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A Non-traditional Open and Cooperative Business Proposition

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User offline. Last seen 11 years 31 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23
Again, I agree. What do

Again, I agree. What do monserrat and dylunio have to say?

monserrat's picture
User offline. Last seen 10 years 7 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-11-11
Web development business

Well, if we have a look from the beginning to last posts, we have already developed several good ideas. I think the long discussion was worthwhile. Let me tell something about Taco's post.

Taco wrote:

Quote:

Let's take a systematic approach and answer these questions, in this order:
1 Who are we and what are our talents and weak sides and coincidental possible advantages and disadvantages?
2 What do we want to do with those talents?
3 How do we combine these wants of the different members?
4 How do we make money doing that?
5 What type of cooperation is the most suitable to do so?
6 How do we arrange that? (legal stuff and such)
7 Does everything make good business sense? Yes? Then go for it!

1) My programming skils are in Pascal and Eiffel, a bit in C/C++ and Java. I need to learn much more of PHP. I've done something with CMS Xoops (after knowing it in Libervis). I'm a more analytical researcher, especially in Informatics and Society, where I did my PhD thesis. I'm the older here, 42, but at the same I feel myself as a teenager to develop challenging new things, as this non-traditional business.

2) I think we want to make money using an inclusive way (solidary) of a for-profit business project, based on service/products, rather than on digital thing/products. I mean we would like to offer services that are based on our work to do the service, not on the property over the product (traditional way).

These services are still open, we have already written half a dozen of them. I think it's an excelente start, we may develop some of them. I like especially Taco's idea of 'writing/obtaining practical articles about free software and find a smart way to attach the discussed software to the articles; and/or to make innovative combinations of text, software and images'.

But with the talents we've got so far, I think that the web development business could be the first one to be developed. I will detail it soon.

3) We have to choose one of the possibilities first and develop it. It does not mean to abandon the other possibilities, just to let them to mature gradually, in discussing them from time to time. Naturally some of them will come up in a viable way eventually, and then we may also develop some of them.

4) For the web development business, we must have the proper skills to construct a website, to hire a server, to get a proper domain for the client (if needed), we must also have a methodology about how to construct the website (from client requirements to the final tests - a bit of software engineering), and the most important, we have to have a first client to develop these skills. To make money, we have to know how other competitors do this sort of service, how they charge clients, a methodology of pricing a service of web development (software engineering again). This may be part of our business plan, that we should prepare before getting into this service market (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_plan).

5) The type of cooperation, that would be suitable for us, would be I think (in a rough way) a discussion of what to do, first, to define a plan, then a distribuition of the first tasks with some committment of deadlines. New discussions to evaluate what have been done and new plans and tasks to be distributed among the members of our cooperative. I know that being far from each other may turn things more difficult, but that's the challenge we want to face, doesn't we? It might be necessary, if the group gets larger, a definition or choice of a project manager for each client, and other roles, like a money manager and a president to represent us in the market. Also, if we got a methodology to the steps needed, from the client's firt contact to the yielding the final web site, I think it would help a lot.

6) How do we arrange legal stuff and such? I don't know... we have to find out it. Another problem is how to get paid once we have defined the division of work. Let's say, just as an example, we've got a client and after delivering his website he paid U$ 1,000.00, and we are 5 members, U$200 for each of us for instance. What a system exists that may turn possible we receive his payment and send each part for us? (Croatia, The Netherland, Brazil, etc)?

7) I think yes! :-)

Well, I will continue later.

Monserrat.

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Monserrat wrote:For the
Monserrat wrote:

For the web development business, we must have the proper skills to construct a website, to hire a server, to get a proper domain for the client (if needed), we must also have a methodology about how to construct the website (from client requirements to the final tests - a bit of software engineering), and the most important, we have to have a first client to develop these skills. To make money, we have to know how other competitors do this sort of service, how they charge clients, a methodology of pricing a service of web development (software engineering again). This may be part of our business plan, that we should prepare before getting into this service market

It looks like you are describing the usual web development model where we first find clients who want a website built for their specific project, develop that website for them and then get payed for doing it. There is often a catch though. I've been reading some discussions by people who already do this kind of business and I think that what they are payed for is not just the work of building a website, but the transfer of rights over to the client. That means that the web design and software which is used by the website ends up being *owned* by the client, often as proprietary. That doesn't really support our ideals of cooperation and software freedom.

