[iDC] RE. Ello--Alternative to Facebook

Daan Ballegeer daan.ballegeer at gmail.com
Wed Oct 1 14:26:48 UTC 2014

Dear all,

Allow me to briefly introduce myself. I am a Belgian journalist interested
in new economic and social models. Trebor Scholz was so kind to add me to
this mailing list.
Be assured I will not quote from these internal discussions. If I would like
to use something, I will mail you individually to ask permission. If you do
not grant it, no problem at all.

I find the discussion on Elle truly interesting. But unless I have missed
it, none of you have raised the option that Ello could finance it's
operations through voluntary donations, i.e. the Wikipedia model. As Andreas
Kolbe of Wikipediocray mentions in this article
our-salaries/> , the revenue stream can be quite impressive (I'm ignoring
the question here if WMF is any good at spending it).
Couldn't this be a viable financing option for #Ello? What are the

All the best,

-- Daan
Daan Ballegeer | Mobile: +32 486 870 898 | @daanballegeer
<https://twitter.com/daanballegeer>  | daanballegeer.be

From:  Andrew McNicol <mcnicolandrew at gmail.com>
Date:  woensdag 1 oktober 2014 01:15
To:  <idc at mailman.thing.net>
Subject:  [iDC] RE. Ello--Alternative to Facebook

Hi all,

I thought I would quickly comment on the 'payment for privacy' part of this

Elliot wrote:

> I too would gladly pay a user fee to avoid the monetizing of my data, on FB
> especially, and Ello's model of voluntary payment seems to at least throws a
> bone to that option.

This is not an uncommon desire, but it appears to not have worked in
bringing a significant userbase to app.net <http://app.net> , likely due to
it being somewhat exclusionary (you originally had to pay) so the userbase
was small. (Or perhaps it was just the wrong time for the platform?) I'm
actually a bit surprised none of the newer (and big enough to register on
the radar of popular discourse) platforms have adopted the ad-supported vs.
paid option model, as livejournal has literally been doing this for over a

The main thing I wanted to add here though was in regard to the social
effects of a large-scale, 'payment for privacy' system. I understand that
services need funding from somewhere in order to function, but if you're
designing a system that rewards financial payments with private interactions
(the realistic extent of this 'privacy' would be questionable, but I won't
go into that here) then you're creating a community where those who have
money to spend on social networking services are more able to control their

This creation of a two-class system of data privacy actually concerns me a
lot. So you've either got a situation like app.net <http://app.net>  (before
it tried freemium options) where those who can't afford to sign up are
unable to engage in the discussion at all, or a freemium model where those
who can't afford to pay up front must pay through, what those who want to
pay would deem, an unfair breach of their privacy. Social media usage
informs a large part of our collective concern about privacy, and if we were
to significantly reduce that for only a particular subset of the population
(part of my research discusses how populations with money to spend on social
media are often closely correlated with the subset of the population that is
least at risk of privacy violations - but that's another discussion), then I
see that introducing problems related to social inequality. (And victim
blaming discourse when something goes bad - "If you didn't want your privacy
breached, why didn't you pay the fees and keep your account financed?")

While talk of monetisation on social networking services usually assumes
targeted advertising is the best (or only) way to go, there are alternatives
to this. First of all, a service can still make money (Ello, for example,
could possibly make enough) through anonymised advertising. Secondly, a
service can ask for donations that give something extra to the user other
than privacy - livejournal allowed more user icons, for example - or even
just a simple 'thank you'. And lastly, if we go back a few years to one of
the previous popular contenders for a 'facebook killer', diaspora shows us
that it is actually possible for a server to run without users paying
directly through money or indirectly through targeted advertising (depending
on the server, ymmv). An added bonus of diaspora is that it's decentralised
so you don't have to worry too much about the service dying (like app.net
<http://app.net>  seems to be doing) or rely on a centralised, often
capitalist minded, entity controlling all decisions about the platform. I
mean, diaspora is not perfect (slightly more technical expertise required to
understand how to sign up and what it means to have different servers, for
example), but in regard to a lot of the concerns people are currently having
about Ello, I wonder if diaspora is (again) probably a better alternative.

Of course, the public consciousness if focused on Ello right now, so I don't
think the current round of facebook dissent is going to have much of an
impact on diaspora's userbase.

exhipigeonist.net <http://exhipigeonist.net>
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