[conspire] (forw) [MaraDNS list] Why I won't use Flattr or another similar scheme

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Nov 9 11:44:18 PST 2011

Forwarding just because I find Sam's analysis interesting.  Failure to
get the economic model right is unfortunately widespread in tech.
Consider for example the SMTP spam deluge resulting, in part, from 
shoveling most of the expense onto the recipient, rather than the

Sam is author and sole maintainer of MaraDNS, one of the leading DNS
nameserver packages.

----- Forwarded message from Sam Trenholme <maradns at gmail.com> -----

Date: Wed, 9 Nov 2011 13:03:57 -0600
From: Sam Trenholme <maradns at gmail.com>
To: list at maradns.org
Subject: [MaraDNS list] Why I won't use Flattr or another similar scheme

Flattr and Kachingle are two proposed systems for giving money to
creators of music, art, software, and other digital goods.

Flattr was created by one of the people behind The Pirate Bay, which
should give one an idea of the mindset behind these two schemes. The
thinking is this: You put a small amount of money, such as five
dollars, in a fund for compensating digital goods creators. Every time
you see a digital good you feel is worth paying for, you click on the
"flattr me" or whatever button.

At the end of the month, flattr takes the monthly contribution you
made, skims off their maintenance fee, then divides up what's left by
the number of web sites where you clicked on.

So, say, if someone has a $13 monthly piggy bank for flattr
contributions, and flattr gets $1, the contributor has $12 set aside
for donating to sites. If they click on a single site, that one site
gets all $12. If they click on three sites, each sites gets $4. 12
sites, and each site only gets $1.

The problem is that flattr doesn't allow the buyer to assign a value
to a digital good. In the real world, if someone sees 12 different
cups they wish to buy, they will have to pay 12 times as much as they
would if they only bought one cup. In the real world, if a buyer of
goods becomes greedy and wants more of something, it is the greedy
person's bank account which suffers the consequences. The greedy
person will now have to work harder to generate more goods and
services to pay off their debts.

In the flattr world, on the other hand, if the buyer becomes greedy
and wants more of something, it is the bank accounts of the creators
of digital content that suffer. The greedy flattr user is not
motivated to generate goods and services to compensate for the goods
and services that they have consumed. Worse yet, the people who do
create digital content are given less compensation for the same amount
of work, and therefore are less motivated to produce more digital

Flattr is not a sustainable viable model for compensating the
producers of digital content a fair price for their hard work.

If people want to see MaraDNS continue to thrive and flourish, they
will need to compensate me for my work. That means a real PayPal
donation. Asking me to use flattr or some other unproven idea (such as
Bitcoin) instead of making a PayPal donation doesn't cut it.

Enough of the excuses. If I don't start getting compensated again a
reasonable amount ($100 to $200 a month) for my work on MaraDNS, I
will no longer be motivated to work on MaraDNS, except maybe to fix
security and other critical bugs a couple of hours once a month.
MaraDNS and Deadwood already nicely meet my own needs, so I no longer
have a non-financial motivation to work on MaraDNS anymore.

- Sam

----- End forwarded message -----

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