Yup, we’re moving the date back another month, due to the fact that we did a poor job of publicizing these changes across the site. Sorry about that.
We’ve just put up an announcement on every page pointing to the changes, and updated the Patrons page with the details. Due to the amount of feedback and our desire to keep everyone as happy as possible while we figure out a sustainable way to make this work, we have decided to give lifetime free accounts for everyone who joined the site before May 1st, 2013. Those joining after May 1st will have a 30-day free trial, and an option to apply for a free account if they are willing to make the case to us.
Please check it out and let us know what you think.
If you haven’t already seen the last few posts, please read up here:
The gist: 750 Words is transitioning into a pay-only site in the near future.
Some of the feedback that I’ve been getting is that the lack of a site-wide announcement has led to some people not seeing this conversation on this blog up until recently. Apologies for that. I’ve now updated the link in “Settings” to correctly point to this blog and have added a big link under “Today” with a link as well, titled, aptly, CHANGES ARE COMING!
That said, we’ve decided to delay the change until April 1st to give people more time to get used to the idea. And to also give us more time to figure out how exactly we want to implement these changes.
A few other notes.
- We will not remove PayPal as a payment option, at least not in the short term. Too many people are already comfortable with that system for us to introduce a new payment option (even if it’s a lot easier for us to use… I hate PayPal).
- People who choose not to pay for usage of the site will NOT lose access to their previous writing. In fact, the only part of the site that will become restricted is the writing page. Everything else will remain functional for both paying and non-paying users.
Keep the feedback coming. Hopefully the addition of an extra month will help us smooth into this transition.
As the reality of these changes starts to set in, I know this is going to be a tough transition for everyone. As someone who has been building websites for 15 years now, I know that it is impossible to make everyone happy… and that often what makes people happy in the short term can be bad for the long term. I have only 1 goal, and that is to stick to my values as a human being and offer the best that I can to the small set of people who are interested in receiving it.
I totally understand why there is some concern about the changes. Change always sucks. However, as outlined in this post, change has to happen.
Why? Because the help I was getting running this site for the last 2 years is going away; my life circumstances are such that I do not believe it ethical to sell the site, and don’t have time, money, or energy to hire someone to run the site; I can’t really do much more than an “evenings and weekends” thing myself since I have a new job and just moved to a new city and have a 2.5 year old son and family that I love. Some trade-offs have to be made.
The decision to make this a pay site is, admittedly, a huge compromise. It’s something I would not do in an ideal world. After thinking about it for a couple months, and hearing all of your feedback, I think that it’s the best option in our imperfect world.
A few responses to the hundreds of emails, comments, etc that I have received over the last few weeks (which I did ask for and truly appreciate).
I’m not running this as a business. I’m not trying to build a successful product or service. I’m merely trying to keep a side-project alive that I personally put a lot of my heart into and would be sad to have to turn off.
Anyone that wants to find the most bang for the buck should stop right now and go sign up for one of these awesome services:
There are literally hundreds of other options that are all pretty good. I am not trying to scam anyone into paying more for something than they think it is worth. Everyone should look around for the product that fits their life and needs best. My feelings won’t be hurt if it isn’t 750 words.
I’m not going to be getting rich off this. For the last couple years this site has been able to pay off its server costs, and pay myself and my helper about a 4 bucks an hour for the time we put into it. Given that my workload has increased a ton, I have to find new helpers… one being my wife. We’ve just moved to a new city, she’s a hair stylist, and is going to be helping part time with support in addition to looking for new work and raising our son… for basically minimum wage.
I consider this a short term solution. I hope that as we refactor and shrink the usage of the site to only those who find it valuable enough to continue to use it, that we might find a new way to make the site sustainable. It may become a full-time job for someone at some point. It may be able to support additional developers that can help rebuild the site (I have a big backlog of ideas in my head that haven’t yet been explored).
Eventually, I hope to re-open it for free use. If this experiment works, we’ll first allow sponsorships on the site. And eventually it would really be awesome to be able to re-open it to everyone. It is going into a sort of hibernation now due to necessity and shifting priorities, but because this is an idea that resonates deeply with me and so many others, I am pretty hopeful that things will get better over the next year or so. Much better.
