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Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

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Wednesday, 13 October 2010, 13:05

Pay per patch

I just read an interesting article about a pay per patch business model for free software.

This is something i've been thinking about lately and I came to a similar but slightly different solution - not that I necessarily want to go down that path myself.

The problem is a pay-per-path or pay-per-feature model is essentially a 'bounty' system - and bounty systems just aren't that successful for a number of reasons.

I think it needs tighter control for a given product and not be so much a free-for-all for all comers. Also a formal legal grounding is required and for adequate compensation.

Essentially it boils down to running a project as a business rather than as a hobby. An example might be an individual or group of individuals starting a new project from scratch, getting it to a base level of usability and then asking customers to pay for new features. The main difference from the PFP model is you don't have a 3rd party involved as such, or a free-for-all for who might apply to do the work. As soon as you add 3rd parties you add extra costs ('leeches'), and lots of politics.

Although this will work for business and enterprise applications I'm not sure it would work for end-user applications. For starters end users are used to paying nothing for software (even if it was hidden in the cost of the computer). Secondly they don't realise just how expensive software is to make. At the very least of say $50/hour, it adds up very fast (casual cleaners get $22.50/hr here, so $50/hr is pretty cheap). Even very simple features will take at least a few hours to implement and some may take weeks or months for multiple developers.

And you still have a problem when the software works well enough for most users - eventually most software goes into maintenance mode where less effort is required. The upgrade mill that proprietary software companies use adds unnecessary expense for users even if it helps the developers maintain their lifestyle.

Tagged business.
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