So the alternative is only that we strictly define certain rules for all of the web development work we do, rules which would have to be known to the client.

1) All software and design that we create will be licensed under a Free Software license (such as GPL) to be reused freely by the community. In essence, the only thing a client pays for is the actual work of developing his website, but the code of his website doesn't become his own nor under his total control as proprietary code.

2) We don't develop websites for clients who will use them to promote nonfree software and other anti-freedom things. I'm not entirely sure about this rule though. What do you think?

The first rule is the most important one though.

However, if we make such rules I'm not sure if we'll be able to attract enough clients to sustain that model and hence I'm still not completely sure if this model would be a good one. Maybe it will, if we can attract enough people who would value the fact that we GPL our stuff and if we can offer lower prices for our work based on the fact that we don't sell our rights to them. Opinions are welcome.

Monserrat wrote:

The type of cooperation, that would be suitable for us, would be I think (in a rough way) a discussion of what to do, first, to define a plan, then a distribuition of the first tasks with some committment of deadlines.

I think you roughly described the process that should work well. I agree we'd need some sort of a general methodology (template, guidelines etc.) that we would follow in every job we do. The roles would be divided based on skills. For example I can't do logic coding, so the coding stuff would have to go to someone who knows that well. I can do design elements though, like images, colors and overall style of the site. I'm not yet very good at more complex designs (believe me there are those much better at designing breathtaking designs), but in time I will develop my skills further and constantly improve quality.

Monserrat wrote:

Let's say, just as an example, we've got a client and after delivering his website he paid U$ 1,000.00, and we are 5 members, U$200 for each of us for instance.

Yes, an equal division of profit sounds fair to me, except possibly in cases where it is obvious that one of us does more work than another. In that case we'd have to agree on a percentages that everyone farily deserves, if that would make sense.

Monserrat wrote:

What a system exists that may turn possible we receive his payment and send each part for us? (Croatia, The Netherland, Brazil, etc)?

Well, PayPal doesn't work in all countries (such as Croatia), but there is a service which does: Moneybookers.com. I've been using them for a while and they've been pretty good. At least for distributing money among us this would be an excellent way. Once you go through the initial process of setting an account with them, it's very easy and convinient.

As for the way clients would pay money, we'd have to set up credit card processing because not all clients will be able to pay to moneybookers directly. It may be possible to set the credit card processor up with moneybookers to make things easier for us. I believe they have this option. This would be easiest for us because then the money from credit cards would go to one of our moneybookers accounts from which it would be easily distributed.

So, if it'll be possible to set up a credit card processor with moneybookers we'll be all set and ready, because the rest of it is easy. Smiling

EDIT: Of course, moneybookers for credit cards may be just a start. Later on we could set up a better system of charging money with a real merchant account in the country where the business is registered and a credit card processing gateway working with it. There are a few services in Croatia that do that. As for a better system of distributing the charged money among ourselves I'm not sure if there are any better options right now than moneybookers. As for online payments, one or more of us could eventually get a credit card which would help us deal with that. Until then, actually paying for certain services (that we may need in our job) could only be done via moneybookers and paypal (for those of you who can have it, though you'd first have to get the money from moneybookers and then upload it to paypal for that to work, or vice versa (if you're charging with paypal, by any chance, but distributing the earnings among us via moneybookers..)).

Yes, it could get a bit complicated for some cases, but I think it's nothing we couldn't deal with. There is obviously a way it can work.

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Daniel Memenode signature

User offline. Last seen 11 years 31 weeks ago. Offline
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I think the world isn't

I think the world isn't ready for a web design company that doesn't transfer ownership of the designs but releases them to the community instead. If we're going to do web design, it's better to have the community as our "clients", for example like in the idea presented in the secret thread elsewhere.

