Web Paint-by-Number Forum
Topic #60: Coping with Growth
By Jan Wolter (jan)

#1: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 7, 2007

Webpbn is growing like crazy. This is a good thing. More puzzle, more activity in the forums, more people having fun. I'm happy about this, but it has it's downside too.

In the last few months, and in the next few months, I've been making a lot of changes to the site that are basically designed to keep it functional as amount of traffic increases. I don't anticipate any real problems with this side of things, but the rapidity of the changes does seem to have added to a rising tide of bugginess that I need to beat back down.

Secondly, there are increasing demands on my time. I used to solve every puzzle. That's no longer possible. Luckily it's not really necessary either. I do ask that if problems that I ought to know about come up, they should not be reported only in the puzzle discussion threads, because I only read the puzzle discussion threads for puzzles which I have solved.

It also means that my editorial functions are being fulfilled less efficiently. Historically this mainly consisted of making rules on whether puzzles are logically solvable and/or have unique solutions, and occasionally of "unpublishing" a puzzle that really had serious problems. I wrote the checker program to partially automate this, so that uniqueness is now automatically determined for most puzzles, and logical solvability for some. Probably at some point I should deputize some other users into the editorial tasks, giving them the power to perform these functions.

A more difficult problem to solve is the size of the database. My ISP limits databases to 200 megabytes. The webpbn database is currently pushing that. To a great extent, this is because of sloppiness on my part. I can restructure and redesign it to get it's size down a lot, and that work is in progress.

However, it's not going to win us the game. Last month 44,000 puzzles were solved on this site. Six months before it was 7,000. Six months before that it was 2,000. Given this kind of growth, any gains I can make in database storage efficiency are going to be eaten up lickety-split.

So, while my restructuring of things is going to buy us some time, eventually either I need to put a lid on the growth of this site or I need to pay my ISP more money to enable a bigger database.

Up till now, hosting webpbn has essentially cost me nothing. My partner and I have an ISP account that hosts about a dozen different websites. As professional web developers, it's a standard business expense, and adding one more site to it costs us next to nothing. But with webpbn growing so fast, it's going to force us to move to a more expensive hosting agreement. If I stay with the current ISP, the only option would be to go to a dedicated server, for an additional $200 a month. That would be overkill for the moment, but at the current rate of growth, is probably what we'll eventually need. Probably I could find a more economical intermediate step if I shop around other ISPs.

If we go that direction, then I need to think about ways for the site to pay for itself. I don't particularly care about making any money off it (though I wouldn't necessarily mind), but it ought to at least cover it's costs.

Options for getting some income include (1) Google Ads, (2) Donations, (3) Memberships. I've only really started thinking about this in the last few days, so there may be other options.

I've never been very fond of ads, and I can't really seem them working well on this site. They work best on sites where are large number of people come wandering through, mostly looking for something else, so they are more than ready to click an ad. By general standards, we still have a pretty small number of users here, but the same ones come back over and over and stay for a long time. Probably most of the ad clicks I'd get would be from loyal users who want to earn money for me, but couldn't give a darn about the ad they click on. This actually borders on the fraudulent, and I'm not very comfortable with that.

In a donation approach there would be one of those fund-raising thermometer things in the menu bar, showing our progress in raising the money for this month's (quarter's?) fundraising goal. Folks could click on it to donate money via paypal or something (probably paypal, they are pretty good at fraud prevention and international currencies). People who donate money would get few or no added benefits. It'd just be an "I want to contribute to keeping this site on line" payment.

The third option is a membership approach. Again, people would be asked to donate money, but they'd get some kind of substantial benefit from donating. Or, rather, people who don't donate would miss out on something. For example, maybe only members could save partially solved puzzles and have the system remember for them which puzzles they have solved. The plus side of this, if you want to call it that, is that it limits growth as well as raises money.

Or I could skip raising money and just do things to keep the system from growing too fast. I dunno what. New user accounts can only be created on odd numbered Tuesdays or something.

