Personal finance managers are complex applications, though it is only
recently that finance applications available under free licenses have
reached anything near the capabilities of the proprietary alternatives. In
the first part of this
, your editor introduced the three packages under review (GnuCash
, and KMyMoney
) and covered the
basic tasks of setting up accounts and entering transactions. A good
personal finance manager can do more than that, however. So this article,
the second and final part of this series, looks at a few advanced
Any spreadsheet can compute the balance of a banking account and let you
know just when that account became overdrawn. One of the useful things a
personal finance manager can do is to generate reports which provide a more
complete picture of
what is happening with one's money. Such reports can prove most useful at
those animated dinner-table discussions on why the accounts are
overdrawn yet again.
The financial situation may be disastrous, but at least you have a nice pie
chart explaining the situation.
For those who do need pie charts, GnuCash is currently the only viable
option. This program offers a wide set of reports in both tabular and
graphical formats, with a high degree of configurability. Unlike account
registers, reports are displayed in the GnuCash main window, so only one
can be viewed at once. Reports are persistent across sessions, so one need
not worry about having to repeat a lengthy series of customizations.
GnuCash can export reports to HTML files, nice for
posting a group's finances on the web. HTML export only seems to work for
the tabular reports, however; the others yield a blank page. There is a
"stylesheet" feature which affects both on-screen and exported reports.
Two stylesheets are provided: "ugly" and "ugly with brighter colors" (the
GnuCash developers used less informative names).
KMyMoney 0.8 does not provide graphical reports, but it does have a wide
variety of tables. The display is readable, and highly configurable.
Reports are persistent, but the mechanism takes a little getting used to.
When a report is created, it is represented by a tab in the top of the
report frame. The next time KMyMoney is started, that tab will be missing,
but the report (if customized) will appear in the tree-oriented list of
options. KMyMoney reports can be exported in HTML and CSV formats.
Grisbi, too, only offers tabular reports. There is an unbelievable number
of configuration options, obtained by navigating through two layers of
tabbed windows. The output has the requisite information, but is, in your
editor's opinion, relatively hard to read. While both GnuCash and KMyMoney
can create reports on investments, balances, and net worth (along with
transactions), Grisbi is limited to transactions only.
None of the packages reviewed offers a useful report seen in some
proprietary offerings: a projection of an account's balance into the future
taking scheduled transactions into account. Such reports are necessarily
inaccurate, but they can give a useful indication of whether trouble is
approaching in the near future or not.
GnuCash's graphical reports set it apart (for now - KMyMoney 0.9 will have
charts as well), but the truth of the matter is
that the tabular reports are the truly useful ones. Unless your
dinner-table budget discussions require using OpenOffice to present the
situation, pie charts and the like are not often helpful for real decision
making. KMyMoney's tabular reports are as good as GnuCash's, and arguably
easier to read. Grisbi's narrower range of reports detracts from its
Any worthwhile personal finance manager will have the ability to handle
transactions scheduled for the future. This feature can be useful for
future cash flow planning, speeding up the transaction entry process, or
for simply getting a reminder to send off that car payment before the repo
man shows up with a tow truck. Scheduled transactions can also be used to
handle loan repayment and to help track loan balances.
GnuCash has a well-developed transaction scheduler, currently the best of
the three packages reviewed here. The usual parameters can be set: amount,
begin date, number of occurrences, payment frequency, accounts to use,
etc. GnuCash has the widest selection of frequencies, and is the only one
which can handle semi-monthly events. Since semi-monthly paychecks can be
common - at least in the US - its omission in the other finance managers is
an annoyance. An existing transaction can be used as a template for a
scheduled transaction, which is a nice time saver.
Scheduled transactions can be entered automatically into the relevant
ledgers, or they can wait for a manual action by the user. Another feature
unique to GnuCash is a popup reminder of due transactions when the program
starts up; those transactions can be edited and entered immediately, or
that work can be postponed for later. The main window for scheduled
transactions offers both a list view and a six- or twelve-month calendar
showing when events will occur.
