Gestern ist ESHER von Streetfiles.org mit einem letzten und offenen Brief an die Öffentlichkeit gegangen. Im Inhalt erklärt er das Ende der Photo Community und stellt klar warum die Entscheidung mehr als feststeht. Zum 30.April 2013 wird Streetfiles.org nun offline gehen. Eine Alternative gibt es bisher nicht. Im Brief werden zahlreiche Entscheidungen erläutert, welche in der Vergangenheit getroffen wurden um die Seite am Laufen zu halten. Es geht um viel Geld, undurchsichtige Verträge mit Investoren und Bauchentscheidungen. Wann wer wie und warum falsch gehandelt hat, bleibt unklar. Streetfiles.org hatte sicherlich viele Gegner, jedoch mindestens ebenso viele Fürsprecher und User. Die Zahlen sprechen für die Idee.
Sorry, Streetfiles is closing
Berlin, March 13th 2013
Hi guys, I am sorry to inform you that I have finally managed to screw it all up. My last two posts were about a possible relaunch of Streetfiles, they signalized enthusiasm about a new beginning. Now, I have to tell you that I have failed to realize these plans in an early stage. This is what you need to know:
Streetfiles is going down on the 30th of April
Yes, we are going to switch the site completely off on that day. This is not one of my sneaky tricks to grab your attention. Nor is it an April fool hoax. This is the bitter truth. This is the end, my friend. Goodbye SF, hello RL.
I will provide you with some more information on what will happen.
For some pervert kind of self therapy I am venting my spleen here. Of course this reflects only my personal total paranoid opinion.
As you know, Streetfiles is a collaboration-project with a long history and even some skeletons in the closet. This long story is about the skeletons and it begins in 1998:
Berlin-based graffiti fan John Doe (yes, not his real name) had the idea of founding an online database for graffiti pictures that anyone could contribute to.
Side Remark: I mean like, isn’t that totally crazy and far ahead of time? There were no smart phones and no digital cameras at that time. The internet was lame as hell. Flickr was founded in 2004, Instagram launched in 2010.
Side Remark: It should be mentioned that graffiti.org (aka art crimes) was established in 1994 and has been running ever since. But that’s another story.
Anyways, John decided to go big. In 2000, the millenium, was the first internet bubble and clearly enough: Graffiti was also a part of the new economy. He managed to raise 35.000 DM (17.500 €) from friends and family for this joint venture. Business plan or revenue? We’ll care about that later. A team was built, contracts were made.
In 2001 the original graffitinet.com launched.
In 2006 the company was finally closed due to missing financial success, no revenue had been made so far. To rescue at least the idea of the project, the website was transferred to a registered friendly society of the same name and with about the same crew.
In 2007 John approached us, Hausburger, Movel and me (Esher), with the idea of an update. At that time graffitinet.com had only about 180 unique visitors daily. He wanted to save it. He asked us what it would cost to implement some new features he thought of. His plan was to get a sponsor on board to pay us for the job.
We looked at it and said: The original idea is still good. But this sort of website is totally outdated by now. No update will help. You can’t pay for the relaunch.
Then we made an offer: “This project sounds very interesting to us. We have some money saved and finally we want to do a project on our own, just for the fun of it. We all love Graffiti and we like each other. Let’s just do it, give us freedom to do it all different and even change its name. We will even take care to generate some revenue ourselves. Instead of paying us for a small update, you will get a whole new thing based on the very same idea for free, plus that we will pay 20% of our revenue back to the friendly society.” We shook hands and made another contract on this.
Then i oversaw (they told me but i didn’t wanted to hear about these old contracts too much) that there was even another contract between the old investors and the original members of the friendly society. This contract basically said that 50% (plus 6% yearly interest) of all the money the friendly society generates should be paid directly to the old investors.
Side Remark: I still don’t get this one. I mean: Isn’t a friendly society supposed to be charitable, non-profit and non-commercial? In my opinion a friendly society should collect money to do something good with it. Anyways, we swallowed that bitter pill, because all the members of the friendly society were so friendly, so supportive and enthusiastic about this new project. We had the feeling that the fruits of our work would be carried out by this community. We thought that our job was to build the new thing and that we would all manage it together later on. Giving back 20% of revenue to the community is really a fair deal for this.
We worked for half a year on the project, in 2008 Streetfiles.org launched and it was an immediate success. It went boom like a bomb, even more successful than we had ever dreamed of. By now more than 800.000 photos, 80.000 members, about 18.000 unique visitors daily – crazy shit.
Of course, we also dreamed about turning our beloved hobby into some kind of life style business. But we are Graffiti writers at heart and website creators by job definition. We are no sales nor marketing guys. Our sister company fortrabbit arranged a dream deal and we found a marketing agency to deliver banner ads. But the site was growing and growing. So we were really lucky when our great sponsor Montana Colors joined us.