For the moment, I'm going to be doing software fixes to keep the database compact, and keep thinking about a longer range solution. I'd be very interested in people's ideas and opinions about this.
#2: Babarann (babarann) on Oct 7, 2007
We all pay periodic fees for goods and services, some that we need and some that we just enjoy -- magazine subscriptions, parking permits, internet access, dental insurance, gym memberships, etc. PBN falls somewhere between a luxury and a necessity (OK a little closer to necessity). If I had to pay a reasonable fee to help keep this site alive, I'm sure I would do it!

I would be sad if the fee excluded people who really want to be here but can't pay, or have just discovered the site, so I would hope that there would be some functionality for non-members that would still satisfy their need to pbn! Oh, and maybe a family plan for the creative Ambreys -- each membership receives up to x screen names?

This is my initial reaction. This site is so well run and so well loved that I'm kind of surprised it's free to use! I'm curious to see further responses to this topic.
#3: Gypso (Gypso) on Oct 7, 2007
First of all let me thank you for all your work and time spent keeping this site up and running not even to mention the ongoing improvements you make.

As to the 3 options you mention to bring in enough income to cover the costs of running this site, for what it's worth, here are my opinions:

(1) Google Ads would be a bit annoying. I hear you about the possible fraudulent aspect and agree. I think that this option is the less appealing, although not out of the question.

(2) Donations is a great idea. A system of donations is a very different philosophy from membership in that there is an altruistic component. Whether or not it would work on this site I don't really know. I'm a dreamer and would like to believe that most of my Webpbn buddies who could afford to donate would gladly do so in order that everyone could enjoy the site. But with all fund-raising efforts, the true success can only be measured at the end. So maybe this is an idea to consider trying with a back up plan in the event it doesn't pan out.
(3) I would gladly pay for Membership to this site. I do however understand that this may turn potential users off of the site. I have turned away from puzzle sites that require membership mostly because I was being forced to buy a product unseen. As you've said there is a way around that. You could allow non paying users to view and solve puzzles but not benefit from full membership (saved puzzles, personal stats, create puzzles, etc.).
This option would limit growth which is fine if that's your intent. My immediate concern with this method is the number of current users who would not be able to afford membership. Perhaps the donation and membership options could be run concurrently? That way donation moneys could be used to help defray the membership costs of users unable to pay. This is fraught with problems I realize. Who would keep track of all this and who would decide how to "disperse" the donation moneys?

I will continue to give this thought and see if a new idea pops out of my head. In the meantime I'm afraid I haven't shed any new light on the issue.

Whatever the outcome, I most adamantly want to suggest that Jan be paid for his services. This man is a professional who has generously given of his talent and expertise. He has an actual job(s) that he attends to, a growing family and a life outside Webpbn.
No matter how the money issues for covering the costs of keeping the site up and running shake out, I feel that they MUST include (at the very least) some payment to Jan.
#4: Arduinna (arduinna) on Oct 7, 2007
With as many of us who use this site so often, I wouldn't think a membership fee would be very much at all. I'm willing.
#5: Deana L (FFsWife) on Oct 26, 2007
Another website I frequent has the membership with benefits kind of set-up and it works well. The added benefits more than make up for the "expense" of those giving the money and it allows for the payment of expenses and perhaps a little pocket change, eventually. The one to which I refer has grown to the extent that it is now the webmaster's main source of income, which in my opinion is good, since it's also his main source of headaches. I'm all for the pay-for-additional-benefits set up.

It's my fear that a strictly donation system would eventually get to the point that it wouldn't work and you'd have to go the the benefits setup. *shrug* I could be wrong.
#6: Gypso (Gypso) on Oct 7, 2007
I know what you mean Deana. A donation system is so very hard to predict it's usefulness. It's mainly the ideal I'm fond of. It could very well pose more problems than it's worth. *sigh*

And again I am much in favor of the webmaster receiving income from this site. ^v^
#7: m2 (mercymercy) on Oct 8, 2007
The problem with a donation system (though I wished it would work) is that in the first months we regulars are probably very eager to donate but after a while it is not as interesting. We would almost need to raise a whole years expenses+ in a short time. I have personally been thinking quite some time about how I could just send Jan som money since I really feel that in the world of games this site is definately worth paying for.
#8: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 8, 2007
I've helped run systems that have worked on a donation basis for decades (see http://www.cyberspace.org). That's actually a non-profit corporation and the main benefit donors get is being able to vote for and serve on the board of directors. Very few of the folks who originally built the system are still around, but new people appear and things go on.

