33 Comments

  1. Jason Lemieux

    This looks like a fantastic product. Cheers to the team behind it. It’ll be very interesting to see how users react to it but I think we’ll probably give it a try for Postmatic and Epoch both. The trick of course is going to be in who opts in and who does not.

    My hunch is that the type of users that would quickly discount (and one star) a plugin without really digging in are the same group that wouldn’t opt in. And that’s probably fine, because those are the users that wouldn’t likely convert to paying customers anyway.

    But for the kind of users we want to have as paying customers (who would likely opt in with the right language and understanding) this will be fantastic. It’ll really help us understand where the trouble spots are. I’m going to dive in.

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  2. Steve Bruner

    Vova presented at WordPressNYC in September and did a great job explaining the thinking behind Freemius.

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  3. Ahmad Awais

    An excellent tool by Freemius. Already using it for CF7Customizer and the insights are really worth it. Way to go, Vova!

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  4. Terence

    At last, I thought. But then I realized it was only for developers and the users won’t actually get anything from it directly.

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    • Vova Feldman

      Hi Terence,

      Users WILL benefit from that indirectly. With Freemius Insights developers empowered with data that can help them improve the plugin. Better plugin means better UX and better features for the users.

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    • mark k.

      @Terence, Why do you say such a thing? The users will get another service that spies over what happens on their site.

      I think the idea is cool but the privacy issue is very problematic and I don’t see how it can be fixed as AFAIK you can not accept TOS before activating a plugin.

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      • Jeffr0

        That’s unfair to say. The first thing that happens when a plugin using Freemius Insights does after activation is to ask the user whether or not they want to opt-in to giving the developer the data. If they skip the step, the data is not sent and nothing happens. It’s not spying if the user knows it’s happening and they explicitly allow it to happen.

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      • Terence

        Jeff. The key was in my use of the word “directly”.

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      • Jason Lemieux

        To be fair here it is totally opt-in. I haven’t used Freemius yet but the screenshots i’ve seen show it to be incredibly transparent and fully above the boards.

        We already have something like this in our plugin. We ask people to share usage statistics with us so we know what other plugins they run alongside our own, what version of PHP they run, and what their WP version is. It’s totally opt in. Some users do it and it guides our roadmap. Others don’t and it’s fine. It’s great to have the data when we can get it.

        Accusing a fully transparent opt-in analytics tool of spying is kind of like asking for a ride in my car and then accusing me of abduction. Spying is secretive. Opting into sharing data is not.

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      • Vova Feldman

        Hey, @mark. I just checked your blog’s source code, and you use Google Analytics. Theoretically you can roll out your own analytics solution, but you prefer to delegate that responsibility to a 3rd party that focuses all their resources on analytics. Even though Google “spies over what happens”. And you don’t even tell it to your site users.

        In a perfect world, plugin developer could build everything himself. Unfortunately, it’s not feasible.

        At least with Freemius Insights the user is presented with the -exact- data that is being collected. And yes, not like GA, the user can simply click the Skip button.

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      • Dara Duman

        I think it is a great product. I am one of the developers and founders of WP App Studio, a WordPress design and development platform offered as a service (PaaS). Folks use our WPAS plugin to design and develop limited functionality WordPress plugins for free or pay for commercial grade plugins with full functionality.

        I wanted to chime in because when we first published our plugin to the repository more than two years ago, a guy accused us being a hacker, thief etc. on our plugin reviews page, started up a page inviting all his friends to submit reviews accusing us, accused people supporting us for working for us, contacted Otto to take our plugin down …. Some of those comments are still there.. some were removed by the moderation team.

        All because we alert our users inside the plugin that their plugin development is ready and give them a download link from Amazon S3 through a htps connection. Nothing else.. Users signup or pay to use this service.

        After more than 2 years, we have more than 17k users who downloaded our plugin, a store with plugins developed with WPAS and all. So Freemius developers.. don’t be discouraged. People talk. I will be one of the first to sign up.

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      • mark k.

        @Vova, no, I can not write my own analytics server as things like google search tools integration are not possible to be written with the API google offers, and I can not do a like button without letting FB track you, etc. This is something the US don’t care about but the EU cares.

