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General Forge Forums => Site Discussion => Topic started by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 10, 2002, 09:06:38 AM



Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 10, 2002, 09:06:38 AM
Everyone at the Forge,

Ron and I have talked for a while now about how to support the Forge as it grows. Over the last year, we've increased our membership and traffic tremendously, which is great. It's also cost us more and more financially, as bandwidth needs increased.

Now, I never want us to make the same mistakes as other sites and force people to pay for the Forge. In fact, let me make it clear right now: we are not discussing paying for The Forge. It is and always will be free.

We are thinking about offering you guys the chance to donate. I've put a page up at http://www.indie-rpgs.com/user_donate.html. The button to donate is turned off, but otherwise, it's the proposed page.

This is a really touchy issue, so Ron and I wanted to put it up for discussion. We don't want the issue of whether you would or would not donate discussed here - that's a personal matter. We would like to discuss whether you would or would not be offended by the opportunity to donate, and whether the wording on the donation page is acceptable.

We do not know if we will actually do this. This is not an announcement saying that we will. This is merely a proposal, and an opportunity to discuss it.

I look forward to your comments.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 10, 2002, 09:31:49 AM
I'll chime in too.

Issue #1 is whether to have people donate money at all, and I'd like input about that.

However, my main concern is, if we do it, to avoid generating a two-tier distinction between donors and non-donors.

Clinton and I will commit to not treating people differently, for our parts. We can only do our best, for that.

The big issue for me (call it #2) is whether to have the donors be publicly acknowledged. Will doing that imply, overwhelmingly, that we do "favor" or "like" or "respect" donors more than non-donors? Will any disclaimer succeed in allaying that perception? Will donors expect certain treatment or respect from other Forge members because their names are in lights?

All comments on issues #1 and #2 are greatly appreciated. We really don't have a clear outlook at this point, which is why we've taken it to public discussion.

Best,
Ron


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Mike Holmes on January 10, 2002, 09:33:32 AM
I'm missing the potential negative side here. The only thing that I can think of is that some people might feel some guilt over not having their name on the list. But even that seems unlikely. You could just accept donations annonyously. Under any circumstances that should be an option. Some people just don't like recognition.

OTOH, you might require listing names of donators under the concept of full disclosure. But I don't know if The Forge is so political as to have to worry about that. :-)

Mike


Title: Offended?
Post by: Jason L Blair on January 10, 2002, 09:36:28 AM
Quote from: Clinton R Nixon

We would like to discuss whether you would or would not be offended by the opportunity to donate...



Offended by the opportunity to donate? No way. Would anyone here be offended by having the opportunity to donate?

The page reads well enough. As well as any non-pleading plea for cash can, anway. ;)

I say set up a little Cafepress action and get some shirts, shorts, hats, etc up in here with some Forge-sport! Heyyeah!


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Jason L Blair on January 10, 2002, 09:43:26 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Issue #1 is whether to have people donate money at all, and I'd like input about that.


Yes. Give people the opportunity.

Quote from: Ron Edwards

The big issue for me (call it #2) is whether to have the donors be publicly acknowledged. Will doing that imply, overwhelmingly, that we do "favor" or "like" or "respect" donors more than non-donors? Will any disclaimer succeed in allaying that perception? Will donors expect certain treatment or respect from other Forge members because their names are in lights?


I think you and Clinton are being too soft-footed about this. I guess I just find it amusing that people who can so easily enforce their laws have such trouble just saying, "Hey, we provide a service. If you want to help, please do so. If you don't, that's cool too."

Set up donations as anonymous. Donations should be made to help out not for a free link. Those who don't donate, don't. Those who do, do.


Title: Offended?
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 10, 2002, 09:53:12 AM
Quote from: Key20Jason

I say set up a little Cafepress action and get some shirts, shorts, hats, etc up in here with some Forge-sport! Heyyeah!


This is a real option. I'll have to put some work into it, but I could definitely work up some CafePress action.


