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posted by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @02:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the expecting-torchs-and-pitchforks dept.
NOTE: For those who aren't interested in "meta" articles, just ignore this one. There's an update coming down the pipe to allow people to filter out content from the main page which will hopefully be live rather soon.

As some have may gathered, given our recent push to collect statistics on the site, we're working hard to identify and understand viable fundraising methods that we can use to keep SoylentNews up and running without alienating the community. We are looking at a number of options, including subscriptions for premium services, and it remains our goal to avoid running ads on the site, if at all possible. As it turns out, getting a firm grasp on realistic fundraising estimates has proven to be the determining factor in how we incorporate.

As I've stated previously, I had intended for us to start by forming a not-for-profit (NFP) with the possibility of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and I had several conversations with various legal and tax authorities about this. The idea was that the NFP would serve as an umbrella organization, under which independent sites, including SoylentNews, could operate. What I didn't realize at the time was that setting up a structure like this from the beginning would be far more difficult and expensive than I anticipated. So, simply put, we've found it necessary to change plans. As described in more detail below, NFPs have heavier burdens due to the strict rules imposed on them for the usage of revenue and resources. Furthermore, in talking with our prospective lawyer and accountant, it quickly became evident that we would have significant burdens and hurdles to clear if we proceeded with the original plan to set up the NFP immediately. When I met face to face with the staff, we began working out what the costs of NFP incorporation was going to look like, and it was getting close to $8,000 USD simply to get everything vetted by the lawyer and accountant because of retainers and other such overhead; this was just to get things established and did not deal with items such as ongoing financial reporting and other requirements.

I always wanted SoylentNews (SN) and its staff to have relative autonomy as a not-for-profit, with the site and its community paramount, and to slowly morph to a fully democratic model once we were relatively stable. To do so would require a defined relationship between SoylentNews and the NFP in each organization's bylaws, which opened all sorts of legal questions on how funding and such would be handled. It quickly became evident that the cost of setting up this kind of structure would be very high, and it was unclear if SoylentNews could re-coup those costs in a timely matter. We could easily end up in a situation where resources were exhausted and yet we needed more help to get things established. It would be an unworkable situation, and not one that would bode well for the future of the site.

Here's a direct example: in the United States, NFPs need to be licensed to perform fundraising in each individual state they're receiving money from. As I outlined in both the guiding statement and the manifesto, one of the ways of raising revenue is to offer subscriptions. The money for those subscriptions would be used to support site operations. Would that be considered fundraising?

Our lawyer hi-lighted this issue when we proposed our revenue models, and wasn't sure, he said he'd have to forward the question to a certified public account or to the state for an answer. This is only one example of "known unknowns" we came up with (mrcoolbp filled two legal sized pages with these when we sat face to face). Needless to say, the situation wasn't looking good, but we've come up with a plan, and I want the community to vet it before we proceed.
In general, companies (not NFPs) have a legal responsibility to raise funds and revenue for their owners, a concept known as "shareholder primacy", first defined in Dodge v. Ford Motor Company, while not-for-profits only exist to further their mission (in exchange for the possibility of eventually getting tax-exempt status), and are subject to strict and complicated rules which are often not clear cut. SoylentNews and its staff itself exist to serve its community and its mission - in spirit, we're already a not-for-profit - but at this moment we simply don't have the resources to avoid hitting landmines in what has proven to be very murky waters.

This left us in a difficult catch-22. We could proceed with what resources we had, and risk everything blowing up in our face or try to find a simpler way to get things set up in the short term to allow us to begin fundraising to keep the site running. Of course, I realized that if we were to about-face and incorporate as a for-profit, it would be both a slap in the face of the community and would risk destroying the rapport we built up with the community and well as any trust or good-will we've built up since go-live. Fortunately, we think we've found a way to proceed that will maintain the spirit of what I want SoylentNews to be.

During our face to face, matt_ offered an alternative that I had not previously heard of: a benefit corporation (also known as a B Corp). For those of you scratching your heads wondering what it is, you're not alone. Benefit corporations are a new type of corporation that came to exist in 2010. Summed up, a benefit corporation is a for-profit corporation that exists for public benefit and can be seen as a middle ground between a traditional for-profit entity and a not-for-profit. Under a B corporation, the board of directors are bound to "pursuing the creation of general public benefit, and any named specific public benefits, is considered to be in the best interests of the corporation." In line with this, our certificate of incorporation would contain the following statement, or one like it: The specific public benefit purpose of the corporation is to engage in and promote free, open journalism through the production and publication, and community-sourced analysis and discussion of news and original and third-party-sourced works of fact and opinion. Under a B corporation, as long as we succeed in this mission, we will have, by definition, fulfilled our corporate responsibility.

I realize this is a fairly large departure from what our original plan was, but I think it would be folly to charge ahead with the original plan in light of what we know now with the resources we have available. As a B corporation, we will be able to operate as a traditional corporation in terms of both raising and spending revenue and would be treading in much safer legal waters. Furthermore, our incorporation costs will be in the hundreds, not thousands, of dollars. Finally, and most critically, setting the site up in this way does not prevent us from establishing the not-for-profit in the future once we are financially stable. As described below, this plan allows us to turn into (technically, be acquired by) the not-for-profit, if and when doing so becomes financially possible.

I do, however, want to make this clear, right here, right now. I'm not going to do something that's going to outrage the community. If you think we're in error, let us know. If we have to, we'll scrap the B corporation, and figure out a way to make things work as a pure not-for-profit. I'll be damned before I piss off the community and cause a "beta-like" folly which alienates everyone -- I'm pretty sure all the staff would agree with that sentiment. The wikipedia page and the Benefit Corporation Information Center have considerably more detail; I ask that folks take a look at these pages to understand the details at hand before coming to a conclusion one way or the other...

Now, with all that said, I still feel that eventual incorporation as a not-for-profit could still be beneficial for us. In the revised incorporation plan, after we incorporate as a B corporation, we intend to get the corporate charter and operating procedures of the site straightened out to the point that SoylentNews is a self-sufficient and fully operational independent entity. After that process is complete, I intend to use the resources of the B corporation to re-evaluate becoming a NFP corporation. If we (both the staff and the site) feel this is beneficial once we are able to fully answer our major outstanding "known unknowns", we will sell the B corporation to the newly-incorporated not-for-profit, and the site will continue as a benefit corporation owned by a not-for-profit corporation.

The eventual end result will be an independent SoylentNews that is able to operate freely as an independent entity with manifest destiny, and which will be owned by a not-for-profit that will protect the site and fight for the rights and protections that we all believe in. I hope to build SoylentNews into a shining example of what journalism and press should be, with a structure that enables us to fight to protect our rights, increase public education, and help restore integrity to the field of journalism.
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  • (Score: 2, Funny) by paulej72 on Monday June 16 2014, @02:12PM

    by paulej72 (58) on Monday June 16 2014, @02:12PM (#55897) Journal

    I for one welcome our new SoylnetNews B-Corp Overlords.

    --
    Team Leader for SN Development
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by AndyTheAbsurd on Monday June 16 2014, @02:43PM

      by AndyTheAbsurd (3958) on Monday June 16 2014, @02:43PM (#55907) Journal

      I'd prefer D-Cup Overlords (or would be that Overladies?) but I think that the B Corp setup sounds like what we need to keep the site running.

