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Inside a viral website (notfunatparties.substack.com)
787 points by panic 17 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 294 comments

One thing I don't understand about monetizing on the Internet.

I see the author considered ads, tried an affiliate scheme and even did an NFT. But what about plain old, honest to God payment? Couldn't they just put a paragraph of text on the site, "Hey folks, I'm worried about hosting costs, if you find this page useful, please [Donate]", with a button redirecting to Paypal or Stripe or whatever, collect the money and declare it as donations on the IRS form? Why try all these convoluted schemes, instead of giving a straightforward way for people to tip?

They had 50 million views. If 0.01% of these visitors left a dollar, the author would've still come up way ahead over all the crazy schemes, even post-tax.

For the last 10 years or so I've been running a free-to-use Morse Code online radio thing. It has cost me about $1000 to host so far, and has a couple of hundred DAUs.

The users are not shy about feature requests, and they're not shy about complaining that I haven't implemented their feature requests.

So I made a pledge to the userbase that if they collectively donate $1000 to the site, I'll start working on v2.

I posted that pledge to the site a year ago. Total donations: $80.

There are a couple of hundred people who use the site for hours per day and post on the forums that they love it, but haven't donated a fiver.

Asking for donations doesn't work.

So, a couple months ago, I started using a site for a game I play that provides maps, info on items in the game, current prices for the global market that players can trade on, etc. You can link it to your Patreon account, and if you're a patron for $5/mo, the site gives you historical data on the market, and a few other useful features for the game. There's also a Discord for updates, features requests, general dev stuff, etc, and that's gated (or some channels are at least) behind Patreon as well because Patreon integrates well with Discord, so support and feature requests (through Discord) come from subscribers that are paying.

I mention this because at the current moment, he has 4,757 patrons, and that $5/mo is the only official tier offered. That's $19k/mo, minus Patreon fees. This is the first time I've used a Patreon subscription to power a site account, which I wasn't aware could be done (I subscribe to a few web authors though, so I'm not new to Patreon). I think this is a really interesting way to provide gated site access, and it's fairly low fiction for a lot of people, because they either already use Patreon, or have at least heard of it so it's not some random site charging you or that you are paying. There's lots of benefits I see to this model, and I think if I have a project that fits it in the near future I'll try it myself. Maybe it's something that would work for you (you'd have to set the monthly price at something you think appropriate). $1 from 100 people would get you that $1000 in less than a year, and you might also get better targeted info on what features the people that are willing to pay think are more important.

I agree asking for donations doesn't work. I don't like donating like that. I am willing to allocate a bit of monthly money to people if I feel like I'm getting something worthwhile in return though (it's a limited amount, I try to keep total Patreon expenditure at or below ~$50/mo).

I understand your point, but this is just a plain old subscription.

Yes. It's a plain old subscription in the same way that using a card linked to your iPhone or Android phone to pay for a subscription through their app stores is a plain old subscription.

That is, it comes with lots of advantages through being part of an ecosystem that people may already be part of or at least have some trust in because it is well known. Additionally it's already associated with helping people and projects in a way that may not be purely transactional, which fits how some people feel about their projects (thus the option to donate as discussed here).

Just because two models can be boiled down to essentially the same thing doesn't always mean they will perform equally as well. Sometimes the small distinctions and details are very important.

It’s plain old subscription in that it’s gated. The original comment was recommending asking for donations at the end of a post

what game?

Escape From Tarkov. It's a real interesting mix of shooter, stealth, and looting/management that I haven't really seen anywhere else. It's on the realism side of the spectrum, which I like. It's also extremely unforgiving, which is good for those that are a bit masochistic in their gaming, which apparently I am.

There's lots to unpack there that make it different than most other games I've played, but you can get a good idea from watching some Twitch streams.

I also pay for tarkov-market :D

It is almost a must if you're a casual player. It is too hard to keep up with the barters, flea market rates and even just the quests and items for quests.

Yep. :) I signed up a couple months ago for historical market data because I'm a sucker for that, but the added features since then have really cemented it as a good decision.

I haven't played in a few weeks though, from a combination of the friend I usually play with being less interested (and not wanting to level/quest much without him) and being busier myself. That's sad, because it really is pretty amazing once you get the hang of it (I just stared at beginning of this wipe) and have someone to play with. Playing alone is fun too, but with one or two good friends is really something special.

Any ideas how he is collecting the data? They are extremely on the ball about banning tradebots in game.

AFAIK he's using RatScanner[1], or something like it. I'm pretty sure the admin of RatScanner is in the Discord quite a bit, but that could be a coincidence (but I think it's some form of image processing lib no matter what, they include a screen cap of the latest market info for an item on the page when you pay).

I'm not sure I would consider what they do effective in banning trade bots (the captcha seems ridiculously easily beaten), I think the Found In Raid object flag is probably the really effective thing keeping most bot usage down, since it attacks the actual incentives of using a bot (it's still useful to auto-buy when markets dip or someone under lists an item, but that's about it I think, but I may be missing a use).

That said, if all you're doing is scanning the market results and not buying anything, it's probably much easier to not trigger any problems with the devs. The market data is really useful for those that like that sort of thing, but it's not really that much of an advantage, just a way for those into the economic portion of the game to go deeper.

1: https://github.com/RatScanner

It’s all done just by image processing. Once premium you can see the screenshots of the items on market used to provide the price estimate. They must have a couple accounts running continually going through the market checking prices. That’s why some items are 2-3 hours delayed.

You are correct that asking for donations doesn't work.

If you think of it as donations and you talk about it like donations, people view you as a "charity case" begging for money. Good luck with that.

If you position it as tips and payment for the value you deliver, you can turn it into money. It's not easy, it's not consistent and it's probably not a way to get rich quick.

But there are people who are successfully supporting their work with Patreon and tips as at least part of the scheme.

It takes work to get money out of people. You probably didn't do anywhere near enough to promote the idea that "We need X more money to release version 2." And you probably positioned the request for money very poorly.

Just because you didn't pull it off doesn't mean it cannot be done.

Most successful Patreon projects do provide extra value to the people who subscribe, though.

In this case you might decide to provide early access to new features for subscribers, for example.

This is true.

But some of them just seem to very creatively thank you for your support. I recall reading one that waxed eloquent about how supporting them at the one dollar level would buy you a guilt-free conscience with regards to consuming their content or something like that.

What it comes down to is what similar services charge. Study the business model of the other/exchangeable services that are actually profitable.

Has that been your experience?


Are you aware of any case studies for this kind of product? I'm very curious about it as a model

No, sorry.

Not to criticize you in any way, but I've found that asking me for financial support works in some cases and those are because I felt the "humanness" of the creator. I remember this author that put up a video of her unboxing first batch of her newly released book (and being excited about it). The person went from a name on a webpage or face in a video to a human being immediately (in my mind). I don't really have the words to precisely describe what I mean.

That's all true but it means that you need to market your person, become an "internet personality" just to collect donations on something technical that you built

It works, true, eg Andrew Kelley is funding his Zig work that way and it's pretty amazing to see him ace it. But damn you gotta be a particular kind of person to not get extremely stressed out about that prospect.

I don't think it's mandatory to become a different kind of person or to market yourself in extroverted ways. I think you could get that effect with subtler things. I guess we often treat our works and online presence (as in open source or open access projects) as functional non-human items. Maybe if we saw them more as extensions of the author...

