Conversation With Matt Martz

Last night, Matt Martz who is also known as Sivel in the WordPress IRC Channel and on Twitter announced that he was going to stop development and support on several of his WordPress plugins. Out of curiosity, I decided to check in with Matt to figure out what was going on and what prompted this move.

The other day, you announced that you would be stopping development on several of your WordPress plugins. Why is that?

I decided back when I made the decision to enter the plugin competition that if I didn’t win a prize (in the form of money) that I would be unable to justify the amount of time I spent on maintaining my plugins. This did not have anything to do with the plugin competition. That was however, perhaps, the best opportunity to make some money that would allow me to justify the time I spend.

You mentioned that you were not receiving enough contributions back to continue development. Are these contributions donations?

That is correct. Over the several years of developing plugins I had gotten only several donations. Maybe totaling $50 or so. Early on I refunded those donations. That was when I was only maintaining a couple of plugins and didn’t need to justify my time with my wife. Now that I had around 20 plugins or so the time I put in was quite large.

Ajax Plugin Helper In Action
Ajax Plugin Helper In Action

Many would argue that if one of the desires was to make money through donations, that it would have been better to charge out right. So why not go that route instead?

I’ll put it this way, first I don’t use pay for software. If I did, and WordPress was free, which it is, I would feel like I am betraying the community by charging for a plugin that sits on top of the software. I would feel like a hypocrite if I were to suggest to others that they should pay for software when I wouldn’t do the same. I write open source software to distribute it for free. I would rather give away a few plugins to developers who could maintain them for free than start charging money.

That is a unique perspective I don’t hear very often.

Any word yet on which of the plugins you will cease development for? Any way folks interested in continuing development could contact you to take them over?

I’ll first say that giving away some of my plugins benefits the community more than you may think. Not just the fact that users will perhaps get better support and more frequent bug fixes and updates, but because I am targeting developers, who will take over maintaining these plugins, who are a part of the WordPress community but just haven’t been able to make a name for themselves, or figured out how to really get involved by giving to the community. A few weeks ago I already handed off a plugin “Gallery Shortcode Style to Head” which I announced on my blog. I chose 6 other plugins which I am going to offload to other developers. 3 already have new owners, I’m just waiting for those developers to write blog posts/pages about them before I make the announcements. Those 6 plugins are, page restrict, moderate selected posts, ajaxify faq-tastic, possibly related recent posts, dynamic favorites and display name author permalink, page restrict, possibly related recent posts and dynamic favorites already have new owners.

This is a little more personal of a question but I’m curious, how many times have you had to explain to your significant other the reasoning you were spending so much time at the computer without making any money.

Oh goodness…literally once a week if I had to guess, maybe more. To be honest I get more donations from helping out in the WordPress IRC channel than I have from developing plugins and that isn’t a whole lot. My wife understands that I love doing it, and that I help the community and people are thankful, but that isn’t good enough reason to not spend time with the family. I have a 2-year-old son, who is becoming more and more active every day. I need to spend as much time with him as I can. As it is with my day job, I see him after work for maybe 1.5-2 hours a day, sometimes less.

For a long time I was able to justify that the amount of time I was spending on WordPress was ok, but at some point I think the amount of time becomes so high, that if you have other obligations that are more important than monetary compensation is the only way to really justify it, whether that is taking a job that gives you the freedom to dedicate your time to WordPress, or using your own free personal time.

Also, don’t expect me to become dormant, while I am giving away a total of 7 plugins I think I had somewhere around 20 plugins that I have written, 17 of which were active and I actually have 2 or 3 plugins that have been waiting in the background because I haven’t had enough time to work on them.


4 responses to “Conversation With Matt Martz”

  1. While I understand where Matt is coming from, i.e to stick with the spirit of open source, he also has to see that even though is free they do charge for some select options on and a heck of a lot more on their VIP service. I believe this helps them stick with the spirit, for that warm fuzzy feeling as well as a warm healthy meal.

    It can be a challenge to go down that route though, as the majority of people will expect it for free.

    Matt, you could have easily channeled your resources into one or two major plugins and offered upgrades for a fee. There are many people who appreciate extra features and support that way. We’ve been moderately successful with this (for the amount of time we spend on it) and I believe someone of your caliber can be as well.

  2. I think Sivel needs to step up his game and develop more plugins for free.

    He needs to explain to his wife that WordPress is more important than anything. Spending time with your wife/kid(s) needs to come after plugin development, with food and paying a mortgage to follow last.

    If Sivel really cared for the community, he would sell his car (get a bike), sell his cellphone (just use e-mail), downgrade to dial-up ($10/month), and continue to crank out plugins that make all of our lives easier.

    I really find Sivel is being selfish here.

    Money and spending time with your family isn’t everything man. Geesh. :)

    (Ha! I don’t blame you man. Keep your focus pointed in the right directions. Great decision.)


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