So, one of the things people bring up to us sometimes is that our country list -- used, for example, for setting your Location on the Edit Profile page -- is out of date. Which is absolutely true, and we admit it freely: the list is, more-or-less, the initial list of countries from 1998 when [ profile] brad was creating LiveJournal, tweaked only slightly. There have been times in the intervening 15 years (oh God, it has been 15 years) whenever people reported countries having been created, renamed, or merged with others, but the updates were haphazard. Adding to the problem is the fact that national and geopolitical identity is often contentious, and is extremely personal. We don't want to step on anyone's toes.

It's well past time we figure something out, though, and right now, the best solution (though still far from being perfect) we can come up with is to use the list of United Nations member states plus permanent UN observers as the most definitive source. We thought we'd kick that out to y'all and see if anybody would be negatively effected by doing it that way, though.

(Not that I think I need to say this since y'all are generally awesome, but: when weighing in on this discussion, please be respectful of other commenters; national and geopolitical identity is, as I said, an often-contentious and extremely personal topic.)
This entry is being posted on behalf of the programmer who is working on a bug that sprang from a suggestion to make it easy for people to find other people blogging in languages they speak. (They wrote it; I'm just posting it! I don't want to take credit for any of this.) We're looking for some thoughts on our current ideas and want to make sure we aren't missing something super obvious :)

Turning it over now:

Blogging languages in profiles )
So, one of the things that has come up repeatedly recently is the question of username hoarding and account trading/selling. We've been trying very hard to work out a policy to manage the problem (and how to handle it when it happens) that will be fair to everyone and will only affect people who are honestly abusing open account registration, not people who are using the site legitimately.

People have reported some of the most egregious squatting/hoarding and trading, and we've been holding off on taking any definite actions because we've been having trouble formulating a policy that's fair to everyone and working out what consequences there should be.

We have an idea of what we think we should do, but we also know that this has the potential to negatively affect people who are using the site in a performative/creative style (roleplay, fiction projects, collaborative performance art) instead of a personal journaling style. We don't want to interfere with that legitimate use, so we'd like to hear feedback. To keep the discussion away from "pick holes in a specific proposal", I'm not going to share the full range of what I'm thinking yet; instead I'm going to lay out the problem and let everybody brainstorm.

The goal here is:

* To formulate a policy regarding username squatting that prevents squatting, without placing undue restraint on the many and varied ways people use Dreamwidth for performative/creative work;

* To prevent rewarding people for bad behavior and encourage fair play and community responsibility;

* To prevent username trading and selling (which is not only a violation of the Terms of Service but is a very bad idea because a traded account will never and can never be secured);

* To take away the advantages of username squatting/hoarding with minimal administrative overhead and in a way that returns desireable squatted usernames to the pool of available usernames.

1. The Problem )

2. Additional Considerations )

3. Some Examples )

4. The problems of putting that into policy )

5. Disincentives )

There are a ton of other things I can think of, but this is long enough already and I don't want to make it too overwhelming. I'll turn the discussion over to the floor and see what everybody comes up with.

Parameters for discussion: you don't need to give more examples of legitimate use or reasons why people might want to have multiple accounts. Likewise, please don't offer up specific situations (either hypothetical or actual) and ask "is this squatting?" We know there's tons of reasons why people would want to have lots of accounts (and we want to encourage the creative use of DW and avoid having any kind of "chilling effect" as much as possible), and we're not ready to talk specifics yet.

As always in discussions such as these, please remember there are many different ways to use Dreamwidth, and a) any solution we put into place has to work for the benefit of the service as a whole; b) we're looking for solutions that will, at best, only slightly inconvenience legitimate good-faith usage, while stopping things that are negatively affecting the entire community; c) however, it may not be possible to completely avoid affecting legitimate good-faith usage completely and this is a trade we may have to make.

