Switching from Advertising to Donations

Based on the feedback we’ve received, we’ve decided to drop the Google Adsense from the Public Whip website. Of the 52,142 advert views we had in just over a month, the income from the site was just £19.32 🙁 [these funds have been transferred to the new donation scheme].

However, we still need to raise funds to pay for the overhaul of Public Whip, so we’ve switch to using Pledgie and we’re asking for your help and your donations!

We’re hoping to raise £15,000 to redevelop Public Whip to include the following new features:
* Better security with coding standards code
* Faster site
* Better designed/easier to use
* “Tagging” of divisions to increase findability of related issues
* API for you to easily integrate Public Whip data into your own website
* Internationalisation (hopefully including MEP and local councillor support)
* Faster updates (taking feeds directly from Hansard with the ability to “live update” on important issues)
* Better search facilities
* Twitter updates

amongst other things. If you would like to make a donation, you can:

  • Donate via Pledgie.
    Click here to lend your support to: PublicWhip v2 and make a donation at www.pledgie.com !.
    Payments are accepted by Paypal.
    Donations via this method will cost us 6.4%+20p in total. “PAYPAL*PLEDGIE” will appear on your credit card statement.
  • Donate via Paypal directly.

    All major credit/debit cards accepted.
    Donations via this method will cost us 3.4%+20p in total. “PAYPAL*BAIRWELL” will appear on your credit card statement

  • Send us a cheque or postal order. These should be made payable to “Bairwell Ltd – Publicwhip fundraising” and sent to “Publicwhip, c/o Bairwell Ltd, 43 Haymakers Lane, Ashford, Kent, TN23 4GL”. Donations via this method will cost 75p

If you would like your donation to be anonymous, please let us know. If you would like to donate via some other method (credit/debit cards over the phone) please email team [at] publicwhip.org.uk . If you would like to pledge some time in helping re-write PublicWhip (which is MySQL/PHP based and will be using the Zend Framework), please again let us know – we’re hoping to be able to be able to do the rewrite in October/November time…

12 thoughts on “Switching from Advertising to Donations

  1. Could you make the pledge a bit simpler instead? Perhaps not including the API, Internationalisation etc. but just a basic code rewrite with a few new features. £15,000 is a lot of money to raise for a vague ‘a better Public Whip’ project.

    • The problem is that the code is so horrible, bug ridden (we’ve had add a .htaccess rule to deal with the Lousie Mensch/Bagshawe “issue”) and full of security holes it needs re-writing from the ground up: and doing it properly and adding things like API and Internationalisation at the same time will be minimal extra work (as good security practice means segregating the database handling code from the frontend: which is around 90% of the API done and 60% of the internationalisation as then just the frontend pages need translating).

      Number of donations we’ve had since we’ve switch: 0 🙁 We’re considering whether to a) Change how we promote the pledge (Wikipedia style “face at top pleading for money”) or b) see if anybody else has the time/resources to invest in it. We’ve got rent to pay and the money we’re asking for pledges will cover just a fraction of the money we would have got from other sources if we worked on those projects instead of PW… Even if we just get 2,000, that’ll be enough to dedicate 2-3 weeks getting things started: but at the moment, the funds don’t even cover our time in responding to queries.

      Just to clarify: We’re definitely not looking at making a profit from PublicWhip (we actually looked at forming a charity or at least a not-for-profit organisation: but there are additional costs for those) and we’re not even looking for covering of the running costs (such as server costs, “customer support” etc) – we’re just trying to get investment to make sure it will survive even longer.

  2. So, since closing down the forums (which treborc and I were moderating for free),, what has this ‘we’ been doing for Public Whip?

    I don’t wish to sound harsh, but I’m seeing a lot of talk and very little action. Perhaps you should clarify which bits of Public Whip are functioning normally, and maybe give a little ‘shout out’ to the volunteers who are keeping it on the rails. That might attract the attention of the public…

    • Well, we’ve been hosting it (which costs money), we’ve done the first stage of the redesign, we’ve been providing responses to enquiries about how to use the data and what it means, fixing import issues (which crop up at least once a month: a big reason why we need to do a rewrite), done some initial coding/rewrite work ( http://git.bairwell.com/namealternatives to help the search system as a number of people where having trouble finding the correct person), fix small bugs (such as Louise Bagshawe/Mensch searches not working as the existing codebase doesn’t support multiple names of MPs). That’s what we’ve been doing.