The GnuCash scheduled transaction code does appear to be a work in progress
in spots. Different graphical conventions in parts make it look like
something bolted on late in the development process. There is a mention of
variables which can be used in transactions, but no apparent way to use the
capability. Your editor was also able to crash GnuCash by playing with the
KMyMoney offers many of the features needed in a transaction scheduler, but
this feature needs a bit of work yet. Your editor succeeded in crashing
the scheduler when attempting to create an event from an existing
transaction; let it be said that crashes in a program intended to be
managing one's money can be disconcerting. That said, KMyMoney's scheduler
is close to what it needs to be.
The transaction editor contains the usual information. There is no
provision, however, for split transactions, and no reminder options. The
list of available frequencies does not include semi-monthly. It does offer
both "fortnightly" and "every other week," however, leading the user to
wonder just what the difference is. "Quarterly" and "every three months"
are also distinct options.
The main scheduler window comes up in a list view, sorted by transaction
type. There is also a single-month calendar view which is far less useful
than the multi-month calendar provided by GnuCash. The single-month
calendar has space to put actual information - payee and amount, for
example - on the screen, but KMyMoney, instead, just puts in a large, red
number showing only how many transactions fall due that day.
The list and calendar
views cannot be seen at the same time. One might think that
double-clicking on an event in the list view would allow editing that
event, but, instead, it switches to the calendar view. There appears to be
no way to get KMyMoney to step through transactions which have fallen due;
instead, they must be selected and entered, one at a time, from the list
Grisbi's scheduler is the least featureful and hardest to work with of the
set. A number of features, such as creating a scheduled transaction from
an existing register entry, do not appear to actually work. The editor is
awkward to use, and makes poor use of the screen space. There is no useful
calendar view. The list of available frequencies is quite small. If you
are a Grisbi user, you'll be able to create and work with basic scheduled
transactions, but it will be harder than it needs to be.
As mentioned above, none of the packages reviewed here is able to perform
any sort of future cash flow projection based on scheduled transactions.
Another missing feature, found in some proprietary packages, is the ability
to detect manual entry of (what appears to be) a regular transaction and
offer to create a schedule; this is not a feature that all users will miss,
Both GnuCash and KMyMoney have nice utilities for dealing with loan
payments. A series of dialogs collects the relevant information and sets
up an appropriate scheduled transaction. GnuCash displays a repayment
table when the loan is set up, but there appears to be no way to ever get
that table back later on. GnuCash also neglects to initialize the loan
account to the starting balance; the user must do that separately or the
loan balance will not be properly accounted. Both packages can handle
interest calculations and various add-on payments. Grisbi, instead, has no
functionality for dealing with loans.
No modern personal finance manager would be complete without providing the
ability to watch as one's money vanishes into the stock market. Both
GnuCash and KMyMoney have investment tracking capabilities, with similar
features. Grisbi, instead, lacks any sort of investment handling.
GnuCash and KMyMoney both treat stocks and mutual funds in a way similar to their
treatment of currencies: they are commodities which, at any given time, can
be exchanged for money at a particular price. Both of them can go to
online sites to update their idea of what stocks and funds are worth,
making it easy to get a snapshot of the value of a portfolio at any time.
The GnuCash way of dealing with stocks is borderline painful. The user
must create a "commodity" entry describing the stock, providing information
like the ticker symbol and where to get online updates. Then it becomes
possible to create a new account associated with that stock. Only then can
purchases and sales be entered. Sales are particularly obnoxious: one
might think that entering the number of shares sold in the "sell" column
would do the trick, but the Wrong Thing happens. One must, instead, enter
a negative number of shares. It is not clear why there are
separate columns, given this behavior.
KMyMoney is a little more straightforward, providing a set of dialogs which
hold the user's hand through the process of setting up a new investment.
