketchy Internet Opportunities, etc. Which means hiring another person would mean coming up with another free-and-clear, definitely-not-receding several thousand dollars a month, and that much more of a savings buffer to provide another person's worth of financial insurance against things suddenly going very badly in the worst case.

Which is to say: it's something on my mind, and something we'll keep thinking about, and something we can look at talking about in more detail at some point. But there's no obvious small intermediate goals there; right now I'm super glad that with people's contributions and our other revenue we're steady and slowly saving money and everybody's job right now is in good shape, and that's my top priority.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2015 [44 favorites]


I want to organize my thoughts about some of this, but let me say now - thank you for this post, cortex. I think regular State of Metafilter updates are a very good thing to be doing.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:47 PM on June 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Thank you for the update, and thank you for adding the Stripe option. Now I don't have to feel slightly queasy when I support my favorite site on the Internetz.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:49 PM on June 8, 2015


Worst. Directors Report and Consolidated Financial Statements. Ever. And I, for one, think that this thread will inevitably lead to the destruction of our society.

Let's face facts: record-low interest rates, and unprecedented political risk affecting more traditional securities, were the main factors that made this investment community to park its cash in MetaFilter's moral debentures. And all we hoped for, all we expected, was a return on our investment of kindness, with half-yearly dividends of good vibes and the occasional share buy-back to return some love to us all.

Yet here we are, almost a year on into our moral crusade to pour goodwill into MetaFilter, and what have we received for our generosity? Not a single surprise hug from the new CEO cortex, not a single cheek-kiss from Chief Information Officer taz - and if you wanted a Christmas card with a photo of gnfti's seven beautiful children, holidaying in care-free Belgium, forget it.

The MeFi Board's policy of hoarding the sweet capital of our devotion cannot continue in the competitive global affection-marketplace. Nowadays, Apple Corp will gladly take you to the prom for a $10 iTunes card, and Google once gave me a back-rub just because I got a gmail account. MetaFilter's cool, aloof manner is NOT making us feel that we are its best friend forever, or even one of its top ten drinking buddies of the current financial quarter.

That's why I'm calling on everyone attending this AGM to immediately sack the directors and replace them all with a new, more loving Chairman and President. Someone who, when you log on in the morning, will personally Skype you, just to tell you how much he loves and values your membership. Someone who - when you make a controversial post or comment - will hold you in his arms and gently shepherd you away from the braying mob. Someone who - when you are alone and drunk and you call him up, just for someone to talk to - will come over to your house with a big tub of ice-cream and sit on the couch with you, watching Bridget Jones' Diary 3.

cortex and Co may be our "friends with benefits", but we really need a friend who benefits US. So vote #1 quidnunc kid, because he is an EXPERT in pretending that he really cares about you. He REALLY DOES pretend to give a shit about you and your endless, boring nonsense. Seriously. I mean - Bridget Jones Diary 3??? NO ONE could put up with that purile, unfunny bullshit unless they could TOTALLY fake being interested in you. And that is the quidnunc kid promise - 100% fake devotion, 100% of the time. So vote #1, or at least pretend to. I don't care if you're lying, really - I just need to hear it. Please. I am so lonely right now. I could murder some ice-cream, too.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:00 PM on June 8, 2015 [91 favorites]



posted by maryr at 2:00 PM on June 8, 2015


Out of all of this super interesting stuff (thanks so much for sharing and the transparency, it's a really important part of the culture here), my big observation is that the "more inside" background is a different color on this post. Is it meant to be more tantalizing? I did feel the need to press it, because it looked a little more catchy.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2015


Monthly contributions have overall declined a little bit each month since then, which isn't a surprise given even just the card cancellation nonsense, but that's part of why I feel like it's important for us to talk about the funding now and then on an ongoing basis.

Have you made any plans to turn this into a more official yearly pledge-drive type of thing? I don't think the userbase would begrudge a bit of a donation push from you guys once a year.
posted by Think_Long at 2:07 PM on June 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


Not a single surprise hug from the new CEO cortex, not a single cheek-kiss from Chief Information Officer taz - and if you wanted a Christmas card with a photo of gnfti's seven beautiful children, holidaying in care-free Belgium, forget it.

I see someone didn't take out the Gold Membership...
posted by billiebee at 2:30 PM on June 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


God I love Metafilter. Thanks for running it so well, mods.
posted by SlyBevel at 2:30 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


griphus: "Server Expenses: See "Goat's Blood""

Still on Clod Fusion, I see.
posted by boo_radley at 2:38 PM on June 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Have you made any plans to turn this into a more official yearly pledge-drive type of thing? I don't think the userbase would begrudge a bit of a donation push from you guys once a year.

Yeah, we've been thinking about how and how often to do that sort of thing. At a bare minimum it's something we need to do an update on on a yearly basis, so this is a start on that, but I think it'd be good to formalize a once- or twice-a-year post/event specifically about that in the long run. It's something we'll revisit for sure.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:38 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the update and the transparency - in addition to all work making this such a nice place!
posted by monocultured at 2:44 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't know how much the site made from the Official MetaFilter T-Shirts at Topatoco, but I, for one, have bought all the shirts (as well as the previous "I [+] MetaFilter" shirt) which I regularly wear as an act of public support (and I happily answer all the "what's a MetaFilter?" inquiries I get). And I would certainly go for more designs in the "modern site look", in true MetaFilter blue, AskMe green and even FanFare purple. Not to mention "overthinking a plate of beans", "eponysterical" and "there is no cabal" messages. I assumed that working with Topatoco saved you a lot of logistical trouble so I'm still surprised you haven't done more, not just shirts but also hats, stickers, posters, tote bags (for the annual Pledge Drive Cliché) or other merch (a plush Cortex Giant Donut would NOT be the weirdest thing Topatoco or its MakeThatThing division has made). If it's a lack of time for what work is needed, the community has many creative folks who, while 'working for exposure' is now a not-good thing, would gladly make designs to Topatoco standards as another way of supporting the 'Filter. (And if you HAVE to pay something, make it a small per-unit royalty after sale.) And you could probably find some MeFite in long-standing (if not GOOD standing) who could volunteer their time as MeFi/artist/Topatoco liason (raises hand and waves wildly).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:49 PM on June 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thanks for the update, and congratulations on getting out of the hole. I hope to continue to read excellent articles posted here and even more excellent commentary in the threads.

Cheers
posted by JoeXIII007 at 2:49 PM on June 8, 2015


To follow up on oneswellfoop and the t-shirts: I've never bought one because I can't wear men's t-shirts --- or rather, I CAN, but (being a short chubby female with a fat neck), it would most definitely NOT be a pretty sight. I would, however, happily buy a totebag/messenger bag and flaunt the MeFi logo that way.
posted by easily confused at 2:57 PM on June 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'd like to do more T-shirts and look at other merch stuff at some point, yeah. That said, it's always tended to be a surprisingly complicated discussion and process every time we've done it, so it's something that'll really need some planning and attention as it's own thing vs. something we really want to tackle in conjunction with this right now. And as something that didn't have any time pressure on it, it's something I'll need to query Matt a little bit about as far as the details of the TopatoCo arrangements, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:04 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ultima Ratio Modum

Inscribed on all the banhammers now.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:06 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


For those of us not in the U.S. Any chance that a amazon.co.uk affiliate link could be made availibe?
posted by Faintdreams at 3:08 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Fellow Mefite MattMangels suggested I get a sapphire / Metafilter blue Cambridge Satchel with the MetaFilter logo embossed on it; don't know if I could make that happen but the idea has certainly intrigued me since he floated it.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:11 PM on June 8, 2015


If you are considering t-shirts again, may I please put in a request for a re-do of the original Metafilter blue, with logo, only in all cotton this time.

(Because I stink something awful when I wear a 50-50% blend of cotton and poly.)

Also, maybe a V-neck option? Oh please? and thank you!

Also, ♥ ♥ ♥
posted by Lynsey at 3:13 PM on June 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


(What I'm sayin' is: logo'd messenger bags - yes.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thank you for the transparency and thank you for running Metafilter in such a way that I am proud for it to be the first and last internet space I visit every day
posted by Faintdreams at 3:17 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


For those of us not in the U.S. Any chance that a amazon.co.uk affiliate link could be made availibe?

We can look into it, for sure. Amazon makes some of that stuff surprisingly complicated, so I don't want to make any guarantees about broadly supporting anything there, but if it's possible to accommodate at least some of the other more common regions we'll see what we can do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:24 PM on June 8, 2015


If I purchase something through the Amazon affiliate link, how much info do you guys get about what I've purchased? It's bad enough that Amazon know I bought 5 1kg bags of chocolate covered raisins last month, I don't want anyone else knowing.
posted by Solomon at 3:29 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


If I want to start sending a bank check instead of PayPal, is it better to get a small monthly check or a bigger quarterly or yearly check?
posted by bleep at 3:33 PM on June 8, 2015


If I purchase something through the Amazon affiliate link, how much info do you guys get about what I've purchased?

The affiliate account reports give us (well, Matt and now me, it's not something that ever comes back to the site) info on what was purchased, but no info about who did so or why. So if we really wanted to go looking, we could figure out that someone who likes Metafilter bought a pile of Raisinets, but we'd have no clue who.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:36 PM on June 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Useful reminder that I need to resume PayPal payments - I got exactly that cancellation message. Thanks for the update - glad to hear things are on a more even keel.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:38 PM on June 8, 2015


If I want to start sending a bank check instead of PayPal, is it better to get a small monthly check or a bigger quarterly or yearly check?

In that situation the difference is probably negligible, so do whatever works best for you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:41 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


we could figure out that someone who likes Metafilter bought a pile of Raisinets, but we'd have no clue who.

