Advogato is back up!

Posted 3 Jul 2004 at 19:22 UTC by advogato Share This

Deepest apologies for the long outage. The site is now up, and while we expect another brief outage for server upgrade (so we can install server RAID), it should be quite stable - it's now hosted on a machine which will be the main server for

When a site has an extended outage like this, it loses a lot of momentum. I'm going to try to recapture some of that by writing essays. I've got many ideas queued up, so it ought to be a fun ride.

In the meantime, I've been thinking a bit about the future direction for this site. The noncommercial nature has been one of the nicest things about it. However, my attention is a scarce resource, and it's often difficult to motivate doing maintenance work on the site. I've advertised a few times for a cabal leader to take it over, and while I've gotten some offers, none seemed enthusiastic to the point where I felt good about handing over the reins. So I conclude that finding motivation to work on a volunteer basis on a website is a common problem.

So what might be the solution to this problem? One, obviously, is if someone steps up to the plate, who is both technically competent to maintain the site, enhance the software, and is willing to put in a substantial number of hours. It's entirely possible that such a person exists, but I just haven't done a good job finding him (or her) yet.

I've been considering another possibility, which is to run Google ads to bring in some revenue, then use most of that to pay a maintainer. That way, there'd be a consistent motivation to improve the site, especially in ways that makes it more popular.

At the same time, I don't want to spoil the noncommercial heritage of the site. To that end, I'll definitely make it an option in the accounts to turn off the ads. Whether it's worthwhile also depends on how much revenue the ads bring in - if it's a trickle, it's not really worth doing. But at this point I think I'm willing to give it a try.

What do people think? Use the comments to weigh in.

Nice, posted 3 Jul 2004 at 22:04 UTC by Mysidia » (Journeyer)

Finally back up...

I don't know about google ads: it seems like they'd be an eyesore without some sort of redesign of the layout, and I kind of like the current simple relatively uncluttered layout.

I guess it's more important to have the site maintained...

Problem with Google ads, posted 3 Jul 2004 at 23:45 UTC by goingware » (Master)

I've considered running Google ads on some of my pages, but the problem is that the ads are often for things I wouldn't want to be helping advertise.

Let me see... yup, it's still there: Kuro5hin's copy of my article Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads has four google ads on it right now, and I'm pretty sure three of them are for downloaders that infringe copyright. There's just one ad that's for legal downloads, the deal McDonalds is running.

This is expected for Google adwords ads, because the article is full of keywords like the names of most of the p2p apps, lots of discussion of music downloading and so on.

There has also been an ad running for a long time at k5's copy of my other article Living with Schizoaffective Disorder offerring "Lithium in a Natural Mineral Form Safe, Effective & No Side Effects". Either it's not really lithium, or this ad is criminally fraudulent, because lithium is anything but safe and free from side effects. It has lots of unpleasant side effects. It is also very toxic, with the effective dose being not much less than the toxic dose, so regular blood tests are required while taking it to make sure you don't get poisoned. (Lithium is used to prevent and treat mania for bipolar depression, but there are lots of better drugs available now.)

With Advogato's pages being full of keywords like "Linux", "Open Source", "Free Software" and "Mozilla", you can be sure Google will be serving up lots of ads for Microsoft products, or links to studies that demonstrate that Windows is more secure and has a lower TCO than Linux.

On the other hand, it would be to our advantage to be financing the site with Microsoft's money, because while Advogato members might click on the ads, they're unlikely to be convinced by what they find.

Other than all that, I wouldn't object to ads. I'd like to suggest text ads that are submitted directly to advogato, like Kuro5hin's member-submitted text ads. Maybe there could be a way to submit an ad without being a certified member, for people and companies who specifically want to reach advogato's readers. Of course more work would be required than just running Google ads, but I think it would be better for the site. I buy Kuro5hin text ads every now and then myself.

Text ads..., posted 4 Jul 2004 at 00:32 UTC by salmoni » (Master)

I think Michael has my views mostly summed up, though I would add that clearly the work involved in running the site is more considerable than most of us realise. With such a lot, it may be unreasonable for us to expect one person to do it without any kind of assistance.

I have no problems with ads if the community feels that it will benefit us, though I am happy to have ads for "less than noble" companies. Most visitors here are likely to be clued up, more so than with most sites I believe. I'm actually curious to see what kind of ads I get for my journal entries...

I'll divulge some info, posted 4 Jul 2004 at 03:10 UTC by deekayen » (Master)

My experience with Adwords on one of my open source sites has a total clickthrough rate of 0.5%. From 19,236 page impressions, I got 95 clicks for a balance of $32.04. They don't mail a check till you hit $100.