With that, I'll turn it over to the floor for discussion!
We said last month that [staff profile] mark's next big project is going to be icon add-on packs to let people buy more icon slots if they want, and this week he and I have been brainstorming ideas to make it work in the quickest, easiest, and most usable fashion. This is what we're currently thinking the system will look like, for you guys to mull over and point out all the things we've no doubt forgotten to think about. ;)

Goal: To let people buy as many icon slots as they want (up to whatever limit we impose for overall performance reasons), as simply and easily as possible.

Come with me, my darlings, as I detail our current thoughts on the matter... )
We've seen a bunch of people questioning why we don't accept payment via PayPal. We used to, but PayPal closed our account with them, after demanding that we censor our users' content to remove material that did not violate our Terms of Service but that made them uncomfortable. We refused to place restrictions on our users over and above the restrictions placed by US law, and so PayPal refused to process payments for us. (The same thing then happened with Google Checkout, before we found a payment processor that was willing to accept our business without placing further restrictions on user-generated content other than "is it legal".)

I know this is inconvenient for people without credit cards and people outside the US, and I'm sorry! We thought that sticking up for our users and maintaining our integrity was important enough to stick to our guns on the issue, though.

If you don't have a credit card, or are outside the US, there are a few payment methods you can use:

* We accept checks and money orders in US funds as well as credit cards. The address to send payments to is available in the shop. (We'll also accept US cash if it gets to us; however, we don't recommend it, since there's no way to track or recall a payment if it goes astray in the mail.)

* We accept prepaid Visa gift credit cards (prepaid Mastercards have some issues, so we don't recommend them), which are in many cases available in convenience stores and other similar locations, and if all else fails, can be bought online.

* If your debit card has a Visa logo on it, it's very likely it will also function as a Visa credit card.

* We accept American Express travelers' checks (sent to the same address as check/money order). They only come in limited denominations, but you can buy Dreamwidth Points for the amount you're going to send us, and then use those points over time for paid services.

* If you can't find any other method to pay, you can arrange a swap with a friend who has PayPal and a credit card: you PayPal them the money, and they put it on their credit card to buy you Dreamwidth Points, which you can use over time. We unfortunately can't offer anything official there, because we can't be responsible for any problems with transactions and if we offered anything official PayPal could freeze the accounts being used, but there's much less risk to doing it unofficially with a friend, except of course having to pick someone you trust enough to function as a proxy for you.

I know this is annoying for some people, and I'm really sorry about the inconvenience! We've investigated a number of different payment processors, both ones that people have suggested and ones that I've found on my own (seriously, sometimes I think I've probably read the Terms of Use of every single payment processor on the internet) and all of them either prohibit content that we allow, place unreasonable restrictions on sites that accept user-generated content, refuse service to sites that accept user-generated content, or have fee structures that are prohibitively expensive. The solution we've found really is the best and only solution that won't lead to future posting restrictions.

In the meantime, if anybody knows of a good place to get prepaid Visa credit cards in countries that don't usually use them, leave links and information in the comments!
So, Mark's been working on the backend for our eventual photo/image hosting offering, and soon it will be time to create the frontend. (Which, as any backend programmer will tell you, is totally the not-fun part, and as any frontend programmer will tell you, is totally the fun part.) As we've been thinking about the design of how we should allow uploads and how we should handle the resulting photos, we've both started thinking that we could do some really awesome things with making images in your space function like entry-like objects, instead of the nearly-entirely-disconnected things they are in LJ's Scrapbook.

So, for instance, in addition to specifying security, you might also choose to allow commenting directly on the image, manage the comments on the image (screening, deleting, freezing, etc), send the image directly to your journal's front page (only if you wanted to, of course!) and have it appear on your readers' reading pages, tag it (and have it appear in your journal when people view that particular tag's list of uses) -- things like that. (I know people will be tempted to ask questions and offer suggestions at this point, but please, hold them -- we'll be coming back to y'all once we have a more firm idea of how we're going to handle things, preferably with things like sketches and workflows and the like for you to give specific opinions on.)

