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Fairware: an interesting experiment in getting paid for Open Source

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It is an interesting approach. But I still think it's largely preaching to the choir.

From my experience, the general software using public doesn't care how much work or effort has gone into something. They generally expect to be charged for software. And, if given the opportunity, they'll often try to find a way to "borrow" a copy rather than pay for it. Which is why the so-called "honor system" doesn't work very well. This is something the Association of Shareware Professionals learned back in the 80s: If you don't REQUIRE a payment, you'd best not expect to be paid.

The Free Software crowd got around it by basically saying: Screw it! Here's some software. Use it..

There was a certain subtext in there that also that said: It would be really cool if those of you people who are using it could throw some dollars our way so we can continue to develop and refine this thing. But after that, they stopped worrying about it. And if enough people didn't help support their efforts, they stopped developing. It was pure Darwinism: Software which filled a genuine need got supported and survived. Software which didn't (or was of limited or special interest) either continued on as the self-supported  'hobby' project it was - or shut down.

At the core of this was the realization of a simple truth: People (mostly) only pay for what they need. They're far less likely (and willing) to pay for stuff they merely want. And, if given the opportunity to avoid paying at all, about 98% of the people out there won't. Which is why Microsoft developed Genuine Advantage - and we get to live with all the nonsense various other DRM mechanisms put us through.

What Fairware boils down to is yet another form of crowd-sourced project financing. But  this time with a fairly interesting and complex (and IMO slightly self-righteous) allocation system for distributing whatever funding is received.

 If experience is anything to go by, there won't be much to distribute for most projects.

I personally think Fairware is a great idea. Smacks a little bit of "old wine in a new bottle" but so what?  I wish them all the luck in the world getting it to fly. :Thmbsup:

But I also personally believe it's doomed.  :(

(And I sincerely hope I'm wrong about that.)  :)
 (see attachment in previous post)
-40hz (September 09, 2011, 07:48 PM)
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i agree, especially with that last part.  On one hand, I want the developers to be successful, on the other hand, I know this strategy doesn't work (if the end goal is financial success).

If you want to make money, you have to create stuff that people NEED.  Just because something is amazing and cool doesn't mean people need it.  Just look at Apple: we all criticize their methods and their restrictions, but they addressed a need: people NEED computers that are STUPID EASY to use.  Did Apple create that need?  Maybe, which would make it even more genius.  But usually, companies address an existing need.  If you're so good that you can not only invent a need, AND you're capable of fulfilling that need, then you're just a cash cow.

But so often, we just want things, and we make things that we want.  Then we wonder why others don't want the same thing.  It's because we started out by just considering what we wanted instead of figuring out what people actually need.  Then we're frustrated at why people don't need this great thing that we wanted.  So we start trying to make people need it (called marketing).  But it's waaaay easier to first think about what people need before you start committing your time and money to it.  Anyway, this is what I've learned in my young business career.

So I think this could solve the issue of scaring away the no-nonsense-just-want-to-click-buy people, which would help a lot.

I think this still leaves the most difficult nut to crack -- which is how do you deal with the problem where it takes 10x as much effort (and perceived risk) to donate vs clicking the button that says "i can't/won't donate".

I talk about the approach of trying to fix this in my essay as "work equalization" -- making sure that it's not so much easier to not donate compared to donating.

Right now this principle is used to give people free license keys so they don't have to pay for our software or see any nags -- by giving out a license key after you sign up and register.  But this does create some inconvenience and ill-will.

It's not an ideal solution because it annoys people.  It would be nice to find an alternative approach that wasn't so annoying to people but still achieved the goal of having some way to make people not choose the path of least resistance of not donating.
-mouser (September 13, 2011, 11:00 AM)
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I would consider being a part of any software development team whose goal was to provide NEEDED software.  I have the resources for everything other than the programmers: funding, marketing, time, resources.  I also have a soft spot for programmers.  I'm very much for the idea providing profitable opportunities for young programmers either in school or freshly out and struggling with finding jobs.  I admire their talent and skills, and I hate it when they are turned down for opportunities simply because they lack a certain number of years of experience or some BS certificates or degrees.  I am very good at the business stuff, and I wouldn't screw you because I don't care for that, plus I have other things going on.  So please consider if you are interested.

If they need it they will willingly pay isn't necessarily true, either.  Many people have a need for software that fills a niche, but they make do with other alternatives (of which there are always several) for the simple reason that people don't want to pay.

