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If you have followed the small saga of [Kuro5hin's funding] problems, and those of similar sites like MetaFilter, you may be thinking a variety of different things. You might not care, or you might think of Kuro5hin and MetaFilter as yet more DotOrg washouts. You might feel sorry for them, or you might genuinely be concerned for the sites' survival. If you're a site proprietor yourself, you might even directly sympathize with Rusty's and Matt's (lack of) financial positions.

If you're a site proprietor, though, you may also understand the difficulty in accepting donations. Money means power. A userbase that funds you is a userbase that has a legitimate desire to control you. And in fact, that's a valuable end in and of itself for a so-called "community" site. It's better to remand control to the community, if only for them to turn around and acclaim you as their BenevolentDictator again.

This problem of money and control of public organizations isn't new in society. That's why such things as NonProfit corporations exist. Not only do they shelter both the membership and the proprietors from each other, they have the added benefit of making donations tax-deductible and making site expenses come from pretax revenue instead of posttax revenue in most jurisdictions. They are the convenient democratizing legal framework necessary for bringing any community, online or otherwise, to self-sustaining maturity.

The CollaborativeMediaFoundation exists initially to turn KuroShin into such a non-profit corporation. Rusty intends to extend the reach of the CMF to other projects, thereby simplifying the creation of non-profit corporations for other online communities. Indeed, the new problem in our society is that new collaborative organizations spring up faster than adequate resources and experience can be found to mature them.

Ultimately, if this organization or organizations like it come to maturity, OnlineCommunities will no longer be left to a completely feudal system of governance. They will be fully responsible to their membership (or at least a reasonable proportion of their membership), even possibly to the point of removing their "owners" and yet continuing on. And possibly more importantly to MeatBallers, "owners" will finally have the RightToLeave. And either way, the community will have the chance to continue sustaining itself, solvent.

Compare the WikiMedia project.




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