How to fund LES? [Community Vote]

MasonMason AdministratorOG
edited June 2 in General

Hey all,

@mikho and myself have had several discussions on how to move forward with bringing in some revenue for LES for a couple of reasons:

  1. To offset cost of our infrastructure to run the site and all its components
  2. To pay writers for the blog to bring in some interesting content
  3. To pay for development efforts for new features/plug-ins/widgets on the forum and blog sites

Initially I had plans to fund everything entirely myself to keep the site ad-free and that has worked out fine so far for just the infra costs. However, it's becoming increasingly clear we need some other reserve set up for funding items #2 and #3 above. So let's come together as a community and decide what approach we want to take to achieve this. Rather than Mikael and myself deciding this on our own, we thought it'd be best to hear everyone's input and brainstorm a bit. We have a lot of smart people here to help guide us in the right direction for this, many of who have already offered awesome suggestions and advice for the forum ( @Chievo, @Ympker, @Not_Oles, @vyas, @cybertech, + many others)

Two paths that Mikael and I have identified to bring in some steady revenue are either:

  1. A return of the traditional side-bar / footer ads on the forum and blog. We'd either set up another Blesta shop or use BuySellAds to allow providers of LES to advertise here, with the expectation that gifs remain not super-flashy.
  2. A Patreon-style model where LES community members sponsor the forum at different levels (i.e. $1/mo, $3/mo, $5/mo, etc.). Using this model we could introduce perks to supporting members, such as a private section of the forum/Discord, and also have a reward system in place (i.e. donate $X over time and receive a free LES mousepad, donate $Y over time and receive a free T-Shirt, etc.).

It's my belief that #1 income model above would be more steady, whereas, #2 might fluctuate heavily based on who wants to sponsor LES for any given month. Maybe that's okay if the general consensus is that we don't want ads here.

We're also open to other suggestions if anyone has any other interesting way we can bring in some revenue to LES to help pay for the items mentioned above. Please vote in the poll below to let us know what model you'd like to see here. The outcome of the poll is intended for us to gauge interest and to be used as a topic of discussion moving forward.

Thanks all for your continued support of LES and for being a part of our growing community! <3
-M&M

Humble janitor of LES
Proud papa of YABS

Thanked by (4)Chievo Ympker Ganonk lentro
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Comments

  • MasonMason AdministratorOG

    For transparency, current infra costs below:

    Product $ Purpose
    3x Hetzner CPX11 VMs w/ Backups inc. 15/mo VMs for Forum, Blog, and Dev
    Amazon SES Email <1/mo Outbound forum email
    Mailcheap Email 20/yr Admin, support, & wordpress email
    Runcloud Subscription 15/mo Server/config management + Backups

    Humble janitor of LES
    Proud papa of YABS

  • Why not both #1 and #2? #1 would give a steady income to cover the infra costs and #2 would give a boost to help with further development.

    Another suggestion for ad-hoc contributions could be "sponsor a feature". You quote how much a requested feature would cost and people contribute towards the ones they want to see implemented. It would be community driven and sponsored.

  • I would need some time to think more about it but the patreon option should be equal. I mean if there is a patreon option the limit should be equal 3-5 euros for some period time. If not there would be members of 1st class and 2nd class. So if is not equal proportion should be avoided if possible.

    The prize option is another option. Let s put 20 euros service everyone is sharing 1 euro for a ticket we are obraining 30 euros and only 1 win the prize . numbers are just for example. Benefit for the les . the owner of the package and the provider. Obviously the rest of users must be aware that their participation is for donating to LES so not losing their money.

    Ads are another option that could be studied. Or mix of options

    For me prize and donate the money is 1st option, 2nd ads, 3rd patreon model ( equally done).

    Thanked by (2)Mason vpsgeek3333

    Dentistry is my passion

  • Every hosting provider pays $7/month, but only in months they post an offer thread (excluding exclusive offers).
    Every domain auction pays 10% final value fee.

    Who involucrated my cupon?

