[Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by Ger » Thu May 24, 2012 7:59 am

Ehm, have you read the announcement this topic is about?
Marshalrusty wrote:Revenue generated by Forumatic will be put toward the phpBB community in the form of full time developers, events and other productive endeavors, backing up the team and improving development time.
Also:
Marshalrusty wrote:The idea for Forumatic was born out of a desire to improve the long-term success of the phpBB project. We looked at the models used by other open source software organizations (Wordpress, drupal, Webkit, various Linux Distributions, etc.) and decided that a managed hosting service would be a perfect solution. At the moment, all phpBB users take the software and deploy it on 3rd party hosting platforms. The vast majority of users do not have time or the skills to properly maintain their installation, which is why we see so many "one-click installers" with the ability to, often improperly, install and update popular software like phpBB. Forumatic solves this problem by offering a fully maintained option to users who just want a forum without any hassles. At the moment, the only way to contribute to phpBB is to personally be involved in the community. Users of Forumatic effectively contribute resources back into the development of the phpBB software. Additional resources will be funneled back into the community where none were present before.

When this was brought up internally, some team members voiced strong objections to the phpBB project directly engaging in a for-profit venture. It was therefore decided that Forumatic would be a separate legal entity, leaving the open source project to continue behaving and making decision like it always has. Much like Wordpress.com/Automattic is to Wordpress.org, Acquia is to Drupal, and Canonical is to Ubuntu, Forumatic can hire phpBB developers, contribute code, host events, etc.
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by yuritenshi » Thu May 24, 2012 2:33 pm

As it says there, Forumatic is a separate entity. It's revenue does not directly go to phpBB, but their intent is to use the profit to better phpBB, by possibly paying for full time developers and hosting their own events related to phpBB.

As it is a separate entity, they obviously are not required to use the revenue for those purposes, and are definitely using the phpBB website to promote their entity, same as other hosting groups-although I am assuming they get free or cheaper advertising here than their competitors do because of who is in charge of both entities (seems to be a rather large conflict of interest in my opinion).

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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by Malphas » Sat May 26, 2012 8:09 am

Are you affiliated with phpBB/Forumatic, yuritenshi, or was that just something you concluded yourself (genuine question, I don't know either way)? I didn't even think the distinction would be as great as that, and expected it to be more closely tied - kinda like the Ubuntu Foundation and Canonical, for example.

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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by Marshalrusty » Sat May 26, 2012 8:56 am

As mentioned previously in this topic, several different structures were considered and discussed. Potential conflicts of interest were discussed to great lengths. It was decided that Forumatic and phpBB would be separately functioning entities to ensure that phpBB remains independent and continues operating just as it has always done. This is also, for example, one of several reasons why phpBB operates with two separate companies: one that handles all the financial aspects of the site, and another that exists purely for the "intellectual property".

If Forumatic were to hire a developer right now to work on phpBB, that person would still have to pass through all the normal requirements of becoming a Development Team Member, rather than circumventing the system that the rest of the community has to follow. There are many similar issues that are avoided with this setup.
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by yuritenshi » Sun May 27, 2012 5:34 pm

Malphas wrote:Are you affiliated with phpBB/Forumatic, yuritenshi, or was that just something you concluded yourself (genuine question, I don't know either way)? I didn't even think the distinction would be as great as that, and expected it to be more closely tied - kinda like the Ubuntu Foundation and Canonical, for example.
No, I am not affiliated with either, that is based on what has been said publicly. They are considered separate, yet the founders of Forumatic, where there is money to be made, have great control over phpBB. They get free recommendations for their hosting, which is a significant cost to a startup and something no other competing firm is allowed here (see the rules on hosting, spam), and can control the income in whatever way they see fit since they are independent.

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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by Marshalrusty » Sun May 27, 2012 11:06 pm

The recommendation on this site isn't "free", it is based on a more long-term model that we borrowed from a number of other open source projects that have successfully implemented it over the years. To prevent any influence Nils and I have from becoming a conflict of interest, the entire team was asked for approval, which was overwhelmingly in favor. In other words, these concerns are valid and have been taken into account at all levels.