I'm... really glad to hear this. Um, for a friend. Who really really needs Raisinets, but not for any... unusual purpose. Well, not so's you'd notice. I mean, theoretically, if you knew this, um, friend.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:42 PM on June 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


You said you wouldn't tell anyone!
posted by Solomon at 3:43 PM on June 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Metafilter got me laid. Least I could do is help out.
posted by prufrock at 3:58 PM on June 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Would site-wide HTTPS (when logged out) help with Google? (somehow that blog is not itself HTTPS, so I don't know)
posted by catchingsignals at 4:24 PM on June 8, 2015


Would site-wide HTTPS (when logged out) help with Google?

See above re: "Google is a cipher", though the basic implication there is that it wouldn't hurt. That said, there's a couple challenges associated with making that change:

1. Serving HTTPS across the board could be more expensive in terms of server resources, and thus mean higher associated server costs. How much of a difference is an open question, and it's certainly something we'd need to do the math on to figure out if it's a real obstacle or worth the investment.

2. A lot of browser add-ons/scripts people use, logged-in or otherwise, may not accommodate HTTPS correctly; making this change would effectively break parts of their browsing experience. We'd need to find a way to minimize the impact there, or we'd effectively be making people's experience on the site worse in pursuit of a kind of hazy "maybe this will help" Google thing.

That said, as long as we're on the subject, folks who don't know and are interested should know we do have a logged-in option for HTTPS if that's something you want; in your Preferences, there's an item that reads "Use secure browsing?" that you can check to turn on HTTPS for internal links.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:39 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Given Amazon's appalling censorship of WikiLeaks and their collusion with the CIA and NSA, can we find an alternative to them, too? It doesn't make MeFi look any better to protest PayPal while relying on Amazon.
posted by ryanshepard at 4:48 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the update, cortex. I must admit to getting a thrill every time I get that email from PayPal telling me that my donation has gone out. If it's more effective, I might switch from monthly to quarterly if it means more money makes it's way to MeFi.

I said it in the thread a year ago - don't wait until it's too late to let us know that there's a funding problem. There's so much goodwill on this site stored up in the community. We demanded to help last time and you WILL accept our support or risk the consequences!
posted by arcticseal at 4:50 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


can we find an alternative to them, too?

We have no practical alternative to Amazon for the affiliate revenue they generate, no. Similarly to how we have no real alternative to Adsense at this point regardless of whatever problems Google has. If there were viable sources of site revenue at the levels we need to operate and pay the staff that didn't involve dealing even passively with gigantic corporations and all their associated warts, we'd pursue them, but in practice Google and Amazon are basically the water the web's sundry little boats float on. And as fantastic as the support users are providing Metafilter is, it doesn't represent the majority of our revenue let alone enough to justify cutting off those existing streams.

That said, as always we have no objection to users making individual choices about what they support in their personal use of Metafilter. If you want to use Adblock and hosts.txt Amazon.com into oblivion, you won't hear any complaint from us. I don't begrudge anyone building themself a jetpack and just getting out of the water as much as they personally prefer to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:00 PM on June 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'm glad that the mod staff has been able to stay on as paid. I can't imagine that translates well in a typical job interview.

Interviewer: So, what kind of skills do you intend to bring to BigCorp?

Mod: Watch this. Scroddly-woddly doo!

*waves hands erratically and a comment vanishes with a pop*

Interviewer(shouting): Security!
posted by dr_dank at 5:21 PM on June 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


w00000000t, switched to Stripe. This means you get TWO monthly payments from me this month! Enjoy! Go buy an extra soda or something.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:33 PM on June 8, 2015


1. Serving HTTPS across the board could be more expensive in terms of server resources, and thus mean higher associated server costs. How much of a difference is an open question, and it's certainly something we'd need to do the math on to figure out if it's a real obstacle or worth the investment.

2. A lot of browser add-ons/scripts people use, logged-in or otherwise, may not accommodate HTTPS correctly; making this change would effectively break parts of their browsing experience. We'd need to find a way to minimize the impact there, or we'd effectively be making people's experience on the site worse in pursuit of a kind of hazy "maybe this will help" Google thing.


With 1., I get the impression that it doesn't make so much difference costs-wise these days, but I totally understand that you'd have to do the calculations/testing to see if that's the case and if it's worthwhile for Mefi. The switch will happen anyway eventually I'm sure, and if you ever find that it helps with Google and is worth the costs/time in switching over, that would just be a nice thing to have. With 2., I (and I'm sure many Mefites) would be happy to help with updating those add-ons and scripts, whenever you decide to switch.
posted by catchingsignals at 5:35 PM on June 8, 2015


What Lynsey said... V neck please!

And I am so happy about this update.

An annual or biannual funding drive is just fine with me. It helps to remind us that we need to help out to keep this place alive.

I am so glad to know that the staff are paid decently and have bennies.

Thanks for everything, you guys. You're a bar full of well-read people and also a quiet chit chat with that wise older aunt I never had. Sometimes you're also that lunatic I pass on the street but hey whatever.
posted by sio42 at 5:39 PM on June 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is the best State of the X / Annual Report I have ever read. Seriously. Not only is it chock full of good news, it is also written in a way I can understand! I mean, you could have begun with:
Metafilter has experienced consistent levels of high activity over the last financial year, maximising the profits from unforeseen environmental factors resulting in strategic resource optimisation and allocation, whilst also offering an unprecedented opportunity for increased buy-in from stakeholders.
Instead you wrote something clear and informative - and even thanked us! I feel a warm fuzzy glow kind of like when my cat snuggles up to me in bed - the good part, before he starts taking over my pillow and pushing me off the bed.

I ditto those who say if you found a way to offer more stuff for money on TopatoCo (tshirts, tshirts with different neck shapes, hoodies, long-sleeved tshirts, mugs, bookmarks, file folders, whatever) I would be hella interested. Especially FanFare and AskMe colours. Purple and green are great!

And hey, no problem. Happy to help. Least I could do considering all the information, advice, entertainment and warm fuzzies I get from this site.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:44 PM on June 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


not just shirts but also hats

Hats! I've been looking for a new baseball cap and I would buy a MF hat today.
posted by curious nu at 5:47 PM on June 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


it's always tended to be a surprisingly complicated discussion

My feeling is that he t-shirt/merch conversation has been complicated but that there have been varying consensus-level decisions that could be made from community discussion. Matt was (understandably) a little conflict-averse as far some of these discussions where people weren't agreeing or giving him a laser beam hard time for various decisions. I think one of the things Current Mod Team could do that would be nicely different is have a "Hey let's talk merch!" discussion where it's clear at the outset that people aren't all going to get their way but that we'd like a way to have some cool branded stuff and what would that look like and how would it work.

I love and respect your authority cortex, but you also have this great opportunity as not-Matt to open up community discussions about some of these topics so that they end in positive outcomes and not "People couldn't really agree so we decided not to do stuff" stalemates.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:53 PM on June 8, 2015 [35 favorites]


I wasn't able to donate last time because we were awash in unexpected bills. I've felt guilty about it for a whole year! But as of today, THAT GUILT ENDS. I spend so much bloody time on this site, a monthly donation is a bargain.
posted by KathrynT at 5:54 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


but I think it'd be good to formalize a once- or twice-a-year post/event

MeFiCon
posted by ctmf at 6:10 PM on June 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm so happy to be part of this community. I don't comment much, and I've never made a post (I work online and it seems too much like work to do properly). But I've learned so much from this site that I don't feel weird saying I've learned more about how to argue in good faith from this site than I did in graduate school.
posted by mollweide at 6:34 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Potentially horrible idea: encourage MeFites gathering IRL to throw in a few bucks when they get together. Signed, the person who never shows IRL.
posted by kat518 at 6:37 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


If yall want metafilter merch so much slap a fuzzy screenshot of the logo on a Cafepress item and donate 50$ on PayPal.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:42 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Like a Merican
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:42 PM on June 8, 2015


Thanks for the update and for adding Stripe payments. A great motivator to set up my monthly donation. :)

Also: the Modern theme has made MetaFilter a wonderful place to visit from my phone, and I appreciate the site so much more for it. Thank you! (Also FanFare is fun kthanks.)
posted by Zephyrial at 6:44 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd be wary of a too-explicit passing of the hat at meetups, just because I don't want anybody to feel put on the spot if they can't afford to chip in. This whole donation-supported thing needs to be very much no-guilt, IMO. A lot of us have been in precarious financial shape at one time or another, and for folks who feel they can't give for whatever reason, that is a totally legit and no-questions/no-prob kind of thing.

About merch: To me, merch is more of a fun site-spirit thing, rather than a very efficient fundraising tool. But as far as the fun site-spirit side of it, yeah, we could definitely stand to have a community conversation about having more/different/new stuff. Probably this is a discussion that's best in its own thread, and with us having done some background homework on what's possible and maybe other preliminary thinking. So, just setting-expectations-wise, that's not a conversation we're ready to open up tomorrow, more like something we can talk more about sometime in the next month or so.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:11 PM on June 8, 2015 [16 favorites]


*submits MetaTalk for tomorrow*
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:12 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


What is the current rate for embroidered dirigibles.
posted by clavdivs at 7:16 PM on June 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Hooray! (Also, mugs. Nice ones.)
posted by Glinn at 7:17 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Enamel pin with the letters MF on it.
posted by box at 7:21 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Merch is definitely a fun-spirit thing. I wouldn't count on it to generate lots of income but that said, it would be fun to have a discussion about it and ask people to list their top 3 choices or something and then just test sales for the 3 most popular choices. Or whatever. I don't think blood will be spilt over the tee (or mug) not chosen. And in that vein, as it were, I would totally buy this tee: Metafilter got me laid. Least I could do is help out.

