The other day I had mentioned that Ronald Huereca author of the WP Ajax Edit comments plugin was looking for a new developer to take over the project. Good news! Ajay D’ Souza has become the proud owner of this awesome plugin. Ajay has worked with Ronald before and I believe makes a great replacement for Ronald. This means development of the plugin will continue. Special thanks goes out to Ajay for taking this project under his wings!
By Jeffro on March 4, 2009
By Jeffro on March 4, 2009
Every now and then, a conversation will take place on the WP-Hackers Mailing list that I can actually follow and understand. Back on March 1st, Joost de Valk who is a top 10 WordPress plugin author posed an interesting question to the list:
In my ever ongoing quest to find a way to make some money with all my plugins while still keeping them under the GPL and not charge for them, I was wondering how the “community” (as in you hackers and the ppl from Automattic) would react to advertising on plugins settings pages. I’m talking about adding one 125×125 ad spot to the top right of my plugins settings pages. Any thoughts?
But as we dive deeper into the conversation, Mike Schinkle asks what I believe to be a broader, more important question:
How can a plugin author generate a revenue stream to support his efforts that doesn’t require him or her to constantly do client-focused consulting and instead better target the needs of the general plugin user? If we could come up with a community-acceptable way that can generate real income for plugin developers w/o retarding the open-source aspects that make the WP community so vibrant and valuable, this could benefit most on the hacker’s list, no?
This might all sound familiar if we take a step back and review what has taken place with regards to honoring the GPL and premium themes. Now it would seem as though it’s the plugins turn to be in the lime light.
Some of the ideas proposed thus far:
Community Run Ad Server – The WordPress community could set up something like an adserver on the WordPress.org domain so that there would not be any untrusted third parties.
Companies Fund Development – Find a company that is willing to fund development for a specific version of the plugin. You would need to set yourself a tight release schedule and then have one company after another fund each version as it’s released.
The Code Is Free Services Are Not – The argument was made by Peter Westwood to think that the code you create for a plugin is free but the services around that code do not have to be. This means charging for support or using that plugin as a means of getting clients for custom development/consultation.
However, Nathan Rice raised a good counter argument in that, plugin developers would need to create an inferior product because if it was too easy to use or didn’t require support, you are effectively shooting yourself in the foot.
Donations – Lets not kid ourselves. Donations are meager at best based on what I’ve heard even from the most popular plugin developers. Add to that these bad economic times and it doesn’t make sense. Donations should be thought of as bonus income.
At this point, the conversation moved away from placing third party ads within the plugin settings pages to how plugin developers can make money while staying confined within the GPL. Now where have we heard that argument before?
Some suggest that plugin authors add Paypal donation links/buttons instead of ads within their plugin and have those donation links have a pre-determined amount instead of nothing. Many plugins already do this for example, the Google XML Sitemap plugin which I believe does a good job enabling people to donate right from the plugin settings page.
Even WordPress.org supports the ability through the plugins readme.txt file to have a paypal donation link show up on their plugin repository page. But as I mentioned before, donations should not be viewed as a primary source of income.
In my span of two years using WordPress, I have only donated a total of $50.00 to plugin authors. In fact, only one plugin author and that is Lester ‘Gamerz’ Chen. So while I’m not the poster child for donations, I do take issue with large organizations who use WordPress as well as a bunch of freely written plugins who don’t donate a dime towards those plugin authors. If I were a plugin author and noticed a very high profile website that is obviously making a good bit of cash using my plugin, I would think that at some point they would donate some money my way but apparently, that doesn’t happen for most plugin authors.
The same issues that surround selling premium themes in WordPress while abiding by the GPL also surround plugins. For instance, if someone decided to go through and display ads on their plugin settings pages, someone else could easily take that plugin apart, remove the commercial aspects and then redistribute it, totally taking apart that monetization strategy. I mean honestly, plugin authors are left with very few options when it comes to developing plugins for free under the GPL full-time while also making a decent salary. Matt Mullenweg continues to harp on the fact that the code is not where the value is, it’s what is built around that code. For instance, support forums, custom development, lead-ins to consulting work, plugins which serve as a resume to work at a company full time as a programmer, etc. The same could be said for premium theme authors but as we already know, they seem to be doing just fine throwing the GPL to the wind and doing things their way with no repercussions.
