Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Well, the time has come. I must bow out of BLF.

It's been five years since BLF started, and it has grown into a vibrant community of great service to the people of Brisbane and to people searching for information on the internet.

I am very pleased and proud.

It has been almost three years since I moved to country Victoria, and I feel I must now retire from the site. I am not exactly a Brisbane local anymore ;)

This leaves us all with several options.

If you wish to be considered to take over as creator of the network, or as an administrator (job descriptions below) in order to keep the site running, then please message me.

Otherwise, I will shut the site down at the end of June. If you wish to keep your content you will need to copy/ archive it manually I'm afraid :(

Ning requires a subscription fee to host our content, so I'm afraid we can't just leave it on the internet. 

Job descriptions as follows:

NETWORK CREATOR

* personal credit is card is billed monthly for ning subscription fee. Currently it's $25 per month, or $300 p.a., but it's about to go up to $49 per month i.e. $600 per year (with a lot more features like apps and facebook integration and phone support apparently)

* creates an adsense account to generate revenue. FY 11-12 earnings $442. So far, since I put more ads on this year, current FY earnings are $612. Google ad money is paid every few months when the amount reaches $150 or more. I've received almost $400 so far and gave $150 to the new farm house community garden and paid $40 for some fairly dud BLF badges from the internet :)

* create a google analytics account (optional?) to view traffic statistics

* approve new members

* check posts, moderate content for appropriate content and tone

* be available by email, preferably via smartphone, to act on inappropriate content asap (i.e. ban offending members and delete their content)

* design network appearance, choose elements

* send out notifications - e.g. events and selected discussions

* feature photos and discussion

* add tag words to content

* close off and unfeature old content

* create a brisbane local food facebook page and post selected links to it

ADMINISTRATORS

* approve new members

* check posts, moderate content for appropriate content and tone

* send out notifications - e.g. events and selected discussions

* feature photos and discussion

* add tag words to content

* close off and unfeature old content

*******

Note I have been donating any additional revenue to local food gardens and businesses in Brisbane but with the new fee structure, I foresee minimal funds left over.

The creator (and administrators) needs to check the network at least twice a week, preferably at least every 48 hours. 

I have intervened (deleting content and contacting members as appropriate) as a moderator, on 5 occasions in 5 years where I felt discussions were overly negative, or contained content I deemed inappropriate (swearing, and links to an offsite profile detailing sexual preferences). Some members join explicitly to send spam, and when these bogus members get through it is necessary to delete them. You get better at spotting them before you approve them, but there are still several per year - maybe 15 per year?

From April 6th 2012 - April 7th 2013,  115, 000 unique visitors have visited BLF, from all over the world. In the last month, there have been 12, 000 unique visitors and 16, 000 visitors altogether. 35% are returning visitors. Most arrive by search engines, some directly, and some from links on other websites. There seem to be about 5, 000 regular (returning) visitors per month - circa 300 to 600 per day.

I will cede direction, flavour etc entirely to whoever takes it over. 

Personally, I see BLF as a community service, a change catalyst, a knowledge exchange repository, an empowerment and resilience tool. I see the creator role as a facilitator, not a preacher. Although I have considered spamming you all with my 'world according to scarlett' views on the way out, heh heh. Okay, I won't ;)

If you would be interested in either of these roles please let me know - otherwise please consider saving your favourite blogs/ photos/info before they disappear on the 1st July 2013.

Without a new creator, the network will have to close down. Administrators can help share the workload re approving new members etc.

If I can share one observation here -I believe that in any community endeavour, it is the key people and the governance arrangements which are the most important for longevity. You can make a garden on any site, but you must have the gardeners. The best land in the world will lie fallow without the people who want to tend it. That's how we got things happening in Cuba - we found the key, capable, motivated  people and built what they wanted and needed. Same for community gardens. And unfortunately, my failure to attend to succession arrangements is what brings us to this pass now :(

I would like to say a huge thankyou to the biggest contributors to the site - especially Lissa, Elaine, Andrew, Donna,  Christopher, Joseph, Florence, Vanessa and Trinette. And indeed, to everyone who has ever posted on BLF . Your generosity and openness, willingness to share and exchange has helped thousands of other people. A special mention to all who have copied event details onto BLF - that is a real community service. May your positive karma return to you all threefold.