Full disclosure: Unlike the MiFite I'm quoting, MetaFilter hasn't gotten me laid yet. But I have high hopes that it will eventually.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:23 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we've been thinking about how and how often to do that sort of thing. At a bare minimum it's something we need to do an update on on a yearly basis, so this is a start on that, but I think it'd be good to formalize a once- or twice-a-year post/event specifically about that in the long run. It's something we'll revisit for sure.

Thanks for this update. Where I came from was reading Metafilter as my home base on the internet for years, and I thought I'd join because there was some trouble and I thought "Shit, I've been reading this FOR FREE for so long, it would be stupid not to contribute."

But yeah:

A lot of us have been in precarious financial shape at one time or another, and for folks who feel they can't give for whatever reason, that is a totally legit and no-questions/no-prob kind of thing.

That said, I think periodic reminders that if you're able to spare a few bucks - hey. If this is what you get for it? Yeah. But if you can't? That's OK, too - thoughtful contributions to the site are Metafilter's intrinsic value.

That said, I know I can add the cost of a few beers or whatever to my monthly contribution starting now, so I'll up my contribution.

Thanks for letting us know how it helps.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:38 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


box: Enamel pin with the letters MF on it.

Oh, my work ID lanyard is fully be-flaired, but I would MAKE some damn space for an enamel "MF" pin!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:07 PM on June 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I expected to see more MeFi Stuff before now because it was working with TopatoCo, which is founded on doing the heavy lifting of merchandise production for webcomickers whose main source of income was selling t-shirts with their comics' catchphrases on them (although they were usually 1-2 person businesses). MetaFilter's fan base is larger than most of the names on their Creators page (okay, Jonathan Coulton and Night Vale are bigger) and above and beyond the obvious site shout-outs, our Hive Mind has come up with a lot more wearable/baggable/posterable/muggable messages than just blue-beetle's "paying for it". FOR THE RECORD, I DO NOT WANT "This will not Wendell", but I NEED "More Schmoopy, Less GRAR", "I Am Not Your Lawyer", "Sleep, That's Where I'm A Viking" and "There Is No Cabal"* and could certainly use a block of small print with the entire Treaty of Wesphalia.
*and if I never get it, it will be conclusive proof that there IS a Cabal
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:10 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thank you for the update, cortex! Thank you to pb for getting the Stripe processing working -- I just switched over.

A suggestion for the Help Fund MetaFilter page: Maybe add a note there that appears for users who have JavaScript disabled? I use the NoScript add-on and already had metafilter.com and cloudfront.net enabled; when I went to the funding page I didn't see any $ amounts in the Stripe Payments section, then realized I had to allow (of course) stripe.com and stripecdn.com, and everything worked fine after that.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 8:18 PM on June 8, 2015


Sorry rangefinder 1.4, that's a tough situation to detect. You don't have JavaScript disabled, you have only some JavaScript disabled. The Stripe buttons are using a script from stripe.com, which we don't have any control over. So we don't have any way to detect whether or not your browser can load scripts from that domain. I sympathize with the confusion on loading the page, but I'm not sure there's much we can do from on our end.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:30 PM on June 8, 2015


Thanks for the quick reply, pb -- sorry for the poor wording on my part. I meant to clarify that I understand that a conditional message for my specific use case is a no-go. I should have said that it might be helpful to have a noscript message appear on the page in general, for users who have JavaScript disabled altogether.

I know there's an "enable JavaScript" page that appears in some instances when I click on a link on the site and I have JavaScript disabled; since there aren't any links at all for the Stripe amounts if JavaScript is disabled, I was suggesting a generic message printed in that section or on the page.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 8:41 PM on June 8, 2015


ah ok, yeah, that makes sense. And looking a little closer at NoScript, I see that it does run <noscript> blocks when a specific domain is blocked but others aren't. So I think we can catch your situation as well after all. It's set on the page now, thanks for letting us know.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:46 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


And the #1 Most Gratuitous Use of the Word ‘Belgium’ in a MetaTalk Comment goes to… the quidnunc kid!
posted by mbrubeck at 8:50 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


AskMeFi: My most favorite and informative way to procrastinate all the tasks of life. Thank you!
posted by cecic at 8:54 PM on June 8, 2015


And the #1 Most Gratuitous Use of the Word ‘Belgium’ in a MetaTalk Comment goes to… the quidnunc kid!

Oh man he's gonna be unlocking that Slo-Time Envelope any day now
posted by aubilenon at 8:56 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


You guys still on staff and Matt before he moved on (and retired staff chipping in with sage advice when necessary) have done a great job handling the site in the wake of the issues. Thanks.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:01 PM on June 8, 2015


> So I think we can catch your situation as well after all. It's set on the page now, thanks for letting us know.

Wow, I asked for one pony and got two. Hooray noscript ponies! Thanks, pb, you continue to amaze me!
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 9:19 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the update and, as always, for the transparency and honesty. Both are appreciated an enormous amount.

MetaFilter hasn't got me laid either. In fact, I believe this place contributed somewhat to the end * of my long-relationship by broadening my mind, softening my rough edges a bit and teaching me that I had the right to at least try and be happy.

* This is, overall, a good thing, apart from the not getting laid part. That could stop anytime, thanks.
posted by dg at 9:24 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would love a "Certified Crouton Petter" wallet. Or bumper sticker.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:58 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will admit to being a tiny bit worried when I saw the "State of Mefi" banner at the top of the blue today. Glad to see the news is really good, though! Metafilter is too good to have let die without a fight, and I'm glad the coffers are slowly filling instead of slowly draining now.
posted by chrominance at 10:05 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Didn't read the thread yet, so I'm sure I'm repeating things, but this post is a great and transparent way to talk about how the site's doing, and I'm really quite jazzed about it! I guess at this my only question is who is this crotex dude
posted by Greg Nog at 10:09 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


cortex, you're a noob.



I mean, thanks. Go Metafilter!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:28 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter got me laid. Least I could do is help out.

My monthly check is in the mail.
posted by bendy at 11:25 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Still punting in five bucks a month. Absolute least I can do for a site which has been such a core pillar of my online life.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:31 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


A++ will donate again.
posted by harriet vane at 1:12 AM on June 9, 2015


Also more merch pls I need to be MeFi'd from head to toe.
posted by harriet vane at 1:13 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Last year Metafilter was the reason I met the wonderful man who is now my fiancé, so I should probably up my donation.

Cortex and team, thanks for everything you do!


posted by greenish at 3:24 AM on June 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Along with my donation: many thanks to the mods for all their work. In terms of "beloved companion through life" Metafilter has now surpassed "dog" in the longevity stakes - and is fast heading towards the exalted state of "donkey".

Regarding merch: one way of using it in fundraising would be to send everybody who donated more than X a wonderful and limited edition Y for their pains.
posted by rongorongo at 3:50 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, I would love me some Metafilter merch. Sometimes I meet people IRL that I'm SURE must be Metafilter people, but you can't tell for sure, and I'm just too shy to ask. An identifying tribal mark would just be tooooooo cooooooooooool.
posted by shazzam! at 3:51 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


You mean nobody's told you about the face tattoos?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:07 AM on June 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


Thank you for the status update. May MeFi shine brightly for years and years.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:17 AM on June 9, 2015


I just cancelled my Paypal monthly and setup a quarterly Stripe payment. !

I hope that doesn't' cause too many double negatives next month when the Paypal subscription gets tried and fails :S ??
posted by Faintdreams at 4:17 AM on June 9, 2015


Last year Metafilter was the reason I met the wonderful man who is now my fiancé, so I should probably up my donation.

Wow, yay, very best wishes to both of you! If you feel like MeFi mailing someone the gushing details of your meeting and progress towards engagement, I am right here for you. Have a great time! If it's right for you, being married is a ton of fun.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:35 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Pterodactyl, you may regret that, as I am still at the stage where when I try to discuss it Like An Adult, it just comes out as "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"
posted by greenish at 5:45 AM on June 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is great and awesome. Thanks for the update, and glad to hear things are looking up. I know all the upheaval and changes over the last year have been rough, but I really think the hard changes they have wrought have put MeFi on some really sound footing for continuing on for a long time to come.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:56 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


The mobile interface is awesome and well worth the price of admission.
posted by vozworth at 5:57 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


HOORAY! I will never regret asking! Mr. Pterodactyl and I have been married almost eight years* and when I talk about it I still basically just go "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" too! I wish you many wonderful years of going "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" when you think about each other (:

*Last year for our anniversary dinner I took his hand, looked deeply into his eyes, and said "can you believe we've been married for eight years?" and he looked at me and said "No, I can't believe it. This is our seventh anniversary." I am much better at being married to him than I am at keeping track of the passage of time.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:57 AM on June 9, 2015 [32 favorites]


It's so great to see a step in the direction of greater transparency. I agree that, as much money as $140K sounds like, it doesn't go that far when you're running an operation on this scale. It's good to know things are stable, and I'd love to see more concrete plans for them to also be sustainable. I'd like to be able to participate in a structured campaign - like, annual drive, or sustaining gift/membership options (monthly auto-debit kinds of deals) that are clearly laid out. I think the giving potential of the community is even greater (well, I'm one example - I don't donate yet, but get more inclined to as things become more transparent and show signs of growing stability, so that I can feel good about what it is the money would be doing). In the meantime, though, this is encouraging news and it sounds like planning and management are getting solid attention, with a view to keeping the place around.
posted by Miko at 6:06 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Merch is a lot of fun, more so if you think outside of T-shirts and hats. I mean, these MeFi rib spreaders have made a great conversation piece at work.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:14 AM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Speaking of merchandise: one thing that would be awesome would be framed prints of certain Metafilter comments/quotes. I can think of a lot of comments that I go back and re-read, and that I forward to friends, and I would love to be able to display them somehow.

