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February 16th, 2016

What a Deal: Ad-Free, No CAPTCHA and You Help Keep Us Funded

Things were going good for our Indiegogo fundraising campaign, then they stalled.

In case you don’t know, we’re in the midst of our 2016 Indiegogo fundraising campaign, seeking to raise a total of $3,700 to keep us funded. Actually, this is the amount by which we missed our last fundraising campaign last May, in which you generously contributed $2,300 to FOSS Force to enable us to offer a small amount of pay to our writers. The money contributed to our current campaign will be spent the same way. If we’re successful, this will fund us until at least the end of the year and perhaps forever, if revenue from other sources such as advertising continues to rise. The campaign went up in early January and currently has 23 days left.

Seven days ago, when we hit the halfway point of the campaign, things were looking good. With 30 days left in the campaign, we were only three percentage points from having raised half of our campaign goal. Our self-set daily goal, the amount we need to collect on a daily basis to meet our goal, was stable at around $55. Then things came to a screeching halt. Since February 7, the campaign has seen only two contributions for a total of $35, which has pushed our daily goal up to $85.

We need to turn this around. Our funding goal is not arbitrary, not if we are to continue to offer you at least the same level of coverage as you have come to expect from us. If we don’t make our goal it will mean we’ll have to cut back on our content — the only place we can cut — offering you less just when we need to be offering you more. This, of course, will lead to lower traffic to our site, which will lead to lower ad revenue…I think you see where this is going.

While we need some contributions in the $100 plus range to get us on track, we also need smaller, meat and potatoes contributions from our readership. If you go to our Indiegogo page, you’ll see we’re offering some perks as our way of saying “thank you” for your contribution of $25, $50 or $75 dollars that will help make you a more active participant at FOSS Force.

I’d like to talk to you about two of these perks.

We know that many of you who visit FOSS Force regularly use ad blocking software, or else block ads by some other method. We’re completely okay with that, even though we depend on advertising revenue to keep the bills paid. As long as the big ad networks, upon which small sites such as FOSS Force must depend, continue to act with wanton disregard of users’ privacy rights, we don’t blame you. Even if you block ads simply because you don’t like ads, that’s also fine and we’re good with that. We’re free tech advocates. It’s your computer and you’re free — and should be free — to use it as you want.

The problem is that when you block ads on FOSS Force you deny us of revenue, while our content — which costs money to produce and to deliver — remains free to you. You could whitelist us, so that our ads show when you visit our site, but that might defeat your purpose for blocking ads, especially if you are doing so to protect your privacy. This poses a dilemma, no? One solution would be to go to our Indiegogo campaign and make a small contribution of $10 or more, which would more than compensate us for any revenue we might lose due to the blocked ads. Another thing you could do is take out an annual membership.

Our membership program began in January when we noticed that some of you were mentioning in the comments on our site that you sometimes have trouble navigating through the CAPTCHA when making comments on our articles. Unfortunately, CAPTCHAs are necessary to keep bots from posting comment spam or trying to compromise the site with SQL injection techniques and the like. So we began offering what we called a “Frequent Commenter Membership” as a $25 perk as part to our fundraising campaign. At first, all the membership offered was the ability to login to FOSS Force and post comments with no need to jump through any hoops, such as entering an email address with every comment (another necessary security measure) or having to deal with CAPTCHAs.

But then we started thinking about the idea of memberships, and grew excited as we began to see possibilities, other things we could do with this program. The first thing we did was to remove all ads for logged-in visitors, and set up a special membership area where we could publish content available to our members only. Currently, since we only have a few members signed-up, the “members only” content is limited to polls and quizzes going up a day early for our members, but that will change as our membership grows.

We have some grand plans and ideas. We’d like to quickly grow our membership to 50-100 members, a small number, but large enough to make more things feasible for our membership. For example, we already have plans to add a private messaging or chat feature as soon as our membership numbers grow, which will allow members to hold private conversations with each other.

Another idea which excites us is the notion of starting “members only” discussion groups. One thing we know about our readers is that, by and large, you’re a pretty smart bunch. Who knows? With discussion groups we might be able to come up with some solutions to some issues facing the free tech community. Members who are so inclined could organize, form groups and committees and work to to find solutions for such issues as Internet privacy or the Linux Foundation’s focus on the enterprise to the exclusion of the user community.

Most of these plans, however, will have to be put on hold until our community is large enough to make them viable, which is another reason why we ask you to go ahead and sign up now. In other words, let’s get those numbers up.

Is this a way for FOSS Force to make money by collecting membership dues? Sure. We need to be financially stable if we are to be a benefit to our members. If we are stable, then we can offer the online infrastructure to make it all happen — and down the road we’ll be able to offer support for member activities in a variety of ways.

But that’s putting the cart before the horse. Right now we have to get those first 50 members.

Starting today, anyone who makes at least a $25 contribution to our Indiegogo campaign, no matter what perk they choose, will be offered a one year membership in order to help us grow our membership numbers. After you make your contribution, we’ll contact you by email, asking only for the email address you’d like associated with your member account and the username you’d like to use (which will be the name that will show up automatically when you comment on articles). Within 24 hours after that, we’ll email your login information and you’ll be part of our membership community.

If you wish to make a contribution to FOSS Force, but aren’t interested in becoming a member, the only email you’ll receive is the one “thank you” email from us, in which we’ll offer you the chance to become a member. We won’t spam you, or continue to nag you into joining our program. The only contributors who will receive more than one email are those who specifically sign-up for the membership program, who we will attempt to contact three times.

We need your contributions if we are to continue to serve you. I ask that you contribute what you can to help our fundraising effort get back on track. Right now, with 23 days left in our campaign, we need to raise $1,920 to meet our goal. For over five years we’ve fought the good fight for you and with you. Often you don’t agree with us — and that’s a good thing. Protecting free software and free tech requires free thinkers. We toe to no party line and never will, but we relish moments when those with differing viewpoints come together — not to convert one another to a particular way of thinking — but to hash things out and find common ground.

Please make a contribution. And while you’re on our Indiegogo page, I ask you to give serious consideration to joining us as a member. Remember the adage: the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

4 comments to What a Deal: Ad-Free, No CAPTCHA and You Help Keep Us Funded

  • Greg R.

    Seeing that AdBlock Plus is cutting into your revenue, I have white-listed fossforce.com So far, yours is the only site for which I have done this. I value your content, but don’t necessarily share your political views, so I am hoping that white-listing your site will provide some measure of support without the need for me to shell out cash. Good luck with the campaign.

  • @Greg Thank you Greg. Isn’t it nice that we can sometimes have a differing of opinions and still show support for each other? 🙂

  • Greg R.

    I agree with you completely.

  • jbiddy

    Thank you for providing a membership. I’m happy to support this great website. Sorry to hear fund raising has slowed down. I will do another push on social media, there are a great number of FOSS supporters and users on the *Diaspora network.