[kwlug-disc] what would you pay for good kernel documentation?

Khalid Baheyeldin kb at 2bits.com
Sat Jun 5 15:47:27 EDT 2010

On Sat, Jun 5, 2010 at 7:31 AM, Robert P. J. Day <rpjday at crashcourse.ca>wrote:

>  (i posted a longer form of this on the kernel newbies mailing list
> earlier this morning, so i'll just hit the highlights.)
>  to make a long story much shorter, i'm sure there are a number of
> people who know that, for quite some time, i've been a fairly prolific
> writer of things tutorial and educational, including my former kernel
> newbies column at linux.com
> (http://www.crashcourse.ca/wiki/index.php/Kernel_newbie_columns).
> sadly, all of that has been a labour of love as i've never charged for
> any it, i've always just given it away.
>  at this point, i'd like to keep writing that sort of stuff for the
> edification of kernel programmers (primarily for newbies, i enjoy that
> kind of writing), but i really need to get something in return to
> justify the time i put into it.  so i suggested a couple possibilities
> on the KN list and, after pondering, i think here's what i'll try.
>  at the moment, my current web site is being revamped totally and
> when it's done in a few days, i'm just going to toss up a paypal
> donate button.  other ideas were collating content into actual
> sellable books, or a small monthly subscription service (a la LWN),
> but those models didn't seem to work.
>  i'm open to other ideas but, for now, i think what i want to do is
> just add a donation button next to what will be a plethora of kernel
> documentation i've written, and let readers judge for themselves what
> it's worth.  new visitors could start with a one-time contribution of,
> say, 5 or 10 bucks and, sometime down the road as long as i keep
> writing and adding to what's there, they might decide to toss
> something in again, who knows?  as long as i keep writing, some people
> might choose to throw something in on a regular basis.
>  i'm mentioning this here since i'm interested in feedback, of
> course.  your thoughts?  how many of you would be a target market for
> that sort of thing?  and if you found the content useful, would you
> consider supporting it?  or, given the vagaries of human nature, do
> you suspect that everyone will simply read, take what they want, and
> leave?
>  and is there anyone out there who's tried something like this?  what
> did you do?  did it work?  etc, etc.  i realize this post is again
> more than a little self-serving but i finally decided that i really
> enjoy writing good tutorials and i'd like to keep writing them, but i
> just need to justify the time invested.
> rday

You are approaching this wrong, with unrealistic expectations. Let me

Stuff on the internet is there for everyone to "consume" unless you put it
behind a paywall. Once you put it out there, people can read it, there is no
obligation on them to pay it.

Remember that there are lots of stuff out there on Linux. Are you
differentiated enough that your site is THE resource on the topic, or would
searching Google reveal similar information? Why would someone donate to
your site, and not the tens of others?

I am in a similar situation, but my expectations are different. Having been
active in Drupal for 7 years now, I wrote many modules, authored many
articles, spoke at conferences, ...etc. My articles on Drupal performance
are a recognized community resource. When at conferences, I get tens of
thanks for them from many people. Total strangers too. Satisfying for sure,
even though it is not money.

Many years ago, I put a tiny donate link on my site. I think in 4 or so
years, the total amount is about $30 or $40. So, it is not significant at
all, dollarwise. That is why I am not hopeful that it would be anything
significant for you.

Go ahead and continue to write these article. Write them for the sake of
writing, and not much else (labor of love as you put it).

If you want to monetize it, then run non-annoying ads on the site. This can
net you any where between a few dollars a month to hundreds, depending on
your traffic and many other factors (short version: a tech audience is blind
to ads, so don't expect anything more than a few dollars).

Or you can have expanded versions of the articles collected in a printed
book from one of those print on demand services (lulu.com, cafepress.com,
and many others).

An side effect of being a prolific article author is that you will get
recognition in a certain field and that will help bring you business in
consulting and services, or maybe writing books for a publisher. I stress
that this is a side effect, and should not be the main purpose of writing,
or speaking at events. It is far more genuine and useful to the community as
a whole when you do it because a) you like it, and b) you want to benefit
the community. Writing just to be recognized, from my view, is akin to an
MBA founding a company for the sole purpose of getting acquired and making
big bucks, rather than having a useful product/service: artificial, and

These are my thoughts., in summary: donations are meagre, no matter how
useful your site is. Continue to write because you like it. Hope that the
side benefits happen.
Khalid M. Baheyeldin
2bits.com, Inc.
Drupal optimization, development, customization and consulting.
Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. --  Edsger W.Dijkstra
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. --   Leonardo da Vinci
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