Hello Android Dev Social
How I learned to stop worrying and love the fediverse
What a wild ride
Two months ago I was employed at Twitter which looked more and more like it was going to fall off a cliff. I had zero experience managing or deploying applications. Today, I am 6 weeks into my resignation and created a community of over 2000 Android Developers and a newly formed blog. I wanted to take some time and talk about how I got here and what makes androiddev.social what it is.
I've been a Twitter user and an Android Engineer for over a decade. Before being a casual user, I was using Twitter as a poor man's pager duty at a small company. Over time Twitter grew to be my most visited website and eventually my employer. Over the past decade I was able to amass 7000+ followers making me more popular on Twitter than I have ever been anywhere. It truly felt like a place I felt comfortable to interact with folks. I used it to announce new libraries/blog posts, get support and generally talk to the Android community at large.
The Tipping Point
On Nov 4th, 2022, after an all-hands at work, I knew I could no longer be employed or a user of Twitter, I wanted to not only get off the platform but find a new home for others like me. Over the last few months I saw more and more people post their Mastodon handles on Twitter. I didn't have an account, and I thought it would be the right place to try.
Finding a New Home
At the time, most of the big servers were private so I looked for one that I could pay for. This led me to masto.host who was luckily still open for new sign ups. Rather than giving you an account on someone's server, masto.host let you pay for your own mastodon instance. I registered androiddev.social with Google domains and off I went. My goal was to advertise it a bit on some communities I am a part of and see if a few other folks wanted to join. We grew organically from the start.
Within 24 hours there was a waitlist of over 1000 android engineers. It was time to scale. I contacted our lovely host (who had closed public signups) and asked if they were willing to move us to a bigger VM. They obliged and we were now ready for roughly 2000 members at a cost of $110 a month.
Being paranoid I knew it was time to form an LLC, I've used incfile.com in the past and went with it again. It took a few days and about $400 for Android Dev Social LLC to be registered in NJ. With a registered LLC, I could open a bank account.
While I was willing to pay a few bucks a month, it was clear that this would start costing more than I can carry on my own, so I solicited donations. My first try at payment processing was through Patreon. The interface was easy and I was accepting payments within an hour of signing up. Easy comes with a cost and it was as high as 20% of a donation. It didn't feel right to have someone's donation go to Patreon.
My next try was with Stripe. Stripe charged 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction. It was great for anything that was $5+ but was still not ideal for $1 donations (took 35 cents!). I am still with Stripe because itworks globally and seems to be the cheapest I can find.
Asking for help
I welcomed our first mods as well. We now have a team of 7 moderators reviewing sign ups, banning content and building things like this blog.
Two Weeks In
By November 14th, androiddev.social had 1,600 users, 7 moderators, an LLC and a bank account. What started as a distraction from the Twitter tire fire was blossoming into an ever growing community.
Outpouring of support
Over the last two months I have received 200+ donations ranging from $1/mo from over 100 members to large one time donations from Droidcon and Android Developers (Google). Overall we have collected over $7,000 allowing us to prepay for a year of hosting and expand to things like this blog.
Besides a Twitter replacement, there was one more online tool I was hoping to create for the Android community and that was a Medium replacement. Many Android engineers previously published on Medium. In recent years, policies there have made it increasingly difficult to use for free. Since we have extra funding, I spent the last few days getting a ghost blog hosted on Digital Ocean. This blog post along with many more to follow are being hosted on a $12 a month Digital Ocean droplet. We'd love to grow this as a public publication so if you are interested in contributing please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ghost is much fancier than what I remember it being from a few years ago. Ghost 5 is a full featured CMS rather than a blogging platform. It also has Stripe integration and member management. As of yesterday, we have migrated our donation page to be within Ghost https://blog.androiddev.social/#/portal/. The biggest addition here is ability to let folks increase/decrease/cancel their donation levels as well as automation around sending invoices and receipts. Think of it as all the nice things we had with Patreon but being able to get it for free, as part of our Stripe fees.
Plans for 2023
Over the next year I expect to double the number of folks that use androiddev.social. I also hope to expand this blog to be a newsletter and general center for Android communication online. We are working on merchandising as well. Donations will be eligible for stickers or t-shirts.
On the business side I need to find an accountant and figure out taxes. I’m also looking for a few larger sponsors to help with efforts like bounties for app development. Please contact us at email@example.com if you'd like to support us at the corporate level.
Big thank you to our mods and everyone who has helped along the way.
Donations are appreciated and can be made through: https://blog.androiddev.social/#/portal/