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posted by NCommander on Wednesday August 17 2016, @11:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the hrm dept.

So, during the last site update article, a discussion came up talking about how those who work and write for this site should get paid for said work. I've always wanted to get us to the point where we could cut a check to the contributors of SoylentNews, but as it stands, subscriptions more or less let us keep the lights on and that's about it.

As I was writing and responding to one specific thread, part of me started to wonder if there would be enough interest to try and crowdfund articles on specific topics. In general, meta articles in which we talk deploying HSTS or our use of Hesiod tend to generate a lot of interest. So, I wanted to try and see if there was an opportunity to both generate interesting content, and help get some funds back to those who donate their time to keep the lights on.

One idea that immediately comes to mind that I could write is deploying DNSSEC in the real world, and an active example of how it can help mitigate hijack attacks against misconfigured domains. Alternatively, on a retro-computing angle, I could cook something in 16-bit real mode assembly that can load an article from soylentnews.org. I could also do a series on doing (mostly) bare metal work; i.e., loading an article from PXE boot or UEFI.

However, before I get in too deep into building this idea, I want to see how the community feels about it. My initial thought is that the funds raised for a given article would dictate how long it would be, and the revenue would be split between the author, and the staff, with the staff section being divided at the end of the year as even as possible. The program would be open to any SN contributor. If the community is both interested and willing, I'll organize a staff meeting and we'll do a trial run to see if the idea is viable. If it flies, then we'll build out the system to be a semi-regular feature of the site

As always, leave your comments below, and we'll all be reading ...

~ NCommander

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by martyb on Wednesday August 17 2016, @01:17PM

    by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @01:17PM (#389093) Journal

    I appreciate the idea and putting it out to the community for feedback. Take note it is early morning for me and I'm still waking up; the following are subject to change upon further wakefulness. =)

    My primary concern is that the site remains a going concern. As you mentioned, we are barely able to secure sufficient funds to keep the site going. Shout out to all those who have subscribed [soylentnews.org] and/or purchased swag [zazzle.com]!

    As we are set up as a PBC (Public Benefit Corporation), I am curious as to how raising funds and paying for submissions fits in with that. Also, there was some talk at one point about gaining tax status as a 501c(3) (I think that's the one -- correct me if I am wrong) whereby people could make an outright, tax-deductible donation to the site. I realize it is a bit of a catch-22 as it would take a fair amount of funds in order to set that up. ISTR there are both national and state-level issues with that... Hmmm, I wonder if we could bootstrap the process? Find someone in the US who can commit to a seed donation sufficient to set up tax-deductible status in that state. Then, from the later tax-deductible donations in that state, garner additional funds to go on to the next state, and eventually, cover the entire USA? How much would it cost, in total, to become able to accept tax-deductible donations across the entire USA? We cannot be the first organization who would be interested in doing this. What have other organizations done?

    As for paying for stories... Unless there is a HUGE desire for this, I would argue against it. This site has become what is has because of the generous donations of people's time and energy. My sense is that as soon as money gets involved, things change from "What can I do[nate] to help?" to "What is in it for me?" I've seen money mess up other well-intentioned organizations; I'd hate to see that happen here.

    If anything, I'd sooner see any excess funds that come in be used to reimburse the founders for their seed capital that got this site off the ground. Let's make them whole, first; show that we can meet our existing obligations before we step out into something else.

    Again, mostly thinking out loud here -- feedback welcome.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by CoolHand on Wednesday August 17 2016, @01:30PM

    by CoolHand (438) on Wednesday August 17 2016, @01:30PM (#389098) Journal
    I more or less wholeheartedly agree with martyb's statements.. I could easily see how money divvied up among staff could start to cause a lot of friction. If there was enough money to pay salaries for everyone, I think it would be better. But just paying out here or there could start to cause some jealousy quickly, even among the best intentioned and most reasonable people. We're only human afterall. I think it could possibly work, but there would have to be a very detailed framework created that was viewed as fair by everyone. I'm not sure how possible that is, but I know it would be a lot of work, and probably require a lot of modification through trial and error before becoming perfected. In the meantime, it would be causing friction. If money was crowdfunded, I'd just as soon it all go into the main general slush fund of the site (and some to charity would be fine too maybe as an above idea suggested), until such time as we had such an abundance that we were almost forced to start paying some reasonable salaries to people, and then that not based on a per story status, but just a general salary. I think if it was based per story, it would be really difficult to parcel those out fairly..
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  • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Wednesday August 17 2016, @03:20PM

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @03:20PM (#389144) Journal

    As an editor, and therefore someone who could benefit financially from this proposal, I share marty's concerns regarding the potential for it to create friction within both the team and the wider community. Of course I would like to be compensated for the several hundreds of hours (yep, it's not a lot spread over 2 years but it is quite a bit of my 'spare' time and it has come at a personal cost) of support given to this site. But how do you measure the value of a contribution between dev, editing, QA, management etc? Unless we have a recognised and agreed scale of remuneration, the likelihood of it creating problems is greater than the short term gains to the community as a whole.

    I know many of the team deserve something tangible in recognition of their efforts, and if we insist on doing this for free we might simply end up abusing the enthusiasm and generosity of a handful of individuals who really need to think about getting food on their table.

    I'm most certainly not trying to rain on anyone's parade, but I can see a lot of work being necessary to produce a system that is fair to all concerned - and which is viewed as such and accepted by the community. The idea has merit, but I don't think that we have identified a suitable implementation yet. However, that is what this thread is about so I look forward to seeing the comments and suggestions.

    If anything, I'd sooner see any excess funds that come in be used to reimburse the founders for their seed capital that got this site off the ground. Let's make them whole, first; show that we can meet our existing obligations before we step out into something else.

    I whole-heartedly agree.

  • (Score: 2) by AudioGuy on Wednesday August 17 2016, @05:19PM

    by AudioGuy (24) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 17 2016, @05:19PM (#389194) Journal

    I agree with these concerns.

    Money has a way of distorting things - and attracting the wrong sort of people.

    Right now we have staff who are happy to donate their time for a greater good, and part of that greater good is that the focus is on the communuty, not the 'business'.

    We have members of the community who freely donate their money to keep us going, with no return expected other than we keep the site up and functional for their use.

    We did what we set out to do, and it is working. I don't want to break it.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17 2016, @11:00PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 17 2016, @11:00PM (#389356)

    I don't think you understand the process for becoming a tax-exempt organization. Basically, you form a non-profit under some state's rules, then you apply for tax exempt status at the Federal level. The home state usually follows the lead of the IRS, but if not you apply there too. You may also have to apply to the PPB, if different. All other states hen recognize tax exempt status because they follow the IRS determination and because of FFC under the Constitution.