Today it’s time for another of our core values when it comes to product design: user control. More specifically, control of what gets flattred. User control is very important to us, so we had to approach it in a serious way. Giving control in a product that is supposed to be automatic is not an easy task. It’s about you trusting the product, but still being able to change how it behaves. Simply put, you should control what sites to use Flattr on.

Here the real internet happens. The web contains millions of sites, a lot of which are not sites you, me and people in general want to support by giving money. The reasons range from you already paying for it, you not liking the creator, not agreeing to the views of the creator to it being a site you didn’t want to end up on in the first place.

It might feel bad to end up on a site you don’t like, but if there is a risk you would give them money via Flattr it would feel even worse. At the same time the idea of Flattr is to automatically support content creation you love, without you making an explicit choice to do so. We knew this was something we needed to solve.

Stats as the truth

When we dug into the statistics it quickly told us that the part of the web people want to pay for is quite small, as a percentage. Most of all because the internet is for work, communication, information and all the other tools we use to keep our lives running besides content consumption.

If we think binary, there are two extreme solutions to this. First, just don’t care and let Flattr flattr every single site on the net. Second we could let you manually enable Flattr on all the sites you want to use it for. The first solution is just bonkers so let’s leave that one well alone. The second obliges you to make a choice to flattr or not flattr each and every site you visit. We both know you would give up and just stop using Flattr. (Yes, we are also that lazy).

The list

We figured we needed to make a list of sites that most people would want to support that would be enabled by default, and disable the rest. A list of sites where we believe most users want flattrs to happen automatically. So we made one. A list of hundreds of thousands of sites with great content. This is our “domains that automatic flattrs are default enabled on”. A list that will evolve over time when old ones die and new sites pop up.

Simply put, the sites that are on this list are sites where Flattr is on by default. For the rest of the internet it’s off by default. Of course you can always override this default setting to enable/disable Flattr for the sites.

Updating and maintenance of the list
(This section was added after publishing to address comments)

It’s of utmost importance that this list will actually reflect what most of our users want to flattr. That means it will need continuous maintenance. Specially in regards to adding new sites. As the list serves as a gatekeeper to make sure the extension doesn’t flattr sites people don’t want to flattr. It also means that great sites that are not on the list might be easily missed by our users. Something we absolutely don’t want to happen.

The first version of the list was compiled by our team, but we definitely intend to open up that process. There are multiple mechanics that we are testing, evaluating and already implementing to solve this.

It’s though important to know that we can’t just automatically add any site people connect to their account to the list, as the whole purpose of the list – ensuring quality – then is bypassed. But we can manually or via community check the domains that people add to their accounts to see if they should be on the list. Same goes for sites that are flattred by multiple users but that are not on the general list, it’s an easy indication that people want to flattr them.

We are also looking into collecting data from users (anonymized and only with their prior approval) on which sites they enable/disable flattring on so we can learn if there are sites missing or sites that should be dropped.

In the end we are pretty sure we need to do multiple things to get this right. And we really want to get it right!

*Unless they’re on the black list. There are some sites that just can’t be flattred, your online banking for example. And some other sites for adults.

11 thoughts on “The Story about the new Flattr – The Flattr enabled list

  1. Well, I understand the reasons to this decision, but it puts smaller authors in a kind of disadvantage. How about at least a form to whitelist an author’s site on his request?

  2. In the future, a simple button to whitelist (or blacklist) content for automatic flattring from the extension? Majority wins or something? Maybe granting vote right only above a small minimum of money contributed so as to make spam accounts unprofitable?

  3. If I put the Flattr meta tag on my personal site, will articles from the site still get flattred?

  4. What is the process for being considered for inclusion on the pre-approved list? What about domains that are not on the automatic-Flattr list but still receive Flattrs from an X number of users – are those considered? Are domains linked to Flattr accounts considered for inclusion? Enabling automatic Flattr’ing on actually Flattr’able websites seems like it would provide a user experience where users can actually see their funds go towards the websites they actually visit.

    Please provide some actual details and transparency on this mechanism, please.

  5. On the great comments on how this list will be maintained and updated. Yes that was a piece of the puzzle that was omitted for later. But from the comments it seems obvious we should tell more about our plans there already, even if our plans are not final yet. See above added “Updating” section.

    And thanks for the feedback and comments. Hope the update answers the questions. If not, ask more!

  6. Another suggestion to make the distinction between whitelisted and non-whitelisted pages not that binary: Allow manual flattring even when the website is disabled.
    This is important for some sets of webpages, e.g. GitHub: I don’t want to flattr pages when I’m scrolling through issues, code diffs or similar stuff, but want to be able to just manually flattr a page when I feel like it.
    Currently the button in the add-on is hidden when auto-flattr is disabled for a domain. Why don’t you just let it stay visible & clickable?

  7. Yes, it’s something we have discussed. For now we think it makes for a simpler use case that it’s off completely. But it could be revised, made optional or even available on sites where it makes sense to be able to do it. This is one of those things where user feedback is very important to make the best possible product so thanks for the input.

  8. “The second obliges you to make a choice to flattr or not flattr each and every site you visit. We both know you would give up and just stop using Flattr.”
    I like the idea that money will drip devil knows where even less. It does not matter who will maintain the white list of money receivers as long as he is not **me**. I would actually reward those who maintain the while list, be it so called “community” or “eyeo”. This would not be a direct reward system. And I bet you do not want this responsibility too. People will bribe you to get included in the white list.

    I like the idea of collecting history. It is not clear immediately that a web site deserves money. Browser history contains a lot of garbage. Your task is to clean the history so it will contain a manageable number of URLs. Based on **my** actions, not somebody else’s decisions. I believe that this is possible.

  9. Hi everbody,

    since I read most of my online content via the Feedly and Pocket apps on my iPhone I was wondering, if there is any (planned) way to synchronize my Feedly/Pocket/other_SAAS accounts with Flattr? Maybe with an option only to flattr “starred/saved” articles. That would be cool.

    Thank you and best regards
    Alexander

  10. Alexander. That is an idea that has come up in our minds too, and it’s a great one. But we need to start somewhere. As you probably also figure this use case is not something the “everyone” is looking for so it obviously comes further down the priorities list.

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