We are listening. Kellianne and I will be here during the transition. We are listening to everything people are saying. We have every intention of being fair, considerate, and sympathetic to the community. Please continue to speak your mind in the comments here.
That’s just a bit of what’s going through my head as we prepare for the big change. I plan on being more involved again than I have been for the last few years, and I can promise that I will not lose sight of the site’s original mission… to help people write privately, without filter, spontaneously, and every day, in the simplest purest way possible.
Talk to you soon.
I’m in awe of the generous, thoughtful, and supportive community that has sprung up around 750 Words. It’s crazy and fascinating to me how that has happened around a site devoted to solitary writing. That’s weird, right? :)
Now that Kellianne, Niko, and I are settled in Berkeley, and have mostly moved into our new place, where we hope to stay put for a good while, I think we have come up with something of a plan, at least for the near term.
1) 750 Words will become a pay site that requires a subscription. The subscription will be $5/month, after a 1-month free trial. Anyone who has bought cups of patronage already will be transfered to the new system (so buy in bulk now if you want to get the cheaper prices).
2) You will be able to pay in year chunks ($50), or as a monthly subscription ($5/month).
3) My wife, Kellianne, will be pitching in part time to help with customer support, responding to emails, etc.
4) I will be revisiting some functionality on the site on my evenings and weekends. This will most likely be very slow going and minimal maintenance to make sure the site stays up, and hopefully a few new features as well. I unfortunately can’t commit to much more than that at this time as it’s really important to me that I put my best work into my job at Twitter.
5) The first big thing I want to do is update some of the older parts of the site to use newer versions of Rails, and to get off of Paypal (which I hate). This might happen before March 1st.
6) The second big thing I want to do is to allow sponsorships for people who either want to support the site more, or pay for others to use the site for free (teachers, writing group organizers, etc). This has been a top request for a while now, and now that this is moving to a pay-only site it makes a lot more sense to do something like this. This probably won’t happen before March 1st, but hopefully in the following month or so.
7) With Kellianne’s help we’ll begin to prioritize the hundreds of other requests for improvements to the site and selectively pick the ones that we think will have the most beneficial impact.
I hope this seems fair to everyone! Please let me know if you think we’re doing anything wrong.
I hope to make the updates to the site to go into effect on March 1st.
Please leave comments and questions on this post. Even though I haven’t had a chance to respond personally to most of the comments, I have read and considered every comment / friendly email / etc that you have sent over the last month. I have great respect and admiration for every person who has offered feedback, assistance, or even just kind words.
I’ll update with more as we near the date.
In the meantime, keep writing!
As anyone who has responded to the “PS” at the bottom of the daily nudges knows, I have been pretty bad terrible at keeping up with the day-to-day at 750 Words for the last… oh… 2.5 years.
The fact that the site has stayed up at all has been due to the enormous generosity of a good friend who has been working on the site every day for almost no money at all.
Unfortunately, said super help would not be able to last forever. And as of March, I’ll be on my own again. Before I say anything else, I want to extend a huge THANK YOU to Mario for doing more to keep this site going than anybody else (including myself) has done. He is an amazing person.
Unfortunately, given the fact that I now have a full time job (at Twitter), a 2.5 year old son, and am moving to San Francisco next week to make sure that both my career and my family stay intact, this means that I have to make some tough decisions about the future of 750 Words. In complete transparency, I will share those options with you now, and ask you for your feedback and advice.
I’ll post an update by February 1st with a real plan that will take effect March 1st.
Option 1: Sell the site.
Option 2: Hire help
This is a good option. If I had time to devote to searching, hiring, and managing this then it would mean I wouldn’t have to really hire help. Half of the trouble is keeping the site up (it keeps growing despite a complete lack of any attempt to get the word out) and would require a pretty advanced developer, and half the trouble is handling the occasional support request for various distraction, streak, time zone, and badge related queries. Given my full-time job and the fact that the site doesn’t really make enough money to pay for real help, this is not really a possibility either.
Option 3: Turn the site off
This would sort of break my heart. Last resort, but if it’s the only viable option, it’s the only viable option. All good things must end some day.
Option 4: Turn it into a pay site
Right now between 6-8% of the people (429 out of 7,485 at the moment) who use the site every month are patrons, meaning that they’re paying $4/month out of the kindness of their hearts.
