/kbin project management costs, financing, future plans (kbin.social)

I wrote the first line of code for /kbin on January 14, 2021. Around this time, I started working remotely and decided that the time I used to spend commuting to the office would be devoted to /kbin. Throughout this entire period, /kbin has been a hobby project that I developed in my free time. It was also when Lemmy started federating. The full history is available on GitHub. The Polish instance - or rather its prototype - was created on 2021-09-08.

By the end of 2022, I decided to take this a bit more seriously. The work that had brought me much satisfaction began to tire me out - anyone who's experienced burnout likely knows what I'm talking about. I needed a breather and a sense of doing things my way. I had some savings put aside, so I could work on this full-time. The amount of code might not reflect this, but it's only a small part of the things that need attention in such a project ;)

I don't know if it had any impact, but on January 4, 2023, I received information that the project had qualified for the NGI0 Entrust program. I had applied for funding a few months earlier. Currently, I have outlined my milestones in the Roadmap. The plan was to gradually complete each stage (after finishing one of them, I can apply for a funds release). However, due to the situation and how /kbin has developed in recent weeks, I had to completely change my priorities. As a result, I have started each stage, but none is polished enough for me to honestly apply for a payout. I'll need to address this promptly.

The fact that I could take certain steps amidst all this confusion is solely thanks to your support. The kindness I've encountered here will be remembered for a lifetime :) My buymeacoffee account currently has 818 supporters, who have donated $11,320. This is a lot of money, and for a while, I'll be able to sleep peacefully, not worrying about maintaining kbin.social.

Nevertheless, this money is meant for project development. Every expense will be documented in monthly reports. If necessary, I can also provide insight into the invoices. Things have been so heated recently that I consider the spending over the past months to be a failure. Most of the costs need to go to S3+Cloudfront, where costs due to the traffic increased from $2-3 per month to $1,000. This is about half a year of basic servers in the current stack. But in hindsight - so much has happened that faster migration was impossible. However, this has certainly accelerated the process.

None of this would have been possible without the contributors and project guardians, and without Piotr, with whom we spent many hours and sleepless nights trying to stabilize the situation and bring it to its current state. This time we're much better prepared for potential surprises. I hadn't set the terms of collaboration before and I admit, I had some concerns when we arranged a call to discuss this. However, it turned out that within the foundation, Piotr introduced a "Pay what you can" financing model, whether it's $1 or $100 a month. As I mentioned earlier, this is a huge relief for me and we started from scratch regarding security matters.

Many of you asked me about the possibility of recurring support. I wasn't entirely convinced, especially since the current account balance should maintain the instance. However, I think it would be irresponsible of me not to consider it. /kbin has grown to a level where I can't foresee everything that will happen. It would be great if we could cover monthly costs with Patreon / Liberapay. All funds from Buy Me a Coffee will be transferred to this pool, but from now on, I'll treat it as buying me a coffee... or a beer... literally ;)

For me, this also means maintaining critical zones for the project. I see this as a long-distance run, so I've decided to allocate:

$100 monthly - donation to Piotr's foundation "Fundacja Technologie dla Ludzi" - I really encourage you to support it, they're really doing a lot for the fediverse.
$24 monthly - donation to Codeberg - a great ecosystem for free projects. We've been making quite a buzz there recently.

I also want to support contributors and creators around /kbin as much as possible - but I'll do this privately, and for now, I can only afford symbolic amounts.

|                                                   |            |              |   $  |
| ------------------------------------------------- | ---------- | ------------ | ---- | 
| Hetzner Jun 2, 2023                               | €131.63    | one-time     | 145  |
| Hetzner Jul 2, 2023                               | €246.74    | one-time     | 271  | 
| OVH 24 cze 2023                                   | 2246.66 zł | 6 months     | 553  |
| OVH 1 lip 2023                                    | 904.63 zł  | monthly      | 223  |
| OVH domains                                       | 116.43 zł  | annually     | 30   | 
| AWS (S3+Cloudfront) July 3, 2023                  | $1079.21   | one-time     | 1080 |
| AWS current                                       | $320.45    | one-time     | 321  |
| Mailgun 2023-07-02                                | $49.76     | one-time     | 50   |
| Testing enviroments, demo instances, landing page | $130       | monthly      | 130  | 
| FTDL                                              | $100       | monthly      | 100  |
| Codeberg                                          | 95.33 zł   | monthly      | 24   |
| Yubico 2x YubiKey 5C NFC Jun 22, 2023             | €135.30    | one-time     | 149  |
| Accounting and legal advice                       | $100       | one-time (?) | 50   |
| Taxes in Poland                                   | ???        |              |      |

