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View Full Version : Low Overhead Guild Funding - Your thoughts?



Robbie
11-26-2008, 09:55 AM
Hello Esteemed Guild Mates,

I've asked my CLs this question a LONG time ago, and the result was more of a "whatever you think best" and I've not asked it to my current new staff, so I instead decided to ask it of all of you.

I want to preface this with the following: *THE SITE IS NOT IN FINANCIAL TROUBLE* I don't want you to think the site needs to be saved or requires you to contribute to participate.

Anyways, my hosting bill came in. And while it was not unpayable, it was more than I expected during the holiday season. Ad revenue is not reliable or steady enough to be considered, since the last ad check paid for the yearly subscription to vBulletin upgrades.

What I do want to ask though is what do you all think of some low overhead financial options for the site. Here's the options currently on the table:


A paid subscription level. This basically gives a site member the option of signing up to the site for a small fee that is good for one year of subscription level access. The benefits of said subscription level access are to be determined still, but I hope to make it at least worth the yearly subscription rate. General site access will ALWAYS remain free.
A permanent donation button. This gives anyone the option of donating money to offset the cost of upkeep and support of the site at any time and of any amount, and also doesn't involve any kind of additional membership benefits. Things remain the same, other than potentially recognizing donors with a tag of some sort.


I use the term "low overhead" because some of the options presented in the past discussions would require extra business licenses and legal checking, and overall interest protecting overhead which while I'm not opposed to eventually, I'm currently not prepared to handle. I'd like to use the low overhead method to gather enough funding to move the site to the next level, which would involve a higher level of dedicated hosting, and more business oriented capabilities, such as publishing, advertising, sub domain hosting, media hosting, etc.

So I now turn to the vote. I leave this in your hands to determine what I do here, and when you click the vote button, make sure that you are aware that this site will ALWAYS remain free and I don't intend to ever take that away from you all because I am honored and humbled daily by this community. I'm not asking or begging for money at all, and as I said before the site as it is currently is not in any financial trouble. However, I feel that a source of income could help the site grow above and beyond what it is currently.

Also feel free to discuss.

Gamerprinter
11-26-2008, 10:14 AM
I'd have no problems paying an annual fee, however I think you will find members not all that excited about paying anything, here. I have no problem and recommend putting up a permanent Donation button, that just makes sense.

I have tried to think of other ways for the Guild to make money.

One idea, (I was waiting to see the results during the December challenge - to see how many people are actually interested in the idea,) I would be willing to offer a printing service, where maps created for monthly challenges or other specifically CG related maps are available for print from Gamer-Printshop.com and that $1 or $2 of the proceeds for each map print will be paid to the Guild each month. This could include both large format and multipage color PDF printing.

But then I didn't want to overly insert myself into Arcana's business - I wanted to see how the December challenge went, before I made this suggestion, but since the question has been officially "aired" - I'm offering.

I have no idea, how many would order, but knowing that ordering a map helps support the guild, people would be interested to a degree.

I still think the Guild needs to create sellable publications for fantasy mapping. Say, gather all the tutorials together, create fill-in tutorials in any areas we haven't covered and create say, the Fantasy Cartographers Guide to GIMP - make it available as a PDF book with 100% of proceeds going to the guild. Include all the best GIMP created maps and make this a coffee table book!

Perhaps contact some graphics application developer and try to create a packaged - buy this graphics app and receive a collection of tutorials and/or map objects ready for use (gather all pertinent map objects from the site...)

Just more ideas, for you Arcana.

GP

Robbie
11-26-2008, 10:21 AM
Honestly, I've been considering offering some kind of affiliation with you for a while now...especially since the whole Gamer-Printshop concept and this site got off to a bad start initially anyways (the whole spam thing back when I was sensitive)

I definitely like the idea of offering your print services through the guild if you think thats justifiable...the guild cut might be well worth the amount of biz it funnels your way...I hope so.

In the short term though, the publishing aspect would require a level of legal/business support that I can't afford without some initial investment from members. Which is why I'm starting this low overhead initiative.

Lets talk off-site about printshop affiliation. I'll email you.

torstan
11-26-2008, 10:21 AM
I voted for the donations button because I think the easiest option at this stage. If a message is posted in the news section when the hosting bill comes around I know that it would remind me to throw a few dollars in the pot for the value I had got from the Guild this year.

