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Fairware: an interesting experiment in getting paid for Open Source

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You know sometimes i write these posts and talk about how hard it is to make the donationware concept work and sometimes write as if the approach simply does not work..

But it's totally irresponsible for me to write such things without saying how wonderful it is to be in this community of people who really do make it work.  Everyone who has participated in this forum has helped to make this site work -- and it does work.  It's not perfect and there is a lot we can and should do better at.  But a ton of people have given money and support and their time and energy to make this site work, and there's no place I'd rather be.  And i feel so lucky that all of you have made it such a wonderful and fun place to be.

Authors have agents. Rock stars have labels. Movie stars have guilds.
Why not indy software developers?
--- End quote ---
It is very rare to have honest middle man that leads to win-win situation. Take example of leecher sites - they're ripping off freeware authors by hosting their files on servers with the excuse of promotion. Another example, appsumo which is borderline scam when it comes to app marketing. They're playing all scarcity tricks and popular internet marketing punches to sell software and other publisher or developer niche content. Some of the books and apps featured in appsumo mails are overly priced and don't deserve the label of discount or limited time (classic scarcity). Fair to users ? No. Then there is a marketplace called codecanyon and their niche based envato marketplaces where royalty percentage is 30-65%. Is it fair to software producer ? No. But if you need money for your hardwork then you have to compromise on some levels. It's really hard to price content by keeping balance of market demand and developers hard work. So app market or stock marketplaces are not always rewarding and consistent cashflow to developers.

That aside there are some problems with paying for software. Some countries are not allowed to use paypal or other popular shopping carts. So people have no option than skipping paypal or amazon buttons. It's hard to target international crowd with your donationware software.There is also issue of users who don't pay attention to developer website when they use free software. Take case of mousers URL snooper software which is helpful for ripping off online radio streams or sport streams. How many users come back to DC to get key or even donate ? There are many alternatives of URL snooper which are packaged with OpenCandy like stuff. Those who are desperate to download videos and audio stream don't care about OC ads and sales pitches. They just download and forget about it. It's hard to get this type of crowd to pay or get them to donate. FARR and Screenshot captor are two programs that are used by patient users so they're likely to convert with donation or returning visitor. I'm sure mouser gets more return hits in analytics on these two softwares than URL snooper.

So my point is - if you want to get paid for the freeware then make it easy for users to donate(point already covered by mouser). Offer them more options (in terms of payment processors) to donate. Restrict software distribution to your own server and get a dedicated forum to address bugs and other issues of software.

Paul Keith:
Forgive my ignorance but don't package managers solve the middle man issue already?

Payments are troublesome but I think incentives are also often a problem. Most of the ideas thrown out are still nagware hoping to lump itself w/ a rare new -ware word, get blogged and get sudden <insert social media/insert blog> effect.

I haven't seen any site where a micro-donation form was linked to the changelogs where people can pay for features they want or hope that their money could sway a developer to tweak a feature they hate and the responsiveness of the developer be displayed in a Klout like display to increase the developer's credibility. Similarly haven't spotted a place where a commenting system differentiates between paying customers and non-paying customers making it clearer to the new visitor what the paying customer's culture is versus people just commenting.

Not that these are solutions, just that in terms of actual attempts, there haven't been many that are donationware-centric. Often times donationware takes some inspiration from freeware and sometimes shareware people go on their own way to tweak how to gain a profit.

I haven't seen any site where a micro-donation form was linked to the changelogs where people can pay for features they want or hope that their money could sway a developer to tweak a feature they hate and the responsiveness of the developer be displayed in a Klout like display to increase the developer's credibility.
-Paul Keith (September 11, 2011, 11:11 PM)
--- End quote ---

Coincidentally, fairware is quite close to that. All contributions are linked to a timelog describing the work that has been done and, if applicable, a link to the ticket number in the bug tracker.

However, the user can't choose where the money is assigned because there's a backlog of work that is already done to pay. If users could choose, they'd all (well, those that bother :) ) chose the "sexy" work, but sometimes, the work that has to be done is simply "support", or "code cleanup", or "fix the broken build system" or some other type of work with a boring description.

One thing that fairware doesn't do is to allow, as you mentioned, to "bid" for future work. I personally doubt that it can work, at least in a fairware setting. If there's a backlog of hours to pay, I don't want users to bid for future work, I want them to pay my backlog. If there's no hours to pay, it means that the project is already successful and that I'm open to invest some more work already, so I don't need the bidding incentive. If past contributors simply indicate which features they'd want to see, without having to bid, that would be enough for me to make a decision as to what to do next.

Paul Keith:
Yes, it's a tricky issue. I would say because donationware is well... donations...then it's much more applicable to the concept as long as people understand that they are not bidding so much as voting via their money to not only decide which features they want but hopefully a Klout system allows a better understanding on what paying minorities' demands are as well as open up a setting where people can redistribute their donations to the right credible developer and this system is what jumpstarts a sort of breeding donation-based economics to flourish and encourage a two way route between donators and developers. Something that would be a sharp contrast from the PMS-like donation roulette of most linked or nag-based donationware.


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