An Open Letter to CodeFund Publishers

tl;dr: We are honored that you trust us to be your advertising partner. We take that trust seriously. We are working hard to get you more money and help your projects thrive. We’ve recently learned that our mission to help sustain open source is under attack.

Dear CodeFund Publisher,

I wanted to reach out to you to first thank you for being a part of the CodeFund publisher network. We are so excited to be a part of your funding story and help you continue to work on those projects you love without the need to worry about money as much.

I started CodeFund (originally Code Sponsor) back in July of 2017 as a way to help drive funds to open source projects on GitHub. Since then, I’ve dedicated myself to finding new ways to fund those that contribute to the developer ecosystem. I am also a co-organizer of the Sustain Summit (Brussels 2020) as well as a panelist on the podcast “Sustain”. I live, eat, and breathe sustainability for OSS.

Since June 2018, we have sent out over $250K to developers all over the world. Gitcoin, our sister company, has opened up the doors for people from anywhere in the world to generate revenue through code contributions totalling over $2.6M. Each month when we payout distributions, it reminds me of the “why” of CodeFund. We exist to support you.

Recently, Carbon Ads / BuySellAds (BSA) has been targeting our publisher network (you) with promises of higher payouts. BSA currently dominates the market on tech-based ads in our industry. They have deeper pockets and can afford net losses if it means getting rid of the competition. Not only does this attack impact our ability to provide consistent results for our advertisers, but it also impacts our efforts to sustain open source.

I understand that at the end of the day we all have to put food on our table. I am no exception. I’m often asked what the difference between CodeFund and Carbon/BSA is. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

CodeFund

  • Platform is 100% open source
  • Does not allow 3rd party tracking scripts
  • Does not set cookies when ads are displayed to track viewers
  • Open with finances (weekly report via newsletter)
  • Allow for ads to appear alongside Carbon/BSA
  • No lock-in or publisher contract

BuySellAds / Carbon Ads

  • Closed source
  • Allow for 3rd party tracking scripts
  • Sets cookies when ads are shown
  • Does not share finances, including what they charge advertisers (Carbon)
  • Restricts publishers from displaying any other ads alongside theirs
  • Requires publishers to sign a contract

Why are ethics in advertising so important to us? To shed some light on that, I’d like to share a personal story.

Back in 2012, I worked for a payday loan company that was owned and run by people that were very close to me. I had no reason to distrust them or the work that they were having me do. One day our office was stormed by cops and men in suits. We were told to step away from the computer and had to sit against a wall for hours while they took inventory of everything. Soon I had learned that this invasion was the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They had been building a case against the company I was working with for months.

After the “smoke cleared”, I had learned that our company was stealing money from those who applied for loans by applying a weird reverse double-opt out on upsells. To top it all off, I had learned that my code helped make this happen. I was absolutely mortified. I thought we were helping people in a time of need. Instead, we were kicking them when they were down. I fell into a deep depression, was misdiagnosed as being bipolar, and spent the next two years living in a cloud of guilt and shame. It damaged my relationships with those I trusted within the company. That experience has driven me to strive to be as ethical and honest as I can be. In my view, those standards are why CodeFund exists today and didn’t die off early last year.

To me, ethical advertising is more than a catchphrase or link bait. It’s a decision to uphold the privacy of people who have not chosen to give their data to these advertising networks. It’s the active prevention of allowing your users to be profiled and targeted based on data that is theirs and theirs alone.

When visiting one of the websites where BSA has ads, I can see that those ads are attempting to track me: 

Maybe this invasion of privacy doesn’t matter to you. But let me ask you.. Does it matter to the audience you’ve been working so hard to build? Is there a price you should receive for selling their privacy and data?

CodeFund is not profitable yet. We take only around 30% of the money that comes in the door. The remainder goes back to you. If we give you more, it makes it more difficult for us to become profitable and continue to sustain open source. Our goal has always been to give as much money to open source as we can. We are currently working on ways to generate additional revenue streams in order for us to be able to pay out higher rates. We’ve raised the prices of advertising with CodeFund several times over the past year. This is all in an effort to bring more money to our publishers.

CodeFund has a monthly burn of around $50k/mo. We payout approximately 70% of all gross revenue (before expenses) to our publisher network and open source projects. We are still about 1-2 years out from becoming profitable. For us to get there, we need to rely on our publishers to stay with us.

I’ve always considered you, our publishers as a partner with us in the fight to make open source more sustainable. Choosing CodeFund over Carbon/BSA is more than just a choice to potentially receive more or fewer funds. It’s choosing to help drive the mission forward. I hope that when you do receive the email from BSA/Carbon Ads for you to ditch us and go to them,  please consider more than just the money.

Your friend,

Eric Berry

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