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!)

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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?
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