Flattr Plus update · 2016-08-25 16:50 by Ben Williams
Howdy! The dog days of summer are passing over us hotly, turning most people into lazy sun seekers and vacationing hordes. But not us. Nope, we’re keeping our shoulder to the wheel, diligently hammering away at this revolution called Flattr Plus.
Ugh? Nope, actually, zero “ughs” are being uttered round here. We’re having fun reinventing the way the internet gets paid. Our summer labors come amid a bit of crisis in publishing, as more and more users reject ads that are too intrusive. So it’s no surprise that according to recent research, most publishers are looking beyond ads for monetization. In fact, only a scant 11 percent rely exclusively on ads – a full 78 percent rely on the “ads-plus-other-stuff” model.
That is to say, Flattr Plus’s timing couldn’t be better, because while some of that “other stuff” is just fine, the web needs an easy, automatic solution that is not exclusive to particular sites. Here’s a rundown of how our project to do just that is progressing:
The data science we’re tinkering with here is always the most interesting category. Sorry, other colleagues, but it’s theoretical and expanding and evolving from week to week. This time is no disappointment, because recently we’ve been working on creating a whitelist of sites that are “flattrable” by default. A “flattrable” site means one that users will be able to automatically flattr by default (users can add sites beyond this list to their personal whitelist). But what qualifies a site for flattring? And how are we specifically deciding what to include on the default whitelist?
Well, we broke it down to a single, core question that must be answered affirmatively in order for a site to qualify: do you think the majority of internet users would like to flattr this page? Clearly, though, that means we have to figure out what content most people would want to flattr. This has been a big challenge, but here are the (very) simplified criteria we’ve been using to fill that list:
- The website provides content for free, e.g., journalistic content, news, blog articles, information, videos, music, podcasts, etc.
- The website monetizes via ads, donations, a (soft or hard) paywall or does not have a monetization model in place.
- The website does not mainly serve as a way to promote or use a product or service that needs to be paid for, e.g. shops, marketplaces, product websites, restaurants, banks, insurance companies, etc.
- The website is not provided and/or maintained by the government.
But there are other sites that we felt should not be automatically flattrable? So even though our approach is pretty much content agnostic, websites that serve pornographic, racist or illegal content do not qualify for the whitelist.
Where to begin to fill up such a list is a wholly separate challenge. We started by looking at the top 100,000 Alexa domains, but because we don’t have the person power to go through 100,000 sites and compare them against the criteria above, we’ve been hiring this out by posting short-term, crowd-sourced jobs.
We’ll let you know when the list is full!
Design and development
We’re working on integrating Flattr Plus into the existing Flattr system. This means that there will be a brand new, shiny user flow on flattr.com. Among other things, that includes a new homepage, new sign-ups, email verification and budget-setting.
Development-wise, the next big step is rolling out a first release of Flattr Plus to non-employees in a closed beta, and in pursuit of that we finished a system to anonymize data that beta-testing volunteers would send to Flattr for testing. Beyond that, we are working on implementing a way to retrieve author information from websites, and we are also implementing a review/audit page for users to give feedback on what Flattr Plus flattrs.
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