I realize this might be tricky from a copyright standpoint, so maybe it isn't do-able. But if comments were nominated for it, and the authors were up for it? There are so many pieces of wisdom in here that I would enjoy hanging on my wall/giving as gifts.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:09 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't have any idea about where I would even begin without Metafilter as my go-to portal. I was honestly pretty sad about the news that Jessamyn was moving on last year & concerned about the future of the site without her uniquely capable & steady hand on the tiller, and I still greatly miss her voice as a mod, but my concerns were overblown.

I'm glad that Matt moved on because it was a personal choice to do something he wanted to do more, instead of it being driven by dire financial necessity. I moved on from a job I was burnt out at last year, so from my perspective, it was a smart & wise thing for him to do, though again I had concerns, which again were overblown.

You guys are still kicking ass in every way shape & form and while I've been less active lately, it's me, not you (job stuff has me away from the computer more) so I'm awfully glad to be able to help in my small way to keep the lights on.

Thanks a million & thanks for being so open & honest about the state of the state.

Much love from Texas, which does actually suck, and I am getting out of here soon,
Todd D.R.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:21 AM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Miko: "I don't donate yet, but get more inclined to as things become more transparent and show signs of growing stability, so that I can feel good about what it is the money would be doing"

Can I ask specifically what you would like to see in terms of information? I don't think a full P&L statement [LobsterMitten health care: $2398.72] is necessarily feasible.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:26 AM on June 9, 2015


I'd pay...well, 20 bucks for a coffee mug that said 'twenty bucks, same as in town'
posted by ian1977 at 7:42 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


*Last year for our anniversary dinner I took his hand, looked deeply into his eyes, and said "can you believe we've been married for eight years?" and he looked at me and said "No, I can't believe it. This is our seventh anniversary." I am much better at being married to him than I am at keeping track of the passage of time.

Today is our fourteenth anniversary, and last night I told my wife (knowing full well what I was doing) that I was looking forward to spending our thirteenth anniversary together tomorrow. She didn't fall for it, though.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:45 AM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Happy anniversary SpacemanStix! And wife!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:48 AM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think a full P&L statement [LobsterMitten health care: $2398.72] is necessarily feasible.

In a nonprofit it would be, but we know MeFi has allergies to thinking about nonprofit models. People are jokingly calling it an "annual report," but it's also nothing like a business annual report, at least for a company with ownership shares, because it's too vague. But it's not like the choice is either "general characterizations" OR "detailed profit and loss statements and open ledgers." In my ideal world, I guess a great annual summary to me would be:

-total annual budget for fiscal year just past
-projected budget for current year
-revenue picture for year just past: pie wedges for ad revenue, contributed revenue, merch revenue and any other sources
-expense picture for year just past: pie wedges for operating expenses, staff expenses, equipment expenses, etc.
-budget changes in the coming year: new investments, equipment
-3- or 5- years out projected budgets/projects

People will jump up and down about this, and I know it's a fantasy, but it's largely because my professional operating world is one ruled by at least this degree of transparency and I believe in it. I've said before that I would be comfortable if the structure were less ambiguous in any way: like, if MeFi were a flat out private business with a profit model based on ads - I get the basis of my participation (my eyeballs sold to advertisers, or my content created here being used to draw advertisers to reach others' eyeballs); if MeFi were a private or nonprofit membership organization with a flat membership fee structure; if MeFi were entirely a nonprofit with profits invested in additional features or staffing or other reinvestment in the service and was supported largely by donation. Where I get uncomfortable is the ambiguity about the type of organization that it is, and its internal priorities for money-raising and money-spending, as it tries to sort of be all these models at once. I realize that for a lot of people these are just not issues of concern and they're just happy to have MeFi and will give it money regardless. And I don't mean it to in any way apply that our mods/managers are not acting aboveboard; I think it's just an improvised system that is hard for someone like me to read and understand and evaluate the difference I might be making - as it is, at one point a $20 gift means one thing, at some other future point it could mean quite another, because the underlying financial picture may be dramatically different - as it was in May as compared to now, and as it is as compared to a year from now, for instance. Because I'm more of a governance geek, when I value something, I tend to get interested in the issues of longer-term management and sustainability and transparency. And because I'm a skinflint I like to understand how money from me - whether it's "donated" or "purchased" - is used to provide services. However, when it's a flat-out purchase in a private business, I am a lot less concerned, because I understand the end product is to make the owners and managers money, even if it is somewhat of a social enterprise. So I do feel that sits oddly with MeFi's community-driven nature.

This is my personal issue, I understand, and we've talked about it here enough that I know at this point MeFi is not likely to develop that sort of internal structure. That is fine. I don't think we need to get into a big discussion about it.
posted by Miko at 11:05 AM on June 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


FYI, the confirm email from PayPal still lists Matt's email and phone # as the point of contact.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:00 PM on June 9, 2015


Oh ho! We hadn't had anybody point that out previously, thanks for the heads up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:03 PM on June 9, 2015


In a nonprofit it would be...

The annual reports/summaries/whatevers of most nonprofits aren't perused by their clients. MetaFilter is different, and you vocally tying the possibility of your donation to this level of transparency smacks of petulance.

Does MetaFilter provide you with a service? Is that service worth some amount of money to you? Then donate. Or don't, whichever.
posted by Etrigan at 12:05 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you for adding Stripe!

I hate paypal with a deep abiding passion, and that was holding me back from giving you my money.

Now you can have some of my money! Yay!
posted by selenized at 12:05 PM on June 9, 2015


You've now got a monthly sub from me via Stripe. And I've enabled HTTPS. Posting this SoM link on the sidebar is a Very Good Idea — and thank you for all the years of building and maintaining a wonderful community.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 12:13 PM on June 9, 2015


I don't think a pay-or-not-just-shut-up attitude fits well with the general ethos of MetaFilter. Previous discussions have revealed that Miko is not the only one who has misgivings about donating to a corporation structured the way MetaFilter is.
posted by grouse at 12:17 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hooray for at least partially moving away from PayPal, but the fact that the "RectangleMoney" thing I've alerted Team Mod about a few times is still up for grabs two months later is making me TWITCH. I don't care if you actually use it for anything -- Stripe sounds just fine, and in some ways better -- but the idea of some disgruntled ex-user and/or troll squatting on our "QuadrilateralCurrency" URL and taking money in the site's name is really bothering me. I know it sounds hyperbolic, but I've come across discussions from "expats" on other sites who have fallen in with the GG/MRA/reactionary crowd and loathe MeFi to a disturbing degree. I've even seen suggestions that the recent Google ad plunge was somehow intentionally engineered to hurt the site (though that does seem a little far-fetched).

Anyway, it would be really nice if somebody at MeFi HQ would reserve the "BoxBux" name for the site already, at least defensively, before some self-styled neokulturkampf warrior claims it out of spite. (I would just take it myself, but I'm already using it under my own username and you can only have one.)
posted by Rhaomi at 12:21 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think a pay-or-not-just-shut-up attitude fits well with the general ethos of MetaFilter.

I didn't say "shut up", I said it smacks of petulance. Feel free to complain; other people get to respond to that.
posted by Etrigan at 12:24 PM on June 9, 2015


Previous discussions have revealed that Miko is not the only one who has misgivings about donating to a corporation structured the way MetaFilter is.

What I don't understand is why it matters. If MetaFilter has provided value to you, then donate what you feel it was worth, in arrears.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:30 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not in the same political wheelhouse as most of MeFi, but I like the variety of front page posts. Mostly don't deal with the comments, cause it just feels unproductive, but I'm happy to pay for the good link aggregation. :)
posted by Ambient Echo at 12:39 PM on June 9, 2015


Thanks Rhaomi, we reserved the name.
posted by pb (staff) at 12:40 PM on June 9, 2015


Yep, got $metafilter and $mefi as well. Sorry for the twitching; it's been on my TODO list but that's a fairly long list the last couple months.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:40 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't have a problem with Miko, or anyone else, constructively expressing a minority or left-field view on here.

The lack of paragraph breaks on the other hand... where's my virtual pitchfork and torch...
posted by Wordshore at 1:11 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, I was not trying to call Miko out or anything, just wanted some additional clarification on what she thought was lacking in the current setup.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:19 PM on June 9, 2015


Now really -- there is nothing unreasonable if someone who is being solicited for a donation wants to know some basic facts about where the money goes. A response that suggests the inquirer suffers from petulance is not justified and is also not very nice.
posted by Mr. Justice at 1:40 PM on June 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Now really -- there is nothing unreasonable if someone who is being solicited for a donation wants to know some basic facts about where the money goes.

I'm finding it difficult to see any of this as "solicit[ing] for a donation". It's purely voluntary, and the mods have come down on anyone asserting any sort of "I donated, you didn't" privilege.
posted by Etrigan at 2:04 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow! Chucked some change via Stripe via the fund me button. Within a few seconds I had an e-mail thanking me for it, and my profile had the I-fund-mefi star nigh on simultaneously. Impressed by how slick it was.

Reason I knew I had * so quickly was because my given Mefi e-mail address is @googlemail, rather than @gmail which I had used for Stripe. So I went to check expecting that I'd never have a star, but there it was already. Gives an unexpected glow.
posted by Gratishades at 2:12 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's okay for people to donate or not donate, and it's okay for people to want some specific thing as part of how they personally assess how to donate. Miko has pretty specific thoughts about this stuff, which she's shared in detail last year and more just summed up here, and that's fine; I know she's coming from a reasonable place, she knows we're not specifically approaching this from a "do things so Miko will give us money" angle, and that's all just kinda shruggo and fine. No need to get into too much of an argument about the idea of it; we can just sort of leave it as people are different and that's okay and call it good.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


Honestly, just having this update made me continue my donations.

I had cancelled them back in August after I was laid off, but I didn't remember to pick it back up after I found a job in September.