But, my point in posting here was, I got to thinking about other things that might be able to work the same way. And then I started thinking: what if we hooked the concept of advanced reading filters into this concept? Imagine how awesome it would be, for instance, if Alice could bundle together all her Twitter updates or Twitter import posts into one type of update, and Bob, who loves the essays Alice writes but thinks Twitter updates should die a firey death, could set his subscription options to "show me everything from Alice except twitter imports". Or, say Charlie posts gorgeous photos that Donna loves, but hir entries are all about a fandom or hobby Donna doesn't share and is actively repulsed by: Donna could only subscribe to Charlie's photos. Or say that Eva is an mp3 blogger who posts five awesome tracks per day and lovely analytical essays about why she chose those tracks and what they mean to her, but in between the mp3s and the essays, she also giant photos consisting of the album cover art for the tracks she's posting, and Fred (the poor guy) is still on dialup, or is usually surfing from his phone, and downloading huge images is a pain: Fred could subscribe to everything in Eva's account but the images.

I'm totally thinking out loud here -- this is the kind of idea we've been tossing back and forth for a few weeks -- but one thing became clear: once we started thinking of the possibility, we realized there were potentially all kinds of things people might want to include in their DW accounts that aren't "entries", so to speak, but are still some form of content that people might want to share. I started making my own list, and then I thought, you know, some of these "object types" will be more popular than others, and I'd like to know a rough shakedown on how popular those things will be before we even get to the design phase. (As any good programmer knows, it's best to have a full spec at the very latest before you start designing the interface, or else you'll make bad interface design choices.)

So, behind this cut is a poll. The checkboxes for each question are all the things I could think of off the top of my head that somebody might want to put in their DW account (with some help from the #dreamwidth irc channel!) There are four questions:

* Which of these things would you possibly be interested in posting in your own DW account?

* Which of these things would you absolutely not be interested in posting to your DW account?

* Which of these things would you be interested in reading from somebody on your reading page? (Assume the person posting it is at least a friendly acquaintance, and the quality of whatever thing we're talking about is high: gorgeous photos, music that exactly fits your interests, etc.)

* Which of these things would you absolutely not want to see from someone on your reading page? (This is the type-of-content you would want to automatically filter out whenever subscribing to somebody new.) Again, assume the person posting is at least a friendly acquaintance, and the quality of whatever thing is high.

Each question has a "something else, see comments" tickbox. If you tick the tickbox, please leave a comment with two pieces of information:

* The type of content you have in mind that I haven't thought of yet;

* Which of the categories the content belongs in. (There should be two answers there: whether you'd be interested in posting it, and whether you'd be interested in reading it. Please answer both!)

I'm experimenting with anonymous polling, so while everyone will be able to see your votes, nobody will be able to see who you are. In other words, each poll response will appear to come from an anonymous user, but you'll be able to see that anonymous user #1 voted for 3, 5, 8, and 9, while anonymous user #2 voted for 1, 2, 5, and 7.

Things-I-want-to-post poll behind the cut! )
I've been pondering this question for a bit (foregrounded in my mind again by the latest wave of newly-minted dwenizens brought to us by LJ's unavailability this week and as a reaction to the real-names fiasco of Google+) and, failing to come up with any real answers -- or rather, coming up with too many conflicting answers, and none of them good ones -- I realized that the best thing to do would be to take it to you all, lay out my reasoning, and see what kind of solutions we can come up with when we all brainstorm together. :)

The task: Make it easy for people to find their existing friends on Dreamwidth, either while they're registering or after they've signed up.
The new-social-network problem: finding your existing social network. )
So, the questions I have for y'all:

* What other ways can you think of to help a new user find their existing friends who have accounts on DW easily, quickly, and with minimal hassle?

* How can we best balance your privacy with your desire to find people you know?

* How can we help preserve the right not to be found by people you don't want to find you?

