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Mar 29th, 2021
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  1. Hi there,
  2.  
  3. My name is Maciej, I run the bookmarking site Pinboard, and I’m writing to ask for your help.
  4.  
  5. You joined the site back when there was a one-time signup fee. Back then, charging for bookmarking online was unheard of, and the fee was more of an anti-spam measure than a revenue model.
  6.  
  7. In 2015, I changed Pinboard over to a subscription site, where even “basic” users (who don’t use the archiving feature) have to pay an annual fee. But I did not make this change retroactive, since that felt like going back on a promise.
  8.  
  9. Today I’m asking you to voluntarily change the way you use the site by going to https://pinboard.in/convert and converting your account to a ‘modern’ one, the kind you have to pay for every year.
  10.  
  11. Let me explain why:
  12.  
  13. First, it will allow me to do more active development on the site. As a solo developer, this has become difficult as the site gets bigger and older. I not only run and maintain all the code, but I also install and fix the physical hardware, keep up with the various patches and breaking changes at every level, run and test backups, and try to keep up with big changes in the way the web works (like the huge move to javascript, which is hard to archive).
  14.  
  15. I would describe my work like single-handedly running a restaurant in an old château. It’s cool and fun, and the ambiance is great, but occasionally the soup is served cold or not at all because I have to chase a bunch of bats out of the kitchen, or replace a collapsed beam, while the diners sit and wait. This is no fun for either me or the diners, who rightfully complain that it ruins their dinner.
  16.  
  17. Having more paying users would let me hire some dedicated carpenters and and bat-chasers that would let me focus on the cooking.
  18.  
  19. Second, it’s become rather hard to have two populations of users, one of whom pays annually for a service that the other gets for free. Right now, about 2/3 of Pinboard users with basic accounts are people who signed up, like you did, in 2009 or 2010 with a one-time payment. The remaining 1/3 pays $22 a year. I have noticed this has created some feelings of annoyance in the paying group, odd expectations in the one-time group, and a general confusion about pricing policy.
  20.  
  21. Third, there are a bunch of new features I want to get out, like making the site look decent on phones, better tag editing, PDF uploads, an improved crawler (that is not stymied by javascript-heavy sites) and above all a more functional API to encourage third-party developers. Even if you don’t care about any of these features, some of them (like the API redesign) will make the site much faster for everyone. But to do that, I need to hire some help, since the site is too big for one person to maintain and do feature development for at the same time.
  22.  
  23. I even have a person in mind—a great Romanian guy who interned with me in 2013, and is a longtime fan of the site. He’s capable, effective, and I would love to work with him again. And as a way of thanking you, converted users will get access to these features first.
  24.  
  25. Since this is Pinboard, you are also welcome to ignore all of the new stuff and just use it the way it has always been.
  26.  
  27. So my pitch is this: if you are getting more than $1.80/month of value from using Pinboard (which is what the site costs these days), I ask you to convert to a regular account as a token of your support.
  28.  
  29. Tradtionally, a company in my position would take outside investment, or bring in a VC with a big story about growth, or pivot to a new market. But I much prefer for it to the site to remain independent, ornery, and self-sufficient. I take my work seriously and want the site to be around for the rest of my professional life.
  30.  
  31. If you can help me do that by putting things on a firmer financial basis, then I’ll be grateful to you! And I promise you will see the benefits.You’ll even get emoji flair (optional) to go next to your username. It’s a win/win/win/win proposition.
  32.  
  33. That URL again is: https://pinboard.in/convert
  34.  
  35. Let me know if you have questions, or comments, or find this request deeply offensive, or deeply inoffensive, or anywhere in between. Right now I’m reaching out to just the oldest of old users, and would be grateful to hear your thoughts.
  36.  
  37. Kind wishes,
  38.  
  39. Maciej Ceglowski
  40.  
  41. ——
  42.  
  43. A very brief FAQ based on responses I’ve gotten so far:
  44.  
  45. Q. I want to support you. Can I just donate some money instead?
  46.  
  47. A. My main goal is to simplify the billing model. If you hate the idea of subscriptions, there are multi-year plans (with big discounts) so you can treat it as a quasi-donation. If you’re worried that you can’t afford the service, then please just wait until times get better. I know it’s been a hard year for many people.
  48.  
  49. Q. I barely use the site. Do you want me to close my account?
  50.  
  51. A. You are absolutely welcome to stay. If you do decide to close your account, you can do it on your profile page.
  52.  
  53. Q. What happens if I convert and then stop paying you? Do I lose all my bookmarks?
  54.  
  55. A. No. Overdue accounts on Pinboard get put into read-only mode (but the export function still works). Bookmarks are never deleted without your consent.
  56.  
  57. Q. How dare you?
  58.  
  59. A. I say, my good sir.
  60.  
  61. Q. Will you do an iOS app?
  62.  
  63. A. I don’t want to kneecap third-party developers, so my first step is to make that newer API that should make their lives easier. My hope is those changes will give a boost to the app ecosystem (though take a look at Pins for Pinboard, which is new and pretty nifty).
  64.  
  65. Q. What is your succession plan for the site?
  66.  
  67. A. Someone else will write you and hit you up for money.
  68.  
  69. I hope that covers it all! Thank you all again.
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