OpenStreetMap

People want to give OSM (some) money

Posted by Chaos99 on 26 January 2011 in English (English)

Ok, I found no way of making that title sound NOT like spam. Sorry for that.
But let me explain:

You may or may not have heard of the micro-payment-slash-donation service called flattr (https://flattr.com).
It works worldwide, but for now is somehow a bit european if not german-centric.

I have to give a little explanation, bear with me as this turns to OSM soon. In short words its a system where you commit yourself to spend a self chosen but fixed amount of cash per month to support otherwise free online services, blogs, creatives and so on.
Supporting someone is just one click of a button and you can give to as many people as you like per month. Your fixed monthly amount just gets divided into smaller chunks. The psychological trick is that you just have to decide once how much you want to give and than click away without much concern about the money at all.

Now you can only give to those who are also participating. So a lot of things you want to support can't be 'flattered', which is a shame.
Flattr itself hosts a user generated list (https://flattr.com/wishlist) of websites people want to flatter, but can't because they are not able to.

Combining both entries OSM ranks place 6 on this list with currently 164 people willing to donate money to the organization, the website or the service.

That's not an awful lot of people, but considering that most flattr users tend to support sites on a regular basis, there is some money in for OSM.
Also it is a very nice gesture to receive even small donations for a otherwise free service. Unfortunately there is a catch to it, as you are required to 'give to get' at the moment. You have to spend at least the minimal amount of 2 Euro per month on others to be able to receive for yourself.

So, to the OSM team, please take a look into this and think about it. It would be nice if people (like me) could support and thank you for your work by using this service.

To all other readers: please take a look into it too. It's a very easy way to support all the people who give you a great and mostly free online world you take for granted every day.

Btw: I'm not associated with the flattr folks. I'm just a participant and joined as a 'giver' to support the sites I love. I would really like to receive some comments on what you think about the service in general, so feel free to express your thoughts.

Comment from TomH on 26 January 2011 at 10:53

We have looked at it before, but we couldn't work out how it was supposed to operator for anything beyond a personal site.

You have essentially identified the problem when you say that you have to spend some money each month in order to be able to receive - how does a group project like OSM decide how to spend the money and then actually do it?

OpenStreetMap is not a person that is sitting there browsing the web and clicking a button when they encounter a site they like!

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Comment from miscosm on 26 January 2011 at 11:40

flattr buttons are used on the german OSMBlog (http://blog.openstreetmap.de/), a blog with a weekly OSM newsletter. The donations go to the german FOSSGIS e.V., a non-profit association that handles OSM donations in germany. In the first month 16.59 Euro were donated that way.

German only blog post on the topic: http://blog.openstreetmap.de/2010/12/flattrn/

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Comment from Chaos99 on 26 January 2011 at 11:59

@TomH Thanks for the comment.
Yes, it's an inherent problem to the system that it is people-centric.

But actually there is no technical 'need' to flattr anything each month. If you don't push any button at all, your monthly amount simply goes to a (flattr chosen) charity. I agree that this is no ideal solution though.

As far as I've heard the next iteration of flattr will allow community-sites to hand through flattr clicks to their users. The donated money goes to the individual users (that would be mappers and coders represented with their wiki-sites here at OSM) while the hosting site gets a share of the 10% fee that flattr normally keeps for itself. But that's a thought on the future for now.

It's probably hard for a heterogeneous organization like OSM to decide on anything, especially something as trivial as what things to flattr. But surely there are things that would deserve flattring imho, like all the tool and map style creators who make the maps accessible for more users. Or those users promoting OSM actively and who are talking to the administration offices.
(I'm by the way none of the above expect a mapper.)

Its hard to be 'fair' when giving, but it's easy to be 'nice'. It's a lot about the gesture imho.

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Comment from Chaos99 on 26 January 2011 at 12:05

@Michael Schulze

Yeah, great. Just received another click from me.

Although I regularly read the newsletters (and like them a lot), the flattr thing went completely past me.

