's new Discourse instance (around funding for FLO projects like Discourse itself…)

(Wolftune) #1

Continuing the discussion from 10-min edit glitch around flagging of staff posts:

I really did not want to rush this announcement because we’re aiming to invite people one-by-one for initial testing and still need to even post initial introductions from the team, but the quote above simply demands that I make this mention:

What is has been a mostly-volunteer ambitious non-profit platform-co-op startup working to get launched over the last several years, finally getting closer. The core vision is a new crowdmatching funding model designed for public goods like Discourse in ways that build on but really is the next stage beyond stuff like Patreon and Kickstarter.

Very soon, we’ll have a better new intro video, but our wiki articles go into the details pretty thoroughly.


Public goods simply do not work with supply & demand like scarce goods, and artificial restrictions that turn them into club goods destroy their core value. Products like Discourse under GPL offer the greatest value to the world but have limited revenue models based on donations and extra services and support. With crowdmatching at, we’re simply adapting donations to the more natural reality for this sort of thing.

I want Discourse to be super well-funded. But if I put in all I can, it’s just a big cost to me and little impact for Discourse. I want everyone else to chip in. To get over this paradox, we simply need to agree together to all chip in and figure out how to get more people to join us. So: “I’ll chip in $1 for every 1,000 patrons who give with me each month”. I’m in. Let’s do this together!

Status: early half-launch, planning bringing on first outside projects soon

Making a fully working platform up to the highest ethical ideals and all the issues around money etc. make a simple core idea into a massively challenging project, explaining that is a long long story…

Maybe Discourse would be up for being one of the first projects on the platform? It’s actually in our short-list to reach out to specifically because it’s 100% FLO (GPL), no compromise, end-user-focused, super valuable software. Happy to start that discussion any time! But we’re working to solidify things on our end so projects will feel comfortable and trust that we’ve done all our due diligence etc.

And I’m here because we finally embraced using Discourse ourselves. I’ll update this with the link to our instance as soon as we’re ready (really soon!). We already have older mailing lists and interest from into the thousands of people around the world. So many people know that what we’re doing is needed, but we have the same struggles ourselves with near-zero funding at this stage…

I could go on, but I’m broached the subject now. More to come…

(Jeff Atwood) #2

That sounds nice, but we get funded by people choosing to host their Discourse instance with us, via one of the hosting plans at

I am not sure if radically revamping a business model (particularly one that’s already working quite well) is a viable strategy for anyone.

(Wolftune) #3

That’s not what we propose at all. Discourse’s business model is 100% solid and aligned with FLO values. If (now or later) Discourse joins, it will be alongside your existing model that we support completely.

Business models we do not support:

  • restricted exclusive licenses
  • ad-focused invasive tracking

Those are the most lucrative though. Your model (service and support) is great and we’re thrilled it works for you as well as it does (and we were tempted be paid customers of yours ourselves, won’t go into that decision, but we have limited near-zero funding and maybe more time now). We already promote Discourse hosting services to other projects. We just want to see Discourse get even more funding and reach its highest potential, so donations from enough people could make a difference there as an addition (and one that requires very little work on the project part if, like Discourse, it’s already full-FLO without compromises).

(Erlend Sogge Heggen) #6

What about split-license projects?

I applaud any project that sets out to solve the OSS sustainability puzzle, so the best of luck to all of you. :clap::clap::clap:

That said, I can’t help but feel like the best investment of your time and energy would have been to contribute to an existing project like which is already going strong. They are open source, self-sustaining (a major feat) and support many features that your platform does not.

Your main differentiator seems to be crowdmatching. It’s an intriguing feature, but has it been proven to work? I have a strong feeling it works best with larger sponsors (i.e. companies) rather than individuals. I hope I’m wrong though, and it’s an idea well worth testing!

Aside from OpenCollective, there are many other platforms for recurring donations, some open, some not, so there’s quite a lot of competition to speak of:

(Wolftune) #8

Nope, they are using the club-goods model: artificially restricting non-rivalrous value that could and should be open to everyone. While we’d rather the split-license over no public value, patrons at should not have to think about whether they are supporting projects that do that restricted stuff at all. Patrons are agreeing to work together specifically because the projects are fully public goods that need that sort of public coordinated support.

We started long before they existed. And we’d just stop immediately and help them if they were actually solving the snowdrift-dilemma (i.e. the coordination problem, i.e. the freerider problem) that is the focus of our inventing crowdmatching.

But Open Collective is indeed among the best of the existing platforms, as stated in the definitive guide we authored (we reviewed 700+ crowdfunding platforms back in 2013 and hundreds others since and whittled it down to a full report on all funding platforms relative to FLO projects, and it’s been the most successful and popular thing we’ve published, given we’re still barely getting launched today).

So you can see our thoughts on Open Collective and others there. Of the other platforms, Open Collective is the most aligned and the one we’re most likely to partner with if ever). I am myself hypersensitive to the bull-crap of startup-culture that focuses on starting new things without figuring out how to help existing initiatives. We started working on in 2013, before Patreon existed even. And I felt an absolute obligation to do everything possible to see if we could join existing initiatives instead and only got dragged into starting something new. All along one of our biggest focuses has been on the awful fragmentation in FLO projects. We’re all about cooperation and coordination over starting new things for the hell of it.

We long ago failed to get an early-mover advantage for all sorts of reasons I won’t get into here (but one of many factors was actually disappointment with the very first iteration of Discourse and making a huge mistake with mission-creep building our own 100% NoScript-compatible integrated discussion board which just was too much to handle and we scrapped for mailing-list before finally coming back to Discourse now which will be part of us finally getting that in place and then pushing ahead to launch the full funding system).

Nadia’s Lemonade-Stand…

…repo is nice and a little different, only partial overlap from our research. I helped her fix it up with an overhaul basically being the 2nd author. But Nadia in general has been sympathetic to VC-funding and open-core and somewhat anti-copyleft. Even as she correctly identified the public-goods problem with FLO, she focuses only on public infrastructure as value for proprietary companies to build on and has actively downplayed the importance of delivering FLO values to the end-user general public.