When I reported on the rebranding and reuse of the WP User Avatar plugin last week, it was no surprise that users were angry. However, I didn’t expect a reaction to these user complaints from a subset of commenters and other members of the community.
There were a few points, each one boiling down to the argument that users of free plugins have a sense of entitlement.
These points focused either on the concept of authors of plugins needing to make a living, or on the GPL, a license that does not offer any guarantees on the code the user receives. These two arguments have sometimes led to the wrong conversation. User complaints weren’t focused on upselling or the code they picked up from the wild. No, the backlash was about logging into their websites and finding that things had changed without warning. This was a plugin installed from an official, presumably trustworthy source, being replaced by a different plugin.
What I am seeing is not a group of people complaining about an advertisement. What I am seeing is not a long list of users who dislike feature changes.
The question of maintaining free plugins and user rights has never been the question.
Even Post Status’s David Bisset followed this bunny into the hole. There are some good points to make about the fact that developing free plugins is a labor of love – and sometimes just a headache from a support perspective – but this conversation was never about one. commercial upselling. It was about the ethics of bulk swapping the codebase from one plugin to another.
Will some users complain about a new advertisement in a plugin? Undoubtedly.
In this case, will nearly 200 users leave one-star reviews? Unlikely.
Many users have a feeling of entitlement. They grab a free theme or plugin and expect developers to cater to their every whim. I’d say it’s a small percentage of total users based on personal experience, but this vocal minority can give the whole group a bad name. They can harm the motivation of a developer to continue with his project.
I understand. I’ve been doing all this free software stuff for almost as long as WordPress has been around. It is easy to feel underappreciated for the work that you give out to the community. And, if no benefactor is funding all of this free labor, you must find a way to get food on the table.
Free software users are not entitled to free customizations. They are not entitled to free technical assistance. We don’t even owe them the promise that a developer won’t trade in a new codebase that does something different. We don’t owe them anything.
However, the price of entry to play in this market, whether it’s free or commercial software, is that the success or failure of each plugin is in the hands of those who use it.
Maybe we, those of us who build free plugins, don’t owe users anything. But we have a responsibility to be trusted stewards of our sub-communities in the WordPress ecosystem. We have a responsibility to behave in an ethical, fair and erroneous manner as defined by our users.
Whether it’s commercial or free software, the goal is to have users – is it really software if no one is using it? They are the cornerstone of every project. Ultimately, developers who want people to use their code have to respond to those who would.
On the flip side, developers don’t get rave reviews on their projects. Users have the right to complain, even about a plugin that they have acquired for free. It is not about them who want special privileges or treatment. It never has been. If you treat them fairly, deal well with them, and communicate, you can create a vibrant and vibrant community around your software.
Please send virtual hugs to the developers who create the plugins and themes you use. They are an essential part of the success of WordPress. Five-star ratings and donations never hurt either.