Title: Donations
Post by: Matt Snyder on January 10, 2002, 10:03:44 AM
Clinton & Ron,

I think donations are a fine idea. What's more, I think donors should be listed at their option. This isn't to make it a political issue, but rather to show appreciation for supporters. The whole notion reminds me very much of public radio fund raising, and people like to see their name listed -- I know I would. It says "I support the Forge, and the Forge 'cares' enough to support me back with a personal thank you."

Alternativey, of course, they could opt to remain anonymous).

Now, is that button on the donations page working? I'm willing to give a little donation via paypal, but the Paypal image doesn't do anything when I click. Perhaps this is just a trial page at this point? Then again, maybe it's cause I'm on a Mac.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: hardcoremoose on January 10, 2002, 10:08:02 AM
I'm all in favor of donations.  Acknowledgement is unnecessary (although if you do decide to list the donors, I'll have to allow myself to be listed, just so Mike Holmes won't upstage me).

The CafePress stuff is a fine idea.  I'd wear mine with pride.

- Scott


Title: Go for it
Post by: J B Bell on January 10, 2002, 10:10:09 AM
I say definitely do it.  As for anonymous vs. non-anonymous, obviously being allowed to be anonymous is good, but neither do I see any harm in a public "thanks!" area.  In my purist, social anarchist heart, I think charity should all be anonymous, but if someone's getting a litle ego stroke from donate pushes them over the line to donate, what the hey.

The Forge is the best online discussion of RPGs anywhere, period.  I want to see it continue, and if this is an avenue that helps that happen, awesome.

--TQuid


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 10, 2002, 10:31:12 AM
So far, it sounds like no one's opposed, which is good. It looks like we're kind of torn on the acknowledgement issue. I thought (and think) it was (is) a good idea because of the parallels with public radio and museums. It's a way we can show appreciation without alienating anyone - the names wouldn't be in the forum or anything, but on one separate thanks page.

Cafepress is sounding like a great idea, by the way. I don't want to use it instead of donations, as, well - their stuff is expensive enough as is, so I can't see adding more than about a dollar to the price of each item. I do think we should start using it in addition to donations, though, if for no other reason, so that we can have cool shirts for GenCon.

Jason Blair sent me some neat ideas regarding CafePress, and the one I came up with based off his is this: as another way to contribute to the site, I'd ask all you artists/graphic designers to design a Forge shirt for CafePress. It wouldn't have to use the Forge logo or anything, but just be a cool Forge advertisement. Each month, we could sell a different Forge t-shirt. I think it'd be cool as all get-out - imagine a crazy raygun-badass Forge shirt one month, and a darkly surrealistic shirt the next.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Blake Hutchins on January 10, 2002, 10:56:45 AM
Hell yes, it's a good idea.  Scratch that.  Donations are a great idea.  For my part, listing a thank you section is unnecessary, but I'm certainly not opposed to it.

So I echo the other sentiments here.  Clinton and Ron, I appreciate your concerns and courtesy, but I'd have to say that the community here is mature enough and cohesive enough to handle both donation button and Thank You list.

Bring it on.

Best,

Blake


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Ben Morgan on January 10, 2002, 03:32:56 PM
Re: donations
I donate to Goats (http://www.goats.com/) fairly regularly when finances permit, so I'd be more than willing to do so here as well.

Re: CafePress & T-Shirts

Quote from: Clinton
Jason Blair sent me some neat ideas regarding CafePress, and the one I came up with based off his is this: as another way to contribute to the site, I'd ask all you artists/graphic designers to design a Forge shirt for CafePress. It wouldn't have to use the Forge logo or anything, but just be a cool Forge advertisement. Each month, we could sell a different Forge t-shirt. I think it'd be cool as all get-out - imagine a crazy raygun-badass Forge shirt one month, and a darkly surrealistic shirt the next.


Excellent idea. I for one would definitely buy a Forge T-shirt, especially one that had artwork that I designed.