Ah, you've beet me to it skrebbel. :) I actually wanted to write something like this. It's really hard to be what you are (in my case - a very introverted and private person), give something valuable to the world and actually live from that. That would be a beautiful life, really.

p.s. Not saying there are no people who didn't manage to pull it off, but I'm pretty sure those people are exceptions rather than the rule.

fwiw I'm super extroverted and I still get stressed out about the idea of becoming an internet personality :-)

Haha.. Well in every "group" there are exceptions. It's like a Yin and yang thing I guess :)

I bet you that this is a space where there is a reverse gender pay gap.

And also a space where nobody's going to crusade for fixing up the reverse gender pay gap.

I think part of the problem may be that you're still far from the goal. If I were a heavy user, I might consider donating $50. But there's a huge risk that you won't get to $1,000 and my money will be "wasted" (not wasted, but not bringing about the desired effect either). Because of that, I'm inclined not to do it. It seems to me like you've got a chicken and egg problem here.

Isn't this the problem that Kickstarter was designed to solve?

I agree with your assessment that donations do not work. Now let me solve your problem: Instead of running into the tragedy of the commons by asking your userbase collectively to donate 1k, you can announce that you will start working on v2 now and let users pay to prioritize individual feature requests in each new release. Start with a small release adding only a feature that you want but nobody else requested to prove that the project is active again. Create scarcity by only doing 1 release / timeframe and only include the feature with the most money pledged. Hope for a bidding war.

Another datapoint:

Three years ago, I built an offline/online paper wallet generator[0] for what was one of the top cryptocurrencies by market cap (Stellar Lumens - XLM). I included a donation address in the footer of the page.

I've received 9 donations in those three years[1], amounting to about 12 XLM (currently $4.87). While not much, I get a kick out of the idea that 9 people liked it enough to donate.

Note, my costs are negligible and I've never received a single feature request or had to do any maintenance. The code is hosted at GitHub Pages (free) with Cloudflare (free) in front of it. The only cost to me is the domain name.

[0] https://stellarpaperwallet.com

[1] Cloudflare only gives me analytics for the last month but last month it had 1,348 unique visitors.

I run a telegram bot that has a pretty large user base completely for free. I have a buy me a coffee setup for it and it gets almost zero views, except for when a feature breaks. When a feature breaks all the sudden buy me a coffee gets traffic and I start getting donations.

Really odd to think that if everything worked perfectly all the time I wouldn't have made any money on this project.

Similar experience with my browser extension. A kind of weird mal-incentive.

Don't call them donations. Look at what reddit did: people can "give gold" to people for comments that they think were great. All it does is add some icon to a comment and put the person in a "gold club".

In games, people will buy so many visual improvements that add nothing but glam to their character.

Discord does... something, I can't remember what exactly, with their "turbo" and IIRC it costs discord cents, but the user pays dollars.

People will pay for the dumbest things. Give them a reason to sign up, add some kind of paid interaction that changes something visual or makes a dumb sound, add some tier system with context relevant names, and people might really pay.

Back in the stone ages Slashdot gave subscribers a comment bonus and an indication the user was a subscriber. An icon in the forums or some small benefit for "subscribing" goes a long way to get people to fork over a few dollars for something.

Lichess is a good example - their "subscription" gives a cool Patron icon wherever your user name is listed (usually the icon is just a circle that's filled if you're online), and that's it.

"Asking for donations doesn't work"

Depends. I have paid for things I could have gotten for free, and raised money for political organisations (not in the USA, so we could not sell laws the way the Americans do).

The best way to get money is to ask. There is a lot of research into the best ways to ask, and what gives best results.

But just asking thoughtlessly (not accusing you, no idea how you asked) does not work

That doesn't prove that donations work. It only proves that you sometimes donate. Most people don't donate to most projects.

I said I have "...and raised money for political organisations..."

Using the methods I outline.

Not proof, but I have experience and I tell you, done properly donations can be very lucrative.

Have you considered some sort of conditional pledging system?

That was part of the original allure of Kickstarter: participants agreed to contribute money -- but they only had to pay it if the total pledged amount reached a certain threshold. That way, contributors got some assurance that they're not wasting their money and that any project they fund has some level of viability.

So maybe, in your case, you could ask the users to donate some amount of money -- but they wouldn't have to actually pay it unless you reached your $1,000 funding goal.

Snowdrift has a scheme like this, but even better: Crowdmatching, where your donation increases as more people jump in (and you can set a max donation).


Have you tried Patreon? I had the same experience with a donation button. But a Patreon button magically gave us steady money to support infrastructure.

Yeah, I'm a patron of multiple people, from Authors to people running a website providing info on a game, that are making $10k-$20k a month in Patreon from those projects through $5-$10 monthly payments. It's amazing how much money you can make, but I think you really do have to offer something to get people to bite.

Yeah, as a (small/tiny) donator for 3 projects so far I personally liked Patreon - neat, simple, it works.

There are 3 other projects to which I'd like as well to donate something but they're all using different services ( https://donorbox.org , https://ko-fi.com , https://liberapay.com ) => I don't want to lose control over my donations and creating accounts there as well would have that effect on me.

Therefore, I think that somebody that would like to receive donations should try make multiple options available - hoping for the opposite (that whoever donates will use the specific service that you chose) won't work.

What we need now is a donation service aggregator.

Any donations for this idea?

Take my dollar!

Seems like linktr.ee does a good job of aggregating links. So, the "donate" link could link to that, which then displays a bunch of options. However, I believe that a familiar icon - like the patreon icon - helps people make decisions.

My idea is the other way around, it does not require the content providers to change the way they want to get paid.

I was thinking of an aggregator for the donator, i.e. something that aggregates your multiple accounts on multiple donation services.

I made a campsite alert website to send you an email and text message when a campsite becomes available so you can book it. I put up a buy me a coffee page and in a month, had over $500 in donations.

This was my experience too, with a useful online page I built. People loved it but wouldn’t donate to help it.

Someone suggested I productise it but I thought, based on the donations, that it wouldn’t have many purchasers. But they were right: it earned orders of magnitude more when some features required a one time payment to be unlocked, versus donation.

Makes me think of Wikipedia who have probably A/B tested donation requests to death and have them take up half the page.

Wikipedia is in my opinion unluckily a complex example because the donations are actually for Wikimedia.

In my case I donated only once to them and I understood only later that (apparently?) most of the $ isn't being used for Wikipedia, therefore as I'm not interested in their other projects I never donated anything anymore to them - they can make that banner as big&flashy as they want but the fact remains that I don't want my $ used for non-Wikipedia-related activities.

Not to mention WP:CANCER [0], though it's less of an exponential curve today than 5 years ago.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Guy_Macon/Wikipedia_has_C...

I don't know, I always feel like there has to be some reward to incentivize people, even if it's dead simple.

Like, you can choose to have your name publicly displayed on a thank you page (this would work well with BMAC, since donations can be both anonymous and not), or have your username be of different colour or have some badge next to it.

But then again, I don't know how I would fit that into this meme page, and I'm definitely not an expert having earned a total of two euros of donations (yet to implement some reward system).

I’ve run a few donation schemes and those things don’t do much. People just don’t donate.

Subscriptions are the best, but obv that won’t work for a meme page.