I do hope, though, that someone will take it over and keep it going. Give it some thought. It's amazing how much you get back from it in terms of happiness, pride, sense of agency, sense of helping. Also it's a CV stuffer :)

Ach, the end of an era!

Farewell

(although I'll stick around until end June)

and thanks for all the good times

Scarlett

PS I'd love to hear any thoughts/ comments you might have about this. Please feel free to leave some feedback.

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Replies to This Discussion

Good points! Personally I'd rather we did not go down the incorporated road, someone is always responsible for the reporting. The only upside that I can see for incorporation is that of public liability. We do have regular functions at member's gardens. That means anyone injuring themselves there could in practice, sue the property-owner and jeopardise that person's future financial security. It has happened believe it or not; in an organisation I know of a member sued the property-owner for injury and the payout meant the property-owner had to sell to pay. Appalling. And you'd not think anyone would do it. It seems like a fear response to be sure of "covering your ass" but it's a practical. Most property insurance carries a 10 million $ public liability clause but how that works in reality I don't know.

Public liability aside, you could always pass around the hat at garden-visits. The fund-raising is purely voluntary. If people don't want or cannot contribute then so be it. I'm happy to make a contribution and it doesn't bother me if others do not want to or cannot.

As much as its getting made out to be, this site does not need an injection of money to survive. So many great idea's to make this space better, and yes that will cost money, but for the now all it needs is someone with TIME ... hence the reason for Scarlett opting out.

Based on the new fee's and the income through advertising the site will generate at least $100 profit per year. What we need is someone who can a) afford to go without $150 per quarter before the advertising money pays you back plus 15 odd % and b) someone who has plenty of time to manage the web site.

I had considered this but unfortunately I'm far too time poor with a young family and full time work.

You have encapsulated the issues perfectly, Craig.

Ultimately it is the choice of the new convenor how it is to be run.

When I was in Brisbane I was working 4 days per week, had two small children, my crazy garden and we were renovating our house (like, painting it ourselves etc) but I was HORRIBLY time poor, and my garden suffered (at times dreadfully) and I barely had time for BLF and was quite erratic in my BLF efforts - many thanks to Donna for holding the fort approving and welcoming new members during that time. I said no to being a Food Connect city cousin during that time - which was hard, I would loved to have done it - but it would have been the last straw time-wise. I think I was out of straws as it was (to mangle a metaphor).

It is possible - you can reduce the time to 5 minutes per week if necessary - but it's much better if you spend 15-30 minutes every couple of days.

Uploading photos from my smart phone has been an excellent time saver.

I have recently been quite remiss with blogs - I've barely read any of the blog posts for months - sorry, nothing personal people, just haven't been able to cover everything and figured I'd best keep the forum covered. I should probably have been checking all the comments on the blogs though.

Thanks to the people who have alerted me to spammers - especially Elaine, who has done it often.

Anyway - it is possible with limited time, but it's better if time is not a problem :)

Thank you so much for this site Scarlett.  You'll be missed.  

you're welcome Tracy.

I'll be sorry to go - but I really must move on - I now live in a cold windy town whose ocean has antarctic penguins in it!

Hi Scarlett,

Let me add my voice to those thanking you for creating and maintaining this site. Reading your description of how it funds itself, I was struck by what a savvy model you are using. The ads are totally unobtrusive and the whole thing runs incredibly smoothly.

As I look through all the posts in this thread, I feel that one of the unacknowledged debates is about whether this is a website or a community group. Personally, I see it as a website, and what's more as a business. Sure, the profits are incidental and sent back into the community, but if this isn't social entrepreneurship, I don't know what is. Would you be opposed to seeing it run for profit? I think that would greatly enhance its chances of survival because it could be passed on to someone else who would want to keep it going as a source of part-time income.

I know this idea will probably elicit howls of disgust from many on this site, but rather than Monsanto, think of businesses like Edenseeds and Green Harvest as good examples of local businesses that provide a service to many and have done so for decades now.

