February 17, 2007

Free or fee?

I’m on this mailing list for Movable Type developers and over the last couple of days they’ve been having this discussion about how some Movable Type plugins are more expensive than some of the commercial versions of MT itself :) I had no opinion on this one way or another since each developer has to work things out according to their own needs/goals and while overcharging people doesn’t sit well with me, I believe that the market will ultimately determine the price – if it’s too highly priced, nobody will buy it.

However, some of the developer reaction to this suggestion appeared to be extremely negative. They got defensive – How dare anybody suggest that prices should be moderated? Didn’t people know that they spent a lot of time on development? This I found to be both humorous and a bit annoying :p

I’ve spent over 10 years on developing (and supporting) a variety of freeware apps and I ran into the same issues that these people are complaining about. But I didn’t think of charging anybody for it. Somebody said that they had to deal with a lot of non-licensed user support issues and they were not compensated for it. So another person suggested that they use forums. The first person said that forums were ineffective. Now I’ve run support forums for several years and I’ve found them to be extremely effective. Once you build up enough answers to common issues (and have a FAQ) most of your user support consists of pointing to the relevant thread or to the FAQ. Sure, it takes a little bit of time which might be better spent coding but in the end, the end-user appreciates that time. Of course, not all of them thank you but if you develop software expecting money or thanks, then you are most probably in for a rough time.

But then again, I guess that was the crux of the matter in the discussion – what did the developers who charge money actually want? Did they want the monetary compensation? Did they simply want less support hassles by providing support to only those who paid them? Did they want to elevate their code from a simple "freebie" to something with a bit more stature because you had to pay for it? I don’t know. Each person’s motivations are different. But some of the arguments did ring hollow to me – it was as if they actually wanted to be paid but didn’t want to say so.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be paid (or not paid) for your work. Just be honest about your motivations instead of hiding behind excuses. At least, that’s the way I feel :)

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Tags: Coding, MovableType, Reflections
Posted by Fahim at 7:09 am   Comments (0)