From listening to the SO podcasts, I personally get somewhat of a feeling that there is a bit of a conflict between Joel and Jeff in terms of the revenue model for SO. Joel seems much more willing and concerned (relatively) about the revenue end of things, whereas Jeff seems to very much have the spirit of free and open source. For example, Jeff had initially been in favor of open sourcing SO, but Joel argued it would drive the price of hosting some flavor of a SO site down to essentially the cost (which I think is true).

The benefit of this of course is that you now can have the stackexchange business model retain some pricing power, which is good, and more power to you. However, imho, the price is a bit steep for someone that wants to run a site moreso as a hobby than as a business.

So here's where my idea comes in. I think there should be a paypal (or whatever is appropriate) link where SO users can donate to Joel and Jeff. So obviously this seems like a political hot potato, and I'm quite sure Jeff will be scared to touch the idea. But as far as I'm concerned, I would personally be more than happy to send $20 towards you guys, entirely as a gesture of thanks for the great resource you have built. I've gotten at least several hunderds of dollars of value out of it, likely well over a thousand. So in my opinion, Joel, and especially Jeff, should have some more $ in their pocket.

Or, look at it another way. There are some other feature requests here on meta that seem perfectly reasonable and logical, but have been seemingly declined. For example, inter-user communications. Now, several good arguments can be made for legitimately not wanting these features....but also, I can also see a motivation for not doing them as it could harm a revenue stream, such as the job board. It is my belief that there are more than enough people that would willingly send you money, in exchange for nothing more than they are getting now, that it would totally obliterate any worries you have about harming revenue streams.

What does everyone think of this??


Many are posting that SO doesn't need the money, and no, they probably don't. Some have said they must be doing ok, they've hired more developers, and others have pointed out that they are making more than enough on job postings. And this may be true...but think about it, say they're looking at $40k plus/month in job postings...thats a LOT of money. But then think, if they have 4 developers....a moderately good developer makes $10k per month, so that pretty much takes care of the jobs board revenue.

After years and years of seeing people making frickin millions building crap or useless websites, it would make me feel good, like maybe there actually is some justice in the world, if I could hear on the SO podcast that they got a million bucks in donations.

And if Jeff feels bad about this idea (which I'm sure he will), make the donations fully public....so if some people would donate money, but only until J and J have, say, made a million off of SO, then donations will slow at that point, consistent with the values of the users. Personally, I'd send $20 a year in just cuz I love the site.

Even better justification

Use the $ to hire more programmers and implement some of the things that have been approved and made it onto the todo list. Maybe some things that were turned down because they were too intensive....one thing I know Jeff would love to spend some money on some day is a monster server so he wouldn't feel so jealous of plentyoffish!

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    You could potentially even pay to have your favorite feature added. – Brad Gilbert Aug 21 '09 at 20:26
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    I would give Jeff $10 to permanently add the Cornify button. – TheTXI Aug 21 '09 at 20:28
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    @Brad Gilbert: That I think becomes bad news. Then the features become about people not what is good for the site on the whole. Which is what they need to remain. – David Basarab Aug 21 '09 at 20:30
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    @David: I think Brad's comment was facetious; there was recent discussion (I don't recall where) about the offensiveness of users saying, "I'd pay you $50 to implement feature x" ... – John Rudy Aug 21 '09 at 20:32
  • @David: I agree....I think it should be emphasized that this is PURELY a donation....even the idea of people "paying" for certain features leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I'm certain Jeff would have an aneurism at the thought. No, the idea is purely about goodwill, and, a nice potential side effect is that it could put any $$ wories to rest, so some otherwise monetarily "risky" features could be implemented now. – tbone Aug 21 '09 at 20:39
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    $10k a month? Damn. I'm lucky to see $10k a year... :( – Chris Charabaruk Aug 22 '09 at 9:33

10 Answers 10


As for donations, we appreciate the sentiment, for sure, but you guys and gals are already contributing the most valuable thing of all — your time!

We will never ask you for more than that, you’ve already been extremely generous!

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    Oh come on Jeff. Ask Joel, I bet he'd take the money. It could be one of your classic arguments. – tbone Aug 25 '09 at 18:27

This has been suggested in blog comments before, and I think Jeff declined it - I think he doesn't like the idea of taking money from users even if they're happy, which is a laudable attitude. How long would it take to go from "I donated money because I love the site" to "I donated money, how about this feature?"