I'm willing to throw my hat in the ring to take over (for profit or not!), but only from late July, as I'm going overseas for an extended period before that. I work in IT, so I'm confident I'd have the skills required.

thanks Rob :)

Well that's interesting. I've been wondering about that too. I've caught myself wanting to not plow all of the profit back into the community, and there's nothing to stop me except my own self. So far I've made myself do it, and it's felt good - even when we're cutting corners on the household budget! (I'm unemployed at the moment - it's hard to get a corporate job in the country!)

I think it would be possible to increase ad revenue - maybe double it at most. I think at a certain point the changes required to increase the revenue would turn people off the site, which would result in a decrease in revenue. There would be a lag time on this too.

I also get a breakdown of the most popular content on google analytics - and the most popular items are little known horticultural how do i do it things, like green pawpaw salad, my article on spinosad, and dragonfruit. So the best ticket would probably be adding sought after content, not promoting the content that's already here. Which is a specialist enterprise, I guess - not just IT skills?

Even with double the ad revenue, it's not exactly an income - if the revenue doubled and the fees stayed the same, and you continued to give $150 per quarter, say, to a local food venture - the leftover would be maybe $40 per week. Not exactly a living wage.

The thing is, though, the revenue is being generated by the people who put the content on - and if the creator keeps the money, it's just pure and simple not fair - because the people who generate the money don't get the benefit of the money. 

Giving money to Jane St Community Garden, Donna's Seed Savers Group, and the New Farm Community House Community Garden, as I have since the advertising was introduced (note that monthly revenue has increased maybe threefold in that time - but I don't expect this will continue - it's because i introduced the facebook page and put more ads on) has given back to the community and made me feel enormously good. $500 worth of good.

NB I declare the income from this site on my personal tax return

I also had a discussion with people at the time the advertising was introduced (when ning changed from free to subscription) - see here: http://brisbanelocalfood.ning.com/forum/topics/feedback-please-losi...

So the current revenue model is a development on the original declaration which was that this was a not for profit venture. 

I rather like the current model. In terms of making myself do it and transparency, I've put up receipts for the donations when I get them (which was once ;) http://brisbanelocalfood.ning.com/forum/topics/where-who-should-the...

People seem to feel strongly about the site not being a business. I don't mind either way from an idealistic perspective - e.g. I think a lot of community gardens (anywhere) would be better off run (partly) as commercial not for profits, and I also think community development style government involvement is potentially a great idea, so you can see I'm not exactly right or left in the way i think! - but I do think it causes a conflict of or veiled interest in the creator which alters the activity (emphasis, promotion etc) and tone (trying to be popular, rather than posting out of sheer personal interest), and my intuition is that that wouldn't be helpful. I am pro- good businesses. There needs to be a lot more of it. Think Earth Garden buying only sustainable timber plantation paper and then donating part of their profits - the Eco Tax - to earth repair projects every month. If only manufacturers would collect and recycle their own products! Sigh. And if only businesses were designed to be a living wage - enough - not always having to expand. Anyway...

It's kind of like BLF makes money because it doesn't want to make money - but if you tried to make money, then it probably wouldn't. I think. I don't know - I could be wrong.

I think it's a membership website that facilitates community groups? A website is a communication medium? Community groups are affiliations. Can't really see an either or. Maybe they just go together.

I really hope this is NOT THE END of Brisbane Local Food.

yes, me too :)

It would be a tragedy to see the site close down. As a fledgling gardener I may not say too much but check on all your comments every day and have learned so much. You have done a fabulous job, Scarlett and it is certainly appreciated. Thank you. I for one, would be happy to pay a small subscription per annum and if there were enough of us to do that, it wouldn't mean $50 for a few...

If it comes down to members paying, I like the idea of a donate button somewhere on the site with a suggested annual amount. All the podcasts I listen to are free and use a donate button and I've actually donated to two of them.

Alternatively, an annual crowfunding campaign through someone like pozible would allow all users to keep track of how close we were to the goal, as they usually include a countdown, and that would motivate reluctant contributors.

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