The creation of individual accounts for each stock or fund is not required
(or, at least, is hidden from the user). "Buy" and "sell" operations are
easy to enter correctly. KMyMoney also has handling for brokerage
fees; GnuCash can do the same through split transactions, but the user must
take explicit action to make that happen.
KMyMoney has an explicit "dividend reinvest" operation, while GnuCash
forces the user to figure out how to get the same effect via the register.
GnuCash, instead, has an operation for dealing with stock splits.
KMyMoney makes do with "add shares" and "remove shares" operations, which
causes shares to arrive from (or disappear into) the void.
Both programs can generate reports showing the value of an investment
portfolio and return over a period of time. Neither, however, can handle
capital gains calculations - something that US users, at least, would
appreciate. Neither program can plot the value of a portfolio over time.
It does not appear to be possible to set up scheduled investment
transactions in either program.
Other notes and conclusion
Your editor imported one year's worth of financial transactions into all
three programs, and was able to make a couple of other observations. First
of all, the size of the resulting files varied considerably:
|Package||File size (KB)|
The interesting thing is that all three packages use (different) XML-based
file formats. KMyMoney compresses the file, however; when uncompressed,
the file weighs in at 725KB. Grisbi gains its space savings by using a
great many single-letter attributes.
The other observation is that KMyMoney is far slower to start up than the
other two packages.
As mentioned in the first part of this report, GnuCash has a whole set of
business-related features not found in the other two packages. These
include a database of customers, vendors, and employees, and the ability to
generate and track invoices. Job tracking is built in, and there is some
capability for dealing with tax tables. The business features have a bit
of an unfinished feel to them, however, and your editor suspects that very
few businesses are actually using them.
GnuCash also has a poorly-maintained ability to operate with
a back end. Sadly, this backend is unable to deal with business objects,
making it unusable by the group which would be most likely to want that
So which program would a grumpy editor recommend? One can start by
eliminating Grisbi. This application has reached a level of functionality
which, only a few years ago, would have placed it among the best available
in the free software community. At this point, however, it lacks too much
in the way of features, usability, and charm to be seriously considered by
Among the other two, GnuCash still comes out on top with regard to both
features and usability. Your editor hesitates to recommend GnuCash without
reservation, however. One of the most important things to do when
evaluating a free package is to come to a conclusion regarding the health
of the development community. Unless you plan to take over maintenance and
addition of new features yourself, it is nice to know that there is a
strong community behind the software.
The GnuCash development community appears, from the outside, to be stuck in
some sort of low point. The port to GNOME 2 has been ongoing for years,
but there still is little idea of when it will be complete; as a result,
distributors are considering dropping
GnuCash because the pain of maintaining GNOME 1, now used almost
exclusively by GnuCash, is getting
to be too much. Discussion on the development mailing list is muted, and releases are
increasingly scarce. GnuCash is at a bit of a crisis point. If its
developers do not resolve the GNOME 2 issue and get development moving
again in the near future, this outstanding application could be facing the
end of its active life.
KMyMoney, instead, is on a roll. The development community is active and
happy, features are being added at an impressive pace, and that 1.0 release
appears to be getting closer. At current rates, it will be a matter of
months, at most, before KMyMoney surpasses GnuCash in every area which
matters to most users - and keeps on going. For this reason, along with
the fact that KMyMoney 0.80 is nearly good enough already, your editor
would have to recommend KMyMoney to anybody looking for a free personal
finance manager at this time.
Comments (9 posted)
Lawyers, like the rest of us, are reacting with great interest and some
passion to the Author's Guild's copyright infringement lawsuit against
Google over its new Google Print Library Project, by which Google plans to
scan books from the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, the University
of Michigan, and the New York Public Library and make them searchable by
keyword. Google describes the project's goals like this:
The Library Project's aim is simple: make it easier to find relevant
books. We hope to guide users to books specifically books they might
not be able to find any other way all while carefully respecting
authors' and publishers' copyrights. Our ultimate goal is to work with
publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable,
next-generation card catalog of all books in all languages that helps users
discover new books and publishers find new readers.
