If you try the voluntary contributions model, be ready to take some flak.
May 3, 2001 12:32 PM   Subscribe

If you try the voluntary contributions model, be ready to take some flak. Steve Outing of content-exchange.com talks about his recent "pledge drive." Mostly self-evident conclusions, but more grist for the mill.
posted by acridrabbit (7 comments total)
A couple of points Steve didn't mention, which greatly influenced the strong negative reaction he got to his request for contributions: First, someone on the list asked if there would be any accountability for the money donated, and Steve totally refused to even consider the possibility. Second, he made it clear that some of the money was earmarked to pay for the list upkeep, and that caused a number of people to ask why he doesn't just switch to Yahoo Groups or Topica, which are free.

To make matters worse, he started the whole thing off on the wrong foot by turning off the list for 24 hours immediately after sending out his solicitation. (He mentions this in his article, but he's downplaying its significance.) This was interpreted by many as a blunt threat, and they didn't like it one bit. The users inferred this action to be a claim that without Steve, they'd all be helpless. And that's just not true. C-E overall is a very useful site, and Steve is to be commended for running it. But the mailing list is only what the users make of it, and they resented having it pulled out from under them with no warning, under such specious circumstances.

If you'd like to read the threads yourself rather than just get Steve's side of it, check the list's archives. (The interface leaves much to be desired, unfortunately. Start with the first post in the thread titled "I'm shutting down OWL" from April 24.)
posted by aaron at 12:53 PM on May 3, 2001

Yeah, I was on the list in the middle of all this and think he did a poor job of handling it. I think what may have been the problem was that the community there isn't that tight knit, and he's for profit. As opposed to Mefi where the community is pretty tight and we know it's just matthowie behind the curtain, it was a lot easier to contribute...
posted by owillis at 2:24 PM on May 3, 2001

Feeding back into that is something he glossed over: in both Blogger's and Metafilter's cases, the money went directly into the site. I, for one, saw the improved performance on Blogger immediately. I don't recall MeFi hurting nearly as much, but that's just because Matt was ahead of the curve.

Plus, when he looked at what he'd raised, Matt came back and created the MeFi Scholarship Fund. That rocks.

Call this a case study in how to go about it the wrong way, compared to people who did it right.
posted by dhartung at 6:17 PM on May 3, 2001

I still say the only way to make this work is to centralize donations via a democratically run non-profit web "utility" company. If someone just built that, I think people would join up.
posted by muppetboy at 6:38 PM on May 3, 2001

muppetboy: how would you decide who gets funds? which sites would be eligible?
posted by owillis at 7:40 PM on May 3, 2001

muppet: Why would anyone want to donate money to a middle-man organization -- e.g. having other people vote on what your donation ought to be spent on -- when you could just give the money directly to whoever you want to support instead? What's the benefit for me, and what's the benefit for the specific site which I'd like to donate to?
posted by frednorman at 3:14 AM on May 4, 2001

'Ruddy heck! Is everyone on Metafilter on that list or something?
posted by wackybrit at 8:05 AM on May 4, 2001

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