Rosetta Code:Village Pump/Income

From Rosetta Code
This is a particular discussion thread among many which consider Rosetta Code.


Discussing income sources for Rosetta Code


I know it's not a pleasant subject, but Rosetta Code's income something that I keep thinking about.

While it's not yet an immediate issue, it's something that's going to need to be taken care of for RC to remain operational. I don't want to be incredibly annoying about it, and I want any supporting income to provide immediate material value to the person providing the income. Clicking a "donate" button helps RC, but it doesn't provide the donater anything but the hopeful promise that RC will continue to exist for a while. Clicking an advertisement might possibly help the person clicking the advertisement, but those same advertisements will be irritating and annoying to 95% of the rest of the folks who visit the site. (That is, of those folks who don't have AdBlock or an equivalent installed. And judging by the technical level of the vast majority of visitors, I'd wager that perhaps 5% of visitors don't have ad-blocking software installed.) --Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

Situation and history

Currently, RC doesn't pay for its technical costs, and doesn't have any income associated with it. In the past, it has always depended on someone's charity. Initially, it was on a segment of a DreamHost account provided by BetaLAN, a local lan party organization. When DreamHost booted us due to our initial Slashdotting, Geekalize allowed us to reside on their server for several months. When Geekalize could no longer afford to provide us hosting, Rosetta Code moved to my shared hosting account on Bluehost. Qrush later came forward and allowed us to run on his Slicehost slice, and at the end of that arrangement, I started paying for the Slicehost slice that RC now runs on. --Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)


I won't be paying myself wages out of the money or anything like that; I strictly want the money to go towards technical expenses, forseeably relating to server services via Slicehost. (Which is now technically part of Rackspace)


Which brings me to another related issue. One of the reasons I haven't moved forward on this yet are taxes, which are something I know little more than what EZ-File asks me. I don't know whether RC should try to become a 401.3c-type organization, an LLC, or what. If someone could point me towards useful information on that. --Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

I would recommend setting up a non-profit. (You'll need to consult an attorney, though. IANAL.) As a non-profit, you'd be tax-free -- I think -- and any "profit" (donated money in excess of operating costs) could get paid (to you personally, or the "staff", or whomever) as wages, which you could then dump back into RC at the beginning of the tax year (or as needed, or whatever -- again, lawyer up). -- Eriksiers 00:03, 6 August 2009 (UTC)



Things In the DO NOT category:

  • Banner ads, image ads, text ads, etc. -- Ads are annoying, and get progressively less effective at higher technical levels, anyway. --Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)
  • "Donate!" button -- If I rely on donations, I fear I might start relying on donation drives. Nobody needs a giant banner across the top of the site saying "A personal appeal from Mike Mol". --Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)


Things that I currently deem as a possibility:


  • Selling hardcopies of much of Rosetta Code by way of converting wikitext to LaTex code, and using a self-publishing service. As long as certain rules are followed, RC's license, the GNU FDL, allows this. But while everyone who's made contributions to this site has given their implicit authorization for such an activity, I want to make sure folks aren't terribly uncomfortable with the idea. --Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)
This is a really neat idea, but it might take a lot of effort to advertise it. A lot of the registered users might buy, but I don't think we would end up with a reliable annual hardcopy income. --Mwn3d 14:11, 3 February 2009 (UTC)
If you'll do that, I'll give my authorization, if needed. --ShinTakezou 15:13, 12 February 2009 (UTC)
Ditto BR 01:30, 10 September 2009 (UTC)
It looks like this one may actually happen. I've found someone who is interested in providing the final overview manpower for the books in exchange for commission on sales. There won't be any real news on this front for at least two to three more months, though. --Michael Mol 06:40, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

Book sale referrals

  • Using "Recommended books on this subject" links on various pages to Amazon and with referral commissions. This would not be to the detriment of online references. --Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)
This is probably the best idea going by effort and time per income. I think it would also stay pretty reliable which I think is what we need more than a big short burst of income. --Mwn3d 14:11, 3 February 2009 (UTC)


  • Branded stuff by way of CafePress and the like. (Look for the other guys wearing RC T-shirts and hats at BarCamp. :-))--Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)
This kind of has the same problem of hardcopies, but with less effort so it's better. Maybe we could save this until the site gets a little more popular? --Mwn3d 14:11, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

Other ideas

If you've got suggestions, make them here. But keep them separateble so that this page can remain somewhat organized while people discuss things.