Paul Keith:
It's because we started out by just considering what we wanted instead of figuring out what people actually need.-superboyac
--- End quote ---

To be fair though most Apple products don't create on the need but extend the needs to a want.

as you said:

people NEED computers that are STUPID EASY to use.  Did Apple create that need?  Maybe, which would make it even more genius.  But usually, companies address an existing need.  If you're so good that you can not only invent a need, AND you're capable of fulfilling that need, then you're just a cash cow.
--- End quote ---

If Apple is a generic company then that could apply but Apple w/ Steve Jobs isn't. Apple created a need then they revamp it into a want and then they have a model to transfer that want into a need. A need that often later helps them in their future endeavors.

Take the Ipod. It was arguably a need/want hybrid (or the need you are referring to) but then once Apple fulfilled that need, it started "updating" into a want. (The term I'm using for want)

Finally once it updated a "want", it redefined the "need". (The term I'm using for need.)

How did it do so? Once the Ipod fulfilled music, it attacked cuteness/portability/touch where as the competitors failed to quickly adopt to cuteness/portability/touch. Some even made the mistake of going for the audiophile market. Meanwhile Apple also used the Ipod to extend the brand where as others simply filled the marketplace with many products.

It's what makes Apple separate from many other companies. It's not that people don't develop needs, see skwire's software for example (that both fulfills a need but is easy enough for people who feel software is complicated to jump into). Anuran specifically could also have easily gone viral if the blogosphere wanted to give it the time of the day.

It didn't though not because of a lack of need but because it was simply part of skwire or DC's apps. It wasn't a business planned software that would slowly evolve itself into moving from PC to Ipad to Iphone to Android to Tech was just an object that fulfills a need.

Apple on the other hand releases a good product and then instead of treating products as products, it's marketing strategy is not only based on the product nor the brand but to use the product to jump start the brand to make the next Steve Job's presentation high in hype for Steve Jobs to then hype the next product and for the next product to follow suit with another great need until it circles around it's customers like a cult and redefines their wants into needs turning Apple into a brand that "gets" the need when it really doesn't.

Example, I learned first hand this was a lie when I finally went to an app store and showed my parent the OSX demo and guess what? They couldn't get this. So much for: "people NEED computers that are STUPID EASY to use."

Albeit it's a poor example but almost everytime I interact with an Apple user (which isn't much so it's no good for an anecdote but still left me w/ an impression) they all come off to me like people who are actually people who NEED computers that are STUPID Pretty to use. Pretty and also deluxe feeling.

Almost everytime, I could ever actually meet an Apple user, they really seem to love how OSX looks. Even for group anecdotes, you often see Mac users complain that this application does not look correctly in a Mac. It's always look. That's not about ease. That's about design. Compare that to Windows or even Linux. Even those who customized these OSs to look pretty may use it because of a certain practicality or ease. With Apple, ease often seems baggaged with pretty. Not pretty as in pretty for most everyone but pretty as in like fashionable clothes where many don't like it but the person or the culture explaining it makes it seem like it's the raddest design with all the comfort in mind.

You could almost over-simplify Apple's success to the blogosphere. Apple is akin to a blog like Techcrunch that never sold out. It was easy/pretty/wonderful/fulfilling a need only because it constantly updated it's identity like many of the popular blogs. Over time this meant that more and more people went to it, knew the personal writers, ate up the numerous Twitter articles until Techcrunch became a pretty enough thing to sell even though from a straight criticism of it's fulfillment, it didn't really even fulfill the ultimate need for gossip or tech news. It was simply something that gained a following and continuously understood that it needs to keep feeding itself a certain way to become a certain celebrity product that it's users would extrapolate reasons for why it did great. Yet it's a house of cards that could easily fall into mediocrity just as when Steve Jobs first left Apple when it starts geting marketing upgrades wrong.

If they need it they will willingly pay isn't necessarily true, either.  Many people have a need for software that fills a niche, but they make do with other alternatives (of which there are always several) for the simple reason that people don't want to pay.
-wraith808 (September 22, 2011, 03:53 PM)
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I would politely disagree with this based on the definition of the term "need".  If there are alternatives that are free, then it's not really a need.  Financially speaking, a need is something you will HAVE to pay for if you want that thing.  Or else you will not be able to fulfill your need.  If you can fulfill your need with a free alternative, then that thing that costs something is not a need anymore, it's a want.

If you HAVE to have something and only one company makes it, then you will HAVE to pay for it.  That's a need.  Of course, if the price is so high that you will choose to not pay for it, then it's not really a need is it?  So this can quickly turn into a whole chicken/egg argument, but I'm not here to argue.  It's all life/death stuff.  A need is something that moves the bar away from death and closer to life.


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