Make 'em in black, and I'm there.


Title: For the people who probably [i]wouldn't[/i] respond to this
Post by: Le Joueur on January 10, 2002, 04:00:58 PM
You know, I am glad you guys approached the issue this way; it shows a lot of class.  I think having a 'drop box' for donations is a wonderful idea, go for it.

There are, however, a few problems that seem to be being missed.  I bring them up because I think that the people who would have them may, for similar reasons, be not responding.

The first is, I actually think putting everybody who donates on an ackowledgement page is a very bad idea.  Like Ron forecasted, it will undoubtedly lead to elitism of some kind.  It will also 'scare off' people who like to anonymously lurk, especially if they want to donate (id est, if donations are accepted, and then published, they might feel they need to 'pay to read,' but can't afford the publicity).  I think the public radio analogy might carry.  Not every donor to public radio is mentioned; in fact, very few are.  Most are large donors and they make their interest in being mentioned clear when donating.

I think it would be just about as bad, making donors have to 'check this box to remain anonymous.'  Personally, I find this a subtle assault on privacy; saying "we're going to publish your name if you're not careful."  On the other hand a 'check this box to be acknowledged' system cannot help but invite 'brown-nosing' and competition for elitist 'favor.'  Honestly I can't see a good reason for acknowledging any but the highest of donors and maybe only if they require it.  Separating acknowledging supporters from acknowledging donors is where the difficulty arises in this conundrum.

Worse, I fear that acknowledgement will breed a certain reticence on the part of people who are either unable or unwilling to donate.  Certainly this will be taken by the Forge's detractors as another sign of "we don't want dissenting opinions," because what kind of Don Quixote would donate to a group they criticize?

(And speaking as someone who is on record for not even being able to donate, I guess I would feel uncomfortable posting on a forum where I could be shown to be the only one who didn't contribute financially, because of a compulsory donation list.  Even if it were discretionary self-acknowledgement, it would still require something of a lie - even just to myself - that I add as much value by posting as even a low level donor/lurker.)

I guess my opinion is that acknowledgements, however goodly intentioned, may wind up being a public relations headache (if this doesn't make them so already).

The second problem is overage.  What if the donations far and away exceed the needs of the site?  Where will this money go?  What if you are getting more in donations then you can think of things to improve the site?  If you are approaching this with a vague "we're non-profit" ideal, you might find yourself feeling ripped off, when the money goes somewhere other than 'ideal,' if you don't have a plan for the excesses.  (I know all you guys think the Forge is a modest enterprise, barely surviving, but I have a lot of faith in it.)

Anyway, after all is said and done, have you considered renting out webspace?  I think a lot of the supposed 'indie-punk' game publishers might really love having a web address like "www.indie-rpgs.com/their_game_name."  Set your profit margin (don't forget to allow funds to pay for billing) and off you go; money to support the franchise.  (And you don't even need to advertise, if it bothers your conscience.)

Fang Langford


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Jason L Blair on January 10, 2002, 04:15:25 PM
Webspace is another good option. Of course, I have no idea what kinda control options Clinton has over the box. Can you set up separate FTP space, tertiary domains, etc, Clinton?


Title: Re: For the people who probably wouldn't respond to this
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 10, 2002, 04:19:21 PM
Fang,

Thanks for commenting. So far, the comments have all come from strong pro-Forge regulars, and while I appreciate that, I really wanted some opinions from people I wouldn't normally hear from.

Your post has just about convinced me to not acknowledge donations publicly. Everyone who donates will get a personalized e-mail, because I couldn't imagine not thanking everyone, but I see your point. I'm really afraid of elitism in this matter. I'm also really afraid of someone thinking, "Well, I donated, so you better listen to me." Nothing about social status on the Forge will change, whether you donate or not. It's only to pay server bills.

