This is the old Gittip blog. We have renamed to Gratipay and moved our blog.

Is Personal Funding Viable?

July 4, 2012, 2:53 pm

The goal for Gittip is for people to find a living on it. If you build free culture or otherwise devote your energy to making the world better, I want you to be able to pay your mortgage and your phone bill and put gas in your car entirely from money you receive on Gittip. That’s my goal. Of course there will be plenty of people with a day job that receive some supplemental income on Gittip, a thank you for the free work they’re able to do on the side, a little extra money for beer or coffee. But I want finding a living entirely on Gittip to be a normal thing to do. I say “finding” a living instead of “earning” or “making” a living to emphasize that Gittip is about free, no- strings-attached gifts. Gittip isn’t a job. You don’t have a manager telling you how to spend your time in exchange for the money you receive through Gittip. We trust you.

Is full personal funding viable with Gittip? We started out with the ability to gift tip someone a few cents a week. The possible amounts were 8¢, 16¢, 32¢, 64¢, and $1.28. But when we looked at the numbers, it seemed like this wasn’t going to add up. A fairly popular open source programmer will have maybe 5,000 followers on Twitter. If all of those followers tipped 64¢, that would add up to $3,200 per week, or $166,400 per year. That’s in the ballpark of what a mid-career engineer can expect at a top tech company, which is approximately what we’re aiming for. If a top open-source programmer can only find $30,000 a year through Gittip, then Gittip isn’t working properly.

The problem is that not all 5,000 followers can be expected to tip. Instead we should expect a few people to tip a lot, and a long tail of people to tip a little. The same is true from the other side of the equation: there are a few people I want to truly support, and then a lot more folks that I’d be happy giving a “token amount” to each week.

Today on Gittip I rolled out new amounts that will hopefully make personal funding through Gittip more viable. The new amounts are 25¢, $3, $6, $12, and $24. That’s an order of magnitude jump, and it’s designed to make full personal funding viable on Gittip. The numbers we’re shooting for here are something like 3,000 people tipping 25¢ a week, and 500 people tipping an average of $5 a week, which would add up to $3,250 per week, or $169,000 per year.

Notice the gap between 25¢ and $3. The idea is to streamline the decision to tip someone a token amount. Once you’ve identified someone as part of your long tail, then the difference between 16¢ and 32¢ isn’t that useful. With just one token option we make it easy. But for those you want to really invest in, it’s worth a few extra moments to make a decision between three, six, 12, and 24 dollars per week. The top amount is about $100 a month, which is about as significant a donation as we can make without threatening the anonymous, no-strings-attached nature of the gift. No single giver should have an overly large impact on a recipient.

Tips for the old amounts are grandfathered in. However, once you change away from that tip amount you won’t be able to change back. You’ll need to go with one of the new amounts.

I’m really excited to find out who the first person will be to announce that they’re fully personally funded on Gittip. Alex Gaynor? Jannis Leidel? James Tauber? Each has expressed interest in the idea, and I’m sure there are other people making the world better that would love nothing more than to be freed up to pursue their vision even further.

Let’s make it happen!