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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Initial results... (248 comments)

I've put together a page showing results as they come in, grouped by domain, sorted by money "earned". You can find it here: http://penny.1889.ca/results

There have been a few quirks along the way. First, most people who hit the site seem to have clicked the links on the penny site while moving them to their bookmarks bar, so I'm just filtering anything at penny.1889.ca entirely. Probable noise, I think.

I'm not merging domains into bundles, because there are some cases (code.google.com/mail.google.com or anything blogspot) where the subdomains are vital information. So in some cases, a site owner would actually be collecting from multiple entries at once.

The default behaviour of the bookmarklets appears to have confused some people... after the site is tagged in the system, I do an immediate redirect back, which may be too quick to see, so the buttons get hit multiple times in quick succession until the user notices a flicker. I've left all those "duplicate" tags in, only because I can't absolutely be sure that the user wasn't doing it on purpose, to show heavy support for the page they were tagging.

Other general stats:
- 1600 entries recorded in 24 hours
- 356 users participating so far
- The heaviest user recorded 105 donations, 177 users recorded just 1
- 594 users paid $0.01, 256 paid $0.02, 751 paid $0.01
- If the first 24 hours could be extrapolated over a full month, Slashdot would earn $260. At this stage, that doesn't seem to be a viable alternative to paywalls and/or ads. But it's early yet.

I also just realized I was calculating these stats off the live dataset over the course of an hour, so numbers may not actually add up. Oops!

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:No actual money is involved (248 comments)

Ideally, you'd pretend it was real money, if only for calibration purposes, and act accordingly. This experiment is gathering information broadly, but also for you, specifically. So you can see what you'd spend, if you were spending.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Won't work because ... (248 comments)

Wow, that pretty much articulated everything I'd have wanted. The only thing I might change is the notion that you can still "like" a page on a non-participating website, so latecomers aren't punished. The tip distributor could hold the funds until they're claimed, meaning you're supporting the content you like, just maybe not as immediately as you might have liked.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Missing option. (248 comments)

My thinking on the subject has evolved since my comment a bit further up, but I'm still not sure that's something we necessarily want to track. I mean, I definitely see your point, but in the end it would be like "5,000 people hate digg.com." I guess it shows that 5,000 people were there, COULD have paid but didn't, but it's a bit like throwing a piece of chewed-up gum into a street performer's hat. It says "you suck", but it's not entirely productive.

On the other hand, if we were tracking individual pages instead of domains, that's something... but then this system becomes a focus testing tool, which is a bit sideways of where I wanted to be. It might be more useful to the site owners, but then you'd have obvious pandering all the time.

Hmm.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Where is the 0-cent option (248 comments)

I'm approaching it more like: slashdot.org got $3.44. 60% of those were 1 cent, 30% were 2 cents, 10% were 3 cents. The people who didn't pay didn't find anything worth seeing, or they forgot they had the bookmarklets, or they hated it, or... lots of things. I suppose it could be interesting to track explicit 0-cent transactions, but that just feels a bit negative for what I'm trying to do, rather than constructive. Though I definitely take your point.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:ads didn't work? (248 comments)

I sat in on a meeting last year where a company was trying to convince a potential advertiser (hand-picked, too) to put ads on their site. The cost was probably about 10x the norm, for the audience. The advertiser said: "Why would I pay that much when I can blast the world for less?" To which the site owner said: "But this is a PREMIUM ad. Premium!" Said the advertiser: "How is it premium, aside from costing me a lot of money?" And that was pretty much that.

Still, companies will gladly spend ten times their online budget, putting an ad in a newspaper for a single day, where you have no idea of impressions, no way to measure follow-through, and really so much friction it's a fair bet less than 5% of people who saw it, acted on it... I still can't quite grasp why print advertising hasn't crashed and burned in the last decade. Leprechauns or something.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Probably won't work. (248 comments)

Damn, I think I even read that, way back when. I built a lot of my brainspace around his notions of the double standard, valuable and value-less content. I shall drop 3 cents on that now! :)

Still, I take your point. At the same time, I had this really distressing moment a few weeks ago with some junior developers who were working on this-and-that, and I said to them with my wise, old experienced voice: "Oh you kids, that'll never work. We tried that back in '99 and it fell flat." And then they showed me that no, really, it does work these days... they just needed reality to catch up with our dreams.

So yeah. I guess that may have stirred up some of my old "let's fix the world!" idealism again. Probably a bad idea. It can only end in tears.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:No actual money is involved (248 comments)

No, it's entirely a tip jar approach, so if you read it and like it, you can opt to spend 3 cents to show your gratitude. Tip jars exist, of course, but because of fees etc, their definition of "microtransaction" is usually at least $1, which almost defeats the purpose. So what this is doing is saying: "Did you like what you just read/saw/heard? If so, how much?" And that's it. Down the line, someone else can figure out how to turn that into countless riches, but right now, I'm just interested to see how the impression of the ideal shakes out.

