Commercial developers

After seeing a post else where about someone's 'free' but very limited plugin being useless, I thought it might be worthwhile discussing it in a more appropriate group.

At the risk of enduring prickly reactions from plugin developers who market their work in the community, I agree to a point with the poster about some plugins being useless, and being them only as an advert for the 'full' version which has to be paid for.

Vasco and Team Webgalli are the two sellers who seem to appear most to me, but, it's not my decision whether to allow selling their work here or not. I did post somewhere on one of Vasco's plugin pages that I found it irritating to find when I installed it that it showed a lot of widgets, but trying to use them cause a message to appear saying that they were only available in the paid version. (I suggested not displaying what doesn't work, and making the advert more appropriate). I no longer look at any of Vasco's, Team Webgalli's, or any other plugin by someone who is selling a 'full version'.

Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, but here are a couple. Elgg, like Drupal, WordPress, BuddyPress, Joomla, etc., have very helpful plugin communities. I use Drupal mainly, and everything is free. There are very few plugins which are commercial, and when you find one, often the seller just adds a link to their sales site. The free versions do everything you could need, and when there is a commercial version, it offers very powerful extras normally only required by commercial companies and websites. In other words, they know most people don't have the cash to hand over, or if they do, they often don't have enough to purchase professional programming and support time.

Of course systems like Drupal and Wordpress are actually very wealthy commercial concerns. Matt Mullenweg received something like $29 million into WordPress from corporations in 2009, who invested because they use the product, and want it to grow and be around 20 years from now. Open Source does not mean "totally free to everyone" in every way, and WordPress (actually Automattic) have paid staff. Matt's personal blog makes very interesting reading.

So, back to Elgg. The Elgg development team are probably not well-off to the tune of $29 million, and probably don't employ a large team of staff yet. They've made Elgg Open Source for their own reasons, for which I'm grateful. I'm also grateful to plugin developers who spend many hours on things and give them away free, even if they would have done it as a hobby anyway. (I do so myself, though not in Elgg as I'm new to it).

I think that those selling plugins in this community should make them much more functional, and offer a lot more for those who can and will pay for more. Giving away a car with no engine and wheels in the hope that someone will buy the full car would be ridiculous, but selling the car cheaply and offering lots of goodies at extra cost works well, and always has done.

Oh, and the point about "useless". Yes, in the sense of "this does nothing I can make any use of". But in another sense, it's good that coders let others have and modify what they've done. After all, you could take one of the free plugins and use it for inspiration to create something very useful and powerful, then offer it freely yourself.

Elgg does seem different in allowing people to advertise plugins they sell on an Open Source community rather than just allowing links to their commercial sites as others do. I prefer that, but as I say, it's not my decision. What are your thoughts..?

  • A lot of plugin developers here are great like jeroen, kevinjardine, gushbelino, pedroprez . They create working free plugins for community and maintain the plugins greatly. How do they make money  then ? They provide elgg development , support, design service. And believe me I'd rather choose them to develop my projects instead of other plugin providers who just create plugins in the community but limit the functionality. Its just a matter of trust in myopinion. 

    See gushbelino, pedroprez from keetup development ? Its just one example.

  • @plugins developers 

    The less you try to sell, the more I trust you. 

  • Michael, I understand your point, as it was raised in community many times and there were some discussions about it in the past.

    I want to clarify one thing though - we try to make every free plugin we release on functional. We're opened to suggestions. A few of our plugins are widely used in free versions and we want it to be the case with the new ones as well.

    By our model we're trying to lower the costs of the plugin development. If you ordered development of the plugin like vazco_groups, it would cost above 2000 dollars to develop the plugin in a current form. What we do is we try to lower the price of the plugin for a person that asks for a development, and later offer this plugin for a very low cost for a broader community. This can at least partly cover the development costs.

    Alternative to this model is developing a plugin for a client for a much higher cost and releasing it on for free, though with no support. Usually clients don't want to release to community something they paid for though, unless they have some advantage in this.

    In our database we have over 50 plugins which were not released because the founders of the plugins didn't want them to be released. I think everyone would gain more if those plugins were available in the community for free with limited functionality, and in full version for a reasonable price.

    I believe in future Elgg's community will develop. There will be more clients for a single plugin, which means we can lower the prices and offer more for less, as well as more for free.

  • Agus,

    the model we use are designed to be proffitable for our longterm clients, as they can get more custom development for less.

    I respect Jeroen and I had a pleasure to cooperate with him on a few projects. We have different models of work, each has it's advantages and disadvantages.

  • To move the whole discussion here, below are the posts from vazco_group plugin. Michael, maybe you could paste them in your first post, then I'll remove them from below:

    agus darwanto:

    All or pretty much of your plugins are limited meaning "useless"  It seems that youre just using this plugin community to market your


    @Argu; I agree, to a point, and will post in a more appropriate place about it (which will also show up in the River).


