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June 21, 2011

You Can Help Us

MLKSHK is a community that’s about sharing images and video for fun. It’s not Yet Another Photo Sharing Service, though of course you’re welcome to do that here, too. This post is about us, where we’re at, and how we need your help.

MLKSHK actually got its start about a year and a half ago when I quit my job at Federated Media. I’d been at FM from the beginning, saw it grow and become an amazing fountain of cash for some independent publishers who at the time had only been in it for the joy of publishing and creating. When John asked me to join that was my hope: we could build tools and an infrastructure to help lots of people (and friends) achieve editorial and financial independence.

And holy fuck did they. Some of that original lineup like Techcrunch and Gigaom graduated to being full fledged independent entities. Others continue to just kill it, like Dooce, BoingBoing, and Metafilter.


I left FM for the boring reasons that people leave companies: FM was done for me. We started with four people in a garage and had exploded into this monster with HR policies. Great. I’m a smaller company kind of guy.

So naturally I thought: I want to do it again!

My darling and patient wife was nervous but I assured her I had enough contracts to pay bills for a few months and if that didn’t work out I could always find a job someplace. I’m a nice guy. I know how to get shit done. You’d probably like me.

The plan was (insert chuckle) I’d work for clients and slowly build a product and then go full-time with the product when it was ready (insert chuckle and a whimper).

A month or so in I realized that wasn’t going to happen, so we decided we would spend 2010 just working for people. One project was to build the backend for the AMAZING Gourmet iPad app and we got to work with some smart people at Condé Nast and Activate. Another was to build a stupid Twitter app conceived by someone who had never used Twitter and didn’t care about Twitter. So yeah, up and down. Whatever, it’s money. Gimme. By December 2010, we had finished up our contracts and decided to dive into MLKSHK full-time.

Here’s where MLKSHK is different from other sites where you can share pictures, and from “startups” in general: we didn’t take any money to do it. On a shoe string, we managed to build and ship and then keep shipping what you see today.

MLKSHK is an amazing product that I’m incredibly proud of and the community is growing quickly (we’ve been doing 50% growth each week for the last month) and using the site because they get that we can deliver a good, beautifully designed product with just the right features. Also there are pictures of cats.

Pertinent, I believe, side-note: I grew up relatively poor. My dad is a barber and my mom managed low-income housing for HUD. My parents were incredibly resourceful people who managed to keep us from realizing we were poor, and I think that’s what I inherited from them. Get Things Done without wasting money. Work hard. Do it yourself. Do a good job and you’ll be rewarded (did I mention I also grew up Catholic? Hah!)

Because of this I didn’t want to take someone else’s money for an idea that could only happen if I took full responsibility. My wife and I weren’t going to be able to do it our way without doing it with our money. Because if we had reached the end and the site just wasn’t there, the users just didn’t care, then we could say, “Fuck it” and shut it down. Happily that isn’t the case, and MLKSHK is doing quite well right now.

I am writing today because we need your help. About 3% of all users have purchased paid accounts, but we need much more than that to stay afloat. The site’s technical costs like bandwidth and servers are actually covered by that 3% but we need much more to be able to work on MLKSHK full time. We’re asking for your help because we can’t consult and work on MLKSHK at the same time. You can get a paid account here: http://mlkshk.com/account/upgrade.

For $24 a year you get a site and service run by people who care about their community. We’re people who care about delivering a good product and who are committed to building out the site for as long as there’s a community that cares about MLKSHK. We have an amazing list of places we want to take the site but we won’t be able to do it if we can’t devote all our time to it. And to be clear, we’re not against getting money or funding from the right people; we just want to be able to do MLKSHK the right way.

If you’ve been watching this blog, you’ll see that we ship features nearly every day. We are laser focused on making the site responsive and fun for our users. We want to keep doing this. Help us.

In summary:

  • Middle fingers to the over-funded pivoting startups.
  • We need you to create an account and upgrade to paid. Preferable a year for $24.
  • We need you to tell your friends. If you are under age get your parents’ credit cards and use those.

If we've already subscribed under your three month subscription plan, how can we change that to a yearly cycle?

Hi! I might be in the minority, but payments seem to be only available for US Citizens via Amazon payments. Can you provide an alternative?

Here’s where MLKSHK is different from other sites where you can share pictures, and from “startups” in general: we didn’t take any money to do it.

Huh? How is that a value proposition versus other sharing sites?

Because Jo, they won't be owned, and obligated to sell your personal information in the future once they are fully commercialized. :)

Ahh yeah, thanks Jeff, that's where I was trying to go with that. My point was just that our relationship with our users was the most important thing to us and using our own money set us apart from those that had other people to answer to.

See Twitpic's recent copyright scuffle.

@stx - just signed up from the UK on an annual subscription and all went Ok!

@stx If you're a Mechanical Turk user outside of the US, you may be experiencing one of their weirdest and oldest bugs. How to get around it:

Still trying to fully understand what mlkshk is, but I like what I see, and if it was the other way around, I'd want you to upgrade, so done and done.

BTW, any way to email a photo to a shake (like, from my iPhone)?

You can use a native iPhone app like ShkyCam or use the iCabMobile browser that can upload pictures through the regular web interface, unlike Safari.

Mmmmh, the uploading through iCabMobile is not working anymore. It used to work but doesn't anymore.

@mare awesome, was not aware of shkycam, thanks!

account and yearly upgrade: done. keep on, and best of luck!

Done, after re-signing in due to the Mechanical Turk bug described by waxpancake

Was it really necessary to include profanity in your plea for support?

Andre can't help it that he grew up Catholic.

The mechanical turk thing seemed to be the problem, even though I've never actually used that for payments. Thanks @waxpancake!

Congratulations! you made it to boing boing

You should change your wording on the upgrade box that appears in standard view-- Seeing "Get 10 group shakes for $2 a month" doesn't really mean all that much to me, so my mind has kinda been disregarding the box altogether. But if the message was more focused simply on the "support a cool independent company" aspect, I would've thought to upgrade much sooner!

(in other words, sorry it took me so long to upgrade)

Jim Davis is a blast at parties.

account and yearly upgrade: done. keep on, and best of luck!

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