I wouldn't go as far as setting up an NPO any time soon, but I think it would be possible to put this place on a long-term sustainable footing based on a donation/membership model. Probably there would be some concept of a "membership" and you'd be able to by $X per month to be a member, but the benefits of membership would be pretty minimal, like some sort of "Member" icon next to your name in the forums or other trivia like that.

My inclination would be to keep as much functionality available to non-paying users as possible. More users means more new puzzles which increases the value of the system for everyone. And more people getting hooked on the site means more potential members. And there are very many wonderful people who simply can't afford to spend money on a silly thing like this, no matter how much they enjoy it, and I'd hate to shut them out.

Well, nothing is going to happen right away. My first priority is to get things restructured so we can stay with the current ISP setup a bit longer. Second priority is to call my ISP and see if they have a better growth plan for me, that doesn't involve increasing ISP charges immediately by $200 a month. If that doesn't work, then I need to shop around for other ISPs (but I like the one I have). Once I know what kind of income stream needs to be generated, it'll be easier to plan how to generate it.

I should also note that if things don't work out right away, I have no problem spending money on supporting this site in the short term. There'll be plenty of time to try different options. My objective here is to develop a basis on which this site can continue to exist for years and years and decades and decades.
#9: m2 (mercymercy) on Oct 8, 2007
You are totally amazing Jan!
#10: Gitte Olesen (granny40) on Oct 8, 2007
My concern is not to find the money, but HOW am I going to pay?
I only have a DANKORT. I do not have AmericanExpress or VISA or anything like that.
#11: Gypso (Gypso) on Oct 8, 2007
Would "paypal" cover the problem Gitte brought up? I'm not familiar with it.

Your ideas are well thought out Jan. I too would agree with a donation/membership plan with emphasis on not turning away people who cannot afford it or potential new members.

However, as generous as you have been and are, it's not right that we don't help to (at the very least) defray the costs of keeping this site up and running.

M2 struck upon a point that I've often thought too. I would like very much to send a donation now. Is that possible?

I'm still a broken record. Jan really should be compensated personally for his time. How much do you charge an hour (or per contract)?
#12: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 8, 2007
International payments can be very difficult. Paypal does support a variety of different international currencies and credit cards. I think that includes DANKORT, but I'm not sure. There will certainly be countries from which it is prohibitively difficult to send money. In my experience India is really hard (though for some reason, I haven't noticed many Indian users here).

I don't see any reason to send a donation now. I haven't actually spent any money (as opposed to time) on the site, aside for a few bucks for the domain name registration. And I really don't feel any desire to be compensated for my time. This is fun. It'd make as much sense to pay the people who post cool puzzles here.

Anyway, if I charged anything resembling my standard rates, this site could never, ever afford me. We'd probably be in debt by something like $75,000. Considering that this website is all custom programming, much of it rather novel, that'd probably be considered a low price to pay by a company that built something of similar complexity for business reasons.

So I think I'll compensate myself by giving myself a free membership. Hmmm... maybe we should give people who post lots of high rated puzzles credit toward free membership too. Honestly, there are companies like Conceptis that make money selling puzzles of lower quality than some of those posted here. That should be worth something.
#13: Gypso (Gypso) on Oct 8, 2007
I like the idea of credit towards membership based on high rated puzzles. I think it would go without saying that your membership Jan should be free. ;-)

I still maintain that Jan should be compensated and I know that notion is widely supported. But for purposes of keeping the main discussion flowing, I'll lay off that point.
For now...
#14: Arduinna (arduinna) on Oct 8, 2007
We couldn't make such cool puzzles without your program, Jan! At least I couldn't. I'm not smart enough! ;)
#15: J.C. Anderson (jc.noserdna) on Oct 8, 2007
And a tshirt, Jan, dont forget to give yourself a free tshirt.
#16: Yulia (yug) on Oct 9, 2007
Just an idea - perhaps utopian.... Is it possible to publish collections of puzzles created with Dan's program as a source for revenue?
#17: Yulia (yug) on Oct 9, 2007
Jan's!!! Jan's program!!!! :) Sorry for the typo.. Had been a long day..
#18: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 9, 2007
It might be. I did once see someone who had made a lot of puzzles and self-published a series of pbn books that they published on the web. Probably be better to try contacting one of the companies that publishes books like this.
#19: Kevin Sobiski (biskit) on Oct 9, 2007
Here's one suggestion for a member benefit. Non-members can solve say the first 200 puzzles in the database. You have to be a member to get to all the puzzles. That way, you can get 'em hooked, and the people that really like solving PBN will become members.