Dear Google

... Could you host our site for us ... --Paddy3118 15:22, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

RC has benefited from the Google Summer of Code program before. Not directly, but RC became a primary target for one group that was teaching high-schoolers Python, and that program was part of the GSoC. I wonder how RC could benefit directly. --Short Circuit 17:12, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

Dear Wikimedia Foundation

... Could you give us a sub? --Paddy3118 21:18, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

They have a direct competitor. Or at least they used to. Darned if I can find it now. --Short Circuit 23:19, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
I should add that one of my policies directly contradicts that of Wikipedia's. I'm entirely in favor of people who develop languages promoting their own languages on Rosetta Code, so long as those promotions take the form of code examples. Without a policy like that, it's doubtful we would have E, Ursala, Raven or any of a number of other not-widely-used languages. This policy contradicts three of Wikipedia's policies as they currently interpret them: Notability, primary sources and advertising. Their focus is on being a respectable encyclopedia. My underlying goal for Rosetta Code is to be a useful nexus for programmers, programming tool developers, programming tool users and students of those tools. So far, I'd have to say we're doing an excellent job. I have yet to hear a negative initial reaction from any programmer who I've described the site and its existing function and community to. --Short Circuit 01:31, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
All true. But does it mean they won't give us a sub? they can't seriously want to promote identical copies of themselves - their founder wants something ccommercial. Might they not find something worth supporting in RC? --Paddy3118 04:03, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, considering we're cited as a "reliable" source on some articles, and linked to as examples for others, I suppose you're probably right. Most of our referral traffic comes from Wikipedia. --Short Circuit 04:46, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Has anyone tried approaching Wikimedia Foundation? It would be interesting to see what they have to say.

Markhobley 07:57, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

Ok, someone point me at the proper channels and procedures for using those channels. --Michael Mol 13:28, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
I just did some looking, but I don't see any immediately-obvious "request funding"-type links (for a good reason, I suppose). The Foundation has a Board of Trustees which includes a Treasurer: Stu West. It might be worth it to harass him; his email is listed on his wp userpage.
I did find this thing, but it's an "orphan" over there ("There are no pages that link to this file").
I also found a (former?) office called Grants Coordinator, but it looks like it's been vacant for 4 years. -- Erik Siers 07:15, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for looking that up. I've been really busy, which is why I haven't chimed in on RC much, but I've got some stuff planned which is likely to help. I haven't updated the finances page in a while, too, and I need to; I just did the taxes. (I only hope I did them right...) --Michael Mol 13:36, 3 March 2011 (UTC)

have you considered other free hosting options? sourceforge, google code, any free code hosting site that offers a wiki or even general wiki hosting sites? --eMBee 05:44, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

There are both good and bad points to that, I think. The good is, obviously, the whole "free" thing. The bad is... well, there are a few "bads", as I see it:
  • Free sites usually limit bandwidth and disk space (more so than RC's current limits, I imagine -- although only Short Circuit would know RC's needs for sure).
  • We (the users of RC, and especially Short Circuit) would have to rely on the free hosting site to not arbitrarily take RC down.
  • I have seen TOC's that say that any and all content uploaded to said site becomes the property of that site -- not acceptable for FDL content, and almost certainly not what any RC user wants.
true, although at least the code hosting sites should not have this particular problem since people would not host their code there if the site claimed ownership. --eMBee 14:53, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
Without a doubt, there are more bad points, but those are just the ones that come to mind. -- Erik Siers 12:42, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
Since my 7/7/2009 post, things have changed significantly. Right now, I've got two hosts at 2GB of RAM, lots of bandwidth, lots of disk. That's going to come to an average cost of $72/mo. I currently have two VPS nodes, because RC's primary server is currently running Debian 5 and needs an upgrade. Rather than risk an in-place upgrade of an entire software stack, I've been working on migrating databases et al over from the old node to new node. (You can see the old node ad, and the new node at Once the new node is fully up to speed, I'll either be dropping or downgrading the old node. Configuration includes lots of caching and server optimizations, caching and database tuning. ImplSearchBot hasn't been needed ever since we added category set searching for building the "Unimplemented in X" pages. --Michael Mol 13:48, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
The chief advantage of self-hosting RC has is that if something breaks, I can usually fix it. I don't need to wait on a support ticket to get things working again. The secondary advantage of self-hosting RC is that I can fairly easily add services to the server, as it's decided we'd like them. Well, as long as I have time. I don't have any problem outsourcing some things, as long as there's a real use and demand, and RC can afford it. (Whether it can afford it obvious depends on its finances) --Michael Mol 13:48, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

It occurs to me that many, many, many sites have both free members and paid members, where the paid members get additional functionality (or content or whatever).


