Wednesday, October 29, 2008


In light of yesterday's post, I'm going to spend the next few days addressing questions as they come up. Today's question is regarding encouraging donations.

In my experience, people are generally pretty decent sorts and will do what they can to support their favorite site, and I'm assuming that's you. I'm not into pushy salesmanship, and I don't think it's necessary. It is annoying and compromises the tone of your site, but more importantly, it crosses a rather important legal line between facilitating the sharing of copyrighted material and outright selling it. Where you want to stand on that question is entirely your own choice, but I like to stay on the light side.

However, I'm not opposed to the idea of buying ratio, as long as your site doesn't make it necessary for users to do so. Ratio represents a contribution to the site, and there are all kinds of ways to contribute. Some sites also provide ratio bonuses for long-term seeders, and I think there is very much the same thing going on here. If you've contributed, I have no problem with recognizing you for it.

I have a slightly less sunny image of donor/ratio perks, though. Any features that you provide to VIPs are features that you are denying to other users, which in turn prevents your site from being as usable as possible to as many people as possible - kinda the point in my view. Providing recognition is fantastic, but adding concrete features is a little more questionable. VIP-only forum boards will fracture your community, since the VIPs will tend to hang out with their kin and other users will never really be pulled into the fold.

In terms of recognition, I suggest simply giving users more control over their own profiles and the way they are presented to others. I know some sites allow avatars only to power users. However, since I only ever notice peoples' avatars rather than their usernames, I want to encourage as many people to have avatars as possible. You could allow people to customize the way their username is displayed, add more info to their profiles, maybe add custom stylesheets. None of these things have any practical use, but they provide a degree of social status as a reward, and that is enough. Of course, the ubiquitous donor star is a must.

I suggest placing a clear donate button on every page, but nowhere obtrusive. In keeping with my previous point regarding selling copyrighted material, I would keep it away from torrent description pages. Make it clear to your users that donations are always appreciated but never expected. A simple button in the header or footer ought to be plenty. I like Demonoid's approach of using an animated GIF that flashes briefly and subtly every couple of seconds. It draws attention without being too distracting.

Demonoid also has a neat donation system. I'm not sure I should be detailing it here, but you should be able to get some idea by making a donation yourself, or going through the process up to the point where you're asked to key in your PayPal account. Basically, donated money is received not through Demonoid but through a third party site, so PayPal can have no complaint. Very clever.

1 comment:

Pavel said...

Thanks a lot, really intesting stuff :-)

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