So how does Wikipedia manage to get donations? Is it just a scale problem where you needs hundreds of millions of pageviews a day to generate any meaningful number of donations?

Each time Wikipedia does a donation drive they have a thing that says "If everyone who used Wikipedia donated $1, we'd be done in 10 minutes!" (or similar). Yet these drives go on for months. The problem is that only a vanishingly small percentage of users donate.

Wikipedia has a lot more utility than a website about a current event you're gonna visit 2 or 3 times before the issue is resolved. It's a lot easier to justify that donation.

Asking for donations doesn't work.

It can work. It just depends on how strong your community is.

When I lived in Houston, I was a member of a local discussion forum that was on a .info domain. One day, a domain squatter offered to sell the .com version to the sysop for $15,000. The regular users pitched in, and got the money together in a few weeks.

Asking for donations works if you're also an active member of the community you've created.

People donated over $130k to Tarn and Zach Adams in 2020 (creators of Dwarf Fortress). Upon saying that, that's their sole source of income. I think a lot of players are aware that if they don't donate, Dwarf Fortress will never be finished. Well, it never will anyway but...

But Tarn actively gives updates on his work, creates podcasts, and participates in the forum, and has been doing that for more than a decade. I'm not sure if he still does it, but if you donated, he'd draw you a picture and send it to you in the post. I've still got mine from 10 years ago.

Or maybe Morse Code people are just cheapskates.

I feel like this is partly, if not mostly, a facilitation issue with the payment itself.

I signed up for Patreon to support one member, but its so easy to add/remove people to the monthly dole that I’m now up to $40/mo. I know you’re not asking for advice here but maybe something like that would be worth a shot if you haven’t tried already.

(I know that clientele though, so maybe Patreon isn’t the best route lol)

I can confirm. I get 1-2 donation for every 50,000 visitors. It doesn't even cover for the time I spend answering their emails. There's a donation prompt at the end of my email answers. Those are people who start their emails by saying how valuable the service was to them.

Donations are about 1% of my income. They are a complete waste of time.

Maybe your work would be better positioned for a grant of some kind. Is there a membership organization that many radio people belong to and pay dues? They'd possibly have the funds to make improvements to the ecosystem.

Is there a way to limit access to the feature request page only to the people that have donated anything?

Do you show the user how much time they've used? That may motivate them to be more "generous".

Make the v2 require membership?

First 1000 words are free. After that, pay up Morse Coders!!!

>They had 50 million views. If 0.01% of these visitors left a dollar, the author would've still come up way ahead over all the crazy schemes, even post-tax.

IMHO that is a fallacy. Although %0.01 looks like a really small number there's no reason for it for not being %0.001 or %0.000001. When people do napkin math , it's a common theme to say that "If we only capture %1 of the market we would be $$$rich$$$" and they proceed to find out that there are smaller percentiles than %1.

To receive donations people need to be sympathetic to you or your cause. You need to actively sell it, making it a considerable part of the user experience.

It's really hard to build that relationship with just one visit. Maybe there are visitors deeply invested in the situation and they may actually obsess with your product but you need to look into the analytics to see if it's the case. If there are visitors that appear to be visiting extremely frequently, you need to explore ways to ask for the money and for that you will need data(profiles of the visitors) to develop your message however the OP doesn't do detailed analytics and profiling. It could be possible to monetise it and even catch a few whales but chances are that you can also alienate those people with the wrong messaging, so you probably will need to do personalisation which requires data and cookies and what not, which means data collection and sharing permission popups.

Of course you can try your chances and pick a group of people that you believe are using your product and proceed with A/B testing etc instead of profiling. If you happen to choose the privacy nerds as a target you will find out how much the privacy nerds like donating.

>IMHO that is a fallacy.

Email spam works exactly this way. I think what you are pointing out correctly, is that the percentage might be incorrect; the principle is not.

The fallacy comes from forgetting these are people. “Surely theres 1 in 10,000 who want this” is wishful thinking, “There exists a type of person who wants this, and I can point to them, but they happen to be a small segment of the population - 1 in 10,000” is actionable and valid.

There’s nearly 8,000,000,000 humans, so there’s a ton of variety that one can’t even imagine, but probably none of them want to eat a bar of soap for breakfast each day even if you think there must be some rare 1 in 1,000,000 out there.

Putting 1 in BIG NUMBER is just a way we abstract away hard and intimidating questions.

> The fallacy comes from forgetting these are people.

Perhaps. But at least that's just on paper. Resorting to advertising means actually forgetting your visitors are people.

The "principle" is just multiplication, and yes, if you multiply your number of visitors by a number that you make up, you can get any number you want as a result.

I don’t think that spam is a fair comparison. Spammers send out offer for stuff that people want. It’s completely different than first giving out what people want and then asking for a gratitude payment.

Spam’s success rate would be dictated by the percentage of the people who want the product in the general population after passing through the spam delivery funnel.

With the donations it’s completely different mechanism.

Nevertheless, the fallacy is that small looking number of market share is the smallest possible market share.

Who would pay $1 for getting a chuckle out of a meme? Also 50 million views is not 50 million visitors. If he had a normal ad monetization channel in place, he should have easily been able to garnish a minimum of a 10 cent CPM and walked away with at least $5k from his 15 minutes of fame. The problem is that learning as you go makes it a little too late to monetize the peak. There are companies whose entire business is in pumping out viral sites like this. Some explode for a a little while and others never make a penny. You can bet your butt that in the hands of someone who does this professionally these 50 million views would have been thousands and thousands of dollars.

> Who would pay $1 for getting a chuckle out of a meme?

That sort of feels like the core issue. Why even try to monetise a page like this?

In the article he mentioned this; he was worried about the hosting costs. Thankfully his host got a laugh out of it and donated the hosting cost and he has in turn donated any proceeds.

Right, but if you're incurring significant hosting costs for a static site in 2021 then you're doing something wrong.

In hindsight, you're right. And obviously I didn't. However at the time, it was the uncertainty as a result of never having done something like this that made me worried.

unless you have images?

Cloudflare Pages[0] claims to have unlimited bandwidth, even for their free tier.

0. https://pages.cloudflare.com/#plans

Hosting costs money. Although for someone who's go-to stack for a meme website is NextJS + React could probably afford to fork over $70 for 15 minutes of Internet fame.

Hosting costs pennies (if even that) if you’re just serving static html content.

If you can build a PaaS around it like Giphy and sell user data, sure.

Yeah but Giphy's a full on product, not just a static single page site.

> he should have easily been able to garnish a minimum of a 10 cent CPM

Uh, not in my experience. I haven't tried to monetize a site like this, but I would expect a CPM around 1 cent. Still, times 50 million, it isn't nothing.

In the grim future of 2050, we have finally implemented micropayments on the Internet, down to amounts as tiny as a thousandth of one cent and trending downward as we account for hyperinflation of other currencies. Advanced technologies, ubiquitous computing, brilliant algorithms, and near-sentient fraud watchdog programs have combined to make this dream at last possible.

Only then we will have proved that the vast majority of people will not pay a dime for content on the web.

> I would expect a CPM around 1 cent. Still, times 50 million, it isn't nothing.

CPM is cost per mille, AKA cost per thousand impressions. Revenue from 50,000,000 impressions would be CPM * 50,000.