* What else am I forgetting to think of?
I realized this morning that it has been quite some time, so I figured it would be a good time for another Dreamwidth Q&A session!

Got a question on how the business end of DW works? Curious about the progress on a particular feature? (Although I can probably answer that for you by saying: we're working on paying down our technical debt so that we can move forward on a lot of the planned features; it got to the point where we couldn't progress further without making some aggressive modernization of the existing codebase.) Wondering what an average day in the life of a DW employee is? Got that one question that you've been vaguely wondering about for ages, but never felt like it was "important" enough to make a support request to get the answer on? Want to know if it really is that cool being able to work from home without wearing any pants? (Answer: yes, especially when it's 85 degrees F in my office and the air conditioners won't be delivered and installed for at least another day or two.)

Comment here, and we will answer!

(Just a reminder: you may receive comments or replies from people who know the answer to your question, but aren't officially DW staff. If the person who answers you doesn't have the official "staff" userhead -- [staff profile] -- they are not DW staff. They may be correct -- if they aren't, I will be sure to answer and clear up any misconceptions -- but they are not speaking ex cathedra Dreamwidth, so to speak!)

No question too big, no question too small. There's also previous Q&A sessions and the Business FAQs to browse through!

(Answers may be a bit slow depending on computer woes and additional stuff going on, but we will answer!)
So, the year-end accounting is finally finalized, and we can look back at 2010 and analyze the business end of things!

In summary: 2010 was slower than we'd hoped due to three months of being unable to accept online payments and due to higher fees from the merchant processor we switched to in April of '10, but we came very near to breaking even for the year, and would probably have broken even if it weren't for the entire quarter of downtime. In the end, we only spent about $6,000 more than we took in (not counting taxes, which are paid by Dreamwidth).

On the whole, I'm pretty pleased with our performance for the year, and I hope that 2011 will be just as good if not better!

Some notes on the 2010 year )

On the whole, I'm relatively happy with our 2010! Obviously I wish that we hadn't had such a long period without being able to accept online payments, and the combination of that period of no income, taxes, fees, and the reserve-against-chargebacks our merchant bank is holding means that our operating fund reserve is a lot lower than I'd like it to be right now. We are, however, heading into "payment season" -- our biggest spike in payments happen at the end of April/beginning of May, which is the anniversary of when we first opened for business. (And, therefore, the time when people who pay by the year renew their accounts.)

I'm also expecting a less pronounced, but still present, bump in income in the next few days; the anniversary of our payment system coming back online is in a few days, and we definitely saw the spike in yesterday's payments. (The announcement of payments being back online was April 7 -- so yesterday was the day that the 3-day expiration reminder email went out for people who'd bought a year of paid time as soon as it came back up!)

Our initial plan for DW had us breaking even or having a slight profit in 2010. The fact that external circumstances meant we didn't isn't a dealbreaker, though we are looking at ways to replenish that operating fund for peace of mind. So far in 2011, we are looking to be on track to, again, break even or have a small profit. (I'm rooting for the extra income. It would be very nice to be able to upgrade my pay from 'peanut shells' to at least 'peanuts'!)

If you have any questions about anything, feel free to ask! I may not answer in depth, but I will do my best to get you an answer.
So, one of the things we want to do -- and it's a project that has gotten some developer interest lately -- is make it so that you can associate/link accounts together, so (for instance) you can switch to commenting or posting as your alternate/secondary/fic/RP/whatever journal more easily than logging out and logging back in. We've done some work to spec the problem, but I figured it would be time to toss it out to you guys here and see what other things we've forgotten to think of and what use cases we don't know about yet!

More discussion on the problem can be found at Bug 76. Here are two of the documents that have been written to try to "spec out" the project. Please read them over if you have a chance, and give your feedback.

Draft Spec, written by cesy )

Further considerations, written by tyggerjai )

So! What thoughts does this inspire in you?