I remember a couple years back, Kuro5hin had a huge fundraiser drive. There was a cool big, red status bar that somehow automatically kept track of Paypal donations as they came in (email receipts maybe?). He hit the goal, I think it was $70k, and then went over. It made something like $85,000 or some crazy amount over after it hit /., though I don't remember exactly what it ended at. I'm not sure what could be added to Advogato that would be welcome worth paying someone that much, though. Maybe switching from XML to a DB would be on the list.

I'd like to run an Advogato-like site in PHP, maybe someone could get paid to do that :)

Google Ads are quite powerful, if used properly.., posted 4 Jul 2004 at 03:21 UTC by hacker » (Master)

goingware, If you don't want to see ads from a particular site, url, link, or vendor... simply disable them in Google's Ad Filter interface. I had ads set up on my main company homepage for awhile, and when I saw ads for "Cheap, affordable hosting!", I simply disabled them (but now I've disabled ads on that page altogether, so that is irrelevant).

We run them on many of the other Free Software project pages we host at SourceFubar, and they have all turned into self-sustaining projects because of the support from Google's ad revenue. It covers the full month's bandwidth, power, and now backup requirements in the first 2 weeks. The rest goes to fund site and project promotion and the FSF's defense of some of our open GPL violation cases.

Thanks!, posted 4 Jul 2004 at 22:03 UTC by Malx » (Journeyer)

Thanks for your work! Fun - this article has a number of 777 ;)
As for ads - as you wish, but I wouldn't click on it (only if you ask to do this).

Somebody has a click-on-microsoft campaign, posted 4 Jul 2004 at 22:19 UTC by MichaelCrawford » (Master)

I forget who was promoting this, or which ad it was exactly, but someone was trying to get as many people as possible to click on one of Microsoft's google adwords select ads, in order to cost microsoft money.

Because Google ads are paid by the click, I never told anybody what the keywords I was advertising on back when I ran some adwords ads. I hardly mentioned to anyone that I was advertising at all. I could only afford to have potential clients click, and not some joker who took a disliking to me.

Good to be back, posted 4 Jul 2004 at 22:31 UTC by AlanHorkan » (Master)

Glad to have Advogato back.

I wouldn't have any issue with Google TEXT ad's.

An essay about how expensive and or time consuming it is to run the site along with a prominant link on the front page directing people to where they can donate might worthwhile (but I should warn you that as a permanent student I have virtually no income and a tonne of debt ;)

Thanks again.

Google Ads, posted 5 Jul 2004 at 09:54 UTC by pjf » (Journeyer)

Our favourite mouse is back. Hurrah!

I personally don't have a problem with sites having advertising, and text-only ads sure are a lot better than bandwidth-clogging and visually distracting animated graphics ads. If google ads help pay the advogato bills, then I'm more then happy for them to be there.

One thing I've discovered from personal experience is that geeks tend not to click on advertisements at all, and many of them (myself included) have configured their software not to show in them in the first place. So by all means set them up, but don't expect a torrent of money.

The previous comments about google's ads having poor relevance can be quite true. I recently added google ads to one of my own sites (for an RPG game) purely for amusement value. The google ads would give our characters dietary advice, or even offer inspect bite remedies for those nasty encounters with giant centipedes. Much laugher for the players, but certainly not a revenue raiser.

My primary concern would be if google ads appeared on diary entry pages. On articles and the main site I think all is fine, but it's not unreasonable for some diary entries to result in inappropriate google adverts. These can be filtered out, but it requires finding them first, which can be difficult on a large and dynamic site.

New blood & adverts, posted 5 Jul 2004 at 13:36 UTC by follower » (Journeyer)

It is indeed good to have Advogato back on the air.

I am tempted to ask one question in regard to site administration, and I don't mean to offend you, but is it possible your requirements for an additional administrator/team are too high?

I can't help thinking, with the brainpower that participates on this site surely we could keep it running as a community?

Perhaps it would be helpful to list what tasks need to be completed on an ongoing basis and we could discuss further options for a volunteer approach?

I would concur with pjf's comment in regard to adverts on diary entry pages. Having them on the recent log would be less problematic, I think.

Thanks again for getting the site running again.

Just what is involved, anyway?, posted 5 Jul 2004 at 14:29 UTC by Pizza » (Master)

I agree with follower; I'm curious to what is needed on an ongoing basis. From my own experience (admittedly a bit smaller in scale; only 70 users) It's not that much, but it amounts to a bazillion little things (administrivia, misc sysadmin stuff) and a handful of big things.. and the ball can't be dropped. That said, the site should "just work", assuming the underlying hardware/software platform is stable. Which is a big if. But emergencies and solar flares will always happen.

It's mostly a matter of shouldering the responsibility for keeping things going, and being willing to do what needs to be done.

