Supporters Discussion (was re: Giant Squid vs. 42-Foot Sailboat)

Discussion in 'The Octopus' Den' started by enrico, Jan 20, 2007.

  1. enrico

    enrico Cuttlefish Registered

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    :lol: There's a funny story over at PZ Myers' blog, Pharyngula, about a sailing crew claiming that a giant squid may have been hanging on to the hull of their 42-foot boat for 2 months.. Sounds a bit far fetched, eh? But they show pictures of what is hypothesized to be sucker marks, -hundreds of them. Any thoughts? :confused:
     
  2. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    This particular item is being discussed in our Premium Ceph Discussions thread! Become a Supporter today to join that discussion :wink: -- some good thoughts and ideas posted there...
     
  3. fluffysquid

    fluffysquid Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    That's an unfortunate suggestion. I've been around here for a few years now, havent justified to myself to fork up any dough, though. I'm a college student... I make minimum wage at the NRCC.

    When the supporter's area was started the push was to allow people to discuss "off topic." Now it seems to be barring people from discussing or seeing discussion of something that simply got posted in the pay-to-post area first. I suppose it's a good marketing tool to convince people to pony up.

    I found that squid v. sailboat article just now on a sailing website and was checking to see if someone already posted it here... apparently they sure have!! twice.
     
  4. fluffysquid

    fluffysquid Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    I dont really expect a reply or a change or anything. I'm just expressing my irritation with the situation. The story I was going to look at the discussion of is ridiculous, anyway.
     
  5. monty

    monty Colossal Squid Staff Member Supporter

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    edit: a Caveat: The rambling opinions below are 100% my own, and I'm not trying to speak officially as TONMO staff or anything, although my opinions have, of course, been influenced by discussions among the staff.

    Whether Tony's post was, er, lacking tact or not, I think this raises a complex issue. I think that the value of the TONMO community for its participants should be incentive for people to make some sort of contribution, monetary or otherwise, to the community, and I guess the problem is that there hasn't been enough incentive there. I tend to think that Tony shouldn't be forced to bankroll TONMO with his own money, blood, sweat, and tears. I actually agree with you that the current "supporter" business has a number of problems, but I don't know what should be done to improve the situation.

    I listen to NPR a lot, and gladly give money to support them, but I also absolutely detest their pledge drives. But in their case, all content is completely accessible, but they have to (or choose to) have these 1-2 week blocks of horrible, invasive, high-pressure guilt trip fund raising in order to break even as a non-profit.

    I find the "paid supporters get special treats" thing kind of repugnant, too, but I'm not sure what other models could do better. I guess subtle appeals for donations haven't worked in practice. Tony's thinking, as I understand it, is that having a separate "premium ceph content" section is a lot more value-added than just "if you pay, you can discuss non-ceph things with the other TONMO people," which, although it is fun, isn't really in the spirit of the site.

    I've been involved with some groups that use "pay what you can afford" donations, in the sense of "we're asking you to chip in what you feel is right for you, and to use your own knowledge of how much value you get vs. how much money you have" somehow. This works for some people, but a lot of people will take advantage of this, and it seems like our culture is moving in a direction where a larger portion of the population just says "I work hard for my money, why should I have to pay anything?" and use that to justify it. Tony's not some mega-corporation, so as far as I know he's not trying to make a profit, he's just trying to use the supporters fees and advertising to keep TONMO running and improve it for us all. In fact, there's been some vague discussion that if TONMO makes some sort of profit it could be given back to the community in terms of scholarships, grants, or some other support for ceph researchers.

    Anyway, I gather that the "premium ceph content" stuff rubs you the wrong way, so I flip it back to you: if we open up all (or most) of that content, what do we do instead to encourage people to support the site? Or, do we keep a "private" area, but offer alternatives, like a lower supporters fee for college students (is that fair to ceph-keepers who have minimum-wage jobs, though?) or some sort of sliding scale, or maybe a rule that if someone writes an article or something that they get the fee waived or reduced?