Thanks for specifying this. There's a typo/arithmetic error in the original comment, which led me to assume CPM must mean 'per 100'.

It's tough as an individual that's just dipping their toes into the water, but if you have some experience, then you typically have an optimized setup with partners in place, etc.

Reddit gold seems to fit here. It makes no sense to me but it seems to be working. I find it funny the threads complaining about Reddit's recent horrible hiring an mod decisions all had TONS of gold lol

Reddit gold makes tons of sense. People can pay money to amplify the opinions they want amplified. Reddit actually monetized internet arguing.

Does gold affect the ranking of a comment (i.e. where it is displayed on the page)? I guess I never really thought about it, but I assumed not.

If it's all about the icon displayed next to the comment header, I suppose that's a kind of amplification -- but it seems like less of a zero-sum game, because it's not forcing another opinion out of view.

Yes, it does. I think most of the various silly awards they have nowadays don't do it, but at least the original Reddit Gold award before all that other stuff does elevate a post or comment.

> Reddit actually monetized internet arguing.

I never thought about it like this. I always just thought of Reddit Gold as just another weird Internet quirk I will never understand.

I kind of wonder if NFTs for artwork will become the same thing. Like amplifying comments, maybe high NFT prices will be a way to amplify one artist over another in what is a very crowded marketplace.

Sorry I meant it makes no sense for redditers to buy gold for posts that they are specifically calling out Reddit for bad behavior

Sure it does. They want to amplify that opinion. They think that calling out Reddit is worth the negative of paying money to Reddit.

I would, particularly if the blurb was very honest (or very creative). I have no trouble throwing someone even a one-time $5 if the website is funny enough.

Unfortunately you are in the extreme minority. I was watching a stream on youtube that has an optional patreon subscription and people were complaining that $0.99 per MONTH was too much because the stream was too quiet for a bit.

Paying directly for things you like on the internet doesn't seem like a big deal to us here on HN, but the overwhelming majority of people will never even consider it. Everything else is free, why should anyone have to pay for anything?

IMO the pricing itself signals that the product isn't worth paying for. $0.99 per month? For what I'm sure includes hours of streaming? It's close enough to $0 that I don't even think about whether an additional buck is going to make a difference.

How often do you do this per month?

How many webpages do you read per month?

Now divide one by the other.

IMO this wouldn't be a bad thing. There would be a stronger market mechanism at play here. It could cut down on the amount of garbage internet we consume, while incentivizing producers to create higher-value content that people will pay for, and that won't be forgotten immediately like this Suez website.

If my developer tool with thousands of stars on GitHub generates $15/yr in donations, I would say 0.01% of visitors each donating $1 to a website they on average spend 1 minute or less on (seems a reasonable assumption?) is far too optimistic.

Can you give any other metric for its popularity? Stars aren't a good one - Github stars are bookmarks, not a reflection of whether one actually uses a given repository. Personally, I have 301 starred repositories, of which I maybe use... 5?

I'd say a repo needs more than 150k views to get ~5k stars. I can confidently say the number of users who derive actual value from it is measured in the hundreds at least (compared to none on a viral meme site). If those views aren't generating 0.01% * $1, I can bet the house on viral meme site not generating that much, unless they happen to land very generous donors.

Edit: Just checked Homebrew analytics. >10k recorded installs in the past year (low single digit number of releases during that period, no major publicity event). I don't have readily available analytics for other installation channels on macOS, or analytics for Linux and Windows which are pretty fractured. Point is the user base is sizable.

I think regardless of how good a metric stars are, it's still more likely to receive donations than a meme site about a recent event.

I can't remember ever hearing someone talk about how successful their donation button was. I can remember plenty of people describing how few people ever click it, though...

I'm one of the maintainers of Streamlink [1] which has members from around the world and we've been running various methods of donation since 2017 or so. In that time our Open Collective [2] has made about $1600 USD. We have 6k+ stars, and over 50,000 users across all platforms (based on download stats as we don't collect any metrics in our apps so it's potentially higher) yet the entire amount we've collected is thanks to less than 100 people. We note the Open Collective on every release as well, and have donation links in the documentation.

My own personal donation methods total $15 from one person in the past 5 years since we forked the project and started maintaining it. We have more users than many start ups do and I know that there are several companies using our software.

[1]: https://github.com/streamlink/streamlink [2]: https://opencollective.com/streamlink

Stars are even worse than bookmarks, they're more like likes on social media. Costs nothing and worth nothing, literally imaginary internet validation points. "Oh this is a cool thing, I'll star it why not."

The conventional wisdom on the internet, often backed by common experience, is that significantly less than 0.01% of visitors leave a dollar. Internet donation plates are not known for producing consistent revenue.

The best path probably would of been getting in touch with Flexport and getting them to sponsor it for a couple grand + hosting.

I suspect 0.01% is highly optimistic, especially for a meme-related site that's essentially a drive-by laugh for most people.

Remember that McDonalds ice cream machine status site[1]? The guy has a buy me a coffee link right up top. I think he gets a solid stream of donations. I remember dozens per day a couple months ago.


> If 0.01% of these visitors left a dollar...

0.01% is a fantasy, massively high conversion rate, just so you know.

Reverse that - how many websites do you visit, and look for a way to give them a dollar?

It just isn't how web audiences operate. I'm not saying that it is a bad idea - paying for good content could solve many problems. It just isn't where we are today.

> Couldn't they just [...]


Yes :). But otherwise, the question is serious.

> If 0.01% of these visitors left a dollar,

You're correct, but reality doesn't agree. It has been proven time and time again that 0.01% almost always DON'T leave a dollar for anything.

Hmm, if was a $10 donation they’d only need 0.001% of users and for $100 just 0.0001%. Boom!!

But yeah 1/1000 people are not going to randomly pay for something with a market price of $0.

For Bucket Brigade I ask for donations [1] which has covered about 50% of my costs so far [2]. I think how well this works depends a lot on how useful people find your site vs what your costs are?

[1] https://echo.jefftk.com/#About

[2] https://www.jefftk.com/bucket-brigade-payments

I wouldn't say it works if it doesn't even support your running costs.

A website I live from generates about 50€ per month in donations.

>Why try all these convoluted schemes, instead of giving a straightforward way for people to tip?

>They had 50 million views. If 0.01% of these visitors left a dollar, the author would've still come up way ahead over all the crazy schemes, even post-tax.

Currently ads are the easiest way to monetize a not-well-known web property in the short-term. Long-term you can build a brand/trust/community/etc and leverage that into patreon/donations.

> They had 50 million views. If 0.01% of these visitors left a dollar

If it wasn't a simple meme website to spend 5 seconds on and never visit again, it would not have gotten 50 million views. Trying to monetize that is like squeezing blood from a stone.

I imagine that's one reason why he's posting this from a Substack domain.

I’m genuinely interested in how one would pull $0.5MM in donations from a one-off meme site. Why would one donate to such a site?

This never works. People just don't donate. Only developers think donations are a viable form of monetization.

I had a popular website which had 20MM views per month but made most of my money through ad banners. I tried direct sell for banners, links etc but they never materialized because you could actually pay cents on the dollar to do that through a network.

Also, one thing I learned on the website was that having 20 million views on your website does not equate to a consistent amount of money because the ads don't pay the sam e in every country.