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Business Plan

Taco wrote:

Quote:

I think the world isn't ready for a web design company that doesn't transfer ownership of the designs but releases them to the community instead

I agree with Taco, if we are to begin a web design business, we cannot reduce too less our possible client market. If our client supports free software and free culture, oh! much better, of course, but at least at the beginning we should not worry too much about that.

Danijel wrote:

Quote:

but there is a service which does: Moneybookers.com. I've been using them for a while and they've been pretty good. At least for distributing money among us this would be an excellent way. Once you go through the initial process of setting an account with them, it's very easy and convinient

Nice to know it, I'll also have a look at this site. Anyway, it's good to have this option. I've once tried to use paypal and I didn't like much, a bit complicated to use it.

Well, there are also other issues: we need to prepare a business plan, a general guide to put all the stuff that we need or may nedd to open the web development business. One way is to find a business model template and to try to adapt it for our business plan. The model is just to help us to write down business plan. We may use the Wiki to do it.

I also think that we are too small to start the business. What about if we try to invite some people we know? I could ask Marcanth who is off I think for long time from Libervis, isn't he? And Stojic?

One thing that helps a lot is to make a work trainning before one goes direct to a real client demand. In doing this trainning we may have an opportunity to better know each other, to organise ourselves to work together, to plan and distribute tasks, to have a real experience, etc.

I've got an idea of this first trainning: maybe we can get a chance of a site that I'm in charge to construct. It's the site of ABPES (Brazilian Association of Solidary Economy Researchers) I'm a member of this association, and they ask me to construct this site. I've made a first version which is in http://eiffel.dcc.ufla.br/abpes/, but it's not very good and it's hosted in the computer of my office, at the university, an Athlon 1,300 MHz, a very poor server. Then I've got a proper server and domain, what is not difficult to obtain, at least in Brazil. And I've just started to re-construct using again XOOPS. The possibility is: I could ask ABPES to allow us to construct it as a trainning for our web development business. What do you think? They do not pay me any money, so did we, but as an exchange we could get a valuable experience. What about?

Well, I have to confess that one could easily think that I'm just trying to have free workers to construct a site that I'm in charge of. I want to make clear that is not the case. I could do myself surely. The point is the chance to have a real case of web development that we could use to learn how to organise our business plan.

That's the idea. Let me hear what you think about.

Monserrat.

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Monserrat wrote: I agree
Monserrat wrote:

I agree with Taco, if we are to begin a web design business, we cannot reduce too less our possible client market. If our client supports free software and free culture, oh! much better, of course, but at least at the beginning we should not worry too much about that.

I think what Taco means is not going into the web development business (where we design websites for clients) and compromising our ideal when the client wants all rights to the code rather than have it released, but not going into that kind of business at all if it should require such compromises. The alternative is building our own special website projects, not for other clients, but for ourselves. These sites would be web services used by the community (and wider) in a way that we approve off and charging for certain aspects of these services to earn money.

An example of one such special site is the idea presented in our private forum. (Check it out, you can see it form the forum index and is called "Co-op forum").

Monserrat wrote:

Well, there are also other issues: we need to prepare a business plan, a general guide to put all the stuff that we need or may nedd to open the web development business. One way is to find a business model template and to try to adapt it for our business plan. The model is just to help us to write down business plan. We may use the Wiki to do it.

That sounds good to me. It may be good to have a private section in the wiki for that though. What do you think? We could also use private co-op forum to discuss the details of it.

Monserrat wrote:

I also think that we are too small to start the business. What about if we try to invite some people we know? I could ask Marcanth who is off I think for long time from Libervis, isn't he? And Stojic?

It would be great if Marcanth could join. As for Stojic I haven't heard of him for a while. He must be away and busy. He usually comes periodically for brief periods of time. I might be able to contact him though to see if he'd be interested in doing something like this with us, although he seems to be quite busy with other things at this point.

Also, we have to know, of all who are involved so far, how serious and ready to go through with this completely they are. For now we have Monserrat, Taco, Dylunio, AndrewB and myself. Monserrat and Taco seem to be most serious of all while I'm not sure yet if Dylunio and AndrewB would want to go all the way to being actively involved in this business. This is not just moderatorship or helping out here and there. It's real business which requires a special level of responsibility (I know I'll have to implement a stricter work style and schedule, for one).