  • ChievoChievo OG
    edited May 28

    Put an ad of the cest pit: cest pit ad: example name hosting proudly support LES (auction model)

    Easily 7 euros per month many hostings may be interested in support les in that way and have 1-3 months in supporting LES thread cest pit.

    Put a small fee for the users . You have the numbers but we are roughly 300 active users may be even more that so with 3-5 euros per year or so we could obtain 900-1500 euros covering 600 euros of the fixed costs+ 300 -900 extra cost of the users

    3 -5 euros per year is less than 1-2 coffees per year. If you spend 2 hours per year it is paid . i think that could be fair. And all the members are equal so not classes between us.

    Thanked by (1)Mason

    Dentistry is my passion

  • seriesnseriesn Hosting ProviderOG

    No flashy adspot please. Maybe instead of calling this ads, "Supporter" banner/button would be nice too.

    Donation model might be a hit or miss and you want a steady flow of cash that can be relied upon.

    Only fans for LES?

  • ehabehab Content Writer

    both above options are fine.

    Thanked by (2)Mason PHP_Backend
  • The basis for this was to raise funds for three reasons. Of those, only the first is an immediately obvious need - is money needed for #2 and #3? Maybe, but it isn't obvious to me, nor is it clear what the fundraising goal is. Seems like that should be the starting point for discussion.

    Certainly you can't have a mandatory charge for users (subscription model). Marketing-wise that is a death sentence.

    In terms of brainstorming, maybe let those who donate something have X hours advance notice of provider offers.

    Or see if providers are interested in giving some sort of non-monetary perks, e.g. some type of expedited setup or one free move for "members". (Coming at it from the Amazon Prime angle, where you pay some annual fee and you get some sort of add-on like free shipping but the products and prices are basically the same as everyone else).

    Thanked by (3)Mason mainwindow vimalware
  • MasonMason AdministratorOG

    @beagle said: Why not both #1 and #2? #1 would give a steady income to cover the infra costs and #2 would give a boost to help with further development.

    Not a bad idea! Certainly going either route wouldn't exclude the other, so we could definitely do both if the interest was there. Perhaps becoming a sponsor unlocks an "ad opt-out" in your profile settings to disable ads when logged in (just a thought).

    @Chievo said: For me prize and donate the money is 1st option, 2nd ads, 3rd patreon model ( equally done).

    Thanks for the ideas! Gives us something to chew on and consider. I do personally like the idea of doing "lottery" style prizes where providers donate a prize and the proceeds of the lottery go towards LES costs.

    @yoursunny said:
    Every hosting provider pays $7/month, but only in months they post an offer thread (excluding exclusive offers).
    Every domain auction pays 10% final value fee.

    Interesting idea, indeed. I have a gut feeling that charging providers to participate and submit offers would drive down host interaction in our community and make them seek an alternative elsewhere. Any hosts want to chime in on this model? Open for discussing it further.

    @Chievo said: Put an ad of the cest pit: cest pit ad: example name hosting proudly support LES (auction model)

    Another good idea and easily doable! I'm liking the idea of multiple revenue methods, with this being one of them.

    @Chievo said: Put a small fee for the users

    Similar to @yoursunny's suggestion, I'd like to avoid charging users (or hosts) to participate, even if the cost is minimal. We may retain most of our active members doing this, but I think it would stunt our growth and be a barrier for new members signing up to the forum.

    @seriesn said:
    No flashy adspot please. Maybe instead of calling this ads, "Supporter" banner/button would be nice too.

    Donation model might be a hit or miss and you want a steady flow of cash that can be relied upon.

    Only fans for LES?

    Agreed on both accounts! Brb, launching onlyidle.com

    Thanked by (1)Chievo

    Humble janitor of LES
    Proud papa of YABS

  • mikhomikho AdministratorHosting ProviderOG

    @seriesn said:

    >

    Only fans for LES?

