Currently Read the Docs is funded mainly through Corporate sponsorship. The Django and Python Software Foundations (non-profits), Mozilla, Lab305, Revsys, and others have helped keep the site running. However, this requires finding sponsors to help donate to the site every 6 months or so to keep things running.
I want to try out a new idea that is effectively a subscription to the website. When people pay for something, they expect certain things. A promise of support, uptime, and other work are basically being transfered in the mind of the person providing payment. I know some places try to explicitly denounce this transaction, but it is still there.
This is where Gittip comes in. It has the idea of funding a person to do work through anonymous donations. The thinking behind this is that the person recieving the money now has no sense of obligation to the person giving money. This allows them to take the money and continue to work on Open Source without feeling pressured to work on the things a specific person giving them money cares about.
I think this same idea can apply to software projects. Read the Docs doesn’t cost a huge amount of money to run every month - it costs a lot less than keeping a person alive and happy. So, I think that the first success story for Gittip funding something could easily be a project instead of a person. This funding model would then allow Read the Docs to support itself over time - without having to try and get support and investment again.
Read the Docs currently costs about $300/mo to run. This includes 6 servers (2 web, LB, Build, Database, Util/Monitoring), over 350GB of data transfered, over 100GB of repositories, and it serves over 3 million page views every month. We expect these costs to slowly rise as we get more and more traffic, but that is the goal we are currently aiming to hit. Head to the Read the Docs gittip page if you want to help out.
This is the beauty of Gittip - when 75 different people are giving you $4 a month ($1 a week), one can stop giving and it doesn’t totally destroy the funding. It allows other people to pick up the slack, and to sustain a dependable revenue stream for the project.
This is an experiment that I am going to try running to see if we can get individual sponsorship for the project, instead of depending on corporate sponsors for the sole source of support. Once this is achieved, we will look at other ways to spend the sponsorship we get from corporations, perhaps in more traditional efforts to advance the code base.
If this sounds interesting to you, head over to the Read the Docs gittip page, and start donating to the project.
Update: Wow! We reached the goal of $75 in around 14 hours. Thanks everyone who has donated to help keep the site running! It looks like we might reach above our weekly goal. For now, that money will just be left in an account to help pay for future growth of the site. If we end up making way more than we need, we’ll find something awesome to do with it (CDN?!).