In the meantime the friendly society turned into an invisible friendly society. No association meetings took place, nothing happened any more. Just my two friends of the original crew members remained very faithful over the years until now and helped us a ton with daily admin tasks and promotion.
But we also got great help from our loyal Streetfiles members.
The financial situation stabilized and looked like this: It generated enough cash to pay the office rent, plus even a little bonus to buy some Christmas gifts. We kept true to our deal and paid back the 20% to the invisible society.
50% of that money was transferred to the old investors. The invisible society didn’t know what to do with the other cash so we paid a little bonus to our most active volunteer admins.
Stop fucking around and be a man. There ain’t nothing out here for you. Oh yes, there is: This. – Wild Style
Running Streetfiles is a shit load of work, much more a hobby than a business, but it still feels good somehow. It went in our blood and our bones. I am not going to calculate the hours of time spent vs the money we got, pretty sure that the hourly rate would be nothing but a joke. Sometimes, I reflect on what else could have happened, if we had not done it.
Time went on. At the end of 2011 fortrabbit decided to give up old school bare metal hosting and move in the cloud. This forced us to think about the current situation and the future of Streetfiles. Migrating Streetfiles with all its hundreds of thousands of files to the cloud is a big task. The good news: Running it in the cloud would make it faster and more stable. The downside: The costs of operating would at least be doubled. So this would cannibalize our small income and might even put us in a situation in which we had to pay to keep it up and running.
Hm, we thought to ourselves. What is this Streetfiles thing up to anyway nowadays? As we were busy with our day time jobs, we didn’t managed to really bring the project forward in the past years, we just maintained it. Our curating tools are not effective any more, we are missing chances to attract really interesting artists, even some cool accounts have already left us. And the code base of the project is totally outdated. We are weak now, just like MySpace before Facebook destroyed it. And we are exhausted by the daily hassle with it.
It became clear to us, that we didn’t want to let it die slowly. That’s why we decided to take the action: Either go forward, move to the cloud and relaunch it one more time to bring in some fresh new ideas and flavor and give it a chance for the next four years, or to switch it off.
Crazy as we are, we decided at least to try the impossible. My idea was to gather together all our savings and ask you, the users for support this time in a crowdfunding campaign. An experiment I was really curious about. We already spend a lot of time on this.
But you know what? I am a fucking pighead. After being solely responsible for the kid for such a long time I also wanted sole custody. So I asked the invisible society members to hand over the project to us, the developers, the maintainers. Everybody agreed on this. But there was one thing we forgot about. And this is where the shit hits the fan and this long story finally gets interesting. John claimed that his 15-year-old liabilities still needed to be paid in full. We should continue to pay the 10% of revenue until all of the old investors would be paid. 17.500 € plus 6% anunal interest over 10 years makes roughly 28.000 €. On top of that he still needs to be paid as an artist: 9.000,00 € plus 6% interest over 10 years, roughly 16.000 €. All together about 44.000,00 €
Have I mentioned that I am a not only a fucking pighead, I am also dogmatic. Of course, I was not into for that kind of deal and instead I offered:
We are now trying to carry your original idea a generation further, but for this to happen you must free the idea from the business you screwed up 15 years ago. I simply will not pay any more for something I have not had anything to do with. I have already paid 5.000 € only to the old investors over the last 5 years and I will give you guys another 3.000 € now just because I want this to happen and I actually like you a lot and I can even see your point somehow. But then, please let go for the sake of it and give us your blessing.
John refused my offer and made no other offer on his own. Still hopeful for a positive outcome I went on working on the relaunch project in the meanwhile.
A month passed, we met and phoned from time to time and argued. I realized that I could no longer shift and shift the time frame for the relaunch project, so I set a deadline for his final answer.
We met again and even again. Both of us moved a bit in the others direction but none of us was willing to give up his position. So that’s how we failed. I know it’s in my full responsibility to be such a pighead and that I risked and lost this wonderful community just to force through my very own opinion.
So sorry that I have fucked it all up.
We have switched off comments here to avoid unnecessary discussions. Our decision is final, we really mean it. We have already checked out all kinds of alternatives, but no chance.
It was a tough month with lot’s of exhausting discussions, endless e-mail threads and sleepless nights. I am totally burned out by all this fighting. In the last weeks I could barely think of anything else. My brain was like in an endless loop running hotter and hotter. This whole project is totally poisoned for now, it’s full of hate and bad karma. Something inside me broke. I had to stop riding this dead horse. I also could not stall the relaunch any longer, so I pulled the emergency break, even though a kind of trade-off was insight at the end.
Have something to say? Write your message of condolence to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will publish a selection in the next blog entry on streetfiles.org