I love WordPress plugins and I don’t want to see so much talent jump from the WordPress ship because they can’t make a full time salary developing and then supporting these plugins. Some would argue that the very nature of the GPL license prevents those from making this living by not being able to appropriately license their code. Well, if that is the case, then it’s time you go to a platform that has a license you agree with or can make a living with because WordPress is not moving from the GPL anytime soon if at all.
Is it even possible for a plugin author to make a living developing plugins under the GPL or will it always be known as a hobby?
By Jeffro on March 3, 2009
Brian Gardner who is famously known for his Revolution Themes and also the guy behind his new venture, StudioPress will be my special guest on this Fridays edition of WordPress Weekly. I plan on grilling Brian about premium themes, just a question or two about the GPL, his business model, StudioPress and much more. If you have a question you would like to have me ask Brian, please put it in the comments or better yet, place it in this forum thread.
By Jeffro on March 3, 2009
While I didn’t attend the event, I kept a close eye on Twitter for the WordCamp Denver hashtag as well as tuned into the BitWireLive video stream that was produced by Dave Moyer. As it turns out, WiFi connectivity during the event was not the greatest, especially during the sessions that took place before lunch. I received a tweet from one of the event organizers who told me one of the WAP devices was failing under heavy load which was the cause of most of the network issues. However, they must have fixed it because after lunch, the volume of Tweets really picked up. Here are my cliff notes of what I learned during the event in no particular order.
One of the messages I saw come across Twitter was this:
afhill: coming in a few weeks: buddypress for a single wordpress install (don’t need wordpressMU)! #wordcampdenver
This message was made by someone attending the BuddyPress session. If this is indeed true, this is exciting news. I feel that WordPress MU is actually a barrier to entry with regards to mass adoption of BuddyPress.
One of the sessions at WordCamp Denver dealt with Licensing. Most likely the topic of the GPL and other ways of licensing works as they relate to WordPress and the first question someone asked during this session involved selling premium themes and plugins. While I was not able to figure out the complete answer to this question, I found a few tweets which mentioned Matt continued with his stance that the code is not valuable, but the services built around the code is what provides the value. Personally, I can’t wait to watch this session if it ends up on WordPress.TV.
It was hard for me to hear Micah of Lijit during his interview with BitWire Live but from what I could tell based on his interview and their interview with Tara Anderson of Lijit, that company is working on great things. Especially their WordPress plugin.
Last but not least, Dave Moyer did a presentation on WordPress and podcasting. Judging by the tweets during his sessions, he was a smashing hit. Although there were quite a few people who kept discussing his age. I’m not sure what age has to do with the information he provided but it looks like his session was right up there in terms of Ben Huh’s icanhascheezeburger presentation as well as Matt’s keynote.
That is what I got out of the event without even attending. Certainly one lesson to be learned if you are hosting your own WordCamp is to make sure that the place has adequate bandwidth for the approximate number of people attending. I’ve been told that there will be quite a few videos from WordCamp Denver uploaded to WordPress.TV once they have been edited. Special thanks to Dave Moyer and the BitWire team for providing the live video stream coverage of the event.
By Jeffro on March 2, 2009
Ian Stewart published his new annual tradition prediction post which this year contains 15 different thoughts and perspectives on what the future of WordPress themes will be like for 2009. Among those 15 people is yours truly and this is what I had to say.
While 2008 proved to be a dynamite year for WordPress themes, especially the news/magazine layout, I think this year will continue down that same road but with improvements being made in all areas such as less dependency on the end user knowing how to utilize custom fields, better UI when it comes to configuring the theme in the WordPress administration panel, better documentation bundled with themes, etc. In last years prediction, I mentioned that the next trend of themes would revolve around Widgets enabling the end user more control of the initial layout of the theme. It didn’t quite take off as I thought it would however, I saw bits and pieces of the trend taking shape at the end of 2008 and I think it will make lots of progress throughout 2009.
Another trend I’m subscribing to in 2009 is the year of the theme framework. We have quite a few theme frameworks already in action and throughout 2009, I feel a few more will come online. However, educating end users about theme frameworks, child themes, CSS, should be a top priority or else this child theme concept will never lift high off the ground.
Last but not least, I see the premium/proprietary theme market expanding instead of shrinking. Will these new entrants abide by the GPL? Only time will tell.
I read through the responses this morning and it seems like many people are on the pulse when it comes to theme frameworks. Also worthy of discussion is the ever increasing blurred line between themes and plugins which was brought up by Nathan Rice. Lots of great thoughts and opinions regarding WordPress themes and 2009 so go on over and give it a read.