Hi there, my name is [personal profile] jennifer and I am the other half of the amazing TOS tag team, sharing duties with [personal profile] qilin. I recently realized it had been much too long since our last update here; since we only get a few TOS requests per month, it's easy to slip off the radar entirely. So today I will present you with a summary of our goings-on for the past eleven months. I hope you will take a few moments to give it a readthrough and let us know in comments if you have any suggestions or concerns.

Onward! )
denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
([staff profile] denise Jun. 19th, 2010 12:36 pm)
I'm cleaning out the widgets/modules directory in the code, and I have a question for everybody! The Writer's Block/Question of the Day module on LJ is something that we have in the code, but have never set up over here on DW. Is this something that people would be interested in having? Should we add it to the homepage/set up a list of questions, or should we just get rid of it entirely?

A poll, for those who like to ticky their answers:

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 433

Question of the Day/Writer's Block:

View Answers

Is neat, and I'd answer them regularly on DW
8 (1.8%)

Is interesting sometimes, and I might answer sometimes on DW
107 (24.7%)

Is uninteresting, and I would never answer them on DW
246 (56.8%)

Is something I've never thought about one way or another
72 (16.6%)

Please indulge my research and factfinding for a few moments! This is a poll to determine which instant messager/realtime communication services our users use, and which single one you use most often, in order to figure out which services it might make sense to concentrate on integration with. (This is not to say that it's something we're definitely going to be doing! Just that, for instance, it wouldn't make any sense to work on sending notifications to/accepting entries from a service that few of our users are using.)

I'm sure I've forgotten some common IM services in the poll, so I left in an 'other'. (I deliberately left out irc, since that's not so much a one-to-one realtime communication service.)

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 626

Which instant messager/realtime communication services do you use regularly?

View Answers

364 (58.9%)

Google Talk
380 (61.5%)

46 (7.4%)

Jabber (other than Google Talk/LJ Talk)
50 (8.1%)

LJ Talk
69 (11.2%)

178 (28.8%)

Windows Live/MSN Messenger
189 (30.6%)

186 (30.1%)

Other (enter below)
102 (16.5%)

If 'other', which ones?

Which instant messager/realtime communication service do you use most often?

View Answers

165 (27.0%)

Google Talk
217 (35.5%)

10 (1.6%)

Jabber (other than Google Talk/LJ Talk)
16 (2.6%)

LJ Talk
8 (1.3%)

32 (5.2%)

Windows Live/MSN Messenger
58 (9.5%)

50 (8.2%)

Other (enter below)
56 (9.2%)

If "other", which one?

So, one of the very first things that I put on my "things I want to do with Dreamwidth" list, way back in the middle of 2008 when we were making lists of "things we always wanted to do", was: redo the "memories" feature. One of my first decisions when thinking about the project was that I wanted to gut the existing system and start over again, since in the years since memories were first created there have been a lot of advancements in social bookmarking: sites such as have set the bar high, and there's no reason to redo the system if it's not going to offer something (or multiple somethings) that Delicious can't offer.

So, I wrote a basic spec that was chock-full of things I thought would be really awesome, and stuck it in Bugzilla, and put it on the list of "things we will get to when we get past the initial projects we want to add", and time passed. Then, a few weeks ago, [personal profile] yvi came to me and said she was looking for a complex summer project to really dig her teeth into. Since the memories-intto-bookmarks project is one I've been really looking forward to, it was the first idea I threw at her, and she thought it was awesome, too.

This is [personal profile] yvi's working version of the spec, based on the version I wrote a while back, and it is now time for everyone to weigh in on what they think! Please read this spec and give it careful consideration, then let us know your thoughts.

Turning you over to [personal profile] yvi now:

Social bookmarking feature spec )
So, we've closed the books on April, and I'm really pleased to report that we had a fabulous month of sales. We're about 60% of the way to our goal of raising $50,000 to replenish the funds we spent during the months when we were unable to accept credit card/online payments (which is very, very reassuring!) Even more reassuring is that April was the first month we've been (well!) in the black since open beta launch: our income was greater than our regular expenses. This is fabulous news, especially since our predictions didn't expect this to happen until about six months from now. (It's more exciting because so far, May sales are on track for May to be another month in the black.)