I'm so scientific sometimes.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:this isn't really testing the hard part (248 comments)

Indeed, Flattr is a really great idea. I kinda wish there was a way to, as you say, support A more than B, but the predictability of the billing would make me sleep better at night :)

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Where is the 0-cent option (248 comments)

Actually, maybe I just didn't explain it properly. There is a zero-cent option, which is to just not click anything at all. This isn't something mandated or integrated into the sites, it's client side, so it's 100% voluntary, and only worthy content stands a chance of getting rewarded. "Worthy" being a very subjective concept in this case.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:no mobile support (248 comments)

Yeah, I admittedly only put minimal effort into building a bare-bones tool. Not entirely sure how to make it work in the Android browser, actually. Interesting predicament, especially since I'm guessing lots of people do a lot of their reading on mobile devices...

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Tool broken? (248 comments)

Ooo, good call. Thank you for catching that.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:ads didn't work? (248 comments)

For the readers. Ads obviously work in general, but if you are going to run a site where 50% of the readership blocks ads, ads are pretty much a non-starter.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Nickel & Dimed to Death (248 comments)

Yeah, that worries me too. On the other hand, if it's all voluntary (meaning you don't need to pay unless you actually like it), the only real danger are sites catering to easily-duped people who don't do math so good. Or at least that's how I imagine it.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Won't work because ... (248 comments)

EXACTLY this, actually. I mean, it'd be great if everyone clicked those buttons 15 times a day, but already today I've closed a tab and gone "doh! that was good! I forgot to click!"... and I set the bloody thing up. So yeah, there is friction in the model that is potentially unescapable and/or fatal.

Also, I don't know that this is necessarily a business model anyone wants to depend on. It really requires you to be creating content that is not only good, but has enough reach that lots of people can see it, and like it enough to support it. It scales absolutely horribly, actually, for smaller acts. But then again, if you suddenly become popular, you could actually capitalize on your popularity, rather than just watching the views come and go.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Slashdotted? (248 comments)

I would like to subscribe to my newsletter too, but my site is down :(

No, actually, it seems to be working. Though I bet my hosting bill will be FABULOUS this month!

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:you realize you are asking on an ad supported s (248 comments)

Oh definitely, and I was one of the first onboard for Slashdot subscriptions, back in the day. But still, after those stats from Destructoid, I wondered if this quasi holy war that goes on between publishers and readers might have a more amicable solution. Instead of "stop spamming us!" / "you owe us!", there could be some "you did good" / "thank you!".

OK, really, I'm just interested to see how much money I personally would spend in any given month, and I thought some Slashdotters might as well.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:Flattr (248 comments)

I hadn't, but now I have. I love that things like that exist, and I'm a bit sad I don't know about it already. Mindshare is a tricky thing.

It's kinda the same concept, except I think they let you set a budget and it gets divvied up, whereas I'm talking more about pure pennies in use, so if you don't see anything of value in March, you don't actually spend anything. It's cheaper, sure, but I think most people would probably take issue with spending the same $10 every month, even if they didn't get much enjoyment out of it, no?

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:The data is meaningless without real money (248 comments)

I agree, but another aspect of it is: if you are playing along with absolutely no regard for what these buttons really represent, how will you feel at the end of a month, looking at what you've potentially spent? It could be "holy crap, I can't afford this," or it could be "that wasn't as bad as I thought." That's extremely interesting to me, all by itself. Then add in the "how much would this pay my favourite sites", and you've got a really interesting conundrum and/or solution.

It's almost like "try before you buy", in a way. But purely for personal curiosity.

about a year and a half ago
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews Re:this isn't really testing the hard part (248 comments)

I had a great discussion today about what "next steps" would be for this, pretty much encompassing your point above. The somewhat-decided gist is that there's some single place or service that handles the actual money. So for instance, you create an account there and drop $10 into it, and then just go browsing the web as usual, clicking the 1, 2 or 3-penny buttons built into your browser. At the end of each month (or thereabouts), the central organization pays each of the sites you supported, thereby dodging the "micro" aspect of the microtransaction. Sites themselves wouldn't have to sign up or support it, they'd just have to claim the money using some kind of verification process (that would be a nightmare in and of itself).

