What do you want for free? Do users have to pay up to complain?

What do you want for free? Do users have to pay up to complain?

Summary: Matt Asay excorates the whining masses that are taking Twitter to task for its ill-considered removal of the @replies feature. Asay says "pay money so that you actually have the right to voice your displeasure as a customer rather than as a user.

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Matt Asay excorates the whining masses that are taking Twitter to task for its ill-considered removal of the @replies feature. Asay says "pay money so that you actually have the right to voice your displeasure as a customer rather than as a user." However, Asay misses a glaringly obvious point here -- Twitter hasn't given anybody the ability to pay up.

In general, I do agree with Asay that being a user isn't enough to give someone the right to complain -- or, at least, the right to be taken seriously. For open source projects, there needs to be some kind of consideration before taking a seat at the table -- either as a contributor or customer. If you're putting in sweat equity to a project, rather than cold hard cash, you should be taken seriously.

And, of course, money talks: Customers should expect their complaints to be heard, and acted on when possible and practical.

But the folks at Twitter are still finding their way, and the only option users have is to be loud in the hopes of being heard -- or using alternate services like identi.ca which puts the power in the hands of its community directly. While Twitter is still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up, its community doesn't have the opportunity to "pay up" -- either in contributions or money.

Right now, the only business that Twitter seems to be in is building out its user base: Which makes the complaints of its community quite valid indeed, whether or not they've sent a check. Depending on what business model Twitter ultimately chooses, just being an active user may be a valuable contribution in and of itself. (Assuming Twitter goes with some kind of advertising model.)

Asay's suggestion that a predictable service is a premium business model leaves me a bit cold. Enterprise Linux distros have very little in common with Twitter, and the expectations for enterprise OSes are rather different than those for a microblogging service.

Right now, Twitter has something which Identi.ca doesn't yet have: Momentum. But if the service continues to futz with the service and treating users like an afterthought, that may change.

Topics: Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Social Enterprise

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14 comments
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  • The right to complain is a part of our First Amendment rights

    So I say complain away. But I wouldn't expect any results unless there was a monetary incentive.
    Michael Kelly
  • RE: What do you want for free? Do users have to pay up to complain?

    Oh, sure - complain away - but don't expect that it'll have any effect, necessarily.
    Zonker_z
  • Disagreeing is OK, venting frustration is not OK

    In open source development, the feedback from end users is important.

    However, as it's free software that they haven't paid for, end users don't have the right to simply vent aggression and frustration. If they feel the need to vent those, let them kick their car or something.The developers of free software aren't therapeutical punching bags.

    What end users of free software do have a right to do, is express their disagreement and/or disappointment. In a respectful businesslike manner.

    When end users don't have the courtesy to behave themselves, but start ranting instead, they can expect others to vehemently lash out at them. Well deserved, then.
    pjotr123
  • Using IS sweat equity.

    Sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter rely on free users as virtually their entire business model.

    When someone is using these services- they aren't necessarily "free"- a user is agreeing to view ads in exchange for the service.

    The usage of the service is exactly the sweat equity you are talking about- and by using this service and being a key figure in the companies (Twitter) business model- you definitely have the right to complain.

    This holier than thou attitude in the Open Source community that the "end user doesn't matter" has got to stop- the end users are exactly the people the software is developed for. The end-user is just as important to the success of a project as the developer.

    And when companies like Dell use open source software (Ubuntu)- they damn well have a right to voice the opinions and complaints about certain features, the moment the open source communities completely discount these concerns by the end users, will be the end of the product they have worked so hard to create- what good is open source software if no one uses it.
    trance2tec
    • The end user does matter, but...

      ...we all have to work for a living, and chances are the developer isn't being subsidized by advertising. If he gives you a useful program, source code and all, he's doing you a favor and the most approrpiate phrase in response is "thank you". If there are bugs, he probably wants to know about them and to fix them, but unless someone is paying him, he's doing it on his time, not yours, so it's a good idea to deal with him accordingly (just as you would want to be treated if you were in his shoes).
      John L. Ries
    • Wrong.

      The user is agreeing to view ads in order to
      mitigate losses incurred by their usage.

      Companies rarely make a lot of money off the
      passive ads, they just help to offset the costs
      of freeloaders, and expecting employee time on
      top of that is absurd. Why don't they just cut
      you a check right now and call it a day?

      If I see a nerd sweat for a reason other too
      much blubber while sitting in front of a
      computer, I will acknowledge 'sweat equity.'
      Spiritusindomit@...
    • the point of open source...

      the only people that have a right to complain about an open source project are those that contribute to it, whether its through monetary or dev contributions, it doesnt matter, then end user should just be glad they are getting somthing for nothing, and if its really a problem get off there ignorant arses and learn to code.
      Nomad08
    • going to happen

      Most people know that it was a given that BP would have to put the Money on the table anyway...That was a given! Nothing that wasn't going to happen. Those effected do not trust Obama to handle the funds either.
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      KaneKirk
  • RE: What do you want for free? Do users have to pay up to complain?

    facebook, myspace and twitter - it's all fluff. time wasting useless entertainment. don't post anything useful relevant or important . . . it can / will come back to haunt you.
    nospam@...
  • Nonsense!!!

    >>>...For open source projects, there needs to be some kind of consideration before taking a seat at the table ? either as a contributor or customer...<<<

    Wrong! Just wrong! I have never had a problem getting the attention of a maintainer of any of the distributions or pieces of software attached to a distribution when I have had a problem or wished to voice a need for additional features or functionality. Open source users do complain when things don't go well, and they are listened to. Really listened to.
    richdave
    • To be fair, 'mainstream' users are listened to as well...

      The difference is, the userbases dwarf those of
      open source projects, so it becomes a nigh on
      impossible task to reply to each member
      individually.
      Spiritusindomit@...
  • Absolutely!

    You get what you pay for. Someone has to pay for the
    employee time you consume with your problems. I realize
    your paycheck comes from managing a forum, but seriously,
    you can't eat up all your profits in supporting customers
    who don't pay for your service.
    Spiritusindomit@...
  • pay up to complain

    Feldman who alluded to Obamas moratorium on drilling made no sense based on the factual information available. Obama will Appeal the decision by a grandstand Lawyering up and cause more time wasted and greater damage.
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    TitusTobias
  • pay up to complain

    It is a shame, just a tragedy. All these service men, and women, giving their lives, for others to profit. Basically one big money making effort, is all this wound up to be.
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    ForbesFloyd