I don’t actually think we’re entitled to numbers, that isn’t a standard thing in a business/customer relationship. It’s up to the business to determine what its prices ought be to support its endeavors. I will explain my confusion at this proposal and maybe my understanding of where things were before this–note that as I mentioned earlier, I did less reading on the “business” of this board than most in the months and years prior.
A few years back StraightDope.com stopped publishing new articles by Cecil Adams, my understanding is new articles quit being written for the Reader as well, i.e. the column had entered into retirement.
TubaDiva takes over as formal admin, and to my knowledge Ed Zotti was no longer meaningfully involved in anything related to this, other than perhaps some personal ownership of copyrights or things of that nature. Tuba I believe said we needed to migrate to Discourse to get the board back on a footing where it was affordable, so we could basically be self sufficient on memberships. Assumption being the Sun Times has no reason to keep a message board active that is losing money and not tied into anything they really care much about.
We move to Discourse, which has basically a hosting service for message boards, and membership fees stop being collected due to vague issues with processing payments. This continues for over 1 year.
Tuba tragically passes away. Ed shows back up ostensibly to help administer the board, as he had been a board admin in the past this made sense.
Ed comes in and says “here’s a new idea I have to charge a select group of people $30/mo in a weird not-quite-Patreon thing because for some reason I don’t like existing crowdfunding models and want to pursue weird and unlikely to succeed ones, and oh yeah I’m vaguely suggesting if we don’t do this the message board is in trouble.”
I don’t need to know what a privately held company’s finances are. But if someone is saying support a patronage system for a column writer because that column writer wants a patronage and in exchange he will write more articles and people want to do that, I think no one has any objections.
What bothers I think many of us is the vague assertion the board is imperil otherwise. There’s a lot of people who would be happy to resume paying for board memberships they had paid for for many years; but to do so in a weird scheme that is mostly a patronage for Ed, with vague allusions that it might save the forum, frankly kinda smells. These are two separate issues in my mind–Ed’s patronage venture (which is fine and people that want to support it should) and two the upkeep and maintenance of this message board.
I looked at Discourse’s hosting plans, and I see nothing to indicate this board couldn’t be run under the $300/mo “business” plan, because from what I can tell this board’s use would fall well under the caps for that plan (i.e. I don’t believe it’s being ran on a more expensive, custom quoted Enterprise Plan–if it is I suspect someone made a bad mistake in setting this up.) At the $300/mo plan this board costs $3600/yr to operate, since there’s no paid staff or other hosting relics with the Sun Times, I don’t think it costs much more than that, but let’s just mark it up to $6000 for any vague overhead. Under the old pricing system if we have 35 members at the old membership rate, the board is covered at $6000/mo. It seems like to me if the board is in trouble the payment processing for board memberships needs fixed and ASAP, because I think it will be trivially easy to get 35 paid members back up and running.
The Ed patronage, as far as I can tell, it isn’t even clear if any of the money from that is going to go to the board (I assume it isn’t.) As far as I can tell its only direct support for the board will be “it m ight generate more interest in the board and bring new members in.” I’m not opposed to that, but I think it ought be clearly stated.
Edit to add: I actually think I’d misremembered and board memberships were only $15/yr, not $15/mo. Which obviously means we need more paying members than in my early estimate–something like 400 to hit $6000/yr. Obviously that’s a lot more, but I still think it suggests getting membership payments back up online is important, if the board is in financial trouble. Especially since the $6000 number IMO was rounded up pretty heavily, at just the expected Discourse fees it only takes 240 members to cover that. And there should be at least SOME ad money coming in, even though impression advertising on sites like this are very low return these days.