For example, I had some ads pay $20CPM and some that paid $0.00001 because they were fillers, so I had to tweak my low fillers by signing up with local country ad networks who could provide better CPMs.

In the end, it still did not evolve into a large shift and the average was still lower, good but not great.

I think that these days, running your own website is good, you might still get 50MM views but not much income because ads are still not going to give you the best returns which is why some or more websites are shifting to a paywall. For the most time, everyone was good with ads, because that was what worked. Now it's paywalls and it will trend that way because they get the most value and a consistent payment that way (not many cancel active subscriptions over a period of time). Ads will still play significant amount of money for direct sellers like Google, Facebook, Twitter & Amazon, but not for third party sites who will have to find different ways.

There is also the upgrades to search engines and facebook/twitter etc to now keep you on their own website for everything and corner a full $$ vs paying third party websites a cut, which is why we see snippets etc in search engines and then people engage there more and click on a higher paying ad to them.

Also, there is ad-blockers, which means you are not getting any impressions on some percentage of the visitors in the first place.

Hey, if it was a $10 donation they’d only need 0.001% of users and for $100 just 0.0001%.


> These reports aren’t just limited to the products you recommend — if someone buys anything within a 24 hour period of clicking your link, you can see, and you get commission.

Anyone else find this a pretty gross violation of privacy on Amazon’s part? Why should your unrelated purchases be disclosed to affiliates just because you clicked an affiliate link for whatever reason? Let’s say the affiliate website use accounts or know the identities of users through another channel, and track outbound clicks. With few enough clicks, they can exactly correlate your unrelated purchases with you, if I understand this correctly. In fact it seems you can easily prank unsuspecting acquaintances this way.

To be clear, I have no problem with affiliates getting commission on random stuff.

Edit: I can also see why the data could be valuable to marketers.

Heh, if you think that's bad... there's a certain popular "#1 Money Saving Hack", coupon-clipping browser extension (wink wink) that sees everything you buy on practically every major e-commerce site even when you didn't use one of their coupon codes.

And then said browser extension, which promised to never ever sell your data to a third party, got bought out by PayPal for 4 billion USD.

Really makes you think.

> And then said browser extension, which promised to never ever sell your data to a third party, got bought out by PayPal for 4 billion USD.

I guess selling the whole company owning the data isn't technically selling data to third parties...

Check out any privacy policy that says they will never share or sell your data; the two boilerplate exceptions are law enforcement and transfering ownership of the parent entity. Two pretty big loopholes.

Uhh those seem like two really small loopholes. Buying the whole company makes sense. What is the alternative, the purchasing company has to accept that they'll purge all user accounts?

Law enforcement.. What do you want them to do? Turn down a legal court order and say "naaa"?

> Uhh those seem like two really small loopholes. Buying the whole company makes sense. What is the alternative, the purchasing company has to accept that they'll purge all user accounts?

Why not? The alternative is to allow a business model, in which you start a company with the sole purpose of vacuuming up data and delivering it to highest bidder by getting acquired.

> What is the alternative, the purchasing company has to accept that they'll purge all user accounts?

Have a transition window (say 3 months) before the sale goes into effect where users get to choose to either keep the account and allow the new owner access to the data, or to have their data destroyed. After that window, data from anyone who didn't respond gets deleted.

> Law enforcement.. What do you want them to do?

Go to jail or shutdown the site, like the Lavabit guy.

This led me to look up Honey's own privacy policy and I do not see such a disclaimer regarding change of ownership, in fact it specifically references what they can share with PayPal. [0]

>We know how important your personal data is to you, so we will never sell it. We'll only share it with your consent or in ways you'd expect (as we explain here). That means we will share your data if needed to complete your purchase, with businesses who help us operate Honey, or if we are legally required to do so.

>We may also share information in the following cases:...with our parent company, PayPal, Inc. and affiliates and subsidiaries it controls, but only for purposes allowed by this Privacy Policy;

So that sounds like commercial use of personal data is specifically protected with regards to the new parent. The policy does specify they can share your data in an "aggregate or anonymized format" without any caveats, though.

Sure does still raise the question of what PayPal spent $4bn on. From what I can read online, online retailers see a lot of benefit from the way Honey incentivizes users to complete a purchase instead of abandon the cart.


That is the privacy policy that users agree to if they joined post acquisition (probably because Paypal doesn't expect to sell it at this time), which is different than the policy that users agreed to when they joined pre-acquisition. They may have been forced to accept the new policy post acquisition anyway.

I think the weasel is this nibble here:

> but only for purposes allowed by this Privacy Policy;

The privacy policy is between the user and Honey, not the user and PayPal, which implies they are still legally separate entities ("parent company"). Unless Honey has an agreement with Paypal that it can audit and enforce - which as a subsidiary, why would it want to - then once PayPal has the data, its actual use of it is governed by the privacy policy between the user and PayPal if there is an existing relationship or ???

It sounds like all Honey and Paypal need to do is find a half plausible justification from the PP for the data transfer; once it's handed over, Paypal is basically free to do whatever it wants.

I think seeing all the random items is collateral damage. It can possibly be fixed (only show purchases in the category that you referred?).

As the affiliate, the insights are invaluable. Imagine you hosted a sleep blog and directed people to a particular memory foam pillow. If you saw they ended up purchasing a different pillow, you could change the link to better serve your readers.

Or if you saw that they ended up purchasing essential oils, perhaps you’d want to write a post about using oil diffusers to fall asleep.

The affiliate link tracking is supposed to give you a better picture of your audience. Usually it works, but getting 50M views from every source on the internet is obviously a case where there’s no common “audience”.

No one doubts that it's useful for the people standing to make money off of this. I think the question was whether it was an invasion of the reader's privacy, who probably don't realize that the blog owner can now track their buying habits.

Only in the aggregate. The site owner doesn't know who purchased what. Only Amazon (obviously) knows.

The site owner only sees that 35 people bought book X while 24 people bought book Y.

Anonymous data can easily become identifiable when it's small enough, as GP was saying.

If someone runs a tiny blog that they attempt to monetize with affiliate links, and one of their only readers at the moment is their mother, I don't think they'd be happy seeing that one of their readers purchased a sex toy.

This is exactly the right approach. Anything specific enough can be traced back to an individual.

Why not ask people for this kind of stuff in an honest[1] way? If that doesn't work well because people rarely want to share that information, collecting without asking doesn't seem right.

[1] By "honest", I mean like a pop-up with a question or two and a clear "Not now" button. Not another cookie banners or passive collection.

> * Imagine you hosted a sleep blog and directed people to a particular memory foam pillow. If you saw they ended up purchasing a different pillow, you could change the link to better serve your readers.*

If I buy a memory foam pillow from company B instead of company A then I don't want company A to know at all. If I wanted company A to know then I would tell company A why I didn't purchase its product.

Maybe it was that I didn't see company A's product. Or maybe it's because company A is a piece of garbage. Maybe it's because company A employs deceptive practices and I don't want to give company A my money.

In that example company A isn’t the one who sees it or gets money. It’s the third party sleep blog who you just clicked a link on for “top 5 memory foam pillows”. Now they see which one people buy most and can give that the favorable rating

Shouldn't the blog be giving the favorable rating to the pillow they think is the best, not the one that's most likely to sell through?

