How my Kindle paid for itself

My blog post about Kindle covers brought in enough revenue in December to pay for my Kindle. It now brings in enough every month to cover my Kindle reading habit.

KindleGranted, I could use that money for something else, but I like to think of it as my Kindle paying for itself. I mean, I wouldn’t have written a review of covers if I didn’t own a Kindle.

Amazon pays a healthy 10% affiliates fee for any Kindle product sales that you send them. Those affiliate fees have encouraged a huge number of Kindle blogs. All people hoping to get rich from Kindle sales.

They fall into a number of categories.

  1. Books. There are blogs that just talk about books available for the Kindle. Since Amazon makes it pretty easy to find Kindle books, I don’t understand the point of these blogs at all. If I want advice on what books to read on my Kindle, I’m much more likely to read a blog about the genre I like to read, not about the reader I like to read on. These blogs can be useful when they point out free books, but you can find those easily on
    Amazon’s site
    too. Or just check the bestseller
    – the good free books hit the bestseller list fast. (Interestingly enough, Amazon’s own
    Kindle blog
    falls into this category of mostly about available books.)
  2. Merchandise. People have created entire blogs about Kindle accessories. I can see a blog about home accessories for people that like to decorate, but a blog about Kindle accessories? How many can you add to the little thing? A cover, a light, a screen protector, and then what? These blogs must live off searches. Much like my cover review blog post does.
  3. Kindle news. These blogs try to update you on Kindle news but there isn’t much. Some also offer tips and tricks for your Kindle and some of these are rather useful. I enjoy being able to check the time on my Kindle. (Now if they would just release the source code so I could make the time display permanently at the top of the screen …)
  4. E-reader news. Some blogs cover all the e-readers and the news about the industry including DRM issues, debates between publishers and distributors, etc. I think these are the only blogs that are going to live long term. Ones like the Kindle Review. If you want to try getting rich off Amazon Kindle affiliate sales, this is the long term category to be in. (I don’t think your chances of getting rich off Amazon Kindle affiliate sales are really good though.)

But even if most of those blogs don’t work out … Amazon’s affiliate program has given them enormous amounts of cheap advertising.

So the real question is how can you create an affiliates program around your product? Can we add an affiliates type program to Friends of GNOME? To GNOME? To Kids on Computers?

How does Malaysia encourage so many women in software?

 In 2003 I gave a talk in Malaysia. What I noticed immediately is that my audience was well over half women. This was really noticeable because they were all wearing brightly colored hijabs. Usually I scan the room and count how many women I can find – usually on my fingers even in a room of hundreds. Hijab-programmer-womanYet here were hundreds of women attending a talk about the economics of open source software!

I've wondered ever since what they do so differently in Malaysia that they get so many more women involved in software. Is it something we could do as well?

A recent study offers a theory:

in Malaysia jobs in technology
are seen as appropriate for women: Men do not perceive indoor work as
masculine and much of society stigmatizes women who work outdoors as
lower class. Computing and programming are seen as “women-friendly”
professions, with opportunities opening up since men are not
interested in competing for these types of jobs. “It’s a woman’s world
in that respect,” said Mellstrom.

So women that work in software are higher class. Where as in my experience it's often been insinuated in the US that if you are attractive or social, there are better careers for you. "You're a programmer?? You don't look like one!"

Stormy’s Update: Week of February 8th

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

Attended the FOSS Workshop. This was an event of mostly university researchers with some invited industry and project attendees (like myself.) The goal was/is to come up with proposals for NSF grants to study free and open source software. The discussions and writing took place over 2.5 days and evenings and I was impressed at the discussion that happened and the proposals that were starting to take shape. I pushed for less studying how projects work (I feel like we know that) and more studying how people (including students and companies) can get involved. There were also proposals for studying how the open source model can be applied to other industries (other than software), how different cultures get involved, business models, etc. I was also impressed at how long all the professors could focus on the project. I could have used some more email/voice mail/blog/twitter breaks. 🙂

Met with a few more GNOME advisory board members. A few more meetings to go. It’s good to catch up with everyone and their plans so far. (No big secrets.)

Exchanged email with FOSSFA about an event they are doing in Africa and about how GNOME could participate with some training.

Talked to several people about GNOME a11y, usability and the hackfests in London and at CSUN.

Provided quote for XIPWIRE press release. They are accepting donations for free and open software projects like GNOME free of charge.

Welcomed Gary Ekker as Novell’s representative to the GNOME advisory board.

