Spin City

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

It’s not surprising that yesterday’s unhappiness at the new pricing structure for Movable Type 3.0 has generated response from those in support of the structure, Six Apart, or both. But I am disappointed, no let’s be honest, angry at the deliberate misinterpretation and obfuscation put on our responses.

In the MetaFilter thread about this topic, Matt Haughey spins the negative reaction against the pricing structure to one where those who are unhappy are so because we don’t want to pay:

If you so despise the idea of paying someone for software, it’s pretty easy to keep using MT 2.661 free of charge, or having a few blogs to yourself with MT 3.0.

If you so despise the idea of paying someone for software… Show me the writing where the person has said they despise having to pay for software? From what I’ve read, most people’s negative reactions were due to the fact that they, like myself, run multiple weblogs for different subjects, or run weblogs with multiple authors, and the pricing structure is, indeed, prohibitively expensive. They, like myself, weren’t expecting this type of pricing structure. We have happily used the easy functionality of MT to create multiple weblogs and add authors never knowing that some day we would be penalized for doing so; that ‘cheaper by the dozen’ may apply to egg rolls, but it sure doesn’t apply to weblogs or authors.

Timothy Appnel writes on his weblog and for O’Reilly about how are poor software developers to eat:

This outcry raises a bigger more important point which is the reason for my post. As a developer and one who makes a living writing code, this reaction to Six Apart’s new licensing is really disheartening and on a certain level frustrating to see. I am a firm believer and backer of open source. I’ve personally released quite a bit of open source code myself and will continue to do so. However this apparent expectation of the vocal part of community that it is their right to have all great works of software at no cost is bothersome. If users don’t have the funds or won’t pay on principle for my time, effort or talent – how do I eat?

Oh poor Timothy, and Ben and Mena, too. They are starving while we rip the software from their hands and dance on their emaciated bodies in the street in a frenzy of open source lust.

Though I think Appnel turning around the negative reaction to Six Apart’s pricing structure as somehow originating because of open source is the biggest stretch I’ve seen since I last watched a taffy machine in operation, he doesn’t have to look beyond MySQL to see open source being profitable; or Linux (SCO problems aside) implementations created by Red Hat and others. Each of these companies makes a profit by providing value added versions of their products that have appeal for those wanting to use the product for commercial purposes; or for people who may want a simplified installation process or better help system, and support for using the product.

But Movable Type isn’t open source. That’s not the issue. What is the issue is that those few discussions about Movable Type 3.0 in the past at Six Apart gave the impression that this version, at least, would remain free. In fact I remember reading once in one of the weblogs associated with Six Apart that the reason so much support was given to TypePad (and hence the MT developers couldn’t work on the comment spam problem) was so that products like Movable Type could remain free.

There is a free version of MT, true. But there are so many caveats on its use that either there’s confusion about whether a person can legally use it–exactly what does it mean that it can only be used on a single CPU machine; exactly what does it mean that the paid version is the only one on the guaranteed upgrade path; exactly what is meant by having access to paid services– or dismay at how much it will cost if you can’t or choose not to use the free version.

Howver, rather than address these concerns directly, Appnel obfuscates them and makes this an issue of open source, and how he will starve if we don’t stop our unreasonable demand for free software, selfish gits that we are.

I particularly like Appnel’s deliberately negative spin on my writing yesterday, saying:

Many of these posts gripe that alternate server-based tools such as WordPress do not support multiple blogs and/or authors yet. What’s a bit silly about these posts is that not one so far notes that the hosted version of MT (TypePad) allows for unlimited authors and weblogs (plus many other features not available in MT) at a price that rivals basic hosting packages.

What I said yesterday was, “One of the reasons people haven’t moved to WordPress or other weblogging tools is lack of support for multiple weblogs–yet”. I wrote what I did in reference to the reason people have used Movable Type in the past instead of something like WordPress is because of the ease of creating multiple weblogs. Unfortunately, they did so not knowning that someday they’d be charged by the blog or author.

And why did Appnel introduce a hosted product into this conversation? This has nothing to do with TypePad…

…unless this all has to do with TypePad.

Dave Winer, accuses those of us who were critical of ‘being children’, a mature reaction for sure:

Six Apart announced new pricing for Movable Type and hell breaks loose. The users are acting as children, saying somehow they didn’t know that eventually Six Apart would charge for their software. I knew they were going to charge, why didn’t you? I can say this because I’m not a customer (I do use their software, but I didn’t pay for it) and I’m not them. But I’ve been where they are and it sucks. No one’s perfect. If you use their software, you owe them some money. If you don’t like the price, don’t use it. Amazingly they’re not asking for money if you use the new software in a limited form, or continue to use the old software. Users who can’t get behind that are people we don’t need to work with. Everything costs money. When you drive to the gas station, try whining at the attendant, and see how much gas you get. Do it enough and they’ll call the cops.

Are some people using specialized glasses, like 3D glasses, that decodes our writing into some kind of hidden message? Is that why they deliberately disregard the statements we’re making about not being adverse to paying? My issue is that I feel Six Apart has not been open with us about the direction the pay structure was going before we committed ourselves to what will be prohibitively expensive installations. How does that translate to, “Wah! Me want lollie for free!”

Let me repeat, slowly for the filter challenged: We… don’t… deny… Six… Apart’s.. .right… to…. charge… a… fee. But doing so on top of lack of communication in the past, and what communication there was runs counter to what we’re seeing now, is reason for concern, and yes, written complaint. Just as Google’s support for Atom might be seen as reason for concern and complaint by others.

If people have no problems paying the cost and they love Movable Type and they think the price structure is fair and Six Apart has been open in their communication, then say so; but if you can’t do so, not without the words sticking in both your throat and your keyboard, don’t defend the company by spinning our legitimate concerns into the trite, whining ramblings, of free software open source spoiled brats who want something for nothing. You’re not helping Six Apart by your actions; all you’re doing is polarizing the issue and making enemies where once there wasn’t.