        Even if it is a properly done opt-in (no info is gather on anything else, and no info is gathered unless enabled) it is a surprise to the user that just downloads a plugin from wp.org which doesn’t specify it has any tracking code by a 3rd party service. This is potentially very annoying to the user as it will probably never be stated upfront.

        There is also the security aspect. if you can give a list of sites on which the plugin is installed. All an attacker needs to do is write a subtle back door into a plugin and use your service to know which sites to attack. And then of course there are your own security practices, why should I trust your security.

        There is really no need to be offended by my comment as all these points were raised when the repository was started against the idea of having an update service integrated into it. But the update service offered features which are obviously good to the user, while it doesn’t seem lie you offer any such features.

        Side Note: obviously every plugin can do its own usage tracking and I think some do (I think yoast and EDD) but it is very subtle and not disruptive to the user in anyway. I am sure users will be shocked when they will receive emails asking them why did they deactivate plugin Y.

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      • mark k.

        @Dara, seriously, two of the best wordpress experts say that the idea behind your plugin is totally insecure and you just dismiss them as “some guy called his friends”.

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      • Victor

        @Vova, Google “spies” front ends, not backends. That’s a big difference. And, sorry, you’re not Google yet :-) If others will follow you with similar concepts it will create new opportunities for hackers, most probably.
        The latest tendency to “spy”, advertise, creating facebook-like pages for plugins in WordPress admin is quite horrible, in my opinion. Why providing a link is not enough anymore?
        And there are already a lot of great places for “sharing data” between users and plugins authors. Yoast SEO users easily found a way to share their “data” with the developer – just an example:-)

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      • Vova Feldman

        Hey @Victor, thanks for joining the conversation. Of course I’m not Google (yet!) :-) If you think about it, when a platform is so customizable like WordPress (which we love), any plugin in the WordPress repository can create “opportunities for hackers”. Today, all the data-capturing-flows are different. Every developer that collects data does it in his way (it’s the wild-wild-west). And in most cases, the messaging is not clear and transparent enough to the user. I’ve seen examples like “Get 20% discount on our premium products for tracking,” without even explaining what is data is being monitored.

        What we are trying to do is to standardize that process following the repo guidelines religiously, making sure it’s done “by the book”.

        With regards to “front end” vs. “backend” tracking, I’m sorry to disappoint you but you can easily track the user by assigning their unique ID (https://davidsimpson.me/2014/04/20/tutorial-send-user-ids-google-analytics/) which could be later mapped to the email from your DB. And if not GA, then Mixpanel, and if not Mixpanel then Kissmetrics, and so on…

        The current interactions between plugin authors to users are happening when there are issues (which is great). BUT, most of the users simply uninstall the plugin and not initiate a support ticket/question. Moreover, sole-developers don’t have the resources to consume all the support, and aggregated view of the problems is a very convenient solution to figure out the top issues. Let’s say that I would like to add namespaces to my new plugin version, how would I know how many users are in risk still using PHP 5.2? Without tracking PHP versions, it would be impossible. And that’s just one use-case.

        I already mentioned it in one of the responses here, but wouldn’t it be awesome if, in a case of a major security leak, the plugin developer could interact with you to tell you when the patch is ready? I would love to have that.

        Like any data in the world, if it goes to the wrong hands it can be abused. But I strongly believe in my fellow plugin developers–we are the “right hands.” And based on personal acquaintance with the WP developers community, the data will be used to improve the ecosystem (at least by the most).

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      • Dara Duman

        @Mark K, there is no such a thing called “insecure idea” or “secure idea”. It looks like after being 2+ years in service, 17k+ downloads, others commented positively, and more than 5000+ sites/plugins developed by WPAS, your two of the best WordPress experts were wrong.

        Spreading hyperbole on an open source software without proof is not a sign of authority or expertise . I and my wife are behind this “insecure idea”. We have 30+ years of combined experience in software development and grad degrees in computer science in addition to being core developers of one of the most advanced development platforms ever built for WordPress.. and yet we do not call ourselves as experts on anything.