Thank you once again for that. I will respond to your questions, but it may be delayed as I have a few important tasks I want to focus on. Soon we will also write more about the cluster and the conclusions we have drawn from creating infrastructure with Piotr. Then it will be time for the first release of /kbin.

kbin.social lifecycle: from 181 unique visitors to 2.9M in three months.
jon avatar

@ernest, if Kbin starts making okay money, don't be afraid to give yourself a salary. It's important that you get to eat too.


As I’ve been lurking around the fediverse, running instances seems to be universally a hobby project, and it’s a little concerning. It kind of gives the impression of all being idealistic young kids embarrassed to ascribe value to their own time. I mean, you can do a lot with volunteer labor, especially if it’s a good ecosystem with appropriate recognition and gratitude, but the people are absolutely the most valuable parts of kbin.social, lemmy.world, etc, and they do have to eat, pay rent, go on vacation. It’s tough to respond to a 3am message about your instance being hacked if you have a job to be at four hours later, and leads to a whole different kind of burnout.

It’s early days yet, but I hope the bigger instance teams get some input from people who’ve managed growth spurts in non-profits, and especially the transition to their first paid staff members (even when that staff member is the owner).


Maybe this was also how the internet was intended.

elscallr avatar

I'm not sure if you're joking but it's not that long that's how it used to be.


@elscallr Well some history. IPv4 (and later IPv6 now) was meant to connect computers together, ideally without any router/modem in between but each device directly on the web (but ipv6 came too late). So we got an interconnected web.

Later Tim Berners-Lee just want to have a human-readable documents to be linked together, with a distributed architecture that would see those documents stored on multiple servers, controlled by different people, and interconnected. I think the fediverse comes pretty close to this idea.

I also think big companies and centralized solutions might make it easier for the user, but we also now know all the downsides of those solutions from Google, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft,... you are the product.

@ernest @jon @tburkhol

elscallr avatar

Ackshually yeah you're right, but I was simplifying.

I'm 25 years older than you are, if you're the person in your pfp, and was there when you had to dial into the service you wanted to use. Not saying that to flex, just to say... I fucking know.


Ah the good old BBS. Still running them.

elscallr avatar

Real talk no shit?

I didn't know that was still a thing. How would I find it these days?


Yea! I'm not lying here.. BBS is still a thing. I love ENiGMA½: https://enigma-bbs.github.io/ .

Source code: https://github.com/NuSkooler/enigma-bbs

@originalucifer@moist.catsweat.com avatar

Do you remember telix? The term emu... SALT was my first scripted language I really put to use


All those DOS programs are awesome. For BBS I use SyncTERM: http://syncterm.bbsdev.net/


ipv4, and the structures that came before it, were meant for academics and military commands to talk to each other on government funding. It was the definition of an elitist space and filled with idealistic kids and dilettantes who didn’t need to worry about rent. Nobody in the public would even know it existed for a decade.


The whole internet was basically hobby projects that worked fine before big tech ate everything.

It can totally work if the community's right.

blightbow avatar

And if they are scoped realistically.

The contraction we're seeing in the tech space this year is in large part a consequence of venture capitalist funding. A significant portion of tech sites were being funded at a loss, with the idea that profitability could be achieved after establishing a userbase. Rising interest rates pushed the VCs to put pressure on the companies they invested in: "no more free lunch, realize our gains now". This is why you see a rash of tech sites abruptly restructuring (Discord) or completely collapsing (gfycat). Reddit falls somewhere between the two, because it's likely they're seeking an IPO and they don't care about the fate of the website once they cash out. Twitter is ruled by an emperor with no clothes. Facebook can't make as much money as it did prior to the added government scrutiny, and the Zuck has been frantically trying to diversify his company these past few years.