And then what does that say about the written article? It's just metrics driven for what is the "best". It's truly a terrible system that's taken place over the last 20 years or so.

I think it's simply because you do forward someone on a website.

Also, imagine it's not Amazon but a much smaller website. Just bringing a client (someone who actually paid) is already a good deal.

So, I believe it's a totally fair commission rule.

I made it very clear that I have no problem with the commission paid:

> To be clear, I have no problem with affiliates getting commission on random stuff.

The problem is disclosing random purchases. You can pay a commission without that disclosure.

Ah damn. I somehow misread your initial message. My bad.

I run sites using Amazon's Associates affiliate program. I also track all outbound clicks from me site.

Luckily, Amazon scrubs any identifying info from their affiliate reports. So say I post an affiliate link to a book and then look in Google Analytics to see 50 readers clicked the link. The next day, I can log into Amazon's report and see I had 50 clicks and 30 sales of the book along with an addition sale of 40 toys, 10 movies, and 3 dildos.

However, I can't actually see which of my 50 readers bought what, if anything. Those 3 dildo purchases are completely anonymized, along with everything else. However, being told I also sold 40 toys really helps me because it lets me know I should probably start writing more about toys since that's what my readers are buying.

I'm also limited to 200 unique Amazon "tags", so I can't assign a unique tag to each of my readers to track them individually.

You can't match up the product with an actual user or person in any way.

Create a web page of various recommendations, send it to a specific friend whose household regularly makes purchases on Amazon. Unsuspecting friend clicks on affiliate link, now you know all things they buy in the next 24 hours.

Works anywhere else where the audience can be identified, and click frequency is low.

Oh, no definitely not. Nope. There's no way that a company can see that you've purchased Some Things within the past 24 hours and definitely can't correlate those purchases with receipts. Nope that's not a thing. Definitely not. No way at all. Especially since companies aren't owned by parent companies. That would totally be impossible.


Correct. As the affiliate blog you see nothing involving receipts or personal info for purchasers. It’s just a jumble of all your referral purchases

Unrelated but on Amazon is it possible to get order details if you have an order ID? You used to be able to scrape email for details but now you just get the ID itself.

Great article - funny & interesting :)

Question about "Ads/advertisements" (I'm totally clueless about how they work):

Does anybody have a link pointing to some kind of overview from the point of view of a website owner? (e.g. list of different providers, amounts paid by views/clicks, which informations are/can be exchanged with them to provide for example an ad in the same context of what the website is showing, etc...?)

Personally as a user, I would not be against ads if they would be normal ones like in a newspaper/magazine, but many show full-fledged small&big animations => I get angry when I see my CPU usage at 100%/my fan spinning up/my battery depleting while reading on such a page, which is the main if not the only reason why I block them (I might even be interested in them, but they screw up my PC/notebook) => as a website owner do you have control on what kind of ads you want to show (technically speaking - like "animated" vs. "static", with how many fps, etc...)?

The wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_advertising is a starting place. There is also a vast swag of stuff related to digital marketing here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Online_advertising but it will require significant digging to work out what's useful for your interest.

Also this part of the ads.google.com site https://ads.google.com/intl/en_NZ/home/resources/advanced/ has a reasonable amount of stuff within it but obviously only from a Google point of view. I don't suppose it matters but that's the NZ version of the page, probably only the 0800 number is specific to NZ but you might change en_NZ to whatever your language code is.

> As was pointed out in a quote tweet by the Vercel CEO, the problem wasn’t Next.js at all, but the Vesselfinder embedded map taking a while to load (because everyone wanted to check the Ever Given’s status)

That was an opportunity, to cache the map as an image, and switch it later to the proper map.

But is it worth the trouble for a meme site that won’t be relevant in a week? There are probably more fun things to do with your time.

He minted the site as an NFT. Dude had time.

I would guess that minting a site as a NFT on OpenSea takes a whole lot less time than making that change. As for if it's more fun - that's debatable...

It's a bit of a time limited joke and not a business. If it was done as a business and ad heavy it wouldn't be shared so much.

Seems to me the best monetisation he could do is selling himself. Even a couple hours work off the back of it would have been beating any ad's etc.

I had a minor web hit in the 90s, tried to do affiliate links etc but nothing really worked but I did get a little bit of work from it that has been indirectly the launch pad for a few side projects. None made me rich but they've all been a step forward.

Good perspective. This blog post is a start. If I were him, I'd try to get my fifteen minutes in the press. Whenever a prospective employer searches his name even years in the future, they'll see "this guy made a really popular website!" That's great marketing.

Running a viral site by yourself is one of the most enjoyable feelings, like you have this big laboratory to play and test out things out with.

And it was quite easy to do back in the early days of the Internet. I ran one such site in the early 2000s, which attracted 30 million page views per month at its peak.

Like the author, I kept trying all kinds of things to monetize it, at the end affiliate programs and google Adsense worked the best.

Interestingly, according to [1] there were only ~11k visitors from Hackernews for a post on the front page that had ~1k comments. I would've estimated the visitor/comment ratio to be much, much higher.

[1] https://simpleanalytics.com/istheshipstillstuck.com?utm_sour...

I only put simple analytics on the site the day after it was at the top of Hacker News (unfortunately)

For what it's worth (and I know this is getting extremely meta), but as it stands this writeup has had 21,963 visitors from Hacker News. (205 comments as I write this).

Besides the analytics being added later (as mentioned), personally I see a headline sometimes and think "yeah I know enough, show me the comments".

Does HN show viewing stats for comments? Might be nice for the sites featured on it to know.

Users tend to overwhelmingly read headlines and skip articles. HN is not any different than the rest of the Web. Something to keep in mind here and elsewhere.

Every post is different.

Viral or click bait stuff on "hot" topics can foster a lot of insubstantive and often fighty comments. That's a known phenomenon on the site.

I had a HN frontpage post a couple months ago.

The results:



- 6,675 site views (over the 1.5 days it was frontpage)

This reminds me of the toilet paper site from last year.

From no traffic to 10+ million visitors and being featured on late night talk shows. It was 6 lines of JavaScript and took 20 minutes to build but peaked at making $5,000 a day from ads.

I ended up chatting with its creator on how he built and hosted it at https://runninginproduction.com/podcast/35-determine-what-yo....

But since then it looks like he transferred the site to someone else because now it's an e-commerce shop instead of a toilet paper calculator like it once was.

> I found this exchange very fun

This guy is such a good sport. Unsolicited and impolite random critics of your tech stack on Twitter: fun.

I appreciated the breakdown of steps involved in selling an NFT. Cool writeup.

It was especially funny right after admitting the hosting cost was 70$, but he then spent 70$ x 2 to get 200$ in unusable NFT credits.

To me, that just showed how ridiculously cumbersome and expensive it is to sell or buy stuff using cryptocurrencies.

Yeah, that was actually really interesting to me.

Yeah, except for entirely glossing over the environmental aspect of that process.

While I agree on there being environmental costs and NFTs seemingly terribly wasteful (since it's a digital file) have you considered the costs of what people buy in their day to day? I would love to see what the environmental comparison of an NBA NFT is compared to producing a souvenir basketball. My guess would be that it's lower and more renewable but I could be wrong.

> have you considered the costs of what people buy in their day to day?

Yes. It's not relevant to this discussion. The author did not need to mint an NFT and there was clearly no real demand for one.