From that base we could then discuss a membership fee but that is entirely based on the benefits you get. If you will always be able to get the current services of the site for free, the subscription solely depends upon the extra benefits that would come with it. I'm interested to hear what ideas are around for that.

RPMiller
11-26-2008, 10:41 AM
I have always said, and stand by the Donation button. It is easy to implement and for people to use. It removes a lot of the "elitism" that can spawn from "member only" privileges as well. I think with the number of folks that are getting paying gigs from the site they would be more inclined to toss a few bucks of their profit our way if it wasn't mandatory, at least I would hope that was the case.

Just thinking outside the box here - perhaps one of the privileges of a membership could actually be access to a "Paid Requests Forum" so if you really wanted to earn some additional money you would have access to the requests that are paying. Of course that could alienate our Industry Pros, and personally I think they are some of our greatest assets so perhaps that's not such a great idea...

Honestly, I'm really hard pressed to think of something that I would want to charge a membership fee for unless it was some sort of materials or something that is outside the scope of the forums.

Hm... here's another "outside the box thought". What about Cafe Press merchandise? Arcana you already have some really awesome artwork that is both Cartographic and RPG related. What about setting up a store and selling CG merchandise and/or your artwork stuff? I think if people knew that it was for the site and was giving them a value added something in return for their money that might generate more revenue than a donation button or membership.

NeonKnight
11-26-2008, 11:20 AM
Put me down for donation, and let me know how I CAN donate. I donate every quarter to pay for my gaming clan's server, so the concept of paying for things that benefit me is not foreign to me.

Gamerprinter
11-26-2008, 11:33 AM
Just thinking outside the box here - perhaps one of the privileges of a membership could actually be access to a "Paid Requests Forum" so if you really wanted to earn some additional money you would have access to the requests that are paying. Of course that could alienate our Industry Pros, and personally I think they are some of our greatest assets so perhaps that's not such a great idea...

One problem with this is that many of the Map Requests placed in that forum are (unpaid requests), so unless a separate forum for unpaid maps is made available, paying for access to unpaid jobs, is not so enticing.

Perhaps Industry Pros could be exempt from paying so as not to exclude them, but I think the Industry Pros would be more willing to pay a nominal fee than other members here.

Just thoughts on your idea, RP.

GP

ravells
11-26-2008, 12:20 PM
I'd go for a donate button (people who donate get an icon). Once we work out what the potential extra benefits to membership might be, we revisit the membership idea. I think a tie-in with GP's printed products would be a great idea also. The cafe-press idea is a good one too, although only if we only have to pay for it if there is an order and there is no periodic flat rate subscription fee that needs to be paid to them even if there are no orders.

RPMiller
11-26-2008, 12:23 PM
Of course. I figured that was sort of a given. Probably should have expounded on it a bit more. As part of the membership idea a separate area for members was mentioned in a previous discussion so I took that for granted that the requests would be placed in that area. This of course would mean that requests would have to be submitted through a different mechanism than just posting in a forum which makes them less likely to be posted in the first place as the requester would than have to be given some sort of access to the request - probably through PMs or something.

Regardless, I don't think it is practical or would work out very well. Like I said, not such a great idea...

loydb
11-26-2008, 12:51 PM
Donation button.

I dislike the idea of tiering participation.

Redrobes
11-26-2008, 12:53 PM
As a person who creates and charges for an RPG product I think I can say, with some considerable conviction, that putting a price on something will significantly diminish the number of people wanting it. And yet at the same time when there are costs involved its hard to keep going when its costing. Ideally there would be no charge and no costs. But the realms of fantasy are limited to our maps however and the real world does annoyingly get in the way.

Basically on this site there is a spread of people who contribute to those who take everything and it would be good for those who contribute to get something and for those who net take to have to give something. Its very hard to implement tho unless some big corp like google is doing the giving. Younger people are unable to make payments of any sort even if its small change. The best you might be able to do is with mobile phone texts & premium rate call lines but that's very hard or voluntary. Also, credit card and paypal payments are hard to administer too in small volume but is probably the best option for a direct source.

