[theforum] What is evolt, where is it going, and can I come, too?

David Kaufman david at gigawatt.com
Thu Sep 7 23:02:54 CDT 2006

Hi Alan,

Alan Lloyd [www-ss.com] <alan at www-ss.com> wrote:
> Hello
> Couple of points 1)
> ...going by the archives these lists [...] have died
> [...] I suggest disbanding them and moving all these groups
> functionality back to theforum.

I agree with Judah's point that, while the lists certainly have no 
traffic now, they were created at a time when there was enough traffic 
on theForum that they needed to be spun off from the main discussion so 
as not to distract one another.  And I hope that such a day will come 
again!  I'd vote to leave the lists in mothballs in the hope that they 
will be needed.

> 2) On another note how is evolts finances? Who pays the server bill 
> now?

That would be me.

Here's the Reader's Digest condensed version of my involvement with 
Evolt (or, for the answer to your question, feel free to scroll down to 
the next to last paragraph and bypass my wordy digressions).

The List spawned a thread about ideas for funny web-dev T-shirts one 
day.  I always need those (and coffee mugs too!) so I setup a Cafepress 
store.  www.cafepress.com/evoltgear

I set all the prices to 5.01 over cost, and donated the proceeds to 
evolt.  It was popular for a month or two, but sales dwindled to 
all-but-nothing over time.  Currently about 2 or 3 items a year get 

Elfur and I became co-treasurers when Marlene quit (due to a bout of 
apathy not unlike Dean's, and after a period of silence on these lists 
not unlike the current one).  We registered Evolt as a non-profit with 
the IRS to obtain a tax-id number so we could open up a bank account in 
Evolt's name because Marlene had been holding onto a number of donation 
checks that were made out to Evolt (an entity which at the time didn't 
legally exist and couldn't cash checks).

When we started running Google ads on beo, Google needed that tax-id # 
and mailed us paper checks, so it was A Good Thing "we went legit" and 
got the bank account.  Google has since switched to direct deposit, 
which An Even Better Thing, because it means I didn't have to physically 
deposit checks to a physical bank out in meat-space anymore, I just have 
to remember to log in to the Google and the bank's websites from time to 
time to make sure the deneros are flowing, which I do with some 
regularity (and which, they always are).

Then one fine day (not unlike today) we all decided to delurk and debate 
our hosting situation.  All of our hosting was donated at that time by 
generous evolters, and there were different servers belonging to 
different members, perfoming different tasks, scattered hither and yon 
about the planet.  From time to time one of these benefactors would quit 
in apathy, or have a change in life-circumstances, financial stability, 
go to prison for securities fraud, transform suddenly into a space 
creature wake up one morning a meglamaniacal control freak.  Well, okay 
mostly they just chose to stop but for whatever reasons humans flake 
out, leaving an evolt server or service somewhere hither or yon that 
used to do something, not doing it anymore.  In some cases (as the evolt 
lore from before my time goes) some such incidents resulted in 
significant down-time, some in data loss or the need to rewrite lost 

Now that evolt had a modest net egg in the bank and a small (but steady) 
stream of income from Google, it was determined that this sort of shit 
should never happen again, and evolt rented its own dedicated server 
which it has paid for with its own ads, happily ever after.  It became 
self aware shortly after that and began to turn on its creators -- no, 
wait.  That was in Terminator II.

I am proud though, that it has its own income, pays its own rent, 
doesn't ask me for walking around money and especially that it does it 
all electronically while we all sleep (and lurk).  In the same vein, by 
the way, the fact that the sysamin list "is dead", is a fabulous 
success.  The system has needed no administration?  It processes the 
volume of mail and web traffic that it does with little or no human 
intervention for months at a time?  Business could learn a thing or two.

As for our financial situation, we have around $1300 in our paypal 
account, almost $500 in the checking account.  We pay $69 a month to 
ServerMatrix for the lowest end dedicated server money can buy, and 
GoDaddy gets $8.99 a year for each of the three domain names: evolt.org, 
evolters.org and evolt.eu.  On the income side, I'm contractually bound 
not to disclose the super-secret number of greenbacks Google wires us 
periodically, and anyway it varies somewhat, but I will tell you that 
the balances above have scarcely changed at all since I became treasurer 
almost 3 years ago.  In other words, our primary source of revenue 
neatly (and purely coincidentally) meets our primary monthly expense, 
while our donations and merchandise-sales trickle in, insignificantly at 
best, slowly accumulating.  We pretty much effortlessly balance upon our 
balance sheet.  Which is, I suppose, as it should be.

As for the future of evolt?  Participation levels wax and wane -- so 
what?  New, quality articles seem few and far between at times lke now 
but, taking the long view, so many of our *existing* articles are in the 
top couple of Google hits for their subject matter, and the subject 
matter is something we all care about, so I don't think "evolt is dead" 
or even dying, just because it is sometimes quite quiet.  Maybe it's 
thinking.  The beast may sleep but we know it lives because the The List 
breathes.  This community began as a mailing list and that list will 
always be its core, as far as I'm concerned.  Despite our own strange 
psychological need to form committees, little inner circles, appoint 
titles and gather around in special interest groups (and despite the 
IRS's requirement that we choose to categorize ourselves within one of 
its non-profit "categories of activity") the only "organization" evolt 
has ever had is just whatever it needs for the list to continue to send 
and receive email to all the people in the world who want to communicate 
(or just listen) and associate (however loosely) with all the other cool 
web workers of the world, for free.  And I feel that that's okay.


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