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The THP Patreon, Or: The Vicissitudes of a Freer Internet

The early year has been a productive one for blog posts, I guess. It's about all I can seem to do these days.

Anyway, this is a post I'd intended to do for a while, sometime mid-last year, but it kind of got shoved down for all sorts of reasons. Not to beat around the bush, I want to talk a little bit about THP's Patreon and perhaps bring it to the attention of those who might not have noticed before. More than that, I'd just like to remind people what it takes for THP to survive day-to-day. If the community can be likened to the spiritual needs of THP, then the Patreon is more like the bare physical.

To give a little history lesson, let's consider six years ago, back in bad old twenty-seventeen. Teruyo made a post on the site's April Fool's birthday to celebrate a near-decade of 2hus and CYOAs — with an additional message talking about the future of the site. I remember seeing this in the new posts and being a bit alarmed. It felt very ominous at the time, and I won't say that it isn't something that weighs on my mind even now. Included with the birthday celebration was a bit of frank talk about the site's financial situation. The long and short of it? The site needed stable funding. Teruyo himself wasn't able to single-handedly pay for hosting, and all of the previous admins were out of the picture. (That second part is more speculation on my part, but it is rather true that the others had stepped away from doing much on or with the site at that point, IRL matters having drawn one away entirely.) The only thing for it was for THP's many Anons to contribute monetarily if they wanted the site to remain in operation. Out of a narrow range of possibilities, Patreon was the strongest of them, despite many (often specious) objections raised in discussion. Thus, THP was now officially funded by donation.

This shouldn't have surprised anyone, of course. The internet as a whole is simply a long chain of people paying for bandwidth. Still, it's very easy for users of websites to lose site of this very reality and merely take the continued provision of services as a given. Until the point that the need to think of hosting costs was brought up, I had never myself once considered it. There was merely the assumption that someone would take care of whatever costs would keep the site afloat. In this way, there is something of a blessing in setting out the bare reality for all Anon to see. THP is, after all, an independent community, attached to no bigger service. Without the 'guarantee' (a flimsy one) of hosting provided by large content siloes, all the independent web can do to survive is to rely on mutual aid. This is the price paid to ensure that we have our space online, run based on our whims.

Setting moralising aside for a moment, I suppose I ought to talk a little bit about what the Patreon does for those who pledge. The simple and unimpressive sounding first part is that patrons get to read blog posts. Big deal, right? You're reading one right now for free. Well, that may be so, but consider that what's posted on the Patreon is insider knowledge, straight from Teruyo. Much of the content of the patron-only posts tends to go into things like roadmaps of how THP will develop in the future or breakdowns of what's been done to improve the site recently. That is something quite valuable if you actually care about THP. Think about it. If you seriously cared what exciting new changes might come to THP, wouldn't you want to hear it straight from the Teru's mouth? Also, consider that if you're able to comment on these posts, you have his full attention to whatever you want to say. In essence, you're getting direct access to the head of the community for your donation.

As to the second part, that's access to a VIP channel in the outer communities. If you really want to talk to Teruyo, or simply have a conversation with a smaller circle of people, it's a fantastic place to hang out. Very often, those of us in there share things that we don't necessarily share elsewhere, whether that's previews of creative projects, pictures of dogs, pictures of food, or a multitude of other things. What you get over the more open channels is a cosiness more valuable than a few dollars. Of course, it's not necessarily the most active at all times, but that's just the nature of things. It's not a dedicated space for some particular purpose, so it's very open as to what goes in the channel. So, if you want a space that could be practically your own amongst the community, why not chip in and be granted access? (Obviously, don't do that if your only goal is to act like a bell-end. You'll be kicked very quickly.)

Why do I bring all of this up when it could be discerned by a casual look at the Patreon? Well, for one, again, I wanted to call attention to its existence for the less observant among our community. Why I do that is hopes for more patrons to be forthcoming. Which brings me to my next major point regarding the Patreon. At present, we have a few short of twenty people donating monthly. This keeps THP's basic hosting needs taken care of and even allows for a bit of a buffer. That said, I must emphasise that this is at present. We only just recently had one fairly high-dollar patron withdraw due to meatspace circumstances. Whilst they were only one out of a few, it doesn't take a very long logical leap to see how brittle this whole system is potentially. A bad economy leading to layoffs everywhere would be sufficient to affect many Anon's pocketbooks, making a monthly contribution to THP seem a far concern. Enough of that happening and THP won't be able to pay its bills. And, no, before anyone suggests it, existing patrons pledging more doesn't solve the problem. Banking on 'whales' to keep the cash flowing in is even more brittle. It is a simple matter of needing a broader base from which to draw funding. Even a few more people giving the absolute minimum is more helpful than a single dedicated patron turning up the cashflow.

