After all these years on the web, you would think I wouldn’t get fired up over pure stupidity and selfish meanness. You’d think I’d have thicker callouses. When it comes to trashing the WordPress Community – ooooh, my shackles rise.
Darnell Clayton wrote “Why WordPress Bloggers Need To Choose Premium Plugins Over Free” on BloggingPro and has created a fire storm against his perspective, with few on his side.
There are so many directions I could attack this issue from, however, since I’m taking this personally, I feel I can only respond accordingly.
Here are a few of Clayton’s assumptions:
- Paid things are better than free.
- Things you pay for have better support.
- Plugin authors are starving and poor. Without money they will quit or give up.
- Selling Plugins automatically guarantees incentive for future development and support.
- A Premium Plugin author’s reputation is better one who gives their Plugins away.
- If you are paid for what you make, you will achieve greatness and make more money.
- If you aren’t using a paid WordPress Plugin, you better stop and switch to a paid, much better one.
WordPress Plugins are written only for one reason: to solve a problem. If the problem didn’t exist, there would be no need to commit energy and time to create the code to resolve it. That’s a fact.
There are currently 12,298 WordPress Plugins with 134,873,584 downloads in the WordPress Plugin Directory. A search for the word “premium” in the Plugin Directory returned 101 Plugins, less than 1% (0.82%). Does this mean that less than 1% of the Plugins in the directory have any value?
There have been thousands of people writing WordPress Plugins in the past seven years, the majority never seeing the light of day within the WordPress Community. If they aren’t in the WordPress Plugin Directory, nor promoted on the creator’s site or elsewhere, does this mean they also have no value? No worth?
Does every problem resolved with a WordPress Plugin mean fame and fortune for its author? Of course not.
Does paying for a WordPress Plugin guarantee you a lifetime of success and support? Of course not.
Are there people out there thinking WordPress Plugins will pay their mortgage? Of course there are.
Does paying for a WordPress Plugin mean it is really better than than free one? Of course not.
Plugin authors work for other people doing coding and programming. They are web developers solving problems and sharing the results. They are students taking on challenges, building up their resumes. They are full-time employees in unrelated fields playing with WordPress as a hobby. And they are full-time WordPress experts doing nothing but making a living off WordPress development, though these are often in the minority. To make such a sweeping assumption about Plugin developers is wrong.
And an insult. The whole premise set up by Clayton is an insult, to both parties involved.
I remember in 2004 and 2005 when the coders and hackers starting coming out of the woodwork to rip and tear up the potential of WordPress. They were inspired by the many “I wonder if I can make it do X” possibilities, we were surrounded by creative coding energy. Among the early hackers who pushed WordPress beyond its borders were Mark Jaquith and Andy Skelton, Ozh, Michael Adams, John Godley, Andrew Ozz, Mark Riley, and so many others.
Mark Jaquith created Subscribe to Comments WordPress Plugin which changed the way people can be notified by email that someone’s made a comment on a blog post, creating a continuity. Andy created a lot of what goes into WordPress.com, hosting millions of bloggers for free with one of the most powerful publishing platforms, as well as the WordPress.com Stats WordPress Plugin, bringing some basic stats about our blogs into the WordPress Administration Panels, and Akismet, protecting us for years against comment spam through an innovative “crowd sourcing” piece of coding.
There is hardly a piece of WordPress that hasn’t been touched or influenced by Michael Adams and Andrew Ozz. While there aren’t a lot of monuments standing visible to showcase, their legacy will be honored as impacting the WordPress interface, bbPress, WordPress.com, and enough code in the core to circle our galaxy and back.
Mark Riley hasn’t done much to contribute to WordPress code. Yet, he’s one of the most powerful forces in the WordPress Community, one of the first, most powerful leaders in the WordPress Support Forums. He’s moved into managing other WordPress support services, including the WordPress.com Forums and helping to train and manage all the Happiness Engineers for Automattic and WordPress. I personally worked with him extensively to develop the WordPress Codex, the online manual for WordPress Users, to support the needs of the forum and I saw the determination to help others without compensation and little sleep as he crossed time zone limitations to provide much needed support to the growing hordes of WordPress users.
When it comes to developing WordPress Plugins, helping to change the WordPress interface, having a powerful impact on WordPress core development and documentation, and influencing WordPress Plugin and Theme authors, few have left a larger footprint in the WordPress community than Ozh. Working in a non-computer industry job in France, WordPress is more than a hobby, it’s his passion. His popular Planet WordPress from PlanetOzh continues to bring the latest and best news from around the WordPress Community into its aggregator, beyond the official WordPress Planet found in your Dashboard panel.
I could go on and on citing examples, but my point must be made. These people gave willingly and freely to WordPress. They did so when it was an insult to expect compensation. What did their determination, loyalty, and passion for WordPress get them? Work with Automattic and the WordPress Foundation, as well as with other companies and projects, and certainly more than the few hundred dollars selling their Plugin might bring in.
