The big problem with these models isn't so much an issue of definitions as psychology.
PayWhatYouWant and Donation(fill in the blank) are basically trying to create a relationship between the developer and the customer.
Despite many people saying they want a "more personal relationship" when making a transaction, what most are really looking for is a Master/Servant arrangement. In short, they want the supplier to know about all their little whims and fancies. With the implied understanding the developer will use this information to anticipate
their future needs and develop new products accordingly.
They are seldom interested in getting to know the developer if it brings any additional obligations (i.e. patience, understanding, forgiveness, saying thank you, paying a bill promptly, etc.) with it.
So relationships are double-edged affairs.
To be fair, many businesses and organizations know and exploit this. You're less likely to complain about the incompetent server you got in a restaurant if she first introduced herself by name. ("Hi! We're so glad you could join us this evening. I'm Jennifer and I'll be your
server this evening!) because it's one thing to complain to the manager about a server. But quite another to complain about Jennifer
totally screwing up your entire order. Or even tip her less than you normally would a far better server. Because youve been introduced
so it's not like you don't know
After being burned on several faux relationships when conducting a transaction, many people have become reluctant to enter into them. Especially if they're spending money.
I'm sort of like that. I'll actively enter into a relationship with someone if the product or service is such that I'll be partnering
with the supplier. But that implies a complex product where there'll be back and forth and ongoing involvement. For off-the-shelf stuff I don't see the necessity. I just want to pay the man what he asks and be on my way. What I do not want is to go into business with the guy by helping him decide what he should be charging. If he has no idea what his work is worth how can I possibly know?
One other problem comes when you ask somebody to: "give me a number." Most anybody who has negotiated anything soon learns that the person who first names his/her price is immediately put at a disadvantage. So most people have a reluctance to be the first to name a price. That's why:
"We suggest $10 as a reasonable price for what you'll be getting - but feel free to pay whatever you think is appropriate. We accept payments in any amount."
will likely get a better response than;
"Pay whatever you like!"
(Note: the first offer will also net you exactly $10 - no more, no less - almost every time someone takes you up on it.)
And For those developers who like to look at pricing as a game - or try to make it into one - may I make a humble suggestion?
Never play games with pricing.
The old-time huckster trick of naming an outrageous starting figure: "Price is $500, but pay as much, or as little, as you want - we accept all offers. Even if it's only one dollar." does nothing but damage your credibility. Even if the opening price is not completely outrageous (say something like $50 for a nice utility app) there are many who will walk away because they can't afford it and are either (a) embarrassed about it - or (b) feel guilty offering less than what you're asking. Either way, you've lost a customer. And you'll often end up looking like a jerk in the process.
Ok. Now let me qualify what I've been saying just a bit.
I'm an American. Born and raised in an old-style New England "work ethic" family - with all that implies. And I'm not alone despite repeated attempts to discover a cure.
My upbringing and cultural conditioning has taught me that negotiating prices beyond a brief (and largely token) back and forth is undignified. And haggling is downright distasteful. Not because negotiating is beneath me. But out of respect for the seller and myself.
The seller is presumed to be competent and honest (why talk to him otherwise?) who is asking a fair price for what he is offering. I, for my part, am a gentleman
who willingly pays fair price for value received. And if I can't afford (or am unwilling to see as fair) the asking price - I do without. Doing with less (or without) is a old New England tradition anyway.
The only reason I bring this up is because I think it's important to look at the cultural ramifications when coming up with licensing and price models. There's a tendency among those of us in the tech world to view humanity (or at least the part of it that uses computers) as a monoculture. It's not. And any licensing or pricing model is going to have to be aware of that if it hopes to be successful.