Forum: Proposal: Biostar Wants To Run Your Ads. Feedback Requested.
gravatar for Istvan Albert
7.0 years ago by
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k
University Park, USA
Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k wrote:

Bioinformatics is expensive. To give you an example a one time insertion fee of a small ad into a major publisher' weekly email list costs around $600. Advertising on Google may cost over $1 per click. In parallel many are often frustrated by the delay of becoming aware of a new promising tool/technique. Most of the time one is at the mercy of publishing timeframes plus quite a few months it takes for an idea/approach to permeate through.

So why not change both? Biostar is created by its users and attracts an ever increasing audience. What if we provided an alternative that would make the community aware of your tools, techniques and discoveries and put them in front of the people that need it most. Here is a proposal on how it could work:

  1. Any Biostar user in good standing (a reputation over some limit say 250) may run ads for a nominal fee : let's say $10 per month
  2. The main restriction on ads is that it the user that runs the ad must have full or partial authorship (in the scientific sense) of the content they advertise
  3. Ads will be text based, one line maximum, inserted on the page to be visible but not intrusive
  4. Ads may be targeted to appear based on content of the page or tags
  5. Any bioinformatics related content may be advertised: a software tool, a technique, a book, a paper, a blog, a conference, an educational program etc
  6. Ads will get equal weight in being displayed and a certain minimum impressions will be guaranteed per month, more if there are fewer ads competing for spots
  7. Advertising is open to organizations as long the organizers are BioStar members (perhaps the fee would be a bit larger for them)
  8. Open for commercial products as long as condition 1 and 2 are satisfied.
  9. Important: any Biostar user that is qualified to run an ad is also entitled to opt out from seeing ads altogether, there will be an option on the user page to turn off ads

BioStar traffic for the last 30 days: Visits: 118,710, Unique Visitors: 61,282, Pageviews: 259,492

This idea is in an incipient stage and we welcome any ideas, suggestions and feedback. We see this as a way to serve two purposes, ensure the long term success of Biostar and promote the interests of the users that create the content here.

forum biostar • 3.2k views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 7.0 years ago by Pawel Szczesny3.2k • written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k

Just playing devil's advocate here. One worry I have with this system is that it might empower individuals with more financial resources to gain recognition over others who might have a legitimately better product.

However it is only 10 bucks a month for limited exposure, so it might not be that bad.

ADD REPLYlink written 7.0 years ago by Damian Kao15k

Good point, let's say there will be limits on the number of ads a user may run (say 3) . Same with similar topics.

ADD REPLYlink written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k
gravatar for Damian Kao
7.0 years ago by
Damian Kao15k
Damian Kao15k wrote:

Perhaps instead of a single line of advertisement text on the page, make it a post that users can vote and comment on.

Reserve a spot on top in the Q/A list for advertisement posts. Just be sure to mark it with a different color to signify that it is an advertisement. These advertisements posts can then be rotated in and out of this reserved spot.

It will be similar to a reddit sponsored link. If you go to, the very top post in blue background is a sponsored link that people can upvote and comment on.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 7.0 years ago • written 7.0 years ago by Damian Kao15k

great idea Damian - that could be easily integrated into the existing framework

ADD REPLYlink written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k
gravatar for Mary
7.0 years ago by
Boston MA area
Mary11k wrote:

I think it's fine to support the site with some revenue, and it seems reasonable to me. And although I'm a capitalist, I think it could even be good outreach for academic projects that could use some awareness too.

ADD COMMENTlink written 7.0 years ago by Mary11k
gravatar for Casey Bergman
7.0 years ago by
Casey Bergman18k
Athens, GA, USA
Casey Bergman18k wrote:

I'm against this idea, unless biostar is to be explicitly incorporated as a non-for-profit organization, with accounts made available to the community in a transparent manner. Otherwise, there is nothing to stop Istvan et al. from monetizing our collective IP and sweat over and above cost-recovery. I would prefer a fund-raising model to cover overheads, if they are substantial. So that people can make an informed decision, it would be helpful if you could provide a summary of current costs to see if the proposed change is (a) necessary and (b) if the pricing model you propose is realistic.