    No "prickly reactions" from here ;-) your point ".. Giving away a car with no engine and wheels in the hope that someone will buy the full ca.." is pertinent as well as amusing, though.. unfortunately some "GPL PlugIn" developers actually do give out cars with no wheels. As a developer, I have in the past, released some PlugIns - totally $0 free, all wheels, 6 cyl engine, etc. I stopped releasing freebie plugins for my own other reasons. In general, I feel that GPL & Commercial PlugIns should come in several flavors (as you mentioned re: Drupal) --> Fully functioning Freebie, Commercial with more features, "Pro" version with even more features -- but the Freebie version should *not be "crippled" in any manner or nag you to go buy the commercial stuff ;-) That in my mind - is good business.



    Agus, the plugins we're releasing are limited, though they're far from useless. vazco_mainpage or vazco_topbar's free versions were downloaded over 10.000 times and are used on multiple sites. vazco_forum is used on 300 websites (out of which 10 people bought the paid version). There are a lot of free plugins we've released as well.


    Yes, this plugin is limited. We have to gain proffit from selling the full versions, otherwise we won't develop plugins at all. We plan to continue developing this plugin in case it occurs popular. We will add more features to the free version then as well. This was the case with vazco_gmap plugin - now the free version of the plugin is as functional as paid was in the past, while paid version supports many more features.



    I wouldn't put that much faith in the download counter for those particular plugins. That said, your point still stands - many people are using your front page widgets and topbar plugins.

    It looks like the discussion has been moved here: which is a better place for it.

    agus darwanto:

    I am okay with "more features" in paid version. Its just for example your free forum plugin, there is no way to create a thread in a topic, I am just able to create post/reply,,, wew is this a forum ? NOT. A discussion forum has the Topics-Thread-Post with members able to create thread and post, while only admin can create topics. Got the point ?

    You might better to give more features for paid version out of the "standard forum feature" like adding more design n functionality.

    This group widget limited to 3  widgets ? Oh come on. this is silly.

  • @Vasco; Hi. I lost the plugin page, but don't mind what's left in or deleted really.

    Regarding the model you use for plugin valuation and release, well I'd say it's all relative. I once did 5 minutes work on a Windows project for an Aerospace company, and they were charged £15,000 by the company I worked for - yes, I got the number of zeros right there. Pricing is whatever you call it, and there is no automatic value of anything.

    I don't think a plugin which only allows one widget per column is functional, actually, and neither do others as you can see. It's pretty useless in terms of using it for anything in a website, although as I said, it could be useful in the sense of code sharing.

    If you look at other Open Source systems I mentioned, by your standards there are millions of pounds/dollars/Euros worth of plugins being given away free. They are not crippled, they work superbly, and they are well maintained and updated - freely. I'm not suggesting that anyone has to give anything away free, but in the long run you become better known, and you will make a good income from those who want power features and prefer to pay for solid and reliable service.

    It's all open for debate, and each developer does as they please and sees over time how much paid work they get and what promotion methods work best for them. I personally don't like the idea of people offering things for sale in an Open Source community, but that's just me - I wouldn't do it. I also wouldn't create something useful, cripple it for those who rely on Open Source stuff, and tell them they have to pay if they want a 'real' working version. I don't think Open Source and Commercial mix well, and a large number of people feel the same way from what I see around the web.

    It's no big deal, and nobody is being asked to do anything they don't wish to, but it's worth giving some thought to. If it was up to me, I'd allow a link to a commercial site here but that's that. Anything on an Open Source site should match the ethos of those working hard on the core project.

  • Michael, thank you for a comment, you raised a few good arguments.

    The 3- widget vazco_groups may be too limited indeed, in the next week I'll try to find a better way of distinguishing the paid and free versions.

    • PlugIn Level 1 $0   --> 5 full features
    • PlugIn Level 2 $5   --> 8 full features
    • PlugIn Level 3 $10 --> 12 full features
    • PlugIn Level 4 $20 --> 20 full features
    • PlugIn Level 5 $50 --> 50 full features 

    happy customers at all levels ;-)

    <? if (!class_exists('vazco_external'))

  • In my experience word of mouth is the best form of advertising there is.

    I don't think you'll make a great living selling plugins and site development to people who use Open Source because they don't have much of a budget, but they will say to people who want serious stuff doing, "You should try Vazco on - his free stuff is amazing. I'm sure he'll do a great job".

    Also, as Elgg and the Curverider company develop, those who stand out as providing superb solutions and being very helpful will become associated with the product. That's happened to a number of individuals and companies who do WordPress work, for example.

    Just a thought.

  • It is because of thi sexact issue that Ellg will slowly build. If you want to make money from Open Source, do it by cheap installs and lucrutive custom setups. Do not take a portion of the code and keep that proprietary. Elgg code is open source and that is what you are developing for so it should all be open source. I notice that Elgg stay very clear of this topic, let users abuse the terms of this site by allowing advertising, which is against the site terms.

    So Elgg has given the defacto ok for this all to occur and lets the users passionately battle it out.

    Will I be using Elgg going forward? not sure now after the last two days of being back to see what has changed. I walked away last time and spending $10k in dev costs for php code. I may have to again.

Feedback and Planning

Feedback and Planning

Discussions about the past, present, and future of Elgg and this community site.