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Author Topic: Revisiting the idea of simplifying the DC big app license key stuff  (Read 12576 times)
mouser
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« on: February 21, 2011, 06:29:58 PM »

This may be asking for trouble, but I thought it might be time to start a new thread to talk about the license key stuff on DC and whether there are things that can be done better.

To revisit the current situation:
  • Some of the software on DC is just normal freeware, no limits, no nags, etc.
  • Some of the other software on DC (mostly my big apps) will start to nag you on run to put in a license key.  You can get a license key in a number of ways:  You can get a 30day license key immediately from site with no signup.  You can signup on forum for a 6month license key which you can return visit for another one at any time and after a year you get permanent one, or you can donate any amount to get a permanent license key.  The motivation behind this is 1) to get people to give some thought to donating, and 2) not make it so much easier and so much less work, and thus so much more appealing to not donate.

The benefits of this approach seem to be a substantial number of increased donations from people who can afford to donate and would rather donate then have to sign up or go through the "hassle" of coming back in 6 months for a new license key, etc.  The increase in donations when we made this change were significant but I don't have any real hard numbers to go by.  Encourages more people to sign up on the forum and thereafter participate in our discussions.

The problems with this approach are: Increased complexity in explaining the way our site works, which turns off people and confuses them into just leaving; confusion on other websites about the nature of our software (is it really free? etc.).



Possible changes:
  • Do away with license key system entirely, go back to just asking for pure voluntary donations; this should lead to happier users but could reduce donation substantially. As tempting as this is we have to remember that without *some* kind of incentive to donate, people as a rule aren't willing to go through the hassle.
  • Simplify license key system: Allow anyone to get a N-month license key immediately on site without signing up.  Donations required for permanent license key; do away with need to sign up and 6month renewal turning into permanent license key; This would be simpler to explain and use, and doing away with signup encouragement for non-donors would be welcome by many.
  • Remove the need for license key but allow donors to download newer versions of programs; Idea here would be that donors would get the latest versions of the programs ahead of non-donors; the versions available to non-donors would always be N months behind latest release; This has an advantage of being simple to explain and offering a real benefit to donors, while still offering fully free versions to everyone and no need for free users to deal with license keys; Another advantage is the incentive is on us to keep improving our software.
  • Have a page where anyone can download a full license key, and must simply state that they have considered and will consider in the future, the idea of donating to the site, but not require anything; at least this would let us have an opportunity to ask them to consider donating.
  • Leave everything the way it is.
  • Other ideas?



Thoughts?
« Last Edit: February 21, 2011, 06:54:15 PM by mouser; Reason: added another possibility » Logged
Josh
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2011, 06:55:47 PM »

Quote
  • Do away with license key system entirely, go back to just asking for pure voluntary donations; this should lead to happier users but could reduce donation substantially.
  • Simplify license key system: Allow anyone to get a N-month license key immediately on site without signing up.  Donations required for permanent license key; do away with need to sign up and 6month renewal turning into permanent license key; This would be simpler to explain and use, and doing away with signup encouragement for non-donors would be welcome by many.
  • Remove the need for license key but allow donors to download newer versions of programs; Idea here would be that donors would get the latest versions of the programs ahead of non-donors; the versions available to non-donors would always be N months behind latest release; This has an advantage of being simple to explain and offering a real benefit to donors, while still offering fully free versions to everyone and no need for free users to deal with license keys; Another advantage is the incentive is on us to keep improving our software.
  • Have a page where anyone can download a full license key, and must simply state that they have considered and will consider in the future, the idea of donating to the site, but not require anything; at least this would let us have an opportunity to ask them to consider donating.
  • Leave everything the way it is.
Other ideas?

  • 1st idea: Like you said, this is definitely an option but will drop revenue of the site. I would hate to see advertisements on my beloved doco smiley
  • 2nd idea: Good idea, probably the best of the bunch. I think you could combine 2 and 3 and find the perfect system. The idea here is that the person gets immediate access to the newest versions on DoCo with the temp license without requiring sign-up. After that period, however, any subsequent licenses would result in "delayed" access to future versions until a sign up is done.
  • 3rd idea: See above. Combined with 2, I think it could be a winning option.
  • 4th idea: This could be a "sign up" form in which they enter basic info: Name, Email and receive a key right then and there. They are not put on any mailing lists, etc. But do receive a key. You would have to make sure and annotate that they will not receive emails unless they opt in (good idea for a field on the form.
  • 5th idea: NO, see above.
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fenixproductions
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2011, 07:12:39 PM »

Maybe:
- world - 2 months valid public key,
- members - 6 months key,
- donations - full time licence.

