Patreon About-Face

14 Dec

As many of you have doubtless heard by now, Patreon has abandoned all plans to institute the billing changes which have caused such chaos and consternation over the past week. CEO Jack Conte has posted a public apology, and it’s a very good example of the genre: no making excuses; no placing the blame partially on us with weasel words like “if you felt like you were wronged”; no asking for forgiveness that will have to be earned, not given. There’s not even a single “awesome!” in sight; unlike most of Patreon’s missives, it doesn’t read like it was written by an over-enthused Valley girl. Patreon says that they still want to address the problem which allegedly prompted the changes in the first place — a problem which was never a problem at all for this blog — but they promise to do so in consultation with the community instead of unilaterally, and they promise to find ways to protect the small donors on which this blog and many other projects depend. “We are nothing without you,” Jack Conte writes. He’s correct; hopefully Patreon will never forget that again.

All of this leaves me, not for the first time this week, with a tough decision on my hands — and just after I’d settled on what seemed the right direction forward at that.

On the one hand, if not actively angry anymore I’m still highly irritated. This last week has cost me stress and restless nights, and I got the joy of devoting last weekend almost entirely to working out the technological bits and pieces that would be needed to roll out a more localized funding solution relying on Memberful. And of course this has all cost me a few dozen patrons, many of whom had been with me for a long, long time. I don’t blame them for jumping ship. Not in the least: I blame Patreon. So, there’s a part of me that still wants to wave my middle finger in Patreon’s direction and tell them exactly what to do with their apology.

Yet there is the cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face factor in doing so. I’m actually kind of proud of the Memberful solution I was pulling together, but it has its drawbacks. It relies on a lot of WordPress hacking to work just the way I want it to — the kind of thing that all of my experience with software tells me would become a source of constant headaches, needing to be tinkered with as new releases of WordPress come down the pipe. And I’m sure there are bugs which I would spend lots of time chasing, and then there’s the confusion inherent in offering dueling pledging systems for the same blog. I would also be forced to take on the role of customer-support guy: figuring out why people’s credit cards were rejected by Stripe, why they couldn’t get into their accounts, etc. I was prepared to take on that burden if there was no other alternative, but I’d prefer to avoid it. While I like to think I’m a decent programmer, I believe I’m a very good to excellent writer. (This serves as the universe’s way of compensating me for the staggering number of everyday things at which I’m freakishly terrible.) I’ve worked many years in IT, but now, at 45 years old, I want to be doing the thing I’m best at as often as possible. In other words, I’d like to just be a writer, and to let someone else — like Patreon — take care of the technical and customer-support stuff. That was actually working out pretty well before last week. So, my decision, arrived at not without some agonizing, is to stay with Patreon as this blog’s primary support mechanism.

Now we get to the heart of the matter. What does this mean for those of you who are or were patrons, but took action of your own in response to Patreon’s boneheaded move?

Well, those of you who front-loaded your pledges onto the first article each month to avoid the extra fees can change things back to the way they were in a few weeks. Because pledges are once again aggregated at the end of the month, just as they’ve always been in the past, I’ll pay the exact same amount in processing fees either way.

Those of you who jumped ship entirely have a harder decision. Obviously I would like to see you come back — would like for you to give Patreon another chance — but only you know whether that feels right. I’ve already seen the gamut of sentiment expressed in your comments over on my area of the Patreon site, from “I’ve lost all trust in Patreon” to “Sites backing down in the face of user outrage needs to be encouraged, not discouraged.”

If you can see your way to coming back, I’d be thrilled to have your support again. But if you just can’t justify it, I totally understand. This decision wasn’t an easy one for me either. Perhaps somewhere down the road, if Patreon continues to behave as they promise to from now on, you’ll feel that they’ve earned your forgiveness and your business. Either way, I know where the blame for the loss of your support resides. Hint: it’s not with you. Thank you for all of your support in the past.

And with that all said, I’m going to spend the next couple of days working on writing articles instead of stressing over Patreon and/or Memberful, publish a long and (I think) interesting article tomorrow, and then enjoy a weekend spent visiting the Christmas markets and putting up a tree with my wife instead of sitting hunched in front of the computer putting the final pieces of a new pledging solution in place. I figure I deserve it; it’s been one hell of a last seven or eight days. I hope you all have a similarly relaxing weekend in the offing.

Thank you for your past, current, and/or future support, as the case may be, and happy holidays! See you tomorrow with more piping hot digital antiquaria!


10 Responses to Patreon About-Face

  1. Johannes Paulsen

    December 14, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    You will never regret having the ability to say, “fuck you” to a company like Patreon.

    Keep things there, fine. But I canceled everything with them, and would love to continue my support for your site through a different path.

    • Jimmy Maher

      December 14, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Fair enough. One good thing is that I do have a mostly-complete alternate pledging solution in my back pocket if Patreon ever does anything remotely close to this again. Thanks for your past support!

      • Johannes Paulsen

        December 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

        even just a paypal link…..?

        • Jimmy Maher

          December 14, 2017 at 5:01 pm

          That’s already there. Just the click the “Donate” button on the right-hand sidebar. ;)

          I will reconsider rolling out the Memberful-powered solution as an alternative pledging system in January if I hear from a substantial number of people like you.

          • Tom

            December 15, 2017 at 9:17 am

            You might want to consider making it more obvious that the Patreon and Donate links are separate methods (e.g. make it say “Become my patron on Patreon / OR / Donate via PayPal”). At the moment I think some people assume that they’re both the same; I know when I was trying to sign up to your Patreon I accidentally clicked the PayPal donate button the first time.

            • Jimmy Maher

              December 15, 2017 at 9:34 am

              Good point. I really need to get away from the old way of doing PayPal donations and on to this thing (or whatever it’s called) anyway.

              • Nate

                December 15, 2017 at 4:39 pm

                Can you set up recurring monthly donations on PayPal? I’d switch to that.

  2. Iffy Bonzoolie

    June 11, 2020 at 12:29 am

    So, as I’ve been chronologically reading through [read: binging] your blog, your first Patreon post prompted me to sign up there. Then reading these posts I got worried I was doing it wrong this whole time!

    It seems like for now things are the same (I’m still in 2017, though), but you might consider going to all your old Patreon posts and putting a banner saying “go here for the latest information on supporting me!” Just so that people can up like me can know right off what the latest information is, and not worry about any tumult that may have transpired here.

  3. Simon N Goodwin

    December 29, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    I enjoy your articles (thanks due to Mike Taylor for bringing them to my attention) but don’t get paid regularly so regular subs are a no-no here. I did try Patreon first but had to delete the account (which they make hard to do) as soon as got inside and I realised they only allow recurrent payments from retained account details (the reason I nixed PayPal as soon as they started gouging ‘dormant’ accounts).

    So I have made a donation via PayPal (with madeup email and phone of course – neither they nor you need either) and had to guess which currency would reach you with least parasitic gouging en route. Having to deal with various organisations which demand Euros, Sterling or Yankee Dollars I can do all those and picked the latter, but would have preferred to make a free (to both) direct transfer if you’d offered that option.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Jimmy Maher

      December 30, 2022 at 7:59 am

      Thanks so much!


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