GPGMail for Mountain Lion donation only decision

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Scott

24 Nov, 2012 08:32 PM

This comment was split from the discussion: Preview of GPGMail for Mountain Lion (web)

The decision for the donation only version of GPGMail for Mountain Lion was not made light-heartedly - believe me - but the time we could devote to GPGTools was so limited, that we either had to find a way to get something back or otherwise consider discontinuing it all together.

get something back

Do you see what you said there?

It's hard to see the good will that drains away from deciding to quietly and clumsily put a pay wall in the middle of an open source project for your benefit. But drain it has, and drain it will.

You've chosen poorly. I hope you consider further.

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by Luke Le on 24 Nov, 2012 08:34 PM

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    Agreed it maybe have been clumsy and would we not have had to choose between abandoning the project due to even less time we could devote to it and a quick way to make free time for the mountain lion build we might have taken a different path.

    We love the idea of open source and will continue to release our code and no one would have benefited from even more delay. So we chose the donation model and that way managed to get a preview build out. There's still a lot of work ahead and we effortlessly continue to put the time in, but we couldn't have done this without the donation model, so I think in the end it was the right thing to do.

    The source code has also been up for quite some time now and everyone is welcome to build it and use it or best case of all even contribute some patches.

    And no, the benefit was not for us but for the project and for the users.

    And please don't hijack other people's threads, simply create a new one.
    Otherwise Ryder will be receiving a bunch of emails he might or might not care about.

  2. 2 Posted by Scott on 24 Nov, 2012 09:39 PM

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    I read through everything I could find and didn't see anything about what the money was needed for, or how it somehow wound up on the critical path.

    Short of making it worth your while, are donations needed for actual project expenses?

  3. Support Staff 3 Posted by Luke Le on 24 Nov, 2012 10:24 PM

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    I actually really don't get the point of your criticism.
    As I explained again and again we're 4 people on this team, all freelancers.
    We couldn't devote any more time to this project, unless we took it from our freelance projects. Before we all weren't quite so busy and it was no problem to dedicate more time to GPGTools.
    This situation led us to the idea to try the donation based model, to recover some money for the time we would not be able to work on freelance projects but GPGTools instead.
    We didn't force anyone to donate and as I said before released the source code (even if due to my mistake a little late) so anyone could build it for themselves.

    I really don't think there's anything wrong with trying to somehow finance a project which receives bare to none support from a community - we've had like 3-4 contributors, besides the core team, in the past 2 years, which all lost interest pretty quickly - in order to keep the project a lot of people use and like, alive.

    And as I already said, you're right, we may not have communicated that properly, that wasn't great and we're actually truly sorry for that and hope we would have done better, but as I also already said, this is the first time the 4 of us are working on a bigger project and we make errors. But that's also one great thing about open source, everyone can come and chime in and change the things they don't like about a project.

    We've learned a lot from this experience and we realized we have so much more to learn, but also I for one realized, that open source is unfortunately still most often associated with free (as in gratis) which is simply not sustainable unless you find a big community which helps out and that's also why so many open source projects don't live on for a long time.
    That's the last thing I want to see happening to GPGTools.

  4. 4 Posted by scott on 24 Nov, 2012 11:34 PM

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    OK, thanks for that. My second post wasn't criticism. It was a request for clarity.

    Short version: to get paid.

    Here's a suggestion to address the communication issue: put it up front that you want pay for the time you put into the project.

    And that shouldn't be tied to whether or not the source is available. That it seemed tied is where you lost moral ground and cost yourself goodwill.

    Now, the following is criticism. It's intended to be constructive. Take it as you will.

    Brian (hey, there, Mr. Topping!) gave some good suggestions about building revenue around your efforts. Frankly, your responses sounded defensive. That you're still offering the Mountain Lion version only in exchange for money several weeks later suggests he hit a nerve.