Of course, mileage can vary (depending on opinions).

And it may be nice idea to make licensing system work for DC developers via special DLL file.
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superboyac
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2011, 07:35:41 PM »

Here's an idea that I think most of you will think is crazy, but I think it is a AWESOME idea:
I like this forum.  I think we have a lot of talent here, and the talent is special because most of the people are very nice, polite and helpful to one another.  We've tried doing things like donations and stuff, and it is always a nice idea, but like mouser said, the donations eventually evolve into something else other than people actually using the money to buy things.  Since the amounts are so small, they don't have puchasing power, so they just serve as a "Thank you" to people here and there.  And that is nice, but how about this idea (sorry for building up to it like this)
What if we use whatever money the community has here to start generating a small DonationCoder economy with employees and everything?  Why don't we start a cool DoCo app store?  The software written here is pretty good, why not charge $5 for people to get a license and make it truly free stuff.  And we'd have great customer service also.  Look, I asked skwire to write the List Numberer program, which he did in like a day.  And it's great.  But why not charge a buck or two for it?  It's nothing, but at least people will come and just give a little bit to say thanks.  But it's not freeware, so at least there could be something self-sustaining about it.

And you could make it a deal in a fair way also.  Some money should go to the site and some should go to the authors.  But it has to be fair.  it can't be a salary, because shareware just doesn't sell well enough to have a salary.  It should be a percentage PER license sold.  So if skwire sold his program for $2, maybe one dollar goes to DC, and he keeps the other dollar.  Then we just let the sales do the talking.  If you want to make more money, write something that more people would want to use.  We don't have to pay $1000 up front to make a program that only 100 people will buy.

It will justify some of the more difficult requests being made.  stuff that is too hard and complicated to consider a one-hour coding snack.  Well, charge $5 or $10 for it then.  And keep in mind the discussion we had on the other thread about what people are willing to pay for, etc.

But the thing we'd really be able to hang our hat on is the customer service.  Where else can people go and ASK people to make a software for a specific problem?  And someone will actually do it?!  It's very unique.  You can't go to the Nero developers and say, "could you make something for this and that?"  No way.  So why not monetize it a little bit.  Maybe somebody here can make a career out of it.  Wouldn't that be nice?  It would motivate people to do bigger and more challenging projects.  The community here is already well respected int he software community, so why not?  Let's do this guys.  I know a lot of you really want to give things away for free because it's the right thing to do...but it's hard work, I know it is.  People don't mind paying for it when they are getting good software, AND they are getting great customer service.  Their questions are answered.  bugs are fixed instantly.  brand new software requests are accepted and new software is made within days/weeks...that right there would distinguish this place from just about every other "store".  Even the app store has no ability to fulfill requests like that.

Why should we wait for other developers to fix their bugs and holes?  You don't like their stuff, let's make our own and make it better in every way.

I'm not a programmer, but I would love to help in creating a practical business plan that would hopefully work well for all parties.  There are so many things that can be done.  I'd love if you guys wanted to do this.
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mouser
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2011, 08:11:31 PM »

DC has always been very supportive of anyone in its ranks making a go of selling software.
But I think there is something special about the free software community, and although DC may have a strange place in that community, i think part of our specialness and part of the fun we have is because of our commitment to it.  I don't think we want to lose that.  DC is *not* a proper business.  Our goal is not to maximize profits.  DC is not a full time job for anyone.  I think it would be a mistake to try to change that.

That's not to say that individual members shouldn't feel supported if they try to go that route -- there is nothing dishonorable about selling software.  But as a site I don't think it should be our focus.

That's not to say there aren't ways for us to do things differently, just that i think we need to be true to ourselves and what makes us a special place.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2011, 01:04:42 AM by mouser; Reason: fixed typo » Logged
superboyac
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2011, 09:48:51 PM »

DC has always been very supportive of anyone in its ranks making a go of selling software.
But I think there is something special about the free software community, and although DC may have a strange place in that community, i think part of our specialness and part of the fun we have is because of our commitment to it.  I don't think we want to lose that.  DC is *not* a proper business.  Our goal is not to maximize profits.  DC is not a full time job for anyone.  I think it would be a mistake to try to change that.

