WangGuard Plugin Launches Indiegogo Campaign to Fund Development and Support

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This week José Conti, creator of WangGuard, announced that he would be shutting down the service and further development. The plugin, which Conti says has nearly 20,000 users, is one of the few effective solutions for combatting WordPress, multisite, BuddyPress, and bbPress spammers and sploggers. Conti was struggling to pay for the servers and, after six years of supporting the plugin, had only received six donations from the community.

After receiving encouragement from fans and users, as well as a generous donation of servers from a hosting company, Conti launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund future support and development of the service. The goal is set at $35,000, out of which Conti will need to pay the Indiegogo commission, the Gateway commission, and taxes.

“The goal of this campaign is to cover the expenses of a full year of my work to improve WangGuard and to keep providing support for free to all users,” Conti said. “I’m not aiming to become a millionaire, just to be able to work and improve a service which has more than 20,000 active users per day with benefits for sites all around the world.”

I asked Conti if he has considered offering a commercial tier to cover the time he puts into supporting the plugin’s users, which he said averages 20 hours per week.

“I’ve thought about charging for WangGuard, but it’s something I wanted to do for the community,” Conti said. “And I was hoping that the community, seeing the benefits it gave them, would donate to me. But that has not been the case.”

Conti named WangGuard after a fierce warrior from Chinese mythology who served as a protector and guardian of the palace. (After launching the plugin he discovered the meaning in English but found that many people liked the name, so he decided not to change it.) The plugin and service blocked 710,000 sploggers its first year, 15 million the third year, and has blocked 220 million sploggers to date. Conti said its effectiveness has now reached 99%.

Conti wants to keep the plugin free for all users and plans to create a campaign every year to raise funds for WangGuard development and support.

“I have always believed that WangGuard is truly needed and everyone deserves to use it for free,” Conti said in his campaign overview. “But, on the other hand, I can’t afford to keep paying all expenses for the maintenance of the best (in my opinion) anti-splog service. I need help.”

So far the WangGuard campaign has received $1,145 towards its flexible goal of $35,000 and there are two months remaining until it closes.

Conti’s situation highlights the plight of many WordPress.org plugin developers who offer free products and receive meager donations for their efforts. Some of these plugins amass large user bases that depend on them but not all plugin authors are prepared to create a commercial operation to support their continued efforts.

“The problem is that people confuse free vs. ‘for free,'” Conti said. “We must make people aware that developers must pay for things and we have to make money. Maybe the WordPress repository needs another design that makes the importance of donations for developers more visible.

“People think that everything is free. It is, but there is an effort behind it that people should value. Maybe they are not appreciating it, because nobody told them clearly that it should have value.”

Although putting a price tag on a plugin is not necessarily an indicator of value, it allows users to demonstrate what they think it’s worth to them. Offering users a higher level of service for a price, also known as the freemium model, is the most common way plugin developers cover the costs of their time. However, not all developers who make free plugins want to run a business. Short of asking for donations or launching a fundraising campaign, is there anything a developer can do to cause people to value the time and effort put into supporting a free plugin?

24 Comments


  1. I wish José the best of luck. Indiegogo is a great way to get some funding. Asking users one time to pay for all future support isn’t a great business modal.

    What happens next year? Another Indiegogo? I get the philanthropy but that alone doesn’t keep something that requires money to continue. Servers cost money.

    I would be more enticed to support if there were plans beyond the Indiegogo on how the product will be supported after the initial campaign funding runs out.

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  2. Also, they might consider a rebrand and reboot. “Wang” is a slang term commonly used for penis and could be a turn off.

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    1. It’s also the most common Chinese surname. Chuckle, and then get over it. ;)

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    2. wait, so the meaning in english is “penis defender”?
      LOLZOR

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    3. After think about the name, I will rebrand WangGuard to SplogHunter.

      The new name has its own meaning and does not lead to confusion.

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    1. The author didn’t know. I explained it to him in a email once. He was surprised, actually. :)

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    2. I’m rebranding WangGuard to SplogHunter. Is very difficult to find a name and do the step to rebrand a known brand.

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  3. Sarah, WangGuard looks like a great service. Can’t believe I didn’t know about it until now. I can’t wait to try it on some of WP multisite networks. Admirable character to build and improve the service for six years as a community effort. Donation made at IndieGoGo.

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    1. From my testing its the best plugin when it comes to stopping registration spam and user cleanup. It beats the Stop Spammers plugin in detection as well as simplicity.

      The issue as you can see is its not donated too which is sad considering how useful it is.

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  4. José I fully support your endeavour in crowdfunding the further development of the plugin and was concerned and tweeted initially when you announced this issue with continued plugin support as there are many attendant issues in this lack of user support and appreciation for work provided to the community to use for free; I do however have to agree with modemlooper’s comments at the head of the page.