To my knowledge, not one offered their WordPress Plugins for sale.
Would they have been better off if they did? I doubt it. Their contributions with WordPress Plugins, improvements to WordPress Themes, and contributions to the core were their action resumes.
Their work was proof that they knew that of which they coded. It proved they could take on a task and follow through to completion. It proved they were people who knew how to solve problems, troubleshoot them, and fix new problems along the way. It established them as experts. They knew how to contribute. They knew how to give. They understood the true intent of giving back. They saw the big picture and saw it was worth being a small part of the whole.
Matt Mullenweg has become an icon in the Open Source industry for giving things away and making not just a living, but an entire company (or three) on this policy, changing the whole monetization paradigm on its head. Others have learned from his example but there will always be those who think old fashioned and expect payment per item not vision.
To quote from a comment Eric Mann of Mind Share Strategy on the article:
I use both free and paid solutions on all of my sites because I know, respect, and trust the developers who put them together. I also give my new systems away for free because I believe in contributing back to the community that helped teach me to write code in the first place.
That’s the real key. WordPress is free. Most WordPress Plugins and Themes are free. Distribution of them is also free and easy-to-use through the WordPress Plugin Directory, WordPress Theme Directory, and auto finding and updating of both Themes and Plugins from within the WordPress interface.
Those who use these free services and tools often want to give back.
Should WordPress Plugin and Theme authors be compensated for their work. Sure. I’m totally for it! I’m first in line to tell people to give back to those who give. If you use these tools and they help you make money with your site, then it should be a requirement that you thank them for their time and effort by contributing to their creator(s).
If you can’t give back to the WordPress Community through code, you can give money or you can give more. I do. I work with WordPress Plugin and Theme function developers to test drive their tools to give them the feedback they need to improve it. I write about them, brag about them, and feature them everywhere I can to show off the talent without the WordPress Community. I take them out to dinner when I’m in their town, or have them stay with me when they are traveling through the Pacific Northwestern United States or wherever I am. I hire some for special projects and recommend many for other projects.
Is it time for you to start giving back, too?
Proving the Assumptions Wrong
Help me prove these stereotypical myths are wrong.
If you are a WordPress Plugin author, have your say. Tell the world why you think giving back to the WordPress Community is a good thing and no reflection upon the quality of your Plugin. Tell us how you manage to maintain the Plugin and its support without putting you in the poor house and how its impacted your life, resume, and work by contributing. If you considered charging, tell us why you choose to charge or not, so we all understand what it takes to be a WordPress Plugin author.
If you have a WordPress Plugin, make sure you get it into the WordPress Plugin Directory so it can be among some of the best and most exciting fellow Plugins and authors in the world. If you have some WordPress Plugins not in the WordPress Plugin Directory for any reason, show them off proudly on your site with the WordPress Plugin Showcase Plugin or I Make Plugins WordPress Plugin, created by WordPress Plugin authors to help other Plugin authors offer their Plugins with less effort.
If you are a fan of WordPress Plugins, have your say in defense of WordPress Plugin authors. Tell people how much their work means to you and how you would not be able to do what you do without their work, but also why it is important to everyone not to judge a Plugin by its price tag.
Support your favorite WordPress Plugin author.
- Donate to the Plugin author. You can do so through the WordPress Plugin Directory for those with the feature enabled, or go to their site and look for a donation option. Or email them and ask how you can give back to them.
- Hire a Plugin author. We all have big and little things we’d love to have or be tweaked on our sites. Hire a Plugin author to do it for you now.
- Start your next web project with one or more WordPress Plugin authors. They are creative and able to see things you will miss, so start your next web development project with them to get it right from the beginning.
- Blog about them and their WordPress Plugin.
- Interview them on your podcast or blog to find out how they work and come up with these great ideas.
- Tweet out about the Plugin and its value to you.
- Make a list of your favorite, can’t live without WordPress Plugins and put that on your Facebook page and/or blog.
- Write a tutorial on how to use or incorporate a favorite WordPress Plugin into a WordPress blog.
- If you are very familiar with a WordPress Plugin, set up a feed to track WordPress Support Forums posts and questions on the Plugin, set up a Twitter search, or Facebook search for mentions of the Plugin and offer your help and guidance, taking some of the load off the author.
- Show off your WordPress Plugins, the ones you use and rely upon on your site. Create a Page listing them with My-Plugins or WP List WordPress Plugins.
- Hug a WordPress Plugin author when you see them.
- Check to see if they have a “Wish List” on Amazon or otherwise and buy them a goody.
- Send them a prepaid card for dinner at Olive Garden or some national chain, or a popular department store so they can buy themselves something they want and need.
- Send them a blessing, mental hug, or other intangible but powerful energy thought in their direction.
@lorelleonwp if quality has a price, I can’t afford WordPress.