That's not to say that individual members shouldn't feel supportive if they try to go that route -- there is nothing dishonorable about selling software.  But as a site I don't think it should be our focus.

That's not to say there aren't ways for us to do things differently, just that i think we need to be true to ourselves and what makes us a special place.
I see.  yes, I've noticed a strange disconnect between the way I think and how some of my favorite freeware developers think.  I'm always thinking, "Man!  it just doesn't make sense!!"  But if I now think about it more clearly, it's the same thing as me offering my piano playing services for whatever: banquets, parties, etc.  I don't get paid, and I refuse payment, etc....same thing.  I get it.  We get pleasure out of using our talents that way.  There's a comfort and satisfaction about it, and you don't get that from work.  Am i right?  is that how it is?
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barney
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2011, 11:47:18 PM »

OK, take superboyac's concept and apply it not to the software, but to the effort by the programmer(s).  'Nother words, a payment for effort, not necessarily for results.  Conditions would have to be set, of course, but this could be a splinter of the main DC focus that might benefit both the author and the requester.

Yeah, there are wrinkles that would have to be worked out, but as a concept it ain't bad.  I've been to eCoder, et. al., more than once in order to get some bit accomplished that
  • I wasn't qualified to do
  • I didn't have time to do
at the request of my then manager when I was in the corporate world.

Set up as a separate forum grouping, that just might be viable.
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mouser
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« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2011, 01:03:59 AM »

superboy yes, you nailed it.  Thmbsup
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mouser
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2011, 01:07:27 AM »

barney, i think the spirit of what you are saying is something that could be compatible with the site. That is, put some effort into making it easier for the coders on DC to be discovered and hired to do paid work by people who find them through DC.
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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2011, 03:50:05 AM »

I guess all freeware is donationware. In most cases, the author has made the biggest donation of his/her time, electricity, distribution costs, etc. I believe non-programmers do not know how much effort (~money) does it take to create and maintain software. Maybe it would help if the costs were known to the end users. So, here is an idea: Before receiving the free license key, the user would be forced to view the page with costs and donations that would also list the freeware author as a donor (donating total costs minus sum of all other donations).

Not sure if something like that would work, it is just an untested idea. Some people would still leave, because they feel happier if they consider freeware completely free and hate to feel guilty of not helping.

Mouser, you have probably the biggest experience with donations, you gut feelings are the most accurate. On the other hand, if you were able to somehow measure the impact of those various incentivizing options, it would make a great blog post.
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jgpaiva
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2011, 05:32:04 AM »

Quote
  • Do away with license key system entirely, go back to just asking for pure voluntary donations; this should lead to happier users but could reduce donation substantially.
  • Simplify license key system: Allow anyone to get a N-month license key immediately on site without signing up.  Donations required for permanent license key; do away with need to sign up and 6month renewal turning into permanent license key; This would be simpler to explain and use, and doing away with signup encouragement for non-donors would be welcome by many.
  • Remove the need for license key but allow donors to download newer versions of programs; Idea here would be that donors would get the latest versions of the programs ahead of non-donors; the versions available to non-donors would always be N months behind latest release; This has an advantage of being simple to explain and offering a real benefit to donors, while still offering fully free versions to everyone and no need for free users to deal with license keys; Another advantage is the incentive is on us to keep improving our software.
  • Have a page where anyone can download a full license key, and must simply state that they have considered and will consider in the future, the idea of donating to the site, but not require anything; at least this would let us have an opportunity to ask them to consider donating.
  • Leave everything the way it is.
Other ideas?

  • 1st idea: Like you said, this is definitely an option but will drop revenue of the site. I would hate to see advertisements on my beloved doco smiley
  • 2nd idea: Good idea, probably the best of the bunch. I think you could combine 2 and 3 and find the perfect system. The idea here is that the person gets immediate access to the newest versions on DoCo with the temp license without requiring sign-up. After that period, however, any subsequent licenses would result in "delayed" access to future versions until a sign up is done.
  • 3rd idea: See above. Combined with 2, I think it could be a winning option.
  • 4th idea: This could be a "sign up" form in which they enter basic info: Name, Email and receive a key right then and there. They are not put on any mailing lists, etc. But do receive a key. You would have to make sure and annotate that they will not receive emails unless they opt in (good idea for a field on the form.
  • 5th idea: NO, see above.

