A Seth Godin post on the irrelevance of price to content, struck me as relevant to plugin development.
People walking out of the afternoon bargain matinee at the movies don’t cut the film any slack because it was half price. Critics piling on to a music video on YouTube never mention the fact that HEY IT WAS FREE. There is no thrift store for content. Sure, we can get an old movie for ninety-nine cents, but if we hate it, it doesn’t matter how cheap it was. If we’re going to spend time, apparently, it better be perfect, the best there ever was, regardless of price.
It also made me think about the responsibility one has in putting something out ‘there’ – making it free does not absolve one of responsibility for it. Certainly one should not put something half baked out there. There are many plugins loaded up that never amount to anything – why do people bother?
Is it responsible ?
The culture of free
Certainly the culture of ‘free’ is (I think) changing. Services like itunes have proven that there is a market for paid apps. Some want to ‘pay more’ – they hope they’ll get a better product, and sometimes they do.
There have been many controversial posts on the web about the whole free/paid plugin question.
I’ve noticed that most of the time, when someone has paid for a plugin, they have a vested interest in telling the developer if they experience a problem on their system. This helps the developer understand if there aspects of server setup, or interactions with themes that you did not expect, or perhaps where there is a gap in the documentation or ease of installation.
When the plugin is free, while many are grateful and supportive, others can be quite harsh. A brusque “does not work” ! with no details. They do not stop to wonder why a highly rated plugin used by many does not work on their system – were they on an old core system, did it work on the default theme – who knows?
They slate it, uninstall and move on to the next free one.
The developer knows it works because he tested it (hopefully) on several wp versions, several browsers etc…. but clearly there was a situation somewhere that caused a problem.
Moral of the story?
Releasing a well developed free version is great for exposure, but do not do it unless it is reasonably robust and you are prepared to a some support ….
A free plugin I was using was not doing it’s job like it used to …. a quick look at both forums (wp and the well regarded authors main site) revealed a number of unhappy users. The developers who were perhaps too busy to dedicate time to the ‘free’ plugin, but could perhaps have handled the situation better…. what is left is a slight feeling of negativity.
Some developers have the attitude that they have offered up some code for free and users should debug it and modify it… well….. in some communities where everyone has some ‘expertise’ that philosophy is totally valid.
However WordPress has become so accessible to so many. Many WordPress users do not even have html or css skills, let alone php…… As for basic debugging skills ….I sigh at some posts at wordpress – what do these people expect ? that they can run their web design business leveraging off the good will of others ?
One of the reasons that WP Help desk shut down apparently was that they found it hard to find good staff who were prepared to put up with abusive users of free plugins. How sad
The dangers of too easy and free…..