This was originally a quick write-up prepared as a complement to my online “buy a coffee” form. I’m revisiting it to flesh out some of my thoughts.

The above “donate to me” form – I guess I will now call it my coffee form! –  is the first-ever one I’ve made for myself. It’s Brunei-style, making use of those micro bank transfers we love so much, as an alternative to PayPal and credit/debit card payments.

I also recently opened a Ko-Fi, for those who do have PayPal or credit/debit cards. (Edit: As PayPal still doesn’t accept payments to Brunei accounts, I’ve closed the payment portion on the Ko-Fi page.)

What are tip jars?

I tried to find some background or history on the internet version of a “tip jar” or “paying the price of a coffee”, but there didn’t seem to be one. I will update if my Google-fu finds any good resources.

Perhaps the concept of a tip jar is so ubiquitous, that it’s assumed to be self-evident what it is, and why it would exist. And yet if that’s the case, why do there continue to be explanations about why a site, app or service has a donation button?

As, a volunteer-run site compiling character profiles, explains on its Donate page (links: direct/archived):

The donations allow us to:

– Keep the servers running even when the advertisements income doesn’t meet these costs.
– Keep upgrading to meet the traffic increases.
– Add new content, and keep improving the older content.
– Add new functionalities to the site and improve how it works and how it looks.

It seems to me that it’s so hard to explain to someone who has never owned, maintained, or laboured over a website they believe in, the “why”. To explain why one might want to get back a little bit, even just a few dollars, for their efforts.

A lot has been said before on the business models sustained by online content creators. So my following thoughts come from a Brunei context.

Tip jars, but on your screens and not on cafe counters

In Brunei, the online tip jar doesn’t really exist, and one of the main reasons is just the lack of infrastructure for it. Online payment and PayPal (specifically, in receiving payments) is a continual sore point for entrepreneurs and freelancers – it is mentioned often on the r/Brunei subreddit. AMBD addressed it in 2016 (PDF – links: direct/archived), and it has even been raised in Legislative Council in 2019 (PDF – links: direct/archived, page 10 & 62).

Digression box

The driving interest behind online payments in Brunei is in how businesses can(‘t) take advantage of it. Here’s a 2019 conversation thread, between LegCo member Khairunnisa Ash’ari and local IT entrepreneur Rahman Yoonus, about MerchantSuite, which is offered locally by Baiduri Bank.

Here’s a more recent article on BIBD also putting out a merchant portal, and a hint that online payments may become more important as it comes under the “fintech” umbrella.

In May this year, as BIBD rolled out an “e-Duit” feature (link: direct/archived) to their internet banking customers (i.e. the whole of Brunei, I’m sure). Interestingly, that same month, a portion of Brunei Twitter made their own version of collecting duit raya electronically by dropping their BIBD numbers:

And right now, that feels like the closest I’ve seen to a recent, Brunei-based tip jar.

I’d credit Songket Alliance for being the first online content creator I’ve seen in Brunei to create a donation page, and to also include reasons and cost breakdowns.

Why should I tip a content creator?

In my initial post, I wrote about content creators, and why you should donate to them. I have a few clarifications to make:

  • Content creators: I didn’t mean social media managers or content writers whose job is specifically to create content for their organisations and brands. I’m thinking Youtubers and Tiktokkers, creatives sharing their art online, and yes, even your friend who has never been sponsored but posts popular and informative IG stories every day.
  • And on that note, on influencers: Influencers are often perceived to be “paid” by sponsors. I see this as a narrow, more recent definition of being an influencer, but it’s a whole subtopic I don’t care to address here. If anyone else wants to tackle that topic, please do so!

As I’ve written in my coffee form above: I am a content creator.

Saying this, owning this, was hard for me. My husband is better known as one. But I’ve been making websites since I was 12. Deep in fandoms where I contributed fics and art, I was part of communities where we regularly made content for each other to consume.

And nowadays, I make Brunei-related lists and compilations, and I have a semi-active Twitter account where I can be either be writing thoughtful threads or posting silly polls. The project that kicked off the coffee form was this year’s revival of my Late Hours project from 2017.

I try to be insightful and informative in whatever I make available for others. It means a lot when people respond to this content, share it to others, engage with it.

One thing that I want to share, for those who do not know:

Making content takes planning and time.

Yes, even tweets and threads. Content like memes, jokes, IG posts, IG stories, Tiktok videos, YouTube videos, blog posts, fandom materials, projects, lists and compilations – they all come from someone’s effort.

This content is often free to consume (often with ads) and to share with others. As a webcomic fan, I often see the artists emphasise that their comics are free, I suppose because some people keep asking.

It is a common refrain among software developers too: Here’s the donation page for Keepass2Android; the app is free to use, and it’s so useful that I have indeed left a few tips.

