Tue 21 Oct 2014 6:31PM


RA Rory Aronson Public Seen by 38

Ads on OpenFarm are a very viable way to pay for operational cost and even development (after all, ads pay for most of the web). But is it the right/moral/best way to pay the bills, especially considering that we are a not-for-profit, open-source, community created site for social good?

I'd prefer to keep this conversation specifically about Ads, their implementation, and their ramifications, NOT about other possible revenue mechanisms. Those can be discussed in other threads.


Rory Aronson Tue 21 Oct 2014 6:36PM

I gather that in general people feel strongly against ads, especially those from Google that rely on a lot of user data to be effective, and are almost always obtrusive. I think Ads implemented in the Google way are no good, but I am not against Ads on principle.

I'd like to explore some other questions: How might advertising be implemented in a way that adds value to users and is not obtrusive? What are the privacy concerns? Are Ads ok when opted into?


Ryan Tue 21 Oct 2014 7:45PM

I would love for us to be on the forefront of proving that a site can be viable without ads (keeping some other ideas out of this discussion). That said I feel like there are three ad categories: generic, untargetted ads, individual-targetted ads, and categorically-targetted ads. The first are generally terrible, and the second requires a lot of info about our users that we don't want to provide, the third being generic ads pertaining to a subject like (seeds for winder, gardening supplies, etc) like Ravelry does (point made in the GrowStuff article; I am not as opposed to these… that said I don't like when Instructables get's taken over by Radio Shack and Home Depot and the like.

Companies that come to mind for "good" advertising include StackOverflow with their job listings; perhaps we could offer simple ads to Woofing farms or seed companies? I'm not opposed to a referral model in partnership with a seed side or something, but I don't see it making us enough; maybe I'm wrong.

TL;DR: I guess as a whole I think good ads are really hard to do and it'd be awesome to prove that we can work with a different model, but maybe one that doesn't have to beg as much as public radio and Wikipedia do :/


simonv3 Wed 22 Oct 2014 12:18AM

Yeah I wouldn't (mentally, though I get it logically) clump StackOverflow's job listings into advertising, and was actually thinking about something like that last night. Since we'll be location oriented, we could even target location specific listings to users. I think that this starts falling into the rabbit hole that gets talked about in the Growstuff article, but I wouldn't say we can't figure it out. If anything we can produce a nice OSS module out of it that we could give to other people.


Markus Osmers (mo22) Wed 22 Oct 2014 9:43AM

Away from google it is hard to have a advertising network involved that gave you prefferences on what to show up as ads and in which style, as google is the only one giving you choices to realy control advertising and not doing your own ad business at all.

But hey there's also a way to do it totaly on our own.

Get a little more complicated and, sorry Rory, it then will be based on more than just adding ads to the site to make it easy and useable.
What I have in mind is to allow small companies around the growing, farming and gardening buisiness to register as those and then make them able to have a diffrent type of profile including a listing in a local directory. And this could be very chosen ones that are allowed to do that. Also we could write up a policy to have them backlinked from their own webpage to open farm to get access.
To give them the choice then to have a free or premium account while premium will include to be in the ad loop.

But then, and this might be important to everybody against ads at all, just show up these ads on the pages of the directory and the company profiles.

So this way we would offer a win win situation to small companies which would may generate a lot more users on the big scale. But also offering our users if they realy look for such thing to have an owerview about lokal companies. May a ranking system would be nice.
The premium business profile could have some more options as the free one to make it a little more attractive, which would be another story and could be done later.

So this way it will be easy to implement a usefull ad system on our own, don't have ads everywhere but there, where it is may usefull to the users, and also supporting the small comanies arround this business.
As with a yearly fee for the premium thing theres also no need to have complicated code and data to come up with and to maintain. There's no need for reporting data about klicks, conversion etc.

Sorry again that this isn't just about ads, but in my opinion this needs this kind of view to it when not dealing with an advertising network.


Mike Beggs Wed 22 Oct 2014 2:32PM

I do not support ads that appear everywhere. If I understand the idea from @mo22, I agree that limiting ads to just a directory page or a "Market Place" page would be fine. When reading garden magazines, I prefer to browse the directory/ads on the last few pages where I can scan (usually organized by topics) for potential products, services, etc. Making that listing organizable/filterable by location would also be a nice feature. I dislike the ads that appear in the margins, or are interspaced with the text or graphics, and horror of horrors: pop-up window ads. I recommend ads be considered as information for the user and not for revenue. Therefore, place the ads in a specific location and manage the content so it is useful and user oriented, just as we would manage any other content on the site.


Rory Aronson Wed 22 Oct 2014 4:51PM

I like the idea of paid-for business accounts ($25/year or something) that allows the business to create a profile page with their contact info, and keep an inventory of what types of seeds, plants, and other tools they usually have on stock.

On Growing Guides, there could be a "Shopping" section that shows users which local suppliers have the seeds and tools that are explicitly called for in the Growing Guide they are reading. This would be really valuable to users I think. If there are no local listings, we could throw in a few Amazon affiliate links.

There could also be the directory or map view as mentioned above.

Slightly off-topic: It would be neat if the business profile could be free if that business creates a Guide or two!


simonv3 Thu 23 Oct 2014 9:25AM

Setting up a marketplace is probably not too much effort, though I do have some questions:

  • How do you do quality control? Does a company have to meet certain requirements? Do we have to verify them? Then what if it's just a person selling seeds from their backyard?
  • Is this a catch-22? For the marketplace to be attractive to users it needs a lot of local businesses on it. To get businesses on it, there need to be a lot of users browsing it.
  • How do we get our initial businesses on there? Do we have to reach out to them? Or do we just wait until they sign up (how many gardeners do you know that are actively looking for opportunities like this on the internet, and will find them without someone pointing them out to them?).
  • Will users start using this over sites like gumtree and craigslist?

Mike Beggs Thu 23 Oct 2014 2:14PM

@simonv3 excellent questions and ones that will likely require concerted effort to adequately address. My sense is that a marketplace is not a priority at this time and while I like the ideas from @roryaronson, this may be a topic to be addressed if and when the question of advertisement and/or searching for products reaches a level of interest such that the effort to set it up looks worthwhile. Just my opinion.


Rory Aronson Thu 23 Oct 2014 4:04PM

Lots of great questions to be answered @simonv3! Hopefully we get some clarity from the work the business students are doing over the next 6 weeks. I don't think any of the revenue features are a priority right now as we currently have plenty of money to survive. But, I think it's great to have this conversation early and often because it is going to be a hard one to answer well when the time comes.