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The Root of all Evil?

By rusty in News
Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 04:05:39 PM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

Money. The issue had to come up eventually. It's just not possible to operate and maintain a website like this for free. Right now, things are OK, because I work for a very cool company that lets me soak up their bandwidth operating this site. And it looks like I'll soon be moving this server to a higher bandwidth colocation here in DC, and letting it serve kuro5hin.org full time (believe it or not, this site is serving off my workstation right now). So paying for hardware or connectivity is not an immediate issue. But there is still the matter of my time, which is pressed between paying work and Scoop development. I simply won't have the time to work on this site as much as I'd like unless I can finance it somehow. And like most of you, I simply loathe banner ads, and will do my damndest to never have them here. So I have some thoughts on what might happen, but I'd like your ideas. Read on for some more.

The ideal situation for me right now would be if someone would pay me to develop Scoop. That's my biggest concern-- I could and would continue to finance kuro5hin.org out of pocket if necessary, or perhaps whoever wanted to pay for Scoop development would agree to make kuro5hin.org financing part of the deal, as a sort of "testbed" and with a little "sponsored by" notice.

"Why would someone want to do this?" you might ask. Well, I can think of several ways Scoop might be profitable for some enterprising company. Selling the application on CD, and providing service and support, a la RedHat is one. Providing preinstalled servers running Scoop for clients, a la cobalt (sort of) is another. With some more development, Scoop could be a nifty corporate intranet news server, and with some other applications bundled in, it'd probably be the heart of a nice little intranet/extranet application. Not to mention the potential ad revenue that could come from a "news" section being added to some existing websites.

Like I said, that situation would be ideal. Less than ideal would be if I had to somehow leverage kuro5hin.org to fund further scoop development. I really, really don't want to do that, so let's pretend that's not an option for now.

Of course the final option, and the default one if nothing else changes, is maintain the status quo. I work on Scoop in my free time, maybe some other perl hackers get a hold of the code and figure out how it works (currently no easy task!) and help me out. I will keep working on it, regardless, but development is likely to be stop-and-go as other pressures come and go. This is workable, but not ideal.

But never fear. Scoop will always remain GPL. I will not agree to any deal which requires that that change (unless they want me to "Artistic" or "BSD" license it :-). And there might be some terrific option that I'm completely overlooking. It's the era of new business models-- anyone have one that would work here?


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The Root of all Evil? | 22 comments (22 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Re: The Root of all Evil? (none / 0) (#1)
by techt on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 05:37:06 PM EST

Have you thought about aproaching a Linux distributor such as Red Hat or SuSE? What about the Apache group/IBM?
Proud member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation!
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Re: The Root of all Evil? (none / 0) (#4)
by rusty on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 05:54:33 PM EST

Thought about it, vaguely. They were included in the cloud of companies who might be interested in funding a project like Scoop. Does anyone know how I'd go about approaching them? Who to talk to, what to tell them, etc? In honor of my current situation, I'm coining a new acronym: "IANAB" I Am Not A Businessman. And I don't really want to be, particularly. Any businessmen amongst you who have pertinent advice?

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: The Root of all Evil? (none / 0) (#2)
by Paul Dunne on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 05:37:54 PM EST

What's the problem with banner ads? Slashdot seems to handle them well: they sit up there a the top of the screen, are not very intrusive, and are generally not irrelevant to the /. audience. Surely kuro5hin wouldn't suffer too much from some of the same? It's probably because I use lynx, but banner ads don't bother me at all -- slashdot is one of the few sites that have even worked out how to display ads in a browser-neutral way -- with most other sites, I don't even see the ads.
Re: The Root of all Evil? (none / 0) (#3)
by rusty on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 05:51:35 PM EST

My problems with banner ads are twofold--
  • I don't see any value in them, other than slowing down page loads for most users. I don't remember the last time I clicked a banner ad, but I clearly remember the last time I sat around and waited for a page to render while my status bar read "Contacting host ads.greedybastards.com" because it was about five minutes ago. I don't want to base my site on what I feel are shaky economic foundations, really.
  • I don't really want to make money off kuro5hin.org. That's not why it's here at all. What I want to do is work on Scoop. My problem is not really that kuro5hin is draining my wallet, because it's not. My problem is that I don't have enough time to work on the software behind it. Running ads just feels wrong for the site, somehow, to me.
Now, I may have to run them, eventually, for one reason or another. And I'm glad at least one of you wouldn't be bothered by them. I would be bothered, though, and anyway, I'm kind of fond of being an ad-free zone in the endless stream of advertiser-supported media we all are exposed to every day.

But you can bet that if I ever do run ads, you'll see them in lynx too ;-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

things. take. time. (none / 0) (#12)
by Philipp on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 10:46:59 PM EST

My problem is that I don't have enough time to work on the software behind it.

I don't think that you will be able to quit your job and live off programming Scoop any time soon. If you don't have the time, make sure it's open source enough and others will help. There is no harm in slow progress - Rome was not build in a day. Be patient :-)

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

Banner ads are fine (none / 0) (#5)
by perplexed on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 06:26:54 PM EST

I have no problem with banner ads. In fact, I click more banner ads off of Slashdot than any other website-- so if the ads are relevant I would actually consider them a good thing.