I love the stripe interface on mobile - beautiful!
posted by oceanjesse at 4:01 PM on June 9, 2015


This is an excellent update, and I'm glad to see that things have stabilized. But mainly I just wanted to say how inexplicably happy I am that you chose Stripe. I have no involvement with them, other than being a customer, but they made my life SO much easier last year when we switched to them from a traditional merchant account. Plus yay for a way to ditch PayPal!
posted by gemmy at 4:56 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm with Miko, for the record.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:19 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the annual reminder and for the new payment options.
posted by bonehead at 5:56 PM on June 9, 2015


The annual reports/summaries/whatevers of most nonprofits aren't perused by their clients. MetaFilter is different, and you vocally tying the possibility of your donation to this level of transparency smacks of petulance.

What the heck are you talking about? Audited financial statements are most definitely readily available for the members of any member-based nonprofit I have been involved with (as either ED or on a board), not to mention are a prerequisite for any major funder the nonprofit interacts with. Any members who attend AGMs get a copy and many NFPs publish their annual reports publicly.

It is not petulant to ask for more information when asked every time at the top of the site to help fund the site. Funding is different than purchasing when considering value and return. Funding typically orients itself to things with a public or semi-public good attached.

It starts getting into some weird territory for those of us who've been in the NFP governance sphere for a long time - in that we have many of the actions of a non-profit (community fundraising and even subtle appeals for continued support) without any of the controls that typically allow funders to know the money is being used effectively for the purpose they intended.

The mods and site owners are free not to consider these things as important, but I think it's rude to treat people with significant experience in this area like Miko as though they are spoilt children for making polite requests.
posted by buoys in the hood at 6:22 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Let's *actually* not have this fight. It's really not relevant or useful.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:32 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Shirt sizes need to include kids. Mine has learned so much here. I think it would be a boon for the site.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:17 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I switched from Paypal to sending a check every month from my bank's bill payment service. I'm wondering if not paying the ~3% service fee outweighs the PITA factor of dealing with paper checks.

I have this vision of Matt opening his PO Box filled to near-bursting with envelopes. He spends the rest of the day opening them, counting the bills and coins, stamping endorsements on the mostly $1 or $2 checks and filling out the better part of a book of deposit tickets by hand. "WTF am I supposed to do with 700 Icelandic krónas?", he asks himself. "I wonder if that's a lot of money? It sounds like a lot. It's probably one of those currencies that are only worth a fraction of a penny." He puts them in a box with all of the other foreign money to be dealt with on the 12th of never. Not a bad day, he thinks to himself. Only two paper cuts this time.

The next day, he trudges to the bank, his heavy bag almost shattering the tempered glass as he struggles to get it in the door. The bank teller, having drawn straws with the other tellers earlier that day and lost, sighs deeply and resignedly says, "Good morning, Mr. Haughey. Are we making a deposit this morning?" Man, she freaking hates me, he thinks to himself. I'm supposed to be retired from Metafilter! Josh and Paul have got to get this Stripe thing to take off.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:17 AM on June 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't know if this would be too much hassle: For European (Euro-zone) users it would be very convenient to transfer money using a simple SEPA bank transfer to an account at a Euro-zone bank. Both one-off and recurrent payments would probably have no transaction fees at all, and if Metafilter has expenses in Euro (the European moderators?) this could save on currency exchange fees as well.
posted by ltl at 3:30 AM on June 10, 2015


For folks who do recurring monthly payments with PayPal, we’ve found over the last year that PayPal does a poor job of handling expired credit card situations.

Thanks for mentioning that. I just checked, and I guess I've missed supporting Metafilter for some months now 😩. I'm rectifying that forthwith! I'd switch to quarterly and Stripe if that means more money for y'all, but I do kind of like that PayPal lets you fill in the amount you'd like to give.
posted by bluefly at 6:06 AM on June 10, 2015


Also, thanks for the update. I'm glad everything is mostly working out.
posted by bluefly at 6:12 AM on June 10, 2015


bluefly, you're totally welcome to drop us a line with what your ideal amount and period of recurrence would be and we can set up a custom Stripe plan for that. Right now there's no good way for us to do that totally dynamically on the page, but we're happy to make it happen on our end.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:54 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


That was our minor niggle as well, there was no custom donation level with the Stripe options. Would be nice, but was easy enough to work around.
posted by bonehead at 8:31 AM on June 10, 2015


Some tips if you are a longtime PayPal user and finally decided to cancel your account (you know, because), canceling your account is not as easy as they make it out to be since their site is still broken with the "new" update.

First you have to cancel any subscription / recurring payments (which are sometimes referred to as 'profiles').

Pretty much go to "contact customer support" use the drop down menu for "cancel account" and you get a "cancel account" button finally - which will take you to the old looking website where they nag you for a few screens and then you can finally cancel. Since their SMS service stopped working I got to jump through extra hops to get logged into their account in the first place.

Switched to Stripe for payments and took like 10 seconds, including the payment auth via two factor on my phone. Goodbye PayPal.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:57 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not long ago, I changed the PayPal donate buttons on my websites to a drop down menu of "tips" starting as low as $2. I once was told that having a donate button meant I was panhandling the Internet and, when I had donate buttons, I tended to get messages with donations to the effect of "Here. Eat something!" While I genuinely appreciated the money, I viewed it as a serious problem that I was being talked at like a charity case and not like a business person who had something of value to offer and merited compensation for it. Charity case is, of course, in insult. If you are called a charity case, you are being called an incompetent loser.

Of course, I agree 100% that one of the value positions MetaFilter has is that it is a community and that doing anything to put up financial barriers to participation would undermine that and would amount to cutting your own throat. So I agree that there shouldn't be an annual membership fee or something like that. I think this means that there are inherent challenges in both adequately monetizing the site and also being taken seriously as a business. It's simply a hard problem space, with no clear and easy answers. Historically, organizations that put community first tended to be churches, tribes, voluntary associations and so on, not businesses. This problem space may be the result of the Internet opening up new models for how people do things.

I am aware that other pay buttons on PayPal do not allow the person paying to choose any amount desired. I liked having donate buttons to allow people that flexibility, but the way it hurt perception of my business model was a real problem for me. So while I will not suggest you abandon the donate button per se, I will suggest that the staff could put some time into reframing the way financial support for the site from members gets talked about. Over the years (on other sites, well before I ever heard of MeFi), I have seen all the various pitfalls for how to monetize a community and hashed out with others why ads are a problem and donations are a different problem and so on. But I also know folks here are well aware of ideas like "If you aren't the paying customer, you are the product."

Members supporting the site financially helps provide important protection from the community aspect being undermined by a need to sell out commercially in order to pay the mods. Having paid mods who are paid adequately and get real benefits and so on is part of why the site runs as well as it does. Volunteer mods could not possibly do the job as well as it is currently done. So the community really needs that expense covered and also really needs to keep that emphasis on "this is a community first, a business second" without letting that undermine the credibility of Metafilter.

So I will suggest that part of why you are getting some flack here is precisely because it is a donate button and is being discussed as donations, which suggests to some people that you aren't a real business and if you were a real business, you wouldn't need "charity" from your members -- you wouldn't be a "charity case." I don't think Metafilter is a charity case, but I do think that word -- donations -- causes some people to subconsciously think that way. And while there may be really good reasons to keep the PayPal donate button (because other PayPal payment buttons don't let the person choose how much to give), that doesn't mean the staff has to discuss it using it that language. Framing the discussion differently might help resolve some of this perception problem.

I realize it looks like a fairly minor problem at the moment (shrug-worthy in cortex's eyes), what with getting $140k so far from member support. But if resolving that helps you get enough member support to hire another mod like cortex would like to do in his wildest dreams, I would be very cool with that.
posted by Michele in California at 10:18 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I appreciate this post because it reminded me to make a donation. I prefer making an annual donation rather than doing a monthly autopay thing so I would be really happy to get a nudge (in the form of a MetaTalk post or something else) in six months or a year.

And I'm really, really happy things are going so well in the overall State of MetaFilter. I love this place.
posted by kate blank at 10:22 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I also prefer a nudge, I actually put something in outlook to do so as I must have been having an abnormally organised day, but would it be possible/worthwhile to have a reminder through MeMail for those who want it on an annual basis, about this time of year maybe?
posted by biffa at 10:49 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


While I genuinely appreciated the money, I viewed it as a serious problem that I was being talked at like a charity case and not like a business person who had something of value to offer and merited compensation for it. Charity case is, of course, in insult. If you are called a charity case, you are being called an incompetent loser.

You make no secret of living on the street. I don't think it is reasonably considered insulting for someone to consider a gift to a homeless, destitute person a charitable act.
posted by jayder at 11:05 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do think that word -- donations -- causes some people to subconsciously think that way

Or consciously think that way. This isn't an issue of confusion or misplaced values. To me, it's related to the notion of reciprocity. If something is a community - as with this, it's a community site, supported by and for the community - that value needs to lead, and transparency is an important part of maintaining a community. In fact, that's why transparency is built into nonprofit models and why they're held accountable for it: because nonprofits are public-charter institutions that need to provide openness to build the "public trust," literally trust, the support of the community of citizens who sustain them and the donors who make sacrifices and choices to fund them.

Yes, I understand that there is a hybrid web model for the "donation economy" and I get that, as I get tossing a few bucks into a guitar player's case on the street and calling it a "donation." At the same time, I think MeFi represents something different than a game or app developer who makes a product and offers it on a donation model to use or not use, or a creative performer who puts their work out as a product to reward or not reward. The difference I see is that the MeFi community is not really a product - the platform may be a product, but it's empty without its community, so I actually do think of it as a community, supported by a community who creates its content and its value and happens to need a fiscally viable infrastructure to do so. At the same time, its organizational structure is private business, and its transparency level is (or has been) accordingly low. So that's a bit of a cognitive disconnect, at least for me.

