Shutting down my Patreon

Earlier this year I started a Patreon as an experiment. The logic was that I like writing and I like getting paid, and I wanted to see if I could get these two great flavours to combine.

Long story short, I didn’t.

I set a goal for $500/month by the end of the year or I’d shut it down. It’s now obvious that I’m not going to get anywhere close to that, and I’m a big believer in stopping when you know failure is inevitable rather than actually waiting to fail. But also, I’m finding that I’m not doing a good job at managing it (apologies to all my patrons. this is entirely my fault), and that it makes me feel worse about the process of writing. A lot of this is because I find it weirdly stressful, which is nobody’s fault but mine but also not something I can do much about. So the result is a system that stresses me out and is probably going to earn me less than one day’s worth of work over the course of the year. This is is a bad deal any way you look at it. So I’m going to stop. No hard feelings on my part, it’s just an experiment that didn’t work out. If anything, I’m extremely grateful to all of the people who supported me along the way. I apologise to any of you who are disappointed by this. I’ll keep blogging here, obviously, but I’m going to put the rate back down to probably more in the region of 1/week (at least, that’s what I’m going to set the Beeminder goal back to). I will leave the Patreon page up for one week to give people time to see this on the feed as well and grab anything they want from the private archives, but will then close it before anyone is billed for this month. This entry was posted in Admin on by . Avoiding conferences in the USA for now This is an administrative note, with a side order of politics. Although I am not personally affected to any large degree (I’m a US citizen, and while there are theoretically things that could cause me problems, in practice I think by the time they come for me you’ll care more about how to join the violent resistance than any particular effect of this post), the situation with Trump in the US and his rather dangerously slapdash approach to things like immigration and the basic rule of law are making me extremely unhappy, and I don’t really feel comfortable attending US conferences while this is going on. I was probably going to be going to PyCon US (and had submitted a tutorial proposal which I’ve now withdrawn), and was quite happy that PyCon UK and Strange Loop did not clash this year, as I keep wanting to give a talk about Hypothesis implementation at the latter (which might or might not have been accepted of course, but I’d have at least tried), so amidst the rather larger and more important political horror this is also personally quite annoying. Oh well. Bigger things to worry about. Naturally I hold neither of these conferences accountable for Trump’s actions, which are almost entirely beyond their control, and I wish them all the best. I just don’t feel comfortable attending myself. I won’t entirely be avoiding travel to the US (I have family over there), but I will be doing my best to minimise it, and will probably not do so for work purposes unless it’s something really important. I don’t know how long I intend to keep this policy up, but it’s almost certainly going to be for the next four years unless something very surprising happens. Lest this seem like there’s an awful lot of glass in this house I’m throwing stones from, I’d probably recommend you do the same to the UK. The best I can claim right now is that we’re not yet as bad as Trump, but we already have a history of really awful border control so that’s probably not very reassuring. That being said, I live here, so I won’t make any such attempt to avoid local conferences. Apologies to everyone who I won’t be able to see and/or meet for the first time in person at PyCon US and Strange Loop. Maybe we can find a great conference somewhere in the EU to both attend? Assuming they still let Brits in after this debacle we’ve made of things. This entry was posted in Admin, Python on by . Upcoming reduced publishing rate and Patreon Historically I’ve had a bit of a problem: Blog posts either get finished immediately or die. My drafts folder is more or less a wasteland of things I’ve never finished and am never going to finish, so almost all of my blog posts get written and published in one sitting. But the recent experiment with Programmer at Large has made me realise the obvious solution that somehow in more than ten years of blogging it never occurred to me before that I could do. Which is that I can finish the blog post and then not click publish. Yes I’m embarrassed that I didn’t think of this before too. The result is that instead of a wasteland of unfinished posts, my drafts folder becomes that place where I have a buffer of things that are ready to publish at any time but if I want to I could spend some time editing and improve a bit first. Then, when it’s time to publish a post, I can just find an example from the queue which I like and click publish on it. Done. Yay. I can also shortcut and publish something new immediately if I like, but I don’t have to. So I’m going to do this. It’s going to be great. What this means for you, dear reader, is the following: 1. Expect post quality to go up because more editing will be happening 2. Expect post rate to go down to more or less precisely track the Beeminder goal rate (currently 1.48 posts per week – it’s derived from the monthly Patreon income). 3. If you want more than that, donate to the Patreon. As well as increasing the publishing rate, I’ll be sharing drafts on the Patreon feed with anyone donating$2 or up. I’ll share these as soon as I have a first draft I’m more or less happy with, so they’ll go up more or less at the level of finished that blog posts currently go up at.

Despite the link to Patreon, this isn’t just me holding my blogging to ransom for money. One of the things I’ve been meaning to work on for a while is my ability to edit prose – I’m much better at writing the initial draft than I am at editing – and this is a great way to start working on that.

This entry was posted in Admin on by .

Aligning incentives

As I mentioned in my recurring revenue goal post I now have a Patreon for supporting my blogging here. I’ve only got a couple supporters on it so far, but huge thanks to all of them!

The current rewards are mostly access to the Patreon feed where I have some additional commentary, post a few ideas for posts that I’ve not fully formed yet, etc.

But there’s also a tacit “if I make money from this I’ll blog more” promise that I thought might be worth turning into an explicit promise (I like systems. If you’re someone who would support me on Patreon this probably isn’t a surprise).

I already have a Beeminder goal for my blogging, committing to an average number of blog posts a week. It’s not actually what keeps me blogging most of the time – the rate it’s been on for ages is 1/week which is a very easy goal for me to achieve and I currently could fail to blog for 66 days without failing the goal as a result – but it’s there to keep me blogging even when life conspires against me doing so.