      The PublicWhip code is working, but it isn’t maintainable. There are a number of cross-site scripting security holes (amongst others), the database is slow and inefficient (which slows down results: current average page load times are 1.9seconds which is stupidly high), the import system is prone to braking (and is dependent on other systems working “as is”), the code itself is a mess causing it to be practically unmaintainable and it’s not easily reusable by others. As a beacon of free data and free software, we’d also like the code to be fully unit tested, compliant with coding standards and undergo a third party security review (so people know the PublicWhip code is safe to run on their own servers: at the moment, we’re not willing to run it on our main server due to the security holes).

      We want to make it better – but the work involved (we /may/ be able to get a basic rewrite done within 2-3 weeks, but that’s still 2-3 *solid* weeks we won’t have money to pay the rent: and due to the existing codebase style, it isn’t something that can be easily done bit-by-bit) means we do have to ask for community support.

      However, if you think you can provide the website hosting (you’ll be looking at 1.4G disc space at a minimum for the site and raw data, 12G for the data [so 13.4G at a absolute minimum) and over 70Gb of data transfer per month for 14,000 visitors per month, answering enquiries about the project (even ones which are already on the site- such as “where does your data come from” and “can I use your data”) and development work (with experiencing on scaling systems with large data) – please let us know (this goes for everyone).

  3. I know what we did provide before the forum was yanked from under us without any warning, and it wasn’t excuses…

    Even if the old site really *was* held together with spit and duct tape (it seemed to work perfectly well when I used it, but perhaps I was just freakishly lucky), it doesn’t look as if the money to fund this wish list is coming any time soon, if at all. People are neither thronging to cheer the developers on or castigate them for the delay, which seems to suggest that few people care enough to provide the kind of spondulicks your vision requires.

    The mainstays of the internet are labours of love crafted on a shoestring. They don’t always last, but it’s when someone gets the notion that they can be overhauled with a cash injection that things tend to get really squirly.

  4. On which subject, I just received another begging email from Open Democracy, though it’s been a while since the last one (perhaps, though, that’s because this one was disguised with the title, ‘Creating a network’, which caught my attention, whereas most OD mails get deleted instantly these days).

    Whether it be OD, Greenpeace, or Charter88 (a one-shot petition which someone felt deserved to become a permanent campaign), when people start drawing down a salary, the dream has died.

    So which idle thought would be more offensive, that the new owners cynically thought they might cream some money off donations, or that they lacked the nous to even run a scam properly? Undeserved as such musings might be, at least they’re an attempt to make sense of how rudderless the Whip seems to have become. I mean, for all I know (’cause I was all about the forum), the existing volunteers are continuing to hold the site with all the info on divisions and sittings together, and brushing up the code where needed, while the new owners keep saying there’s not enough money to do anything. Or maybe the new owners were part of that existing team before and nothing has really changed? And it would be embarrassing to eventually have to admit that on a forum?

    I… we only know what we’re told, and that’s precious little at the moment…

    It would be nice to hear how email addresses were ‘leaking’ from the forum, though?

    • We certainly did not take over PublicWhip for the intention of making a profit: we had an agreement with Francis and Julian than PublicWhip would remain free and offer its data for free (although we could charge for “new features” – such as API feeds etc to cover running costs). We have already spent considerable time and money in:
      * Keeping the site running (server costs)
      * Responding to queries
      * Patching up bugs in the existing source code
      * Investigating how to setup PublicWhip as a “not-for-profit” organisation or charity

      The money that has been raised so far would not even cover two weeks worth of the hosting costs(!)

      We have not “taken” any money whatsoever “out” of PublicWhip and our intention in the long term, is only to take out enough to cover running costs: no salaries would be paid.

      The answer your “questions”:

      > So which idle thought would be more offensive,

      They are all offensive.

      > that the new owners cynically thought they might cream some money off donations

      Nope, we hoped to raise sufficient money to secure PublicWhip’s future for at least the next 3 years (to cover hosting costs at a minimum) and for some redevelopment.

      > or that they lacked the nous to even run a scam properly?

      We’ve never attempted to run a scam of any sort in any context. Perhaps you have some experience in this field?

      > Undeserved as such musings might be, at least they’re an attempt to make sense of how rudderless the Whip seems to have become.

      We’ve got a direction for PublicWhip and we are working to implement it: but for a project which costs us money every month and doesn’t even cover its own running costs, it’s difficult to allocate as much time and investment as we would like. We have got bills to pay! Also see http://blog.publicwhip.org.uk/2011/08/ for the plan.