    Bought this today 🤷🏻

    Get 4 or more NAT servers (mix/match between packages) and get a 20 % recurring discount. https://clients.mrvm.net

  • MasonMason AdministratorOG
    edited May 28

    @tetech said: Of those, only the first is an immediately obvious need - is money needed for #2 and #3? Maybe, but it isn't obvious to me, nor is it clear what the fundraising goal is. Seems like that should be the starting point for discussion.

    Yeah, money is needed for #2 and 3, if we want to continue to improve the site and continue our growth. Ant put in a good chunk of his own money into paying a developer for various things that we have here (i.e. the blog/exclusive offers integration, etc.)

    For #2, we've found that good, in-depth technical articles tend to drive user interaction and new sign-ups on the forum. @Not_Oles's Proxmox articles are evidence of this.

    For #3, we have had a lot of great ideas on ways to improve the forum and add additional functionality/features to the forum (i.e. lotteries/prizes, user/provider of the month, better integration of the blog and forum, among others). I don't have the PHP knowledge nor time to code up additional features myself and I'm not sure we can rely on volunteer work to achieve this. Could certainly implement a transparent way of doing it with @beagle's suggestion to "sponsor a feature" essentially. Have a list of features that we as a community think would benefit the forum, assign an estimate on the cost to get it going, and publicly track our progress to hitting that goal and funding that feature.

    Thanked by (1)Not_Oles

    Humble janitor of LES
    Proud papa of YABS

  • MasonMason AdministratorOG
    edited May 28

    If you like a funding approach that's been posted by another user rather than the poll options, please put a 'Thanks' on their comment, so we know what the popular ideas are.

    Thanked by (1)Chievo

    Humble janitor of LES
    Proud papa of YABS

  • YmpkerYmpker OGContent Writer
    edited May 28

    I assumed this discussion would come sooner or later, so here are my two cents on this:
    I think both approaches are fine and could be pursued simultanously. If possible, perhaps patreons could get a "pure" version of LES that is to say "ad-free" (german it-news site golem.de does this for example). Of course there is ad-block and all, but why not give patreons the chance to have it even easier in that regard? Should be possible somehow. Furthermore, I second @Chievo doubt that differently empowered patreon tiers could create a society of different "classes" here, however there is nothing wrong in offering e.g. 1$/3$/5$/10$ patron tiers that all have exactly the SAME perks just that the higher ones are for those feeling more generous. I have seen many patreons that do this actually (higher tiers but without any different perks). Maybe higher tiers can get a golden batch on the forums but other than that I think it is best to have Patreons have the same perks regardless of which tier :)

    P.S.: I did not vote because both options are fine for me. If it was only one options I'd probably pick option #1 since it gives the forum a rather steady source of funds :)

    Thanked by (3)Mason Chievo bikegremlin
  • seriesnseriesn Hosting ProviderOG

    As shared via discord,
    Paid sticky thread - no more than 3 please. At max.

    Thanks :)

  • edited May 28

    Custom role as a perks soon™?

    I think both choice are fine. But please don't make something like early access to offers perk since some offers has limited stock. People should donate to support the website, not solely for donation perks.

    Thanked by (2)seriesn Mason
  • @Mason said:

    @beagle said: Why not both #1 and #2? #1 would give a steady income to cover the infra costs and #2 would give a boost to help with further development.

    Not a bad idea! Certainly going either route wouldn't exclude the other, so we could definitely do both if the interest was there. Perhaps becoming a sponsor unlocks an "ad opt-out" in your profile settings to disable ads when logged in (just a thought).

    @Chievo said: For me prize and donate the money is 1st option, 2nd ads, 3rd patreon model ( equally done).

    Thanks for the ideas! Gives us something to chew on and consider. I do personally like the idea of doing "lottery" style prizes where providers donate a prize and the proceeds of the lottery go towards LES costs.

    @yoursunny said:
    Every hosting provider pays $7/month, but only in months they post an offer thread (excluding exclusive offers).
    Every domain auction pays 10% final value fee.