(of course, I have *.doubleclick.com, ads*.zdnet.com, etc.. pointing to

[ Parent ]
Re: The Root of all Evil? (none / 0) (#11)
by moonboy on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 09:28:29 PM EST

Banner ads are fine. Nothing wrong with paying the bills. As someone else already stated, there is another site that uses them and it doesn't really take away from the site. No big deal. I don't think anyone could fault you and if so, let them pitch in some $$. Do what you've got to do.

By the way, great job with the site. It looks excellent! Keep up the great work.


"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." - Albert Einstein

[ Parent ]
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of ev (none / 0) (#6)
by c.jaeger on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 06:50:51 PM EST

3 points to make here.

  • First off, the scripture quote was attention grabbing, but slightly off topic. The source can be found at 1 Timothy 6:10, and is meant to imply not that $ is evil, but the overriding desire for it as being first in ones life is evil. And I'm sure many here have seen that both in paupers (who rob convenience stores) and prosperous people (who rob companies by charging for buggy software/Windoze).
  • 2nd, since $ isn't the issue but a desire to keep the bandwidth with a very high signal to noise ratio, how about allowing sponsorship from geek companies via a text only area <read no GIFs/banner ads> near the top of the home page. This additional revenue could possibly help to make a full-time job transition to part time so that remaining time can be spent on Scoop.
  • I'd personally like to have an abundance of $ so that I could spend my time developing the next killer app, patent it, and make it GPL. Plus the $ could buy some really neat Nerf guns and computers.

My opinions are strictly those of a digithead swimming against the tide of mediocrity espoused by: hammernoodles, knuckleheads, and induhviduals.
Re: For the love of money is a root of all kinds o (none / 0) (#7)
by rusty on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 07:52:22 PM EST

Your points:

1) Yes, I know the quote's about loving money, not money itself. Hey, titles are there mostly to grab attention, aren't they? ;-)

2) More people seem to be ok with the idea of ads than I expected. I might have to revise my opinion of that option. I would at least not allow animated banners, and definitely no java ads. I still kinda don't want to go there, but now I feel like a minority.

3) Nerf guns and computers are cool. I'd like to buy more paintball gear. But in any case, I'm not talking about getting filthy stinking rich here. I just would like to be able to spend the time I need to on Scoop without it taking away from my real job.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: For the love of money is a root of all kinds o (none / 0) (#13)
by typhatix on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 11:13:27 PM EST

Summarizing what I feel (and it seems a lot of responses have expressed):

There is no problem with banner ads. But PLEASE ban anything like "punch the monkey" or anything flashing, javascript enabled, etc. I sometimes like to follow them if it offers a service I am interested in, but it only turns me off if it annoys me and/or makes the site I actually care to see take a long time to load. These issues seem mainly dependant upon how and who provides the banner ads though. Whatever you end up choosing, good luck with scoop and kuro5hin.org.

[ Parent ]
Re: For the love of money is a root of all kinds o (none / 0) (#14)
by driph on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 11:48:23 PM EST

Well, you can do what I did today. Just 86ed myself from my current place of employment..
Actually, I'm probably not completely out of there, I'll be doing much of the same work I did for them before on a freelance level.. I've had quite a few offers in the past week or so for work, and have really wanted to do my own thing for a while.
Anyways, this means I now find myself with some free time....if you need any work done of a design/graphical nature for the site, lemme know..

On the banner ads, I agree.. most companies arent willing to pay too much for a placement anymore.. from my experience, most ad rotation tends to be swaps, or part of other deals cut.. but since this is a very niche crowd, you may be able to sell some adspace to the open source community if it came down to it.
Having a company fund your development is a good idea.. bundling Scoop would be a great add on to a CD.. maybe Caldera?

Yes, I need to pick up a decent paintball gun.. and I've got a bag o balls sitting in the closet waiting for me to hit the field again..

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]
Re: For the love of money is a root of all kinds o (none / 0) (#17)
by ramses0 on Wed Feb 23, 2000 at 03:18:35 AM EST

Maybe after a week or so you could post a "story" about it... I'm looking at entering the job market, and would like to hear about this career option that you've chosen.

Something like: "I used to do this, but now I do that ... but this is a disadvantage ... I am [un]satisfied with this move. How do you like your job"

my 0.02

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]
Re: For the love of money is a root of all kinds o (none / 0) (#19)
by driph on Wed Feb 23, 2000 at 06:45:12 AM EST

Sure, I could do something like that. I've worked freelance off and on in the past, but this time I'm going at it with gusto in an attempt to work for myself and continue working for myself.

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]
banner ads are okay (none / 0) (#8)
by xah on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 08:03:53 PM EST

I personally don't mind the annoyance, as long as they aren't the "blinking text" type of ad, as on this site (don't click on that.) If you do banner ads, though, expect to lose the bandwidth your company is currently giving you, since kuro5hin will turn into a kind of commercial venture.

