Tuesday, June 12, 2018

On Paying for Software

Seth Godin (Hacker News):

I like paying for my software when I’m buying it from a company that’s responsive, fast and focused. I like being the customer (as opposed to a social network, where I’m the product). I spend most of my day working with tools that weren’t even in science fiction novels twenty-five years ago, and the money I spend on software is a bargain–doing this work without it is impossible.

To name a few, I’m glad to use and pay for: Overcast, Feedblitz, Discourse, Zapier, Dropbox, Roon, WavePad, Bench, Nisus, Zoom, Slack, SuperDuper, Mailchimp, Hover, TypeExpander, Tidal, and many others. I wish I could pay for and get great support and development for Keynote.


One of the reasons that I switched from Linx to OSX was so that I could pay for more of my software. Why? Because then I more of the software I used could be maintained by someone who had the time to dig into bugs and UI problems and to fix them. But in Linux, couldn’t I just edit the source myself? Realistically, no. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to source-dive in a totally new project in a language I never use, especially without someone willing to give me a walkthrough of the architecture and fundamental models of the program. It is waaaay more efficient for these to be fixed by an engineer working not in their spare time, but as their full-time job.

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

The replies to afarrell's comment are a brilliant insight into the broken minds of so many in the FOSS community. They believe in their ideology and they work backward from there to try and support it, when they'd be so much better off if they acknowledged the flaws in their process and tried to address them. The idea that paying customers get better support and more influence into the direction of the products they pay for is as close to an indisputable fact as there is.

No one is stopping you paying for FLOSS either. Free as in software, not as in beer. You can in fact....ready for this....sell GPL, MIT, LGPL, etc software. Many Mac Developers do just that in fact. E.g. Manton Reece's much appreciated (by me anyway) but discontinued app for the Mac, Wii Transfer, used FFmpeg under the hood. So it wasn't completely free/open source software but the transcoding portion was a pretty big part of the underhood magic.

Other options for funding, Red Hat sells support contracts and other projects are often more than happy to take donations at the very least and many will even accept funding for bounties of bug fixes or sponsorships for feature requests.

I have no problem paying for useful software, particularly when it's supported over time by a small company or individual, and I try to buy outside the MAS to give a greater share to the author. What I find frustrating about commercial software on the Mac platform is just that Apple has so little regard for backward compatibility and applications that worked fine on a prior version of macOS frequently break with the too-frequent (and, in my view, unnecessary) system updates. In fact, I'd rather pay for upgrades to macOS just to get a longer window for security updates and continued support with better backward compatibility.

[…] Tsai posted two links with different authors opinions on the subject. The HN conversation that ensues from the […]

Nathan, you are just reinforcing my point. No one is disputing the fact that you can pay for FOSS, they are disputing the suggestion FOSS software reliably has support at the level OP describes. And he's literally and objectively right, so what are you arguing against? Instead of starting a petty slapfight because someone isn't in love with the same things you are, you should acknowledge the flaws inherent in what you love and work to address them. People like yourself, those willfully blind and ignorant to the weakness of FOSS, aren't helping anything. You are actively hindering the movement. Stop.

Well, since Apple's support is pretty awful....should I say all closed source or mixed source software has bad support? That's silly.

In my own life, Arch/Antergos either fixes (as in updates their packages from upstream patches) or provides work arounds for every common bug that's hit me....for free....and Apple has pretty much categorically denied or deflected my support requests. What is my take away here? It's all anecdotal anyway.

Ps My experience with router third party firmware providers has been better than most of my support from the actual manufacturers of the routers!!!! Included, but not limited to Apple. I've also owned Asus, Linksys, and a host of other brands. I don't pay Brainslayer or Kong from DD-WRT or penny and yet they are consistently engaged with the community.

Suggesting someone is petty for politely engaging might not be the most productive tactic. I addressed something with actual facts and I get hand waving equated as "objective" rebuttal. I actually do pay for commercial, often closed source software, sometimes support is good, sometimes the entire app gets abandoned, I simply don't have any idea why people think paying for software is going to equate to magical support levels....

I paid for a web browser in the 2000s!!!! I paid for scanner software too!!!! iCab and Vuescan respectively. I love those apps. The latter works quite well on Linux and support is great, so no, I don't see the problem with charging for apps on Linux. More companies should try it frankly. I buy Windows apps too. I buy Android apps. I buy software on game consoles. I am familiar with the pros and cons for all these pieces of software and their platforms.

How's Audion doing these days? Or Transmit for iOS? I love Panic and their apps, but people paid for these apps and the software was still discontinued once market realities dictated time was better spent elsewhere. I understand the decision. I respect the decision, but support is only as good as the market for the apps, closed source, open source, mixed, etc.

Frankly, Nathan, you are an embarrassing child. The commenter mentioned here was describing a broad pattern. Pointing out a single exception to the pattern doesn't change anything. Pointing out that closed source software with bad support exists, or that open source software with good support exists, is not a rebuttal. You have expressed literally nothing to suggest that the pattern he describes does not exist, and yet you get angrier and angrier. Instead of being angry, why not accept this objective reality (you are, again, objectively wrong) and open a productive dialogue on how to improve it? Why waste your time being a pointless zealot? I don't understand the appeal.

Broad pattern is one guy's point of view? Many people have posted rebuttals, hand waving them away gives you one data point to conflict with multiple, that's not the strongest argument, but I respect your right to make it.

To reiterate, I use closed source, mixed source, and free/open source software. I have a breadth of experience here that belies your continued personal attacks regarding my allegedly "zealotry".

I'm not saying paid software, on the Mac even, can't be excellent when it comes to support. I simply dispute there's a universal truth here. I have a slew of abandoned commercial/shareware apps (on the Mac alone) that attests to this point. Also, I'm not arguing with you, simply giving you a view into my own experience. Perhaps if you reread my posts you will see I gave examples proving your point as well (the minor point being that paid apps can give really good support, not the major point that all paid apps guarantee any such contract).

I truly feel sharing repeated examples from diverse platforms is not a single exception. Also I notice you and the original poster have not hammered out any specific examples to counterbalance. I only see generalities. It's curious to me why something anecdotal can be universally held to be objective facts?

Clearly, you could have bad experiences that properly illustrate your point and frankly, deserves to be brought to light. I welcome these examples. Please share. Not being sarcastic, merely extending this olive branch to allow you this platform to air your grievances, openly and honestly.

I like the simplicity of paying money in return for better-supported software, but there are some complications to this approach that I think about:

- What if some people can't afford the software, or the computer it runs on? Do we care if the 'better' software in this context is only accessible to people of certain means? Doesn't this approach reinforce existing inequities instead of address them?

- What about software that is valuable on a societal or cultural level, but not at an individual level (to the point where someone would pay for it)?

Needing to 'make a living' from working on an app seems like it greatly restricts the kinds of software we could be seeing.

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