Author's Guild describes it differently. To them, it's massive copyright
infringement, pure and simple. The lawyers are trying to figure out who is
right and which side is more likely to prevail, to the extent anyone can
predict a fair use case, but there are bigger issues raised by this
litigation. Here's the complaint [PDF]
and Google's public
statement in response. If you'd like to follow the lawyers'
discussions, here are some places where you can do so: Susan
Crawford's blog, William Patry's The
Patry Copyright Blog, and Eric Goldman's Technology
and Marketing Law Blog, and here's Andrew Raff's excellent collection
of attorney reactions on IPTAblog. You might enjoy reading Tim O'Reilly's thoughtful
take on the lawsuit, looking at it from a publisher's point of view.
How Google Print Library Works
What exactly is Google doing with Google Print?
First, what *isn't* it doing? It isn't making copyrighted books available
cover to cover against anyone's will. There are three parts to Google
Print. One, Google makes books available in their entirety only when the
books are in the public domain, like Project Gutenberg has done for years.
Second, when publishers or authors agree, it makes sections available, the
page the keyword appears on and a few pages on either side, but that is a
separate facet of the project, the Google Print Publisher Program. The one
the Author's Guild is fighting over is the third part, Google's Print
Library Program, and for that Google will show only a few sentences on both
sides of the keyword searched for, and not necessarily complete sentences.
You never see a full page, let alone an entire book. You will also find
bibliographic information and where you can find related information on the
web. In all cases, you will also be directed to nearby libraries and
bookstores where the book is available for purchase or loan, including
second-hand bookstores for out-of-print books.
Screenshots of the
three different offerings can be viewed here. And
Questions about the Google Print Library Project says that Google Print
is "designed to help you discover books, not read them from start to
finish. It's like going to a bookstore and browsing only with a Google
On the Google side, the
clearest arguments are presented by EFF's Jason
Schultz, who explains the four fair use tests; Jonathan Band's paper,
Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis" [PDF]; and Susan
Crawford on her blog, all of whom essentially say that copying entire
books in order to make a digital keyword-based catalog is transformative
and is fair use. Google isn't copying more than is necessary, they argue,
because you can't search for keywords unless you have the whole book
available. And anyway, where's the harm to the market? They cite the Kelly v. Arriba Soft case [PDF], in which the defendant made
thumbnails of other people's photos available online in response to search
requests, with links to the original works, if anyone wanted to purchase
them. Arriba's use was ruled fair use, despite the fact that not only was
an entire copy of the original made, a smaller version of it, in its
entirety, was made available to the public. Google is only showing a
sentence or two, not the entire book, for works where the author hasn't
given approval to show more. If Arriba is fair use, why isn't
Google Print's Library Project also?
If you wrote an article for a magazine and quoted a sentence or two,
likely no one would complain, because it's so obviously fair use, so why is
it a problem for Google to do the same thing with books? And what is the
difference between Google collecting the world's content made available on
the Internet so as to make it searchable and collecting keywords from the
world's books? Copyright holders can opt out. If Google Print violates
copyright law, why doesn't Google, period?
A common theme on both sides of the argument goes like this: Google has
had a fantastic idea, one that can benefit the human race, and almost
everyone hopes there is a way for them to do this. It's just a question of
how to do it right. Google is shouldering the expense and effort of making
a library card catalogue, so to speak, of the world's knowledge and
offering it free to the world. Can anyone *not* want that to happen?
Authors should want to be included so they can be found. The world does
its research now predominantly online, and authors, particularly authors
whose works aren't selling like hot cakes, have everything to gain from
being included in Google Print.
