In the article Alex answers some tough questions about the motivations, financial gain (or lack of), and indirect financial benefits of writing, maintaining and supporting “free” WordPress Plugins. Alex’s response to the questions along with some of the reactions on Twitter suggest that the current situation is unsustainable for developers.
I disagree with this
I actually feel strongly that the current situation is unsustainable. Unless the WordPress community at large starts to better recognize and reward the developers that create the tools that they use and rely on, the developers wonâ€™t/canâ€™t continue to provide as they have.
Why it might not be financially beneficial for large shops like his to continue developing and supporting free themes and plugins, it is very beneficial to individual developers like myself, and others whose release of free plugins and themes have brought them great financial gain.
How do you think developers like Alex and others got to where they are today?
I strongly believe that part of the success of Crowd Favorite was due to the contributions that were made to b2 and to the WordPress community. Others like Jason Schuller, Brian Gardner and Cory Miller attributed part of the success of their Premium Theme businesses to releasing free themes to the community. You can listen to the interviews and discussion about this very topic on Jeff Chandler’s WordPress Weekly episode 94.
Contributing to the WordPress community is a way for smaller developers to make a name for themselves, get experience and prove to potential clients that they know what their doing.
WordPress.org gives you the opportunity to put your product in front of millions of people. Currently I have only released one plugin, WP Coda Slider, on WordPress.org. My plugin is pretty simple and the only options available for it have to be put inside of a shortcode or through the use of a template tag but the response I have gotten has been great. Hosting the demo of and providing support for the plugin on WP-Performance gets me around 250 - 500 visitors a day.
In fact my simple little plugin has brought 8,267 visitors to my site since I released it back in September.
Website traffic may not be that big of a deal for the well known players in the WordPress development community but it has offered me the opportunity to expose my WordPress support and development services to a great number of people. In the last three months I have gotten around 4 or 5 new really good clients who found me through my plugin. I also find it very rewarding to help others and I am amazed that people are actually using software I created on their websites.
One of the most troubling parts of Alex’s article is his sentiment towards the users of his products:
In talking with other plugin developers, it seems fairly universal that the reward for a successful plugin is a deluge of support email that includes the worst kind of sense of entitlement, rudeness and ignorance. The community as a whole seems to expect to be able to pay nothing, yet received expert and individual help and support for free.
I completely disagree that the community as a whole has this type of entitlement.
I am sure there are those out there who don’t understand how much work and effort developers like Alex put into a free product but I have found that a majority of the community is very appreciative and also very polite when it comes to getting support for a free plugin. Any time I have offered free help or support to other WordPress uses it has been a very pleasurable experience. See for yourself on my plugins support page. Almost every single request contains a thank you and is very polite. The same is true when I answer questions in the WordPress.org support forums or on Stack Exchanges WordPress Answers site.
I used to get about $100-200/month in the way of donations through my website. Unfortunately due to changes in the way plugins are presented on WordPress.org that has dried up to about $5/month.
Ask any Plugin author about the “donations” they have received for their work and they will laugh because donations for WordPress Plugins have almost always been non existent. If your counting on donations to make it or to feel appreciated then the “FREE” Plugin business is not for you. This is not the fault of WordPress.org’s new plugin page design this is how it will always be.
It is very understandable that busy dev shops with payrolls to make and lots of clients to keep them busy don’t have the time, energy, resources or find it rewarding enough to contribute then thats fine. There are plenty others who do and are thankful for the opportunity to contribute and without an open source community like WordPress none of you would be in business today.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I welcome your thoughts and comments below.
UPDATE: There has been a lot of discussion on this topic including a great post by Jeff Chandler