Creating an NBA NFT and then managing the ongoing bids will produce orders of magnitude more CO2 than selling a souvenir ball.

Quartz recently published a good breakdown comparing selling and shipping a print vs selling an NFT https://qz.com/1987590/the-carbon-footprint-of-creating-and-...

> My guess would be that it's lower and more renewable but I could be wrong.

That'll really boil down on a discussion of power sources (there were a few threads on this last week). Basically, how much power does it use, is this power to spare, what's the percentage of renewable energy etc..

> A single-purpose website

The more fashionable term is Single Serving Site[0], and is a phrase originally coined by Jason Kottke.

You can find more of these types of sites here: https://www.reddit.com/r/InternetIsBeautiful/

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-serving_site

I first saw 'single serving friend' in Fight Club [0], do you think the idea was lifted from there?

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1iQp8g9SQo

Kottke's article[0] is in 2008, after Fight Club's release in 1999, so you may be right, he probably lifted it from Fight Club. You can always email him to confirm!

[0] https://kottke.org/08/02/single-serving-sites

in 2016 I made a single serving website it's only purpose is to copy emojis to your clipboard, it is kinda popular now it gets 6K users a day but moste of the visits are from Russia so it is a bit hard to monetise www.emojilo.com

I have needed that often, thanks for making an easy site!

Windows + ; is the shortcut you want if you're on Windows.

how much has this site made since 2016

I'd love if someone could point me in the direction of WHY this Next.js setup "just works". This was a great article, and the author described the sensation of getting traffic very well. I've been on the other side of the coin where my apache server crashed or 50* error'd out. It would be interesting to know more about what makes this stack or this server architecture "just work" under the hug of death.

Adding to quicksnap's points:

- Next.js makes it dead-easy to statically generate your pages using various strategies. And static pages take few resources to serve. [0]

- It also gives you lots of info on bundle sizes, performance, and provides you with the tools to manage these.

- Vercel is optimised to serve these static pages on their CDN. [1] And your project quite literally a single terminal command away from being live.

- Both are very easy to get started with and a joy to use.

- I am in no way affiliated with Vercel. I just like their products.

[0] https://nextjs.org/docs/basic-features/data-fetching

[1] https://vercel.com/docs/edge-network/overview

I've been working with Next for a couple of weeks, here's my take:

- Next.js aims for "pit of success" in building sites with React that are optimized for CDNs and small builds

- Deploying said sites to Vercel takes advantage of the CDNs, so most of the users are getting cached data.

So, for this site, I would assume:

- There is no backend - All the HTML is cached and contains a static generation of the page(s)

- The javascript is also cached

- Vercel CDN is fast.

That's it!

Would it being cached mean that when the ship became unstuck, and the website changed from 'Yes' to 'Sort Of' or to 'No', that people who were checking back would receive an incorrect cached version?

The new copy is pushed to the CDN pretty quickly. I don’t know much about vercel. But the benefit of CDNs is that there is a 1:N relationship between you and the edge servers, and then an N:M relationship from the edge servers to the users.

So there are a lot more servers much closer to people using your site. Pushing a new copy from “you” to each edge server is pretty straightforward. I imagine Vercel does it pretty quickly, but sometimes the edge server could poll for changes maybe once a minute, which is pretty cheap to do.

I'm very new to it and one thing I really like about building in it is that there is no react-router. It bakes in routing and I've found that to be such a more pleasant experience than chasing around how react-router has changed.

>Instead of ads, I thought I would try and sell an NFT of the page. I’d read a fair amount about NFTs (both good and bad), and I was a mix of sceptical and curious. I thought this would be an interesting and weird opportunity to try it out myself. Added to this, it could be a fun meta-meme. I thought it would be fun to be the first meme website to sell itself as an NFT.

I don't quite understand, what was sold here exactly? You can't sell the DNS since ".com" doesn't exist on the blockchain (you could for a NameCoin domain, but who uses that). So is it like a capture of the source code? Or is it really just a token saying "istheshipstillstuck.com"?

I can sort of get NFTs when it's about selling digital artwork since it's a way for the artist to generate artificial scarcity for something that's technically endlessly copiable and it creates a notion of what's "the original". After all, IP laws and regulations are full of that stuff (cue the "what colour are your bits" essay).

But here there's already a digital token that's unique and can be auctioned: the domain name itself. It's pretty obvious to me that the "true" istheshipstillstuck.com will be whoever owns the DNS, not some random person with an NFT token.

I don't quite understand, what was sold here exactly?

This question applies to all NFTs! All you 'own' is a smart contract on a blockchain. That contract might contain a URL, and that URL might have some content on it. Or it could be a broken link. But you definitely do not own the thing that the URL points to. Nor do you have any guarantee that there are no other NFTs on the blockchain using that same URL.

Luckily enough for the scammers/sellers, the buyers don't seem to care about these details!

Oh, so normally NFTs don't actually contain the digital artwork, just a reference to it?

I assumed that the art itself would be stored into the blockchain, which would give it some form of permanence.

The vast majority of NFT's sell art that is not on the blockchain, is hosted somewhere else. There are some pixel art-y small things that people have put on the actual blockchain but it's rare.

That only works for digital things, for obvious reasons.

even with art, an NFT doesn't confer copyright rights, so you don't even own the art.

> a way for the artist to generate artificial scarcity

The art isn't stored on-chain, so it's not scarce either.

All the NFT is is a pointer that has some text about who created it and what it points to. Not sure why why that pointer itself is valuable except as a status of "i am the only one that owns this unique pointer".

Of course there's nothing stopping anyone from creating another pointer that points to the same thing as the one you just bought and selling that.

So unless you find some value in pointers, intrinsically in themselves, NFT's are useless.

It’s valuable because someone felt it was.

It’s the pet rock of 2021.


> Link to a print-ready high-resolution image file will be unlocked on purchase (2048 x 2048 pixels).


As somebody working in the printing industry, I would not call that "printable", but okay...

(Except you don't want your art to be printed in a reasonable size.)

NFT is just a joke went too far.

I'm starting to consider creating a NFT to sell NFTs of NFTs emitted elsewhere. Or one for people who doesn't "own an asset" to sell it.

NFT-backed securities are both inevitable and worrying.

LOL ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It's like a signed baseball card, where it is signed by whoever is selling the NFT. The cardboard and ink is worthless, but add the signature and you have something.

When the signer matches the creator (e.g. beeple selling NFTs of his art, this guy selling an NFT of his site), the interesting part isn't really the thing, but the signature.

I think he's just playing around/being cheeky with all this stuff, so I don't think it was ever meant to stand up to robust scrutiny :>

I completely get that, but I was thinking from the point of view of the person who decided to put $200 into the joke.

Yes, NFT's are one of the weirdest blockchain related scams/pyramid schemes yet.

> pyramid scheme

Could this be a pyramid scheme? From my (very limited) understanding of the technology, it is basically a single-sell item - so the value you get out of it does not depend on whether they take off or cease to exists post-buy. A pyramid doesn't really fit to this. Or am I missing something?

good point.

I'm used to applying "pyramid scheme" to "i buy this thing not cause I want it but just hoping I can sell it to someone else for more money later, and they're going to be doing the same thing as me." Cause that is likely to leave someone holding the bag. But I guess that is an overlapping phenomenon that may not be the same as a pyramid scheme.