You can charge something really cheap per month like $3, and that would add up to $36 per year per member. You would only need about 70 paying members to defray the costs.
#20: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 9, 2007
That might work. My overall goal is going to keep as much free access as possible. Probably I'll start with virtually no member benefits, and see how that works.
#21: nancy king (naneki) on Oct 9, 2007
Well I'm going to be the one to throw out a couple of negitive things about paying for this..(not that you don't deserve it)

1.Try to remember that there are people here that are low to very low income. Paying any fee could be turning them away.

2.If you could go by the number of puzzles they create and/or solve you run into another problem. Some can create with ease while others can only solve, both are a talent & not everyone has both abilities.

No matter what you decide, we are behind you, you have a great site, through which we all benefit from, not only have we been able to do all these wonderful puzzles, but we have also become good friends (& in one case even more xoxo)

Well..guess that all I got to say about that :)

#22: Bionerd (nieboo) on Oct 13, 2007
Oo who got more than friends?
I guess if I want the gossip, I should actually talk about the topic.
I'd be one of those who wouldn't be able to stick around if it was paid. Although I do think you deserve it since it is such a great site. But being a scientist, doesn't pay anything. So I'll have to actually do something else with my time that was spent here. haha. Maybe I'll actually have time for my research..there's a thought. :) Good luck!
#23: Gypso (Gypso) on Oct 9, 2007
People being unable to pay is a real concern for me. Next to Nieboo and the other underpaid puzzlers, I would especially be sensitive to the needs of students. But seeing as Jan's goal is to keep as much free access as possible I'm sure that this can be easily resolved.

For instance as Kevin S. pointed out if we had only 70 people how would be able and willing to pledge a years membership @ $36 each the initial costs may be defrayed.

It might be interesting to start a separate topic for people who are both able and willing to pledge a set amount per year to see if 70 names come up. If more people wanted to buy membership that would be even better. If this topic were started, I think it would be important to make it a topic readable by you only Jan as this could be a sensitive topic to many people. I don't see how anyone but Jan needs to know this information anyway.

I personally do not want or need any special membership benefits if this site develops some form of membership requirement. That might also be something to ask of prospective paying members.
#24: Gypso (Gypso) on Oct 9, 2007
Darn! Forgot! Good points Naneki!
#25: Yulia (yug) on Oct 9, 2007
I have one more idea. With or without combo with "membership". Jan, can you track down how many downloads of zipped puzzles for print do you get? If it's fair amount, you could put some price tag on every download... For those of us who just can't live without the puzzle on the plane :) And live access stays open for everybody...
#26: Gypso (Gypso) on Oct 10, 2007
Excellent idea Yulia!
#27: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 10, 2007
I think it would be difficult to make print puzzles cost money when on-line ones are free. First off, I think at least some browsers will give you a decent printed puzzle if you just do a "print screen" on the web page. Second, it creates a motivation for people to pay once for the download and then redistribute them to others for free.

I think when you set up things like this, you need to be careful about creating incentives to cheat or encouraging negative behavior. From that point of view the reverse would actually work better - print puzzles for free, on-line puzzles for fee - but I don't see that as attractive at all.

This site is still pretty small. We've got maybe 300 active users. As I see it, there are two basic choices: grow, or don't grow. If we don't grow, then we can stay at this size forever without needing to collect any money. If we do grow, then the site is going to start incurring real costs, and we will need to generate some income.

I'm for the grow alternative, because it's more fun.

If I restricted a lot of currently-free services to be paid-member-only services, then I would stop growth in it's tracks. Maybe 5% of my 300 users would pay, and I'd end up with a little system generating tiny sums of money. Stupid.

