Mixed Emotions!

oxbadfood
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Joined: Mon Sep 24, 2007 1:26 pm

Mixed Emotions!

Post by oxbadfood » Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:24 pm

Hey SD Team, first of all, thank you very much for quickly filling in the void that was created by the absence of free ZAP2IT listings. I am both impressed with the quality of the listings and the web interface you have created; and in such a short time! I also must commend the community of all fellow PVRers for reaching a critical mass required to further reduce the price to the target goal of $20/year! It is amazing what us little-guys can do!

As much praise as I've exhorted, let me also explain some of the mixed emotions that may come across as less than full-joy. I've read other threads that make mention that the increase in user accounts will not be used to continue to lower the price?!? It seems that the SD team wishes to build-up a rainy day fund, buy better servers and bandwidth, and has other "not-to-disclose-yet" plans for possibly other open source projects? While this is great, and the team should be rewarded for a job well-done, I am hopeful once another milestone of a critical mass of people have signed on to SD's service you will once again considering lowering the subscription price... Perhaps the next goal can be $10/month?

What I'm trying to nicely say, is that it is my hope that you will continue to make the listings available at ever cheaper prices to once again approach free. After all, the actual data is still being fed from the same ZAP2IT database, but now we have the privilege of paying for the licensing. While this may make sense, the SD Team should continue to be considerate to the fact that most of your users may be supporting the premise we were led to believe, "We aren't in it to make a profit, we will continue to lower the price to ensure we don't."

As nice as is would be to support world-peace (and other worthy causes) through SD, I feel our primary mission should be (nearly) free listings.

rmeden
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Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by rmeden » Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:42 pm

We haven't said we wouldn't ever lower the price again, just that we've met our goal.

One of the things being considered is a self hosted solution. That will require funds for (redundant) hardware, and more software development. We're limited on how low we can drop the price with our current cost model. Self-hosting would solve that.

We're also considering some advocacy spending. Which is better... dropping the price from $20 to $19 or SD funding an OSS booth at a home theater show letting folks who only see high-priced stuff in magazines see what else is available?

While the final decision rests with the SD board, we'll probably post some polls and discuss with you (the members) to get some ideas.

No decisions have been made. Further price drops are not out of the question, I just don't expect them next week. I expect things to slow down a bunch... we can use a breather! It's been a busy few months.

Robert

oxbadfood
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Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by oxbadfood » Mon Sep 24, 2007 3:24 pm

Great to hear you aren't against continual improvement of the pricing. I also agree with you that the growth rate is a natural log... as time drags on you would expect a slow down in growth... but then again, you guys weren't expecting this level of participation for another couple of months. It is quite possible SD has underestimated the population of potential consumers! (This would be a great thing for SD and for all the users too!)

If going to an OSS booth at a home theater show would boost demand for applications like MythTV, and thereby create a larger demand for SD, it is reasonable to assume the price will keep falling. (SD may continue to be surprised at how big the market really is.)

You've also got to acknowledge that most of these OSS apps growth are by-in-large more affected by word-of-mouth, with gray-market features like commercial skipping, DVD burning, and expandable recording storage contributing to its success while variable reoccurring costs, difficulty of set-up, and hardware compatibility being major detractors. Anyone notice that TiVo has quietly gotten rid of their lifetime membership?

Anyhow, keep up the great work!

slim
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Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by slim » Mon Sep 24, 2007 5:51 pm

To me the next logical step is that we should insist that the SD folks except a salary.

They earned it. I worked for a non-profit radio network and they got one.

The price is less than $2 a month. That is plenty low for now.

They won't ask for a salary so we need to insist.

After that the rainy day thing. Then lower the cost more if possible.

xris
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Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by xris » Mon Sep 24, 2007 8:14 pm

slim wrote:To me the next logical step is that we should insist that the SD folks except a salary.
Excepting is what we do now. We might choose to accept something later, though.

The main problem we're dealing with is that the IRS tends to frown upon nonprofit directors getting paid. However, it's possible to do so, especially if the payment is for work unrelated to being on the board. Given the amount of time that Robert Eden and I have sunk into this website (somewhere around or over 200 hours between the two of us), and plan to continue doing, we will probably end up getting some reduced-rate compensation from SD at the same time that we begin looking to pay for some other outside help, too (another developer, something for Robert K who has been handing all of the lineup issue tickets, and some compensation to our sysadmin). It's just a matter of budgeting that vs building some infrastructure and keeping enough money in the bank to operate for several months if our membership levels ever drop below what it takes to keep going at the current price. We do have some great long-term plans that we want to be able to implement, though.

We would also like to be able to contribute back to the FOSS community, either by sponsoring booths at trade shows, buying TV recording hardware for devs, or just sending them and their significant others out for beer and pizza (because people need to get away from the computers at some point). More about these plans when we actually have time to discuss them ourselves.

On that note, people are still signing up for memberships (though at an admittedly slower pace), so it's feasible that even if this slows to a trickle, we can drop prices again at some point in the next year and still afford to pay for dev work, etc.

rmeden
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Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by rmeden » Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:47 pm

xris wrote:(because people need to get away from the computers at some point)
Intriguing... tell me more about this "away from computer".

:)

Robert

slim
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Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by slim » Tue Sep 25, 2007 8:28 am

xris wrote:
slim wrote:To me the next logical step is that we should insist that the SD folks except a salary.
Excepting is what we do now. We might choose to accept something later, though.