      --
      Please note my username before responding. You may have been trolled.
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 16 2014, @02:59PM

        by VLM (445) on Monday June 16 2014, @02:59PM (#55919)

        two girls one cup Overladies

      • (Score: 2) by Alfred on Monday June 16 2014, @03:54PM

        by Alfred (4006) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:54PM (#55959) Journal

        With a double D overladies* premium subscription model (or models) any funding issue may just go away. Otherwise I, the free loading leech, don't object to a B Corp,

        *cup size && overladies is inherently sexist since anyone can get that surgery nowadays, even if they shouldn't.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Hairyfeet on Monday June 16 2014, @08:05PM

      by Hairyfeet (75) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday June 16 2014, @08:05PM (#56074) Journal

      I thought the whole "corps MUST exist to make money" thing was disproved ages ago because it would mean that a corp would have to do ANY idea that would make profit, even if it destroyed the company? plus if the company isn't gonna be on the stock exchange isn't the whole thing moot as a private company can exist to do whatever the owners of the company want it to?

      I honestly don't care if Soybeans becomes a B corp or not, hell I don't even mind ads if they follow best practices (NO flash, NO third party hosting, NO sound stealing or pop ups, NO Java) but this whole argument sounds like its the old "corps have to be douchebags because money" excuse that I had thought was laid to rest ages ago. Hell if it were true then there shouldn't be a single corp making anything in the USA because shareholders could trivially argue labor is cheaper in Malaysia and therefor the corp isn't maximizing profits.

      --
      ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
      • (Score: 2) by dry on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:53AM

        by dry (223) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:53AM (#56224) Journal

        The question is always "what is the best way to maximize profits?" It can be argued that hiring local labour creates good will which will raise profits compared to outsourcing to Malaysia. It's all subjective as it's close to impossible to run controlled experiments, too many variables. And of course if there are no shareholders or very few who are in agreement then the shareholders can't/won't sue.
        Agree with you about ads and also don't care about the final corporate structure as long as it isn't of a type that can be taken over by hostile forces or even Dice.

        • (Score: 2) by Hairyfeet on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:52PM

          by Hairyfeet (75) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:52PM (#56422) Journal

          Hell if they follow best practices I'll be happy to buy from them, just the other day a site I went to had a "did you know GOG is having a sale?" simple JPEG ad and I happily loaded up!

          The key is to follow best practices so that this site doesn't end up another malware vector like The Escapist so you have no choice but to block. This means 1.-NO third party ads (because the third party hosts don't give a shit and will ignore 2 and 3) 2.- NO flash (too many zero days), 3.- NO Java (ditto), 4.- And NO sound stealing (because some are at work and can't afford to have an ad suddenly start blasting crap).

          If they follow best practices I have no doubt many here will be happy to whitelist them and like me if the product is nerdy like hardware and games? be happy to give 'em plenty of click throughs. But the second Soybeans turns into another Escapist I'll be moving on.

          --
          ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
          • (Score: 2) by dry on Wednesday June 18 2014, @04:21AM

            by dry (223) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @04:21AM (#56768) Journal

            Agree and would add small ads, don't mind a small banner at the top of the page, text would be better. If a large amount of my browser is taken by an ad, it'll be blocked. I'm also bandwidth challenged so low bandwidth.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by zafiro17 on Monday June 16 2014, @02:15PM

    by zafiro17 (234) on Monday June 16 2014, @02:15PM (#55898) Homepage

    I commend you for the work and research, but I'll point out the reason so many sites out there are stuffed with ads is because it takes lots of money to run a popular site. That means ads because the non-profit doesn't fit/match most website profiles. Or user fees. Choose one.

    Given most of us are probably fickle freeloaders who want great content, no ads, no fees, and only articles that fit our individual tastes, it's not easy. How 'bout - make it a paid community site, and everybody who doesn't want to put their money where their mouth is can just fuck right off? :) It will reduce the idle chatter, anyway.

    --
    Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis - Jack Handey
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Blackmoore on Monday June 16 2014, @02:29PM

      by Blackmoore (57) on Monday June 16 2014, @02:29PM (#55902) Journal

      Unfortunately; if you are going to promote open discussion of the news; then a paid community site is in direct opposition to the cause. it would quickly become a closed circle of people re-iterating the same ideas to each other. Frankly - I already know where I can go if I wanted in on that nonsense.

      B-corp seems like the best option for the moment. we need to see the site get on to it's own feet financially; and burdened with the costs of going Non-Profit are too much a burden at this time - once that is established and a accountant is on the books the site can start the move to 401c.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by zafiro17 on Monday June 16 2014, @04:47PM

        by zafiro17 (234) on Monday June 16 2014, @04:47PM (#55983) Homepage

        You make a good point about paid membership being diametrically opposed to free and open conversation. Sounds like Usenet is the winner then: you pay a Usenet provider for the right to read forums, and then your contributions to the newsgroups are free. The Usenet providers share among them the costs of running the infrastructure and network connections, and the fees are kept slow by doing away with niceties like images, graphics, javascript, and the like.

        I'm not really joking, although I recognize the irony. Turns out, one of the huge achilles' heels of the WWW model is that site ownership concentrates the costs on the site owner, while users ride free. Owners need to transfer those costs either through ads, tracking and consumer profiling, or subscription fees. None of these is great.

        Back to Usenet we go then. Anyone curious, you can get a free account at Albasani, Solani, or AIOE or Eternal September. For better service and filtering of spam, get a paid account at Individual.Net.

        --
        Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis - Jack Handey
        • (Score: 2) by Blackmoore on Monday June 16 2014, @06:12PM

          by Blackmoore (57) on Monday June 16 2014, @06:12PM (#56036) Journal

          ah Usenet. I gave up on that long before my ISP dropped support. too much garbage, too many messages, always missing messages in the middle of the conversation. and now I'd have to pay someone to get access? fuggedaboutit.

          I do believe that NC does have a way to IMPLEMENT soylent on usenet.. but oy..

        • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Monday June 16 2014, @06:32PM

          by Geotti (1146) on Monday June 16 2014, @06:32PM (#56042) Journal

          Even though I agree with your basic premise that the WWW concentrates the costs on the site operators, I disagree with your previous statement that "it takes lots of money to run a popular site".

          When there are places to get a TB of transfer [digitalocean.com] for 5 bucks [linode.com], it's just a simple matter of a load balancer to switch around instances and stay in quota.*
          So, please define "lots of money," as we seem to have a slight difference in our definitions of the approximate amounts needed.

          * obviously, a site has to make effective use of available technology and resources.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by zafiro17 on Monday June 16 2014, @07:58PM

            by zafiro17 (234) on Monday June 16 2014, @07:58PM (#56070) Homepage

            Well, I haven't looked into prices for big sites. I run three sites off a FreeBSD VPN for the annual price of the VPS - about a hundred bucks. And because they're mostly personal/vanity sites I have more than enough bandwidth and processor time for my purposes. But if you can get a TB for $5, then is this whole issue moot? If it is that cheap to run a site, why go through all this hassle and discussion in the first place? Sounds like a non-issue.

            I'm not trying to be facetious. Just trying to say if bandwidth and hosting are really that cheap, then a site like Soylent shouldn't have trouble keeping funded, and all of this angst is for nothing.