I suspect Jeff and Joel will both accept liquid donations at DevDays though :)

As an alternative suggestion: the podcast recently needed a sponsor, and might do so again. Is there any easy way we could collectively pitch in to help on that front? I'd be very happy to do that. (Boo hiss no podcast this week.)

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    What types of liquids? :) – Sampson Aug 21 '09 at 20:40
  • Ya, thats a great idea....put up a paypal link to help "offset" the costs of the podcast...I predict they will get waaaaay more money than they need, assuming I'm not the only person who feels thankful. – tbone Aug 21 '09 at 20:52
  • Careful with that! Before you know it, they'll create the site beerexchange.org ... (beerexchange.com is already taken.) – Wim ten Brink Aug 21 '09 at 22:12

Over at The Daily WTF, I've had a few readers request the same thing: a donation button so that they could show their support. I know a lot of different sites have it... but for some reason, it never "felt" right to me since the site is ad-supported. Seems like you should have one or the other, but not both.

I have no idea how much you can make from donations (PBS and Wikipedia seem to do ok), but if they were comparable, I'd prefer responsible advertising because I feel there's a value-add for three parties (reader + sponsor + author) instead of just two (reader + author).

As for showing gratitude... a "thank you" email goes a long way. A "thank you" letter (snail mail) goes even further. A freakin steak dinner basically makes your day month and means so much more than a PayPal donation of several times the cost.

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    @Alex: I'm one of the silent millions who enjoy the DailyWTF every day and have never bought you a steak dinner. Um, how about a "Thank you" m.s.o. comment? "Thank you!" 8-) – RichieHindle Aug 21 '09 at 23:07
  • Ditto, I've enjoyed your site for many years! – tbone Aug 22 '09 at 3:06
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    I've considered emailing you a steak dinner but my keyboard became greasy. So I ate it myself. ;-) But it's interesting when you think about this: your members are asking for a donation button! WOW. That's a good sign all by itself... – Wim ten Brink Aug 22 '09 at 7:02

Donations for a commercially motivated project is a silly idea, with all due respect.

If you feel so warmly about the stackexchange brand (and I feel so too), then you could buy t-shirts, cups or mouse pads.

  • How is it a silly idea? I don't want a t-shirt, cup, or mouse pad. I do however want there to be no financial constraints on features, and I'd like to see the guys make some dough. – tbone Sep 3 '09 at 14:42

They have apparently been able to do well enough to hire a small number of developers full time, so I don't think they are exactly hurting for money.

On that note, I think if Jeff and company want to accept donations, they should put it on the blog or something away from the sites themselves so that it doesn't scream of "please help support us".

On that note, if anybody wishes to donate money to me for making your lives that much more joyous, I will be more than happy to post my PayPal.

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    Forget Paypal, just ask for his credit card number ;-) – Treb Aug 21 '09 at 20:33

If you take a look at this post by balpha, you can see that SO makes quite a bit of money just counting the job board. I doubt they're really in desperate need for money, otherwise I'm sure they would have solicited donations from their users by now. Plus with StackExchange being released soon, I'm sure their revenue is well under control.


I think they are already doing quite well, Jeff doesn't say any more that he is paying the other devs 'virtually nothing'. Especially the recent discussion of using Google AdSense vs. hand-selecting the ads themselves gave me the impression that the business model behind stackoverflow seems to be paying off.

So unless Jeff and Joel indicate otherwise, I don't think there is a need for supporting the site with money. We all are already contributing by providing content.


Well, TechDirt implements a payment system which will allow visitors to become "more special" members of the site. Paying for TechDirt gives you access for some previews of upcoming stories, a t-shirt if you pay a bit more, books when you pay even more and if you're willing to pay them $100 million, you can even force that site to close up forever. :-)

It's an interesting concept which works because people who pay can get some additional value from the site. Having a t-shirt with the St­­­­a­­ck Exchange logo on it would be cool. If that t-shirt also shows the badges that I've earned, it would be even better. :-)


I think Stackoverflow is making more money than you think. They have 3 employees after-all and are going to sell the Stack-Exchange.

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    StackExchange is a product of FogCreek and not StackOverflow LLC (Unless I am mistaken here). I do not know and I doubt we will be told what type of financial agreement is in place for that between Jeff & Joel. – TheTXI Aug 21 '09 at 20:27
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    I am sure there is an agreement. My best guess is Joel funded Jeff while they created stackoverflow for a % of the profits. Then once Stackoverflow took off they did stackexchange with Jeff getting a share of it. – David Basarab Aug 21 '09 at 20:30

Bah - they owe us money! Digital frikkin' sharecroppers my aNO CARRIER

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