So my plan is to keep a very light touch on this. Start by creating a mechanism where people who like the site and feel like contributing can do so. Avoid significantly restricting what non-members can do, but possibly add new options for members (dunno what, off hand). Take steps to keep costs low (I'm currently revising the database to be more compact, and I'll be talking to my ISP about alternatives to allow a larger database without going immediately to a dedicated server). Avoid stifling grow. I've got lots of cushion, I don't have to make any extreme moves.
#28: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 10, 2007
A side note: I was running up against the 200 MB limit on database sizes imposed by the ISP. I've done various things to shrink the database, and have got it down to 175 MB. I've got one more trick in the works, which is rather complex because it means making lots of small changes all over the website. It looks like that change will cut the database size down to about 75MB. It doesn't mean the problem is solved, because at the rate this system is growing we are still going to overrun 200MB before long, but it does buy us a bit of time.
#29: Gypso (Gypso) on Oct 10, 2007
Thank you Jan for your thoughtful considerations on this issue and your sensitive conclusions thus far. I am in full agreement with your conclusions and your reasonings for such.
I'm looking forward to more of information on the subject as it comes about. ^>^
#30: michael31415 (ml.qwerty) on Oct 13, 2007
Jan: If you save puzzle solutions in your XML format, it would really help if you made a better storage format. I guess you could call it a "bitwise format." One ASCII charecter can hold 8 bits, I think, and you don't need many bits to record a square...Of course, I doubt you could have stayed under 200MB for so long if you saved in xml.
#31: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 14, 2007
The XML format isn't very compact. It's meant mainly for passing puzzles between programs. The only place it is currently used is to pass puzzles to the 'pbnsolve' program which we use for checking newly created programs. I wanted to write that as a stand-alone program instead of having it dig puzzles out of the mysql database.

Puzzles in the mysql database are stored in a format that basically requires 1 character per pixel. You're right that I could use a more compressed format. For five color puzzles, I'd need three pixels per bit, though if I make the encoding puzzle dependent then I could use fewer for puzzles with fewer colors, and probably even use some kind of gray coding approach to save more space. Or just use some standard compression to compress the string.

However, that's really not the big issue right now. The problem is that whenever anyone saves a puzzle, we store an image of their saved puzzle. This includes completed puzzles. So if there are 100 people who have solved the puzzle, then there are 100 copies of the puzzle saved in the database.

Obviously we should only save partially complete puzzles. For fully complete puzzles we should just save a flag saying that the puzzle has been solved, not an image of the solved puzzle. If the user reloads a solved puzzle, we notice the flag is set and load the solution instead.

Except, what if the author of the puzzle then edits it? If I didn't save the individual player's solutions, I wouldn't know that their solution was no longer the same as the current solution. The simple fix would be not to allow people to edit published puzzles, but I don't want to do that. I think allowing edits of published puzzles gets us better puzzles in the long run.

So what I need to do is, for each puzzle in the database, keep images of every version that was ever published. Each gets a version number, and in each user's saved puzzle info we list the versions numbers that he solved. If a puzzle gets edited, a new version of it appears, and we can notice the change by the fact that the user's saved version number doesn't match the current version number.

Of course, for most puzzles this makes very little difference, because most puzzles only ever have one version. But it adds complexity to almost every page on the site. When I look up a puzzle, I always need to take extra steps to make I'm getting the right version. So a lot of complexity is added by doing this, which is why I didn't bother in the first place, but now saving a 100 MB is worth the trouble.

A fringe benefit of this is that now puzzle ratings are associated with particular puzzle versions. So if we have a puzzle with multiple solutions, and someone edits it, then the new version doesn't inherit the ratings from the old version. That adds some complexity to the rating code though, since we now have to be careful that we updating the ratings on the appropriate version of the puzzle.

So I've coded all this, but am still testing and debugging. Lots of testing and lots of debugging since it has impact on nearly every page of the site and introduces lots of new special cases.

Actually compression of the puzzle data would perhaps be a good idea, but it's going to gain me a lot less than the versioning does. but it might not be so hard to do. I'll have to assess how much it would save.
#32: Naomi Millar (sailormewtwo) on Nov 27, 2007
I don't think paid membership would be a good idea, not until the site grew quite a bit.

