Can we (the users) start a Zotero features fund club?

I never forget that Zotero comes for free. And, as the saying goes, one should not look a gifted horse in the mouth.

However, can the freeloaders come together and create a fund pool to expedite implementation of the most wanted features? I propose that a way be found to collect funds to support further development of Zotero. I know Zotero is supported by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, but surely more support will be good, right? It goes without saying that the donation creates no expectation or liability. Very similar to the donations made to Wikipedia.

I will be delighted to make a one-time donation or give a couple dollars every month and if there are a few hundred users who think like me, that should be enough to buy the coffee (at least) to get things moving faster. I can't wait for Zotero 5.0!

Is starting a fund possible? How?
  • See Dan's note:

    If you find Zotero useful, you may consider subscribing to Zotero File Storage & this will support development.
  • well, I take the idea of gurdas to be closer to a bounty system or a crowdfunding system--as you know, one of the ways things happen in Zotero is grant funding. The idea would be to add a kickstarter type way to fund specific new features.
  • Buy storage? Done! I got myself a 2 GB plan, to begin with. For those who stop by this conversation and have questions about storage, see

    Storage plans are very reasonably priced, and here are the numbers as of August 11, 2014:

    300 MB Free
    2 GB $20 (equal to $1.67/month)
    6 GB $60 (equal to $5.00/month)
    Unlimited $120 (equal to $10.00/month)

    Not sure if I have any use of the additional storage since I use only 'link to file' as attachment in my Zotero client. I guess that means the online library has only the top level items, and not the PDF files they link to, right?
  • edited August 11, 2014

    Not sure if I have any use of the additional storage since I use only 'link to file' as attachment in my Zotero client. I guess that means the online library has only the top level items, and not the PDF files they link to, right?
    that's right. This might still come in handy for groups, though, where you can't use linked files.
  • edited August 11, 2014
    "The idea would be to add a kickstarter type way to fund specific new features"
    adamsmith, can we do that, please?

    So, for example, there can be a page with a list of features that have been requested so far by users. User get to pick a feature and donate money for it. Developers focus on features according to their "ranking"? Developers are not bound by the ranking, since a feature ranked number 7 might be an order easier to implement than feature ranked number 5, and thus should be attended to first. But, the ranking will bring some focus on what will bring the best bang for the buck. Another refinement could be to assign a donation cost to a feature that is equivalent to its effort. Some features could be $1, others $3, and so on. If I need the feature, I can only donate that exact amount towards its development.

    I know none of this is perfect and countless loopholes can be found. But I do think the Zotero community can benefit from being more involved. It's been a while since we've had new features and like I said, I am already thankful that Zotero exists, so no complaining on delayed or missing features. But may be if the donations allow the center to hire one more developer, it will help expedite things.
  • well, the question here is the administrative/cost benefit of this. Setting up and maintaining something like this _well_ takes time by itself. So unless this would bring in very significant money, it might actually have a negative effect. (Dan has been very skeptical about non-donation based uservoice type voting in the past for a number of reasons that you can probably dig up with some forum searches).

    The other issue is that resources for development are complicated. If Dan is fully booked (which he currently is), then a new feature requires a new developer. Which means finding, hiring, and training someone. Which is, again, costly both in terms of time and money.
    So the only way this could work is for relatively isolated features that a contractor or outside developer could develop mainly by herself--like an Android app, e.g. or potentially a google docs plugin. (Docear just did a kickstarter for a word processor plugin, e.g.).

    Maybe Dan will have more to say on this and I find the general idea still quite appealing, but given what I know about the Zotero development process, I'm currently doubtful about its practicability.
  • . It's been a while since we've had new features
    That's actually not true. If you look at you'll see significant new feature and/or improvements in March and June of this year. They're just not terribly well publicized, which is another matter.
  • There are programs that allow this kind of bounty system. For example
    Bounties have been discussed a few times on this forum. Many are skeptical that there'd be critical mass to steer the core developers; some are optimistic that it might encourage outside code contributions.
  • edited August 11, 2014
    Thanks for the changelog; I found a feature mentioned that I did not know existed (secondary sort columns). I was referring to a major release and "most wanted" features.

    May be we can have a developer marketplace set up, where developers specify what features they can get done and what price. Users contribute against a feature and when the trickle reaches the set goal, that developer begins work on the feature. Developers get to choose from a common pool of feature list and thus no two developers will have the same feature listed.

    How many active Zotero users out there today? What if half of them agree to pay $1/month, what is that number like?

