Jonathan Chait: Fear of a Female Fed Chief: Noted for July 29, 2013
Brian A. Nosek, Jeffrey R. Spies, and Matt Motyl: Scientific Utopia: II. Restructuring incentives and practices to promote truth over publishability: Noted for July 29, 2013

We Cannot Satisfy the Demand for Our Free Ice Cream So We Won't Make Any Ice Cream at All!

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You need to go read the whole thing below the fold. Then come back.

Back? Good.

Apparently, Elena Bulygina and Dmitry Krasnoukhov

  • Will provide and maintain a free RSS reader for 10,000 people.
  • Will not charge to provide a paid-for RSS reader for 50,000 people.
  • Will not overwork themselves to provide "a crappy [RSS reader experience" for free to 420,000 readers.
  • Are sorry that they have failed their larger " incredible, supportive and helpful community".
  • Don't "want to be an entrepreneur… just love making a good RSS reader".

From an economist's point of view, the only possible reaction is whiskey-tango-foxtrot-bang-query-bang-query. Charging people money to prevent overloading of resources (in this case, Elena Bulygina and Dmitry Krasnoukhov's time) is what the price system is for. It is its principal virtue.

But rather than charge $5/month for accounts to keep the number of subscribers down to a level they can handle, they prefer to charge $∞/month for accounts--that's right: infinity--as the only alternative to charging $0/month. I can see why they might, ideally, want to charge $0/month. But if you can't charge $0/month, what is the advantage in charging $∞/month rather than $5/month?

Elena Bulygina and Dmitry Krasnoukhov:

The Old Reader: behind the scenes - Desperate times call for desperate measures: Since we launched first public version almost a year ago up until March 2013 we have been working on The Old Reader in “normal” mode. In March things became “nightmare”, but we kept working hard…. Last week difficulty level was changed to “hell” in every possible aspect we could imagine, we have been sleep deprived for 10 days and this impacts us way too much. We have to look back.

The truth is, during last 5 months we have had no work life balance at all. The “life” variable was out of equation: you can limit hours, make up rules on time management, but this isn’t going to work if you’re running a project for hundreds of thousands of people. Let me tell you why: it tears us to bits if something is not working right, and we are doing everything we can to fix that. We can’t ignore an error message, a broken RAID array, or unanswered email. I personally spent my own first wedding anniversary fixing the migration last Sunday. Talk about “laid back” attitude now. And I won’t even start describing enormous sentimental attachment to The Old Reader that we have.

We would really like to switch the difficulty level back to “normal”. Not to be dreaded of a vacation. Do something else besides The Old Reader. Stop neglecting ourselves. Think of other projects. Get less distant from families and loved ones. The last part it’s the worst: when you are with your family, you can’t fall out of dialogues, nodding, smiling and responding something irrelevant while thinking of refactoring the backend, checking Graphite dashboard, glancing onto a Skype chat and replying on Twitter. You really need to be there, you need to be completely involved. We want to have this experience again.

That’s why The Old Reader has to change. We have closed user registration, and we plan to shut the public site down in two weeks. We started working on this project for ourselves and our friends… so we will launch a separate private site that will keep running….

The private site?…

We will whitelist everybody we know personally, along with all active accounts that were registered before March 13, 2013 — those are the people who had consciously signed up for The Old Reader rather than were simply looking for “a Google Reader replacement”. And of course, we will migrate all our awesome supporters and people who donated to keep the project running….

For those who would like to start the usual “VC, funding, mentor” or “charge for the damn thing” mantras--please, spare it… not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. We just love making a good RSS reader….

We value our community very much, and we will either pass the project to somebody who we know is going to take a good care of it, or we will switch it to private mode….

I will finally get back to work on my small studio — Bespoke Pixel — which has been run by my awesome partner all this time. Dmitry will keep being bright young software developer, making scalable and beautiful projects. Our team will stay together, and will keep working on making the private version of The Old Reader awesome.

We feel great responsibility for the project. We’d rather provide a smooth and awesome experience for 10 000 users than a crappy one for 420 000.

Sorry, each and everyone if we failed you. You are an incredible, supportive and helpful community. The best we could possibly hope for.