In order to persuade people to give over hard cash I think they do expect hard copies and that a print of a map is definitely the best way forward. most games shops that I have chatted to still say that lead and paint are the main source of RPG revenue not books and modules. A guild shop with print options would be cool. We could have a challenge to make a miniature / wargaming tabletop poster and see if people would buy them for play. What about selling Tee / Polo / Rugby / Football / shirts or Caps or similar logo infested gear for showing off at conventions. If possible you could restrict certain items to people who have submitted a number of maps, have enough rep or have won challenges / awards etc.

I can donate my latest challenge entry which is at poster res. Some of my challenge entries were fairly high res too - enough for printing. Or I can do some poster sized campaign terrain maps or something like that and we split the proceeds between creator, printer costs and hosting subs.

I think you should have a poll which I would hope a lot of cloaked and new members would vote on for what type of physical stuff they want the most assuming it was fair priced. Or even what they currently spend their RPG coin on.

Alternatively would it be possible to host it all on a local server and pay just for a high speed connection to the net instead of the hosting of it too. You will have to see what kind peak IO you would need and whether that was worth it. Or maybe mirror some of the bigger images onto other already connected servers to spread the costs out.

JoeyD473
11-27-2008, 12:52 AM
I definately think going with a permanent donation button is a great way to start. If you put up a note in the news section when the hosting bill ocmes up a note in the news (Like torstan said) people will donate at least a little bit.

With a paid subscription you need to offer something fo rit. I think this site is great I check it basically daily (eventhough I rarely post (A happy Lurker I am)) the only thing the site offers of value to me s the forums, and the tutorials. I personally will never pay just to be able to use a message board. As for the tutorials, I believe it is one of the greatest draws to get people here initially, however if you charge for them you won't get many new people to the site.

The cafe press type merchandise is a good idea but I don't think you would get much out of it.

Another idea, though I don't know how low overhead or popular it would be (probably not to popular) , is maybe create somesort of map pack. Maybe once once a year, a pack with all the winning maps from the monthly challenges in a single download for one or two dollars (would obviously require winners permission or new rules to be inserted into the challenges allowing you to do this). Along with this idea maybe something can be worked out with gameprinter for this map pack to be professionally printed and shipped.

Sigurd
11-27-2008, 01:34 AM
A donation button has one over-riding advantage. Being optional you have no bad feelings and only gratitude.

Really, who can object to seeing the thing?

Sigurd.

The only real companion advice, I'm sure you follow. Keep the costs as low as possible.


I'd love to see some sort of 'Map to benfit Cartographers Guild' project. I don't know how it would work but for instance if ICE wanted a bundle of maps I'd be ready to work for nothing if I thought the site made some dough.

In some ways splitting the 'pay' for a map collection is depressing. I'd rather only donate some fun work and see the Guild get a few bucks.


Sigurd

Sagenlicht
11-27-2008, 07:21 AM
Hmm well I am gonna add my thoughts as well then :)

I would suggest starting with a perm donation button Arcana and lets see how it will be accepted. I dont think that a yearly fee will be that accepted and in the end will keep new users away.

A perm donation button wont be a long term solution I guess, cause most people will just donate once or at least thats what I would assume.

For a long term incoming something like GP's offer sounds great.

Robbie
11-28-2008, 09:54 AM
Well, the people have spoken. Expect to see a trial donation button soon.

I sent an email to GP, but apparently for some reason my phone isn't sending mail, only receiving mail, so he hasn't got it yet...I'll be rectifying that later today.

I REALLY appreciate all your thoughts on this, and I'm definitely glad I asked as opposed to just doing it. All of your membership and participation means a lot to me, and I definitely don't' want to jeopardize it with money issues for sure.

Sigurd
11-28-2008, 01:30 PM
One thing that occurs to me.

Its very hard to draw the line at incentives to be a member. There is a magic level of involvement here that is worth protecting but I can see that this thing should be self sustaining for the long term.


Can you track total uploads?


If you could track uploaded material and put a limit on non members you would do a couple of things at once.

1. You'd address the long term costs of the site by affecting bandwidth and storage. I don't know how much but...

2. You could allow anyone to contribute. They would potentially stop contributing after they had to pay for the privilege or they'd need a way to go back and clean up some of their uploads.

