94 votes

Added a page showing details of Tildes's financials, as well as a monthly donation goal

On the home page of Tildes, there's now a monthly donation goal meter shown at the top of the sidebar. The "(more details)" link in the box goes to a new Financials page, which shows the current expenses and income for Tildes for this month.

This is information that I've always been meaning to make public, and the original announcement blog post even mentioned it as an intention. So far it only includes the current month, but I'm intending to add information about past income and expenses eventually as well.

The Financials page should mostly explain itself, but I want to talk a little more about the goal specifically and why it seems to be set unrealistically high. To be clear, it probably is unrealistically high at this point, but I think it's important to be honest about where the next "stage" in Tildes's sustainability is, and how far away from it we currently are. I could have set the goal to a lower number to make it more achievable, but that would really just be arbitrary and wouldn't represent any meaningful threshold.

The first important milestone was making sure that all the actual expenses were paid every month, so that keeping the site up wasn't actively costing me money. We're long past that point and almost always have been, which is great on its own—so many businesses and sites never reach that "break even" point and are forced to shut down, but there's absolutely no danger of that happening with Tildes. For how small and young the site is, it's amazing that we've already reached that goal.

The next milestone, which the current goal represents, is making it so that I'm not effectively donating my time to continue maintaining and developing the site, which means being able to pay myself enough that I can think of Tildes as a "real job". As you can see, we're still pretty far from that point right now, but I think it's a good reminder (especially to myself) to have the meter showing it. As I said in another comment recently, there are other things I should probably focus my efforts on more that would help, and this will be a prominent reminder of that.

I also want to mention that the overall situation isn't quite as bleak as the goal makes it look. There have been multiple incredibly generous one-time donations made over the last year and a half that you won't see in the current month's numbers, and that's absolutely made a huge difference. I'll try to get the historical information added before too long so that the picture is more complete.

Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions, and thanks again for all of your contributions, whether they're actual donations or just being active and contributing to the site in that way. It's all important, and I greatly appreciate all of it.

And as usual, I've given everyone 10 invites, accessible on the invite page.

20 comments

  1. [4]
    AugustusFerdinand
    (edited )
    Link
    I applaud the transparency and fully support the give @Deimos a job goal. Question: One of the frequent points of contention on reddit among moderators is that we are free labor that goes very...

    I applaud the transparency and fully support the give @Deimos a job goal.

    Question:

    One of the frequent points of contention on reddit among moderators is that we are free labor that goes very much unappreciated yet expected to adhere to more and more stringent rules and content quality standards; all while being completely unrewarded for such. This has, unsurprisingly, caused some moderators to succumb to outside forces that will compensate them to run the sub in a manner favorable to them or subs that moderators have simply turned into their own profit centers.

    If Tildes is ever to have moderators, will they be compensated or employed for doing so?

    22 votes
    1. [3]
      Deimos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Tildes isn't really intended to have defined moderators (the long-term goal is to spread the work out over active, trusted users), but no, I can't see that ever being feasible in any way. The...

      Tildes isn't really intended to have defined moderators (the long-term goal is to spread the work out over active, trusted users), but no, I can't see that ever being feasible in any way. The logistics and legalities of paying moderators are so complex that I don't think any site will ever do it.

      I hope that someday Tildes will have enough money to pay someone to do more of an official "community manager" role, but paying users isn't a practical possibility.

      28 votes
      1. [2]
        rogue_cricket
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        MetaFilter already does this. Its moderators work in shifts (I think full time, though they may be part-time). They are hired from the community by the business as employees through a pretty...

        The logistics and legalities of paying moderators are so complex that I don't think any site will ever do it.

        MetaFilter already does this. Its moderators work in shifts (I think full time, though they may be part-time). They are hired from the community by the business as employees through a pretty typical job application process... the position is announced, applications come in, candidates are interviewed and one is hired. So in that sense they might be considered more community managers, but really they do moderate the site - they approve or remove submissions, anonymize replies by request, remove unhelpful or mean comments and spam, and chime in when discussions get off-track or insulting.

