white bird on persons hand

Thoughts on the discussions surrounding changes to the free tier

I just wanted to follow up on the post about potential changes to the free tier, and share our thoughts and takeaways from your feedback. We value your opinion and we’re here to listen, but a small minority have been rude and abusive. This is unacceptable, and we will take the harshest actions against any such behaviour. Kanka is about community, and while we may disagree on certain things, I ask that everyone remain polite and constructive.

The only proposed change that caused backlash was the cap to the number of entities. Therefore, I wanted to add some numbers to explain our reasoning. There are roughly 9000 active campaigns in Kanka. Of those, only 295 are unboosted and have more than 300 entities. I want to share those numbers because I want to address a point that came up regularly. This change would only have affected 3% of our active campaigns. I say this because I want to stress that this was an attempt at implementing a fair usage policy, not of putting barriers that harm new and occasional users.

The context

I also wanted to take a moment to explain why we thought about those changes. We are not a multinational corporation, we are two passionate guys giving everything we have to make this work the best we can. We pay ourselves less than minimum wage, we work 7 days a week, we don’t take holidays, and we make ourselves available to the community at all times. We’re not in this for the money. We do this because we care, because we love our community, and because Kanka is our passion.

But Kanka has grown, and we find ourselves unable to deal with the increased amount of work on our own. New features are increasingly complex, reworking the UI is expensive and time consuming. We have relied on the generosity of our community for QA testing, translations, helping on Discord, as well as having users offer their expertise to tackle problems we had no knowledge of, ranging from DMARC services for emails to sidebar redesign. It has warmed both our hearts to see so many people give so much of their time for the sake of this passion, but we cannot keep relying on our users donating their spare time. The inconvenient truth is that if Kanka is to continue to grow and improve, we need help. We all want to see Kanka thrive, but at the current rate both Jay and I will burn out and Kanka will disappear. No one wants that.

The feedback

There were different groups of people, each with different concerns:

  • Free users who oppose the changes. Some were in or near the 3%, they feel that this is a sudden change, and almost feel like hostages. Others had concerns for those with low incomes.
  • Free users who accepted that change is necessary. They have doubts on what those changes should be, but are understanding of the situation. The key takeaway was that they would rather limit other aspects of Kanka.
  • Paying users who disagreed with the changes. They felt that it would either hurt Kanka’s growth potential, or be an unsuitable change to our branding. The second part in particular was a persuasive argument.
  • Paying users who were broadly supportive of the changes.

The decision

After listening to your feedback and suggestions for alternative ideas, we have decided not to implement the cap on entities. However, we will be going forward with the other changes mentioned, and investigate the possibilities surrounding other community suggestions. We were swayed by a number of our subscribers who took the time to explain why they felt this particular change was incompatible with Kanka’s values, as well as a number of users who decided to constructively explain why they felt this was not a good idea, and made thoughtful suggestions about alternatives. At Kanka, you will always be listened to. We won’t always agree, but we do care about your opinion.

We like a lively debate, and I really want to thank each and every one of you who took time out of your day to express your opinion constructively. I read a lot of well thought out and heartfelt emails, Discord messages, and blog comments covering the whole spectrum of opinions. More than anything, this has made me feel like this was a necessary and thought provoking exercise. We pride ourselves in asking for your input, rather than having a top down approach.

We will continue to be as open and transparent as possible, and we always take feedback seriously, so thank you to everyone for participating in this conversation. As always you can reach us in the comments below, on Discord, or via email.

Jon & Jay

15 Replies to “Thoughts on the discussions surrounding changes to the free tier”

  1. Thank you so much for listening to feedback. Kanka is the best RPG campaign hosting site that exists and I will continue to happily recommend it to anyone who is looking for a place to host RPG or worldbuilding resources.

    Even though I will be able to continue as I have without the entity cap, I think I will upgrade from free tier to Owlbear because you guys, and the project, deserve the support.

    I look forward to this being a place where my RPG campaigns can live for a long time to come.

  2. Change license form “Please done sell this” to a more open source friendly license, Commons Clause does not directly allow redistribution or forking (by not stating anything about such, under US law it’s considered all rights reserved), this makes pull Requests a legal risk for contributors as to make them on github they have to fork the main repository.
    Please relicense under GPL 2.0 (at minimum) or a modified BSD 2/3 clause license then I will take the time to learn what I can do to help make this website better.
    I am an Owlbear subscriber and use this site for my small campaign and setting. I want it to be better and better fit my values as an open source project because my ownly alternative to this is to make something myself (which I was doing previously)

    1. I agree with the open source idea, it’ll allow much more creativity for users and it ensures that Kanka will be here until time ends. As long as there are passionate consumers, there will be Kanka. Although, I would also suggest that if the team doesn’t want to allow open source just yet.. allowing it as an exit plan would greatly suffice. If you aren’t able to keep it running then moving the project to open source will immortalize your team and the project.

  3. Much appreciated! Entity caps was a huge reason (amongst others) I chose to stay here on your site as opposed to others that do similar things and one big selling point I give to refer others here.
    Well done and thank you.

  4. Thank you so much for listening to our concerns. Your support makes me want to upgrade (when I’m able to) even tho I don’t need anything else beyond the free tier, just so i can support you better.

  5. As a new user trying to find somewhere to play with my friends i was scared when i saw that the entities would have a limit but this was a relief, even if i’d never created 300 entities, knowing that if i wanted i could do it is the best sensation. Also sorry for my english, im not fluent.

  6. Thank you for seeking feedback and then actually listen to it. This is a thing that is depressingly uncommon but is worth to me even more than the specific issue at stake.
    Keep up the good work!