This is a long-winded way of saying that ernest deserves a lot of praise here for being realistic and up front with the operating costs of running the largest kbin instance. lemmy and kbin draw inspiration from the social media platforms that came before them, but can't budget for growth the same way that their predecessors did. It's not going to be cheap, they aren't going to get the free lunch that prior social media platforms had, and ernest needs to proceed with the well-being of both himself and his project in mind.


I saw my first beheading at the age of 12 on ebaums world. My buddy got targeted by a pedophile and sent child pornography on a messaging board. Half the sites were on angelfire or geocities and featured constant porn pop-ups. My email was absolutely filled with dick pill spam immediately. Newgrounds was a super popular site with kids my age and like half of it was porn games. There was this really annoying emoji banner ad on like every site that would constantly shout “OH MY GOD NO WAAYY” and “SAY SOMETHING” (seriously it happened so much I can still hear it).

I don’t know that the internet “worked fine” lol. I mean, I think I turned out alright, but if my parents knew what I was seeing on the internet they never would’ve let me on the computer again.


Aw stop, you're making me all nostalgic. :D

Place was wild before they cleaned it up for business interests, for sure.

AnonymousLlama avatar

The good old wild west days


I mean... Nowadays we are just being tracked by bots fed and mega corp creeps. But Iguess it turned out... Alright


Yeah I donated specifically in hopes of helping ernest live off kbin

lemonflavoured avatar

Hear, hear

tjhart85 avatar

I agree ... one of the greatest things I've seen in FOSS has been growing to the point that Nabu Casa can employee 25 people to work on the project (I have no idea if they're all full time or what, but I know at least a decent chunk are).

If I spin up an instance, whether it stays afloat is between me and the people on my instance, but if we want the flagship to stay up and for our dev to have the time/willingness to make improvements, he needs to get paid. Even just project managing a project of this size is an immense undertaking and just accepting PR's from others can get to be crazy.

I'd honestly prefer to not have to decide between "I want this to go to /kbin" or "Ernest is 'allowed' to buy a beer with this". I'd prefer to donate to something that ensures /Kbins needs are met for x amount of months and then the rest is split between employees of the org at whatever ratio is agreed upon. That's just my $.02 ... I really do appreciate that Ernest wants to be so careful with the fund though, I just don't want the /Kbin account to be sitting multi-thousands of dollars in the black while Ernest is struggling with basic subsistence.


I thought that donations going to you were going to be pocketed and spent on hard liquor, not for our benefit. I'm disappointed in you ernest, be better.


Yeah, what about the blackjack and especially the hookers part?


Can't forget about the hookers

1chemistdown avatar

What about the blow?

density avatar

support your local sex workers <3

or remote sex workers if you prefer onlyfans

operator avatar

First and foremost: Thank you @ernest for your incredible work and dedication.

  1. Pay yourself a salary. Whatever you feel is appropriate & covers your personal costs. Developing and maintaining /kbin seems to be a full time job (or at least will become one)

  2. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TRANSPARENCY. That's why we are here. This builds such a huge trust with the community. Whatever you need, we'll be here.

symfonystation avatar

@ernest Thanks for everything you and the team do. I just sent you a few beers. :) https://www.buymeacoffee.com/kbin for others wanting to contribute.

ernest avatar

@symfonystation Cheers, man! ;)

hariette avatar

Thanks for posting link. I just sent over some more beers for the team to keep stockpiling!🍻

ernest avatar

@hariette, actually I was the one looking for your coffee link ;) Thanks!

hariette avatar

We can just start taking turns heh 😂

Cloudless avatar

Would you recommend that some of us move to other kbin instances? Or should we stay on kbin.social to help it grow?

Thank you for all your hard work. I would like more people to discover kbin, instead of the other software developed by the tankies.