        If you're referring to a system like Reddit's, where moderators are just whoever gets the space first and they recruit their friends on as other moderators, and there's no organization as to what hours they work and so on - yeah, that'd be wild.

        I'm not saying that this is right for Tildes, of course! I agree, it doesn't seem workable or really all that necessary for the foreseeable future. But it's definitely been done, you just need to get away from the typical paradigm of volunteers and their buddies.

        9 votes
        1. Deimos
          Link Parent
          Right, Metafilter hires moderators as actual employees/contractors, which is definitely possible and works fine. The case I'm talking about is brought up fairly often on "community moderated"...

          Right, Metafilter hires moderators as actual employees/contractors, which is definitely possible and works fine. The case I'm talking about is brought up fairly often on "community moderated" sites like Reddit, StackExchange, etc. where people think that the community moderators should somehow get paid for the work they're doing, but without really having an official employment relationship with the company.

          6 votes
  2. [2]
    pseudochron
    Link
    Are there more domains than just tildes.net and tild.es? That seems high for two domain renewals.

    Domain name renewals ($72.62 annually)

    Are there more domains than just tildes.net and tild.es? That seems high for two domain renewals.

    21 votes
    1. Deimos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Yes, I own 5 domains related to Tildes in total: tildes.net, tildes.org, tild.es, spectria.net, and spectria.org (Spectria is the name of the non-profit corporation). The other three you didn't...

      Yes, I own 5 domains related to Tildes in total: tildes.net, tildes.org, tild.es, spectria.net, and spectria.org (Spectria is the name of the non-profit corporation). The other three you didn't list aren't currently used for anything, but it's best to own them.

      Edit: I'll add that into the expense description, since it'll probably be common for people to wonder about.

      27 votes
  3. [5]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I know it's sort of redundant, but have you considered adding some of the info in this post somewhere more visible (e.g. maybe a link to here in the donation meter window itself, or in the...

    I know it's sort of redundant, but have you considered adding some of the info in this post somewhere more visible (e.g. maybe a link to here in the donation meter window itself, or in the financials page)?

    The reason I ask is that once this post stops being active, most people probably won't ever see it... and without the additional context from here, them seeing the donation goal not being met every month may discourage them if they don't realize it's intentionally a bit "unrealistic" to achieve right now. :P

    16 votes
    1. Wes
      Link Parent
      Maybe a threshold bar that signified "minimum requirement" and "optimal goal"?

      Maybe a threshold bar that signified "minimum requirement" and "optimal goal"?

      12 votes
    2. Tau_Zero
      Link Parent
      Something as simple as two bars labeled like, "Donation goal" and "Stretch Goal", where the former is more prominent and initially based on cost to run (with a little padding), while the latter is...

      Something as simple as two bars labeled like, "Donation goal" and "Stretch Goal", where the former is more prominent and initially based on cost to run (with a little padding), while the latter is more subtle and based on the 3k/mo longshot. Over time, as the main donation goal is hit, it can be expanded until it eventually becomes the 3k/mo goal.

      9 votes
    3. [2]
      Deimos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      The Financials page does explain it too, though it's briefer than this post. I played with a few different layouts showing the expenses goal separately, but I think we need to be careful of going...

      The Financials page does explain it too, though it's briefer than this post.

      I played with a few different layouts showing the expenses goal separately, but I think we need to be careful of going much in the opposite direction too. We don't want it to be interpreted as "donations aren't important, the site already has more money than it needs" just because the expenses are covered. Me being able to get paid shouldn't be considered a "stretch goal".

      The way the bar works now (depending on theme, but generally true), it will be red if it's below the amount needed for expenses, green if it gets above 75%, and yellow/orange when it's between those. The red case should probably never happen though, because the monthly pledges/subscriptions are higher than the expenses, so we're always starting above that point.

      6 votes
      1. cfabbro
        Link Parent
        LOL... Yeah, I think "stretch goal" is definitely the wrong word to use for trying to make sure you can actually earn a livable wage for all your hard work. I just worry that without some clearer...