As for scoop, you could possibly start your own business that offers support for scoop. You could add new functionality like nntp, for example, and then explore whether there is really a market for scoop support. Take your time with that and do lots of research beforehand, though. Also, you may have to modify your non-compete agreement with your current employer.

Good luck.

Re: The Root of all Evil? (none / 0) (#9)
by rongen on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 08:32:33 PM EST

I just wanted to add my two cents here... I think that people who are
heavily into the Internet and computer programming, etc. tend to be
"modification junkies". There was a time when people only fixed things
when they were broken. I don't follow this philosophy but I am coming
to appreciate it a bit more as my free time dwindles from minimal to

If you asked me (and hey, it's not like you did!) I would say, "Leave
the site as-is, adding to it only when you feel like it". It's a great
place, it works. Enjoy it for a while! If you take this attitude you
can stop worrying about time spent on kuro5hin eating away at time
which could be better spent earning money, developing Scoop, or
playing with a cat.

Just an opinion! :)
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
Hmmmmmm (none / 0) (#10)
by Emacs on Tue Feb 22, 2000 at 08:33:18 PM EST

My thoughts

1) I have no problem with a banner ad or two provided they are tastefull and not obtrusive. Slashdot is a good example. In fact I think Slashdot is about the only site I have ever clicked on a banner ad.

2) Why not try to recuit a few perl hackers and make it a true open source project. I'm guessing you might find a few coders willing to pitch in and help.

3) You could disperse the revenue generated by the banner ads to the volunteer hackers. I'm sure a couple extra bucks would sit well in the pocket of a starving college student. Of course you would then have to deal with being an actual business if you went that route.

4) Even if you just give a few hours of your time to the site I'm guessing it would progress along just fine. I think your off to a real good start

5) Don't let yourself get stressed out with the site, have some fun with it and see where it goes.

Good Luck Rusty

Re: Hmmmmmm (none / 0) (#15)
by rusty on Wed Feb 23, 2000 at 01:21:50 AM EST

Good advice, from you, and from most of the posters in this thread. You're all right, sometimes I worry too much.

Conversations with Driph have brought me to this as a potentially good compromise. What if the ads were in a "box" to the right of the page. The ground rules would be:

  • No blinky ads
  • No animation
  • No Java
  • No javascript
  • No forms
  • Advertisers get one image and 50 words of text to get their message across
  • Image Size = 320x240 (same size as the mini rusty-cam display)
  • And, The Kicker: Users could optionally turn off the ad box.
That's right, you could elect not to see it. Advertisers would be charged on a per-impression basis, so they're not paying for views that don't happen, obviously. That way, anyone who sees the ad has elected to see it. It would be interesting for me to see how click-through compares with a system like this. I bet it'd be much higher than for "enforced" advertising. I'd also be curious as to how many people choose to leave it on.

That idea actually has me kind of wanting to try it. :-) But nevertheless, I don't have that much traffic yet, and there's a bunch of other things I want to do first, so it'll be back burnered for a while. But what do you guys think about such a scheme?

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Hmmmmmm (none / 0) (#16)
by ramses0 on Wed Feb 23, 2000 at 03:16:15 AM EST

That sounds -great- ... I never click ads anyway, but would be much more likely to go to "advertising.com", whenever I want to buy a car, or a bread machine, or whatever, and then look at their ads and/or commercials.

Since it's all about pay-per-impression anyway, it's a perfect little idea. Keep it in mind. ;^)=

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]
Bandwidth Hogger (none / 0) (#18)
by Anonymous Hero on Wed Feb 23, 2000 at 06:22:03 AM EST

You know what is really hogging your bandwidth? The RustyCam.

It sends not one but three pictures of you down to my computer (in the UK) and takes a few seconds to do so. And I go to the front page quite a lot, so it reloads quite a lot (which is actually quite annoying, believe it or not).

Re: Bandwidth Hogger (none / 0) (#20)
by rusty on Wed Feb 23, 2000 at 12:30:04 PM EST

Yeah, that's true. It's actually a server-push CGI sending the images. I like this, becasue it ensures you get a fresh image every time, not a stale cache image. But I should reset the cutoff to only send one image at a time.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: The Root of all Evil? (none / 0) (#21)
by henrik on Wed Feb 23, 2000 at 04:09:07 PM EST

Hmm.. i remember this happening on slashdot, Rob saying "I gotta pay for all this somehow". Soon the banner adds appeared, more and more people came - moderation became neccecary. Then came the troll wars, the incompetent moderation, the karma whoring.

Is there anyway kuro5hin can avoid to become what slashdot is? I'd think the only way to do that would be to keep the userbase small - but that's both silly and impossible.

Any ideas? :)

BTW, i don't have anything against banner adds, they're fine. (slashdot is just about the only place where i click on the adds)

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!
Re: The Root of all Evil? (none / 0) (#22)
by rusty on Wed Feb 23, 2000 at 04:31:10 PM EST

My three-pronged plan to avoid becoming what /. became:
  • Trolls get no quarter, and no foothold.
  • If something isn't working, I will change it.
  • I will ask you what we should do, rather than hand down pronouncements from on high. And when you tell me, I will listen.
That, I think, is the best I can do.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
The Root of all Evil? | 22 comments (22 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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