3. You could add a carrot to competing in contests. All contest entries (or just the top 10 or something) would have their uploads deducted from their map folder total allowance.

I don't think new members would see the limits to be discouraged. Old members would have a little prod to buy memberships.

I have no clue about the nuts and bolts or what the levels would be. There's no perfect solution but...

What do you think?


Sigurd

Redrobes
11-28-2008, 03:41 PM
Wouldn't you want to encourage (quality) uploads and discourage downloads. Its the uploads that drive people to the site generating interest and the potential of ad revenues. Its like a shop limiting you to buying only 10 items.

Is it possible to work out whether its actual image views or the attachment thumbs that's causing the issue. Some very long pages with lots of WIPs like tutorials take a while to load in and must be soaking up the bandwidth. Can you tell vBulletin to show the thumb attachments smaller or compress them more ? Or convert all those large inline thread images to attachments ?

What would be ideal is to have more than two levels of view. The mini thumbnail is too small to appraise somebody's map but then getting the full 2K square one in is also ridiculous most of the time. Ideally you want a smaller thumb - right down at the 128 pixel sort of size, a mid size which is about half a screen and then click for saving to HD sorta size which you could reserve for certain members - paid up, with a high enough submission to download ratio, or have a monthly bandwidth cap.

CGTextures have a daily download limit which works pretty well. Their textures are free which is why I support them and upload mine to the site but if your a paid member then you can go mad and download a lot more. Actually, thinking about it, they have a three tiered image res view too.

What I think Arcana needs to do is to figure out where its all going first of all. Presumably images. So are they inline or click through type ? Maybe up the max allowable size of JPG's and lower PNGs to reserve them for tokens and stuff. Ban BMPs and other uncompressed image types.

You can also tell apache to compress normal html and the web browsers should uncompress it on the fly. Sometimes that is turned off for compatibility with really old web browsers but that would make a difference too.

P.S. Like the new avatar Arcana - but then I liked the old one too.

Robbie
11-28-2008, 05:49 PM
actually there's no talk of limiting anything. No need even, we're not hurting on bandwidth or server space at all. The hosting costs that snuck up on me as I said were not unpayable...just unexpected at the time of year. I pay for my hosting in 2 year bursts...all the bandwidth we used for the past 2 years was included in the yearly costs...

The subscription option was only going to allow for extra benefits to subscribers, no additional limitations would ever be imposed on existing members...

BUT...there's not going to be a subscription at this time...the vote has spoken. So no worries.

PS: Thanks for liking the avatar ;) I enjoyed makin it :D

Robbie
11-29-2008, 09:03 PM
The donation system is in place now. There's a donate button on the navbar in blue. The donation system SHOULD add you to a Donors group and the Donor usertitle should be visible. You may need to go to your UserCP and allow for that UserTitle to be visible after donating is confirmed.

If anyone has any problems with the donation system please let me know, and thank you in advance to any potential donors!

Ascension
11-30-2008, 11:39 AM
Well crud. I don't have any credit cards nor do I have a bank account so I'm wondering what the alternatives are for me...other than just driving down there and handing ya a wad of cash. No, I don't live in a cave...it's a long story...mainly about making sure that my nieces have a wonderful life free from worry.

RPMiller
11-30-2008, 12:59 PM
@Ascension, I'm guessing that you do everything via cash only? I believe you can simply go to a bank and have them wire funds to anyone you want. At least I know that I used to be able to do that about 6 years ago before I got PayPal. Another possibility would be to PM Arcana and get an address you can use. Then buy a Prepaid Visa card or gift card and send it to him. Just a couple ideas off the top of my head.

Ascension
11-30-2008, 02:35 PM
Thanks, man...I like that prepaid card thing. I'll look into it.

NeonKnight
12-01-2008, 11:23 AM
Merry Christmas, some money Sent :D

Turgenev
12-02-2008, 03:06 PM
I voted for the donation button. I'm not too keen on tiered membership levels.

Robbie
12-07-2008, 09:38 AM
Thank you for the donations so far. It goes a long way towards purchasing some upgrades and whatnot for the site. I'm looking into getting the interface to auto-confirm donations.