Can You Complain When Something is Free?

Open source is all about giving out stuff for free. But what is the real cost of giving stuff away?

Girl Screaming

This post was written as part of Peeve Week 2: Internet.

I helped found a website called the Reader Appreciation Project. Seeing that the site was really young, I wanted to build links to the site as rapidly as possible. The best way I knew how was to write a WordPress plugin. I wrote a plugin that allows users to edit their comments, and the plugin turned out to be insanely popular. Links poured in, and eventually I had to turn off trackbacks since the links were so excessive.

Those first few weeks after the initial release were murder. As much as I wanted to ignore the bug and feature requests, I found that I simply couldn’t. My reputation as a plugin author was riding on how well I could support and maintain my plugin.

During Memorial Day weekend, I spent all four days working on an updated version. I re-wrote a lot of the code and added in several features that people wanted. The holiday weekend wasn’t enough and spent several more late nights during the week adding in a few more features and bug fixes. All the while, I’m trying to keep up with blogs, work, and bills.

I worked on this plugin to allow readers to edit their comment easily. This functionality didn’t exist before in an elegant form. It does now. And the features I added in were the features I thought were beneficial to the betterment of the plugin.

However, it seems that day after day I get a comment or e-mail saying, “Your plugin should do this” or “I would use your plugin but…”

The WordPress plugin is free. You can choose to use it as-is, or choose not to use it. I am doing my best to adhere to the users, but I simply can’t please everybody. I refuse to adhere to design by committee.

So Can You Complain When Something is Free?

Of course you can complain. People do all the time. People making 100k+ a year still complain about their day jobs. I see it almost every day. However, I refuse to be taken advantage of. When it comes to my plugin, I will listen to people. But I can’t support everybody’s wish and desire. It’s impossible. And my life doesn’t depend on someone using or not using my plugin. I use it. The people I originally created it for use it. That’s all that matters to me at this point.

8 thoughts on “Can You Complain When Something is Free?”

  1. Your plugin did what you wanted (attract people to your site). In a way, you are also complaining about people complaining 🙂

    At least the others complained to you by messaging you. You complained to everyone by posting this!

    Seriously though, whatever you do, there will always be people that don't like it. You can't stop that, but just be content that there are lots of people using your plugin, which I'm sure is wonderful.

  2. Connor Wilson,

    Thanks a lot! I'm glad you're enjoying the series. Last day is tomorrow.


    Yes, of course I'm complaining. It's Peeve Week 🙂

    My peeve is more-or-less with people "expecting" something when that something is absolutely free. It'd be like people complaining about WordPress (which a lot of people do). And not everybody messaged me directly unfortunately. I'm rather thankful for those that have contacted me directly with bug and feature suggestions. Due to their suggestions, I feel the plugin I wrote has gotten better, more secure, and more robust. However, I just simply can't accommodate everyone, which is what I was getting at in my peeve post.

  3. Ronald, your AJAX plugin is great. It helped lots of people, including me and my readers, to avoid the embarrassment of accidental typos, and an easy way to add to the already posted comment. The new features of the plugin are more than I even wished for.

    Of course there will be someone who's not happy with the plugin, or wishes to add more features. All you can do is listen and if many people ask for the same features or notice a bug, then you can address them, but only when you have time. Bugs are a bit serious though, and so far your response to the warnings was commendably quick.

    So on behalf of everyone who's happy with your plugin, Thank you!

  4. Wow, I had no idea you made that plugin… the one that I see on your's and Bes's blog. It's fantastic!

    Indeed, people always want more. In a way, feedback is great and lets you know what can be improved… especially if the plugin was a paid service, I'd expect it to be professional and have no bugs, and do what I need it to do.

    But like you said, it is free. You spent your time doing it, time in which you could have made money, catching up on your personal work, spending time with a loved one… When one uses things, we often forget that the maker has a life as well, and we can't expect them to drop everything for our personal use. If we needed it that badly, we'll need to pay someone who will crank out the work for you, or learn it, not expect someone to just do it for us.

  5. you can complain if its free but i think it should be constructive complaints only. if some one gets to the point that they are generally unhappy with something and it was free … then it is time for them to move on … but as long as they are complaining in away that it is helpful then its all good … but isnt that constructive criticism

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