Episode 66

Eric Holscher of Read The Docs, Write The Docs, and Ethical Ads


February 5th, 2021

37 mins 41 secs

Your Hosts
Special Guest

About this Episode


Eric Berry | Justin Dorfman | Alyssa Wright | Richard Littauer


Eric Holscher

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! On today’s episode, our special guest is Eric Holscher, cofounder of Read the Docs and Write the Docs. As part of his work with Read the Docs, he created a privacy-focused ad network called EthicalAds. Eric will tell us all about Read the Docs, Write the Docs, how EthicalAds started, and why the Ads work. We also discuss challenges since EthicalAds launched, how things have worked with ethical advertising in our current economic recession, and what ad sales look like when it’s ethical. Download this episode now to find out more!

[00:01:31] Eric tells us the history of how he co-founded Read the Docs, who funds the company, and he tells us about Write the Docs.

[00:04:33] Eric fills us in on how he’s been doing meetups this year and how they’ve been going. He mentions using a tool called “Hopin” for the online events.

[00:06:00] We learn how EthicalAds started.

[00:08:21] Eric tells us what the reaction was when he introduced Ads on the platform. Also, he explains the rules that he’s applied and what ethical advertising is.

[00:12:02] Eric explains what unethical advertising is and we hear his thoughts on if the Ads are scalable and long-term feasible to keep holding on to that early nineties style newspaper advertising. He also talks about Maciej Ceglowski from Pinboard and Doc Searls from Linux Journal.

[00:17:26] Richard asks Eric if he has an opinion on how he deals with advertising itself being unethical.

[00:19:49] Alyssa asks Eric if he thinks ethical advertising can be particularly useful for the sustainability of other open source work in projects.

[00:21:41] Eric tells us the biggest challenges since launching EthicalAds six months ago.

[00:23:49] With the economic recession in 2020, Alyssa wonders what the need was and what has this work looked like for EthicalAds in the current economics we’re living in.

[00:26:29] Richard asks Eric if any maintainers have been able to support themselves through putting Ads on their docs. Eric mentions Material UI supporting people.

[00:29:15] Eric tells what Ad sales looks like when it’s ethical.

[00:31:32] Eric lets us know where you can find him on the internet and follow his journey with EthicalAds and Read the Docs.


  • [00:32:53] Eric Berry’s spotlight is the importance of simplifying your life.
  • [00:34:02] Justin’s spotlight is his new Versa 3 watch.
  • [00:34:22] Alyssa’s spotlight is a Twitter account called “Cats where they shouldn’t be.”
  • [00:35:06] Richard’s spotlights are Read the Docs and Eric Holscher.
  • [00:35:49] Eric Holscher’s spotlight is Pycon and the PSF 2020 Fundraiser.


[00:06:28] “Trying to get open source maintainers to pay you money, that’s not who we want to charge money. They’re the ones doing all the work and not getting any money. Trying to charge them is just kind of a non-starter.”

[00:25:05] “I do believe that a lot of good things are started in down turns because once the kind of market turns around then you’re positioned, you’ve already built the brand, you’re kind of ready to go and kind of ride that growth.”

[00:26:34] “I mean there are definitely projects that are supporting multiple people with advertising, and Read the Docs is one.”

[00:29:22] “I mean, very similar, except saying no a lot.”



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