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Fairware: an interesting experiment in getting paid for Open Source

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mouser:
In a previous post i mentioned that the primary goals and motivations of the freeware/opensource developer are different from commercial software developers, which can help explain partly the search for an alternative model that could bring some financial support.

But I think the equally important (at least in my case) and less talked about factor, involves the SKILLS of those involved.

Speaking just for myself, I lack the skills and comfort level and drive that make people good entrepreneurs.

Part of my motivation for wanting to find an alternative donation-based model has to do with my discomfort and poor ability to play the role of salesman/marketer/etc., which goes hand in hand with my misgivings about the fundamentals of capitalism and my perception that greed is really one of the root evils of this world.  But leaving the philosophy aside -- for me it's probably more about wanting to find something I am comfortable with, good at, and feel good about doing.

I know i'm beating this horse to death -- I think we're all on the same page in being curious what new models might work and exploring the space of possible models, so let's concentrate on that!

Nod5:
Very interesting discussion this!  :up:

Regarding donations and laziness, are there any cases of software that accept donations via SMS payments? That is very quick and could bring donations from user groups that don't have access to credit cards. A big problem would be how to collect donations internationally. I've only seen national SMS donation services that you can sign up for (they take a cut out of the donations). Does anyone know if there is such a service that is global?

The contribution level is not great yet, and maybe it never will because I suspect that not that many people need to do what PdfMasher does.-hsoft (September 11, 2011, 06:24 AM)
--- End quote ---
I think PdfMasher could find a very large userbase in the academic world. Reading of journal article pdf's on screen is very, very common. PdfMasher is the first application to offer a somewhat feasible way to convert articles for reading on Kindle, Nook and other small screen readers and tablets. For example, Calibre's built in coversion tools are not at all useful in comparison. PdfMasher still takes more manual and more complex steps than most academic users are able/willing to go through I suspect. But if it would have some smart automatic detections of headers and footnotes then I suspect a lot of users would come rushing. Anyway, I don't want to off-topic this thread into very PdfMasher specific topics so I'll stop here.

mouser:
Nod5, love the new avatar  :up:

there is a PdfMasher thread here: http://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=27965.0

40hz:
Actually, part of this is something I've been thinking about for a long time.

One thing small developers might consider is banding together to create a central purchasing point for their wares. In other words, an app store.

The big problem many people have with buying from an 'unknown' is their understandable reluctance to share their billing information with what could easily be an inadequately secured or honest billing point. That's why they'll often balk at making a $10 purchase from a small business, but think nothing of dropping an Amex card and making a $1000 purchase through Amazon.

Many times I'll see something I want and check to see if the business also makes it available through Amazon. Because if they do, I almost always will purchase  through Amazon rather than directly from the merchant. Why? Because I know Amazon. I worry less about the security on Amazon's shopping cart than I do about the security NiftySoft's unknown ISP provides. And I know I can drag Amazon into any dispute I may have with the merchant about shipping damages or goods not received.  At the very least, I know I can get my money back if there's ever a problem.

Now if developers could work out some arrangement (as an organization) with a reputable and well-known merchant account provider, I think one major barrier to receiving payment might be removed.

Even better would be if you could encourage customers to open an account (like you do with smartphone app stores) such that you don't need to re-key credit card or bank data with each transaction.

I can't speak for everyone, but not having to pull out a card has provided just enough convenience that I've bought many more apps (over 100 to date) for my, and my GF's, iPhone that I would have otherwise. True, most purchases were below $5 each so that had a lot to do with my willingness to take a chance. But not having to think about the actual act of buying something (since the app store makes it feel more like a free download) was also a major factor.

So, maybe it might be a good idea to focus on a trusted and reliable payment mechanism, and get that in place first.

After that, you're free to experiment with different pricing, licensing models, and incentive plans at will.

To recap:

1) Get yourselves organized into a trade group.
2) Get a trusted billing system in place to make it as easy as possible (bordering on no-brainer) for people to pay you.

That's another 2ยข from me.

(One more penny and you'll have a shiny new nickle.  :P )

As Mouser pointed out, he has neither the desire nor the mindset to become a full fledged entrepreneur. I'm sure he's not alone in that regard. Most people doing creative anything don't want to get involved with business issues. So maybe it's time for you to all get together and get somebody you can trust (because you own them) to take care of it for you...

Authors have agents. Rock stars have labels. Movie stars have guilds.

Why not indy software developers?  8)



mouser:
40hz, this is something i've thought about too -- i think it has huge merit.

In some sense this is a principle that DonationCoder tries to use already.  That is -- part of the approach here is to offer lots of different software and hope that over the course of a year or two a user might see our name mentioned here and there and find a program or two that they find useful, and eventually see enough of interest to feel comfortable making a donation.  And after that they can send their donationcredits to different authors, etc.

I don't think the details are as important as the basic idea of figuring out a way to:
1. Reduce the risk people feel from making a donation/contribution
2. Reduce the work they have to go through to donate

The APP stores largely solve these problems -- though they aren't set up to let users pay whatever amount they want.  and some of them are set up to have so much crap that i think users wouldn't spend any time considering how much to donate, and so would donate a penny per app.

So the APP store idea is not a perfect match for donationware type software.. but there are lessons to learn from it..

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