servers and services deux (was: Re: [Sysadmin] Re: [theforum] We've got a serious problem here

David Kaufman david at
Fri May 14 10:18:04 CDT 2004

Martin Paul Burns <martin.burns at> wrote:
>> Everything else (l.e.o, b.e.o, d.e.o) is hosted on what is commonly
>> called "the rack".  This server is owned by a group [snip] This is
>> the server that I would like to replace [...] since it is not really
>> "owned" by
> A very big +1 on that from me. We bought the raq primarily to be a beo
> mirror, and took on the other services on an interim (and very short
> notice) basis last year when we lost our CSI hosting.
> It's not A Good Thing that so much of evolt's hosting is provided on a
> 'mates' basis on a box that doesn't directly control,
> particularly when we ( have cash at hand and pledges to
> more than cover a much better box for a year or more without much
> worry.

and +1 from me, too.

it seems that it would be quite A Good Thing for evolt, as an entity, to pay
it's own way.  so that it's not a never-ending burden on the generosity of
those who are hosting it currently, and to be able to tell would-be donors
where their money goes, and exactly why it is needed.  currently, there's a
post or two at the bottom of that, while
supportive, raise questions about why we are asking for, why we need, so
much money ($10K), and suggesting lower-cost bandwidth and hosting
alternatives.   they raise fair questions.

whether those specific hosting suggestions are valid options for us or not,
the posts were not responded to, which looks bad, IMO.  and they remain
un-addressed for a good reason, i think.  it would make me very uneasy to
have to answer direct questions like those from donating members with
something like, "Well, some members donate hosting (us), and others donate
*money* (you), we then take some of the money donated (by you) and pay some
of the people generously donating hosting (our peeps) to help offset the
great burden of their (our) donations".  the parenthetic "you"'s and "we"'s
are of course not part of the answer to the question -- i inserted them to
represent the likely suspicions of the donors.

at best such an answer makes us look (to the uninvolved but casually
suspicious observer) like a business disguised as a nonprofit, at worst it
makes us look like a total scam operation, while the truth lies at the other
end of the spectrum, we operate like that because we're just a disorganized
organization :-)  and most of our doors understand and can forgive that,
but they shouldn't *have* to.

as a not-for-profit (in the U.S. in particular) we have to avoid even the
*appearance* of impropriety.  many so-called charities turn out to be scams
and, well, this is the internet.  people are smart to be wary about giving
away their money.  of course we're not scamming, but the fact that we have 2
grand in the bank, we have people giving us money, and other people donating
hosting is just not sustainable, ethically. exists to share knowledge (at least that's best i can come up
with, sans a mission statement) we're not here to make money.  so, whenever
and wherever we do collect money, we need to be up-front about where it
goes, and why it's needed.

so i agree with Martin that, especially now that evolt is a legal entity, it
should use it's assets to pay it's own expenses, and should make it's
finances open and public.  this can only improve members' confidence in us
as a worthy, and *trust*-worthy, NON-profit organization.  i'm not saying
we should rush the process unduly.  but i think evolt should resolve to
consider the currently donated hosting services as strictly a *temporary*
solution that is needed, and in place *only* until evolt can get it's own
legs under it.

so i submit that our next order of business should be deciding whether evolt

1) buy or rent the current servers and pay the current providers
(resellers?) for the rack space and bandwidth, or

2) provision it's own new web hosting services (whether that means buy and
collocate, rent dedicated, rent shared or some combination) and transition
all existing services to these platforms

as i mentioned, i see this as a very important need.  it doesn't matter
whether the financial burden placed on those generous members who donate
hosting services actually *is* "offset" by the cash coming in, or not.
people will wonder.  we will either justify or deny it.  neither makes
sense.  we need to rearrange things to make it crystal clear where money
comes from, and where it goes.

the next order of business, i think, should be figuring out what our mission
*is*, then drafting and publishing a formal mission statement.  although
evolt is not *for* profit, it may very well *be* profitable (if we continue
to be loved by donors and frugal with bills), which means we may have
opportunities to accomplish Good Things with the funds that come in, to
support some higher purposes, once those purposes are clearly defined.

although we *could* merely strive to keep our assets low to avoid paying
taxes on them, i think it'd be infinitely more fun to be a *real*
non-profit organization, figure out a list of ways we can use money to
achieve some higher purposes and goals, ways to give back, to help and
serve the kind of people who are drawn to evolt, and then do that.  we'd
sleep good at night, knowing we do something worthwhile in addition to
our day jobs, and it's also better than paying taxes :-)

-dave (who's obivous secret agenda is to make his next business not a
"business" at all, and is probably just using evolt as a big experimental
test-bed for his own nefarious purposes)

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