One of the biggest failures of the open-source community, and the GPL-istas particularly, is not clarifying the concept of libre versus gratis when talking about free. It’s for this same reason that I’ve learned to use FLOSS—Free/Libre Open Source Software—to refer to projects such as WordPress. This distinction hurts developers when they release plugins to the public, because not only is the general impression that access and acquisition should be gratis, but so should subsequent support.
That’s a load of bullshit. First, on the matter of support, the GPL states:
15. Disclaimer of Warranty.
THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW. EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE STATED IN WRITING THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND/OR OTHER PARTIES PROVIDE THE PROGRAM “AS IS” WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE PROGRAM IS WITH YOU. SHOULD THE PROGRAM PROVE DEFECTIVE, YOU ASSUME THE COST OF ALL NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION.
You know what that means? That means that if you use this software and it’s not designed to cause damage but doesn’t work the way you want to, then you don’t have anyone to sue in court. It’s for this same reason that wars over GPL product are fought in the public sphere. In this field, the only currency is reputation.
It appears that as a FLOSS project grows, more people hate the developer, and to a greater degree.
As word of mouth increases the exposure and value of a GPL project, expectations grow to unwieldly proportions. The heart of any project is its community, and a project’s success hinges on the contributions of its members. More people with less knowledge about the full functionality and operational methods of the project are enjoined to use and benefit from the project, but these are the people with the largest expectations.
When they complain, they’re the same ones who speak the most hurtful words. They come only second to the competitors of the product in question. (On a side-note, I was guilty of this in earlier years when I had Movable Type in my crosshairs, and so are Habari advocates today.) Developers can be sensitive types. Hello? We’re people too. We produce projects that we believe solve a problem, and we take pride in the hours of voluntary service that we offer.
However, we, too, can be spread thin.
As expectations grow, so do the number of support tickets, and the many esoteric issues that appear in exotic situations that we are unable to predict. It’s even worse when we are unable to duplicate the problems. This is why, in front-end development, I have chosen to charge extra for IE6 consistency. For too long I’ve avoided PNG transparency to the detriment of my designs, just to make them “look the same in IE6.” No more. This is why, when setting up a site from the ground up, I charge extra for extended support and ensure that any issues with the hosting company are addressed to the right people.
When we’re spread thin, we start running out of time for those activities that make money for us. Designers and developers have a strong tendency for focus, and for that very same reason that most of us are dudes. Complaints are distracting, and being the exacting perfectionists that we can be (to a fault), sometimes we end up ignoring the projects that make us money. Then we get a little hungry, and start hating all of you.
A paywall is one of the best ways of diverting the flood.
Michael Torbert released All-In-One SEO Pack, and it’s become the most heavily downloaded plugin in the WordPress repository. It’s also one of the most misunderstood plugins in the world. No, it won’t make your site the number one result in Google for the word of your choice. It helps one manage keywords and titles and meta content in a way that WordPress by itself does not provide. For example, if I wanted to add a few keyphrases to the title attribute of this post without having a kilometric title in the post, AIOSEOP lets me do that. The expectations behind the plugin are some of the most unrealistic I have ever seen, and the complaints regarding the results and functionality have gone beyond the absurd. Too many questions asked at the forum are moronic, and many questions have been asked and answered.
The release of AIOSEOP Pro and the impending sunset for free support from Michael or myself have thrown a number of folks in a tizzy. The Pro version removes any advertising associated with the plugin, which can be seen in the plugin management screen. It also provides access to a support forum that will replace the free one. I have not advised Michael on any course of action. However, I understand completely why he’s doing this. The form fields for AIO are self-evident, and the installation is standard. The documentation exists. The paywall creates an agreement between him and the client, who sees value in the support that will be provided.
Value is perceived by the buyer
The grumbling is due to the fact that there is no extended or additional “functionality” associated with the pro version. The free version is supported by ads, but also works the same way as the pro version does. This is the same for the XML sitemap plugin (developed by someone else). This is the same case for a number of gratis iPhone applications and games. There is value in removing advertisement for a client project. There are people who will find this important. These are the people who will be willing to pay, and won’t spend the day complaining and calling the Pro version a “ripoff.”
Since I see no advantageous value in buying a car from Chrysler for the purposes of moving from point A to point B, I didn’t buy my first car from Chrysler. But I didn’t go complaining about how Chrysler is a rip because I see no benefit in having one. The most vocal of critics are doing this for two things: they want their freebies and/or they stand to gain from lambasting someone else.
These graceless little cockroaches are armed with the largest fucking bullhorns on the planet and get audiences that are disproportionate to their value as human beings. However, sunlight is a great disinfectant and the best way to deal with them is to shine a light on their stupidity. Hence, this post.