    In all fairness, I suspect that a reason why Tony pushed the "premium discussion" for this post is that there is really not enough "premium ceph" stuff there so far. I think some researchers see it as useful to have a space where their tentative stuff is only visible to committed TONMOers, and not visible to google to be in search engines, but for the most part the best ceph-related discussions are here on the outside, although for me at least I'm hooked on the off-topic stuff, because the supporters and staff are really a fun bunch! Which reminds me, I promised myself when Tony asked me to join the staff that I'd keep making donations since I don't have to pay the supporters fee, and I'm probably overdue for one.

    Hypothetically, if I were to ask you to assess the value you see in TONMO relative to your resources, can you put some sort of number on it? Is it worth anything to you, whether that be in money or some sort of time/effort/work contribution, or is it just something that's nice that it exists, but if it died for lack of funding you'd just shrug and say "oh, well." Future value may be worth something, too; when you're a well funded famous teuthologist, you could use a small fraction of the funds you use to send students to CIAC to help out TONMO. Or, perhaps, you could convince the NRCC to support TONMO, and in exchange all NRCC affiliates should get access to the supporters section... I dunno.
     
  6. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Ooh, I missed this one until just now...

    First of all, I would take umbrage with anyone suggesting that my promotion for the Supporters program lacks tact. It would seem to suggest that I'm self-promoting as opposed to trying to do something for the betterment of OUR community. And I'd be interested in hearing any perspective that I have ever really been "in your face" about the Supporters program. I promote and I encourage, but to suggest that I've crossed some line would seem to me to demonstrate a very low tolerance for reciprocating.

    I don't think this one is very complex at all. Running TONMO.com costs time and money. The more financially successful it is, the better the product will be. I think the TONMO.com Supporters program is a fantastic investment for anyone interested in cephs. If you don't want to "pony up" (to use the term submitted), of course you don't have to. But to suggest that it's wrong for TONMO.com to reserve premium content for Supporters shows a lack of understanding of what it takes (financially and otherwise) to own and maintain a Web community. My reason for "gently squashing" (my term) the seed post here is that I don't think it's fair to paying Supporters to have specific discussions that have already been had amongst Supporters, to be hashed out again in the public forums. I've seen similar subscription models on other community sites, and I can tell you TONMO.com is far, far less militant about moving discussions to the premium area (in fact, I almost never do it).

    It's also far more affordable than the others I've seen. When you consider the quality of content all of TONMO.com provides, I think $40 is astoundingly cheap to enjoy the priviledge of interacting more intimately with Staff and paying members.

    By the way, additional premium content for Supporters is on the way -- at no additional charge beyond the current annual Supporter's fee. I don't want to promise anything just yet as it's still in production and not a done deal, but my point being, the Supporter's program helps ensure a better product overall for Supporters -- the more successful we are, the better we will get.

    I definitely think Supporters deserve perks. They're paying to invest in this site, which I happen to own. My intent is, and has always been, to use Supporters contributions to help make the site better. Having watched this site grow from May of 2000 to today, and seeing the significant, progressive effect that this community has had on the overall shared knowledge pertaining to cephs (care, science, entertainment and otherwise), I am extraordinarily confident that the Supporters program makes a whole lot of sense and is a very worthy cause.

    I don't mind telling you that we've had a LOT of subscriptions cancelled and very very few new ones come in over the past year or so. I don't know the exact reason for this, but thankfully, through our advertising and sponsorship programs, and through our existing, very loyal Supporters, TONMO.com still maintains itself well enough on a month-to-month basis. But we can definitely do better, and when I look at the impact that this community has on the world of cephs, I see no reason to stop striving for "better".

    So, please expect to continue seeing me doing whatever I can to promote the Supporters program (in a tactful way, btw), in the interests of forward motion. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share this perspective! :smile:
     
  7. monty

    monty Colossal Squid Staff Member Supporter

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    Sorry to induce umbrage... I didn't mean it was tactless to promote the supporters program in general, more that what I expect you meant as a "friendly nudge" could be read a number of ways, perhaps even as "exclusionary" or "elitist," not so much because anything you said was in that vein, but more because what you said was so brief that just about any tone could be inferred. I certainly didn't mean my post to be any sort of "bash on Tony" commentary, more of a "this doesn't seem to be achieving the desired result, can we fix it?" sort of thing.