    Interesting idea, indeed. I have a gut feeling that charging providers to participate and submit offers would drive down host interaction in our community and make them seek an alternative elsewhere. Any hosts want to chime in on this model? Open for discussing it further.

    @Chievo said: Put an ad of the cest pit: cest pit ad: example name hosting proudly support LES (auction model)

    Another good idea and easily doable! I'm liking the idea of multiple revenue methods, with this being one of them.

    @Chievo said: Put a small fee for the users

    Similar to @yoursunny's suggestion, I'd like to avoid charging users (or hosts) to participate, even if the cost is minimal. We may retain most of our active members doing this, but I think it would stunt our growth and be a barrier for new members signing up to the forum.

    @seriesn said:
    No flashy adspot please. Maybe instead of calling this ads, "Supporter" banner/button would be nice too.

    Donation model might be a hit or miss and you want a steady flow of cash that can be relied upon.

    Only fans for LES?

    Agreed on both accounts! Brb, launching onlyidle.com

    The lottery concept. I would make a pack . i mean server from x provider 20 euros( 3months prepaid for better pricing ) +stickers of LES+ exotic gift or more regular one depending of the month (mouse keyboard (amazon gift for such amount if the user is far away) whatsever or something more exotic a small item from US. Sweden Spain India ( voting before that between 3 options so people would vote for what they want) or whatsever something cool and nice and original gift 20 euros max or it depends how the lottery ia done)total package 40 euros ( amount etc are just for the example) 2 euros tickets per person 1 only ticket allowed per person.

    January usually the prices are lower let s say 50 euros pack.( better pricing than doing special deal for christmas)
    Feb 40 euros
    March 40 euros
    Abril 50 euros
    May 40 euros
    June 40 euros
    July 40 euros
    August 40 euros
    Black september 60 euros deal
    October 40 euros
    November 40 euros
    December 40 euros

    Obviously it is just fresh idea but like a concept is that one.( Could be imrpoved changed or whatsever by any member .)So could create a better community and we could earn more people and earn some money for LES needs. I do not see any bad point. I mean if you do not win you are sponsoring LES. If you win great and for the provider free ad and a new customer.

    Thanked by (1)Mason

    Dentistry is my passion

  • Mr_TomMr_Tom Hosting ProviderOG

    As a user I'd be happy to donate but not regularly or monthly - it'd feel like a subscription.

    As a provider I'd be happy to advertise on LET too - I considered it the first time when Ant did it but they sold out.

    So I think a combination somehow of both? I think for users it should some form of perks/one of donations. But I also wouldn't want to see LET end up plastered in flashy ads, so some sort of compromise would be good.

    @Mason said: I have a gut feeling that charging providers to participate and submit offers would drive down host interaction in our community and make them seek an alternative elsewhere.

    Depends how it's done. If it's just a "you must pay to post an offer thread" then yeah you'll probs end up with less offers. But I guess you don't want the place overrun with "promoted" posts as newer providers might feel they can't compete without opening the wallet.

    VM Specialist - Custom, managed and storage VM solutions. | Latest Offers

  • can't there be a simple referal model with providers offering here?

    Thanked by (3)Mason ehab bugrakoc
  • edited May 28

    I think friends of the forum (like me!) should be able to buy a blank ad with no click through and no attribution. If enough buy them- voila - no ads! If not enough buy them- then we get ads. Easier than doin patreon, donations etc. Its a simple put your money where your mouth is- don't want an ad- pay for it! Since it would prevent a full slate of ads- the ads that do show would be more valuable to providrs as the sidebar wont be saturated with ads.

  • edited May 28

    If you do paid stickies can you sink their other threads so we don't get 5-7 discussions from the same vendor of "new ryzen in san jose, dallas, mothers basement, etc "

    Thanked by (3)seriesn vpsgeek3333 Mason
  • seriesnseriesn Hosting ProviderOG

    @DataGizmos said:
    If you do paid stickies can you sink their other threads so we don't get 5-7 discussions of "new ryzen in mothers basement "

    Hey!

