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One Week Into Our May Pledge Drive…

During the five years we’ve been publishing FOSS Force, I’ve never spoken to you while wearing my publisher or editor hats, because I don’t want that aspect of my duties here to distract from how I’m viewed as a writer — never. As far as I’m concerned, writing is the important work I do here. It’s certainly the hardest.

It may seem odd, but with no budget, publishing and editing are relatively easy tasks. Budgetless publishing merely means scraping together enough money to keep the server paid, which isn’t very much. Budgetless editing only requires daily rounds of begging for content and countless heartfelt “thank yous” to volunteer writers.

Writing, on the other hand, is grueling labor. As sportswriter Red Smith is oft quoted as saying: “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”

All jokes aside…

A week ago today we began “May Pledge Month,” our first Indiegogo fundraising campaign. Our goal: to raise $6,000 to fund an expansion of our site for six months. The entirety of this amount will go to pay our writers, not as much as they deserve, to be sure, but at least enough to make their efforts worthwhile.

Our writers need to be paid, not only because it’s right, but because it’s necessary. Good writers with experience seldom work without pay, and when they do, for good reason they do it when they can find the time. As Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols pointed out yesterday, even writers need to “put food on the table, keep their Internet on, and a roof over their desktops.”

Having the funds available to offer our writers a paycheck, however meager, will enable us to increase our coverage and publish more articles than we do now. It will mean that we can hand out assignments to ensure that important stories currently being missed due to lack of resources are covered. Also, it’ll mean we’ll no longer be faced with decisions on whether to run an important story that won’t attract a lot of traffic rather than something sure to bring thousands of eyeballs to our site.

We faced just such a situation yesterday, after the popular online platform, WordPress, was upgraded to address several severe security threats. As we felt a responsibility to get this news published for the benefit of bloggers and other website owners who might still be vulnerable, we were forced to reschedule a review of the new Debian release which we were preparing for publication. We did this, even though WordPress security articles don’t generally sell a lot of papers and distro reviews generally generate a great deal of traffic. In the economy of the Internet, there is a direct correlation between traffic and income.

With the expanded coverage we have planned to begin ramping up at the completion of our fund drive, we’re expecting to see traffic to our site rise markedly, and are realistically expecting that this results in revenues from traditional advertising sources increasing by a factor of four or five — which would bring us to the brink of sustainability. A successful campaign will also help us in ways that might not be obvious.

For example, we hold about 30 percent of the available ad space on our site for the eventuality of corporate sponsorships, which would be a tremendous boost to our bottom line. This also wouldn’t make our pages more cluttered with ads, as all of these reserved spaces are already being used for site promotions and public service announcements — so ads are already there.

But so far, corporate sponsors have been impossible to find. Why? Because we’re below the radar. We aren’t big enough or well known enough, so potential sponsors have no way of judging whether investing in us would be a good investment for them, and for good reason, they’re not willing to take our word for it. A successful campaign could be used as evidence of our community support and become a great tool for us to use to potentially turn this around and get some sponsors on board.

Along the same lines, this contributions-as-votes-of-support will further improve our coverage of FOSS and free tech. Currently, we miss some important stories because we don’t know about them until it’s too late. We’re small, and not on anybody’s “go to” list, meaning free tech organizations don’t notify us of important developments and we often discover a story after it’s stale. Your votes of support through the dollars you give will help change that.

Unfortunately, right now our fundraising efforts don’t appear to be doing as well as we’d hoped, and I must admit to being more than a little concerned. At the end of our first week, nearly a quarter of the way through our campaign, we’ve raised $635 or eleven percent of our goal. At this rate, we’re on track to raise about $2,500 or a little over 40 percent of our goal by the time the campaign ends on May 31, enough to fund our expansion for 2 1/2 months, but not for the 6 months we need.

If FOSS Force is important to you and you see value in having an independent news and analysis site that focuses entirely on free and open source software and other aspects of free (as is freedom) technology, please make a contribution to our campaign. Don’t wait for others to give, figuring that we will make our goal without you. If everyone waits for others to give, then we obviously won’t raise the money we need. Your gift is important.


  1. Duncan Duncan May 9, 2015

    Big question. How much of FOSSForce is actually FOSS, and if not all of it is, why not, and if it all is, I see the wordpress and atahualpa links at the bottom of every page, and they’re GPLv2, but where’s the list of the other site freedomware you run (WP plugins, etc, you mentioned experimental plugins on an experimental site in a post some weeks ago), and why isn’t that information proudly made available, because it means that in keeping with the FOSSForce name you actually walk the walk as well as you talk the talk.

    Here’s why it matters. Some years ago I had a subscription to LWN’s a great site with somewhat more technical Linux coverage, particularly of the kernel, than most FLOSS news sites, and I highly value that resource, enough to subscribe to it.

    But, I didn’t always have time to actually read everything I’d like to there, which of course meant that some months my subscription wasn’t doing me much good. But being the FLOSS community beacon site I considered them to be, I was still proud to support them, even when I didn’t have the time to get much out of it personally.

    Then my conscience started bothering me. For many years LWN has pledged that at some point “real soon now” they intend to publish the site sources and make the site itself free software. But… over a decade has gone by, and over time, while many of the same hardware folks with formerly proprietaryware drivers that LWN (rightly) used to complain about, are now cooperating with the community and either directly sponsored freedomware drivers or at least made available the specs for community devs to develop to. The contrast with LWN’s still to be fulfilled pledge to publish its own site code “real soon now” eventually got too uncomfortable for my conscience to deal with. So I wrote an email explaining to Jon (Corbet, LWN founder and head editor) the situation, and why, until LWN opened up its own sources in keeping with the pledge to do so, I could no longer in good conscience continue to subscribe.

    I really /really/ wish I could; among other things the comment notifications LWN uses as a subscription perk are useful. But…

    I was justifying the subscription even when I couldn’t use it, by them being a beacon of the FLOSS community… and whatever the intentions, the fact remains that had those companies behaved as LWN, the would-be beacon of the FLOSS community, has, Linux would be a far bigger hassle to run than it is.

    So I’m no longer an LWN subscriber.

    The parallels should be clear, tho as with LWN, your site, your choice.

    Of course by the same token, my money, my choice, too. And while the money may not make much difference against a $6000 FOSSForce goal, I’m sure the funding for that new router I’m looking at to get beyond the 100 Mbit Ethernet and a/b/g wifi, would benefit /quite/ a bit from an extra $100 or so… Tho I’ll probably do something for FF either way, it’s just how much…

    Hard choice to make, thus the question.

  2. Christine Hall Christine Hall Post author | May 9, 2015

    @Duncan We have no plans to publish a list of the software we use to publish our site, but as far as we know, outside the services of our CDN, we use only free software.

    That being said, I think most if not all of us involved in the daily operations of FOSS Force believe in the freedom to choose. While I personally support those who wish to never use non-free software under any circumstances, I recognize that people, myself included, may want or need to use non-free software, however reluctantly, when no free alternative is available.

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