As for new directions and growing -- that's where the majority of the pain comes from, but that's also where the rather unique nature of this community comes into play. The site code is GPL'ed, and it's a scratch-your-own-itch world. A maintainer's main job is to say "no" to feature requests.

I love the straightforward, no-nonsense approach of Advogato. I love that nobody's trying to sell me anything, or up-sell for that matter. Nobody's making any demands of my attention and time. I like that there's none of the clique-y social misfeatures here, with "rank" based on general "respect". I'd like to keep it that way. That said, there are a few things I'd like to do/change, but keeping within that spiritual framework.

As for adveritising and money and motivation -- I don't think it's necessary, and the amount of money we're talking about here is a pittance. :) Again, from my experience, money/donations are really nice for covering direct costs (eg hardware), but that's all they'll ever hope to cover.

But I'm glad to see it back up again, thanks!

Entirely for it, posted 5 Jul 2004 at 20:09 UTC by avriettea » (Observer)

I do appreciate a "non commercial heritage", but I have run (and continue to run) collaborative online communities. The amount of time and effort required to keep them afloat an interesting to their members is incredible. This, of course, for professionals, equates to money. Time I spent maintaining a community is time I don't spend working, and thus don't get paid for. It costs money.

I am completely behind the use of Ads if it is able to bring some revenue to the site for its maintenance (as opposed to Ads in the Freenet sense of the word -- I am very much not interested in another lilo on the intarweb). I think that a lot of the traffic to the site must come from search engines themselves as many of us mention open source projects, and we are thus indexed.

That can only bring revenue, I think. How much is worth experimenting to find out.

Thanks for bringing the site back.

Welcome Back!, posted 6 Jul 2004 at 04:48 UTC by ncm » (Master)

I was really, really missing this site. I would do a lot to help make sure it never goes away again.

In that vein, I suggest you would probably get much better results by putting up a paypal donation button than by hosting cheesy ads.

didn't make a point, posted 6 Jul 2004 at 13:55 UTC by deekayen » (Master)

I suppose before I didn't really make a clear point. I'm with ncm that I'd rather not have the ads. I think I'd rather have a stiffled feature growth. That could be in part to me not wanting this site to become PHP-Nuke and full of lots of lame, cheesy, so-called "features" that just clutter the place up. That is much more likely than the last 6 weeks of downtime to kick me off the site. In one sense, I think having the site appearance not very flashy like a phpBB bulletin board keeps out a certain personality type of people that I wouldn't want here, though I can't put a finger on what type of person that is exactly.

On the other hand, having someone working on the site to make it DB-based, maybe create some more organized way to track replies to other entries on recentlog, or not have the people and project lists all spill down on one page, would all be things that I think might improve the functionality of the site. A page where ranked Advogato members could go to suggest and vote on the next implemented features could solve that issue. I'd like to think with all the free software projects in the world that Advogato doesn't need someone to get paid for that, but the users of Advogato seem to be here because they want to talk about something to which they're already dedicated.

If Advogato had income to pay someone, I'd want them to be the slave of the users with a democratic process for what they work on. We have a sort of voting process now for who gets to be which color, it should extend to the employee, too.

The problem with a donation button is people make a donation, then they think they've done their duty and they don't have to donate again, like the money went into an account and is earning 100% interest, compounded daily. I'd rather have a fundraiser drive, maybe have /. let people know that the site is back up, and have a paypal subscription button rather than a donation button. If the site is going to be supported, ads (if they get enough clicks) do it over a long period of time because it is recurring income, so I'd rather have a link added to the [ Home | Articles | Account | People | Projects ] link bar that says "Support Advogato" and see if Advogato gets enough subscribers first before ads are put up. If it's not enough, perhaps doing something like /. did where becoming a subscriber, at dirt cheap cost, turns off the ads would work, because those people aren't likely to click on the ads anyway, so might as well get income from them somehow.

avriettea has a good point with google search traffic. There's not much preventing Advogato from only displaying ads to people that are not logged in, displaying them to people that are not certified (even if they're logged in), or visitors which have a referrer header from their browser with a google domain in it. I'm logged in all the time, so I wouldn't ever see the ads in any of those cases.

Me seeing ads would be only a last step. The only time I ever click banners is if I'm making a consious effort to make a $0.03 donation, through clicking, to the site I visited for content which was worthwhile. Then I'm just a part of the breakdown in the effectiveness of advertising on the Internet, which isn't fair to small business owners that are trying to support a family $0.03 poorer.

I guess the problem is that if all my ideas were tried, and they all flopped, that's a lot of wasted effort, then again who's to say that plastering ads on every page at the start wouldn't flop, too.

Short version: there are other things I'd like to try before plastering ads everywhere.