Quote from: Fang Langford

The second problem is overage.  What if the donations far and away exceed the needs of the site?  Where will this money go?  What if you are getting more in donations then you can think of things to improve the site?  


I did cover that in my sample page. If we receive enough money to pay a year's worth of server bills (about $225-250 for the server for the year, and $30 domain registration), then I'll just take down the button completely.

As far as renting out webspace goes - I'll think about it. I've thought about it in the past, and it's not a bad idea, although we're not set up for it from a server standpoint - no extra FTP accounts or anything. If I coded up a way to do this in PHP, it would be a for-profit thing. I'm not certain I want to mix profit and non-profit in that way.

(It'd be simple to do redirects, though, like making http://www.indie-rpgs.com/scattershot point to your site. I really wanted to sell e-mail addresses and redirects from the Forge for something like $5 a pop/year, but we only have 23 free e-mail addresses.)

Thanks again, Fang.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Zak Arntson on January 10, 2002, 04:23:01 PM
I'm all over the donation thing.  I was thinking about doing that with harlekin-maus.com, with corresponding goals (like um, one donation a year as my goal :)

As for the Forge, it's got enough readership, that I bet you guys could get some groovy donations. I know I would. But I could just drop by Clinton's pad and drop it off ... save y'all the PayPal fee.

And the CafePress thing is neat, too.  Mugs for the office, shirts for dress-down fridays .. all sorts of coolness there.

Another idea: Some kind of fun gaming jam, where prominent game designers of the Forge all get together and write a book or something. Essays, little games, thoughts, something.  And then it's sold, all profits to the Forge?


Title: donations
Post by: Bailey on January 10, 2002, 07:36:32 PM
Two comments regarding donations.

A nice way to recognize donors is to put up the name of the most recent donor and allow a little two line message that will be bumped when the next donation comes in.

Ext is there's gotta be an option besides paypal.  I've done been burned before.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Armin D. Sykes on January 10, 2002, 09:28:08 PM
I'm someone you wouldn't normally hear from, but I'm in a posting mood today.

Honestly, I can't fathom why anyone would have a problem with a donations page being available. Plenty of sites do that these days, and it seems to work pretty well for many of them. I also don't think any public listing of donors is necessary.

Armin


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Chris Passeno on January 11, 2002, 05:54:13 AM
The ideas expressed so far are great.  I'm fine with the donate if you want plan.  I do feel that a donation should have some reward, but not public recognition.  Don't get me wrong, the Forge is a very good reward.  

PBS stations give away something at different levels.  Promotional items can be really inexpensive.  How about giant d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 & d20 stress relievers.

I would participate in the PrintCafe designing.  I've been curious why there hasn't been promo-wear available already.

later,
Chris


Title: Re: For the people who probably wouldn't respond to this
Post by: Le Joueur on January 11, 2002, 07:26:10 AM
Quote from: Clinton R Nixon
Thanks for commenting. So far, the comments have all come from strong pro-Forge regulars, and while I appreciate that, I really wanted some opinions from people I wouldn't normally hear from.

Any time.  You know, in my occupation as Executive Regional Field Director for the Mid-Northwestern Devil’s Advocacy Department (at Large), this is a service I am bound to provide.

Fang Langford


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Paul Czege on January 11, 2002, 08:08:30 AM
A nice way to recognize donors is to put up the name of the most recent donor and allow a little two line message that will be bumped when the next donation comes in.

I like this better than almost any other suggestion for recognizing donations that I've ever heard. How about a little non-obtrusive sidebar box on the main Forge page to display these things. When someone makes a donation, the default text is something like, "A donation to The Forge has been received by Paul Czege," but it's an editable input box, so if the donor wants to put in "Happy Birthday John Wick," instead of receiving public acknowledgment for the donation, that's fine too. And they would expire from the box after two weeks or so.

I think what you don't want is a bunch of people in the memberlist labeled as donors. I don't think you want people to feel like they bought something. "I donated to this damn site, so playtest my game you dickheads," is a scary post to imagine.