If the site was only available to patrons paying $4/month, the time and money required to maintain the site would be a lot less significant, and might actually be within the bounds of possibility for me and my wife. Of course, this also sort of pains me to think about as I’ve always envisioned this as a tool that should always be free. But if it’s between that and turning the site off, this option starts seeming a lot more reasonable. I have no idea what the right price would be for this, but I’m open to feedback.
Option 5: Do nothing
This is sort of a crazy option. Doing nothing would basically mean keeping the status quo, but with nobody at the helm. Most likely, it would mean that the site would go down and not come up for hours at a time, that the support queue would languish, and that in general the site would probably fizzle out over the next year as people “took the hint” that it was a ghost town. I only include it here in the spirit of giving a complete set of options. I’m not actually considering this one.
What should I do?
I’m giving myself until Feb 1st to decide what to do, because I want input from all of you in the community. Please leave a comment on this entry with a vote for which option you think is best, why, and anything else you’d like to say. This has always been about the community and while it’s clear that I have biases and preferences and ultimately have to make the decision myself, I really want feedback as well.
Ultimately, if anything, the unexpected success of this site has taught me that the daily practice of private writing is something that gives back many times the investment that doing it requires. This tool just helps you avoid getting distracted from the practice and the motivation that is in each of us.
You now know this. You don’t need the site. You have your daily practice and nobody can take it from you. And that’s an awesome thing.
Some stats since launched on December 16th, 2009
- First blog post announcing the site was written 8 days after I first thought of the idea.
- The average entry actually is 942 words long (once you get started…)
- The average writing streak on the site is 51 days (crazy!)
- On average, people get distracted 0.647 while writing
- People have spent a total of 168 YEARS writing on the site
- 1,650,634 entries have been written (1.6 MILLION)
- 1,640,312,644 words have been written (1.6 BILLION)
- You. are. awesome.
Hello! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve checked in with y’all. I’m still here! And now I have something non-750words.com to show you, but that is sort of related to the idea.
Do you like 750 Words but wish it was a lot lighter? Like, a LOT lighter? Like 160 characters at a time instead of 750 words?
I am in the VERY early testing stages of a new “app” called Peabrain. It’s a private journal that you update via SMS and which provides you with ways to remember things over time (hashtags, usernames, daily prompts, reminders about things from the past, etc).
Think Twitter except completely private, with no following people, and you can only favorite your own memories and notes. :)
It requires SMS so it costs me money at the moment, and is only available in the US and Canada, but I’d love to open it up to a couple more people who “get” the idea of private journaling like y’all do.
One of the reasons I built 750 Words initially was because I found myself constantly needing a place to dump all of my brain’s random thoughts without having to worry about organizing them. Going all the way to 750 was important to help think things through, but I find myself often just wanting to write a quick note to remember something, or to capture a memory, without having to tweet it out or make it public.
If this sounds interesting at all to you, check it out here! And let me know what you think.
In the meantime, keep writing!
It’s been a crazy week for me (family is sick, our apartment is still mostly unpacked) and I still have about 100 people to fix streaks for and write back to. I’m headed to Austin for SXSW Interactive right now and am giving a panel tomorrow on Cooperative Games (look me up if you’re going). If I haven’t written back to you yet with fixed streak news, I think it’s going to be a couple more days before I do… but rest assured that I will get to them all if you have written to me with your name on the site.
In the meantime, keep up the good writing!
The migration to the new server is complete now, and we’re just waiting for news of the new server’s location to spread out across the Internet. Some of you should be able to get the new site already (if you can go to the site and write, then you’re on the new server), and the rest of you should be getting there soon. Just refresh 750words.com every hour or so to see if your corner of the Internet has been updated yet.
Thank you for everyone’s patience!
Update 9:23pm Thu Mar 3: Due to some server configuration issues that will take 24 hours to resolve, we’re going to postpone this move until tomorrow EVENING or Saturday morning. We’ll know more by tomorrow morning. Still try to get your words in as early as possible.
We’re moving servers again! You may have noticed that our servers are having trouble handling the traffic again, so we’re moving! PLEASE try to get your words in before or after this time period. I will of course be happy to repair any streaks that are broken due to the downtime, but the fewer the better.
Plan for the outage, and I’ll see you on the other side with a much faster and more stable server!