I've been working on a fairly well-used Atlassian Confluence plugin and Confluence authenticator and have been offering that work "free" (on my own time and that of my employer) for years now. Despite the great support I get from Atlassian, for the most part this is a nearly thankless although still fulfilling thing to do. I don't have a lot of spare time to work on these things, and when the API or implementation of an Atlassian product changes, a product that I was offering suddenly becomes buggy through no fault of my own other than lack of time to test with unreleased Atlassian products. Atlassian has done everything they could in this regard, providing documentation, support, and even providing early releases for testing. I don't think they should change their process, although they could either hire me, send me free stuff, or fly over here or fly me to one of their offices to pat me on the back.
But, that's nothing. Others out there put a hell of a lot more into it than I do. There are developers writing and supporting free/open-source Atlassian plugins, etc. that totally rock and should be hugged and kissed by every single one of their more attractive customers. And, how about the Atlassian partners that provide much additional functionality, many times for much less than what they should be making? Finally, the guys and girls at Atlassian work their asses off making great products and providing great service. Sure, they get paid, but they don't get enough respect, and they don't make enough either, at least not until they are all driving Maseratis and sipping fine champagne.
So, all that said, can we please get some respect? ;)
Nice post - there are quite a few of us that have been at the receiving end of this, our decision to go commercial has been a very time consuming and one that we've put a lot of work into. Other plugin developers have also been through similar journeys with various degrees of success.
One of the big reasons we held off charging for our products has been the major changes and shifts in API's between versions. We have over 45 Atlassian skilled people in our company, and we use the product set every day extremely closely. Even so, we knew as soon as we charged for a plugin, along with that would come liability to keep things updated and it's a huge investment to make and keep up. The change from 3.x to 4.x of Confluence caused many man-months of work for us. This is no-one's fault, just a fact but one that if we weren't aware of and started charging at the 3.x level would have really hurt us as a company.
For Scaffolding/Reporting, we held off charging as we knew the major changes in the editor would effectively crush what we had and force it to be re-written. 4.0 came out and did just that, and we had to wait for the dust to settle before commencing the work, which we are now subsequently charging for.
The changes are not just API's but also other areas. There were several guru's that spent many man-months of time building up forum FAQ's that were then not ported over to the new answers site. There's dozens of examples of this, it's the nature of a fast-growing company but one that Atlassian I think will grasp the importance of. There are lessons to learn by looking at pioneering cloud companies like Salesforce.com that release changes twice a year, giving them all a chance to settle in. It would reduce the whiplash and churn for everyone involved. Our customers also would enjoy us spending more time adding value to the business vs continually having to chase an upgrade path for the latest and greatest.
@Rich - I think it's a bit condescending to say "just charge". Maybe not what you meant, but there's alot more that goes into it and the challenge will be for all of us to make the platform usable, appealing and still cost effective once every plugin provider adds their charges on top without the end customer feel like they are buying a car and getting charged for every add-on along the way.
@Robert sorry if I sounded condescending... I wasn't trying to be. I agree that there's a lot that goes into the business of plugin development... my comment was a bit naive.
Anyway, I (and all Atlassians) totally appreciate and respect what you guys do. We'll try to live up to our end of the bargain by making sure that we provide you a great platform to build on that is stable and minimizes maintenance on your part. As we grow, our thinking and processes around these issues are maturing.
First of all, THANK YOU! Thank you for building Atlassian plugins. Thanks for building it for free. Thanks for maintaining it for free. I think it's awesome that you have done this... and continue to do this. Oh... and thanks for answering questions here!
I feel the same way sometimes with a few different open source projects I've created/maintain and help out on. However, I continue to do it because I find value out of writing code for other people. It feels good and it's a fun challenge.
With that said, if you really want more out of it, why not just charge?
Gary - great post. I can't say much more than +1 - our whole ecosystem is pretty damn awesome and we're always proud to be a part of it.
As to the fine champagne - I think most of our team would prefer a microbrew or two, but let every man choose their own poison!
Thanks for taking the time out to remind us all.
I read Gary's comment not just as a desire for recognition from Atlassian but also as a very human desire for respectful interactions from end-users. It's tough work to take in and assess feedback and manage relationships on top of the normal grind of saving the world one byte at a time, and today, the requirements and complexity of successfully, endlessly pleasing The People is daunting and exhausting, especially when the primary interface for doing so is via de-humanizing type.
So, I say, Gary, I commisserate, and for what it's worth, when you get a stack of flack in your inbox, sometimes this comes in handy: http://devastatingexplosions.com/* :)
*Note: I do not work for Old Spice, although my uncle buys it for my dad every year for Christmas, and my dad puts it on the top shelf of his closet. I am afraid I may inherit a scary collection in fifty years, knock on wood.
I enjoy writing plugins and I enjoy writing books. I've even written a book about writing plugins. But I wouldn't expect to make a Silicon Valley living with either unless I did them full-time, and most likely not even then.
So if you're one person wanting to sell a plugin, I'd suggest seeing it as a fun activity that might bring in some extra income. Same thing as most iPhone app developers I'd guess.
Great post, Gary. At the recent Summit conference, I went out of my way to just walk up to Bob Swift (who developed the SQL plugin, among others) and just say "thanks". Then he and I talked for a bit and he even gave me a good tip for when I use the plug-in. So, I can't recommend this sort of thing highly enough.
I also appreciate all the effort that people put in to provide plugins, information to the community, examples and all the other activities that they do, often for free or certainly not at market rates. Thank you
What does however concern me is that it's very difficult to start out. Sure Atlassian show you how to create a plugin with a tutorial or two, but they are really very simple and unless you are already a struts/xwork/velocity/whatever expert all this is baffling, besides half of them don't work because they are out of date..
Sure you can ask a question on here but 1) most of the answers come from non-Atlassian sources (and I thank them for that) 2) They often assume knowledge that you may not have and 3) by time you do work it all out Atlassian have changed something so it no longer works.
Can I appeal to Atlassian to perhaps ensure that 1) the tutorials are kept in step with the products and 2) That there are some more complex tutorials e.g. how to do intercepts (whatever they are) etc.
That's my soapbox moment over for the day .
Here's what I learned over the past 8 years: contact the person in charge of Developer Relations at Atlassian and tell him/her your concerns. If you have the time and are willing to learn, you will develop great products that benefit the community. If you are also on top of things and fly in for the conferences/summits, you will do well. It's true- all of us don't have that money and time. The projects I spent a lot of my free time on for the first few years have mostly been in maintenance mode for the past five or six years now. I agree they could spend more effort in supporting the development community as a whole. But, I also understand it is a lot of work to clean up and maintain documentation and example code. Regardless of what Atlassian decides to do, I know you will find a way. I highly recommend developing for Atlassian products, as it was one of the greatest joys of my career.
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