This week for sure:

  • Presenting at IASA.
  • AtteSuperstickiesnding OSS Watch phone Advisory Board Meeting.
  • Working on GUADEC sponsorship.
  • At least 4 more meetings with advisory board meetings.
  • Board meeting.
  • Meeting with Rosanna.
  • Pinging a lot of people about a lot of things …

This week hopefully:

  • Settle on dates for the Meet the Funders events.
  • Letter for annual report.
  • Catching up on email.
  • Landing pages for Friends of GNOME hits from Google ads.

I survived 30 days without sweets

A month ago I set a goal for myself: no sweets nor alcohol for 30 days. In this post I'm primarily going to discuss the sweets part. I'll address the alcohol part in another post.

IStock_000011166708XSmallHow did I do? I did excellent sticking to my goal. (That doesn't mean I felt excellent just that I stuck to my goal well.) I did quit the alcohol part on day 25 for Superbowl weekend. But I didn't have any sweets, not even a bite of birthday cake, for the entire 30 days.

Best side effect? The whole family is eating better. I have been buying a bunch of fruit to take care of sweet cravings and the whole family has been loving it. We've discovered that our 3 year old will eat all of his dinner, including spinach salad and broccoli, just to get an apple or some grapes!

Did you feel different? Not really. I was really hoping that I'd feel different, i.e. better, if I ate less sweets. Other than craving sweets every day, for the most part I felt the same. With one exception – on day 3 I felt miserable. My whole body ached. I have no idea if that was from giving up sweets or alcohol or if I had a one day flu. Thank goodness it was over in a day.

Did you ever get over craving sweets? Not really, I had one day where I did not crave sweets – day 12. It lasted only a day. And the last week was better – I didn't crave sweets, I just really wanted some. It makes me think I'm still addicted and perhaps I should continue with the no sweets for a while longer.

How did you cope with the cravings? I ate a ton of fruit for the first 5 days. After that I just ignored them. (Or complained about them on identica, twitter and Facebook. 🙂 I also drank a lot of carbonated water.

Were you hungry? I was very hungry the first 5 days and then again on days 21 and 22. Unusually hungry. Other than that, I think I was less hungry than normal.

I was surprised to discover that it is possible to not be hungry between meals. I always thought people were really hungry between meals but just holding out for the next meal time. It was a new thing for me to be able to go from breakfast to lunch and from lunch to dinner without snacking. I don't think I've done that in several years.

Did your energy levels change? My initial response would be no. But I think my running suffered a bit. And at bedtime I was more than ready for bed. Nothing I can prove though.

Did you lose a lot of weight? I lost 4 pounds. As I wasn't doing it to lose weight, I ate whenever I was hungry. The problem (or advantage) is that most of the snacks I enjoy are sweet, so often nothing appealed to me. I think I ate a lot more at meal times but snacked less.

Did you exercise? I did my normal exercise which is running 1-3 miles a day.

What qualifies as a sweet? Candy bars, cookies, anything with chocolate in it, cookies, flavored yoghurt, chocolate chips, pudding, … I interchanged saying I gave up sweets and saying I gave up chocolate. To me a sweet isn't worth eating if it doesn't have chocolate in it. Except maybe marzipan. And even marzipan is better with chocolate.

Did you give up bread, rice or pasta? No, I did not give up bread, rice or pasta. I did not have any of the yummy cinnamon bread we had though. I thought the added sugar on top turned it into a sweet. And I didn't make any banana bread during this time as I consider it a sweet too.

How many sweets do you normally eat? I estimate about 600 calories a day. But I never really counted.

How come you don't talk about the alcohol? I didn't crave wine or beer. I craved sweets. I only really missed alcohol when I was having food I thought would be better with a drink, like beer with pizza or red wine with pasta. And even that went away after a while. The second time I had a pub hamburger without a beer, I decided maybe it was ok that way. I do have some insights about the alcohol though that I'll share in another post.

What's next? I think I'm going to continue to try to eat less sweets. Maybe not no sweets, just less sweets. I don't know what that looks like yet. And I will start drinking wine again with my pasta.

What was the hardest moment? I'm not sure if it was not eating sweets while sitting at home by myself or if it was the cooler full of ice cream bars that they wheeled into a conference room and left right next to me … on day 30. I couldn't think of any way to take an ice cream bar to keep in my room until day 31!

What have been your experiences giving up sweets?

More Women in GNOME Now!

The GNOME community is extremely diverse when it comes to nationality. But we don't have many women working on GNOME.

We want to make sure that women interested in working on GNOME know they are welcome, so we have announced the

                GNOME Outreach Program for Women!

The goal is to encourage women to participate in GNOME and to provide internship opportunities in the summer.

IStock_000002762853XSmall We noticed a problem back in 2006. We had 181 submissions for Google’s Summer of Code – and not one was from a woman. So Hanna Wallach and Chris Ball launched the Women's Summer Outreach Program. We received a 100 applications from women that summer and were able to accept 6 – six women were paid to work on GNOME and mentored by GNOME developers. (Sponsored primarily with a grant from Google.) Recently Marina Zhurakhinskaya followed up with those women and decided we should do it again and expand on the program.