Monserrat wrote:

One thing that helps a lot is to make a work trainning before one goes direct to a real client demand. In doing this trainning we may have an opportunity to better know each other, to organise ourselves to work together, to plan and distribute tasks, to have a real experience, etc.

I've got an idea of this first trainning: maybe we can get a chance of a site that I'm in charge to construct. It's the site of ABPES (Brazilian Association of Solidary Economy Researchers) I'm a member of this association, and they ask me to construct this site.

That's a good idea. A training "mission" could be a good way of testing the devised process we intend to be working by and help us improve it based on any misses we might find. However, if we are not going to be doing the business of web development *for clients* but rather for ourselves (web services offered to the community) then the first project that we devise may be enough of a test. Still though, in any case I suppose some additional training for experience wont hurt, and we could even add the final outcome of our training work as an example for our portfolio. Smiling

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I don't like compromises.

I don't like compromises. And for sure I won't work for a traditional webdesign company, it really doesn't match my level of education.

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Same here. So I guess we're

Same here. So I guess we're clear on that.

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Joined: 2005-05-08
I go away for a couple of

I go away for a couple of days and you produce such interesting discussion for my return! Smiling

Regarding a web-design/development business, one could design a site, and then give it to the people who are paying us for it and also put it on our website to download. But some people will not want 'their' website to be available for other people as has been discussed, and we may loose business when people just go for the 'ready-made' versions (or something like that).

As for a business structure I'll put a few of my ideas in the boiling pot. If we are to be a co-operative company do we use a model where each of use e.g. puts $1 into the company, that $1 will give us a 'share' in the company, but no one is allowed more than one 'share' and they are of a fixed price. We try and make sure that each member of the co-op will have an equal task(s), and thus when people come to pay for what we have done the money will be split up equally.

Now what happens if one of the co-op doesn't pull their weight? They can be 'voted off' by the other members of the co-op, and when they leave they will receive their $1 share back. The same would happen if someone wanted to leave - they will get their share back.
Members who leave (voluntarily or not) will have already been payed their money for the projects which have been completed (where they worked their share), thus when they leave they are only entitled to their $1 share, despite doing some work.

Naturally there will have to be safeguard clauses to the above idea to cope with people falling ill, going on holiday, being disconnected from the Internet for a long period of time etc. There may/should be a way if you are experiencing one of these 'problems' to remove yourself from a particular project and the revenues in creates without having to leave the co-op.

As for how people are to pay us, I think they should pay the co-op an an entity and then the co-op paying its members. I think this is saner than having people sending equal amounts of money to each member of the co-op.

Anyway, I hope I've added something more to discuss in this scheme.

dylunio

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Danijel wrote: Quote: I

Danijel wrote:

Quote:

I think what Taco means is not going into the web development business (where we design websites for clients) and compromising our ideal when the client wants all rights to the code rather than have it released, but not going into that kind of business at all if it should require such compromises. The alternative is building our own special website projects, not for other clients, but for ourselves. These sites would be web services used by the community (and wider) in a way that we approve off and charging for certain aspects of these services to earn money.

Okay, I've misunderstood the point, sorry.

Also:

Quote:

That sounds good to me. It may be good to have a private section in the wiki for that though. What do you think? We could also use private co-op forum to discuss the details of it.

Yes, I think it's a good idea. Which's the best?

Quote:

Still though, in any case I suppose some additional training for experience wont hurt, and we could even add the final outcome of our training work as an example for our portfolio

Yes, this is another thing also: we could put the name of our organization (MediaMind, TechLiber, the name we eventually choose) in the site, and then to show the web developed for future clients :-)

Quote:

I don't like compromises. And for sure I won't work for a traditional webdesign company, it really doesn't match my level of education

I agree, and in the case of ABPES, I know they are open to support free software and culture.

Well, I think I may try to ask them about this possibility. Should I?

Monserrat.

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