Donations on the other hand would be good. Even if people only donated something like $5-10 it would work out nicely, I think.
#33: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 22, 2008
Hmm...somehow this topic got archived. Seems like a few things got archived that shouldn't have been. Anyway...

Where we are right now, webpbn.com is costing about $85 a month to run, and bringing in an income of about $2 a month. The cost is mostly money for dreamhost.com, whose service is less than impressive. The income is referral fees from Amazon from the "Books" page.

This is perfectly satisfactory. This site was never supposed to be profitable. It's a hobby, and at that price, still a fairly cheap hobby.

Someday I may create a way for users to make voluntary donations to help support the site, but I feel no particular urgency about that.
#34: Arduinna (arduinna) on Aug 22, 2008
Jan, I see an "archive" button under the topic. I've never clicked on it because I check new forum posts often enough that there's no need-- I only ever see new stuff anyway.

Is it possible you've inadvertently given us all the power to archive these topics? Or do we each have our own seperate archives?
#35: Gypso (Gypso) on Aug 22, 2008
I see it too Arduinna. What does that button do Jan? Hee Hee
#36: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 22, 2008
Oops. That button is only supposed to exist for me. I guess that explains how topics got inadvertently archived.
#37: Gypso (Gypso) on Aug 22, 2008
Good catch Arduinna! Must be those teacher eyes. :-)
#38: Arduinna (arduinna) on Aug 23, 2008
And now the power is gone!
#39: Gypso (Gypso) on Aug 23, 2008
You just HAD to go and say something, didn't you Arduinna! ;p
#40: Nancy Snyder (naneki) on Aug 23, 2008
I'm glad she did...we could be dangerous with that kind of power :)
#41: Adam Nielson (monkeyboy) on May 9, 2009
Jan, has anyone actually sent you any money?
#42: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 10, 2009
I haven't asked anyone to. Someday I probably will get around to adding a "donate" button on the website. But it's not a top priority for me. I'm pretty content with the way things are going.

For 2008 the balance sheet for webpbn was

Income: $43.19
Expenses: $739.93

The income is all Amazon referral fees from the "Books" page. The expenses are all hosting fees. So, if we were pretend that this is a business, and we don't think about salary for the programmer and system administrator, then it had a loss of $696.74. Which is actually a pretty nice tax write off-for me, because by IRS standards it *is* a business.

But in my head it's a hobby, and $700 a year is cheap for the pleasure this site affords me. Other hobbies are more expensive. I can run this site for 150 years for the price of a Corvette.

I'm pretty content with the performance I'm getting from the site these days. The exponential growth curve I was seeing when the site was young isn't looking so exponential anymore (though it's still growing). We don't seem to be close to any kind of crisis.
#43: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 10, 2009
Here's the numbers of puzzles loaded per month since the start of the site (you may have to widen your browser window for the longer bars too look right):

Puzzles Loaded Per Month:

Mar200435
Apr200484
May200441
Jun200467
Jul2004275
Aug2004715
Sep2004465
Oct2004439
Nov2004673
Dec20041535
Jan20051312
Feb20051028
Mar20051861
Apr20051453
May20051587
Jun20051521
Jul20052705
Aug20053592
Sep20051872
Oct20052133
Nov20053267
Dec20052821
Jan20064174
Feb20065188
Mar20068956
Apr20066951
May20069362
Jun200611972
Jul20069932
Aug200613657
Sep200612843
Oct200616477
Nov200619300
Dec200618892
Jan200723267
Feb200721721
Mar200724647
Apr200716821
May200725732
Jun200739463
Jul200765931
Aug200774761
Sep200790381
Oct200784077
Nov200785304
Dec200792027
Jan200896024
Feb200881613
Mar200884462
Apr200882909
May200884478
Jun200899557
Jul2008113168
Aug2008116003
Sep2008124330
Oct2008133758
Nov2008146061
Dec2008171749
Jan2009206320
Feb2009168998
Mar2009192828
Apr2009196050
May200964420
(The colors indicate puzzles by the five most prolific authors: red=naneki, green=fasstar, blue=jan, yellow=marz, purple=monkeyboy).