    Stop calling me out!!

    Thanked by (2)DataGizmos Mason
    1. Could also put an amazon icon next to the facebook and twitter icon. Have it be an affiliate icon and when we are looking to buy from amazon we could click there first and the forum could get some affiliate money.
    2. Every now and then have everyone contribute a dollar or euro - then go buy lottery tickets - maybe we get lucky and fund the site for a while. If not its just a dollar
    Thanked by (2)lentro Mason
  • cybertechcybertech OGBenchmark King
    • Given the traffic here, ads are perhaps necessary to generate some form of steady revenue.
    • Patreon style is good, though it does take some planning on what trophies / awards / achievements / features that can be unlocked. This might be even better when integrated into the number of posts (i.e. paid perks mixed with free perks) to generate a more fun and meaningful purpose here.
    • with above 2 streams of income, give some back by doing some online events / lucky draws that are open to both paid and free members with some achievements as criteria to weed out freeloaders, with paid members having some form of clear (and transparent) advantage. Say Playstation5 , RTX3060 or a couple of dogecoins. say small ones every bi-monthly / quarterly, big ones for BF/Xmas etc.
    • Great content is good. I personally read some to learn along the way, and feel that the blog posts should already have ads since it would be the least intrusive for a start.
    • Having hosts to pay to post offers, maybe not that simple. offers alone are already some form of subsidized costs to some. how about incentives to allow them to post "premium offers" once a month or having them featured in some quarterly articles on LES blog. idk. Patreon for Hosts maybe.
    Thanked by (1)Mason

    I bench YABS 24/7/365 unless it's a leap year.

  • @Ympker said:
    I assumed this discussion would come sooner or later, so here are my two cents on this:
    I think both approaches are fine and could be pursued simultanously. If possible, perhaps patreons could get a "pure" version of LES that is to say "ad-free" (german it-news site golem.de does this for example). Of course there is ad-block and all, but why not give patreons the chance to have it even easier in that regard? Should be possible somehow. Furthermore, I second @Chievo doubt that differently empowered patreon tiers could create a society of different "classes" here, however there is nothing wrong in offering e.g. 1$/3$/5$/10$ patron tiers that all have exactly the SAME perks just that the higher ones are for those feeling more generous. I have seen many patreons that do this actually (higher tiers but without any different perks). Maybe higher tiers can get a golden batch on the forums but other than that I think it is best to have Patreons have the same perks regardless of which tier :)

    P.S.: I did not vote because both options are fine for me. If it was only one options I'd probably pick option #1 since it gives the forum a rather steady source of funds :)

    Often I feel like I could just add my signature to most of your posts - as is the case with this one. :)

    Of course, with brevity not being among my virtues, I will add more drivel and shameless self-promoting links for those with too much time on their hands:

    As long as this community stays on the current track, it will be a brilliant place.
    In order to do that, it should be self-reliant. That is - it should be able to keep itself running, not depending on any one, or just a few companies (or forum members for that matter).

    If this info is of any help:
    For my websites - Google ads put into the "unused" page corners (so they don't get in the way of the content) have covered any hosting and other maintenance costs (my AdSense experiment).

    Another thing that has worked for me is the affiliate links.
    I don't recommend anything I don't really like (and use).
    Using affiliates for the good stuff - when they are available.

    Content written for the LES could include LES's affiliate links - with companies who provide that kind of compensation.
    Of course, LES should not exclude recommending the good services when that's appropriate, even if those providers give no affiliate program (like MXroute, Windscribe etc.)

    I haven't really tried Patreon (just yesterday I decided to give it a go - and I saw this topic on LES... coincidence!? :) ), so have no feedback on that.

    Would I give money through Patreon?
    No. But that's just me. "Ask him for anything, except money," as a friend put it. :)
    I could write an article, for free - if articles are what's needed to help keep LES up and running, the way it is.
    I also link to LES topics and recommend LES on my I/T related website (suppose that every little helps).