            --
            Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis - Jack Handey
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @08:17PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @08:17PM (#56077)

              This! If we're all in the spirit of openness here, I'd love to know just what the current and anticipated hosting costs are for the site. (If they've already been published, my apologies.)

              From time to time I see forums complaining about their hosting / infrastructure costs, but I wonder. Some pretty huge sites operate off a couple of ordinary dedicated servers. A plain text site such as Soylent/Pipedot/Slashdot really shouldn't take much, even as it gets very popular?

              As noted, let's say one got 16 little VPSes (at $5 to $10/month), each with a 1 TB bandwidth cap, along with some load balancing. That's roughly $100 per year TOTAL.

              How much bandwidth will this site really need? (And I understand there are already caching servers in place for pages.)

              Meanwhile, our good friends at Pipedot still have a MUCH more responsive site, and one that looks and runs better to boot. I think they're on one little VPS node.

              I on the one hand love how seriously NCommander and Co. take the mission, but on the other hand think they continually overthink an empty plate of cheap and simple beans.

              • (Score: 4, Informative) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @10:17PM

                by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @10:17PM (#56113) Homepage Journal

                We currently have 9 production linodes plus a VPS from a different provider, our hosting costs are approximately $300 USD per month; at the moment, we have excess capability due to Linode offering the free upgrade from Linode 1024->2048 and 2048->4086); when we built the site up, we could go with larger node, or more nodes and I chose the later, not realizing we'd get the larger nodes for free just a month later. As of right now, four nodes drive production, two web, and two db to allow us to do work on the site without having to offline it, plus boron which runs slashd on its own. If hosting costs grow out of control, we can consolidate to less hardware (nitrogen and carbon could be merged off the top of my head).

                Pipedot has six according to a post they did a few months ago, but we have additional services we host, and a node dedicated for off-site backup. I haven't noticed pipecode to be appreicatable faster since the last site upgrade which killed most of the dead JS and removed a lot of dead code out of the codebase. Their codebase is considerably smaller, and they're not stuck on an ancient Apache like we are (we do plan to port to mod_perl 2.x, but that's going to require hard dedicated effort to succeed).

                And, yes, to an extent, I will admit we've overthinking this. None of the staff have ever created a NFP before, and we only became recently (as in last week) became aware of the B corporation alternative. For myself personally, this is the first time I've ever worked on building a community and site like this (almost all my contributions are backend work). We've actually almost ready to go to file for articles of incorporation, so I'm hoping (since community response has been positive) that we will be able ti file the paperwork this week, and have the operating certificate/EIN/bank stuff set by early next week.

                --
                Still always moving
            • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Monday June 16 2014, @09:05PM

              by Geotti (1146) on Monday June 16 2014, @09:05PM (#56088) Journal

              is this whole issue moot

              Well, from a technical perspective (and implemented correctly) it should be. My guess is that the wish of our ops to have full-time employees vs a volunteer only site.

              An As long as the team stays loyal to the community, though, I imagine putting a couple of referral links to amazon and other stores & services would do wonders. At least I'd go there only via these links to support the site, and I imagine many others would do so as well.
              That's not something you can usually put in a business plan or reliably count with, though. ; ) Such models grow organically.

              Displaying a donation bar can work as well, by the way.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @03:16PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @03:16PM (#55929)

      > the reason so many sites out there are stuffed with ads is because it takes lots of money to run a popular site.

      Here is a more radical proposition that is more about possibilities than anything that could be implemented tomorrow:

      Re-architect the site to distribute the majority of operational costs to the users. Instead of hosting the entire site on a central server, distribute the load with something like bittorrent. We would still need a central server to handle synchronization of new stories, new comments and moderations but that seems like a small fraction of the resource consumption - most of which is just CPU and bandwidth costs to serve pages.

      Imagine a design that breaks the system down into three types of "files":

      (1) Front page stories
      (2) Comment Section for each story
      (3) List of moderations for each Comment Section

      If each of those were treated as single semi-static files we could regenerate the file and push a new copy out via P2P whenever there was an update or once every 30 seconds (which ever is longer). With smart javascript the client could take care of filtering and displaying the comments according to each user's preferences.

      It should be possible to do it 100% in the browser with HTML5 technologies like WebRTC. [google.com]

      I think it dovetails nicely with the "soylent news is people" concept - not only would the content be us but the servers would be us too.

      • (Score: 5, Funny) by Jaruzel on Monday June 16 2014, @03:21PM

        by Jaruzel (812) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:21PM (#55936) Homepage Journal

        When you are done re-architecturing the Web completely, please come back to us with a detailed design, and if possible a working proof of concept. We'll then hire a 1000 strong team of monkeys to code it on typewriters.

        Meanwhile, although a cool concept, not exactly helpful for what we've got now.

        -Jar

        --
        This is my opinion, there are many others, but this one is mine.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @03:43PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @03:43PM (#55956)

          >> is more about possibilities than anything that could be implemented tomorrow:
          >
          > Meanwhile, although a cool concept, not exactly helpful for what we've got now.

          You are welcome, I'm always glad to give a douche an opportunity to restate the obvious.
          Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 16 2014, @03:56PM

          by VLM (445) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:56PM (#55960)

          Skip his implementation details, set up UUCP cnews / usenet servers not connected to the greater usenet in any way, and containing a couple moderated newsgroups (with aggressive anti spam cancelbots and require valid GPG sig or the article gets zapped) and run with it. Its a bit of sysadmin type work more so than re-architecting stuff and writing code.

          Distribute the whole works as Debian live CD and also a ras-pi image. So any old machine can Soly itself into being part of the network.

          Put a web client of sorts on the server too. So burn a SD card for a ras-pi, set up its network and an upstream peer, and navigate over to the ras pi in your web browser and away you go. This might require a small amount of glue code to be written.

          As for finding peers to connect to the network keep irc.soylentnews.org or just configure peer.soylentnews.org to allow anyone with an account and GPG sig to connect.

          It was either usenet or some insane varient of fidonet, couldn't decide which.

          The problem with IT is nothing is every really new. Describe fidonet in everything but name and ...

          • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @04:33PM

            by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @04:33PM (#55973) Homepage Journal

            Believe it or not, this is actually on my long term TODO list (you actually even got right the design I wanted, with slashd writing the site index as a UUCP batch file, feeding into a local INN instance, mostly because I don't want to write the entirity of the NNTP protocol in Perl as a interface to the DB).

            I had long talks with mechanicjay on how we could do this ...

            --
            Still always moving
      • (Score: 2) by Blackmoore on Monday June 16 2014, @04:17PM

        by Blackmoore (57) on Monday June 16 2014, @04:17PM (#55966) Journal

        Soylent is already available through TOR, and while your idea has some merit; you are promoting a distribution method that would only succeed if enough peole were willing to host and seed the daily files. - that's a tall order - and it would be a high barrier for new people to join.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:31PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:31PM (#56015)

          > Soylent is already available through TOR

          TOR does not offload any server workload, it isn't P2P in anyway. I am actually posting through TOR right now.

          > would only succeed if enough peole were willing to host and seed the daily files

          I'm not proposing that there be daily files. I don't even know what you mean by that.

