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Fairware: an interesting experiment in getting paid for Open Source

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in fact I have argued that the open source movement has done harm by advancing the notion that software is either commercial fixed price, or 1000% free and should never be paid for.
-mouser (October 13, 2011, 06:12 AM)
--- End quote ---

In fairness, I don't think that ever was the official position of the FOSS movement. Or the FOSS developers. I think it was more sloppy reporting and misquoting by both the press and the latecomers and carpetbaggers who latched onto the "free" designation and rode it for all it was worth.

It would be nice if this public perception could be changed. But no matter how often open software and GNU advocates try to clarify "free" it continues to largely fall on deaf ears. "Free" is just too compelling a thing for most people to willingly let it go.

One thing is true  however. Free products will drive out paid-for products unless the things developers are offering are genuinely needed and clearly superior to their free counterparts. Product superiority is the main reason why the expensive Adobe Photoshop continues to cream Gimp. Same goes for professional media authoring software despite recent advances from things like Blender and Ardour.

But for garden variety office and productivity apps, there's a lot to fear from the likes of things like LibreOffice and Thunderbird or Evolution mail.  Ditto for operating systems. Who cares as long as they work? Technical excellence is not called for. Because with these products "good enough" becomes acceptable if price rears it's head too prominently. Besides, about 80% of Office's capabilities and feature set goes unused by the average user. It's only inertia coupled with a healthy dose of FUD that keeps Office in the running. And possibly Windows and OSX on the desktop.

As long as independent developers continue to create "me too" and "so what" applications, they are at a distinct disadvantage whenever a free alternative is available. Unfortunately, coming up with something that's truly useful and unique and needed has become harder and harder. Largely because all the obvious and easy stuff has already been written. And at least a dozen times too! A visit to the iPhone app store demonstrates this clearly. There's tons of cheap, largely useless, copycat apps. (How many freaking personal notetaking and to-do list apps do we really need?) In situations like this, you can bet the freebies kill a paid app's chances of making money more often than not.  

Not to diss developers as a whole. But when you look, some of the biggest complainers and hand wringers out there are the ones bemoaning how nobody wants to buy their boring text editor, or chat client, or dual-pane notetaking/outliner app.

Well... why would anybody unless their product were amazingly superior to any of the alternatives? And I mean 'superior' in a quantifiable and obvious (to the point of being self-evident) way.

Because if it isn't, there's something like a hundred other much-the-sames and Yet Anothers you can pick from instead.

I think in the end it boils down to one thing. People will pay for genuine quality. Software that is useful, needed, sufficiently differentiated from the alternatives - and can actually do what it says it will do. Everything else can forget about it.

And I think that remains true whether the payment comes in the form of a donation or in settlement of an invoice.

We need computers, so we need hardware, so we need OS's, so we need software.  But after we buy the computer hardware, we start hesitating to buy the OS or the software.  It feels like we don't NEED the OS and software the same way we need the hardware.

Which makes me we even need the hardware?  Or the computer?  And I'm serious.

Paul Keith:

My take on this is that donationware is inherently bundled.

If a user goes to download program X, they intended to get program X, not program X and Y.

What if a user wants BOTH program X and Y?

It's the same with hardware. At a certain level, mass payment of an item exists because people buy and demand in "bundles".

If you get the right sounding "word" and bundle it with the heart warming word, you get the concept of "donation" and if you bundle donation with ware, you get donationware.

It's not exactly the bundle that's being talked about here but fundamentally that's what bundles are. They're all links. To create demand and convince a richer user to switch out their cash from their wants to another concept links i.e. bundles are necessary. And sometimes some bad (and good) people fall prey to that and misuse the power of bundles.

The above is important to remember whenever any kind of bundle is perceived as inherently deceitful. As with most things, the baby does not have to be thrown with the bathwater.

Most people don't think of paying for hardware. They think in bundles where the merging of the hardware and software bundled with whatever they want drives their desire to act upon an object. For many of those people, paying for the rental of the glass while paying for the Lemonade inside of it doesn't even enter their "on avg." periphery & they will overvalue one thing while undervaluing another object less they encounter an urgent need for said undervalued object.

Is it inherently deceitful? Not anymore deceitful than people never paying for that poor little kid working in a sweatshop as they pay for an item while bundling it with supporting a brand, the shop, their vanities as they happily hand out paper that they have legitimately bundled with the concept of currency.

That's why discussions occur. If mouser ever radically transforms the site then he would have jumped unto the slippery slope but can you honestly say mouser is not just trying to open up discussions to find ways to improve the concept of donationware currently? What it all comes down to falls upon one word in the title of the thread. "Experiment".

If i ever fall on my head and try to do something evil with this site -- I request -- nay, I demand -- that all of you hardcore DC members rise up in rebellion and attack it until it dies.  That should be some protection against that ever happening :)

We may experiment with ads again one day, we may experiment with different systems for the free license keys, commercial licenses, etc. who knows (I'm keen to try the idea i suggested on this thread, of making two user-chooseable paths, one for those commercial types who want to buy, and one for donators or freeware users) -- but the core of the site will always be an embrace and advocacy of the donationware concept -- of users deciding how much they want to pay.  The domain name demands it.

We're all of us free to start new projects, new websites, new organizations, etc., but DonationCoder has carved out a space and i'm happy with where it is.

What if a user wants BOTH program X and Y?
-Paul Keith (October 15, 2011, 04:12 PM)
--- End quote ---

That's a stretch, to me. Also, let us confine the discussion to the types of bundles we are talking about -- not all types of bundles (e.g. burlap sacks). Well, from my take: Bundles are legit if and only if the bundled item is unchecked by default, UNLESS the user has somehow expressed an *explicit* desire to have the bundled software. That doesn't mean an implied or assumed desire, because the bundle is so great that they must surely want it ;o. That's my take.

Then again, maybe I could solve all my financial problems if I just stooped to bundles.. maybe I'm the idiot here. You see, the grass seems greener on the other side, and that's what I've been trying to influence here. Don't think that you are missing out, your concept here at DC is working as well as any shareware I've seen.

@mouser: I am sure you are fine, don't worry with me. I am just trying to make you understand that what you are doing is actually working quite well, all things considered.


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