On Monday, we enabled an ad space on documentation pages hosted on readthedocs.org. We have tested the ad space in the past, and had followed up with a discussion of the implications of advertising. The space was meant to be totally unobtrusive to the browsing and usage of documentation pages, and doesn’t enable third-party tracking of users in any way. This is all in an effort to help raise funds to support continued support and maintenance on the project, and ensure free and open documentation stays available.
Read the Docs is a massive project, and requires a large amount of work to keep running and support. We receive support requests and must tend to the operations of the servers on a daily basis. Neither of these tasks lend to volunteer contributions, they both require dedicated support roles for such a large site. I’ve personally been wearing a pager in support of the project for over 4 years, all on a volunteer basis.
Though we have done multiple donation drives, and have enabled other ways for users to support us, these only supply a limited amount of funding. Our users are the last ones we want to charge, they are other open source projects who aren’t paid themselves! This puts us in a hard situation. Selling a small amount of documentation reader attention allows us to sustainably support Read the Docs without affecting authors.
We firmly believe that the major issue with the advertising industry isn’t advertising, but tracking of users and third-party scripts. To address this, we don’t allow any tracking of our users by third-party scripts.
We do record the number of impressions each image gets from our server logs, and we track clicks with Google Analytics, which only we have access to.
We have added multiple ways to opt out of the advertising on Read the Docs. Inside the Admin > Advertising section of every project, you can see options to control or remove advertising on your project. These options include:
- Opting out without doing any of the above. This will make us a little sad, but we understand not everyone has the means to contribute back.
In a perfect world we wouldn’t include advertising on our pages. If you are at a company or another institution that would like to fund operations, support, and development of the project, please contact us!
For the foreseeable future, supporting the Read the Docs community site with advertising is our most viable model. We hope that you understand our thoughts here, and we’re always happy to have feedback or to field new ideas that might allow us to not require this in the future!