I've seen a few people mentioning that the fact we're concentrating so much on raising money, especially so close to our initial launch, troubles them or makes them feel like the site's financial future is less secure, or people saying that the fact we're not reliably in the black yet month-to-month is an indicator of either a) overspending or b) underperforming, sales-wise. (Often heard as: "it costs them what per month? What the hell are they doing over there?")

Please don't worry.

First of all, the reason that we're concentrating so hard on raising money is to replace what we spent to cover the three months where we could only accept online payments intermittently. It isn't a sign of a major shortfall or an immediate urgent cash need: it comes from a desire to restock that "emergency fund" so that if (God forbid) we need to use it again, we'll have it on hand to draw from. The idea is that by restocking now, when times are good, we'll have it on hand in case of disaster.

Meanwhile, the fact that we aren't in the black month-to-month yet is something we'd totally planned: our schedule and business plan gave us plenty of time to get there. We could, at pretty much any point, cut back our monthly expenditure sharply to just "server costs" and have enough income to run the site comfortably for quite a long time. The extra cash is going into investing in our development: paying contractors to help maintain and improve the site, paying our fulltime employee [personal profile] fu to do awesome things for us, paying for other professional services, doing marketing research and usability studies of Dreamwidth (did any of you notice our forays into Google AdWords tests? Results say: I need to work on writing my ad copy like whoa), education like books and courses, travel (to conferences and other things where we both make important industry connections and learn about useful technologies -- site search came out of Mark attending a talk at OSCON '09) ... the list is endless.

So, it might look like we're making stupid decisions, or doing things wrong, or what-have-you, which we knew at the very start would be a major risk with the level of openness we wanted to offer -- Dreamwidth is, among many other things, an experiment in radical business transparency. And we do hold back certain details, because putting them into context would take time away from developing and running DW. But I can tell you, there's totally nothing to be worried about for DW's future. (The fact that we were willing to hire on [personal profile] fu as a full-time employee -- hire her away from her existing job, even! -- should tell you something!)


Now, while I've got you all here: As a part of our ongoing process of constantly re-examining our offerings, our processes, our goals, and our structures, it is time for a poll! This poll will ask you certain questions about both your existing and your hypothetical future behavior. I'm calling it the "completely non-judgemental paid account poll", because a lot of times when we make polls like this, people feel like they have to justify why they haven't upgraded their accounts, or why they've had to let a paid account lapse. Please don't! We absolutely do not think less of our free users, and everyone's reasons for paying or not paying are 100% valid for them. We completely respect your choices! This poll is just a way of trying to tease out meaning from some of our business stats, trying to figure out which of our planned or possible enhancements might be popular, and seeing whether there are any barriers to payment that we don't know about. (There are ones we know about, and some of them are things we're working on, and some of them are things we can't quite figure out the best way to handle, etc.)

As always, the results of this poll will be used as another factor in our decision-making; it isn't a guarantee.

The very long and completely non-judgemental paid account poll )

Meanwhile, some news and updates on features that people have been waiting on: rename tokens are very close to being completed (the first round of code review is in process), vgifts are close to being completed (the first draft of the patch is done, but will likely require a few more drafts, because of the complexity), [staff profile] mark is working on cross-site friends page reading as his primary development priority right now and estimates sometime in June, [personal profile] foxfirefey is working on importing community posts from other LJ-based services and doesn't have a specific time estimate yet but is giving it the majority of her development attention, and [personal profile] fu is concentrating on the mockups of the update page redesign that will be a preface to draft/scheduled posts, which we hope to have done sometime during the summer ... are there any other projects you guys would like a specific status update on?
[personal profile] dreamatdrew is working to gather information about how people use the mobile version of a website, with an eye towards improving dreamwidth's mobile offerings, so:

* what features would you want to see on a mobile version of dw? what things would you not want to see?
* what does the current mobile version do well? do badly?