Entirely voluntary on all fronts... which means it's basically impossible to implement, because there isn't a good profit margin in it :)

about a year and a half ago

Submissions

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Testing an Ad-free Microtransaction Utopia

MrAndrews MrAndrews writes  |  about a year and a half ago

MrAndrews (456547) writes "After reading a Slashdot story about adblocking and the lively discussion that followed, I got to wondering how else sites can support themselves, if paywalls and ads are both non-starters. Microtransactions have been floated for years, but never seem to take off, possibly because they come off as arbitrary taxation or cumbersome walled-garden novelties. Still, it seems like the idea of microtransactions is still appealing, it's just the wrapping that's always been flawed. I wanted to know how viable the concept really was, so I've created a little experiment to gather some data, to put some real numbers to it. It's a purely voluntary system, where you click 1, 2 or 3-cent links in your bookmark bar, depending on how much you value the page you're visiting. No actual money is involved, it's just theoretical. There's a summary page that tells you how much you would have spent, and I'll be releasing anonymized analyses of the data in the coming weeks. If you're game, please check out the experiment page for more information, and give it a go. Even if you only use it once and forget about it, that says something about the concept right there."
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The cartoon I created is coming to the USA!

MrAndrews MrAndrews writes  |  more than 5 years ago

MrAndrews writes "It's taken a long time, but the cartoon I created is finally coming to American TV! I've been working on this project for half of my time at Slashdot, so it's heavily influenced by geek culture. For example: the Zurasho tribe (originally called SlashBots) features in an early episode, where we meet their leader Commander Octo, and see them get into a fight about who put down the first post in a construction zone. Oh, and the central route through the city is called the RMS. And one episode is all about the dangers of DRM.

Because ratings are key to my continued survival, I'm running a little challenge: if the ratings for the first episode are good enough, I'll release my next book under a CC0 license (essentially public domain), and donate my scripting fee for the first episode of a hopeful season 2 to the EFF.

If you have kids and want to show them some good, geek-friendly eye candy, made by someone you may very well have flamed in years past... this is it. Please watch!"

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Important Lessons for the Next Gen of Geeks?

MrAndrews MrAndrews writes  |  more than 5 years ago

MrAndrews writes "My kids have had a fairly geeky upbringing so far, learning the evils of DRM at a young age, configuring new drives of anime for XBMC, and Creative Commons licensing their crayon drawings. But I feel like there's more education I could be doing, so I'm planning to create a series of short digi-fables that will prime them for life. I've already done DRM, patents, censorship and bullying, but there are probably lots of other topics out there that need covering, like net neutrality. Or SQL injection. Or... stuff. I've heard rumours that Slashdot is a fairly geeky place, so I put it to you: what are the most important lessons you can teach a geek-in-training?"
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Geeky Animated Series Premiering in Canada

MrAndrews MrAndrews writes  |  more than 5 years ago

MrAndrews writes ""RollBots" is an animated series in the same vein as classic Transformers, but created from a tech geek angle. There are 301 Redirects, the city is divided into areas like the Boot Sector and Quartz Sector, and the main thoroughfare is called the RMS. It premieres February 7 at 7:30AM on YTV in Canada, and on the CW4Kids in the US later this month. You can see more on the official site, including the trailer I made for it. Full disclosure: I'm a long-time Slashdot reader and have worked like crazy to make sure this series is both fun and informative for the next generation of nerds. There should be enough subtle jokes to keep you entertained while the kids watch robots do kung fu on roller coaster tracks."
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Dvorak Unveils New OS

MrAndrews MrAndrews writes  |  about 7 years ago

Richmond Sayers (456547) writes "Tech columnist John C. Dvorak unveiled a new computer operating system today, as an option for users who feel shunned by Windows, Mac and Linux alternatives. Dubbed "DvorOS", the software is built on a mixture of Assembly, AJAX and Hypercard, and can be run on any digital device from top-of-the-line Dells to rice cookers. "When I looked at all the crap OSes out there, it made me want to vomit, frankly," said Dvorak in a press conference from his garage, "So I hired two kids in India to build something better. And it's the best $1.45 I ever spent, let me tell you.""
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Here Comes the Canadian DMCA

MrAndrews MrAndrews writes  |  more than 7 years ago

MrAndrews writes "Michael Geist reports on a predictable-but-sad development from the Canadian Speech from the Throne: as expected, the Conservative government is bowing to pressure from the American music and movie industries, vowing to "improve the protection of cultural and intellectual property rights in Canada, including copyright reform". It looks as though a Canadian version of the DMCA is on the way, and it's uncertain if any of the major parties will want to put up a fight to stop it. Where's the Canadian Pirate Party when you need them?"
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MrAndrews MrAndrews writes  |  more than 7 years ago

MasterThief (456547) writes "The anti-DRM kid's book The Pig and the Box is getting a special edition! The rights have apparently been sold to Random House, and a film's in the works too. With the distribution deal came some content changes, however... for example, the original ending, where the Pig realizes that DRM causes everyone pain has been replaced with:

Pig was so upset he sat down and started to cry: "This magic box is nothing but trouble!"
"Oh, Pig!" said Duck, "don't feel bad! It's not your fault! It's OUR fault for not using the buckets according to the terms and conditions set forth in the End User License Agreements we signed upon receipt of the merchandise!"
It's a keeper!"

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