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  1. Describing the arrangements which have been made for funding of the nLab in collaboration with the Topos Institute. The page, linked to from the home page, is intended to be fairly general; specific requests for donations can be made elsewhere.

    v1, current

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorUrs
    • CommentTimeFeb 28th 2021

    Great, it’s happening!

    I have added a section

    Donate!

    with a vivid pointer to the donation interface.

    diff, v2, current

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorUrs
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    I have updated the wording slightly (“will carry out” to “is carrying out”) and I made every mentioning of “dontat-” hyperlink to the section that explains how to dontate.

    Moved the section “A community endeavour” to after the section “Donate”, where it seems to fit nicely.

    diff, v3, current

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorDavid_Corfield
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    Might it be worth giving some idea of how the donation drive is going, or at least how this might in the future be communicated? People like to have a sense of progress to a target.

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorRichard Williamson
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021
    • (edited Mar 2nd 2021)

    Brendan is keeping me updated, I can say that on the first day, without very wide publicity yet, we have already raised enough for this initiative to be considered a success; it is quite remarkable actually! If the donations keep coming, we may be able to secure the future of the nLab for a long time. Let me know if there’s any more information that you need.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorDavid_Corfield
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    That’s great to hear! I see on the other thread you speak of reporting milestones. I imagine there will be a surge over the first few days.

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorUrs
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021
    • (edited Mar 2nd 2021)

    without very wide publicity yet

    I have announced on Twitter (here) and from reaction there I gather a fair bit of donations are coming from users there.

    some idea of how the donation drive is going

    Yes, eventually we should give some kind of feedback on funding goals achieved/remaining open. Currently donors are throwing their dollars into a black box.

    On the “funding the nLab“-page we might put a list with goals, like

    • funding the server – costs: xx per quarter – funding needed: currently this is funded until Summer 2022.

    • getting coffee to keep us going – cost: yy – funding needed: yes, always

    Something like this.

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorRichard Williamson
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021
    • (edited Mar 2nd 2021)

    I think the funding from this round should be dedicated purely to the infrastructure costs. This is what is written at funding of the nLab. I wouldn’t call that a black box! It is difficult to say exactly what our costs will be until we are up and running, since AWS is a pay-per-use model, but some hundred dollars per year max I would think. After the funding call has run for a while, I will make some kind of rough estimate as to how many years the funding will cover. I can say that we already are up to several years. In the best case, perhaps we could by the end of the funding round get up to 20-25 years or more, then we need essentially never think about this again for a very long time!

    • CommentRowNumber9.
    • CommentAuthorUrs
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    I wouldn’t call that a black box!

    Not concerning the broad purpose, but the whereabouts.

    Myself, I have, currently, no idea if or when I need to make another donation.

  2. Completely agree that we’ll need to add something to the page :-). Let’s just let it run for a day or two, I suggest.

    • CommentRowNumber11.
    • CommentAuthorUrs
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    Sure, no rush!

    • CommentRowNumber12.
    • CommentAuthorDavid_Corfield
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    I’m not sure we could justify sitting on money earmarked for use too far ahead if donors have the impression they’re funding current operations.

  3. It does say on funding of the nLab that the aim is to be able to run the nLab for several years. Perhaps we need to tweak the wording to emphasise that the aim is to fund the infrastructure for as long as possible?

    • CommentRowNumber14.
    • CommentAuthorDavid_Corfield
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    There’s probably a way to go, but I should think 10-15 years would be quite enough. ’Your contribution will help see us through 2040’ seems odd. No doubt, there are other uses for the money we can appeal for.

  4. Yes, I agree, 20-25 were more or less random numbers :-).

    • CommentRowNumber16.
    • CommentAuthorAlec Rhea
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    If we could get an estimate of the yearly costs that would be great; assuming it’s really south of a grand I’d be interested in donating a years worth of funds.

    • CommentRowNumber17.
    • CommentAuthorDavid_Corfield
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021

    That’s very generous of you, Alec. Would Brendan be able to tell us, Richard?

    • CommentRowNumber18.
    • CommentAuthorRichard Williamson
    • CommentTimeMar 2nd 2021
    • (edited Mar 2nd 2021)

    Brendan is responsible just for the financial side of things, I will still be responsible for the technical infrastructure.

    It is really very difficult to make an estimate, as there are numerous ways to set things up. If we just copy the current setup, where we have a single server with everything on it, we’d probably need something like an m4.large EC2 instance, which is $0.1 per hour, which would be $876 per year, or a t3.large or t3a.large instance, which are $0.0832 and $0.0752 per hour respectively, so $729 and $659 per year.