Probably because the flattr button isn't included in the feed-version of the newsletter.

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Comment from olejorgenb on 26 January 2011 at 13:48

Doesn't flattr take a hrm.. quite large fee (10% apparently)? It's really a shame that eg. FSF doesn't run a decent payment service... being stuck with paypal & CO sucks

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Comment from Chaos99 on 26 January 2011 at 14:00

@olejorgenb

Yes, it does. (It's charged on the receiver, not the sender, but that's not really relevant.)

Paypal take 0.35Euro + 1.9% . Thats 36.9% on an 1 Euro donation.
Apple takes 30% off your income.
What's google charging?

I don't think anyone can do a free payment service right now, not even the FSF. As long as it has to interface with the old banking system it will cost money.

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Comment from olejorgenb on 26 January 2011 at 17:18

Sure, but I really think one could do a lot better than 10%. Just a simple service that delayed the payments and used paypal as a back-end for bulk transfers could probably do better.

Ie. users are not charged (or pay in advance) until they've donated eg. 30Euro (counting all projects). Transfers to the projects could be done in even larger chunks.

30Euro yields about 3% overhead for paypal. If project transfers was done in larger chunks you could get below 6% total. (about 5% if one used 300Euro chunks [ ((0.35+0.019*30)*10 + 0.35+0.019*300)/(30*10) ]

I might be missing something though.

Assuming paypal makes a fair bit of profit a non-profit service should be able to do much better.

Google doesn't seem to be any better: http://checkout.google.com/seller/fees.html

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Comment from Chaos99 on 26 January 2011 at 18:23

Yes, I think a non profit organization could do better than 10%.

But in case of flattr (which isn't non-profit) I don't think 10% is very much.
Especially if you keep in mind that they needed to take their starting capital from that and intent to share half of it with community sites (see my first comment.)

I think doing transactions in larger chunks to save costs doesn't work all to well with the intentions behind flattr. You need to do pre-pay, as you have to get over that 'decide how much you want to give' as soon as possible. At the same time you need to keep the entry barrier as low as possible by allowing to start with a minimal amount of money (2 Euro at the moment). Also you need able to pay out the content creators as soon as possible to keep them happy.

Btw: I was wrong on blaming the fees on the bank interfaces. The fee is only for running flattr itself. You need to pay any bank/payment service fees for yourself. :(

As I see it its like pushing the flattr button of flattr itself every tenth time I push it for another site. At least until now thats fine for me. Your milage may wary.

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Comment from olejorgenb on 27 January 2011 at 13:40

\quote
What are the fees for using Flattr?
- When you add or withdraw money you only pay the fees of the payment provider you choose. This fee is displayed when you add or withdraw money (you can see it on your payment history as well). We take 10% of your incoming revenue as a fee to keep the Flattr systems afloat, hope that's ok?

\quote
How do I get money in and out of the Flattr system?
- Currently, Flattr supports most credit cards and direct banking. We're using Moneybookers and PayPal to achieve this. To get money out of the system, we currently support PayPal only.

\quote
What are the two "balances" for?
- When you add money to Flattr, it's cheaper for us (and you!) to do it in bigger chunks (results in fewer fees). So instead of paying £2 every month using a payment processor, you can add for example £24 at once. The money will stay in your "means" balance until it's used up. If you get flattred by others, that money will end up in your "revenue" account. When your revenue balance has reached £10 or more you can withdraw the money, for example to your PayPal account. If you want to transfer money from your revenue to your means balance (for flattering) you can do so at any time. However, any money you add to the means is pre-paid for flattring and cannot be withdrawn.

Seems to be about what I proposed above then.. only fairly expensive and with a added scheme (pay to get paid is it?) to promote activity.

It's possible this is currently the best micropayment service, but if this is the "state of the art" I'd rather donate directly in larger chunks and avoid the extra 10% overhead..

Probably not an argument against using it as an addition donation option though :)

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