(please also mention what phone/mobile operating system you're using, for reference)

Also, for anyone interested in the process of improving mobile dreamwidth, [site community profile] dw_mobile is the new comm for the project team.
I mentioned back in the 23 March [site community profile] dw_news (item 4) that, with our new payment processor, we were taking the opportunity to implement the gift certificate/credit system that we've been meaning to do for a while. Many people had questions! At the time, several of the details were still fuzzy, and some of the ideas we described there turned out to be too confusing in practice. So, we changed some of the details, and we wanted to make sure you understand how the points system works and what benefits it will give you.

First off, let me say that the process of buying paid time for your account won't fundamentally change! You'll still be able to do everything you could do before; you just can do more now. (Or, rather, you will be able to as soon as we do a code push with the new payment system, which will be as soon as we clear up one last detail with our merchant provider.)

Our end goal is to have a lot of flexibility in how you choose to spend, save, and send your points, so everyone can work out something that works best for their own use of the site.

We'll start with the official FAQs:

What are Dreamwidth Points?
How do I buy paid time for my account?
What are paid accounts? (has the cost of shop items, in points)

Then, some Q&A:
Q&A )
Next, I'll walk you through some scenarios that will be common and the questions they'll bring up:

Payment scenarios )

Future improvements on the points system, and by future I mean as soon as possible:

* You'll be able to transfer points, in any amount, to another account, including to communities.

* Once you've used points to activate paid time, you'll be able to convert that paid time back into points at any time. There will be some limitations to avoid gaming the system: you'll only be able to convert whole months. (For instance, if you have 11 months and 23 days left of paid services, and you want to 'cash in' back to points, you'd get 30 points times 11 months, or 330 points, and have 23 days remaining of paid time. And yes, the math doesn't work out exact, but we're not going to sweat it -- we'll always round in your favor.)

* Something else to redeem credits for other than paid services: rename tokens are coming soon!

And yes, we're also looking into the idea of applying credits for small paid feature add-ons like choose-your-own-number-of-icon-slots. We will have to be very careful with that, but we think this system eliminates many of the problems with micropayments and pro-rating that we'd identified as problems with offering those paid account add-ons. We still aren't 100% sure we can do it, from a business standpoint, but we're seriously looking at it.

I hope this helps clear up some of the questions about the points system. It will be going "live" sometime tomorrow, hopefully. Once it does, if there's anything unclear, you can either ask here or open a support request in the Account Payments department and we will be happy to answer them for you.
Many of our Google Summer of Code applicants have mentioned that they'd like to work on desktop or mobile clients. Since the application phase begins today, I thought I'd post an entry for people to mention what features and functions they consider essential in a desktop or mobile client. This will let our GSOC applicants see the thoughts of people who use the site regularly, so they can work those thoughts into their specs as they build their application.

So, this is a post for people to comment with:

* What features/functions do you consider essential in a desktop/mobile client?
* What features or things would you not want a desktop/mobile client to do?
* What are things you've loved and hated in clients you've used previously?

It's okay to answer separately for both desktop and mobile clients, since the two are only very loosely related. The more feedback you can give, the more it will help our GSOC student applicants as they design their application.
As discussed in this week's [site community profile] dw_news announcement, the last three months of lowered income has done a lot to deplete our "war chest" -- the amount of money we keep in reserve to cover our future operating expenses. We'd already been running in the red from month to month, and the past few months have seen some additional expenses over and above the usual.

So, we're looking to run a DW fundraiser, once the credit card payment system is up and running again, to 'repay' the reserves that we've had to tap into over these past few months. It costs us around $10,000 a month for operating costs + what we pay ourselves (and we really don't pay ourselves much -- thank God for spouses with day jobs and the willingness to let us follow our dreams), and we've had some pretty big one-time expenses since the beginning of the year, including the tax bill being due. (We had money set aside for it, but let me just say, ouch.) With credit card payments, we were taking in about $6,000 a month, and we obviously hope that we can get out of the red, month-to-month, sometime soon!