So we are once again doing a GNOME Outreach Program for Women.

How can you help?

  • Encourage women to apply to the program!
  • Mentor a woman in the program.
  • Contribute financially to help pay the stipends.
  • Convince a company to sponsor the program.
  • Encourage your company to hire a female intern to work on GNOME.

Please help! Spread the word! Encourage women to join GNOME!

Should you ask developers for money? And other interesting fundraising dilemnas.

300x300_cjohnson Chris Blizzard introduced me to Clay Johnson. I had such an interesting time talking to him about social networking, free and open source software, governments and fundraising that I asked if he’d share some of his points in a blog interview.

Meet Clay Johnson, Director of Sunlight Labs!

Hi Clay, you have a lot of experience with online social networking. Where’d you get that experience?

It’s weird– I started out with social networking before social networking was called “social networking.” In college, back in the early days of the web, my Dad would always ask me to look things up on the Internet for him. I began to get tired of answering questions, so I built a service that would let people ask questions and answer them online– that way, I figured, he could have a whole community of people answering his questions. That was, the first “social network” I built on my own.
A few years later, I found myself working on the same kind of project with some friends called, which was a social networking service built into Outlook. And shortly thereafter, the Howard Dean Campaign hired me to be their lead programmer and build Dean Link, a privately branded social network. Then quickly found myself starting the company that created— yet
another social network.
It isn’t intentional, I swear! I find both socialness, and networking exhausting …

You now work at Sunlight Labs on “opening” the American government.
What’s that about? How can we help?

Our mission is to use technology to make government more open, accessible and accountable to its citizens. We’re now a community of about 1400 developers at Last year our community built out about 100 different open source applications based on making government more open accountable,  accessible and open.
The apps range from things like–which allows you to sort and view information about Congress, to— our own Open Source Mechanical Turk, to which takes data from the federal government and makes it relevant to your area and— a site that takes the Federal Register (the official Journal of the Federal Government) and turns it into something people can actually read.
Our hope is that our work will result in economic opportunity (GPS, Weather Data, the Human Genome– all built on government data!), a more accountable government, and more rational political debate as people have more access to facts. The fact that there’s more data on Manny Ramirez and his job performance than Nancy Pelosi’s is kind of crazy and we hope to change that.

I’ve heard you say you should never ask a developer for money. Most free and open source software projects turn to those they know best, developers, when they need funds. Why do you think that’s a bad idea?

Let me hedge here a little and say you shouldn’t ask a volunteer for money. For the same reason the folks at
Habitat for Humanity don’t come and ask you for money while you’re putting up drywall in one of their houses. There’s a spectrum when it comes to open source software. One one side there are projects that are
driven out of the hope for a larger good– I’d call these traditional volunteer projects– where people are  donating their time to help make the world a better place. Then there’s the other hand: stuff that’s driven out of necessity. Obviously this is a spectrum and projects move within it. When you have stuff on the ideological side– stuff built genuinely not out of the desire to solve a specific problem, but to make the world a better place, then those developers are likely already donating to your project with their time.  They’re being altruistic already. When you have a developer giving their time out of
necessity, they’re getting a return on their investment– usually a more efficient workplace, better software for them to use, or some other personal need filled. It’s entirely appropriate to ask them for money as well– as their return on investment will be even greater.
How do you think free software projects can effectively engage with donors?

Now if I had the secret to make all open source software economically sustainable and as well funded as
commercial software every time– well, I’d have told everyone by now, and we’d all be rich working on  projects we believe in. In the political world there’s a lot of best practices, but the one I like the most is to maintain long-term relationships with people via email and social media, and to make specific asks from them. So, for instance instead of saying “Donate to keep this project sustainable,” one could say “We need to build out XYZ, can you pay for ONE line of code to go to that project? Our estimate is that it’ll take X lines of code.”
Another thing you can do is look at what the clean energy community is doing– what if you created a code offset like we have carbon offsets now? What if an organization set up a website where folks could estimate the amount of free software they use and buy free software offsets on an annual basis, and make investments in free software projects? This works great because it helps donors alleviate their guilt for not contributing their time to open source projects, and makes it easy. I’d gladly put an open source offset sticker on my laptop to match my carbon offset sticker in my car.

How can we get donors participating in the project?

Allow donors to fund the projects they care about. Give them a voice in the project. Don’t just enable their participation but expect it. Build an email list and talk to them about what it is they want. Don’t send newsletters, send real emails asking them to help out. Give them a meaningful way to participate and what’ll happen is unusual: they’ll participate.