Hopefully that clears your concerns up a bit :)
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by wGEric » Tue May 29, 2012 4:57 pm

Marshalrusty wrote:The recommendation on this site isn't "free", it is based on a more long-term model that we borrowed from a number of other open source projects that have successfully implemented it over the years.
What is that model?
To prevent any influence Nils and I have from becoming a conflict of interest, the entire team was asked for approval, which was overwhelmingly in favor. In other words, these concerns are valid and have been taken into account at all levels.
What's been done to prevent any conflicts of interest?
yuritenshi wrote:No, I am not affiliated with either, that is based on what has been said publicly. They are considered separate, yet the founders of Forumatic, where there is money to be made, have great control over phpBB.
Hopefully they are thinking about the community and invest some of that money in phpBB to make it better.
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by naderman » Tue May 29, 2012 11:48 pm

wGEric wrote:
Marshalrusty wrote:The recommendation on this site isn't "free", it is based on a more long-term model that we borrowed from a number of other open source projects that have successfully implemented it over the years.
What is that model?
To prevent any influence Nils and I have from becoming a conflict of interest, the entire team was asked for approval, which was overwhelmingly in favor. In other words, these concerns are valid and have been taken into account at all levels.
What's been done to prevent any conflicts of interest?
yuritenshi wrote:No, I am not affiliated with either, that is based on what has been said publicly. They are considered separate, yet the founders of Forumatic, where there is money to be made, have great control over phpBB.
Hopefully they are thinking about the community and invest some of that money in phpBB to make it better.
The model is exactly what we explained before. Forumatic will hopefully support phpBB by hiring developers and paying for events and whatever other expenses might arise. It is much too early to judge what could be paid by Forumatic as the company is not making enough money for any of this yet. Decisions on this will be made when money is actually available to do so. Obviously interests are aligned, as Forumatic needs phpBB to be a competitive forum solution, and phpBB would improve more quickly if Forumatic is successful and can support phpBB financially. So there is no conflict of interest. The very point of all of this is to improve phpBB as has been said many times now.
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by Pony99CA » Wed May 30, 2012 2:21 am

naderman wrote:Obviously interests are aligned, as Forumatic needs phpBB to be a competitive forum solution, and phpBB would improve more quickly if Forumatic is successful and can support phpBB financially. So there is no conflict of interest. The very point of all of this is to improve phpBB as has been said many times now.
Personally, I don't care much what other business ventures people here choose to go into; it's certainly their right.

That said, there are two potential conflicts of interest that I can see.
  • Forumatic may be the favored host due to its ties with phpBB. For example, did Forumatic pay for the advertising on the phpBB Home page (shown below)?

    Image
  • The people involved in Forumatic may choose to spend less time on phpBB than on Forumatic (especially if Forumatic is a paying job for them). For example, are you spending just as much time on phpBB development as you did before Forumatic, Nils?
I'm not saying that anybody has done anything "wrong" and you have every right to do what you want (and, as mentioned, I don't much care as long as phpBB makes progress), but I think that those questions worry some people. I just hope that they can ask them without the somewhat accusatory tone that some posts have had.

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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by naderman » Wed May 30, 2012 9:34 am

Pony99CA wrote:
naderman wrote:Forumatic may be the favored host due to its ties with phpBB. For example, did Forumatic pay for the advertising on the phpBB Home page (shown below)?
We've never publically disclosed what we get for certain ads, and we won't start now.
Pony99CA wrote:The people involved in Forumatic may choose to spend less time on phpBB than on Forumatic (especially if Forumatic is a paying job for them). For example, are you spending just as much time on phpBB development as you did before Forumatic, Nils?
On the contrary, as pointed out in this topic, I spend more time on phpBB, as I see it as part of my future job now (afterall I'm not getting any money out of this so far).
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by Marshalrusty » Wed May 30, 2012 9:44 am

As per Nils, I am not going to dive into too much detail about ads on phpbb.com, however I will say that over the years, certain kinds of campaigns have become less popular due to evolution in technologies and practices. While good for the internet as a whole, the changes to the way that page rank is calculated and its general significance, for example, have not been good for certain kinds of advertising. Unfortunately, ads that sell well, and for which we receive lots of offers, are the content invading ones that we do not wish to implement on phpBB.com (as I'm sure you would agree). So to make this absolutely clear, the Forumatic ads are not pushing out paying customers and I have made absolutely sure that they have not had a negative effect on ad revenue for phpBB.

Forumatic provides an entirely separate revenue stream where none was present before and can fill in some of the gaps we have previously mentioned (events, developers, etc.). Obviously, this isn't something that is going to happen tomorrow, which is why we have been very careful not to make unrealistic promises. The way we see it, if other projects can do it, so can we.
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by uuiiuu » Wed May 30, 2012 7:16 pm

just let me understand...
you want me to pay 155$ for a regular phpbb with a few extensions, but a lot of removed features, instead of installing it free on my own server and install what i want on my system?
sure that sounds great ^_^

ohh and isnt it againts the GPL license?
phpBB is sprewaded for free and you want money for somthing that relies on phpbb to work...