        LOL... Yeah, I think "stretch goal" is definitely the wrong word to use for trying to make sure you can actually earn a livable wage for all your hard work. I just worry that without some clearer indication of progress than just a mild colour change, and with such a huge gap between the current donation level and the goal, people may get the wrong idea and/or feel discouraged. I don't really know how best to solve that... it's just something I do think should be considered, is all.

        6 votes
  4. vaddi
    Link
    This is really cool. I'm glad it is starting to become more common in FOSS services to show detailed finantial situation. Another example of this is sourcehut.

    This is really cool. I'm glad it is starting to become more common in FOSS services to show detailed finantial situation. Another example of this is sourcehut.

    12 votes
  5. Rez
    Link
    For the YangGangers and basic income fans on Tildes, we should in the short-term shoot for getting the site up to $1,000 in monthly income.

    For the YangGangers and basic income fans on Tildes, we should in the short-term shoot for getting the site up to $1,000 in monthly income.

    7 votes
  6. [5]
    spacecowboy
    Link
    One thing that concerns me about donations is that they depend on your assessment of how much is "good enough". So the more people donate, the less people feel they need to support. The...

    One thing that concerns me about donations is that they depend on your assessment of how much is "good enough". So the more people donate, the less people feel they need to support.

    The equilibrium seems to be the state of a constant struggle to survive.

    Am I wrong? Are there examples of donation supported projects that are more than a typical full-time salary?

    4 votes
    1. Deimos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      It varies, but there are certainly all sorts of successful donation-dependent non-profit/charity projects and companies around the world. On the internet, Wikipedia is probably the largest...

      It varies, but there are certainly all sorts of successful donation-dependent non-profit/charity projects and companies around the world.

      On the internet, Wikipedia is probably the largest example, receiving about $100 million in donations a year, employing a staff of hundreds, and with about $150M in the bank.

      There are quite a few individual developers who manage to do well too. One example I know of offhand is the developer of Vue.js, who receives about $20,000/month on Patreon, as well as more through other donation methods.

      9 votes
    2. mat
      Link Parent
      Sure, there's plenty. Patreon is full of people making serious amounts of money from donations. How about Contrapoints? - Natalie publishes one video a month and is currently taking home a minimum...

      Sure, there's plenty. Patreon is full of people making serious amounts of money from donations.

      How about Contrapoints? - Natalie publishes one video a month and is currently taking home a minimum of $36K a month via Patreon, which is somewhat over the US average salary of $56k a year.

      6 votes
    3. Amarok
      Link Parent
      How about MorePurpleMoreBetter's D&D Character Sheets? Dude's up to $7000/month just for creating the world's first not-shit digital character sheets, and he's been running at that level for...

      How about MorePurpleMoreBetter's D&D Character Sheets? Dude's up to $7000/month just for creating the world's first not-shit digital character sheets, and he's been running at that level for years. Mostly from a large number of patrons just tossing him a dollar. He's well ahead of where Deimos needs to be.

      5 votes
    4. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Another example for the pile: the podcast Chapo Trap House makes an astounding $143,000 per month on Patreon.

      Another example for the pile: the podcast Chapo Trap House makes an astounding $143,000 per month on Patreon.

      5 votes
  7. [2]
    spacecowboy
    Link
    Aren't there expenses associated just running a nonprofit? E.g. filing taxes every year (even if there is no income tax for nonprofits)?

    Aren't there expenses associated just running a nonprofit? E.g. filing taxes every year (even if there is no income tax for nonprofits)?

    3 votes
    1. Deimos
      Link Parent
      There are some, but most of the significant ones have been in the past such as paying a legal firm to do the incorporation as a non-profit, writing the corporate bylaws, etc. Those will be added...

      There are some, but most of the significant ones have been in the past such as paying a legal firm to do the incorporation as a non-profit, writing the corporate bylaws, etc. Those will be added as part of the historical data when I include that. Most corporate filings don't have any fees and I can just do them myself, because Tildes is still a small and simple operation. In the future it might get to a point where it's complex enough that I need to hire an accountant or other specialists, but it's not a concern yet.

      5 votes