    I could be totally wrong about this, but I have a feeling that Zotero can take a big leap forward with more community funding/donation. I have seen threads where users have added their voice for a pretty useful feature and these threads are many years old (with new voices added recently). Now, if these users are willing to put their money where their mouth is, I think a decent supply-demand situation exists which can be tapped.

    BTW, adamsmith, you are totally correct about transaction cost. I am certainly not suggesting a system that costs more to maintain than the benefit it can accrue.

    Hey, if nothing else, we can pool funds to buy Dan his favorite coffee machine, pool table, killer computer, baby-sitter, chauffeur, or what ever it takes for him to be more efficient and/or spend more time with Zotero :)
  • noksagt, that Bounty page looks useful. I noticed al items have a $0 bounty on them. And the minimum Bounty I can set (and have to pay for?) is $15. I am not sure if I want to pay $15 for any one feature, since there is none that prevents me from using Zotero. Does that site allow a group of strangers to create a bounty; for example 5 people pay $5 each to create a $25 bounty?
  • I'm not affiliated with and do not have experience with that site. I am aware of it only because I've seen it used by others, but you'd need to do your own due diligence.

    However, I will note that the minimum is $5 (write in) and that yes, it is designed to have multiple people offering a bounty on the same request. That site pulls issues from github.

    Actually attracting developers and users to it or a similar system is another matter.
  • So the core Zotero staff is funded through CHNM/GMU, grants, and storage subscriptions, and I don't think we would participate in any sort of bounty program ourselves. Our goal is to make the best tools and services possible, and the decisions we make to do that shouldn't be based around what features happen to have bounties. So even if a bounty system existed, if I implemented a feature that had a bounty on it, I wouldn't claim it.

    A bounty system for community developers might make sense. To some extent you have the same problem — Zotero benefits greatly from outside contributors, and that includes for things like fixing bugs and working on less-glamorous issues that would never have bounties but that are critical for Zotero's ongoing development. But I'd love for outside developers to have more opportunities to get paid for some of the time they otherwise generously donate to Zotero. Of course, core developer time could still be a bottleneck — even with an externally maintained bounty system it takes a lot of time to discuss, review, and integrate patches — but we of course do all those things already, so the presence of bounties shouldn't really change the situation (at least unless they resulted in vastly more outside development, but that would be a good problem to have).

    I do think it'd be critical that a bounty system pulled from GitHub, as Bountysource does, because then, due to the way we use GitHub issues, it'd be limited to changes that were already agreed upon (at least in the abstract, if not for a specific implementation). Otherwise there'd be a situation where people were pledging money for things that might have no chance of making it into official Zotero (which would be fine, of course, but they shouldn't expect to see those things in an official release).

    Unfortunately Bountysource appears to have some highly questionable policies: charging at the time of pledging (instead of charging upon completion, Kickstarter-style) and, worse, charging their 10% fee on unfunded bounties (despite presumably also earning interest on the pledged money, potentially for years, because of the first policy). Assuming both of those are true, I would stay far away from them. I don't know if there's a bounty system that integrates with GitHub and doesn't take money until a bounty is paid out, but I think that'd be the only safe model.

    (Oh, and I should say, while I don't think we would take part in bounties ourselves, I wouldn't rule out crowdsourced fundraising by Zotero proper. I think that'd be an interesting approach for us for some very demanding feature we wanted to add but likely couldn't get traditional grant funding for (say, client-side encryption).)

    In any case, I certainly appreciate the offers of support. On this, though:
    what ever it takes for [Dan] to be more efficient
    Once I figure that out myself I will definitely let you know.
  • Dan, thanks for the background. If I lived nearby, I'd offer to give back in kind. May be run grocery errands for the team :)

    Please bring back the "Give to Zotero" button on the homepage. I want to give and I'd think another couple hundred would feel the same way.

    Why refuse funds that can help Zotero development, when that is what all of us want?
  • Yes, "why refusing funds that can help Zotero development, when that is what all of us want?"

    I have seen the option of buying storage but this isn't a great way to donate:
    - is the cheapest storage you have, and that could be too much for some people willing to support you but by giving you or tips.
    - you surely have some fees on the storage so giving you as a (free) donation help you more than paying for the storage (even if it's not used)
    - by associating a bank card with a zotero account, it breaks the anonymity (for those interested in remaining anonymous)

    I have seen the other discussion, where one of you said that you turned down the donation button because nobody was giving, but it does not cost anything to leave it (and considering the people on the forum asking for it, it should actually by beneficial: zotero may have become more popular since a couple of years, a valid argument a couple of years ago may not be a valid argument today)

    Otherwise just a bitcoin address, it easy and free to set up.
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