    Certainly, knowing that my own tone may come across differently than I intend sometimes, too, this was my main motive behind my rambling post there... if we're not doing the best we can in terms of making TONMO the best that it can be, we should be looking for feedback and ideas on what we're doing well, or not so well, and considering all options. I think the feedback from fluffysquid's reaction is quite valuable, since the discussions about fee structures and value added that happen behind the tentacled curtain in the supporters or staff forums are self-selecting: the only people contributing to the discussions are those that *did* decide to pay to be supporters, while in this thread we got some feedback from someone who *didn't* decide to be a supporter.

    I just had an idea, which, unfortunately, is not quite compatible with my "I'm working for a startup on a shoestring budget and not getting paid enough" state, that I'd like to be able to offer "scholarships" for people, such that I'd pay for people who are good contributors, e.g. if fluffysquid or other starving students are willing to write up some interesting contributions on their research but have trouble coming up with the $40, I'd pay $40 as a "gift membership" or "scholarship" or something. I'd almost start soliciting other volunteers to chip in for a scholarship fund, but I think it'd be premature since I'm not sure how to decide who would or wouldn't get to benefit... should there be a secret "Nobel Committee"? Would it be based more on pure merit, or also need? Do people apply, or should it be offered to people who show up as big contributors? Anyway, unless a lot of other people like the idea, I'll have to wait 'till my ship comes in...

    more :twocents: which is about all I get paid these days...:banghead:
     
  8. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    No apologies necessary! Umbrage was not induced... I said I "would" take umbrage... :wink: But I did not take umbrage, because I know that's not what you were directly saying! To me, that comment (and much of this thread) was a softball hanging out there for me to react to, so I jumped on the opportunity, because in my mind this is a fairly black-and-white subject. I can see where the answer to "why Support TONMO.com" can be overlooked, so I am always happy to discuss the Supporters program. I'm happy to point out that no, this is not something for Tony to bilk ceph-heads on, but rather it's a *community* thing that we all benefit from. It's like a club (think "membership dues") moreso than a business. That's because the money that this site generates goes directly to keeping it alive, and extra "investment" goes to things like better software, more promotion, Supporter appreciation, and it supports various "offline" activities such as TONMOCON, which definitely costs money, even though the facility for TONMOCON II is being generously provided by the good folks at MOTE! And not to be overlooked, any money that we can put in "savings" for TONMO.com is important for its long-term viability. Think of your own bank accounts; it's nice to have savings to fall back on in case your air conditioning breaks down, or your car needs repair, or whatever. Security / contigency money.

    Notice I said "moreso than a business". That is because this is a business in some small respect as well (and in that respect, by the way, it is pathetic). Deep Intuition, LLC is the business that my wife and I put together to support my various online hobbies (TONMO.com far and away being the most significant), and her intuitive consulting business. Her services are actually about to kick into gear (through Reiki and spiritual guidance consults) and so the overall bankroll is going to increase. Without getting into all of the aspects about our LLC's financing, I'll just say that we're going to get a bit more particular about how we manage funds under our own umbrella. As I said, TONMO.com is (barely) self-sustaining on a month-to-month basis, which is actually a great accomplishment considering we're on a dedicated server and considering the expenses and effort associated with running this site. But we do have a balance as well, thanks to Auckland University sponsorship (thank you Steve) among others. So, TONMO.com is doing OK in that it is alive and it has some emergency money.

    Hey, by the way, you may have noticed just last week our site went down for half a day or so. Well, something you may not know, but FYI it cost us $150 in labor to have the data center go above and beyond to get us back online. In the old days that would have come out of my own pocket, but thanks to Supporters and sponsors, we had it covered. I don't announce these things because people who come here don't like to think about "cost" and "money", they're here to think about cephs. But hey, since we're talking about it now, this is an opportunity to point out that Websites do not grow on trees.

    ...and I will not get into my own "blood, sweat and tears", but thank you Monty for pointing that out! That's where, as a business, this site is pathetic. Its top-producing employee (me) is not paid anywhere near minimum wage! :wink:... Despite calls from people in the Supporters forum for me to draw my own "salary" from TONMO.com, I haven't done it. I will say that perhaps once a quarter I sponsor a "business lunch" with a consultant friend to talk about TONMO.com and Deep Intuition, LLC (he provides great insights and he also developed our ceph tank database -- for a TONMO.com t-shirt!), and so I put those lunches on the company credit card -- well, we alternate. I buy one time, then he buys next, etc. When I buy, I put it on the card, so it's really funded by this site. We're not getting surf n' turf, but we do enjoy some Sushi! Other than that very occassional lunch, I am not messing around with TONMO.com dollars to do anything but make this site better.