What do we call that phenomenon? Just "capitalism"?

A pyramid scheme pays out fake returns that were actually new investments, which requires unsustainable geometric growth. An asset bubble doesn’t depend on fraud or growth, it just keeps going until speculators’ confidence is shaken.

A pyramid is a more psychologically powerful scam as many people actually get big returns and become true believers. Made up assets are more akin to the tulip mania and such.

Many people actually get big returns from tulipmania and such too!

Well since "ICO"s seem to be dead you gotta come up with something new to split the fools from their money.

I think he was hoping for a Beeple-like windfall such as from Elon Musk or an early crypto adopter...a huge right-tail in terms of potential profit. No dice though.

That's why I still think NFTs are scam

How is it a scam if you get exactly what you paid for?

250k rickrolled. That is hilarious. Wish I checked the site during that period.

Regarding the Amazon affiliate marketing bit: I am surprised he didn’t make at least an order of magnitude more money from the clicks.

I ran a site that was popular on a niche subreddit in 2013-2014 which had Amazon affiliate links. On the very first day when the site was the top post, the resulting affiliate commissions were over $500. And most of them were not for products that were linked to on the site. The lifetime commissions earned was about $11K from a total of maybe 100K unique visitors. The biggest contributor to the commissions were unrelated expensive purchases that visitors made later on Amazon. I’m curious if the affiliate program changed in the 8 years since.

which subreddit

So THATS why I was Rickrolled the other day...

I'm a little confused about this point. The website had a random timer, and was then opening a tab in the background?

I thought that modern browsers required a direct user-interaction to cause a new tab to appear, such as a click. I thought this was how we got out of the pop-up hell of the 90s?

Reading some of these I think that many people have the same usage-pattern as I do, ie go to some aggregator site like HN and open a bunch of articles in one sweep and then read them.

So what happened was that the site opened in a tab, people didn't get to it immediately so when they got around to it the timer had fired and they were rickrolled.

Ah, got it, yes re-reading the tweets I see that this is what happened.

It just navigated the page itself by assigning window.location.href, which isn't subject to the same restrictions as popups.

The page just refreshed. No new tabs.

So much enjoyed the reading! I like that kind of stuff - nothing serious and lots of fun. Well done!

This is a glowing recommendation for Vercel. I might use it for my next side project.

Was wondering just yesterday how much those book affiliate links made. Before reading my guess would have been way higher.

It is fascinating how our online behavior deviates from our physical world behavior.

This whole thread is about how asking for donations is a big fail online.

Yet, there's no lack of street performers in most major metros. Whether that is people in superhero costumes on Hollywood Blvd, or street dancers in times square, they all seem to be doing fine off donations.

There is something about the online "free duplicate copy" concept that just makes value dissappear

>Whether that is people in superhero costumes on Hollywood Blvd, or street dancers in times square, they all seem to be doing fine off donations.

All websites are not comparable to Times Square or Hollywood Blvd, in terms of how much attention they get. You also don't see performers in 99.99% of cities, even in other areas of the same city like NYC and LA.

Donations seem to work for livecasters though. Maybe the donation button needs to give some response like that from the creator to work?

Maybe it's not the "free duplicate copy" making the value disappear, but that the social context makes us feel anonymous and less obliged to reciprocate on the web.

We're a social species that evolved in tribes. Street performers probably do a better job of stimulating that sense of tribe than abstract interactions on a web page do.

Yup, people are just wired to think of physical vs digital goods or experiences very differently. Cliche comparison by now, but I know so many people who will spend $4 on a Starbucks latte every day, but the thought of spending $4 a month on a web app that they use for hours every day is unimaginable.

I'd argue that people have been taught to expect it to be free. When fundamental services like search, email, chat, etc. are provided to consumers for free, why shouldn't other services be free too?

Of course we know these services aren't really free; Google and Facebook still run their services on physical servers that have hosting costs. But by making their apps free and finding alternative revenue streams (i.e. selling data), they can set norms that harm competitors with less capital while making it easier to adopt new users (and collect more data).

> they all seem to be doing fine off donations.

They may be doing fine, but I bet that, for most, donations aren't their only source of income and they probably have another job.

This is amazing. I've built a handful of SSS over the years and can't get enough of these insider accounts. You rarely see breakdowns as thorough as this!

Instead of wasting time with NFT you should have contacted Flexport for a partnership

We need a website for the Mars helicopter: isthemarshelicopterflyingyet.com

...or maybe havetheyfoundlifeonotherplanetsyet.com

I hope he got money from Vercel for writing that article :)

Neat. Could anyone give me some ideas how else the author could monetize this without normal ads?

Also, what would be the gain if he did normal ads?

So I did in the end apply to Google AdSense just to find out. Turns out the site didn't get approved because it didn't have enough content on it. So I think you would be hard pushed to monetise it quickly by going down the normal display ads route.

I didn't mention in the post, but I had a couple of random ad offers, but they were for things that I didn't really agree with so didn't take up any of the offers.


How is it possible that it's not you again who posted this on HN?

Ha. I came on here to post it myself this time. Turns out I was beaten to it.

Hey, I run an ad tech company. Our targets for US traffic are about $10 USD per thousand page views. This is multiples more than what you would get from AdSense, plus we help with strategy and integration.

Besides that, the author did mention several things he tried besides ad monetization. I think the most effective thing would have been to either find an opportunistic brand that wants to advertise here (like a maritime company or something) for like $25 CPM+, or to quickly find somebody to sell it to if you have those kinds of connections that trust you already. Lots of people trying to build businesses based off of a network of "micro sites".

Damn I wish you hadn't posted. Ah well.

LOL, interesting response. Well feel free to reach out to me (check my profile) and let me know why. I'm very curious :)

I think it's because he is the creator of that website. And he missed all that value.

We run a few high traffic websites, and would be great to monetize our US traffic at $10 cpm. But your profile link to your LinkedIn page returns a Page not available error. Please get in touch - would be great to chat.

$10 rpm, lol what do you only accept finance and law blogs?

$10 PAGE RPM is the key here people. Not a great metric to go by. Ad impression RPM is the number to compare. I'd be interested to know the average number of ads/page you need to display to achieve a $10 rpm. At any rate, you can get that on AdSense no problem with very little hassle and net 30 payments.

Ah I wish, those would get far far higher. No this is what we see at typical online newspapers from purely remnant advertising (not taking into account direct sales).

Swag. Set up some shitty designs on one of those dropshipping sites and a storefront. Mugs, hoodies, etc.

Yup, viral content and events are great for 'commemorative' swag, and there's plenty of companies that offer print-on-demand for things like that.

One time I experienced a "trending topic" first (or second)hand; the app we were building accidentally sent a pair of test notifications to 2-3 million people, first the test message, then a second saying "zodat Hajo het ook gelooft" (so that Hajo (name) believes it too). That took the daytime internet by storm; news articles, radio segments, twitter trending topic, etc.

I mainly followed the topic on Twitter, and before long there were adverts on there selling swag related to the trending topic. There's companies (or even bots?) scanning Twitter, making swag-on-demand for trending topics.

And sell what exactly? It’s not like he owns the copyright on the maritime map or on photographs of the ever given.

Commission some basic art about it?

I think some merchandise or some other memento would've maybe worked? A t-shirt or a hat

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