ADD COMMENTlink written 7.0 years ago by Casey Bergman18k

Good points. That's why this thread exists. As far as I know no similar arrangement exists on any site so it is important to clarify that first. I would frame my proposal like this: Would you like to have the opportunity to run an ad on BioStar at the minimal cost possible to run that ad? I can see a lot of benefits to many people, but bewilderment is a natural reaction too - we're not used to think this way about a social site.

What is that minimal cost $10 or 10 cents, 1 cent? I have no idea.. But the underlying principle here is that with your collective IP and sweat you also earn the right to make use of the popularity of the site to promote some of your ideals. We are in uncharted territory here.

ADD REPLYlink modified 7.0 years ago • written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k
gravatar for Josh Herr
7.0 years ago by
Josh Herr5.7k
University of Nebraska
Josh Herr5.7k wrote:

I guess in general I feel like I am against the idea. Whenever money starts changing hands for advertising things get fuzzy. I feel that if you want people to use your tool make a well-thought out algorithm that fills a need in the community (or builds upon it) with excellent documentation; it advertises itself (or its users do). I think this community has built up an impeccable reputation and I fear that this might be one very small step towards undermining that reputation.

As someone who runs and pays for my own (very low bandwidth) server without ads, I know the cost is not cheap. I guess I am wondering what the rationale would be to have advertising: would the end goal help pay for server costs and the contracted-out work? If we're short on funds I would rather see us put in a proposal to international funding agencies or even the community (think: Wikipedia-styled fund raising) to allow us to maintain the site at its present quality without any partiality to any party or organization.

In the end, I'm flexible on the ads (and can see many benefits outlined here) if the community sees a role to be filled. I do think the "sponsored" post from a few months ago worked out well and the site benefited from that experiment with visual and functional improvements. I would rather see any ads separate from the actual content (sidebar or header or footer) to distinguish from paid content and site content.

ADD COMMENTlink modified 7.0 years ago • written 7.0 years ago by Josh Herr5.7k

Advertising works. We may not like them but it is a reality. And it is expensive because it works. The vast majority of people that post here would not be able to afford to advertise their works to people that just "drive" by the site in search of an answer.

This is what I am trying to fix, it is more of a philosophical issue. When I look around I see every social site is designed to use the content created by users to sell something that the users of that content may not have intended. Why not break that mold. For example you have a great blog with lots of content that many people would benefit from. You may wait for Google to lead people to that or you could just get it displayed next to posts that relate to it. That would be a win-win for everyone.

Also to clarify the money's role is act as a throttle. It would be a very long way off until we could raise enough money out of $10 increments to pay for the costs of site's development and administration. And thankfully we do have small bits of funding from various sources.Think of it this way: a person that wants to run an ad needs to be serious and determined enough to put up something of value at least as much to pay for the added cost of managing all that: payments, inquires, accounting etc. it does add up.

Maybe no one will ever want to put up an ad under these conditions. Who knows. We're definitely alone in here with the flat fee and requiring a user reputation to post an ad not to mention the requirement of authorship. We'll all learn something from it.

ADD REPLYlink modified 7.0 years ago • written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k

That's an interesting perspective. Advertisement with a nominal fee for the community might incentivize people to publish more quality content as now they have the capability to shine a spotlight on it and gain recognition.

I guess, in some ways, tool developers and content writers are already "advertising" on BioStar. I am sure developers search for posts that asks a specific question/problem related to their tool and post their tool as an answer.

ADD REPLYlink modified 7.0 years ago • written 7.0 years ago by Damian Kao15k
gravatar for Steve Lianoglou
7.0 years ago by
Steve Lianoglou5.0k
Steve Lianoglou5.0k wrote:

I think it's a fine idea. One point I think would be worth adding to your enumerated list is to explicitly state whether (or not) the "reputation" of the user posting the ad has influence on ad placement (above the minimum threshold you set to post an ad to begin (which I think should be higher than 250 (yay, lisp!)))

My initial thought was that it shouldn't, but I think I can actually argue for either way (especially if the influence on ad placement is ultimately minimal).

