Crowdfunding Articles?

Stephane BoucherApril 12, 201828 comments

Many of you have the knowledge and talent to write technical articles that would benefit the EE community.  What is missing for most of you though, and very understandably so, is the time and motivation to do it.   

But what if you could make some money to compensate for your time spent on writing the article(s)?  Would some of you find the motivation and make the time?

I am thinking of implementing a system/mechanism that would allow the EE community to crowdfund articles (blog posts).

The basic idea would be for individuals who are considering writing an article to submit an abstract.  The abstract would then be made public for people to decide whether they want to 'back' (support) the efforts to write the article by pledging $2.   

If enough people show interest and pledge $2 and the target is reached, the article gets written, the money gets debited from the backers' accounts and the author gets paid.

In other words, this would be similar to Kickstarter but for technical articles instead of products.

Such a system, if successful, could trigger the creation of lots of new high quality content for the EE community.  As much as I like the vision of making such a system a reality, I am also very much aware of how difficult it would be to make it gain momentum.  

So before I proceed with a few weeks of hard work to implement such a system, I would love to read your thoughts about this (please use the comments system at the bottom of this post).

Would you personally be interested in writing one or more articles about your expertise if your time could get compensated through crowdfunding?  

Would you personally be comfortable pledging $2 to support the author of an article on a topic of interest?  

Do you think the idea is brilliant or horrible or somewhere in between?

Thank a lot in advance for your feedback!

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Comment by nopsledApril 15, 2018

I think this is a great idea! Given the success of patreon, some people are definitely willing to pay small dollar amounts to support or enable content which will later be made freely available.

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Comment by Ariel_InternationalApril 15, 2018

It's a great opportunity! Everybody would write technical articles if given a sound reason, with a few caveats.

- 2$ is a lot of money on the web. I would rather leave a free donation with a minimum of, say, 0.10 to compensate for transaction and your work of course.

So the reader can say how much does this article interest him and the writer can then decide when he's got enough motivation to publish the article.

After all, the value of an article per reader in any newspaper is the cost of the newspaper divided by the number of articles, while the popularity of the subject would increase the number of potential readers.

- reputation of the writer is necessary to avoid great abstracts that end in poor articles. If it is also possible to link reputation to profiles in blogs like LinkedIn, the reader will have a better understanding of who the writer is and why his article should matter to him.

Also people will be more or less inclined to pay based on the popularity of the writer I guess.

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Comment by tinkerer42May 2, 2018
YES. This is a great idea. It's somewhat like a group buy to get quantity discount, but for consultation. 

The fun thing about information (e.g. articles), is that there's no "production cost" per copy, so the price can be directly divided by all interested parties, rather than just get a modest discount as in a group buy of a physical product.

There were a bunch of comments about the best price - there's no reason it should be fixed. there should be a minimum, say 1 dollar ('it would be nice to read this if it gets written'). higher payments for increased interest: 2 dollars - 'I'm definitely interested to read this', up to maybe 20 dollars ('wow, this could save me days of hard work researching this, it's exactly the write-up I've been dying to find! I want this badly...').

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Comment by digysolApril 13, 2018

I vote for this approach. As a potential user, I get value from knowledge that is applicable. As a potential author, it's a great opportunity.

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Comment by LongArmMcGeeApril 13, 2018
I would be very interested in participating in this system as an author. I have started a blog, but am often unsure what to write about. So, I end up writing about things I want to learn more about, or things I think my co-workers would value. The ability to directly ask a large audience of embedded developers if they like an article 'abstract' would be very valuable. It enables the author to quickly hone in on topics of interest. Additionally, having people expecting the article posted within a reasonable time frame would be a huge motivator to get the article out the door (not to mention the monetary aspect). 

I'm interested!

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Comment by Rick LyonsApril 13, 2018

Hi Stephane.  I am not enthusiastic about the idea of paying money to read blogs. We'll see what the other folks here say about your idea.  In any case, I think one dollar is more reasonable than two dollars.

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Comment by stephanebApril 13, 2018

Hi Rick! Thanks for the comment.  

> I am not enthusiastic about the idea of paying money to read blogs.

I hear you.  At the moment though, the vision I have for this 'crowdfunding' system would not be about paying to read a blog post but rather paying to help make a blog post see the light of day.  Once the blog would be 'funded' and published, I think it should be made public and free to read.  The key here is that there are probably hundreds if not thousands of technical blogs/articles that won't ever get written without some incentive. You would only pay for articles that you would really like to be written, based on the abstract and author background.  

So for example, maybe you have an idea for an article that you could write but it would require lots of time and efforts and you aren't even sure if there is enough interest out there to justify writing it.  With my system, you could submit an abstract describing your vision for the article and a price tag. If the community is interested enough by your article idea to fund it, you could then proceed and be assured that at least those who funded your work will be interested by your work.  

> In any case, I think one dollar is more reasonable than two dollars.

I fully agree here, the lower the better.  The challenge will be to find the sweet spot where people are happy to support authors and authors are getting enough funding to proceed with writing their articles.  If the system gains momentum and gets eventually to a point where thousands of individuals are 'shopping' for the next article to support, we can imagine that the minimum pledge could go down eventually to only a few cents. 

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Comment by Rick LyonsApril 13, 2018

Hi Stephane.  Thanks for the clarification; I didn't read your blog as carefully as I should have. Sorry.  OK, I changed my mind. I hope you imlement your "Crowdfunding" idea to see how well it works out.


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Comment by LongArmMcGeeApril 14, 2018

Please correct me if I'm wrong, I think the goal here is to encourage authors to write more difficult, time consuming, or otherwise more expensive articles. Your proposed idea is to give the author a way to gauge interest and buy down risk with an upfront monetary reward.