Author's Guild's Side
On the Author's Guild side is the argument that authors have the right to
decide when others may or may not copy their works. This case differs from
Google indexing the web's content, because a license can be
inferred when someone puts content on the web and doesn't take steps to
ban Google and other search engines with a robots.txt file. There is no
equivalent implied permission from the authors of these books.
Copyright law gives copyright holders the right to make copies, period, and
no one else can do so without permission. Libraries don't own the
copyrights to these works, so they can't give permission, it is
argued. Google will violate copyright law, no matter how little it shows
the world, because it will make copies and store them on its servers. The
onus is on Google to contact all the authors and publishers and get
permissions, one by one, they say. If that is so onerous and costly that
Google Print Library can't happen, so be it. The law is the law. This
side cites the MP3 decision
We might wish it could happen, some on that side say, but copyright law
is what it is, so it can't. Some even predict that this litigation will
shut down search engines like Google's. A few hope that happens. Some of
the complaints about Google Print seem more emotional than based on fact.
on Boing Boing by a publisher is particularly interesting:
Google Print for Libraries has two pretty major flaws. One
being giving a digital copy of all of our works to the participating
libraries where they will then most likely be used in e-course reserves
without any compensation to either author or publisher. University
Libraries have an awful track record at compensating for e-course reserves
and post our content frequently without any restrictions or security.
The second being Google will be profiting (through GoogleAds) on this
content again without compensating the authors or publishers. Fair use
should exclude commercial use. Even Creative Commons licenses (which I
grant to my flikr account) gives you that option.
If we expect the production of good scholarship to be a viable, it has to
be paid for somehow.
A little more accurate information may help calm these fears. First, fair
use doesn't exclude commercial use. I can write a parody, for example, of
your book, even if you don't want me to, and I can sell my parody. Second,
take a look at the terms of the Google-University of Michigan agreement
[PDF], which is available on the university's web site, and you will see that Google
has bound the University, and any of its partners, to limitations on access
and use. Further, should there ever be a dispute between an author and
Google about including a work, the work can be removed by Google, and the
University must then follow suit. Authors can always opt out.
What about the allegation that Google will make money from this project
from ads? Google says there won't be any ads on the books scanned from a
library. This is important, because the Complaint specifically alleges
that Google will be profiting by ads: "4. Google has announced plans to
reproduce the Works for use on its website in order to attract visitors to
its web site and generate advertising revenue thereby." As for the links
to bookstores, Google says that the links they will provide will not be
"paid for by those sites, nor does Google or any library benefit if you buy
something from one of these retailers." Clause 4.3 of the agreement says
that the service will be provided "at no direct cost to end users".
While the Author's Guild makes much of Google allegedly profiting off of
its members' work, a strong argument can be made that it's the other way around,
since Google is providing a new way for readers to discover their members'
books, even those on the deep, deep backlist, as you can see in this example.
Are There Problems with the Complaint?
Then there are some attorneys already pointing
out flaws, procedural defects they believe they see in the Author's
Guild complaint. It is supposedly a class action, but some see a problem
with class certification. The complaint defines the class as all persons
or entities that hold the copyright to a literary work that is contained in
the library of the University of Michigan.
Class action lawsuits are supposed to represent the group the few who are
named allegedly represent, but Lawrence Solum, who is an author, a member
of the plaintiff class in the sense that he has several works in the
University of Michigan's library, opposes
the lawsuit and says he will be harmed if the Author's Guild prevails:
I have a very strong objective interest in Google Print succeeding --
because as a scholar, I benefit from the dissemination of my works and
because reaching agreement with Google will be costly to me and Google,
essentially killing the project. A substantial intraclass conflict of
interest destroys "adequacy of representation," making class certification
inappropriate, both under the federal rules of civil procedure and under
the due process clause of the fifth amendment of the
U.S. Constitution. . . . Pro-bono representation for intervenors opposing
Is it Copying That Causes Harm, or Distribution?