          What I am proposing is that the role of the central server be reduced to the bare minimum such that anyone with an HTML5 browser can just hit the server and "it just works." If there are no other users than the central server still does all the work (which will be miniscule if there is only one user), but the more users there are the more the load gets picked up by those users.

        • (Score: 1) by bziman on Monday June 16 2014, @11:52PM

          by bziman (3577) on Monday June 16 2014, @11:52PM (#56153)

          Soylent is already available through TOR, and while your idea has some merit; you are promoting a distribution method that would only succeed if enough peole were willing to host and seed the daily files. - that's a tall order - and it would be a high barrier for new people to join.

          If we ever get the infrastructure together for a distributed SN, I volunteer. I run my own domain, and I peak at about 1% capacity. If someone puts together a how-to with software packages, I'll gladly donate resources.

        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:52PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:52PM (#56365) Journal

          Soylent is already available through TOR, and while your idea has some merit; you are promoting a distribution method that would only succeed if enough peole were willing to host and seed the daily files. - that's a tall order - and it would be a high barrier for new people to join.

          Well, he did suggest using WebRTC. If I understand it correctly, that would mean every single user browsing the site would also act as a server -- but only while they have the site open. That *might* actually work for a site like this -- it's not uncommon for me to leave the tab open for the majority of my work day, so I'd be serving the content for nearly eight hours a day. Then again, that might end up just getting you swiftly blocked from major corporate networks...

          • (Score: 2) by Blackmoore on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:08PM

            by Blackmoore (57) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:08PM (#56376) Journal

            mm. i cant say I'm familiar with WebRTC; but I am sure that if my work PC was acting as a server that the site would be blocked in short order by the IT staff here. (all "streaming" services are blocked to start with; if it looks like I'm hosting, that could cost me my job on top of it)

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday June 16 2014, @04:23PM

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 16 2014, @04:23PM (#55968) Journal

        Re-architect the site to distribute the majority of operational costs to the users. Instead of hosting the entire site on a central server, distribute the load with something like bittorrent.

        An interesting idea, albeit quite radical thus coming with all the risks incurred by revolutions.

        But, maybe a we can find a middle ground?
        Look, for example, if SN would be to offer an API to access all the posts and comments and, subject to size/frequency/other restrictions, allow posting comments, I'd be more willing to pay an extra subscription fee for a token that grants access to this API (especially if it would bypass the lame too-many-caps-is-yelling filter and would genuinely support UNICODE).
        I don't think the API can be very hard to come with, all GUI-related and UE stuff can be ignored: JSON is enough.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @04:34PM

          by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @04:34PM (#55974) Homepage Journal

          UTF-8 is mostly fixed on dev (some hangups in backslash). Check out http://dev.soylentnews.org/ [soylentnews.org] to see it in action. This update will land in the Nexuses update soon.

          --
          Still always moving
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @04:41PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @04:41PM (#55978)

          > An interesting idea, albeit quite radical thus coming with all the risks incurred by revolutions.
          >
          > But, maybe a we can find a middle ground?

          I like the way you are thinking.

          The only radical part of the proposal is the P2P stuff. All the other parts could be implemented on a standard webserver. It could be a slow migration of segmenting the pages to work as described and implementing the client-side code to handle it.

          Once that is all solidly in place you could start fiddling with the P2P stuff and probably run it in parallel with the server-centric system for as long as necessary, maybe even permanently as a fall-back for people who can't run the P2P due to browser or bandwidth limitations.

          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday June 16 2014, @05:53PM

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 16 2014, @05:53PM (#56025) Journal

            I like the way you are thinking.

            I'm not even original [ihackernews.com].
            But I think my proposal may bring an extra support for SN (not only on the financial side), but by allowing an independent involvement in the development side of SN.
            Why independent is crucial? Speaking for myself: I didn't dare raise my hand on the call for devs, etc because my spare time is not predictable (so I can't commit) and I don't know PERL. But I'd love to start some pet-projects built around SN

            maybe even permanently as a fall-back for people who can't run the P2P due to browser or bandwidth limitations.

            This + I imagine we don't want to raise the barrier for new people joining SN by asking them: you either run part-of-a-server or don't join at all.

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
        • (Score: 1) by paulej72 on Monday June 16 2014, @05:46PM

          by paulej72 (58) on Monday June 16 2014, @05:46PM (#56023) Journal

          Also to make utf-8 work the too-many-caps-is-yelling filter has to go as well as the whitespace filter (some languages do not use whitespace).

          --
          Team Leader for SN Development
          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday June 16 2014, @05:59PM

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 16 2014, @05:59PM (#56029) Journal
            Thank you indeed.
            Hate to pester you, but... can you at least think of building an API around SN? UTF8 and yelling-filter weren't actually the main reasons for my pretty-please asking an API.
            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
            • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @10:20PM

              by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @10:20PM (#56114) Homepage Journal

              What would you want in an API. If I ever have the time, I'd love to mirror the site onto an INN server (bidirectorially) and then perhaps even seed it into USENET which should cover 95% of what an API would cover.

              --
              Still always moving
              • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday June 16 2014, @11:33PM

                by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 16 2014, @11:33PM (#56146) Journal

                What would you want in an API.

                An API able to mirror back and forth to an INN server will probably cover my needs too (especially if it would allow detecting and mirroring only "what's new"), but let's not forget the personal journals - most of the time, they aren't "visible" enough (i.e. if you don't look specificallyon the user page, one user at a time and one page at a time, you aren't going to see them).
                If you like, I'd try to put together a high level spec over weekend.

                --
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
                • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Tuesday June 17 2014, @12:32AM

                  by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Tuesday June 17 2014, @12:32AM (#56162) Homepage Journal

                  Sure, though please realize that dev resources are somewhat limited, so I have no idea when this would come around (unless of course you'd like to code yourself :-))

                  --
                  Still always moving
                  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:16AM

                    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 17 2014, @04:16AM (#56235) Journal

                    (unless of course you'd like to code yourself :-))

                    I... sort-ish... might if you're OK with either PHP or Java riding on top of the database
                    (the sort-ish: would be a pet project for me, as such, if I'm lucky I'll finish it in one larval stage [catb.org] sitting - at least the "read" part - or I might get dragged into the mundane and put it on hold).

                    --
                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:57PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @01:57PM (#56369) Journal

          THIS. This is a great idea.

          I can't count how many times I've sat there *wishing* some site or service had an API. I've done quite a bit of PHP "screen-scraping" of sites to get at the data I wanted. Not sure what I'd use it for, but I've got a bit of a home theater and home automation system set up on my Raspberry Pi, and I'm sure I could find some way to incorporate Soylent into that ;) Would gladly pay a couple bucks a month if I got a simple API with clean JSON-encoded results! Maybe I'd do a 'today's headlines' alarm clock again. Although that just needs RSS really...

          Hmm...what could I do with a full API like that....?

          That would make it REALLY easy to make some nice mobile interfaces though, that would be great!

          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Wednesday June 18 2014, @04:41AM

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 18 2014, @04:41AM (#56772) Journal

            Hmm...what could I do with a full API like that....?

            For my case? Say... I have a bunch of mod points that can't spend most of the time (by the time they expire).
            How about something (like a fragment of an app) like: show me messages that I could mod? (don't show me +5-es first, that's no point for me to mod them up again. Don't show me messages in the stories that I posted: I can't mod them anyway).

