Much of the pleasure of a discussion group such of this comes from its
open doors. Anyone may join in, for a day or years. Those who know
little, or who do not wish to post, may read and learn. Others share
their experience and their thoughts. The value of what each person
brings or takes away is different. Would any of us wish to see another
miss an opportunity to learn about mechanical music because he or she
felt unable to pay? Would we choose to miss the opportunity to learn
from someone who hesitated to join this group because of a subscription
Voluntary contributions are not charity, they are a way of supporting a
mutually beneficial venture. If there is any reason to be concerned
that favoritism is an issue, it could easily be addressed by asking a
third party to collect and deposit contributions, maybe even saving the
editors some time. But I find it hard to believe that people who have
kicked in so much money and time without are in this for anything but
[ Editor's Note:
[ When Robbie and I started discussing the possibility of charging
[ a subscription fee, we were concerned that we would loose a
[ substantial portion of the subscribership overnight. We felt
[ this would reduce the value of the Digest, and that in turn might
[ result in more people leaving.
[ A mandatory subscription fee also results in a bunch of bookkeeping.
[ The financial accounts have to be tied to the e-mail list, and
[ it would probably be necessary to assign usercodes and passwords
[ to access the Web site.
[ So we considered the voluntary support approach. We polled quite
[ a few people privately, and came to the conclusion that it was
[ worth trying. Clearly there are some dissenting opinions, but
[ overall the response so far has been favorable. Whether that
[ favorable response reflects itself in a high percentage of
[ financial participation by the readership remains to be seen.
[ When we pushed the numbers around, we guessed that the support
[ would be closer to meeting expenses than paying our mortgages.
[ Meta is right. We do this because we love it. Even assuming that
[ the financial participation of the readership is high, the
[ hourly income, after expenses, is not likely to be that high.
[ The machines and network connection we're using are not subsidized
[ by our employers. As engineers, Robbie and I could find much (MUCH)
[ more lucrative ways of spending our time.
[ I'd also like to point out that the suggestions of distributed
[ computing are not as simple as it seems. Having had the Web site
[ in Santa Cruz and the FTP site in San Diego produced all kinds of
[ aggravations, from keeping copies of files synchronized to having
[ more than one place where something could (and often did) go wrong.
[ I like the control having the machine in my office gives me. I am
[ on a first name basis with the owner of the ISP. Its not cheap,
[ but the service is first class. We'll keep making improvements
[ as time and money allows.