ADD COMMENTlink written 7.0 years ago by Steve Lianoglou5.0k

Right now we're proposing one ad per page and the reputation threshold is more of a gate keeper. Ranking relevance by reputation makes sense in one way. At the same time it may give an insurmontable advantage to someone that has been around longer, and that may discourage other newcomers

ADD REPLYlink written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k
gravatar for Niallhaslam
7.0 years ago by
Niallhaslam2.3k wrote:

I dunno if I'd be interested in ads from other academics - I have tools/ways/workflows/whatever for searching for new articles, conferences, books etc. However, I wouldn't be against seeing ads for other kinds of services e.g. amazon hosting, management services thereof, monitoring, data management tools, hardware those kind of things. I suppose this requires thinking about what sort of market are we? What percentage of biostar users have purchasing authority/influence? Without going into specifics how much do we need to raise and what's it for - could some of those costs be addressed in other ways?

However, I think I'd like to know how many of the biostar community use adblock and would they be prepared to unblock biostars?

Quote: What if we provided an alternative that would make the community aware of your tools, techniques and discoveries and put them in front of the people that need it most.

This reads like it is suggesting that those that can pay get to publicise their tools and those that can't don't. I dunno if I'd be in favour of that. Surely what the reputation system on biostars is about is providing a way to filter all the tools and find the ones suggested/created by the biostar users with the most 'community' reputation. With the ad system you'd just find the tools (or at least be more likely to find the tools) that are advertised by those that can pay.

ADD COMMENTlink written 7.0 years ago by Niallhaslam2.3k

AdBlock is not necessary as opting-out is a feature. Also we would not be using the classic ad delivery so blocking them with AdBlock would not work without extra setup.

Here is what I think in general: I don't like to look at products where the cost of the product includes an extra fee of me looking at the ad. But I if a productive user with many good answers posts an ad, I would be more willing to look at it.

ADD REPLYlink written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k

OK - so adblock isn't an issue. But what about the more substantive problem of paying for publicity?

ADD REPLYlink written 7.0 years ago by Niallhaslam2.3k

The fee is really low, but if someone cannot pay it, and there could be many legitimate situations we'll waive it. I think that should allay fears of someone being locked out purely because of financials.

ADD REPLYlink written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k
gravatar for Pawel Szczesny
7.0 years ago by
Pawel Szczesny3.2k
Pawel Szczesny3.2k wrote:

I'm all for the idea, although I look at this from different perspective. My impression is that an alternative use for sponsored ads could be to advertise opportunities for collaboration. Not everybody has an online presence strong enough that no request for collaboration goes unnoticed. Given increased dynamics of the site, a forum post with such a request could easily slip past first page before most of the users could see it.

However, I support Casey's comments about making the whole process somehow transparent.

ADD COMMENTlink written 7.0 years ago by Pawel Szczesny3.2k

yes, that's the intent, people can come up with their own idea of how to make use of this space

as for transparency sure no problem - my primary goal is to be able to offload parts of the management of the site and or development to someone else. The "job ad" on the jobs page was created after Counsly approached us, but what they really wanted is to support the site. All that money was paid out right away on development and we got a nice update to the site (developed over last Christmas no less). Overall at this moment I am few thousand dollars in the negative as far as costs that I put into the site. These are direct costs to me and do not include the extra time that was put into it - not to mention the lost opportunity cost of doing something else.

I personally doubt that Biostar would ever break even in the traditional sense of making more money than it cost to develop/run and that was never the intent. But there is no question that it will benefit me indirectly, by giving me credibility and recognition in other projects I may pursue later. But that applies to every other Biostar user as well. Contributing here is an mode of outreach and education that a PI can claim on their grant. Program directors are aware of Biostar and visit here. You get to know people and people get to know you. You better understand this corner of science and the people here understand you. These are all essential aspects of science.

ADD REPLYlink modified 7.0 years ago • written 7.0 years ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 82k

I didn't want to question your motives. I've just realized, after couple of years of running an NGO, how important is transparency when it comes to money, that's all.

Basically, I support any kind of idea that would close the gap between earning and spending when it comes to running BioStar. I wouldn't mind to have a subscription (supporter) fee without any benefits over free account (well, maybe one more badge ;) ).

ADD REPLYlink written 7.0 years ago by Pawel Szczesny3.2k
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