recently we moved all of our web hosting over to a new rented server, which was an overdue step since the old server was running a Linux distribution that was a year or two out of security support. We use that server for many services, most notably our documentation pages (docs.obspy.org), the newly set up community forum (discourse.obspy.org or forum.obspy.org), the current mailing list setup and our test report service (tests.obspy.org), as well as some less obvious development tools like the buildbot that automatically generates documentation pages for pull requests on github in the background.
Naturally, renting a server brings less enjoyable topics back up on the agenda. Throughout the past months and even years we have internally been discussing if/how to raise money to pay for that server every now and then. None of us are fond of this topic at all though, as it involves legal/tax issues if we were to set up ways to gather (micro) money from multiple sources, so up until now, most server costs have been taken care of by one very helpful person in the background (thank you Heiner, also thanks to Marcus for managing the old server).
While this has been very convenient for us, with the server move we finally decided to tackle this issue properly. We think it would fit the spirit of the project far better if these costs were spread out across many, many shoulders with only very little weight to carry for individual people, given how large the user base has grown over the years. After reviewing several notable and obvious options (GitHub sponsors program, Patreon, …) – all of which seemed rather convoluted and complex in terms of tax issues across international legislations – we finally stumbled on liberapay. After researching it, we think it actually is the perfect match for us. It is EU based and thus makes tax issues easier for us. In itself it is a non-profit, open source, donation driven project deducting nothing but inevitable payment processing fees (using Stripe and Paypal in the background) and it has an explicit focuses on open-source software projects (e.g. see https://liberapay.com/GIMP/).
Should the donations we raise eventually actually exceed the running costs for our server, we will decide how to use the money in close contact with our community (e.g. funding to host ObsPy workshops, donate to initiatives like NumFOCUS, …). Not a dime will go in anybody’s pocket, we will use everything on infrastructure/activities furthering the ObsPy project and we will publish a yearly overview of how donations were used.
Lastly, we want to emphasize that nobody should feel obliged to donate. We especially do not want people that might live on a low budget to go out of their way. This is a bit of an experiment, we will need to see how it goes, but we will definitely be able to find a way to cover our costs in a different way again if this does not work out.
Long story short: Anybody that wants to help out a little in covering running costs in the background can do so now, at https://liberapay.com/ObsPy.
The ObsPy Development Team
P.S.: liberapay states all donations on a weekly amount basis, as it is intended for stable long term support. However, transaction fees for small recurring weekly donations are higher overall as opposed to selecting the option to pay months or up to a year in bulk in advance. So for small amounts it might be good to consider to opt in for the advance payment options, which will show up during the donation process.