Again, I don't mean to deter anyone from donating and will probably join the donors sooner or later, as soon as I clear out some other more immediate financial priorities. I just think there's room to express these ideas and ask for continued sharing of information, and I know that others really value the sharing of bigger-picture information in as much detail as it would help the community to know, in order to know how to best be of use for the longer term.
posted by Miko at 11:08 AM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


And while there may be really good reasons to keep the PayPal donate button...

Thanks, that's a good point. We've been bringing the Funding page up-to-date and we neglected the PayPal section. I just updated things so we're using the modern, preferred PayPal buttons.
posted by pb (staff) at 11:12 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


For European (Euro-zone) users it would be very convenient to transfer money using a simple SEPA bank transfer to an account at a Euro-zone bank.

I'm another EU-based monthly donator, and that would indeed be the easiest, and also would increase my donation because no transfer fee. But I guess it's really a marginal, not-worth-the-hassle thing...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:17 PM on June 10, 2015


Yeah, offhand I have no idea whether that'd be proportionally practical to do. We'll keep it in mind as something to look at as a future possibility, though.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:21 PM on June 10, 2015


What's the break even on accepting credit cards directly?

We have VISA and MC account at work, and it makes a lot of sense for us to do so for levels of revenue seem roughly comparable. It doesn't seem to be a huge amount of overhead either.

CCs are nice, at least, in that they avoid many international issues, like bank transfers. That's why we started using them in the first place.
posted by bonehead at 12:35 PM on June 10, 2015


Regarding direct credit card acceptance:

The fees charged to online merchants, especially those not selling tangible goods, may be onerous, and such sites may wind up being a target of carders who abuse the service in order to validate credit cards. (BTDT.)
posted by jgreco at 1:03 PM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The difference I see is that the MeFi community is not really a product - the platform may be a product, but it's empty without its community, so I actually do think of it as a community, supported by a community who creates its content and its value and happens to need a fiscally viable infrastructure to do so. At the same time, its organizational structure is private business, and its transparency level is (or has been) accordingly low. So that's a bit of a cognitive disconnect, at least for me.

In some ideal world maybe Metafilter would be organized as a non-profit or a coop. But one thing I've learned from studying the political economy of common pool resources is that sometimes it's these kinds of conflicts that actually make common pool resource management work. The classic example is Maine's fisheries: technically these are organized as a public good: legally, anyone can fish for lobster. But in fact, lobstermen control access and punish interlopers, they've repeatedly rebuffed both expert controls and lobbyists, so it functions more like a traditional cartel. Ironically, resistance to scientific and policy expertise has prevented big businesses from swooping in and taking control, and so you get one of the best fisheries in the world. Even when most fisheries are massively over-fished, Maine has been a shining star of conservation while ignoring the scientists arguing for better conservation regulations. At this point the scientists are taking their ideas from Maine's lobstermen rather than vice versa.

Here's why that matters. Often these kinds of spontaneously developing systems look really bad and self-contradictory from a principled perspective. But here's the key: they work, even when from the expert perspective they shouldn't. I'm not saying that Metafilter is like that: in a certain sense, it didn't work which is why there were layoffs and donations to begin with. But in another sense Metafilter has really won the internet by being a place worth sticking around, which is why we're here and not hanging out on Reddit.

So none of this is an argument against more transparency. But perhaps--perhaps--Metafilter only works as an unprofitable for-profit business. Let's not just assume that the NFP sector is a leading light. For one thing NFP tends to treat their employees worse than the mods here are treated. That's not an accident, either: in some sense NFPs work by exploiting workers in the name of the charitable good they're supplying. As institutions, they have costs as well as benefits. Perhaps this particular institutional arrangement is preferable.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:11 PM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


You make no secret of living on the street. I don't think it is reasonably considered insulting for someone to consider a gift to a homeless, destitute person a charitable act.

There are a few people who wrote me and said "Wow. You're homeless. Can I help?" which was extremely heartwarming and not at all what I was talking about. But if people only give me money because I am poor, and not because they value my work, I will always be poor. Charity and compassion won't make me middle class. A solid and profitable business model might.

I appreciate that most folks seem to have understand my point wrt how this relates to MeFi.
posted by Michele in California at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


You make no secret of living on the street. I don't think it is reasonably considered insulting for someone to consider a gift to a homeless, destitute person a charitable act

Fwiw I think MIC was saying that the "donate" option on her websites were for the services provided by the sites rather than her just asking for money because she was homeless. So I would see how it could be insulting to assume a person who is homeless but running a business is considered a "charity case" and the donation a "gift", rather than as a person being recompensed for their time and product.
posted by billiebee at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've been unemployed for about a year+1/4, and in April moved to a new town and started my very own law firm. So I, rightfully I think, have not donated.

Today I got paid about $1200 for my first legal aid certificate (still awaiting a decision on an additional $400), booked a legal aid cert worth about the same, and booked a final legal aid cert that would range from that much to like multiple thousands (trafficking charges, woooo!) I'm still deeply, deeply in the red, both personally and professionally. But this week has been busy enough that I feel confident about earning money. I have enough in my work bank account to cover expenses to the first week of July without putting more of my personal cash in there or getting any more work done.

All of which is a long-winded way to say that fuck yeah I'm donating to MeFi!!!!

Now, can I claim it as a business/networking expense? Pretty sure Mefi will get me real actual money by the time taxes roll around. I know YANMA(ccountant) but c'mon people.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:18 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the update. Been wondering what the situation was. Happy to be a contributor myself. I love love love AskMe. Please keep up the incredible work!
posted by StrawberryPie at 6:29 PM on June 10, 2015


Now, can I claim it as a business/networking expense?

IAAL. IAYL. TILA.

(IANAA. TINAA.)
posted by Room 641-A at 8:59 PM on June 10, 2015


If folks would like an unofficial annual reminder, my offer still stands to send out reminder MeMails on or about Moderator's Day (June 13th) every year. Just MeMail me if you'd like one. They may be a little late this year, as I will still be on vacation on Saturday with limited Internet access.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:57 AM on June 11, 2015


but here's the key: they work,

I don't think we can say, specifically, that MetaFilter works in the long run. They work until they don't.

Maine has been a shining star of conservation

I don't want to get more deeply into this because I know a lot about it from a practical and personal perspective, maybe more than you think I do and perhaps more than you do. It's an odd example to use, not really analagous, and a little rosy, as Maine's lobstering regulatory system remains quite contentious (and particularly political and painful at the local level - sometimes even violent; google "Maine lobster wars" for some interesting reading), and it's plagued with latency and competition issues and unpreparedness for climate changes as well as benefits, boats still go out of business because the price keeps dropping, and also, Maine has not been successful conserving other fisheries.

in some sense NFPs work by exploiting workers in the name of the charitable good they're supplying.

And some, like mine, pay their workers an excellent rate and solid benefits. This has more to do with organizational values and the practices chosen by leadership than with an organization's tax status and spending structure.

But perhaps--perhaps--Metafilter only works as an unprofitable for-profit business.

Which is great until it's so unprofitable it has to close. Or until it can't pay mods as well, or pay as many of them, and starts to suck more because it's lighter-moderated. Or we have ads in every thread that we can't turn off. And so on.

My main question here is not actually one of pure principle or liking one business model better than another, but really one of stability and sustainability (same as for the lobster industry) - which is the key component that relates to choices about funding models are made and whether/how much community support is required or wanted. For years I've wondered about that - drawing donations to float from month to month and year to year - at first, in response to an acute crisis not shared with the community until it was dire - is working now to close the funding gap, but what can be expected in future? Should we be donating more? Less? How often? How much? What percentage, ideally, of MeFi's funds are donated and what are from revenue-generating enterprise? What's a healthy funding mix for a community like this? How many mod-hours do we want and need to fund? How close or far away are we from adding or reducing, compromising or enhancing services? For how long? How are expenses likely to increase or decrease with changes in the environment and operating costs?

There's not a lot of clarity about any of it, and, no matter what business model you think MeFi should operate on, they are questions that anyone giving money to an enterprise to, presumably, help keep it afloat, may want to ask. When MeFi was a business, I was more shruggo about it, because I knew that it was privately owned and nobody needed to give a hoot what anybody thought about how it was run - business owners run things the way they want to. Now that we're being asked to give, to act like a supporting community, it makes me ask more questions, because the premise of donation creates different kinds of relationships and expectations.

I have limited dollars to donate. If MeFi's on a course to tanking, do I want to invest that money here? Similarly, if MeFi can do fine without me, do I want to invest that money here? Perhaps the small amount I can donate would go much further donated to a summer camp scholarship for an inner-city kid, or my local food bank, or something like that. I'd like to be able to think about issues like that, value derived versus value contributed, ultimate impact, and make comparisons and do this in a well-thought-out way. And here I just can't. The "give or don't, suit yourself" model is sufficient for many people but it's discouraging for me. If MeFi has no long-term plan to sustain itself, and no ability to characterize how important community support is to that, then that makes me want to shy away from lending support that could do more functional good elsewhere.

I should just never comment on this because it becomes a downer of a derail in happy donation threads. There really haven't been many other places/opportunities to discuss it, though.
posted by Miko at 11:13 AM on June 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


Pretty sure Mefi will get me real actual money by the time taxes roll around.

Hm. Business expense?

Club dues and membership fees. Generally, you cannot deduct amounts paid or incurred for membership in any club organized for business, pleasure, recreation, or any other social purpose. This includes country clubs, golf and athletic clubs, hotel clubs, sporting clubs, airline clubs, and clubs operated to provide meals under circumstances generally considered to be conducive to business discussions.
posted by Miko at 11:16 AM on June 11, 2015


I know YANMA(ccountant) but c'mon people.

CRA's list of eligible business expenses.

"As a rule, you can deduct any reasonable current expense you paid or will have to pay to earn business income."

This seems eminently "reasonable."

Eminently, I say!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:23 AM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the best parts of working here was taking all the meetup expenses as a tax write-off.