You can see that in early October 2007, when I first entered this item, I had some cause for concern. Growth really looked kind of exponential. But it didn't turn out that way, maybe partly because of the performance problems we started hitting at that point. Things kind of leveled off for 9 months or so. Since last summer things have been growing again, but in a more linear way.

#44: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 10, 2009
Another way to look at it:

Number of puzzles solved in 2008: 595,857
Net cost: $696.74
Cost per puzzle solved: 0.12 cents
#45: Nancy Snyder (naneki) on May 10, 2009
wow this is pretty interesting..I didn't realize my puzzles were this active.
#46: Adam Nielson (monkeyboy) on May 10, 2009
Wow. That was a lot of unsolicited information.

JW, I wonder why your puzzles-being-loaded jumped significantly the last 2 months (Mar/Apr). Maybe a combination of people like me going through many of the old puzzles for the "multiple-eth" time (most of which happen to be yours), plus new users who may just start from the very beginning.

The point of my question was this. I started reading all the old forums that I had never read before (because now people aren't making ENOUGH new puzzles worth solving anymore; yes there are some, but just not enough and so I had more free time) and came across many of these old forums talking about giving you money, donating, etc. And that people were WILLING and EAGER to send you some money.

In a nutshell, I was just asking if anyone had actually sent you anything at all. I guess not. I suppose if people really wanted to, they would get your address and the money would start rolling in. I guess they don't.
#47: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 10, 2009
The jump in the last two months may be a bit of an artifact. I think with the programming change I may have started counting loads of the front page, the one you see when yo aren't logged in, which has the dancing man puzzle on it. That would explain the big jump in the number of my puzzles solved, since it is one of my puzzle. Those probably shouldn't be counted. Fixing this is not one of my highest priorities though.
#48: Brian Bellis (mootpoint) on Feb 4, 2011
This is an interesting graph. Do you still keep these stats Jan? I wonder if my puzzles warrent a color yet.
#49: Tom O'Connell (sensei69) on Oct 22, 2011
I just read this forum: very interesting history. Jan have you ever received any financial support, I have pay pal already if i can help.
#50: Teresa K (fasstar) on Oct 22, 2011
I think paypal would be a very convenient way to contribute to this site. How about it, Jan?
#51: Susan Duncan (medic25733) on Jun 6, 2012
I just got around to reading this thread and would like to add my thanks to Jan for creating/maintaining this site for us. I would seriously like to contribute financially to ensure we never lose it.
#52: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jul 15, 2012
I have mixed feelings about taking donations from people.

Currently the site makes about $20 a year and costs way the heck more than that. I wouldn't mind a bit if it made a little money, or at least didn't cost as much.

But the truth is, the site isn't going to go away no matter how little it earns. So donations to me really wouldn't change anything except thicken my wallet a bit. I don't mind that, but I don't regard it as a particularly important goal. There are jillions of other places you could donate money to, where the money might actually do some notable good in the world, say, just for instance, http://www.fasstar.com/ .

If you want to contribute to webpbn, the best way is to post puzzles, make supportive comments, and so forth.
#53: Teresa K (fasstar) on Jul 16, 2012
Jan, I'm really touched by your generous gesture. It is most welcome.

With all the trainings I've done on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in the past ten years, I get more and more referrals to screen children and counsel families. (There are more kids born with FASD than with Autism, and in most cases they don't get diagnosed and then they end up having serious problems later.) As a result my 20-hour-a-week job has turned into 40-50 hours (but still only 20 hours paid), and I have no budget to work with, so I pay for my own copier ink and other supplies. Every time a family comes in (2 or 3 new families a week), I give them a book to help them cope with their difficulties. I have three monthly support groups that provide snacks, beverages, pizza and prizes, all out of my pocket. I have a playroom next to my office and it is stocked with computers and toys that have been donated by kind people.

Now we have a special "club" for teens and young adults (Club COSTA = Circle of Support for Teens and Adults) that provides them and their parents with lessons on how to live life and survive FASD. This little "club" is going to put on a big FASD Awareness Day event this September, and I figure to do it the way they want will cost about $2500. So your suggestion to donate comes at a good time. Thank you so much!
#54: Dave Oas (khpdave) on Nov 26, 2012
Jan,
In reading the chronology of posts here it seems clear webpbn has a number of devoted users, which also includes me, who really appreciate your labor of love in creating and maintaining this site. Itís also clear that we would like to support your efforts by contributing more than just puzzles.