I think that delayed access to versions is not a good idea, since many versions are bug fixes and not feature improvements. You'd be handing out a buggy version of your software to anyone who doesn't donate. The solution for this would obviously be to maintain two versions, one with more features than the other, but both with the same bug fixes. This sounds like those "free" vs "payed" versions of the software. I'm alright with this approach, but it involves having 2 binaries for each application, and switches in the code to do this. Personally, I think is is too much of an hassle and users wouldn't get to see all the potential of the software.

I propose something similar to what we have now, but with a slight change: when the nag comes up in the app (after 1month), it has a "get your free key here" link. The user goes to the page and he gets the following message:

Hi! We are glad you are still using our application after one month!
You now have three options to register our application:
Here's your free 3-month key: khbknasnxci<insert rest of key here>
OR you can join our forum and get a 6-month free key (and a lifetime free key in 6 months)
OR you can donate any amount you like and get a lifetime key for all our apps right now!


The wording is terrible, but I'm sure we could write it a bit better. The guidelines behind my idea are this:
People who don't care will just get the 3-month key and go with it. With the current model, they would only register to get the key anyways, so let them just have it and be happy with it, but make them return in 3-months to see if they have gained any interest in the forum.
People who actually read websites might be more interested in the forum (and may provide interesting contributions to the forum). These would be the ones who would register for the 6-month key.

A few more ideas that just popped about this:
1 - maybe the 6-month forum key (or the permanent forum key) could be handed out only if the user had more than 2(?) posts.
2 - better yet, maybe the 6-month forum key could only be handed out to people who wrote what they think about the application at the forum? A "Tell us what you think about FARR and get a 6-month(1-year?) key" kind of thing?
3 - maybe we could have a "why I deserve a free key" thread which could also be one of the options above for obtaining a key. Might bring good karma and more members to the forum (as it would force people to do a post). That's how you got me a few years ago, IIRC tongue
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2011, 06:21:41 AM »

Similar to what jgpaiva said. Maybe the system in itself is not the problem, but the way it is communicated is. I.e. make it easier for new users to understand. That might also mean explaining it in languages other than English.
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tomos
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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2011, 06:36:43 AM »

when the nag comes up in the app (after 1month), it has a "get your free key here" link. The user goes to the page and he gets the following message:

Hi! We are glad you are still using our application after one month!
You now have three options to register our application:
Here's your free 3-month key: khbknasnxci<insert rest of key here>
OR you can join our forum and get a 6-month free key (and a lifetime free key in 6 months)
OR you can donate any amount you like and get a lifetime key for all our apps right now!
+1

A few more ideas that just popped about this:
1 - maybe the 6-month forum key (or the permanent forum key) could be handed out only if the user had more than 2(?) posts.
2 - better yet, maybe the 6-month forum key could only be handed out to people who wrote what they think about the application at the forum? A "Tell us what you think about FARR and get a 6-month(1-year?) key" kind of thing?
3 - maybe we could have a "why I deserve a free key" thread which could also be one of the options above for obtaining a key. Might bring good karma and more members to the forum (as it would force people to do a post). That's how you got me a few years ago, IIRC tongue

I personally dont like the idea of forcing people to post - has it really been done before? (I think I donated before I even started using dc software, so I not sure how the 'non-donating' keys work.) To make posting an incentive would be fine IMO.
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2011, 07:18:28 AM »

Personally I'd rather do something like Avira does with ads. Savvy users can just disable it while it allows un-savvy users to get an initial license key or try to crack it somehow. Doesn't really matter as long as they are hooked on the software it's just to get those initial donators who are on the fence.

It's really the subsequent marketplace that I think will hook in new donators. Kind of like apps for the Iphone except instead of buying apps - donators are buying their suggestions to be prioritized.

The marketplace working in 3 layers. 1st sequence of donations get priority from programmers first unless they choose something else (which they are free to do). Second sequence of donations means some percentage goes back to a DC core. The catch is that if the main developer prioritizes some other feature, a DC regular will step in within a time frame to either fork or implement that feature into the program. 3rd and final is when the money surpasses a certain level of expectations and in this case, DC is obliged to actively seek out and pay people to make a feature or program happen sort of like middle men.
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mahesh2k
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2011, 08:51:36 AM »

Quote
Leave everything the way it is.
thumbs up
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« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2011, 11:12:03 AM »


Are there any numbers of disgruntled posters of the current system vs the ones it doesn't seem to be a problem? Prompting the consideration to change?  Or is it a "gut feeling" like they say on NCIS?