  • essentially "free money" for RC
  • requires little additional admin work... I think


  • would have to get set up with a company that does online payments (Paypal or CCbill or whatever)
    • would definitely cost money (probably a setup fee, definitely a per-transaction fee, possibly recurring fees just to keep account open, etc.)
  • would require thinking up and implementing some sort of incentive for people to sign up
  • might not be 401.3c-compatible (I don't know the rules)

I don't know how likely this is, but I don't see it mentioned elsewhere on this page. -- Erik Siers 15:59, 3 March 2011 (UTC)

Already have a legal entity(not 401.3c) for Rosetta Code, and a Paypal account for it. (Had to set that up to take donations). Those costs are already there.
I don't generally like the idea of paid memberships for a site like this; if there's one thing I don't want, it's additional barriers to participation for people who would place useful content. However, it does offer an interesting side solution: I could charge $5 to enable features which are uncommon for most users, but are commonly targeted in spamming. The specific cases I'm thinking of are file and image uploads. Someone might still pay the $5 and then spam, but they'd be dealt with the same way as any spammer, and no refund. I wouldn't do the same for, e.g. fully disabling CAPTCHAs, I don't think that's as good an idea. --Michael Mol 16:21, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
My thinking was more along the lines of "additional/reserved functionality", rather than "pay or you can't contribute". And you could make it a subscription-type thing; something like $5/month (or whatever), and if the user doesn't renew their subscription at the end of the month, the account just reverts to a "normal" account. (That could be handled by a script that runs daily; a one-time worry.) -- Erik Siers 17:10, 3 March 2011 (UTC)
I can see how some of Semantic MediaWiki's features might lend themselves in that direction, but nothing that's part of MW inherently. BTW, this did spawn some discussion in the IRC channel: --Michael Mol 19:24, 3 March 2011 (UTC)

Objections and other concerns

Everything ought to be free, and I'm trying to keep it that way. Nevertheless, don't hesitate to sound off... --Short Circuit 00:31, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

I assume this won't be for profit, but how much do you think you need to make to cover the costs? --Mwn3d 15:21, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

Right now, in static costs, Rosetta Code costs $25/mo. That only covers what I pay to Slicehost. The domain is paid for for the next ten years, so there's no extra cost there. I would like to get an additional slice, either as a doubling of the existing slice's capabilities, or as a separate server to provide a degree of redundancy or service separation. (It would be nice, for example, for me to be able to put Squid and memcached on one vps box while having php and mysql on another, or even to have a third vps slice dedicated to MySQL. But each vps slice adds roughly $20/mo to the cost.) Rosetta Code is not running me into a pit; I've got other costs I can cut if I discover I'm habitually in the red. But it's not something I can afford to dedicate more to, until either I make something more than $8/hr, or it starts paying for itself. I seriously dislike the idea of panhandling, which is why I'm looking for ways of getting Rosetta Code to pay for itself. My top idea right now is to sell user-defined books through a POD publisher, but I haven't found anyone who allows for programmatic submission of materials for print. --Short Circuit 21:00, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
Someone asked what kind of traffic Rosetta Code was dealing with, and why $25/mo wasn't handling it very well. In the interest of avoiding repeating it, I'll repeat it here:
At the moment, the load average is 0.15 0.04 0.01. That raises to between 1 and 2 while ImplSearchBot is running. Gets higher if someone triggers something that I could have configured to avoid. (For example, my load average shot through the roof when someone was repeatedly trying to view the thumbnail of the Dragon Curve animated GIF; ImageMagick took too long to render the thumbnail for caching, and they kept hitting Refresh.)
My bigger problem is when I get traffic spikes. Every now and then, some major tech blog or news website will link to us. It's nowhere near Slashdot levels, but that much traffic exhausts 256MB of RAM pretty quickly. I don't like reducing PHP's internal memory limit, as that causes errors when large pages are submitted or rendered. (Which is the one technical reason we can't have an in-wiki table that shows a direct cross-section of all the languages with all the tasks; It's just too much data.)
Normal load, it's fine, almost dead. When ImplSearchBot runs, it slows down a bit, but that only takes about ten minutes. But two or three times a year, I get enough outside traffic, or a particularly nasty query, that causes issues.
And there are a few features that I want to add that I'm hesitant to because of the impact they'll have on server load. Things like extended-function wiki themes, a possible XUL interface, and even possibly a console-tuned interface that uses the MediaWiki API.
Anyway, the vast majority of my problems don't come from not having enough disk, bandwidth or CPU, they come from not having enough RAM. --Short Circuit 00:26, 8 July 2009 (UTC)