Think about brick and mortar libraries. Suppose I were a librarian. I
want to catalogue every book in my library and do it by keyword, so readers
can come to the library and look up information by keywords on index cards
that I laboriously file alphabetically in file cabinets. Each keyword
will show you where in that library you can find a book that uses that
keyword, with the page given, and additionally tells you where, in nearby
bookstores, you can buy the book.
Would my painstaking work be a copyright offense? It's laughable to even
think of it.
Now, suppose I take all my index cards, and I laboriously hand type them
into a computer. I have a computer database now, listing every
keyword. Now have I violated copyright? Again, it doesn't pass the laugh
test, does it?
But what if I realize that instead of the hand method, all I have to do is
scan in the whole book and then pick out keywords by algorithm. Now am I a
copyright infringer? If so, why? On the technicality that I had to scan
in the whole book, thus making a copy, in order to break it down into
keywords for my card catalogue of my library's contents? Purists for the
law will say "Yes. You are an infringer," because you made a copy.
And they are right. You did. But exactly who is harmed by this scenario?
The end result is exactly the same, whether I do the work by hand or by
computer, except that Google deliberately limits how much I can see,
whereas in the library, the keyword would lead me to the entire book, which
presumably I could borrow, take home and scan or Xerox myself, if I don't
care about copyright.
If the copy merely stays on Google's servers, used only for making a
digital card catalogue, in what way is the author or the publisher harmed?
Have they lost any sales?
Google isn't displaying the works in their entirety on its website, as
the Author's Guild seems to imagine. It isn't selling the books or
offering them for download. It is offering a tool to search books. Where is
the harm to the market? Libraries have special rights under Copyright
Law. Why shouldn't this project?
The Big Picture Questions
For those of us who are not lawyers, our dominant reaction to this
lawsuit is probably that if Google Print Library violates copyright law,
somebody needs to change the law.
This litigation raises some important questions: What is a library in the
digital age? What is a book? Is Google Print going to do away with books
as containers of knowledge, replaced by searchable databases? What about
this litigation's effect on copyright law in the US? Is it possible, as
one comment on the Conglomerate blog suggests,
that if it wins, "Google may be planting the seeds of the destruction of
copyright as we know it"?
Computers are, under current law, the ultimate infringers, in the sense
that you can't read anything on a computer without making a copy in RAM.
There is, in short, no way to avoid making a copy, if you access at
all. It's the gotcha of copyright law in the digital age, and at some
point, some say, we need to think about that issue and decide what to do
about it. If you want the hairs on your head to stand straight up, note
the lack of comprehension of the tech involved in using a computer by
reading the MAI
SYSTEMS CORP. v. PEAK COMPUTER, INC., 991 F.2d 511 (9th Cir. 1993)
decision: "After reviewing the record, we find no specific facts
. . . which indicate that the copy created in the RAM is not fixed."
Susan Crawford explains:
All computers do is copy. Copyright
law has this idea of strict liability -- no matter what your intent is, if
you make a copy without authorization, you're an infringer. So computers
are natural-born automatic infringers. Copyright law and computers are
always running into conflict -- we really need to rewrite copyright
Ernest Miller and Joan Feigenbaum, in their very interesting paper "Taking the Copy out of
Copyright" [PDF], suggest that we drop the copy from copyright law and
focus on distribution instead. After all, it's distribution that harms
authors and publishers, not copies on a Google server no one can see or
access but Google.
We watched Napster get hogtied, killed, cremated and scattered to the
winds, and most of us were sad that the law was trying to snuff out a
great new idea because the courts seemed not to grasp the tech and the real
potential for businesses founded on this new technology.
But the world's books? Should the law block a new way to research and find
books on any topic any human has ever written about, broken down and
searchable by keyword, a way to to find specific books by keyword in the
finest libraries in the world, without having to travel there physically?