    Monty, regarding "scholarships" or "sponsored Supporters", we actually do have one or two of those. There are folks who have approached me to say, "hey, this person is really great, I'd like to pay for their Supportership". Obviously I honor those requests -- it's a great idea and a generous offer from the person sponsoring.

    One problem may be that people are hesitant to sponsor someone because they don't know whether or not a person *wants* to be sponsored, or whether they're about to "pony up" on their own. We could have a "nomination" thread which could help shed light on this, but I'm not sure we want to go there.
     
  9. Jean

    Jean Colossal Squid Supporter

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    I have to chip in here and say I support the supporters, even tho I'm not one! $40 US is rather more in NZ$ ~70-80 depending on the exchange rate............that can be a third of my monthly pay packet! I recognised that it takes time and $$$$$$ to keep this the great site it is. And when I get a "real" job I'll probably join up (read definitely :grin:......Tony do you take cheques...US$$ of course?????).


    J
     
  10. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    Hey, thanks Jean! Yes, checks, major credit cards, and paypal are all accepted -- whether you are contributing for yourself or whether you are sponsoring someone else to become a Supporter! :smile:
     
  11. sorseress

    sorseress Colossal Squid Supporter

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    If anyone has been guilty of being pushy about getting people to become supporters, it's been me, not Tony. I'm a firm believer in paying my way, and while I appreciate that there are quite a few people who regularly read and contribute to Tonmo who simply don't have the money to contribute financially, there are lots of others who could afford to but don't. I value Tonmo, and don't think Tony should have to support it financially at all. He is already giving it a massive amount of time and effort, and the benefit to scientists and scholars, as well as budding teuthologists should be obvious. That it has a great deal of value to people like me, who are not scientists, just interested lay persons, is also obvious, because if it didn't have, we wouldn't be here. Bottom line is, if you think Tonmo has any value to you at all, and you can afford $40 a year, then you should pay it. If you can't afford it, and most students probably can't, that's one thing. If you can afford it...(what is it they say on NPR?....it costs about as much a a cup of coffee a day for a month?...)and you're not contributing, then shame on you!
    :twocents:
     
  12. main_board

    main_board Vampyroteuthis Supporter

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    Just wanted to highlight this part. :wink:

    Cheers!
     
  13. fluffysquid

    fluffysquid Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    Yep, I gotta say, that will be the time I can do it guilt-free. If i don't treat myself to new clothes, new toys or gadgets like real college girls like to do, yeah... you get the idea. some of you guys were starving students at one point too.

    But that real job is on the horizon...
     
  14. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    I want to provide an FYI here that Jean has been anonymously sponsored by a member of our community, receiving a one-year TONMO.com Supporter membership. Congrats Jean, and thank you to the anonymous sponsor!
     
  15. fluffysquid

    fluffysquid Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    but I do sacrifice for my squiddies.... I do it in place of the real job.....

    and you dont want to know what happened to me at the lab yesterday. but it involved re-starting a siphon.... and the muck at the bottom of a VERY neglected aquarium.

    much sputtering and gagging followed

    :bonk: :yuck: :cry:
     
  16. fluffysquid

    fluffysquid Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    OOoh congratulations Jean! You're such a big contributer, you deserve it.
     
  17. Jean

    Jean Colossal Squid Supporter

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    I'd like to say thank you thank you thank you to that sponser and I will try my best to be worthy of their support!

    Cheers

    Jean
     
  18. Jean

    Jean Colossal Squid Supporter

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    been there, done that...............that sludge has an ..........erm unique flavour I DO NOT recommend it!

    J
     
  19. cuttlegirl

    cuttlegirl Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    Awww, come on, don't you think that seaweed-sludge flavor just makes your breath smell soooo good????
     
  20. tonmo

    tonmo Titanites Staff Member Webmaster Moderator

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    In addition, I am happy to announce that FluffySquid has also been anonymously sponsored into the TONMO.com Supporters program with a 1-year subscription. Congratulations FluffySquid, and THANK YOU again to another anonymous contributor!
     

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