            Yes, such an app would require to know my identity.
            If this is done using a token, what SN is "selling" me is not a subscription, but the "token to access a functionality". No hosting, no email or some other ancillaries, but something that has an added value to the very service I'd be using, something that can be quantized in terms of costs - count the calls/measure the traffic - so that the operator can make his/her minds in terms of profitability, etc.

            Your needs are good enough with the HTML face that SN dev-team is maintaining? Don't pay anything. You want more: write your app (and to access the data you need in a way that you like) or buy an already written app.
            Besides, the capability to tinker with the very things one likes should be the wettest dream of a nerd (in this case, of the programming kind).

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by zafiro17 on Monday June 16 2014, @04:42PM

        by zafiro17 (234) on Monday June 16 2014, @04:42PM (#55979) Homepage

        Sounds neat. But it also sounds suspiciously like Usenet, which exists, and where you can already go to read and comment on tech stories. Start at comp.misc, which is covering many of the same stories being covered here.

        The federated model also sounds somewhat like what is being built over at Pipedot. I don't understand it totally because Bryan hasn't totally spilled the beans on his vision, but it involves a network of federated sites, and I can only assume, some sort of transfer or share of messages or stories among them. It's marching forward, whatever it is!

        Someone said, sooner or later, every web forum's new inventions bring it a step closer to Usenet. Here we go!

        --
        Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis - Jack Handey
        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 16 2014, @04:48PM

          by VLM (445) on Monday June 16 2014, @04:48PM (#55986)

          "Someone said, sooner or later, every web forum's new inventions bring it a step closer to Usenet. Here we go!"

          Someday, web forums and social media will finally approach what we had with emacs and gnus back in the early/mid 90s. Someday.

          Other than not having a mouse in the mid 80s, most web forms remind me of my early BBS days in terms of features.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:16PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:16PM (#56007)

          > Sounds neat. But it also sounds suspiciously like Usenet, which exists,

          The key difference is that usenet isn't very dynamic. You can't set up your own NNTP server just by clicking a link. So you have to get a client, find a server, get an account, etc. Plus usenet has spam issues. Usenet might make a reasonable medium for a higher level "protocol" that uses crypto signatures to prevent spam (standard usenet moderation won't stand up to a smart attacker nowadays) but then you are looking at a custom usenet client - well you need that for handling moderations too. I see usenet as useful for archival but not so robust for offloading server costs to users in an automatic way.

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday June 16 2014, @03:51PM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 16 2014, @03:51PM (#55958) Journal

      :) It will reduce the idle chatter, anyway.

      Tee-hee!
      On the contrary, my friend, on the contrary. If I am to chip in some hundred dollars/year, I'll make sure I can idle-chat as much as I want in absolute disregard of your wishes and completely oblivious to your hopes. The way I'm doing now.

      (grin)

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
      • (Score: 3, Funny) by zafiro17 on Monday June 16 2014, @08:02PM

        by zafiro17 (234) on Monday June 16 2014, @08:02PM (#56073) Homepage

        :) Hey, you're wasting my pixels, and I've only got a couple left!

        --
        Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis - Jack Handey
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by everdred on Monday June 16 2014, @10:33PM

      by everdred (110) on Monday June 16 2014, @10:33PM (#56120) Journal

      > How 'bout - make it a paid community site, and everybody who doesn't want to put their money where their mouth is can just fuck right off? :)

      I would *only* pay to use SoylentNews if the freeloaders were allowed too.

  • (Score: 1) by pTamok on Monday June 16 2014, @02:28PM

    by pTamok (3042) on Monday June 16 2014, @02:28PM (#55901)

    I'm happy for a B-corp to be the setup, especially as it keeps your/our options open. If it makes life easier in finding a way to cover the site's running costs, it sounds like a sensible approach. Obviously, other people's opinions may differ, so I applaud thet you have opened this possibility up for comments.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Sir Garlon on Monday June 16 2014, @03:01PM

    by Sir Garlon (1264) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:01PM (#55921)

    Your post doesn't discuss the tax implications of a B-corp, though presumably you have thought about them. From what you've said, it looks to me like B-corps pay corporate taxes. So it sounds to me as if the 501(c)(3) route has high up-front cost and high oversight (meaning high administrative costs) but no taxes, and the B-corp has lower administrative costs but has to pay taxes. So it should be possible to look at a range of income scenarios and determine the regimes in which each alternative leaves you with lower total costs.

    --
    [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @03:20PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @03:20PM (#55934)

      > B-corp has lower administrative costs but has to pay taxes.

      As a vast over-simplification, corporations don't have to pay taxes unless they turn a profit. At least not income tax, there are payroll taxes and such.

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @05:02PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @05:02PM (#55994) Homepage Journal

      For almost all intends and purposes, B-corporations are treated as for-profit, and you're correct, they pay corporate taxes. And that's a longer term goal, right now, we just want to get the damn thing incorporated :-)

      --
      Still always moving
  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 16 2014, @03:04PM

    by VLM (445) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:04PM (#55924)

    I have whats probably a dumb question, but its never stopped me before.

    Relevance (now cognitek or something?) is/was a B-corp and they do datomic and a bunch of clojure stuff. What a surprise I know all about them (LOL).

    Anyway is their idea of a B Corp the same kind of deal you're talking about? If so you might get a little further in a tech site by explaining its structured just like datomic / Relevance. Which isn't so bad.

    I know when B Corps were new it was very much like organic food or "green" where it was all a little fuzzy exactly what is and what is merely advertising. And I'm a little fuzzy on how broad you can be while still technically being a B corp.

    Anyway TLDR, what they're talking about may or may not be similar to an existing software project / consultancy org.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Reziac on Monday June 16 2014, @03:07PM

    by Reziac (2489) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:07PM (#55925) Homepage

    B-Corp sounds like the way to go. I don't see any huge downside.

    We definitely don't want the "beholden to shareholders" issue.

    Perhaps instead we could consider each ourselves to own as much 'stock' as we achieve via mod-ups. ;)

    --
    And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
  • (Score: 2) by Papas Fritas on Monday June 16 2014, @03:15PM

    by Papas Fritas (570) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:15PM (#55927) Journal

    My two cents.

    • (Score: 2) by Jaruzel on Monday June 16 2014, @03:24PM

      by Jaruzel (812) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:24PM (#55941) Homepage Journal

      I actually think this is the way to go. /. may be wrong on SO many levels, but the Ads for non-subscribers was a working model. If you don't want to see the Ads, then stump up a sub, and pay for your ride.

      This incidentally is where the Web is going anyway, especially in light of the Net Neutrality debacle.

      -Jar

      --
      This is my opinion, there are many others, but this one is mine.
    • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Monday June 16 2014, @03:25PM

      by WizardFusion (498) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:25PM (#55942) Journal

      Unfortunately, this won't work. Most people block adverts, I block ads on every site (adblock+, no script, etc)
      Sites that run adverts have little or no control over which ones are shown and which ones aren't, causing popular sites to deliver viruses and spyware.

      Having said that, if I use a site a lot and feel I get value from it, I will make a donation direct to the person/people responsible.

      • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Monday June 16 2014, @06:26PM

        by captain normal (2205) on Monday June 16 2014, @06:26PM (#56040)

        I don't think ads are bad. Just ads that run gif and flash. I can't stand motion ads, ads that block out part of the screen and move as I scroll or blow up if the cursor rolls over them. That is the only reason I use ad-block and no script. I usually keep them disabled, but when I hit a site that runs this obnoxious, stuff I turn them on.
        I think if you go to a subscription only site you will shed readers/ posters faster than they've come on in the last 4 months.

        --
        "If men were angels, government would not be necessary." James Madison
      • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:07PM

        by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:07PM (#56374) Journal

        I do some freelance work with a site that has all of the ads essentially hardcoded. We talk to potential advertisers, and they send us a .jpg, .gif, or .png image file and a URL to link it to, and we drop that into a database and embed it directly on each page. I believe EEVBlog does this too; and I know the Ctrl-Alt-Delete webcomic used to (dunno if they're even still around.)

        It's a fair bit more work, but it's certainly still possible to have complete control over any advertising. Won't get blocked by adblock either since it's on the same domain, although I don't think that's as much of an issue as you think -- I don't usually use one, and don't know anyone else who does. Although yes, the usage will be higher among our audience. But on the other hand, I think a number of users tend to browse at work where they may not have rights to install anything so that could keep those numbers lower as well.

        Either way, you're free to block the ads if you want, but I too wouldn't mind Soylent giving it a try. Subscriptions are great if we can manage it, but the site's gotta pay the bills somehow...

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @05:10PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @05:10PM (#56003) Homepage Journal

      If you know non-evil ad companies, it would be a more appealing options. AdBlock and shit wouldn't exist if ads were well behaved, didn't constantly track everyone, and gum up the net. Having recently install GHostly, I'm sorta shocked on how much tracking and underlying crap is on most pages on the net (SN on the otherhand just says "PiWik Analyticals", and we're upfront that we use it.

      --
      Still always moving
      • (Score: 1) by NickM on Monday June 16 2014, @08:54PM

        by NickM (2867) on Monday June 16 2014, @08:54PM (#56085) Journal
        https://www.projectwonderful.com/ [projectwonderful.com] are the ads provider on most webcomics I read...
        --
        I a master of typographic, grammatical and miscellaneous errors !
        • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @09:25PM

          by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @09:25PM (#56093) Homepage Journal

          They look surprisingly reasonable, though I'm slightly concerned on some aspects. We're not much with original content at the moment, and I'm also concerned that comments posted by users might interfere. Still, I like the model, and I'll keep them in mind.

          --
          Still always moving
          • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:14PM

            by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:14PM (#56381) Journal

            Many sites still place ads by hand. A site I work on does this; I'm pretty sure EEVBlog does this; and I know the Ctrl-Alt-Del webcomic used to do this (probably still does if they're still around.)

            It's a bit more work, but you don't HAVE to use ad networks. Hell you might even find individual users willing to sponsor an ad for a bit. I mean if any of us is starting up a website or software project, what better place to advertise it? In fact, what if you did sponsored "community spotlight" stories -- once you meet X posts, Y submissions, and Z karma you're eligible to pay to have whatever Soyvertisement you want stickied (and prominently identified as an ad) for a certain period of time at some price. Or over in the sidebar somewhere as an ad if you don't want it mixed with regular stories.

      • (Score: 2) by Marand on Monday June 16 2014, @09:51PM

        by Marand (1081) on Monday June 16 2014, @09:51PM (#56100) Journal

        If you know non-evil ad companies, it would be a more appealing options. AdBlock and shit wouldn't exist if ads were well behaved, didn't constantly track everyone, and gum up the net.

        Why bother with a network at all? Set up some kind of advertising program and host the ads yourself instead of giving a cut to the sleaze of the internet. More work, but you bet more control and better quality out of it, which seems to be something you guys care about. Plus if you do it yourself the ads will show up for people like me that use NoScript.

        I know that's not as common, but I've seen a few sites in the past do it, and it's worked for other media like newspapers, radio, etc. for a very long time.

        Alternately, someone mentioned Project Wonderful, and I've heard they aren't terrible. Still think doing it yourself is better, though.

        • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @10:34PM

          by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @10:34PM (#56122) Homepage Journal

          I'd *love* to self-host ads, in line with our philosophic of users privacy and such. The problem is connecting folks who want to buy ad space with SN; what we've learned is that almost all our traffic comes direct, without being referred to from else-where. I'll throw a post up about that if/when we get to that step.

          --
          Still always moving
  • (Score: 1) by Buck Feta on Monday June 16 2014, @03:19PM

    by Buck Feta (958) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:19PM (#55933) Journal

    Why not just make this an S-corp? Just because you're a organized that way, it doesn't mean you actually have to optimize for profit. You may have to show a nominal profit every few years for tax purposes, but that's easy to achieve by simply not declaring some of your expenses that year.

    --
    - fractious political commentary goes here -
    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @05:07PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @05:07PM (#56000) Homepage Journal

      Mostly because a traditional for-profit is not what we are. Now, if B-incorporation was impossible, we'd probably have to look at S/C/PLLC incorporation instead and then proceed with a similar route.

      --
      Still always moving
  • (Score: 2) by iwoloschin on Monday June 16 2014, @03:32PM

    by iwoloschin (3863) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:32PM (#55947)

    This wasn't explicitly clear to me, but does this prevent a buyout (willing or hostile)? Would it be possible to structure something such that registered users could be required to approve any potential acquisition? It wouldn't impede a "takeover" by a non-profit created specifically for that, but it'd keep Dice from showing up.

    • (Score: 2) by Blackmoore on Monday June 16 2014, @04:15PM

      by Blackmoore (57) on Monday June 16 2014, @04:15PM (#55965) Journal

      B-corp was an idea that came up after the buyout of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. the owners at the time had specified a corporate vision as providing to charity as part of the corporate vision. However they did not realize that as part of their fiduciary duty to the shareholders they had to review and accept any buy-out offers that provided the shareholders with "value"

      it caused a bit of a stink at the time (2000), between the shareholders who wanted to keep the "company values" and others who wanted to maximize personal profits. {of course i can't seem to locate any details about this right now}

      so, no, it would not exclude a buyout, but it certainly would be a thorn that would be a dis-incentive to an offer.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by VLM on Monday June 16 2014, @05:08PM

        by VLM (445) on Monday June 16 2014, @05:08PM (#56001)

        The root cause of Ben and Jerrys debacle was Revlon, which you can read about below.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revlon,_Inc._v._MacAndrews_%26_Forbes_Holdings,_Inc [wikipedia.org].

        "The Court declared that, in certain limited circumstances indicating that the "sale" or "break-up" of the company is inevitable, the fiduciary obligation of the directors of a target corporation are narrowed significantly, the singular responsibility of the board being to maximize immediate stockholder value by securing the highest price available."

        And the B corp idea is to legislate that a B corporation doesn't have to operate solely on short term price but must consider certain B specific options. Must, not doesn't have to, or can, the word must is important in B corp legislation.

        Note that the legislation is super vague. You can have your corporations core values to be clubbing baby seals and destroying the environment if you want, and those will HAVE to be considered on an equal level with your fiduciary responsibilities. So if BP wanted to buy you to stop you from dumping oil into the ocean as a PR move, then you would be legally protected if you turned down their offer if you're a B corp.

