Again a very hard post to write, but I need your feedback. I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do will be to simply discuss these things with you and hopefully come to a solution that will work for all of us.
Some of you might have some speculations over why I had to do this and it is quite likely that it was one of the reasons, because there were actual several factors.
Over time, Meteotemplate has been installed at least 800 times, of course not all these people are active users, my estimate is that active users are about 500, not all users are also on the user map, I see lot of accesses from local IPs.
Some of you have mentioned in the past that as the number of users increases I will no longer be able to deal with all the emails and support. This in fact is not really true. It is true that there is more people, but, over time there is also much less bugs, the graphical user interface makes it much less likely you will get the settings wrong and so all in all, the number of emails/support I have to do remained about the same, but the number of people who ask out of the total user base, is actually much lower.
Unfortunately, the ever increasing user base brought about some other issues, which I did not anticipate and which now need to be dealt with. The primary problem stems from the fact that more and more people see Meteotemplate just like any other free service, where stuff works, everything is available all the time. This unfortunately was/is reflected in several ways. First, I have to admit that I get more and more emails with single words like “token”, not even saying thanks or hi, then once I send it, they either ask for help in a similar way if they get stuck, or you never hear from them again. Now this is not something I couldn’t deal with, it is obvious you will get such emails and users (I want to emphasize that everything I say in this post does not apply to all!), but it is something that also tells me the way users see MT.
I get lots of emails from people suggesting new features/updates/reporting bugs – and again, this is something I honestly really welcome and it shows me that people are interested in my work and want it to continue.
Now we finally get to the major issues I currently experience. But before I continue, let me once again emphasize that this does not apply to all and what´s more, if you are reading this, it is very likely you are the one to whom this does not apply.
Meteotemplate is still a hobby for me, I really enjoy working on it, I enjoy talking/emailing with most of you and I can easily get over the few who probably did not even deserve getting a token. However, it is also true that on average I spend about 6-7h with it every single day. The truth is that recently I started having some health problems, which hopefully are not serious. These problems in no way limit me in the actual work on MT, but they do have an indirect effect. If I’m to be absolutely open – I have much higher expenses and I simply have to find a way to offset these costs. As most of you know, I do have an old laptop, no smartphone (though I have to admit I don’t even want one), but these are all things I pretty much got used to and some of you were actually so nice and wanted to offer some help in this respect, but I always kindly declined, this is not something essential for me and I’m ok. However as you can probably imagine, now I’m in a situation where I can no longer ignore it. I said I will never disclose who donated and who did not, and I will keep my promise, however, I have to mention one thing. If in this respect things were going the way they were for example a year ago, I would be totally fine. It is unfortunately the case that using the last 7 days as an example, the incomes from MT for me are exactly 0USD, despite several thousands of block/plugin downloads, several new users and dozens of template updates and tokens issued. Now it is so important that I will emphasize it again – if you are reading this, you are probably one of the more active and supportive users, what I have just said in no way applies to all. But as you can imagine, this in long-term is not possible for me to continue. This is not even covering the costs such as hosting, domain…. You all know I hate talking about donations, I changed the Blocks/plugins page and removed all the bold red text about donations etc etc. On the other hand, I am in a situation which might be different from other developers in that I’m still very young, with not much resources and so I simply cannot afford to do all this and support it myself. There are lots of services on the internet such as Gmail, Facebook etc etc – all free and with more and more users, this is how people see MT. In the past it was a much more personal relationship, unfortunately these companies obviously are not a charity and they make the money elsewhere. Unfortunately making Meteotemplate fully commercial is not an option and it would be something both me and you would actually suffer from (you paying for the licenses I would have to get, me spending hours with administrative work etc etc., this is not something I want to spend my time with). MT has no come to a point where it is expected there is something new every day and that when it is out, it is there, available all the time, and for most, absolutely for free.
You might say – yes Jachym, but this is your problem – and you would be absolutely right, it is my problem and I’m the one who has to deal with it. On the other hand, it is the case that since you have decided to use MT, it is possible that my problems will have some effect on you as well.
So what is next… well this is a very tough questions. I have several options/plans. They all have their pros and cons so I wanted to first post about this, then get some feedback from you about it and then decide.
