What’s annoying with Flattr buttons on Planet Debian?

Dear Planet Debian readers, a significant number of people have expressed concerns over the presence of Flattr buttons on Planet Debian. The concerns were expressed in a thread on the debian-project mailing list and they were quite diverse.

While the discussion brought some of the issues into light, it’s not really possible to find out whether a specific concern is widely shared or not. That’s why I set up a poll on selectricity.org.

Please take a few minutes and rank the various options: put the most important concern first in the list, and sort the others by decreasing importance. If there are concerns that you do not agree with, put them below the entry named “Special: I don’t share the concerns quoted below”. And to prove that you have read through all the options before voting, put the other special entry last (it’s named “Special: I know how condorcet voting works and thus I put this item last”).

Click here to go to the poll. You need only one minute to vote and no login is required.

PS: The discussion on debian-project is the reason why I changed the footer in my RSS feed to contain only plain text (in a smaller font). I also improved the wording to be more neutral.


  1. says

    One option is missing: This, or similar, mechanism[s] might motivate people to write blog posts just to get money. This in, in my opinion, one of the main concerns.

    • says

      PS: While I think people should not necessarily make money via plain posts to Planet Debian, I am not opposed to them making money in general. But a Planet is very much like IRC or a mailing list in that it’s a focused communication media. Ads distract are considered bad style in IRC and emails, the same holds true for _syndicated_ blog posts, imo.

    • says

      I’m sorry I can’t add options once the vote is running.

      What exactly is your concern? If someone write good posts that are useful for people because she is motivated by the money, how is that bad? I would find positive anything that encourages people to write good documentation since good free software documentation is not very common.

      That said, let me tell you that we’re far from having this problem with Flattr. While I appreciate the small income that Flattr generates with my articles, it’s currently not sustainable at all.

      • says

        While I don’t doubt your motivations, or anyone else’s in particular, it just leaves a bad aftertaste of having the wrong incentives, for me.

          • rjc says

            While using blog syndication like planet there might be an increase in one’s blog post, which itself is not bad – as long as they’re not being written just to increase the volume, etc. to generate income – otherwise it looks like one is spaming the planet with post created “just for cash” each being marked with “flattr this”…

      • says

        I don’t like most “how-to” posts on PDO anyway. I prefer it as a window onto the lives of Debian contributors, with the odd bit of update into work done, intentions etc. sprinkled in between.

          • says

            It’s actually what PDO is supposed to be about: an aggregation of Debian people’s personal blogs. It doesn’t stipulate that people must write about Debian, nor that they mustn’t. Traditionally there has been a balanced mixture of content. If people are writing technical stuff purely to raise money, it changes the balance of the planet. So that’s my personal concern. I mention it because Raphaël asked.

          • says

            Thanks Jon, I’m glad you shared this concern. I didn’t saw it under this angle up to now.

            We’re far from it being a real problem but I can understand how it could become a problem if Flattr earnings allowed to compensate for the time invested in the writing.

        • says

          Not that it really matters in the context of this discussion, but just for the record, some people feel the exact opposite 🙂

          I.e. I think there are not enough technical posts and too many personal ones. Overall I agree that it’s pretty balanced, though.

    • Anonymous says

      This seems like a variation on the theme of http://xkcd.com/810/ ; if you can’t tell the difference between content written by someone motivated by money and content written by someone motivated by one of the many other motivations that inspire Debian users, what does it matter? (And if you can tell the difference, then that difference is the problem, not the motivations themselves.)

      • says

        The problem is that when there is some difference, but not enough difference, it will inevitably lead to grudges or even open fights about how foo considers X to be spam while Y thinks that’s not the case.

        Also, it’s worth noting that most, barring vanity and pushing an agenda, there are mainly altruistic incentives to write blog posts. Money changes that.

      • says

        You are covering just one side here, the negatives of cash-as-motivation. Of course that can (and has) happened, and way too often if you ask me. But there can also be positives too: One could up the quality of their writing for example, to up the chances of receiving a donation. One could even increase the frequency/consistency of posting, which I think is generally a good thing.

  2. rjc says

    Flattr or whatever one likes on one’s blog.
    Disable flattr or whatever one uses while syndicating one’s blog on planet and similar services.