Do you or others have articles or topics in mind that would be supported by this? What are those topics (if you don't mind me asking..).

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Comment by stephanebApril 15, 2018

Hi!  The goal is to indeed encourage author to write more articles.  I don't have articles or topics yet.  The next step would be to ask authors to submit abstract & bio.  From there, we can see if there is enough interest for some of the articles to get funded.  That will be the hard part, to get people to actually go through the trouble of adding funds to their account so that they can participate to the system and pledge their support.  

Thanks for you comment!

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Comment by antedeluvianMay 2, 2018

As a blogger myself, I wonder if there isn't a possible variation on this approach. If a writer comes up with an idea for an article- could he then post a proposed title and/or a synopsis and wait and see if the interest and/or other motivational factors (read: money) materialises.

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Comment by stephanebMay 2, 2018

Exactly the kind of system I have in mind.

The basic idea would be for individuals who are considering writing an article to submit an abstract.  The abstract would then be made public for people to decide whether they want to 'back' (support) the efforts to write the article by pledging $2.  
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Comment by neiroberApril 13, 2018


Have you seen any examples of crowd-funded articles?

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Comment by stephanebApril 13, 2018

No I haven't.  Have you?

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Comment by neiroberApril 13, 2018

No.  I wonder if anyone has tried it.

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Comment by mcpublicApril 13, 2018

Sure. I’d moonlight writing article(s) if there were decent pay in it. 

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Comment by StenzApril 17, 2018

I am sure a simple and half baked idea like this is doomed to work.

Without such an incentive, I would rather write on my own blog than on dsprelated.

Maybe keep a little percentage, like 10%, for publishing and administration.

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Comment by TreefarmerApril 17, 2018

Two dollars is a good minimum. Any less and the bank transfer fees would take a chunk. Having said that, I would hope that there is a professional writer to edit the articles as some people who are good at technical knowledge make bad writers - spelling, grammar, poor sentence construction. Bad writing can turn the reader off.

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Comment by stephanebApril 18, 2018

What I have in mind at the moment is a minimum 'deposit' of $5 or $10 in one's account, with a minimum 'donation' of $1 per article supported.  

On an article gets funded and published, I envision the 'supporters' to be given the ability to rate the article.  If the writing is too bad, I suspect that the ratings would be low and the backers would not back more articles from the same author.  So It would be the responsibility of the author to have the content reviewed before publication to ensure good ratings once published.  Makes sense?

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Comment by TreefarmerApril 29, 2018

No. That doesn't make sense. I once joined Helium.com and submitted articles. To get a reputation you have to spend hours reading blather and junk and schlock. It just wasn't worth it to get your own article noticed. Too much junk will turn off readers to this site.

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Comment by krasinApril 18, 2018

Good idea. Money is a good voting mechanism.

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Comment by diginessApril 19, 2018

Excellent idea.  $2 is very low for the ability to vote on future articles.

I am a member of Pluralsight, which often helps me get off the ground on new software APIs and systems I will develop against.  A weakness of that platform is that they don't take suggestions for new courses or allow this type of voting.

I have also been a supporter of several Kickstarter campaigns and have enjoyed that all but one have been very successful.  This would be similar in that you let the market vote before you put in the effort.

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Comment by Eb_April 20, 2018

I will pay $2 - $5 to get elaborate answers or explanation on a subject matter not readily accessible via web searches Or on something I need a "reliable" opinion on that might help me achieve a pressing goal (i.e. project milestone within ~6 months). The question is, will there be a good number of people (crowdfunders)  whose interest aligns with mine? If indeed the subjects are New, Unique or Difficult in the EE space, then I'm sure your proposed charter may solve that problem. Of course there are other concerns but this's another sample of opinion. 

And yes I will be comfortable paying $2 most especially if there's a consistent track record of crowdfunded articles detailing what was promised by their abstract and the abstract promises to meet my need.

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Comment by david_daysApril 21, 2018

For my inflation-adjusted 2 cents, I'd be happy to pay a supporter's donation/subscription in order to fund these types of articles.

As someone mentioned, $2 can be a lot of money on the web.  From my own experience, however, this model is well-used on the supporter's side.  I would suggest looking into how web comic authors support themselves.  Patreon is an obvious reference, but there are tons of others, such as erfworld.com, which uses a direct subscription model.

I think that the other half of the problem (paying authors) will be interesting as well.  Establishing payout channels (PayPal just being one--maybe the only one to set up) is one part; coming up with a means to do the payouts without having to manually track everything and fat-finger it into the various interfaces is another.  It's a good idea, and I wouldn't want you to become swamped and have the rest of the site, or your mental health, suffer.

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Comment by stephanebApril 23, 2018

Thanks for the comment and for worrying for my mental health ;)

I already have the tools to do 'mass payments' with Paypal so I am not too worried about that part.  The biggest challenge will be to get enough people to get some of their money into the system to make this worthwhile.  

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Comment by yahyatawilApril 28, 2018

As an author and content contributor, this idea sounds really good. This can also be extended to be a freelancing platform where companies can choose from a pool of content writers or get offers to write content about new product/technology. My only concern is if EE audience are big enough to make this idea works. 

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Comment by marshengMay 2, 2018

I probably would pay for support. I find the free forums quite condescending or sometimes just plain rude. Maybe a library of articles and then when I find someone who seems to have the type of info on what I need, then I pay an amount and get support. The 'bullies'  can be weeded out that frequent the usual forums. Happy to pay $10 or so a month for support or per question because I have better things to do with my time than reading others waffle. 

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Comment by janaranjanahlMay 2, 2018

Good idea. I think 1$ would be fine as a minimum. (as very less likely to pay for an article). I suggest article to be more technical from start to finish if possible with examples. I was looking for such complete articles.

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