I feel that anyone who visits the site frequently enough should realize the benefits of donating whether as a coder or just as a user. Granted, some do need gentle reminders before it comes to them on their own.  The purpose of DonationCoder is well presented elsewhere on the site http://www.donationcoder....m/Articles/One/index.html

Need some help on this one since it has been a while since I installed Screen Captor and Launchbar Commander.  So bear with me if this is off a little. 

At the end of the installation there is a pop-up inviting the user to visit DonationCoder.  What about expanding (in fact physically expanding the window size so a bunch of scrolling isn't needed) in this window a short description of DoCo or a link to the expanded version above.  Then include wording to the effect of "you are able to use 'abc' for a period of ?? days.  If you haven't already, at the end of ?? days you will receive a gentle request (reminder) to join and post your comments on your use and experiences of 'abc'.  (Maybe set up a separate forum area for these) And at that time this will automatically extend the usage for ?? days/months"... and so on."  Not even use the word free in the statement, just the word "use."  Personal opinion, saying something is "free" then turning right around and asking for something in return can be a turn off.

Or (since I just looked), similar to how it is said it the 'About' section of the help menu in SC, LC, etc.

My 2 cents for what they're worth.  I'll continue to donate however it goes and as long as possible.






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mouser
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« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2011, 11:34:41 AM »

It's more of a gut feeling that things are just a little complex and confusing, and that this turns people away.

What about something like this:

Programs always run, always latest version, always full features enabled (just like now).
If you haven't put any license key in you will occasionally be reminded to click a link to get a license key (just like now).

However, the change will be to the license key page, similar to what jgpaiva proposed.  The simplified page will say:
  • 1. Click here for a license key that will work for 60 days; come back any time to get another.
  • 2. Or donate any amount to become a lifetime member and receive a permanent license key.

And remove all of the other rigmarole.
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jgpaiva
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« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2011, 11:39:35 AM »

I really like that idea, but I think it might go against the motto that people who can't pay could have access to a fully-working copy. Personally I really like the "tell us how we can improve our software (or site?) and get a 6-month working key" option, it might bring some nice karma.
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« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2011, 11:40:55 AM »

Also, I'm not sure about this, but does the link on the application take people directly to the key page? I think this would remove the "I can't find my free key" complex we see sometimes around the forum.
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mouser
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« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2011, 11:42:35 AM »

We could make a 3rd bullet point which just makes official our semi-unofficial policy, which is:
3. If you are part of a non-profit organization, or are a freeware author, or have considered the ideas of the site and have decided that you will not be donating for whatever reason, send us an email describing why and we will send you a non-expiring license key.
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« Reply #20 on: February 22, 2011, 11:43:08 AM »

Quote
but does the link on the application take people directly to the key page?

yes it does.  but that key page is confusing to people.
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« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2011, 11:47:11 AM »

I only skimmed over this topic, but I think there is one distinction we should keep in mind. There is such a thing as donationware, and there is such a thing as nagware. The first of those gets sympathy, the latter gets plain hated upon no matter how noble the motives behind it.

Quote
but does the link on the application take people directly to the key page?

yes it does.  but that key page is confusing to people.

Then that page needs reworking to make it simpler.
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jgpaiva
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« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2011, 11:50:06 AM »

I think option 3 transmits to the user that good warm feeling we all have for being a part of DC Wink
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timns
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« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2011, 12:02:21 PM »

I really like that idea, but I think it might go against the motto that people who can't pay could have access to a fully-working copy. Personally I really like the "tell us how we can improve our software (or site?) and get a 6-month working key" option, it might bring some nice karma.

But can't pay even a dollar to help support the site?
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mouser
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« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2011, 12:04:03 PM »

worstje's point about nagware is important.. and it's hard to figure out a way to "remind" people to consider donating without becoming nagware.

timns said:
Quote
But can't pay even a dollar to help support the site?

i think this gets to what i've written about before -- i really don't think it's the donation amount that is the obstacle.. it's the amount of work involved to donate, and the fear of risking their financial information with some site they don't know about for such amount.

right now there is no easy way to solve that obstacle -- not until some of the big players make it effortless and worry free to make donations on the web.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2011, 12:06:32 PM by mouser » Logged
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