      > I mean, for all I know (’cause I was all about the forum), the existing volunteers are continuing to hold the site with all the info on divisions and sittings together, and brushing up the code where needed

      Whilst we appreciate the effort the volunteers put in:
      * It wasn’t enough to convince Julian and Francis to keep the site going (hence why we offered to take it offer – I find no record that you offered to do this!)
      * A number of inaccuracies were entered by volunteers which we’ve had resolve
      * The code fixes didn’t address serious issues

      > the new owners keep saying there’s not enough money to do anything.

      There’s not enough money for us to either pay a third party company or us (at minimum wage) to do the work. Nor do we (currently) have sufficient time. We are/were hoping to be able to allocate a few weeks in late September (and had already sketched out a timescale, consulted with accountants and solicitors and tested new code developments), but your comments have again made us think “why are we bothering”.

      > Or maybe the new owners were part of that existing team before and nothing has really changed? And it would be embarrassing to eventually have to admit that on a forum?

      We have absolutely no connection with Julian or Francis.

      > It would be nice to hear how email addresses were ‘leaking’ from the forum, though?

      It was due to an out dated phpBB install which had a number of security holes in it which provided access to the database. This was mentioned in http://blog.publicwhip.org.uk/2011/09/weekend-work-security-patches-and-forum-access/ which you commented to – so you know full well about this.

      We are getting extremely fed up with your comments – just as soon as we get enough motivation to invest time and money into PublicWhip you come along with your snarky unwarranted and unfounded (and potentially libellous) comments which makes us think whether just to totally shut PublicWhip down. Your comments alone have already make Katy regret taking on PublicWhip as a project. Without us, PublicWhip would have shut down over a year ago.

      Again, we make the offer to you which we have done before – if you think you can do a better job at running PublicWhip, then do so. The source code and data is available for free on the site. If you aren’t willing to “put up”, then please “shut up” or else YOU will be the reason PublicWhip finally closes.

  5. My reply (‘You must be a democrat’) is no longer appearing as ‘awaiting moderation’, so you must have read it and deleted it. So here’s the ‘more to follow’, since it’s apparently required, and will end up on my own blog, and linked to via Twitter, if you don’t permit it here…

    First off, while I hate to break up your pity party, I should point out that I haven’t said anything to offend you yet. I asked what *would* be more offensive, future tense. you might think it’s a fine line, but it very definitely *is* a line, and you’re wasting your energy on pre-ire.

    ‘Perhaps you’ve had some experience in this field?’ What are you, twelve? I’m quite prepared to accept that it was just naivite or incompetence, or a combination thereof that led you to take on something you were in no position to handle. There’s no shame (well, not much) in admitting it. Actually, I guess your reputation could take a bit of a knock, the way news spread on the internet. Well, you made your bed…

    Carry on being ‘fed’ up with my comments. You take the rough with the smooth when you take on a public site. I made it clear that the forum was what mattered in my view, and that code was Greek to me, but you still insist on conflating the two issues, like an Assange-bashing Guardian journo. I could create a (non-leaky) Public Whip forum in minutes. It’s debatable if anyone would post on it, but if they did, I suspect it would be to speculate on when they might see any sign of this great gold-plating you speak of?

    If you can’t get the money, and you’re not prepared to work for free, as I presume Julian and Francis did, just admit you bit off more than you could chew, but *don’t* try to shift the blame on to somebody else. Clean up your own mess.

    Or try suing me..?

    • No – we hadn’t read and deleted it: it was just “Awaiting moderation”.

      We’ve just been busy making sure we have a roof over our heads rather than working on a project which hasn’t brought in enough funds to cover a single months worth of its hosting costs. We took PublicWhip over as the alternative was to let it close (something we didn’t want to see happen): nobody else volunteered.

      Our view is that the forum didn’t matter and isn’t “core” to PublicWhip (core features are to allow people to view which divisions MPs have voted on). If it is debatable if people would post on a forum, why go through the effort to set one up and maintain it?

      We are prepared to work on PublicWhip for free, but it is finding the time to do so (given the choice between “getting money to feed ourselves” and “not getting money, going hungry but working on PublicWhip”, we’d rather chose the former).

      We have tried contacting a few other parties to see if they would be interested in taking over PublicWhip, but they didn’t want to for multiple reasons (such as keeping the data free: a few parties wanted to take it over but wanted to “close” the data) or couldn’t see how it would “fit” in with their organisation or couldn’t afford to keep it running.

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