And it also makes a pretty good way of providing a system for my Patreon.

So here are the rules I’m going to be trying:

• The rate on my Beeminder goal is 1 + (money I get from patreon each month) / 200 per week. This gets up to daily blogging if the Patreon somehow hits the ridiculous amount of $1200/month, but I’m not really anticipating that happening. I’ve correspondingly raised my Beeminder rate to 1.19/week now (note for those unfamiliar with Beeminder: Rate changes take a week to take effect) • Every time I go past a new$50/month boundary I’ll clear the safety buffer down to a week. e.g.  if I get another \$12/month from where I currently am then that 66 days worth of safety buffer goes bye.

(Side note: Depending on exactly what I post, this isn’t really a very good rate of “pay” for writing blog posts and might not even be minimum wage, so it’s best for me if I don’t think of it that way, hence thinking about this as an incentive scheme instead)

If I ever feel like the promised rate gets high enough that it’s started to impact post quality I’ll declare a cutoff and drop it back down and see if I can figure out a new way to reward patrons. I’m pretty confident that I’m nowhere near that though given that my actual weekly blogging rate is about 3 a week, which I’m not even 10% of the way towards reaching yet…

So, if you want more blogging, or even if you want the current amount of blogging to continue come what may, do consider supporting me on Patreon.

This entry was posted in Admin on by .

Brand split

Short version

Expect less directly Hypothesis related content here. If you want lots of Hypothesis related content, go over to hypothesis.works and check out the articles.

There will still be brain dumps of research, reflections on the social aspects of Hypothesis, etc. but most of the more directly expository content will be over there.

Note: If you read this from Planet Python, all of the Python specific articles will already be coming in automatically. There are a bunch of non Python related ones you may also wish to check out.

What’s going on?

Basically, I need to make money. I’m making some, but I’m not making enough. I am currently paying myself a salary (yay!) but it’s a salary that if any friend of mine was getting paid it I would tell them that their employer was screwing them over and they should fire them into the sun (note: This is not qualified by “any friend in the software industry”). Some of that is to build up liquidity for my business bank account (e.g. so I can pay contractors), some of it is just my company’s current revenue stream is not very large. Books are nice, and I’m very grateful to the small number of contributors on bountysource, but really all of the money comes from training, consulting and development contracts and right now I am not taking on even close to enough of them.

If I continue making money at the current rate then at some point later this year (Pencilled in at end of August if my current revenue doesn’t increase by then and end of 2016 if my savings don’t start going up rather than down by then) I really will have to throw in the towel and go get a day job. Ideally a part time one, and either way Hypothesis R&D will continue and I will probably still be available for contracting, training etc (and of course any existing commitments will be honoured),  but it is going to have to get downgraded to a part time thing.

What am I going to do about it?

The contracts I’ve had so far have gone very well, and both I and my customers have come away from them pretty happy. Some of them will be turning into repeat custom, though unfortunately not on a sufficiently small cycle that they’re enough to be a path to sustainability on their own yet.

The problem is not that the contracts don’t pay enough (they do) or that I don’t know what sort of services bring real value to clients, but that I am simply not getting enough of them.

Why am I not getting enough of them? It turns out that the answer to this is quite straightforward: Very few people are aware they’re an option, and most of those who are aware that it is an option aren’t really sure it’s an option they need. I think they’re wrong, but clearly my arguments to date have been insufficiently persuasive.

Well, it turns out that there are two closely related disciplines that help you with the problem “I have a great product that not enough people know about and the people who know about aren’t buying”. They are of course, marketing and sales respectively.

These are things that historically I have been completely crap at. A lot of why nobody knows this is a thing I do is because I haven’t told them.

Oh, there’s been stuff on this site, but lets be honest: This site is very obviously just some guy’s blog. If you’re someone with budget and come here you don’t see a vendor, you see some guy ranting about social dynamics or game design. The best thing for really selling people on Hypothesis has been the documentation, and as well as being very developer focused it’s also doing a rubbish job of marketing.

So as well as being a generally great place to go for Hypothesis content, the goal of hypothesis.works is to have a single place which is just about Hypothesis and how great it is, and to make it very obvious that it is a thing you can pay for.

What can you do to help me?

The Hypothesis community is full of lovely people and I do get lots of offers of help. Unfortunately I haven’t made it easy to be helped. Some of this is because it’s intrinsically difficult – a small community of lovely people can’t and shouldn’t donate enough to support me – and some of it is just the aforementioned lack of skill at marketing that I’m working on.

If you don’t want to help, that’s OK. I won’t hate you. If you can’t help that’s definitely OK. But if you want to help, you can do some of the following…

Easy things:

1. Donate on bounty source.
2. Buy me books. This won’t actually help in the financial sense, but it’ll sure make me feel better :-)
3. Buy my book. OK. You can’t actually do that yet. But watch this space.
4. Share links to hypothesis.works articles, both on social media and internally to your company.
5. Slightly harder variation: Write posts about how great Hypothesis is and link to hypothesis.works. If you’d like to guest post on hypothesis.works about how great Hypothesis is, let me know.

Hard things:

The reality is that the best way to help me is by giving me contracts. I don’t want charity, I want to exchange goods and services for currency. As an individual you’re not well placed to help with that.

As an employee (or contractor/consultant) you might be. If you think your company, or a company you know, would find either the services or the training I offer useful, talk to them about it. Also, if I can do anything to improve the site to make that job easier, get in touch and tell me about it.

This entry was posted in Admin, Hypothesis on by .