    Of all the hosting-related forums that I've visited and know of, LES is by far the best.
    With mostly good vibes, nice community, and good information - hope this all keeps growing, so Google searches give me LES, not LET topics. :)

    A suggestion:
    Write a LES manifest (or something of that sort).
    What LES is about, where it is headed etc.
    Make it visible (sticky). It will show to any newcomers what this is all about, and it will serve you (us) as a reminder, in case we get lost.

    I made something of that sort for my product reviews explanation, and for my bicycle shop (BikeGremlin manifest).

    Right now, this does exist to a degree in the RULES topic, but I suggest making a separate page, with very few technicalities, just the basics - the spirit. :) "Where do you see yourself in 5 years time" as the HR people like to say. :)

    Mostly harmless ™
    I/O Gremlin

  • I'm in favor of both ads & sponsorship. But ads should be non-flashy/non-tracking. sponsors would get ad-free experience.
    Please don't charge users/providers. That's just something toxic community would do behind the curtain.
    I also agree that we should not start "class based citizen" system here. People with big money should not be treated differently in ideal community.

    I would guess that out of all three, development has the most price tag. People are expensive than the machines. Mason already mentioned that we can't rely on volunteer work for development. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't encourage volunteer developers. Have we considered how can we make developers interested to contribute on LES? Ant was not favor of Opensourcing LES. I was wondering what is the opinion of new admins on this issue? Is the already implemented paid features are being blocker? Is "OGF would steal our feature" mentality is still strong now?
    Community doesn't build around features, it builds around people.

  • One of the other sites I visit runs ads, but disables ads based on a subscription model.

    So ads, unless you pay (or use an adblocker if you hate it). An opt-in option to disable flashy ads would be a nice touch to prevent users like myself from enabling adblock.

    Thanked by (3)Chievo Abdullah Mason

    Hey teamacc. You're a dick. (c) Jon Biloh, 2020.

  • Sounds like a good idea, charge a flat fee of 7$/m for providers to post.
    If infra is paid, pay the mods.

    Thanked by (2)Not_Oles Mason
  • edited May 29

    I second the suggestion of @bikegremlin - please consider using aff links in order to pay for the infra! (#1)

    Not sure about Mailchimp and Runcloud, definitely won't work for AWS, but at thevery least, please consider posting a link for Hetzner Cloud (FWIW, it shouldn't be that hard to attract new users, as AFAIR they get free 20 euros after signing up via an aff link...!) , and perhaps for the domain as well*

    *Not sure how it's being paid for, but lowendspirit.com was not listed as part of the infra costs... Also, not sure about your current registrar, but this should be possible with e.g. Dynadot (I was going to say Porkbun, but sadly, they discontinued their aff program a while ago OTL)

    Thanked by (1)Mason
  • Not_OlesNot_Oles Hosting ProviderContent Writer

    @Neoon said:
    Sounds like a good idea, charge a flat fee of 7$/m for providers to post.
    If infra is paid, pay the mods.

    @yoursunny said:
    Every hosting provider pays $7/month, but only in months they post an offer thread (excluding exclusive offers).
    Every domain auction pays 10% final value fee.

    $7 is a mantra that bears repeating! 💖

    Exclusive offers add value to logging in to our community. Is that added value worth more than $7? 🤔 Might more than $7 in sales be lost by marketing exclusively on LES? 🤩

    Blinking ads are ungood. 🤑

    Greetings from New York City and Mexico! :)

    Thanked by (1)Mason

    Tom, not Oles. Happy New York City guy visiting in Mexico!
    Purveyor of Fast-as-Metal LXC and KVM VPSes!

  • As mentioned by a few already, I think affiliate links would be a good way to go.
    I mean, a 5% cut on everything sold via BF-deals, holiday promos, sister discounts or whatever posted here will probably not make you rich, but several 5% of $7 might make a few bucks.

    I don't see a problem combining it with light ads as well, but if it turns into some animated blinking popup hell, I will simply adblock all of it.

    Thanked by (3)Falzo Mason skorous
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