Back up and advertising, posted 6 Jul 2004 at 14:29 UTC by logic » (Journeyer)

Welcome back...overcoming a major site outage is usually tough, but I don't think Advogato will have too much trouble, judging by how quick everyone's popped back over here.

As far as advertising...I've had the iframes from Google's ads blocked for a long time, so honestly, I wouldn't notice. (You can refrain from telling me that I'm stealing, or some other such hogwash. I've heard it already.) I think it would be a shame to spoil the pure-content image of the site, but on the other hand, I can respect the need to make it financially viable. Kuro5hin has a scheme that seems to fit their community well; it's certainly worth looking at in addition to Google's model.

Raph, I think most of the folks here trust you to make a reasonable decision about such things based on your intimate view of running Advogato; you can see that trust in the vast number of people who make Advogato their online "home", keeping their blogs here. I doubt very much that you'd incite a mass exodus by introducing some form of advertising; on the contrary, I think most folks wonder how you've handled operating a site as popular as this without asking the community for anything.

Great feedback, posted 8 Jul 2004 at 17:25 UTC by raph » (Master)

Thanks for the great feedback, everyone! A few followups:

To follower and Pizza: at the moment, this site consumes extremely minimal admin resources. I tried to write the code so that it would just run by itself, and it pretty much does. The main issue is the pace of improvement, which has been rather slow. I don't want Advogato to become feature-bloated, but it's also possible to err in the other direction.

deekayen: your points are well taken. One thing I probably didn't make clear is that it'll be easy for logged-in users to turn off the ads (I'll probably just have an "x" for it in the ad frame). In any case, I don't really see the ads as targeted towards free software developers, more to the people who come here and read what we have to say.

Based on these responses, I think I'll give the ads a try and see how they work.

Why not accept donations?, posted 10 Jul 2004 at 04:08 UTC by ncm » (Master)

Several people have suggested posting a place to send donations. Do you have some objection to trying that?

Certainly you could accept donations and also pepper the site with ads, but it seems like a donation button would be much simpler to integrate than opt-out ads, and might well obviate ads entirely.

site improvements to the advogato fix, posted 13 Jul 2004 at 20:04 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

advogato is a drug - a six week cold turkey did nothing but make me wish it was back. i even started using slashdot as a substitute, and it just didn't do anything for me.

i didn't use advogato for months at one time - but i knew it was there, and everything was right with the world.

the principle of trust metrics running the decision making in advogato is one that just feels... right. slashdot has ... like ... a "true" democratic system in place [true democracy is where the leader is cryptographically-randomly selected!!!] with its moderation and meta-moderation.

as one of the few people that actually understands the principles on which advogato is based, and also one of the few people who has done a total rewrite of the advogato code [i spent almost four months on it as a research project turning it into an xml-based scripting language, and later i did a port of the trust metric code to python], i'd be delighted to spend time on another advogato rewrite - and i wouldn't expect anything in return.

the one thing i believe that advogato really needs is for its trust metric engine to be blopped into a library, and for that library to be made available to more "standard" web site programming languages.

then, the job of redesigning and extending advogato-the-site will be trivial.

at the moment, the fact that it is a hard-coded module for apache 1.3 that's written in c is a bit of a mehr, and it makes decisions about improvements a no-brainer (viz: don't do any at all [improvements]).

if you look at other forum sites, you find that they are slightly overdesigned, but at least they are standardly overdesigned.

hey, maybe part of the appeal of advogato is because it _is_ so simple.

... but we've _got_ to have posting categories [a la slashdot] and the ability to Certify [i.e. rate] articles and replies.

so. what sort of web environment _should_ advogato be written in?

1) existing: a hard-coded apache module written in c?

2) php (shriek!)

3) zope

4) ASP running on microsoft windows

5) pure peeerrl (hiccup)

6) mod_snake (an apache plugin to write web sites in python)

7) other.

PayPal problems, posted 14 Jul 2004 at 03:20 UTC by MichaelCrawford » (Master)

Several people have suggested accepting donations via PayPal. Before you do, I suggest reading PayPalWarning.

  • PayPal is not a bank, and doesn't give you the protection that banking regulations give consumers
  • PayPal accounts that directly access your bank account do not have the protections a credit card offers. You have no right to contest transactions as with a credit card.
  • Louisiana has ordered paypal to stop doing business in the state

Also, try a Google search for paypal ripoff. When I did the search just now, Google found 17,000 matching pages.

I think taking donations is a fine idea, but there are better ways to do it. Personally, I'd just rather send a check, if you posted your postal address.

old?, posted 15 Jul 2004 at 04:53 UTC by deekayen » (Master)

Isn't the paypalwarning site a bit old? I haven't heard of their old account freezing scams since Ebay bought them... I could just be out of the loop.

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