The "give or don't, suit yourself" model is sufficient for many people

That said, one of the harder things for me about working here was the weird money stuff. I mean I got paid and it was fine and I enjoyed it here and I still come here every day. But I think for people who are used to working with businesses that have plans and models and reports and layers of accountability, there is something sort of off-putting about the "give or don't, we'll do our best" thing as the end of the discussion. And I had to decide that my unease with that was just my problem to manage.

And this is me speaking as someone who maybe doesn't know what she would do if MetaFilter wasn't in her life. So it's a quandary. I trust Cortex & Co. absolutely to have the community's best interests at heart, but after dealing with a year and a half of "sky is falling" level of concerns during the troubles, and making my decision to no longer be part of things for self-serving and selfless reasons, I have concerns as well. And I have feels about the way the money stuff worked during those times. Which is not to say that the way other people choose to interact is wrong, to my mind. People give how and when they want and I am excited and happy that there's this level of community support. But I'm not sure, outside of being a pill about even more transparency (which I really don't think is my right to request), how to make myself feel better about this. Hire a CFO? Like maybe if there was someone who managed money for a job, I might feel different about some of the prognosticating. Or maybe I am just an ootchy person. And I feel this way about a lot of lifestyle/boutique businesses I interact with, many of which have become important to me and I think this is one of those New Economy side effects that is just about people getting used to the new normal. I get paid by Medium and who knows where that money comes from or how long it will be around for? Internet Archive? Mostly the same.

MeFi is an pretty high functioning (most of the time) version of whatevertheheckitis but the model was always "It's one guy's thing to do what he wants with" and that's still sort of true even if the community is contributing to the extent that they are.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:03 PM on June 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


All business models work until they don't anymore. Big companies with all those layers of accountability and what not are not somehow immune to market forces. I left my job at a Fortune 500 company in part because I felt it was a sinking ship. While we were still being inundated with glowing press releases, the McHappy Meetings, where everyone got free chotchky crap with the company logo on it, dried up. They cut service by the cleaning staff. I attended meetings where they delineated how well the company was doing by showing how much worse the bleeding would have been had we not brilliantly made diversifying acquisitions. One glowing PR piece announced how we had dramatically flown up the Fortune 500 listing. It is a relative ranking system. It was a depression. The company had not grown. We just fell on our face less badly than so many other companies in a down economy. We did not really go up in rank. Lots of other companies just fell like stones, making us look good in comparison.

I have had less financial stress as a homeless person. I at least no longer need to meet dress code. Most of my mountain of debts were acquired while working there and trying to fit in to corporate culture. My debts have been cut by at least 40% while on the street. I still struggle to get enough to eat every month, but my crises feel a lot more short term and manageable. I no longer feel like I am playing a shell game, just waiting for my house of cards to fall over and reveal to the world what a charade my middle class lifestyle was.

Small businesses need less to weather the inevitable crises. Small businesses are the growth engines of the economy. They always account for more job growth than the big companies. I think that desire for financial security and certainty is a fantasy rooted in the fact that many people seem to believe that the robust post-WWII economy is the norm and our right. It's not. It's a historical anomaly.
posted by Michele in California at 12:34 PM on June 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can certainly think of a lot of organizations I don't want to participate in because of their lack of transparency--or more often, for the lack of accountability that non-transparency produces. I've also wondered in the past about Metafilter, how it was structured, what kinds of projects were in the pipeline, etc. So I understand the concern. And of course, as a personal requirement for giving, someone can set whatever level of transparency they like.

But I have also seen a lot of efforts wasted on bureaucratization, proceduralization, and the trappings of legitimacy. Spontaneous volunteer efforts that worked fine for a while without all the meetings, reports, and so on lose their energy when forced through that needle's eye. What was previously self-funding and self-organized starts getting expensive and hierarchical, with more salaries to pay and grants to report.

This is, of course, just my experience. My wife was a NFP fundraiser before she became an attorney, and I have a regular job but helped found a small non-profit last year, on the side, to coordinate and institutionalize a bunch of volunteers and donations. It is a huge amount of work, a lot of which is a distraction from the actual mission.

So I guess I'd put it this way: other than quieting discomfort, what are all the plans and reports and layers of accountability for? After all, in legal terms a lot of that stuff is about satisfying the government that the staff are not committing some kind of fraud, bilking donors, or dodging taxes. So are these things mission-critical for Metafilter? Do they actually make this place more resilient and sustainable, long-term? How? This is a serious question, even if our discussion of it, as users and not staff or owners, is perhaps moot.

I guess what I want Metafilter to avoid is: "here's how things usually work, let's do that." Because HHTUWLDT can be institutional kryptonite.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:59 PM on June 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


This.
posted by Wordshore at 2:47 PM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think of it as not unlike the no minimum, pay what you like price on Bandcamp for an album. Some people may think they should have the songs for free, or that it looks like the band is making pretty good money in the film industry, or touring. Other people may really like the album, but only actually have 1 dollar. Other people may think an album should be worth ten dollars. The band doesn't have to be financially accountable to its audience, it just has to make enough off their business model to make it to the next gig, & everyone is happy. If not, if the band fails to keep putting out albums, you still have the album you paid for.

I have 10 dollars auto-debited from my account every month for MetaFilter, on about the 15th. That's what I pay for a month's-worth of Metafilter, so if the site were to precipitously close on the 16th, I might be a little peeved that my 10 bucks didn't buy me a month, but not really, when I consider some of that back-rent for 9 free years of The Best Of The Web.

So the grey area is if the site shuts down, we can't access the archive like an album, unless we use the wayback machine, & much is lost to history, but the ephemerality of the web is, like, a thing, you know. We see it here with link rot. I guess I'm just a bit fatalistic about permenancy, now that I'm aging & don't really figure the universe owes me an eternal Metafilter. I get my moth's worth this month, & enjoy it while I can. Here & now, man.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:43 PM on June 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


I have limited dollars to donate. If MeFi's on a course to tanking, do I want to invest that money here?

I don't really think of the money I give monthly to MeFi as an investment. I don't think of the money I give monthly to WNYC as an investment, either.

I mean, to the extent that my dollars help build a sustainable business or contribute to a cushion or whatever, I'm glad for that. But if Metafilter or WNYC went belly-up next month, I wouldn't feel that my contributions had been wasted.

Is there a problem with thinking of it as a pay-as-you-go thing (and entirely optional at that)? Not that I would try to persuade anyone to contribute who feels any discomfort with that model.
posted by torticat at 7:09 PM on June 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Or, oops, on non-preview, what Devils Rancher said.
posted by torticat at 7:10 PM on June 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will add that it seems to me that THIS makes it a good investment for any users who can afford to pony up:
- New features and security measures.
We’ve been able to put some energy into site improvements, rather than just scrambling to put out fires.


I personally get a lot of value out of these in particular: revamping the post/comment formatting buttons and adding the long-asked-for Add to Activity function to posts to make it easier to follow discussions with Recent Activity without having to comment.

Being able to add to activity has significantly improved the way I relate to the site. For one thing, I think it helps me refrain from jumping in immediately at times when I don't really think that is appropriate. It lets me give it a little time to cogitate on how I want to say things because I won't forget to come back to it -- it's right there in my recent activity queue. I feel like I write better answers and spend less time cringing about having opened mouth and inserted foot.

I wish I could afford to kick in a few bucks. I just can't right now. It is entirely possible that the mods will be one of the first people to know when I get a more middle class level of financial comfort because the odds are high that a monthly recurring donation contribution from me to help participate in funding the site will soon follow.
posted by Michele in California at 10:54 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


...don't really figure the universe owes me an eternal Metafilter. I get my moth's worth this month, & enjoy it while I can.

FWIW, I agree, the site works because it does and when it stops doing so we'll drift away. I'm not convinced additional governance will help (or hinder) Metafilter's quality. In a site this small, the individual matters more than structure.

Supporting Metafilter, for me is much like supporting an artist I like. I'm not going to chase her down to ask how she spends the money I donate. Getting her to disclose how much she spends on milk vs studio time doesn't help her make better or more music or help me enjoy what she writes more. That I trust her to do so, is what matters to me.

When an organization is too big for one person to really matter, when personal trust isn't enough, that's when I think transparency and accountability mechanisms become important. I don't think metafilter is there yet though, and may never be.

Of course, this is all just the way I see it, at my own comfort level. Where other's levels of comfort and trust are, I have nothing to say.
posted by bonehead at 11:24 AM on June 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


pb: "Thanks Rhaomi, we reserved the name."

cortex: "Yep, got $metafilter and $mefi as well. Sorry for the twitching; it's been on my TODO list but that's a fairly long list the last couple months."

Thanks!
posted by Rhaomi at 3:41 PM on June 12, 2015


The tax jokes are fun and you can try it if you don't worry about getting audited. As an employee, jessamyn can certainly write off expenses. But as a member where the membership fee is both voluntary, non-directly-income-producing, and non-charitable, it's not a legitimate expense - though as with everything in our tax structure, if no one catches it you might get by.

I don't think of the money I give monthly to WNYC as an investment, either.

But I can assure you that the staff there does, and will show you the math if you want to see it. I can assure you they have a plan for the survival of the service and can tell you what improvements you're funding and how much their budget depends on that funding and how levels of service would change if it disappeared.

It's clearly my own personal discomfort. I don't agree that it's a "new economy" problem, though. There have always been businesses without much internal structure, run at every level of competence, and subsisting often more on goodwill and generosity and multidirectional transactions than on value received for goods delivered. As long as money is flowing, people tend not to ask a lot of questions. Questions tend to intensify and increase in times of crisis.

