How can developers contribute to open-source without the expectation of free support?
I’ve had this feeling for so many years and hate how trapped and restricted it makes me feel. There is so much (free code) that I want to share but I don’t because I’m afraid of how my name and reputation will be affected.
You can see other guides speaking on this open-source issue.
- The WordPress Support Conundrum – iBrain
- Is the WordPress Plugin Repository Worth the Hassle? – freemius
THE PROBLEM – users expect amazing support and updates even on free plugins
And I know I’m not the only developer who feels that way. Heck, I’ll admit I’ve even contributed to the problem myself. The issue is this…
Developers just want to contribute
They want to share beautiful things they’ve created with the WordPress community. But they’re also busy with their jobs, paid clients, and paid projects. They can’t tend to their free plugin like they do with their job. Maybe it gets a little outdated with new WordPress and other plugin updates.
That’s fine, they might get to update it at some point eventually but just not right away. Quite often, it didn’t even need an update. It was just WordPress not being able to check the plugin for itself.
My team and I have created so many wonderful solutions for clients in the past 10+ years. Amazing themes, plugins, little custom hacks and integrations that solved difficult problems in clever ways. I’m very proud of them. I brag about them all the time to people who couldn’t care any less.
And I want to share these solutions with the world. Maybe some people will donate to help us recoup our internal costs. Or maybe people will show a demand and we’ll actively develop it as a commercial plugin. Or at least, we can save someone else’s difficult project with a solution we’ve already pulled our hair out over. I’ve been helped by so many people, you have no idea how much I want to pay it forward.
And yet with nearly 100+ in-house plugins serving unique purposes (and still without equivalents in the repository), I continue to let them sit in my cyber-garage…rotting away in obscurity.
Because I’m afraid…
- What happens if I don’t keep the plugin updated?
- What if it doesn’t work with some random user’s theme or plugin?
- What if I don’t answer people’s support request?
- I even had someone the other day, leave a support request on one of my free plugins….asking for help ON ANOTHER DEVELOPER’S PLUGIN!!!!!
I’m afraid of getting punished if I don’t actively support my free community extensions. And that people will leave unfair reviews, and affect my reputation and business.
Users just want what works
There’s a sentiment among developers that many open-source users are just freeloaders and want all the best things for free and never willing to pay for them. And they’re so accustomed to many things on the internet being free already.
But what takes it a painful step further (for developers), is when users have such high expectations of their free open-source code. You’ll see many users lambasting free themes, plugins, heck even WordPress itself because it couldn’t do what they wanted.
Sure, some of the criticism can be fair but maybe out of context. Perhaps the user is just so completely un-tech savvy and it’s truly his or her own user error. (I’ve watched many times when even users were not savvy enough to receive the support being offered.) Or perhaps the plugin was coded well but just needs an update. Or perhaps a plugin really was coded poorly and sneakily-intended only for marketing purposes. It’s hard to tell when the rating system puts them all the same as 1-STAR reviews.
How can developers give without being trapped?
How can developers give their work for free, even receive “credit”, without a life sentence of maintaining plugins for ungrateful users?
- Maybe a new developers-repository with no rating system. You can mark that it works or not, updated or not.
- Maybe on the free repository, you have to pay $1 to leave a review. And the money supports the developer.
- Maybe users can vote for “other similar plugins”. Or even have this tacked on to their review.
- Maybe a DEVELOPERS rating on plugins.
- Maybe a repository works-in-progress plugins where developers can find other developers to help finish/polish incomplete plugins.
I don’t know the answers. But I do understand now why so many “community plugins” are hiding out in the weeds of Github instead of in the WP repository where they deserve to be.
The sooner we clarify the boundaries of open-source, and the freemium business model…the stronger the WordPress community will become.