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Patreon is a community membership service that lets you pledge monthly donations, at a price you set yourself, to creators.

Back in December 2017 I first created a Patreon account to support Vasily "bezumkin" Naumkin with his work on the MODX core. Shortly after that I added pledges to the creators of PHPunit, FlySystem, and Wait But Why (which has nothing to do with programming, but is just one of my favourite blogs on the internet). At a later point in 2018 I also pledged to Homebrew.

They're all small amounts, more a token of my support and gratitude than anything else. The largest part was for Vasily ($25, until July), and the others were $3-5 each for a total of $38.

There are no tangible benefits, other than making sure that the software doesn't just go away by rewarding the creator. I routinely spend more money on stupid things I don't really need (like a huge foam enter button), while what these creators share with the world is much more valuable, so that's a really good deal.

They are also recurring, automatically charged monthly, which starts to add up over time.

In 2018 my personal Patreon donations totalled at $348. Still not enough to pay anyone's bills or full time employment, but probably more than I would've donated to these projects if they only accepted one-off donations, and the numbers do get more meaningful for the creator when you consider the effect of more people contributing. Previously these creators would fund their work through client work, sacrifice free time after a day job, rely on one-time donations, or juggle things in another way, while with Patreon they're offered a predictable (extra) income directly attributable to the work they share.

After a chat about the work that goes into my open source projects and in particular the work that goes into the MODX core, I decided to set up my own Patreon yesterday.

I am fortunate enough that I have a business that's running well and pays the bills, but I still constantly have to prioritise my time and energy. When the to do list explodes, or energy gets low (yay, burnout), I have to choose what things to work on. The reality of running a business is that things that make money are more important than things that don't, and as a result it's usually the open source work that gets snoozed first even though I strongly believe that the work I do on the MODX project should be an important part of my day-to-day work.

So that's where Patreon comes in.

By supporting me on Patreon, you're supporting my work for the MODX core and open source extras. Every contribution shows that these hours upon hours of work are worth something to you, and that will motivate me to keep up and make more time available to keep making the CMS you use better, one PR at a time.

If you're interested in supporting others in the MODX community, check out Joshua Lückers' Patreon, who is the most recent person to become a MODX integrator and has been putting in lots of hours as well.

I'm not aware of any other MODXers with a Patreon page at the moment (Vasily shut his down in July), but if you find any, or have any other Patreons you support, leave a comment below :)

I'm pretty sure it was the wedding of two of my best friends at the end of July 2016 that finally tipped the scale. Seeing their love and commitment broke down the last wall I had built up, and made me decide to admit to what I had been hiding for years. In the following weeks I came out as bisexual to the people closest to me, including my parents and those best friends after they returned from their honeymoon.

While my first romantic thoughts for men probably date back to high school, those had been neatly tucked away behind layers of insecurity and telling myself "it's just a phase" and "everyone probably feels confused like this" until I believed it myself. Even though I live in one of the most accepting countries in the world when it comes to LGBT, it took me a long time to accept these feelings - and myself.

Being bisexual also didn't help. While it's fine if you have trouble choosing what you want for dinner because the entire menu looks amazing, or being unsure about how business decisions will pan out, for a long time I had more-or-less accepted that I was different from the norm but couldn't figure it out. At times I thought I was just so deep in the closet that I didn't want to accept I was just gay (and since coming out as bi, several people have suggested this to be the case too), but I knew the feelings I've had for women were just as true. That just confused me even more for a while.

Eventually I accepted that on a scale from 0 (straight) to 100 (gay), I'm about a 65 right now. Everyone's somewhere on that scale, and may be on different places throughout their life. I just happen to be more towards the middle than most people. (While writing this post, I learned about the Kinsey Scale which is the same idea, but uses a scale of 0 to 6; I'd put myself as a 4 on that scale).

So, to get back to why I started writing this post...

Since the summer of 2016 I've been telling people of my sexuality regularly, but I've not made a big deal about it or announced it to the world. Even within my family, many people probably don't know. Typically I tell people when they ask if I have a girlfriend yet, by saying something along the lines of that it could've been a boyfriend too.

I don't introduce myself as "Mark Hamstra, 27, bisexual", I've not posted unambiguously on Facebook or Twitter about my coming out, and you wont find me dancing half-naked on a boat during the Amsterdam Gay Pride anytime soon either (you're welcome). While my sexuality is part of who I am, it is not what primarily defines me, and I've been treating it like a detail not everyone has to be made instantly aware of.

From time to time that has made some things a little more complicated than strictly necessary. In situations where people who I have not told unintentionally touch on the topic (for example "are you seeing anyone?", "did you buy your house by yourself?"), there's sometimes an (unintentional) undertone that assumes I'm straight. This can come from people that I've known for ages who I trust enough that I want to correct their assumption. But as I have about a split second to decide to either come out to them (and whoever else may be part of/listening to the conversation), or to fall back to pretending to be straight like I've done for so long, I sometimes choose the latter and regret it a few hours later. It feels like I'm lying to those people, which is also holding me back. As if one leg is still stuck in the closet, and I need to break it down to really get out.