    That you haven't had more people join in on the code could be that the world is short of good programmers who can do the work or are interested in secure email. Or it could mean that potential contributors haven't found a welcoming environment. I know I've walked away from projects when the lead contributors were holding it too closely and not fostering a team atmosphere.

    I don't know whether either of these are on the mark, but when the world seems aligned against you, it never hurts to take a hard look.

  5. Support Staff 5 Posted by Luke Le on 25 Nov, 2012 06:29 PM

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    Scott, I didn't mean to insinuate that your second post was meant as criticism.
    This statement was related to your first post.

    The longer these discussions, with you and Brian, go on, the more I realize that
    actually we haven't really done anything wrong at all but chosen the right path for this project.

    If we wanted money for the time we put into developing for this project, we would have changed
    to a payment model a long long time ago, but that has never been why we're working on it and we've
    always tried to stay away from that.

    We never tied the money to the source code. That the source code wasn't released earlier was my fault and my fault only, and there was no elaborate scheme behind that, but I simply didn't find the time and didn't deem it so important, which in fact it wasn't, since only about 5 people contacted us about it. Again I should have done it immediately, but I didn't. No tying involved, but a simple inconsiderate act.

    I don't know how "moral ground" factors into this discussion, but our donations and all the positive
    feedback we're continuing to get from our users show that we haven't lost any goodwill except to maybe some few people.
    We're definitely not gonna be able to make everyone happy and there's no point in trying.

    Basically the project was at a point where we couldn't invest enough time into a Mountain Lion version
    of GPGMail to make it out before the release of OS X 10.9 or ever.

    So we had to make a decision, and decided to try to push the donation model. Everything was
    already setup, since we had added the option to donate to the project long before, but now
    started to push for it, by making early access to the Mountain Lion preview version donation only.

    The donations lead to the following result: we've actually managed to free enough time to put together a preview (alpha) version.

    We've benefitted from the donations by allowing us to invest more time in GPGMail for Mountain Lion.
    Our donors benefitted since they received the preview version as soon as it was available.
    Our non donor users benefitted from our donors by seeing a GPGMail for Mountain Lion version at all and much earlier than we originally expected.

    With this model we've also introduced a clear choice for all of our users:

    If you don't like to wait but don't mind supporting the development and continuing of the project financially, please donate and as a personal thank you, you get early access to preview (alpha) versions.
    If you don't mind waiting, you'll get the Mountain Lion version for free again, once it's out.
    If you don't like waiting, but also don't want to donate or can't donate, you can still grab the source and build it for yourself

    As to Brian's suggestions: at the time of his writing we've already had considered all of his proposed options and so we've had an explanation for each one, why they weren't an option at the time.
    I've also added that we'll re-consider some of them, for example the Mac App Store, since rules are loosened every now and then, as we go forward. The same goes for Kickstarter, once it's available to austrian and german bank accounts, it will be the first option we're gonna use. We'll most likely also try other crowd-funding platforms in the future.
    If you think my responses sounded defensive that's alright.

    The reason why we're still offering the Mountain Lion version only in exchange for money is very easy: it's simply not yet ready.

    We truly wished it was, but it isn't. Rather than putting all our users at risk at once, the last version of GPGMail for Lion saw an to me incredible amount of downloads, we'd rather have it tested thoroughly by our donors and each other who know what they're in for and release it once it's really stable and ready.

    The reason why the few people who worked with us on GPGTools stopped doing it, were because they had no more time to work on it due to changes in their personal and professional lives.
    That's the most problematic part of open source projects in my opinion and we absolutely don't blame them, but instead thank them for contributing to this project in the first place.

    So after all, what I actually wonder is, where the negative sentiment towards our actions really stems from?

  6. 6 Posted by Ranon on 25 Nov, 2012 11:28 PM

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    You need some money to do the work, that's totally fine.

    But: You're asking for money without any promises when the software will be ready, whether it will be anyway, if it will follow OS X updates faster.

    What about starting some kickstarter project (there are other fine platforms, too)? You will raise some defined amount of money and will release code as soon as it's done (and the amount of money needed is collected). Probably you will even get rewarded higher that way.