The main problem we're dealing with is that the IRS tends to frown upon nonprofit directors getting paid. However, it's possible to do so, especially if the payment is for work unrelated to being on the board. Given the amount of time that Robert Eden and I have sunk into this website (somewhere around or over 200 hours between the two of us), and plan to continue doing, we will probably end up getting some reduced-rate compensation from SD at the same time that we begin looking to pay for some other outside help, too (another developer, something for Robert K who has been handing all of the lineup issue tickets, and some compensation to our sysadmin). It's just a matter of budgeting that vs building some infrastructure and keeping enough money in the bank to operate for several months if our membership levels ever drop below what it takes to keep going at the current price. We do have some great long-term plans that we want to be able to implement, though.

We would also like to be able to contribute back to the FOSS community, either by sponsoring booths at trade shows, buying TV recording hardware for devs, or just sending them and their significant others out for beer and pizza (because people need to get away from the computers at some point). More about these plans when we actually have time to discuss them ourselves.

On that note, people are still signing up for memberships (though at an admittedly slower pace), so it's feasible that even if this slows to a trickle, we can drop prices again at some point in the next year and still afford to pay for dev work, etc.
As a former Non-Profit Accountant and also a Tax Preparer I believe the easiest way for a Non-Profit group to get salary is to Incorporate. I think this would be the best way because then the company is the tax entity and not the individuals.

The Public Radio Network I worked for had a board that upon learning the director was a lawyer and only taking minimum wage, insisted that he take a salary. They also insisted he took a yearly increase. He actually was not on the board himself.

This made him an employee of the non-profit.

abigailsweetashoney
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Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by abigailsweetashoney » Wed Sep 26, 2007 8:25 am

With all possible respect, I can't believe $20/year to "too much". It's a drop in the bucket. My family and I went out to eat last Saturday. It costs $65 at a low cost Mexican restaurant. Put SD pricing into perspective, please!

Also note that many of the people you just THANKED did their hard work FOR FREE. These people are professional lawyers, accountants, developers, etc. While I do not want to insult these professionals with low pay, they certainly deserve something. I suggest a yearly "bonus" for them--a one time lump sum THANK YOU for their work.

While lowering the price of SD service would be an option, pooling the extra cash responsibly for a rainy day, unforeseen events, hardware upgrades, TMS price increases, etc. would be wise. The long and short of it is that $20/year is effectively free to me and, I suspect, most people.

slim
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Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by slim » Wed Sep 26, 2007 9:35 am

abigailsweetashoney wrote:With all possible respect, I can't believe $20/year to "too much". It's a drop in the bucket. My family and I went out to eat last Saturday. It costs $65 at a low cost Mexican restaurant. Put SD pricing into perspective, please!

Also note that many of the people you just THANKED did their hard work FOR FREE. These people are professional lawyers, accountants, developers, etc. While I do not want to insult these professionals with low pay, they certainly deserve something. I suggest a yearly "bonus" for them--a one time lump sum THANK YOU for their work.

While lowering the price of SD service would be an option, pooling the extra cash responsibly for a rainy day, unforeseen events, hardware upgrades, TMS price increases, etc. would be wise. The long and short of it is that $20/year is effectively free to me and, I suspect, most people.
Very well put. $20 is more than fair.

rshendershot
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Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2007 6:19 am

Re: Mixed Emotions!

Post by rshendershot » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:14 am

Perhaps the next goal can be $10/month?
There's the occasional user who posts to our freeguide lists that, in effect, $20/yr is too much. Well, on the one hand I pay more for cigarette lighters per year than that. But, on the other hand, there's this underlying acknowledgment that guide information is public and should be, therefore, free. I was among the first to pay for my subscription here so my stance is obvious; I rely on it and will pay for it.

We should be careful that in justifying the goings-on here we don't lose sight of the fact that it's fundamentally atypical, globally speaking, that we in the US must go through such contortions to allow our systems to simply pick a show.

I've seen mention that the directors would like to, and probably will, funnel some monies to open source efforts. Truthfully I feel that is a violation of what I signed up for, in spirit if not FinePrint.

I think that providing open access to guide data should be an activism activity of Schedules Direct. Schedules Direct should have a final goal of obsoleting itself. I think that Schedules Direct should do only two things; 1) provide ongoing data in the context of its contractual obligations to paid subscriptions, 2) initiate, support, direct, provide for the lobbying efforts to bring about free and open access to guide data here in the US.

I would like to hear, and I ask you all to demand that we hear, from Schedules Direct lawyers as to its viability.

I also agree that Schedules Direct should not rely entirely on the contributions of unpaid Heroes. These folks brought about a paradigm shift in the way PVR open-source landscape works. Kudos. Thanks. Thanks a Million times! But long term, Schedules Direct needs to be self sustaining and needs to have a core of operations -paid and unpaid- that can see it into the future.

Robert, Daniel, et al - replace yourselves. The operation needs to run like a business, albeit a non-profit business. Stay on as paid contractors ;) ,but make the thing hum and then get out of the way. The subscribers, to every man woman and child, want to have access to accurate, timely and free, guide detail. They may use it in their own spreadsheets or databases. They may use it in applications that control recordings. They may use it to simplify what to turn the tv to as they walk in the door from work (you know, that first 5 minutes? I always hit weather channel but they provide so much less than they used to....) They want -WE WANT- the guide info that is endemic to the usefulness of the media hardware sold to be openly available for consumption. As open-source you folks know this; enablers to applications provide for a greater than zero sum outcome.

So this isn't a case of mixed emotions. I don't think any subscriber would argue that we *should* have to pay for television scheduling information; not OTA, not cable, not satellite, not at all. Any justification proffered has been in context of the alternatives. Any hesitancy to state the obvious is a bow to the sensibilities of you who've worked so hard.
I feel our primary mission should be (nearly) free listings.
Let's look forward. Do we think SD should contribute to MythTV and XMLTV or should SD put that money towards assuring that the US has open access to guide information?

That's the intent of the OP I think.

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