  7. I would like to mention that I thank you, along with others, for not implementing the entity caps. I was worried that I would have to look for alternatives to Kanka, but I won’t be bothering anymore upon hearing the good news! I plan on using this lovely site for years to come. The hard work and the consideration in your consumers that the team gives will pay off, in ways you wouldn’t expect, just keep at it and create features that you can put behind a paywall to pay off the costs. I personally feel that the core features that Kanka gives are more than enough to create amazing and detailed worlds, other people may disagree and want more features, but when the team is ready to give more features to the free Kanka.. then do so but only when you can pay off the costs.

  8. As a paying individual, who has been at the billed-yearly Owlbear tier since April 2020 ($165), I will be ending my support due to the proposed changes and the response to feedback, even though the most egregious aspect was walked back.

    I personally chose to pay for support not because I was forced to by arbitrary limits, but because I saw how robust and comprehensive the tools were for free users and was impressed, and appreciated the approach that was made with this site. And, as time has passed, I noticed that there were many new features being added that were locked behind paywalls, but that no old features were taken away from free members. I was also impressed by this, and recommended Kanka to friends and family as the bar-none best tool in this category. However, the fact that you guys had to be talked out of parts of this decision (and only one part – you are still planning on continuing forward with member, role, and link restrictions if I understand correctly) and cited branding arguments as the most persuasive is a clear message that this tool is not aligned with my personal values as I assumed previously.

    Going forward, I think I’m going to have to downgrade from using this tool to using my previous, less efficient methods, because while I love the tool, I do not like having to worry about if a company I have chosen to support will take away my reasons for doing so. Business decisions like this one are made with the assumption that all customers are simply self-interested, and I do not want to be part of that category nor give money in support of that assumption.

    Thank you for creating an excellent tool, but this harms my trust in Kanka as a whole, and I will be looking to move away from it. This unfortunately means that I’ll have to go back to manual documents or self-hosting a solution for my campaigns and worldbuilding, but I suppose that’s how the cookie crumbles.

    1. Actually, I’d like to elaborate a bit more. I think it’s fundamentally immoral to, after advertising a product for so long, put limits on that product to entice people to pay – people who have already locked themselves in by putting dozens, if not hundreds, of hours into your system. The decision to add additional limits to a free users is by definition predatory in that it forces users who have already crossed those limits to pay, or to pay the extreme cost in time and effort to switch to another system.

      You see this with mobile apps. Think about Fallout Shelter – a game with a very generous free/paid split that then started scraping away at their free users who had already spent so much time building up their shelter. Or a productivity app that doesn’t have ads or paid/free divide for the first several months then adds them afterwards. I understand that Kanka is not a large corporation, but that doesn’t make this behavior any less damaging. It’s a very common tactic that preys on sunk cost fallacy and the trust that had been built during the early period.

      If you add ANY feature in the next few months, I hope that it’s a way to export everything from Kanka, preserving entity links and relations, in a way that someone who is not as tech savvy as the API users can handle. This is necessary if you are to continue going forward with these changes, because otherwise you’re creating an incredible negative impact through the countless hours it’s going to cost people to switch off of a platform that did not give them any real indication that these features may be suddenly taken away. (A waiting period of one to two months is not enough of a warning).

      I’m lucky that I have both the time and technical inclination to switch to a platform where I own my data and cannot be scraped away at by a business decision that I could not see coming. Not everyone has that opportunity. And from where I’m sitting, it seems like that’s the point. I can understand why people have been so incensed by this, because it feels like a rug pull.

      Again, I love the tool, and would have liked to see it succeed. However, I’m also obligated to act in a way consistent with my own morals, and explain to you why, exactly, you’ve permanently lost a customer, even if you’ve walked back one of the decisions that you made.

  9. While I echo the sentiment expressed by KateLynn that this is fundamentally a predatory business move, I do appreciate the changes you made given the numbers you provided. It seems from these numbers and the feedback that the three changes you are going through with will negatively impact only very few people if any, so even if this is technically “stripping back free tier options” it is hardly that in practice. An entity cap affecting 3% of user would have affected a much higher percentage number than that of FREE users and would have very much been a classic rug pull.
    This response gives me enough trust in you guys to go on using while monitoring your future behaviour. You squandered a lot of goodwill on this, but I feel you did not move beyond the point of getting a shot at earning it back. I hope you and the community find a good solution for enabling Kanka’s growth and your professional and personal well-being without a move like this.

  10. Just want to say that I am glad with this decision. This will keep me here and indeed make me more interested in the paid solutions. The other actions which will be taken all sound logical to me. The thing is that Kanka now still is the best option to start your DM’ing without paying yet. To build up a whole quest and actually try it out. The limitations already placed are indeed the things that you want when you actually go next level. All the other solutions out there that come close to Kanka just drive users away that want to try it out with their limitations. You cannot really try them out for an actual session/quest because of their limitations.
    With Kanka you can.

  11. As someone who is as Owlbear and I only have one boosted campaign, I am happy to hear that entities will not be capped for the free tier. I do web and graphic design, so I will be trying my hand at making my own version of a character sheet for V:tM and 3.5e D&D. I am excited to try this. You guys are doing a great job with Kanka. Seriously. I appreciate all that you guys do and even got a couple of my players to sign up and subscribe to help you guys out.

  12. Thank you for changing your decision. I just recently became a kanka user after wanting a World Anvil alternative and the fact as soon as I made my account the article about the change to the free version popped up broke my heart. I had no problem with all the other changes but the entity one hurt as I had been planning to put all my real-life notes into digital ones and boy do I have a lot. However, as a new user with no experience with the system, I felt I had no say to comment, so I didn’t. Now I’m motivated again to work here knowing I won’t have to find a different way to keep notes when I reach that limit. (Now I have no excuse to procrastinate D:)

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