So, long story short, I'm bisexual, and now that it's public knowledge I can stop caring as much about who does and who doesn't know.

Today I found out about an initiative from Ben & Jerry's, the ice cream company, to promote marriage equality in Australia. They set up a marketing campaign where you're not allowed to buy two scoops of the same flavour until same-sex marriage is made legal.

It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but they're also hitting some serious notes by encouraging people to contact their government representatives to request actual political action. Not everyone seems to be a big fan, but it got me thinking about what a business should (or should not) do with its platform or reach.

With my business, modmore, I've always tried to avoid political issues.

Of course I have personal opinions on Trump, LGBT rights, diversity in tech, religions, Brexit, and all sorts of other topics. I'd love to discuss those topics, on personal title, in the future.

But I've always tried to avoid forcing my own political/social thoughts onto modmore, so modmore as an entity wouldn't "pick a side" on certain topics.

Ideas that I might consider common sense (such as the same-sex marriage Ben & Jerry's is promoting), are literally illegal in some countries. And things that are considered common sense elsewhere might not match my worldview either.

Those differences are a given, and I've never seen it as a responsibility for modmore to take its platform and reach to encourage my view of the world, or how it should be, on customers.

People come to modmore for the excellent MODX extras and support, not a lecture about same-sex marriage.

Then, just a few weeks ago, we had a sale at modmore where people who spent over €50 received a free pack of Stroopwafels with their order. Stroopwafels are typical Dutch cookies, and part of that sale was to share a Dutch tradition, King's Day, with the world.

The sale promoted the Dutch heritage of modmore. It didn't judge countries that do not celebrate King's Day, nor did it lobby for Stroopwafels to be produced worldwide. But it did take something that is common sense in the Netherlands, and shared that with the world in a promotion.

Reflecting on it while writing this post, I may have diverged from my original stance with the sale. King's Day and stroopwafels are not really a controversial topic, but couldn't one say that promoting same sex marriage is also just promoting the Dutch heritage? After all, the Dutch were the first to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. It's part of the Dutch history, and a great achievement for the LGBT community, definitely worthy of celebration.

So now I'm wondering, is there really a difference between shipping customers stroopwafels to celebrate King's Day, and rainbow-coloured hats on Gay Pride?

Perhaps it is my responsibility as business owner to do more to encourage equality, diversity, and other good things to make the world a slightly better place for everyone. That I can live freely in my country, irrespective of my sexuality or (lack of) beliefs, is a great privilege that deserves to be shared and promoted.

Saying and doing nothing is also a political statement, so maybe it's time for modmore to take a more active stance on certain topics that I care about.

What is your take on this? Should businesses use the reach they may have to influence politics or social opinions? Is that perhaps even their responsibility? Or should they just stick to their core business and leave politics out of it?

I don't know.

When you think of entrepreneurs that make a name for themselves like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs or Derek Siver, those three words don't really come to mind.

While my goal is not to be world famous, a best seller author, or the first person to drive a ridiculously good electric car on Mars, I do want to hone my skills as an entrepreneur. Build products and services that people enjoy using, and growing a business doing things I like.

Yet all so often, I just don't know.

What's the best way to deal with problem X? How do we, or should we, work towards accomplishing Y? What will the effect of decision Z be? Yes or no?

There's uncertainty around every decision that needs to be made. And that freaks me out.

What if we did this one thing? What if we didn't? Will it be the beginning of the end, or is it the start of the famed hockey stick?

By surrounding myself with clever people and actively seeking their feedback I try to minimise the risk of doing something incredibly stupid. I try to force myself to take some time to really think something through if there's serious push back from people that know what they're talking about. More often than not, I change my position on said idea or decision. Maybe it's not quite as good as I first thought, or this just isn't the right time or place.

Stupid self confidence makes me wonder though if I'm a bad entrepreneur for not being 100% sure. How can you run a business if you don't know how you want to move forward on a simple decision?

I've learned to accept that it's okay not to have all the answers. It opens up an idea to more objective look. By saying I don't know, it doesn't mean that I don't care or that I don't lean a certain way, it's just that it needs further thought, analysis, time, or all of the above.

I think that's a good thing.

Free development licenses for Premium Extras at modmore is one of the things in the I don't know category that made it through to an actual launch. The first responses when I proposed this in a team meeting were cautiously optimistic. And when it was first mentioned at the MODXpo, only a few days later, people responded with a round of applause.

Now that it's live, people are starting to take advantage of it. Over 250 free development licenses have been installed to date.

So far, it seems to be a popular decision.

But will people install our paid-for extras for free, tear out our license system, and cause modmore to go bankrupt? Or will this lower the barrier to entry to the point that we will see an influx of new users and increased sales with it?

I still don't know.

But I'm cautiously optimistic.