PTA forum news, 2024-03-18

Here is a status update from your forum admin, and some thoughts, feedback welcome!


The new forum is running well. I have been tweaking the setup throughout the trial. Mail out, mail in, RSS feeds, and announcing topics in the #plaintextaccounting matrix room are working smoothly. We mirrored content from /r/plaintextaccounting briefly but voted to discontinue that.


After two weeks we have forty-something members, some number of anonymous visitors and feed subscribers, and a good number of posters. Page views quota has not been a problem so far; in the first two weeks we have used just 17k of the 100k monthly quota. We haven’t been hackernewsed or DDOSed yet, but so far crawlers don’t seem to be a big traffic source. Here’s how it looks:


Discourse have extended our free trial and confirmed we qualify for the 50% FOSS discount on their standard plan, making it $50/mo for hosting there. Although there are cheaper hosting options, I plan to go with this one for now, considering time cost and the benefits of having direct support from the Discourse team, continual upgrades, a good range of plugins, speedy hosting, managed backups etc.


For FOSS/community projects I typically have an ideal of collective self-management and democracy in mind, but often it’s not the most efficient way, and people would prefer to just have things work, maybe throwing in a donation occasionally. So for now, since I have the interest and know-how and time (apparently), I plan to continue just acting as project admin and listening for your input. We also have two trusty moderators @f-a and @tario to start with, thank you to them. More mods and a backup admin can be added as needed.


I plan to start soliciting funding for the “plaintextaccounting organisation”, covering general PTA activities like,, and the #plaintextaccounting rooms on matrix and libera. Projects like hledger have their own finances, but * have not until now. This time I am thinking of a setup like this:

  1. For project expenses like hosting, a public/anonymous donation option to a public ledger.
  2. For supporting the workers, private “tip” donation options to each admin/moderator (to keep things simple).

And for 1, assuming balances remain smallish, I am considering acting as fiscal host and bookkeeper myself. Why not eg Open Collective ? Because Open Source Collective (fiscal host used by hledger, eg) costs 10%, which seems a waste of our funds, and we have similar tools to them. Why me ? I’m willing and I expect no-one else wants the hassle.


This forum is more complex and higher energy than; it runs client-side javascript, server-side ruby, postgres, lots of network requests, etc. It consumes more resources and emits more carbon, which in 2024 we still often ignore, but truly can not afford to. To justify operating the site with these impacts, I will try to purchase carbon credits, eg matching our monthly hosting cost. This is highly imperfect but planting some trees is better than nothing, and it’s a place to start.


The site is backed up daily and can be restored on request by Discourse. As admin I can also download occasional snapshots of the postgres db (this does not include file uploads). We should have some process for periodically exporting the public content as markdown - topics, replies, and as much of the metadata as possible.


We should have some kind of license for the content on this site. And we should think about a scraping policy for LLMs & big AI companies. (It might have no effect, but we should have a position on it. For context see this discussion, eg.)


Thanks for setting this up and your continued involvement in this.

I am still a bit anxious about funding, there has to be a yearly donation call if we want to continue, I don’t want this to fall all on your shoulders.

1 Like