|Perl Monk, Perl Meditation|
I'd like to break my response into two sections. One is my ideological thoughts on the matter, one is a (possibly) practical suggestion. These are only the skeletons of ideas, so please be a little gentle with them. I'd better do the practical first since my ideological ravings can go for a while and scare people :)
Practical: If it's costing 6k a year to serve data for this site, a large chunk would have to be cache-able somehow. I have no idea how this site is setup, but it would have to be possible to get some kind of - what's the word - servers that keep local copies of the data but point the form submissions back to the master database, which then pushes a copy to each local server. Kind of like mirrors, but in near-real time. A lot like Oracle's instances. The chatbox would have to stay where it is, of course.
Or maybe even just a way to check the time-stamp on each node, the way HTTP caches do for pages.
I know that this would take time and effort to do, and the addition of code to do the server push (potentially complicated) but it's not like we've got a time limit.
While the code is being devoloped I'm sure I can stick a cheap machine in the corner of the server room that could take the load of all ten Australian PerlMonks. I can just write it in as a 'testing' machine and it will probably manage a few years before anyone asks me what I'm actually testing on it. Other people might like to oblige in a similar fashion. Involve the community a bit.
I think it's an even better offer than money 'cause nobody has figured out how to tax services yet. And 50% of it doesn't disappear because of the exchange rate.
Rant: I've worked in one or two companies now and the one I found quite despicable was the one where the boss just regarded open-source ware as something to be plundered. His attitude towards the community was that they were a bunch of fools for leaving all this great stuff lying around for free. I got the feeling that he thought he was beating the game and taking advantage of these fools. We were preparing a Linux distro for commercial sale and developing a control system that was tailored for ISPs (we were an ISP). His plan was to take free stuff and sell it.
Did he send any patches, bug-fixes or ideas back upstream? No. Did he mirror any Open-Source sites or projects? No. Is his distro now having it's arse whipped by a worldwide volunteer effort? Yes.
I'm not implying for a moment that his project went bad because he didn't believe in the power of open source. I'm just expressing my intense irritation that he didn't give anything back to the community (remember the community? This is a rant about the community). While we were working on that damned project we got help from the local users group and from countrywide mailing lists. And did the stingy bastard even show up at the user group and pay for pizza as a thankyou?
Businesses who benefit heavily from online communities should at least make an attempt to give something back. We don't have money at our place (I'm really not kidding), but we have under-utilised services. So there's my offer. Show me how to donate services and I will. I'm sure there's a few other people out there with static IPs who could help out in a similar manner. Then there'd be less donations needed to cover the gap, right?