Larry Lessig puts it like
Google Print could be the most important contribution to
the spread of knowledge since Jefferson dreamed of national libraries. It
is an astonishing opportunity to revive our cultural past, and make it
accessible. . . . Google wants to do nothing more to 20,000,000 books than
it does to the Internet: it wants to index them, and it offers anyone in
the index the right to opt out. If it is illegal to do that with 20,000,000
books, then why is it legal to do it with the Internet? The "authors'"
claims, if true, mean Google itself is illegal. Common sense, or better,
commons sense, revolts at the idea. And so too should you.
The Author's Guild has only 8,000 members. I say "only" because Groklaw has
more members than that. The value to the public of Google's Print Library
collection so far outweighs the value of one book to one author or even
8,000 books to 8,000 authors, that it is hard to comprehend how any law
could be permitted that could allow such a result as shutting down Google
on the demand of those 8,000 authors.
Copyright law is designed to protect authors, yes, but it is supposed to do
so in a balance with the public good. Copyright law's purpose is to
further the public good by promoting more works of authorship, so as to
make knowledge available. When did that part of the law's purpose get
forgotten? Protecting authors' rights is a means to the end of making
knowledge more freely available, which is exactly what Google is trying to
do. If the Author's Guild succeeds in blocking this project, it will have
managed to turn copyright into a means for restricting the spread of ideas
and reducing the public good.
Comments (25 posted)
The LWN subscription experiment is now three years old. One might well
conclude that it is no longer an "experiment"; it is simply the way LWN
works. This anniversary is as good a time as any to look at how well it is
working, and where we think things might go from here.
LWN currently just over 3100 active subscribers; approximately 1000 more
read LWN by way of group subscriptions. We are pleased that Red Hat
Inc. has recently signed up as a corporate subscriber, as have a few other,
smaller groups. This subscription level is nice to have, but it is very
similar to what we had last year - especially on the individual side. For
the time being, at least, our subscriber level is essentially flat.
Money from subscriptions goes to pay three full-time editors, one very
part-time bookkeeper, health insurance, travel costs, bandwidth, computers,
lawyers (not too often, fortunately), credit card processing fees, and all
the other incidental costs of running a business. LWN currently pays for
no office space, and plans for the procurement of a corporate yacht remain
stalled (which is just as well, considering that a yacht is of limited use
in Colorado). We are pleased that Rackspace.com continues to donate
bandwidth for the main server, that TrustCommerce covers their part of our
credit card fees, and that various sponsors have made it possible for LWN
staff to attend conferences and meetings in distant parts of the world.
The end result, however, is that the current subscription level is not
sufficient for sustainable operation even with the current staff. And LWN
in its current form will not be truly sustainable without at least one
additional staff member. So we must find a way to bring in more revenue to
fund that staff member, raise our payments for outside authors to a more
competitive level, attend (and report on) important free software events,
deal with the long list of site improvement ideas, broaden our coverage,
cope with the next inevitable horrifying health insurance cost increase, and, just
maybe, give a long-delayed raise to the current staff. That might just
make the grumpy editor feel a little better about the world.
We have a long list of ideas on how we might bring about that increase.
Most of them are oriented toward making LWN a more valuable resource and
trying to actively sell LWN subscriptions. One short-term idea
(which we would like feedback on) is increasing the lockout time on
subscription-only content to two weeks, or possibly more. We value our
free readers, and we live for those "I finally decided to subscribe" notes,
but we also have to strike a balance which respects those who are actually
paying for LWN's existence. In the longer term, we may seek some sort of
financing to help grow LWN into a truly sustainable business.
One thing we do not intend to change is our commitment to providing the
net's most comprehensive, accurate, and well-written coverage of the Linux
and free software development communities. That is what LWN set out to do
back in 1997, and we've never seen any reason to try for anything else.
The years in between have been a wild ride, with amazing ups and downs.
But, during that time, Linux has gotten stronger, and we have built up the
best group of readers we could have hoped for. We expect that the coming
years will be just as interesting - and just as successful.
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