        There's a whole strange setup with 3rd party standards. Mostly greenwashing stuff like maximizing sandal wearing and soy oil use and attendance at drum circles and similar corporate metrics. I've been thinking of working on the legal framework for OSS projects who incorporate as B corps. Prevent something like the Mysql/Oracle debacle. Metrics and goals like the public must be served by all new code must be licensed DFSG or FOSS or similar, and github (or other) lines of code committed from independent 3rd parties as a corporate goal, blah blah blah. Its actually a hell of a lot of work to implement in a legally bullet proof manner, which is why I've not done it yet. In my infinite spare time... By the time I get off my butt someone else will probably have completed a better job than I could do at setting up a 3rd party certification for FOSS B-corps.

        If XYZ media corp wanted to shut down SN if SN was a plain old corporation, and they offered twice value to be purchased and shut down, any shareholder could sue and would certainly win if they declined, unless they B Corp'd it and had prevention of that scenario for the public good as a core B-corp value, in which case they couldn't be sued for declining the offer.

        Its surprising really, just how little flexibility corporate mgmt has if someone wants to buy the corp. Basically no flexibility at all. There are other business organization schemes of course, besides plain old corp or B corp.

        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:24PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:24PM (#56390) Journal

          Its surprising really, just how little flexibility corporate mgmt has if someone wants to buy the corp. Basically no flexibility at all. There are other business organization schemes of course, besides plain old corp or B corp.

          Unless I'm mistaken though, that only applies to publicly traded corporations though, not private ones. And yeah, of course the managers don't have flexibility there. The managers don't have flexibility ever, the *owners* do. In a publicly traded company, the owners are the shareholders. Either way, if the owner says 'kill the company to make a quick buck' then that's what is gonna happen -- the only difference is that random shareholders haven't invested their own blood, sweat, and tears into the company; they're just in it for the money. So that kind of thing is more likely.

          But I haven't seen anyone suggest Soylent become publicly traded, and I'm pretty sure there's no legal reason they'd be required to. So why does any of this matter?

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:45PM

            by VLM (445) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:45PM (#56464)

            "not private ones"

            All you'd need is a divorce or inheritance and next thing you know someone with rather different outlook might be in charge.

            Even something like a personal bankruptcy might be an issue.

            Or a patent troll is paid in shares to go away (hopefully never happens).

            Private doesn't necessarily mean "one owner"

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @04:44PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @04:44PM (#55981) Homepage Journal

      We can't be bought out if the board of directors feels its against the best interests of the public interest.

      --
      Still always moving
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @08:01PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @08:01PM (#56071)

        Whether the board opposes a buyout has little relevance if all of the shareholders voluntarily sell. After that, the new majority owner elects a new board and fires the CEO.

        In all this navel gazing about incorporation structure, I think you've overlooked the important question of who will be your shareholders? If you, personally, or your team collectively will be the only shareholders, then it hardly matters whether you go B or S. NFPs, at least in some jurisdictions, don't have formal shares, and thus have no 'duty to shareholders.'

        Fundamentally, shares are a way of dividing authority in a collective organization. If you hold those shares closely, then you should have little worry about hostile actions from outside. You might also consider a partnership structure as a temporary stepping stone to a more complex structure.

        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 16 2014, @09:44PM

          by VLM (445) on Monday June 16 2014, @09:44PM (#56099)

          Those are all relevant points, but also

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piercing_the_corporate_veil [wikipedia.org]

          Is worth looking at. Playing pretend games doesn't necessarily provide perfect protection in all situations. Alter ego theory etc. There's more to operating as a corporation than simply filing different forms. Your lawyer will explain, but if he forgets or assumed you'll know, this might be an interesting discussion point.

          You may be safe from takeover at the cost of loss of limited liability. This is unpopular on SN but the world really is analog not binary so there's no simple 1s and 0s logic to it, but you will be trading off between safety from takeover vs safety from personal liability.

  • (Score: 0) by aos on Monday June 16 2014, @03:43PM

    by aos (758) on Monday June 16 2014, @03:43PM (#55954)

    Who would the shareholders be? I could see the staff perhaps being the shareholders, and I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but we do have options in that regard. Has a cooperative ownership model been considered?

    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 16 2014, @04:01PM

      by VLM (445) on Monday June 16 2014, @04:01PM (#55961)

      I can just picture the poll options now:

      We want to create and issue a new share. Does it go to:

      RMS

      Linus

      ncommander

      Cowboy Neal

      There was a fad maybe a decade ago of sports teams issuing "shares" in the team as a fundraiser, I guess. Green Bay Packers. I could see selling a single share of SN for $100. You'd probably want to limit how many shares can be issued and to whom.

      I'm thinking a share limit of 1e6/(user id number) might be an interesting dynamic.

      • (Score: 0) by aos on Monday June 16 2014, @04:35PM

        by aos (758) on Monday June 16 2014, @04:35PM (#55975)

        A poll from which shares were issued would be kind of awesome, if not practical :). The reason I mentioned a co-op specifically would be because that (typically?) limits one share/vote per member, and it fits within a corporate legal entity. Like you said, we could buy our way into the membership ranks with a one-time purchase, although I have *no idea* how this works across borders.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @04:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @04:04PM (#55962)

    What a fascinating read. The legal system is set up to actively discourage anyone from doing anything. It's like the universe is being reconfigured to stop progress entirely through financial regulation, patents, the tax code, and so on.

    What about putting this web site on servers in the Cayman Islands or Northern Ireland? A lot of really high-profile tech companies do that sort of thing :)

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @07:03PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @07:03PM (#56057) Homepage Journal

      A traditional company actually pretty easy to work with, for ones that exist and mostly operate in one state. Non-geocentric ones are more complicated, and if you want to be something that exists as a public benefit, well, I hope you like pain.

      I've never incorporated anything before, so this has been a very enlighting experience for me.

      --
      Still always moving
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by kebes on Monday June 16 2014, @04:23PM

    by kebes (1505) on Monday June 16 2014, @04:23PM (#55969)

    I realize this is a fairly large departure from what our original plan was...

    I actually disagree. I think something like a B corp was the original plan. Or at least it's what I understood the original plan to be.

    I think the discussion has been side-tracked due to the particular legal definition of "not-for-profit" in the United States, which is intimately tied to the (overly complex) US tax code. Getting 501(c)(3) status is great in terms of tax benefits, but it's in no way necessary in order to do community-oriented, non-profit work. As far as I can tell, the SN community didn't care about what specific legal status was invoked (after all, we are an international community, living in different countries with different laws). What we all care about is that the site be run in such a way that the community benefits.

    The B corp you mention sounds like one valid way of doing this. But there are others. You can create a club or organization or corporation with some kind of charter. By having investors and employees sign agreement to the charter-rules, you can basically enforce whatever set of rules you want, including rules that specify that the objective of the club/organization/corporation is to benefit the community and not generate profits.

    Of course I'm glossing over details. Contracts have to be carefully worded, and legal issues have to be considered at every turn. This has to be done transparently for the community to trust you (e.g. the charter must be explicit about ownership and transfer of ownership). But I would emphasize that getting non-profit tax status shouldn't be a priority. For entities like SN with small income and who re-invest almost everything back into the operation, the tax differences will be small in any case. I suppose if you have grand designs of the umbrella organization becoming colossally successful, then the taxation differences could amount to something substantial. But if that ever becomes the case, it will then be trivial to spend the money to change tax status. So, one step at a time.