Do you have any fundraising tips for us?

Here’s what’s amazing: when you give users an active role in your community. They’ll participate more. So find ways to get them involved. For something like GNOME, come up with some principles, and get your users to sign on to them and you’ll find that if you ask them to help fundraise, they’ll do it.

What’s the single most important thing you think free software projects
could do to improve their fundraising efforts?

Start reading emails from organizations like and and start emulating them and their tactics. You don’t have to agree with them politically to see how they’re doing what they’re doing.
A lot of people are going to call me crazy, but look: I’d argue that GNOME has as much if not more installations than the number of people that are subscribed to’s email list. And unlike, a lot of these users are interacting with your software every day, not just when an email pops up in their inbox or when something happens in Washington.

What is Sunlight labs going to do next? What can we expect to see in open government?

We’re focused on launching a new contest a few short weeks. It’ll be a design contest. We want to make it so that by 2011, people who can come to and find the team they need to open their government. Developers are a part of that, but designers are too.

Stormy’s Update: Weeks of January 25th and February 1st

This is my update for work done for the GNOME Foundation. For a higher level overview for what I do as the Executive Director, see What do I do as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation? or my earlier updates.

Edited a GNOME Journal article. Check out the latest issue with its multimedia focus!

Published the GNOME Q4 2009 Quarterly Report! Thanks to all the teams that wrote things up – we have some great write-ups about some awesome work.

Submitted the GNOME Google Adwords account for approval. I was bummed when the automated response says it could take up to three months to get approval. However, it was approved within a few days! We’ve been running ads for Friends of GNOME and Women’s Outreach for the past week or so. I’ve played with the keywords and ads some and gotten some feedback from the marketing list as well. Anyone with experience with Google Adwords would be appreciated!

Conversations with several board members about how things are going for the Board and how things are running with the GNOME Foundation.

Many one on one conversations with GNOME Advisory Board members. These were mostly brief chats 20-30 minutes about how things were going for them and how we could best work together. Discussed things like hackfests and GUADEC as well.

Friends of GNOME update for December 2009 and January 2010. We had a stellar 2009! In 2009, Friends of GNOME raised $29,578 for
GNOME! That is the same amount raised by 3 large companies. From
community contributions. It’s enough for several hackfests and close to
the amount needed annually for a part time system administrator. In December we raised $2,663, more than any other December. Spread the word!

Sent thank you’s to people who donated money to GNOME. Sent a few postcards out for the Adopt a Hacker program. Sent on addresses to others who also owe thank you postcards.

GNOME Jobs. Heard about several GNOME jobs and asked people to post them on the GNOME Jobs board.

Had 1:1 meeting with Rosanna. Still working with her to try to get her workload balanced.

GNOME Board of Directors meeting.

Pinged a lot of people about a lot of things. Including GUADEC sponsorships.

Checked on getting a Euro account for the GNOME Foundation. Found one option that is good for large amounts but has excessive wire fees for small amounts.

Attended the Women in Free Software IRC meeting.

Attended a “Benchmarking Women Leadership” event put on by the White House Project. I was expecting more data about the new report but instead I met a lot of interesting people that may be able to help with contacts for the GNOME Outreach Program
for Women

Started planning a “Meet the Funders” event with other free software projects. We’ll invite people from Foundations and other funders to learn more about free software projects.

This week:

Would you pay someone to help you write LinkedIn recommendations?

I was talking to Leslie Hawthorn and we had what we thought was a brilliant idea for a new business for writers. At least we'd sign up to be customers!

Business idea: Writing LinkedIn Recommendations

Here's how it could work:

  1. Potential customer pays for help writing a recommendation. ($10-20?)
  2. Potential customer calls writer. (Or writer calls the customer. I think this would have to be a phone call, not a voice mail, but maybe not.)
  3. In 5 minutes or less the customer tells the writer what they like or admire about their colleague.
  4. Writer rights up the recommendation in a format suitable for LinkedIn (a couple of sentences) and emails it to the customer.
  5. Customer posts the recommendation to LinkedIn.

Any writers looking for some part time work?


In order to see how this would work, I am making a limited time offer. For the first 6 people to donate $60 or more to the GNOME Foundation or to Kids on Computers and to email me saying they'd like to take me up on this offer, I will help write 3 recommendations. Obviously we will have to set up a time to talk and you will have to tell me what's good about the people you want to recommend.

For samples of my writing, you can read this blog or see the recommendations I have written on LinkedIn for people I recommend.

This offer is good until February 26th or until a total of 6 people have signed up, which ever comes first.

You must be among the first 6 people to donate to the GNOME Foundation or Kids on Computers and email me to qualify.