    However, we will almost certainly not do this, and instead have the database on an RDS instance. We’d probably need db.t3.medium, which is $0.068 per hour, but then could have a smaller EC2 instance, say t3.medium, which is $0.0416 per hour. We then end up at $960 per year.

    But we’d almost certainly not do this either, and rather have the nLab pages, which are static, live in an S3 bucket. S3 page storage is $0.023 per GB per month. We have about 1.7GB currently. In addition, we have some files stored. Say 2GB total. S3 page views is $0.0004 per 1000 views. We have (or had, I have not checked for a while) typically something like 10000 non-robot page views per day, maybe double or triple that in total. S3 page renderings are $0.005 per 1000 renderings. This would typically be about 500 per day, although it can be more. We’d then be able to use a much smaller EC2 instance, I think t3.micro, which is $0.0104 per hour. If I’ve not made a mistake, this S3 bucket setup plus t3.micro EC2 plus db.t3.medium then comes to $693 per year.

    It would probably also be a good idea to have one EC2 for the nLab and one for the nForum. There will almost certainly be some other small (and not very expensive) bells and whistles that we need as well.

    All that said, what I would actually like to do is set up a serverless architecture, where we use ’AWS lambda’ functions, rather than EC2 instances. We could bring the database size and hence cost down massively if we were to avoid storing the content of edits in it. Once we have a setup which we know is powerful enough for our needs, it is possible to ’reserve’ instances for a period of time rather than pay on-demand, which saves a lot of money. Etc. There are many, many factors, and many possibilities to choose from. In the end I think we could certainly hope to bring the cost below $500 per year, maybe quite a bit below.

    I hope this gives some kind of idea. Apologies that at this point it is not really possible to very precise (at least not without the risk of choosing and being tied to some infrastructure which does not meet our needs).

    • CommentRowNumber19.
    • CommentAuthorAlec Rhea
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2021
    • (edited Mar 3rd 2021)

    Much appreciated Richard, an average of those numbers works to give an idea of how much to donate. Looking at all that technical jargon reminds me that there’s crucial wizardry happening in the background keeping this place running that I’m still blind to, and I really appreciate you and others working tirelessly to benefit the nlab in that way. (of course I also appreciate contributors of mathematical content!) And thank you David, but the nlab is a wonderful resource that’s been indispensable for me and this is just a small thing I can do to give back.

    • CommentRowNumber20.
    • CommentAuthorUrs
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2021

    you and others working tirelessly

    It’s really mostly Richard!

    • CommentRowNumber21.
    • CommentAuthorAlec Rhea
    • CommentTimeMar 3rd 2021

    All the more reason to offer thanks; this really is a nice place you’ve got set up here, Richard.

    • CommentRowNumber22.
    • CommentAuthorRichard Williamson
    • CommentTimeMar 9th 2021
    • (edited Mar 9th 2021)

    That is indeed very generous Alec, let me second David’s thanks! Glad the numbers were helpful!

    • CommentRowNumber23.
    • CommentAuthorDavid_Corfield
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2021

    Would it be a good moment soon to let people know how the funding drive is going?

    • CommentRowNumber24.
    • CommentAuthorRichard Williamson
    • CommentTimeMar 10th 2021
    • (edited Mar 10th 2021)

    At the last count, we have received 6322 USD, and in addition some people have set up monthly donations, which come to 62 USD per month currently. If these monthly donations remain active, they should cover, or at least almost cover, our actual monthly costs.

    So far, 66 different people have given donations. ranging from 5 USD to 1000 USD. Sixteen have given over 100 USD. Without having calculated it (just going by eye), the median is probably somewhere around 30-50 USD; thus it was a good decision I think to wait until smaller donations were possible before asking for donations.

    I think we can without doubt say that this has been an unqualified success! People are very generous, and it shows the extent to which many value the nLab!

    For the more sociologically minded, it also shows that there exist activities which are demonstrably valued by the academic community which completely fall outside of its current formalised forms of recognition.

    The nLab should be able to survive for a number of years with these funds; very many years if the monthly donations remain active.

    From the end of March, my plan is to maintain a table on the funding of the nLab page which is updated monthly with the current state of the finances.

    Since we did not in the end put up any notice on the nLab (I felt it would be undignified given that many people donated within the first few days following the n-café and social media announcements and the announcement here, who are probably those most likely to donate), I don’t think we really need to ’close’ the request for funding at the end of March; there is no problem with allowing people to donate unprompted if they wish, the donation mechanism will remain active. We can just tweak the wording in a couple of places to indicate that we are not ’actively’ looking for funding from the end of March.

  5. Creating a table for a summary of the finances, with the latest figures I have after March 2020. The idea will be to keep this up to date. Also tweaking the wording slightly in such a way that we are not actively calling for funds at the present time, though it remains possible to make donations.

    diff, v5, current

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