Medium is funded by investors right now, and they clearly expect it to be profitable someday (even if, in the end, that's only by selling it - or its user data - to someone else). The Internet Archive is a donation-funded nonprofit. These are venerable models and clear ones. There is no "new economy" tax structure, no "new economy" public charter - there's public accountability, and not-public accountability, and that's where it comes down for me.

Since MeFi (it seems to me) isn't a product like a band CD, but a content platform where the content is an emergent property of a community, I think the more-accountability-to-its-constituency model would work lots better. But again, it's clearly mainly me and a handful of others. I understand most people don't dwell on these issues. I just find that there are few organizations that I am a part of that ask for my support, but that I have so little information about.
posted by Miko at 8:09 AM on June 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


[more thoughts] I think in the end what MeFi at this stage is most analogous too is the last bookstore in a town, when the owner comes to the customers and says "I'm not able to operate in the black anymore on book sales alone - if you want our bookstore to stay in our town, you have to help me out by joining my special members club/becoming an investor/buying premium items designed with a high profit margin/attending my value-added fee-based events." - ways of doing some 'fundraising' (quasi) within a profit model through customer appeal and identifying new revenue streams where the cultural/abstract values, rather than the tote bags or t-shirts or other goods, are what's being offered for sale.
posted by Miko at 8:40 AM on June 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I do not have a problem with it because I do view it as an issue of funding the needs of an online community, and that is a relatively new issue that did not exist before the Internet. My experience has been that communities with paid moderators are better run. They are more civil, among other things. There seems to be inherent friction between putting community first and also coming up with funds to pay the moderators. Hacker News serves the business needs of the business incubator Y-Combinator. It has at least one paid mod plus a financial motive to the tune of millions of dollars to make the discussion board work well, and that is a good thing, but it does not put community first. It never has. It never will. It serves the needs of the business model.

I am all for merchandising and, some months ago, ran the possibility past Matt of starting a MeTa to collect together the various remarks people were making about sayings they would like to see and types of merchandise they would like to see. He wasn't comfortable with it, so I respected his wishes and never submitted a MeTa. But as someone who has been a moderator for more than one community and also run my own sites for years, a T-shirt sale tends to put a dollar or two into the pocket of the folks running the site while you spend $15 or $20. So I feel that if your primary impetus for buying a T-shirt is to support the site financially, it makes more sense to give them money directly. There are other reasons to desire MeFi merchandise, such as signalling to others that you are a member, but merchandising is hard, it is a different skill set from community building and fostering good discussion and I see no reason to tell cortex and co that I want them to also figure that out in order to get adequate compensation for the jobs they do.

When I was a homeschooling parent and active on The Tag Project, the Internet was new and lots of idealistic folks were publishing awesome materials to help teach kids math or handwriting or whatever. Over time, the best of those free resources disappeared. It clearly had value to people but it was not making money for the people behind the website. They took it down and, in some cases, turned it into a product or service for sale.

People bitch endlessly about how the Internet is going to hell. But they also often do not want to take a crowbar to their wallet and kick in a few bucks to support the stuff they thought was so good. They want it for free. This hits extremely close to home for me. I have provided a lot of people a lot of value over the years via my websites and moderating online communities and what not. I have been gushed at for how awesome my advice is and so on. I mostly have not been paid for it. I now do freelance work to earn money. Most of what I get paid for amounts to churning out the commercial spam that everyone bitches about. I can't bring myself to feel guilty about that.

I am less bitter than I once was about being unable to get compensation for doing the things I value that seem to add the most value to the world. But I do see a direct relationship between the lack of compensation for those things and the extreme poverty I have been enduring. I will be damned if I will stand idly by and tacitly agree that cortex and co do not deserve decent compensation for what they do for this community because they aren't also doing some other thing. There is plenty of transparency here about how they run the community, about how they deal with the social end of things. That is the only transparency that matters to me here. It is sufficient to me to know that it helps pay the mods adequately for doing their job, so they don't resent doing the stuff that is most critical: dealing with social friction when it arises. Volunteer mods tend to crab at people when there is friction. They aren't being paid to handle it diplomatically and they understandably resent the hassle involved.

If people want better than that, then at least some of them need to get over their mental blocks about business models or whatever and just give money directly to the sites they value, rather than waiting for the good stuff to die and lamenting its loss.
posted by Michele in California at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't have much of a problem with the lack of transparency here because

1) they are immediately and directly providing me with a service, unlike most nonprofits I give to (I mean, I may get benefits from the American Cancer Society at some point, but not right now and I hope I will never need them).

2) in the original post where Matt said they were letting mods go because they were short on funds, he didn't ask for money, people asked how to give it to the site. I suppose people expected that they would use the money towards moderators, which is exactly what they did, along with some other stuff cortex mentioned in this post. Note that cortex et al still have not asked for money, they have just made it easier to do so (or more ethical, I haven't really followed the Paypal thing).

3) giving money to mefi is completely optional after the sign up fee and none of the mod team has ever proposed otherwise to my knowledge

4) if I'm buying a t-shirt, I don't care what the seller does with my money as long as I get what I paid for

5) I have some issues with the current userbase and the shift in tone around here, but in general I would be very sad if mefi went away

(Miko, I'm not writing this to you specifically but just because the subject has been brought up.)
posted by desjardins at 10:51 AM on June 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't think of the money I give monthly to WNYC as an investment, either.

But I can assure you that the staff there does, and will show you the math if you want to see it. I can assure you they have a plan for the survival of the service and can tell you what improvements you're funding and how much their budget depends on that funding and how levels of service would change if it disappeared.


Well, of course. And if I were giving them $1000 a month or whatever (as some people do), I'd be interested in seeing the math. I'm saying what I give to WNYC (and to Metafilter) doesn't rise to that level.

WNYC takes both tacks with their fundraising--they appeal to people who want to invest in the station's future security, and they also ask listeners to evaluate what public radio is worth to them on a day-to-day basis. I think of my contribution in the latter terms.

Metafilter, as desjardins points out, isn't really doing either. No one's being asked to give anything; even the banner at the top of the page says "you can help fund the site" rather than "Help fund Metafilter!" I feel like there's a difference, but ymmv of course.
posted by torticat at 12:27 PM on June 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Miko, I'm not writing this to you specifically but just because the subject has been brought up.)

Yeah, I am not trying to pick on Miko either. I do have really big feels on the topic that go back years and years. That isn't intended to be aimed at anyone in particular.
posted by Michele in California at 12:29 PM on June 13, 2015


Since MeFi (it seems to me) isn't a product like a band CD, but a content platform where the content is an emergent property of a community...

It was a vaguely forced analogy, for sure. I really can't for the life of me figure out what MetaFilter is analogous to. To me, "the product" is a month's worth of access to the site & the community. I appreciate your thoughtful approach to this very much, and am also certainly not meaning to gainsay or really even disagree. It's all food for thought & well, we have a penchant for ... er... thinking about things here. :-)
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:18 PM on June 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


> It was a vaguely forced analogy, for sure.

That hits closest to home for me regarding how I conceptualize the extra giving. It's the Humble Indie Bundle. It's the "pay what you want" album release. You can pay $10,000, or you can pay a penny. So, I give a bit each month out of appreciation for what I've received each month, and if that amount is zero, everyone is cool with it. I still received the experience. I can decide if I want to do it again next month, too, based on additional experiences received, apart from knowing the internal workings and accountability structures.

As a general rule, I do think that more transparency is better in most all instances of business, but it some instances, reality is abstracted from that sort of knowledge requirement. For example, I don't tip extra at a meal expecting to know if money is going to be spent on things I approve of. My giving is an overflow of a good feeling for a service already received, and which in this case, happens to be available for free.*

not including the initial sign-up fee, of course
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:45 PM on June 13, 2015


>I get my moth's worth this month, & enjoy it while I can. Here & now, man.

Exactly how much is a moth worth?



Cuz I got me a bushel of them dusty motherfuckers
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:46 PM on June 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is no "new economy" tax structure, no "new economy" public charter

I was referring more to people's mindset about where the money comes from and where the money goes and how much they feel they need to be involved in this. For as long as there have been businesses there have been good and bad business models and people crusading to end bad business models.

I also do know how the places that pay me get funded. So the Internet Archive is a donation (and grant) funded non-profit on the surface but it's also self-funded to a large extent by Brewster and this determines, more than anything, the path the business takes regardless of its official structure. And Medium is funded by investors and basically runs like a startup which means the money they pay out doesn't bear a lot of resemblance to what you'd get paid for the same work at a business that wasn't a startup. There's a sense, at Medium, that the money is sort of a side-issue to their grand plan of creating some new platform for somethingsomething but for those who work there, the money matters. And it can be weird and annoying to work for people who say the money shouldn't matter as much as the values and ideals of the organization.

I'm not able to operate in the black anymore on book sales alone

It's funny that you say this because this is exactly what the bookstore in my town, the last bookstore in my town, did. They moved to a community support model, but one that lacked transparency, and it went out of business anyhow, eventually, and took some of the townspeople's money with it. And most people didn't mind that they had donated. I mean sure there was some grousing about missed opportunities and that sort of thing but for a lot of people, their relationship to money generally is just not that exact. There's a larger argument to be made about debt economy and capitalism and whether that should be true, but I think there's value in understanding the system as it maybe should work and the system as it actually does work.

And don't get me wrong, I don't donate. I don't make a thing about it but that's my stance based on feelings that are not that dissimilar from others' here. But I see it as much more of a personal choice and the model, such as it is, still works if I make that choice.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:33 AM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am just so GD happy to be part of this website. It's like it should be on my CV or something. "Mefite (including original, now-cancelled account and sockpuppet account) since 2005".

Hmm waitaminit...

[goes to update Linkedin page]
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:56 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


~~ Moving forward ~~

Metafilter remains my favorite place on the internet.


That's a solid plan for the future.
posted by ersatz at 3:13 PM on June 18, 2015


I faved u
posted by tehloki at 12:51 PM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


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