    As far as I can tell, you have community support to proceed using whatever legal status best suits the ultimate goal: maintaining a news-aggregator site that the community enjoys. (I do appreciate the transparency, by the way.)

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:03PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:03PM (#55996)

    The money for those subscriptions would be used to support site operations. Would that be considered fundraising?...Our lawyer hi-lighted this issue when we proposed our revenue models, and wasn't sure, he said he'd have to forward the question to a certified public account or to the state for an answer.

    This is a basic revenue model. How could this lawyer not know the answer off the top of his head?

    mattie_p offered an alternative that I had not previously heard of

    The lawyer didn't point this out to you??

    How did you locate this lawyer? I assume you contacted counsel for competing sites that do the same thing soylentnews does, since they're already familiar with all of the issues you're facing, no??

    • (Score: 2) by cosurgi on Monday June 16 2014, @06:44PM

      by cosurgi (272) on Monday June 16 2014, @06:44PM (#56048) Journal

      It might be hard to believe, but it is difficult to find a good lawyer. Usually they all work for those huge corporations that we usually fear of.

      --
      #
      #\ @ ? [adom.de] Colonize Mars [kozicki.pl]
      #
    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @07:01PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @07:01PM (#56056) Homepage Journal

      I didn't note this in the original article, but I would have been suprised if the lawyer knew about B corporations; we're going to be incorporating the B corp in Delaware because New Hampshire doesn't ahve B corporations.

      And yes, finding a lawyer proved to be an extremely painful part of all this.

      --
      Still always moving
    • (Score: 2) by Appalbarry on Monday June 16 2014, @11:33PM

      by Appalbarry (66) on Monday June 16 2014, @11:33PM (#56147) Journal

      I honestly only skimmed TFA, but did intend to ask: were you talking to lawyer who specializes in Not For Profit incorporation?

      Because if you didn't, you may not be getting particularly good advice.

      I've seen far too many emerging organizations get tied into knots because their legal advice was coming from some guy's brother that does real estate deals, and who actually had only a sketchy, remembered from back in law school, knowledge of the speciality.

      Kind of like going to a hard-core Microsoft tech guy and asking for Linux advice. He'll have lots of opinions, but not necessarily useful or accurate ones.

      One guy who does REALLY know this stuff, from lots of years of work in the Public Radio realm, is Ernie Sanchez. [linkedin.com] Tell him that a former AIR board member [airmedia.org] sent you.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:05PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:05PM (#55999)

    The specific public benefit purpose of the corporation is to engage in and promote free, open journalism through the production and publication, and community-sourced analysis and discussion of news and original and third-party-sourced works of fact and opinion.

    That is so wonderfully vague and meaningless it just might be legal!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:16PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @05:16PM (#56006)

    Just run ads and be done with it. Requiring any sort of paid service to read or post will prevent anyone from being anonymous (yes, even bitcoins), and folks like me will go elsewhere and you'll just be left with people agreeing with each other all the time, and never be exposed to unpopular viewpoints. Routing through tor is moot if I must have some financial link to anything to do with your site or login.

    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday June 16 2014, @07:07PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday June 16 2014, @07:07PM (#56059) Homepage Journal

      We're not going to require people to pay to post. None of us are in this to be rich; at best I would *love* if the site could support paid staff, but I'm happy to settle for our own operating costs + legal fees.

      --
      Still always moving
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by boristhespider on Monday June 16 2014, @08:36PM

      by boristhespider (4048) on Monday June 16 2014, @08:36PM (#56083)

      I doubt ads would be very useful at all - how many people who look at SoylentNews aren't running an adblocker? I certainly am and I imagine most others are too. If there were much chance of getting a semi-regular donations/subscription model set up at a level that enough of the userbase would go for then that would probably be for the best. Not sure what benefits you could offer in return but that's probably because I'd be happier seeing any excess being used to solicit exclusive material rather than have any additional benefits myself.

      For my two bob I don't mind how you run the site and would also be open to voluntary subscription.

    • (Score: 2) by everdred on Monday June 16 2014, @10:38PM

      by everdred (110) on Monday June 16 2014, @10:38PM (#56125) Journal

      > Just run ads and be done with it. Requiring any sort of paid service to read or post

      You know, these aren't mutually exclusive.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by zafiro17 on Monday June 16 2014, @08:06PM

    by zafiro17 (234) on Monday June 16 2014, @08:06PM (#56075) Homepage

    If it truly doesn't cost much to host a site like Soy in terms of bandwidth and CPU time, how about we go for a generous benefactor? Said benefactor pays for a year's expenses, and in return gets a banner ad, or prominent notification at the top of the page. Like the NPR radio program, "Underwritten by fleebum, bocci, and dinglebus, legal practitioners." There may be companies out there that are interested in a year's worth of advertising to techies for not-too-much jingle. Offer 6-month and 12-month patronage packages. Stuff like that.

    --
    Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis - Jack Handey
    • (Score: 2) by tathra on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:32AM

      by tathra (3367) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:32AM (#56215)

      the generous benefactor may work for a while, but what if something happens to that benefactor?

      i used to be a moderator at a prominent harm reduction forum that was entirely funded by a generous benefactor. our benefactor died and despite the will saying that his estate was to continue funding in perpetuity, the family somehow pulled funding or reduced it or something. this was almost a decade ago, so i dont remember all the details or what all happened except for some fundraising drives, but even if its supposed to be an iron-clad, eternal arrangement with a benefactor, it wont always be a permanent solution.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @08:30PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 16 2014, @08:30PM (#56080)

    Maybe look into patreon and a monthly subscription.

  • (Score: 1) by Balderdash on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:30AM

    by Balderdash (693) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:30AM (#56190)

    I would gladly pay $1 per year as a basic subscription fee.

    --
    I browse at -1. Free and open discourse requires consideration and review of all attempts at participation.
    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:40AM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Tuesday June 17 2014, @03:40AM (#56217) Homepage Journal

      The subscriber perks post is in the queue for tomorrow morning; I think you might enjoy it (though its a bit more than a dollar :-/)

      --
      Still always moving
      • (Score: 1) by Balderdash on Wednesday June 18 2014, @03:26AM

        by Balderdash (693) on Wednesday June 18 2014, @03:26AM (#56752)

        Then I won't enjoy it.

        --
        I browse at -1. Free and open discourse requires consideration and review of all attempts at participation.
  • (Score: 2) by Maow on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:41AM

    by Maow (8) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @02:41AM (#56195) Homepage

    I'm wondering if the whole thing isn't being over-thought?

    Just carry on as is, have some users who're willing and have a bit of disposable cash to send some donations to whomever is paying for hosting, etc. Any left over money can / should go to those who've done the most work to get and keep the site up and running (i.e. NCommander).

    If worried about taxes, have donations go directly to Soylent's account at Linode perhaps.

    • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Tuesday June 17 2014, @07:05PM

      by urza9814 (3954) on Tuesday June 17 2014, @07:05PM (#56590) Journal

      Yeah, I was kinda thinking the same. Seems to me that incorporation should be like a 1.0 release. Focus on getting the site actually running first. Doesn't seem like Soylent would have any income or assets to bother incorporating at the moment. Deal with the money and legal stuff once you've actually got some...