I have an idea that I havenít seen mentioned yet and maybe for good reason Ė It may be an idea whose time will never come.

Market some of our puzzles to cover the actual expenses of maintaining webpbn AND to pay you a meager, sweatshop wage as well. Every puzzle already has user-ranked ratings for quality and difficulty making them, I would think, easily marketable. Creators of the better rated puzzles could opt to (or opt not to) donate use of their puzzles to other sites or publications for nominal compensation to webpbn. In lieu of seeking an outside publisher, it might even be feasible for webpbn to be its own publisher and distributor. I can see where this could become a headache if paying sites or publishers claimed or discovered multiple existences of identical or similar puzzles (the plagiarism gremlin). I would think that any puzzle offered to an outside source would have to be carefully vetted and then it could no longer be available on this site unless webpbn retained full use rights (paperwork).

I completely understand that you want keep webpbn as fun and unpolluted as possible and as a programmer you know that one solution often introduces three new problems. Maybe you could try one of the various options floated in this forum for a three or four month trial period Ė maybe even a combination of ideas.

One thing is certain, Jan; the users of your creation truly do value its worth and are grateful to you for its existence. Who knows, if you figure a way to allow us to contribute to maintaining webpbn it might help ease our guilt.
#55: Teresa K (fasstar) on Nov 27, 2012
There are probably going to be some legal problems with publishing webpbn puzzles. I'll let Jan explain that.

There have been others who have expressed a wish to help Jan out financially in return for the hard work he puts into our daily online entertainment. So here's an easy idea that requires no effort on Jan's part, and very little effort on our part, other than clicking a few buttons.

Make a PAYPAL contribution to Jan:

1. Decide how much you can afford. How much do you spend on other entertainment like going to your favorite social gathering place? How much do you spend on coffee or alcohol? I think $5 USA per month would be a minimum for those with regular income. So give him $50 - $100 now and then do it again next year. If you honestly cannot give him that much, then give what you can.

2. Go to his website at www.unixpapa.com and click on his email link http://www.unixpapa.com/white.cgi . This will allow your email to get past his spam account. BTW, this info is on the webpbn FAQ page. (tab at left).

3. Go make a Paypal payment to his email jan@unixpapa.com . Don't have a Paypal account yet? It's secure and easy. Go to http://paypal.com . Once you are signed up, just log in, click on "Send Money" and choose "friends and family." It's so easy.

When you are done, Paypal will send him an email telling him someone has transferred money to his account. Now won't that be a nice surprise for Jan, after all the complaints he has received from us?

Go do it.

Now.

:-)

#56: Tom O'Connell (sensei69) on Nov 27, 2012
okay... done deal, thanks for setting this up T :)
#57: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 1, 2012
I'd like to thank Teresa and Tom for their donations.

In this instance, I've decided to feed the money back to webpbn - I've used the money to scale up the memory allocation to the main webpbn server for the next year by a substantial percentage. This should make webpbn run a bit faster, and have less downtime (it gets auto-rebooted when it exceeds it's allocated memory limit, which it has been doing every couple days lately).

But the slowness of the site isn't going to be fully repaired by just allocating more memory to the current servers. I really need to redo the entire server-side programming to build a more scalable architecture that could run on something like the Amazon or Google server farm. Then we could be in a situation where we could speed up the server almost limitlessly just by throwing more money at it. But getting to that point is going to cost me about a month of rather dull programming. These donations give me a bit more confidence that if I ever do that, then in the end there might be sources for getting the money we'd need to actually scale up enough to take advantage of whatever scalability I can build in.
#58: Tom O'Connell (sensei69) on Dec 1, 2012
I will send more when needed Jan & thanks.
#59: Teresa K (fasstar) on Dec 1, 2012
T&T to the rescue. :-) Come on and join the Paypal Speedy Server Train. Woo-hoo!!
#60: Tom O'Connell (sensei69) on Dec 1, 2012
toot toot... i think i can, i think i can

Goto next topic

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