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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by stevemaury » Wed May 30, 2012 7:38 pm

You are free to do whatever you want. Some people just want a board and not the hassle of configuring and maintaining it.

There is no violation of the GPL, any more than Fantastico or Simple scripts violate the license.
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by Erik Frèrejean » Wed May 30, 2012 8:30 pm

uuiiuu wrote:just let me understand...
you want me to pay 155$ for a regular phpbb with a few extensions, but a lot of removed features, instead of installing it free on my own server and install what i want on my system?
sure that sounds great ^_^
You don't necessarily pay for the phpBB installation you pay for the hosting, a lot of users don't want and/or can maintain a server, users don't have time to keep up to date, etc, etc. Forumatic takes care off all that allowing you to focus on building your community rather than waisting time on setup issues.
If you don't need that, its simple you don't use Forumatic. However I think there is a big portion of the user base for which this is a real solution (just look at the sheer amount of support topics running outdated versions, or server issues)
uuiiuu wrote:ohh and isnt it againts the GPL license?
No, the GPL doesn't prevent you from earning money nor building a business around GPL'ed software, just as it doesn't prevent you from modifying the software or force you to release those changes for that matter of fact (there are various oss licenses that do that, but the GPL isn't one of those). The one thing is that if Forumatic decides to release their modified versions it must be released under the GPL.
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Re: [Discuss] Introducing Forumatic - Managed phpBB Hosting

Post by Pony99CA » Wed May 30, 2012 10:38 pm

naderman wrote:
Pony99CA wrote:Forumatic may be the favored host due to its ties with phpBB. For example, did Forumatic pay for the advertising on the phpBB Home page (shown below)?
We've never publically disclosed what we get for certain ads, and we won't start now.
That's not quite true. The advertising page certainly talks about some specific rates (image banners at the bottom of the page, for example) and also talks about relative rates (text link ads being "significantly more expensive than our image banner options").

But I'm not really asking about specific pricing, just about whether Forumatic paid at all and, if they are paying, whether they're paying "fair market value" (roughly what other hosting advertisers would have to pay for a similar campaign). (More below)
naderman wrote:
Pony99CA wrote:The people involved in Forumatic may choose to spend less time on phpBB than on Forumatic (especially if Forumatic is a paying job for them). For example, are you spending just as much time on phpBB development as you did before Forumatic, Nils?
On the contrary, as pointed out in this topic, I spend more time on phpBB, as I see it as part of my future job now (afterall I'm not getting any money out of this so far).
That's good to hear. :D Between Forumatic and mentoring for the Google Summer of Code, I was worried if that would hurt the pace of phpBB 3.1 (which, as you've seen, many people have complained about regarding the development pace). ;)
Marshalrusty wrote:Unfortunately, ads that sell well, and for which we receive lots of offers, are the content invading ones that we do not wish to implement on phpBB.com (as I'm sure you would agree).
Absolutely. :D I do not want pop-ups or Flash/animated ads. A pox on those who invented them. :P
Marshalrusty wrote:So to make this absolutely clear, the Forumatic ads are not pushing out paying customers and I have made absolutely sure that they have not had a negative effect on ad revenue for phpBB.
I wasn't so much worried about that. I was just addressing the conflict-of-interest question. To put it bluntly, if you're the Operations Manager for phpBB and also a principal in Forumatic, then if you are getting free (or significantly cheaper) advertising for Forumatic, you can understand how others (especially other advertisers) might perceive that as a conflict of interest, right?

The other part of the issue is that phpBB rule 6a talks about how linking to other sites is considered spam and suggests using advertising instead (linking to the advertising page). So if "normal" users can't promote their sites, I hope that you can see how some might think that Forumatic is circumventing that if they're getting free/reduced cost advertising based on their relationship to phpBB.

However, as you've said (and say again in the quote below), the goal is to help phpBB development. That's why I personally don't care if there is a conflict of interest. I think that the team has earned our trust that you'll do the "right" thing. I just don't feel that brushing the questions away as if there isn't a conflict is right, either. ;)
Marshalrusty wrote:Forumatic provides an entirely separate revenue stream where none was present before and can fill in some of the gaps we have previously mentioned (events, developers, etc.). Obviously, this isn't something that is going to happen tomorrow, which is why we have been very careful not to make unrealistic promises. The way we see it, if other projects can do it, so can we.

And, as I said, I personally don't have a problem with how you're doing this (unless it somehow negatively impacts the free version development). I'm just trying to illustrate why others have raised the conflict-of-interest questions.

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