        In the end, as members of WordPress community, we should not be badmouthing other fellow developers and designers but support them for being innovative and taking risks.

        My previous comment was not meant to degrade your idea or comment. I agree with you on the privacy 100%. As you said, there are serious privacy concerns whenever you want to collect data. That’s why developers providing a service like Freemius Insights should use double opt-in when signing up users.

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  5. Andreas Nurbo

    I recognize some things from my post on how to detect breaking plugins etc. I like the popup thing, great minds think alike I suppose hehe.

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  6. Denis Stoyanov

    This seems a great service (and I will definitely try it) but I wonder how it copes with Laws especially Europeans (All the crap with Google VS Europe and new laws’ projects popping everyday).

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    • Andreas Nurbo

      If its optin and the data is anonymized it should not be a problem. The safe harbor stuff(Google, FaceBook etc) you are referencing indirectly is about transferring/storing personal data from EU in US if I recall correctly.

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      • Vova Feldman

        Nothing is collected without the user’s consent, therefore it’s also legit to capture identifiable data like email.

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      • Stephen Harris

        While it’s legit, it’s also not expected. Why would a service for tracking php / WP / plug-in / theme users need my *email*?

        As a user I would be happy for a developer to collect information based on environment / application information – but not personal data like my name or e-mail. So, as a user I would definitely not opt-in.

        As a developer this really reduces the usefulness of the service: I’d be asking for data I don’t want and (a lot) of users wouldn’t want to give.

        I hope the service does succeed, it’s a really solid idea – but it would be great if you could consider allowing developers to request the data they want. Or offer pre-set levels.

        The web-hooks also lead you to a legal quagmire. I’m assuming you have legal ownership of the provided data. The web-hooks expose that data to a third-party (the developer), who could as mentioned in the article sign me up to a newsletter I never opted-into.

        While legal side of that can be swept out of the way by adding a sentence to the effect of ‘you agree we can share your data with our partners’ – as a user, that’s another reason to opt-out.

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      • Vova Feldman

        Appreciate the feedback @Stephen. At the moment, ALL the data that we collect is valuable and actionable. We put a lot of thinking to make sure we only collect the “minimum viable data”, there are use-cases for all, we don’t collect it for the sake of collection.

        Here’re two common scenarios why email collection is very useful for you and your users:

        1) Let’s assume that you mistakenly release a plugin version with major security leak. Since you are a responsible developer, you immediately patch it and release a new version to the repo. Unfortunately, it takes time till your users will all upgrade to the secure and patched version. BUT, with Freemius, you’ll be able to see all the users who are still using the vulnerable version and send them an email to encourage them to upgrade. You’ll be their hero, and they will be thankful for you taking care of them.

        2) As you read, Freemius Insights adds “Deactivation Feedback Form”. Let’s assume that 10% of the users who abandon your plugin do it since you don’t have featureX. Since you are customer feedback driven developer, you develop that feature to stop losing those 10% of users every day. Now, you can email all this hundreds/thousands of users who abandoned your plugin because of featureX to try and win them back. Not only that you’ll win some of them back, but you are also a hero since you listened to your users and made the extra mile to implement it and engaged with followup after it’s ready.

        With regards to the webhook, it’s in the responsibility of the developer what he does with the webhooks. But we’ll do our best to educate about do-s and don’t-s, and best practices, to prevent any legal violations.

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  7. Bradley Kirby

    Can theme developers use this as well?

    Nevermind, just read your FAQ. It appears you do have a program for theme authors. Great!

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    • Vova Feldman

      Indeed. We are looking to work with development partners to build a great insights solution for theme developers. @Bradley, if you are a theme developer please contact [yo AT freemius.com] and we would love to chat!

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  8. Rene

    @Vova This seems to be an excellent service. I really like the idea and realisation. I will probably give it a try soon:-)

    Wish you great success with it.

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  9. Peter Cralen

    I am not a developer, but this service/tool looks cool. I think WordPress need exactly these kind of services – more business oriented solutions for developers, that they can code more and better.

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  10. Vova Feldman

    Thanks @Peter! Appreciate the positive feedback.

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