    • says

      As a Flattr user, I like to know when someone is using Flattr so that I have the opportunity of flattering the article if I liked it. But I read most articles through my feed reader and I appreciate a small footer to remind me if someone is using Flattr or not so that I can click through the link and go flattr it on his website.

      It would be nice if we had a less intrusive system to convey this information (a dedicated header in the RSS information that improved RSS readers could use in a meaningful way).

      • rjc says

        I have a simple way of doing things:
        I read pdo every day – if I like a blog post I always go to one’s blog following the link and check whether I can leave comments, are there any already, etc. there one can find whether the blog is flattr/whatever*-enabled.
        Planet is not the place for endorsement of flattr, paypay and similar services IMHO and it would be good if that has been disabled.
        It distracts, takes space and time, which on planets is especially important since you have to go through quite a lot of text and you want to weed out the less interesting ones and scan for ones which you might like.

  3. mvd says

    I don’t really quite see the point of this poll for a few reasons.

    1. I think the main concerns were all well represented on the debian-project threads.
    2. Since poll respondents cannot add comments to the poll about what “other” means, they might be discouraged from submitting anything, leading to skewed results.
    3. Chances are, the sample size is going to be fairly small anyway, which means that solid conclusions can’t really be drawn from this.
    4. Your “other” option is not really “other.” Since it says “I don’t share the concerns quoted below,” it implies that a respondent has no problems with Flattr buttons when they might actually be annoyed by them but have other reasons for it.

    For the record, I don’t really have that big a problem with Flattr buttons. I just don’t think that after the debian-project thread hasn’t been active for a while that this needs to be rehashed, especially since the reasons why people dislike the buttons were already expressed.

    • says

      You’re right there’s no “other” option in the vote. But I asked on debian-project for additional concerns to have a relatively complete list.

      For the sample size, how many answers would you want?

      For the record, I don’t think we can draw “solid” conclusions out of this. But it gives at least some data point that individual Debian contributors that are using Flattr can find useful.

  4. says

    I found the Flattr suggestion on your blog entries at least 95% less annoying when you changed it from an image to text link. It’s not so distracting and in-your-face anymore. Anyway, thanks for exploring this further.

  5. MG says

    In principle, Flattr seems like a great idea. I like the idea of being able easily to give money to people and free software projects I find valuable. I voted already, but I think there ought to have been options for “I am not concerned by the presence of Flattr links on Planet Debian” and “I wish more people would have Flattr links on Planet Debian.”

  6. Seung Soo, Ha says

    The way I see it, if flattr was an advertisement, it is the perceived or expected efforts, ideas and thoughts that are being advertised, not some vested commercial interest. Flattr is just a means to the end. What different is the flattr link than a paypal link with social functionality?

    Not only do I tolerate flattr links, I actually support it(of course, I’ve only seen it being applied tastefully as in this blog :->)

  7. Helmut Grohne says

    Just a quick question: Have you already considered bitcoin already? It would simultaneously remove the arguments about website tracking, using a proprietary service or software, dislike of flatter, having an annoying image and more. It would raise the usage barrier though.

    I’d like to hear what you think about it. Would it be useful? Does it solve the problem? Do you like it?

    • says

      Helmut, you can’t do much with bitcoins currently. And it’s really hard for people to earn bitcoins to distribute. I have not studied this in detail but from what I have read, it’s far from being an alternative to flattr currently.

      • Helmut Grohne says

        This is mainly correct. However you do not have to earn bitcoins by mining. You can buy them at an exchange for real money (for instance mtgox.com), similarly to how you need to send money to flattr. The main reason for why you cannot do much with bitcoins yet, is that there is too little users. (I am not yet sure whether the project as a whole is useful. Just showing arguments.) One way to change this is to actively participate. You can do this by adding a bitcoin address in addition to the flattr link. On the other hand you might want to wait for the package to arrive in sid, because it is needed for creating a bitcoin address.

  8. Jungle Jim says

    Where are the results? Every time I try to view the results (at http://selectricity.org/quickvote/flattrbuttons/results), I get: “We’re sorry, but something went wrong.”

    I’m curious to see what other people think about this issue. It’s the primary reason I have stopped reading planet.debian.org with any consistency anymore, and every time I go look, I just see more and more begging.

    • says

      I get the same and reported it about 6 times both to the selectricity team email and to Benjamin Mako Hill without any useful result. Mako said he would look into it but never did up to now. 🙁

      I’ll ask him once more.