And yes, the quality of content varies widely – but a lot of it is so good. Many content creators are consistent and hold themselves to high standards.

And if the creators have been so kind to give us this work, often labours of love, without payment, often for us to consume anytime and however long as want – whether it’s for our entertainment (webcomics, videos, memes) or our convenience (apps, sites)…

Then it seems reasonable to ask: what does it cost me to drop a small tip, on occasion and if I can afford to, to my favourite content creators? Isn’t that worth a cup of coffee, if not several? If 99% of the time, you don’t pay to use or look at digital social content, 1% of the time, is it possible to give a tip?

Bringing back from my earlier example:

We encourage people reading this to think about how much they would pay for an encyclopaedia or RPG sourcebook holding this much information.

And if you think tip jars can only provide a tiny stream of income – which may be the case! – I also see it as a stepping stone towards small creators getting paid more “properly”. You can help to crowdfund a Kickstarter, or pay a small subscription – on Patreon, or a paid newsletter, or to access an exclusive Discord server. You can buy a book or a hand-crafted piece, or commission an artist or hire a developer. (Only if you can, of course!)

Get tipped, get hired?

Could more creators in Brunei use a tip jar?

So far I haven’t mentioned the legality of tip jars, and, uh. I don’t plan to. Please chime in if you have any legit sources, or perhaps your own expertise, to share. 🙂

I mean, if you want to support a content creator with a good chunk of money, why not hire them? Have a contract, be civil, have a good time creating something nice together, and don’t be late with the paycheck. So I’m not advocating tip jars over a good ol’ job or contract. I also can’t say if, you are registered as a business or as an NGO, what kind of fundraising you’re allowed to do.

But if you’re not in the position to hire or commission, then: micropayments. It could help a content creator, as a show of appreciation or a confidence boost or even as a little trickle of side income. It may be hard to secure regular income from employers or clients. Or if it’s a passion project, expenses could be coming out of pocket. For creators, it’ll feel good to know you are supported and seen.

Support can mean money, but it can also mean time. The donation page for Keepass2Android, mentioned earlier, gives lots of options for how you could perceive the monetary value of the donation – 3.50 Euros is a small beer, 4.50 Euros is a fast food meal. I also like the options on Have I Been Pwned – pay for a month of Netflix, or for the developer to take his kids out to a movie.

Because this is not a guide – no, content creators, I can’t say what is the best way to set up an online tip jar for yourself, with payments actually going directly into a Brunei bank account. Currently, it’s logistically not simple, either for yourself or for your supporters.

Digression box

IMHO, the BIBD way of mobile transfers works, but is a drawback when it comes to convenience and accountability. I’d add “security” to that list, but Bruneians don’t seem to mind posting their account numbers up.

E-wallets have not quite taken off in Brunei – in fact, one recently shut down its app this year. RIP BruPay.

If you’re a business, I direct you back to the searches on the r/Brunei subreddit.

There are other ways that people have tried to facilitate donations towards themselves, not just in monetary payments, but in ways that have monetary value, such as wishlists (Amazon) or gift cards or credits (Steam, Nintendo). I won’t be expanding on this either.

I would love to see more Brunei-based creators, especially those who are way more talented than me, to be able to earn income from micropayments. Whether artistically or technically inclined (or both), whether directly or indirectly creating output.

The idea of crowdfunding has been raised in Brunei before, and I’ve personally heard of initiatives to get it going for local creatives. I hope these discussions and initiatives bear fruit.

Minta seringgit, membali coklit

I may have struggled to call myself a content creator, but I struggled just as much on whether I deserve to receive any tips for my content or projects.

As I’ve shared before – I am a privileged person. It does not mean I don’t have my own financial or savings goals, or that I’m making a lot of money as a self-employed web developer, lol. But you absolutely do not need to donate to me, if you would rather tip a creator who is less privileged. It’s your money, you choose!

As someone who does give money to creators whose work I follow and admire, I often think of what the work has meant to me, of the value I place on it.

And what I value – in experiencing content that makes me feel, or laugh, or learn – is subjective to my own preferences. I may personally value visual art over music. I value a well-researched and informative Twitter thread. I value the works of other women. And values can change!

Can’t donate to every piece of online content that you liked? Of course not!

But if I may – don’t settle for likes, as a show of appreciation. If it touched you or made you laugh, or if you had a spark of admiration – drop a comment, or even a DM.

Be sincere and specific in what you liked, in how it made you feel or how it helped you. It’s a nice gesture and content creators like that too :’)

If any of you do choose to donate to me: I’ll put it back into other creators or people that I love. Or I’ll get that coffee after all, and feel encouraged that my work has been seen, and that’s nice too. 🙂

Here’s my coffee form again ~


This was post was edited, with my thoughts extended, on 18 and 25 June 2021. This notice should be in a fancy box, which I will reformat later if I remember.