@debounced@kbin.run avatar

An interesting point of discussion for sure... but as long as federation is working, I don't see why people shouldn't try out other instances. We shouldn't be trying to replace reddit or whatever with 1 big monolithic instance... spreading out the cost/maintenance is the only way to survive... unless you happen to be a massive corporation with the moolah to monopolize an entire datacenter.


I fully agree. I understand the fediverse is new for most people, but we want to encourage decentralization. @debounced @ernest

ernest avatar

Yeah, absolutely. Choosing an instance is a mature decision that I hope many people will make. It would mean that the /kbin ecosystem is strong enough to handle it. However, for now, I would suggest sticking to larger instances that have been around for a while or those where the administrators are active on Matrix - like @melroy - they know /kbin best. In those cases, everyone can also get quick help from me by reaching out privately for a sufficient period of time ;)


Are there any plans to create a more friendly website that highlights instances based on certain traits (i.e. country-specific instances; general-purpose instances; hobby/interest-specific instances)? Right now discoverability seems limited to the Fediverse Observer and FediDB, which shows /kbin instances by user activity.


Actually Observer has also a map feature: https://kbin.fediverse.observer/map

Metaright avatar

How are there instances hosted in Antarctica?


It's a good backup location. Haah kidding.

Of course these are servers that doesn't contain a valid location and coordinate. 22 in total. You should report this bug to the website owner. Which I'm not.

ajbin avatar

I think there's a very interesting area for discussion as to whether the fediverse should do more to bake in the idea that instances should be small and co-operate more closely (portable identities, opt-in discovery mechanisms built into the protocol, post history migrations etc) and that we should actively be working against the centralisation of traditional commercial/VC/BigTech approaches.


I felt slightly frustrated when I tried some Lemmy apps and they only offer a few largest instances in the initial setup and leave people to discover/find smaller instances by themselves.

It is understandable that they don't want to present a thousand choices and confuse people, or get people to sign up for an instance that disappears a week later. Also, larger instances tend to get a snowball effect by receiving more donations / volunteers and scale better, other nodes are also more likely to help them if there are e.g. federation problems.

However this effectively promotes an centralized ecosystem that both depends on and burdens a small number of key instances.

AnonymousLlama avatar

I'm pretty happy with the .social instance for now, I assume you'd have to find an insurance with admins who are transparent. Old mate Ernest is pretty upfront so that's a big selling point to me when deciding which instance to start on :)

@Ori@sacredori.net avatar

As always, you're so considerate and thorough. Looking forward to seeing what becomes of /kbin.

1chemistdown avatar

@ernest, you have my monthly donation. I hope it helps. Let us know how else we can help. The community can support you as much as you're supporting us.

Cylusthevirus avatar

Kbin has replaced Reddit for me, and for that I am truly grateful. Ernest, you've made something wonderful here. Please do whatever you need to do to make this effort sustainable so that we have a longer term place to talk to others and share the things that bring us joy.

dasnet avatar

I am in awe of your commitment, long term. I think my jaw dropped with the transparency. It's so informative, it breaks down walls, and creates so much trust. I will help with as many coffees as I can! @ernest

@BentiGorlich@gehirneimer.de avatar

I am very happy that I am a part of it, even if it is just a small one 😊

@narF@mstdn.ca avatar

@ernest Really cool that you accept Liberapay! I activated a monthly donation! It's not much but hopefully if a lot of people do the same, that'll help you a lot! :)

iNeedScissors67 avatar

Just joined the Patreon, thanks for all you do.

cthonctic avatar

You're an amazing human being and I am in awe of what you have managed to create! The Patreon was my easiest join ever and I'm happy to hear that buying you a coffee will actually buy you a coffee (or other tasty beverage) going forward :)

nimrod avatar

Did yearly donation via librapay, it's a worthy project. Really appreciate your transparency and all the good work you do @ernest!

LollerCorleone avatar

Thanks for the update. In my opinion, your target should be to raise enough funds for you to be able to draw a reasonable salary along with supporting kbin's development.

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