So first thing I want to make clear – I do not want anyone to start feeling sorry and post some comments in this respect. We all have problems in our life we have to deal with. In the meantime, I’m not saying every one of you should now start helping me, no. First of all, there are indeed users who did, second, if people don’t want to, that’s fine with me too, but as much as I want, I simply would have to find another part-time job, or something, which I’m sure I would not enjoy as much, but that’s just the way it is. I have been taking care of myself since I was 18, I have gone through selling in TESCOs while at uni and I would find a way again. If it is MT it would be great, if not, well than unfortunately not.
Let´s now go through the other options, which all assume MT will continue. One thing that is for sure is that I will not and cannot make the template and blocks/plugins fully commercial, i.e. have a fixed price for each. That is not possible due to licensing (I would have to buy licenses and you would then have to pay me a lot just so that I can pay for these, not to mention the time I would have to spend with filling in all the contracts etc.) and due to my personal goals and the way I want MT to be.
I also understand that some of the users are in a very difficult position and as much as they want, it is not possible for them to contribute in a financial way. This is also OK with me, this is in fact what it says on all download pages (blocks, plugins etc.) – feel free to download this script, test it and if you like it and can afford it, please consider making a donation. The problem now is that based on user feedback, over 96% of you enjoy MT. And if I only look at the facts, it is also the case that over 95% of you cannot afford anything.
The bottom line is, I need to make sure that I have some sort of a regular income from this – not to make profit, but simply to be able to get by, by myself. Time is something you cannot buy so if I spend this time with MT, I cannot spend it doing something else. Limiting the time spent with MT is problematic. I have many ideas, many people asking for help, many tokens to issue…. I personally have problems post-poning these things so I know that saying I will for example only work for one hour on MT every day would simply not work for me and be very stressful. I also don’t want my ideas to just keep on piling up over time.
Let´s now go through the possible options.
- Introduce something like “Meteotemplate Pro”. This would have to be something that would provide certain benefits, but in the meantime, would not mean paying for the actual scripts. It would have to be benefits more related to services provided by me. Some things I was thinking of are priority support, support over TeamViewer/Skype, possibility to get information about planned features in advance and possibility to actively comment on the prepared changes (in other words I would send list of possibilities for future template/block/plugin updates/new stuff and discuss with you what you want and how you want it to be, ideally in some closed group on FB, Google, or my blog), the possibility to get customized blocks/plugins with changes based on your request, some sort of Meteotemplate Pro badge for your template. Again, these are just my ideas, if there is something you can think of and most importantly something that you see would be something you would be willing to pay for, please mention it. The problem with this is that I would have to make sure at least some proportion of MT users actually use this option.
- Set some fixed minimum amount that I would post somewhere on my page and which would gradually during the month decrease as people help out and the goal would be to reach 0 by the end of each month, and if that was not happening in long-term, I would have to say I can no longer work on this. This also has its pros and cons. The pros are that it would again be up to anyone to decide how much they value this. The con is that it is a very risky strategy, and one thing I would not want to happen is that very few people would in the end offset the remainder, just so that the project continues. This is something I do not and will not accept. I do not want 2-3 people to save the rest.
- Do you have any ideas?
One other thing I would probably do is slightly limit the number of new tokens issued. Not having a fixed number, but rather making sure that I only send 2-3 at a time until those people have their websites functional and then continue.
If you guys have any other ideas, or want to add something to the ones I mentioned, I would really appreciate it. It is something open to discussion and I want to actually get your feedback (unfortunately it is the inevitable truth that the most helpful and active users are usually the ones who actually read this blog, that is one of the reasons I stopped the downloads, otherwise most people would not even notice there is a problem). The outcome of this decision has to be a situation, where no-one is forced to anything, but in the meantime a situation that is in long-term something I can support. I would love Meteotemplate to stay free, but that to me means no profit, but also no loss. Unfortunately the very essential basics that I need are not free and so I need to find a way. One other thing I want to mention is that if we assume 500 active users and say that half of them would be willing to help, it actually turns out we are talking about very small amounts per user. Which option would you prefer, how do you think this could work, what would you want to see, how much you think this is worth?
Well… I was absolutely opened up with you guys and I am 100% sure we will find a solution that will work for all of us. Please do not post any regretful comments about myself, I also appreciate all the offers for a second-hand laptop etc. – it is extremely nice of you guys, but I’m fine in this respect. I have what I need and want and if things get back to the state where they were a year ago, it would be fine again. I would also please ask you to discuss this here and not move the discussion to some other forum. Feel free to agree/disagree and most importantly, feel free to suggest things.