Another matter pertinent to THP's future is the far-off goals for the Patreon. If you look at the page, you'll see that we're currently sitting at the second-highest goal, with the last one quite a few dollars away. We're basically at a level where the incoming donations can be stuffed away to ensure a degree of cushion. Beyond that? Well, it's hard to speculate, but Teruyo has talked about it a little before. In essence, the end-game for the Patreon would be finding some way to make full-time work on the site possible. As you may well know, Teruyo is the sole person tinkering on the site and keepings its day-to-day operations in order. There's always pesky issues like real life that sneak in to make doing extensive work for extended periods next to impossible. Crass as it might be to suggest, more money would make a lot of problems go away. Imagine you ran a website. Wouldn't you be able to get more done if you could, say, hire outside help? Delegate certain things to people on a part-time basis? Perhaps upgrade bits of infrastructure to account for eventualities of scale? To say that the highest degree of funding possible is critical to the advancement of THP is a bit of an understatement, I'd think. Until a more consistent, more protracted degree of work can be done on site infrastructure, things will continue to only improve slowly. Who knows how long it might take until the site can be satisfactorily overhauled? Years, possibly.

On a slightly less lofty note, something that also warrants more donations is the fact that the current handful of patrons are infrequently engaged. That's fine, of course, if many want to simply make a donation and leave it at that. Nonetheless, there have been times that Teruyo has called for ideas about what to do for rewards and got very little for feedback. I pledge at the highest tier myself, which grants me a technical right to make requests for posts. Do I have anything in mind? Nope. Even if I could come up with something, I'm not sure there would be much point. After all, who's even going to be reading it besides me and maybe a couple of others. Really, this is the classic THP dilemma of needing more people involved altogether in order to stimulate things. We need more viewpoints, more willingness to express them, and more general idea what it is that anyone wants. I'd love if more of the community could help with the Patreon. A long time ago, I floated the idea of small commissions for patrons. Unfortunately, the test-bed for this idea didn't yield much in the way of results. Perhaps that failed slightly on a lack of confidence in the idea, but there also weren't that many jumping to take it up, so it was once more a problem of man-power in part. Either way, things like that would be neat if we could do them. Hell, maybe there are much better ideas that haven't been considered. They won't be on the table until you put your money down and make yourself heard.

As an aside, obviously not everyone can give. That's fine. However, that doesn't mean you can't still help. Consider helping by bringing the Patreon to others' attention — like I'm doing right now! Make others understand that a functioning community doesn't come for free. Educate yourself and others about the ideas of a more independent web and of mutual aid. Use whatever platform you have to let everyone know that THP is something you care about and want to see flourish. Perhaps one of my next posts will be more about promotion of THP, because that's a perennially-relevant subject, and I think it's not discussed quite enough in particular depth. In any case, the biggest thing you can do to help besides monetary assistance is promotion.

And if you do have cash to give but Patreon doesn't work for you? Try to work out a solution with Teruyo. He's willing to do whatever reasonable to make sure THP can pay for its bandwidth and keep doing neat things. Just know that Paypal is horrendous across the board, and many money-moving services besides have a lot of restrictions on folks outside of specific countries. Be realistic and be prepared to be told that your suggestion might not work. If it doesn't, don't get discouraged. Try to help out in some other way.

I hope I've been able to impress on a few who may not have known before how critical the Patreon is to THP's operation. I don't mean to lay on guilt, but I can't simply stay quiet and let people go on not knowing. In so many ways, there is a greater need than ever to have investment of all kinds in THP as a site and as a community. If you have it in you, be a part of preserving a more independent web and become a patron. If you lack resources, educate others, because being informed is about as valuable as money. It's all for the sake of a healthier site, which will make for a more robust and hopefully more alive community.