In order to repay what we've had to raid the piggy bank for since the beginning of the year, our target goal is to raise $50,000 in the month of April. In order to repay the piggy bank and be able to support the kind of expansion, marketing, and improvements we'd like to do for the rest of the year, our pie-in-the-sky fundraising goal is $100,000 -- it's a bit of a stretch, but since we know a lot of paid accounts are set to expire on the one-year anniversary of open beta (5/1), we think it's totally doable if we hustle.

We haven't decided exactly what form that fundraiser might take, though, so we thought we'd put it up for discussion. Each of the plans we've been able to think of so far have pros and cons, and we'd like to make sure we hear everyone's thoughts before we make a decision.

One possibility is to sell another batch of seed (permanent) accounts. We said that we weren't going to do it again, since permanent account revenue is good in the short term but not so good (for you or for us) in the long term, but many people have asked us if seed accounts will ever be available for sale again, since they missed the first sale or weren't yet Dreamwidth members, and we think there'd be enough interest to support another sale. (Like the last time, seed accounts would sell for $200, and we would only place a limited number, probably 200-300, on sale.) We're really hesitant about doing that, though, because we told you guys that we weren't going to do it again except in dire emergency, and this isn't dire emergency -- we don't want to go back on what we said.

Another possibility is to do a paid account special sale -- along the lines of the December holiday promotion, where buying 6 months of time for someone else would give you 2 months for your own account, but not necessarily exactly that. (Details of what exactly the sale would consist of could be totally up for discussion.) The advantage of that would be that we wouldn't have to do something we said we wouldn't do (offering seed accounts for sale again), and we'd be able to design the sale to be as attractive as possible, to give people a chance to support Dreamwidth at any financial commitment level and get a bargain in the process. (We know that $200 is a lot to ask from people!) The disadvantage is that whatever promotion we come up with might be hard to distinguish from the changes to the paid account/credit system, which might make adopting the credit system more confusing, plus it might be hard to find an incentive that would encourage people to buy paid time credits.

A third possibility is to run some sort of unofficial Dreamwidth fundraiser, where individual people would offer up goods/services/what-have-you in exchange for DW credits, once we have the credit system going. The advantage of this would be that it might get people used to using the credit system, while the disadvantage would be the amount of overhead it would require -- it would have to be something unofficial, since we don't have the resources necessary to handle disputes or conflicts, and it might wind up with things going really wrong when people can't or don't deliver on what they promised. Also, this is the kind of model that's usually used on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal for charity fundraising, and Dreamwidth isn't a charity -- it might be weird, and we don't want to devalue the important charity fundraising work that people do.

So, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option (and there's nothing saying we can't do a mix of any/all of the above, as well as things we might not have thought of yet). We want to throw the question open to the floor, though, and see if people have perspectives and ideas that we haven't thought of:

* Which of the options do you prefer?
* Do you have any other ideas that might help us reach our sales goals?
* What kind of sale would inspire you to buy DW credit?

(One thing we're not looking for, for this post at least, is feedback on what kind of features and benefits would make paid accounts more appealing to you. We know there are a lot of things we can do there -- we've got a list of them scheduled for the rest of the year -- but they take more senior-developer time and effort than we have to schedule right now. Later on in the year, we'll revisit the question of paid account features and how we can improve them!)
Since icons are one of the more popular things we offer, a major driver of paid accounts, and something that people often request ("more icons" is one of the most frequent suggestions), I'm curious as to what people would consider "enough" icon slots. I'm setting the low end of this poll at 250, which is the most available (premium paid/seed accounts) in any account offered now; please answer the point at which you'd feel you had 'enough' icon slots, however you define that:

Cut for long poll option list )


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