Paul


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Trav on January 11, 2002, 12:10:47 PM
I know that I'm fairly new here, but I don't think that it is offensive to ask for donations.  This site is full of useful goodies, and I'd be happy to donate.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Zak Arntson on January 11, 2002, 12:23:27 PM
The only problem I'd have with just a single message with the last donation would be your message could get trumped.  I guess that would be incentive to donate more ...

But if we are going to have donation messages, why not the _latest_ message be displayed prominently (on the main forum page would be cool), and there could be a list of all donation messages somewhere?

That way happy birthday announcements and things like that won't disappear forever, and be replaced by something like "Anonymous donor donated." (or whatever the default message would be).

I think a page that lists donors and their messages would be great.  Especially if we could get some indie companies (or even talk some of the bigger companies) donating.  Wouldn't that be neat to see ... lists of donors, sorted by donation range.  Not exact donations, but list all the $50+ donors at the top, $10-49 next and $1-9 donors last or something.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 11, 2002, 12:37:23 PM
That sounds neat, but actually starts creating a chance for class strife again.

Ron and I have talked it over, and we're going to go with a completely anonymous scheme. You will get a message from us - I'm actually thinking about printing up some Forge stationary to send out snail mail messages on - but there will be no public recognition.

I think I will put up a little meter on the donation page showing how much server costs are for the year, and how close we are to that goal.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Zak Arntson on January 11, 2002, 12:43:08 PM
Quote from: Clinton R Nixon

That sounds neat, but actually starts creating a chance for class strife again.


Good point.  I forgot about the equality thing :)  I guess I'll have to throw my 1,000 bucks elsewhere.

Quote from: Clinton R Nixon

I think I will put up a little meter on the donation page showing how much server costs are for the year, and how close we are to that goal.


YES!!  This is my eventual plan for harlekin-maus.com. A little meter will not only show people that you have a concrete goal, but that it's possible to achieve. I think the incentive would be far greater when people actually see the difference they make.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Paul Czege on January 11, 2002, 01:38:37 PM
You will get a message from us - I'm actually thinking about printing up some Forge stationary to send out snail mail messages on

That sounds nice, classy and professional.

Paul


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Matt Gwinn on January 11, 2002, 03:17:49 PM
I'm fine with the idea of donations. The questions about anonymity and potentials for elitism have got me thinking.  

How is acknowledging donators from non donators and different from listing how many posts each member has?

I know for a fact that there is somewhat of a competition between members to have more posts than oneanother.  The number of posts I have often makes me feel a tad insignificant when compared to Paul or Mike (or maybe it's just their keen insight).

Not that I think this is a problem, but I don't see how things sudenly become touchy when money comes into it.

,Matt


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: greyorm on January 16, 2002, 07:06:55 AM
A little late on my part, but I agree: why the worry about donations?  It's a great idea, and I've been wondering why it hasn't been implemented yet.
I'm also interested in the cafe-press idea...never actually heard of the term before but I would be interested in helping out in that area graphically.

One note: I do think the wording on the donations page could be a little better (as written, certain short passages sound a little close to what might be called "self-gratifying" or "martyrdom," though I KNOW that isn't the intent of those passages).  I'll send a note Ron's way with a possible rewording for perusal.

Finally, the meter is an excellent idea, better than a "donor list," and serves the same purpose without glorifying any particular individual(s)...in fact, it supports the community-style of the Forge much more directly by showcasing how close WE are to OUR goal than how much person X or Y put us closer to the goal.
In other words, when the don-o-meter goes up, we can all be proud -- the entire Forge -- instead of just one person.


Title: Idea for member discussion (donations and hosting fees)
Post by: Clinton R. Nixon on January 16, 2002, 11:06:09 AM
Thanks for your support, everyone! The donation page is up - check out the main page to find it.

Also, much thanks to Raven for helping out with a needed re-write of the text. I think it's much better now, thanks to him.