    How much money do you expect to need / do you want to finish the update/rewrite?

  7. Support Staff 7 Posted by Luke Le on 26 Nov, 2012 12:10 AM

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    Hi Ranon,

    you're right, we should have given a timeline. Unfortunately in the past we've mostly never managed to keep them because we didn't know how much actual time we find to work on it and because the entire process of GPGMail is based on reverse engineering which I personally found is even harder to correctly estimate. By now the public release of the preview, with some very important bug fixes which are not yet done, will probably be in about 2 weeks.

    From the 10.7 version on we've always played catch-up with OS X releases but this will hopefully end with the rewrite of GPGMail from scratch for 10.7, which we could partly re-use for the 10.8 version if it wasn't for the sandboxing issue.

    For our entire team it's also absolutely clear that we never want to have such a big gap between the release of a new OS and making GPGTools compatible with that new OS, that's why we've also finally bought a OS X developer account and best scenario will be able to release a stable version of GPGTools for 10.9 on the day of the release. I couldn't wish for anything else.

    And as to your proposal to start a kickstarter project, we'll absolutely do that for our next projects and milestones. At the time unfortunately it wasn't feasible for GPGMail for Mountain Lion.
    One thing I still don't like about the kickstarter concept is, that features/projects are only worked on after a certain amount of money is collected. It works great for a lot of projects I'm sure, but I think it would be holding up the development of GPGTools, since once we decided what we want to implement we will simply do it and rather see some money for it afterwards if people like it.

    There are still a lot of decisions to be made and plans to be formed but the project and especially our users will profit from them.

    Thanks for chiming in.

  8. 8 Posted by Timothy Reaves on 04 Dec, 2012 02:27 AM

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    This is a hard thing; open source projects die. Many linger a very, very long time. Some of them truly will not be missed. Others will (or would be). As an open source developer, I know how hard it is to put time into a project, and to see it not count for a lot, as much more time is required. For me, additional developers with needed skills is always more important than money; I'm fortunate in that - for now :-} - my day job pays well enough.

    I personally do not like paying for access to beta software; it just rubs me the wrong way. It shouldn't, as I think it is fair to charge for the time required to build & distribute the software. On Mac, growl is perhaps the best example of this.

    But more that paying for access to a beta piece of software, it bothers me more that people are not willing to pay for those things they derive value from, and find value in. On one of the projects I work on - a very major application, if every user donated a simple $1, we'd have several hundred thousand, and could afford to pay for skills we lack. But people do not want to pay. I pay for lots of the software I use. And to this end, I'm donating for this as well, as I do find value in this project.

    As an aside, one issue really hampering the project I mention above, is no legal status or entity. There are three developers that collect contributions (one from source forge, one from elsewhere, and one for Google). Two of these developers are no longer associated with the project, and the donations they continue to collect just sit there, as they are not interested in transferring them to someone else. I'd strongly recommend that you consider this, especially if you attempt a serious fund-raising campaign (such as the community finding sites cropping up).

  9. 9 Posted by Todd Martin on 05 Dec, 2012 02:14 AM

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    I'd donate if the release was months ago. I can't in good conscience give money to a project that can't release in a timely manner. Mountain Lion has been out for a long time now. At this rate 10.9 will be out before you release anything. That is not worth my money.

    Before you establish a paywall you need to establish some standards. I wont give money to people I think are flakes. Its too bad as the project looks cool, unfortunately I'll never know since you wont let me test it.

  10. Support Staff 10 Posted by Luke Le on 05 Dec, 2012 02:13 PM

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    Hi Todd,

    all the reasons why we couldn't release in a timely manner are layed out above.
    You can still build from source to test drive it.

    By now we've apologized and said everything there is to say about this from our part.
    We'll be glad to help everyone build our tools from source if they have questions.

  11. Luke Le closed this discussion on 05 Dec, 2012 02:13 PM.

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