My Preposter.us Plan

About a year ago, I began writing Preposter.us (known then as “Preposterous”) to precisely fill my personal needs for a blogging platform.  Now I’d like to refine and polish it into it’s purest form, and create a publishing system that is perfect for 1000 users .  I also want to use it as a test-bed for theories I have on building better software.

The first steps of this plan are already underway. http://preposter.us is now operational, serving Preposter.us blogs on independent servers. Preposter.us is no longer dependent upon Google for accepting email, and eventually will manage it’s own DNS as well, making its only dependency a public Internet address.

As they say, “freedom isn’t free”, and with this independence comes the cost of operating, monitoring and maintaining these systems.  However the real cost of this plan lie in software development which, unlike servers and network access does not tend to decrease in cost over time.

I intend to cover these costs by applying a variation of the 1000 True Fans ( http://kk.org/thetechnium/2008/03/1000-true-fans/) approach.  Instead of setting out to make Preposter.us grow exponentially, I plan to intentionally limit its membership to no more than 1000 users.  This serves two purposes:  The first is that it allows the operational cost to be predictable and decreasing over time.  The second is that it allows the software to preserve its narrow, specialized feature-set; effectively selecting only users for whom it is the right fit.

This second purpose is key because it is this deliberate, conscious limiting of product scope that allows not only the operational expense to decrease over time but also the software development expense, traditionally the more difficult of the two to predict.  By focusing on a narrow set of features and selecting only users who desire just these features the software development work can be focused on improving these features to the point of perfection.

Based on a year’s worth of observation of the Preposter.us software in action, and my familiarity Internet application development and operation, I have selected $10.00USD per user per month as the initial subscription rate for Preposter.us .  This provides a theoretical maximum revenue for the second year of Preposter.us operation and development of $120,000.00USD; a modest amount in the current market.

After the second year, operational costs and projected development costs will be reviewed and calculated and if the peak subscription count is reached, the price per user will be reduced to reflect the reduction of costs.  As operational and development costs are constrained, over time it’s possible that the overall cost of the system could become near or effectively zero.

To be crystal clear, Preposter.us will continue to be an open-source project, freely available to anyone who would like to download the code and host their own server.  A subscription will only be required to utilize the platform hosted at http://preposter.us .

In addition to this subscription model, I intend to use Preposter.us to experiment with the idea of users-as-investors. It’s all too common to see the time and effort users have invested in a platform discarded by software companies when the time comes that they are acquired by another company or otherwise sold or dismantled.  I propose that using a piece of software, even if it is free, entitles you to some portion of ownership.  For Preposter.us , this ownership is expressed in the ability for users to shape future product direction, and have a significant ability to influence choices that will impact the future of the platform such as sales, acquisitions, etc.

Simply put, paying users of Preposter.us will have the ability to vote on feature-level changes to the software and even on what bugs or defects are repaired first.  Should there ever come a time when an offer to acquire Preposter.us is made, the body of users will have a controlling stake in the product capable of blocking the sale or alternatively purchasing Preposter.us themselves.

The exact details of implementing these proposed models is under development, and it is the intention that these will continue to be developed as part of the development roadmap for the second year of Preposter.us ’s operation.  As these are not the most common approach to operating and developing a system there is work to do in discovering the best way to carry them out, but to be clear the intent is to design, develop and operate a system that is deliberately limited to an audience size that allows it to be financially viable while constraining software and product development scope sufficiently to generate the highest- quality software imaginable with a predictable, decreasing software development cost.

If successful, Preposter.us could pave the way for new software development business models that produce quality software in a sustainable fashion without exploitation.

For the moment, there is existing work to complete before Preposter.us will be ready to accept paid subscriptions (this is expected to begin during the first quarter of 2015).  In the meantime, http://preposter.us will continue to operate free-of- charge for curious or adventurous users.  As a reward for their efforts during this primordial stage of the platform, users who create blogs on Preposter.us during this time will be grandfathered in to the first year subscription program at no cost, so long as they maintain a posting rate of at least one post per month.

To get started, email your first post to: post@preposter.us

I look forward to testing these theories together,

- Jason