    I agree with the notion of crowdfunding to get the plugin back on an even keel, to support the running costs & development but this ought to be a one off effort and should not be viewed as a sustainable model for continued development & running costs, if you were to try and run a campaign on a yearly? basis I think you would fine support dropping off, I say this partly as I think many of the initial support will be from fellow developers and active community members rather than the core actual user base & it is those users that need to appreciate the work and accept some sort of cost involved.

    I know you have mentioned /thinking about the freemium model & I mentioned that in tweets as probably the best model in the WP community; I would urge that you need to look at this model perhaps looking at at least charging a very small dollar amount pcm to access DB & work on the user numbers making this an amount sufficient to support server costs & basic development. I also agree that you probably should use initial funding to re-brans and re-launch the plugin, which will benefit the plugin all round.

    Like modemlooper I do understand the notion of philanthropy but in this context I think the word not the appropriate one, the amount of work involved in something like this plugin is not trivial and requires an investment of time & energy and in practical terms those of us that are jobbing developers can not afford to release this sort of effort without some form of remuneration.

    While not wishing to go off at too much of a tangent this issue – as I said on Twitter – raises the problem we see too often with developers and plugin authoring, I don’t know the answers here but I see some of the problems that must be addressed and that the WP community desperately needs to have clear focussed open dialogue on what can be done to improve things for authors.

    The problems can be loosely expressed as:

    * ‘Free’ This concept was important for WP in gaining traction for the app the Theme api and Plugin api need to to provide users with a healthy choice of themes and functionality to extend their sites with and it did just that, however we seemed to manage to conflate two concepts along the way ‘Free’ & ‘Open Source’ as one does not mean the other necessarily.

    * ‘Free’ can all too often tend to devalue the time and effort that actually goes into this work, users simply don’t grasp why it’s free but as so many themes or plugins do exist pro gratis why should they be having to pay anything & after all the main app is free to use!

    * Feeling guilty if we do charge, are we then not being magnanimousness with our time and returning to the community?

    I do not decry what was done in establishing the repos on WP, it was important and the availability of good quality plugins & themes important.

    Donation links – this has proved to be in the main a fairly redundant means to gain some return on ones work.

    I suggest serious dialogue within the WP community as to a new model or at least acknowledged by the community that high quality supported plugins must carry some cost.

    At the moment there are seemingly far too many developers questioning why they should bother writing and supporting plugins, this should be a clarion call to action and a worry in general for the WP development community!

    José I wish you all the best with the crowdfunding I’m sure the community is going to support you fully and keep your work alive and not something consigned to history, working out the best way forward after that will be the challenge.

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    1. Thats right,

      First, I will rebrand to SplogHunter (do you like it?), second I will adopt the freemium model, so some parts of the plugin will need to be paid.

      After that, I do not get to a minimum income, I will introduce the premium API, but this is the latest step.

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  5. Whats the difference between WangGuard, Akismet and AntiSpam Bee?

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    1. Akismet and AntiSpam Bee are for Spam Comments, WangGuard (in a near future SplogHunter) is for Splog. The Splog is like Spam but in the registration form. You can get 100 spam comments in a day, but in the same website, you can get 13,000 splog users.

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      1. What is the difference between WangGuard and other splog protectors?

        Wish you good luck with your project by the way.

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      2. While the process is virtually the same from testing WangGuard tends to be the best plugin in terms of detection I have found it to be virtually perfect detection scores for registration spam and it does better than some of the other big ones like Stop Spammers.

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  6. Most importantly you need to do lots of research and figure out if your market is really viable. ie how much competition do you have? Are people able to get the same thing somewhere else? What are you competitors doing? How successful are you competitors doing it? Bottom line you need to honestly know whether or not you should continue to take things to the next level or need to create additional things in your plugin to get more wider appeal/users and compete, etc etc etc. This should be your first priority before doing anything else.

    Yep, have to agree with what several commenters said here that doing a funding campaign is probably not the optimum choice to make. It is still along the same lines of trying to get donations and very few people will donate anything for something they can get for free. Been there and done that one. ;)

    So doing everything inhouse with your own API servers is one way to go, but that takes a lot of time, work and money. What about selling a Pro version on Code Canyon. That takes the burden of you having to create all the inhouse stuff in order to sell your Pro version inhouse.

    This is obviously your strongest selling point – “The plugin and service blocked 710,000 sploggers its first year, 15 million the third year, and has blocked 220 million sploggers to date. Conti said its effectiveness has now reached 99%.”

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  7. Hey Jose,

    I’ve been using WangGuard on clients sites for a number of years. For BuddyPress sites with open enrollment nothing comes even close to its effectiveness. Cheers and thanks for all of your hard work.

    But, if you rebrand, there will be so fewer chuckles during meetings! WangGuard is always a guaranteed ice-breaker. I’ll say we should put WangGuard on it with a completely straight face and see who in the room is the first to crack a smile. :P

    I do like SplogHunter though. It’s a fitting and simple name.

    Go support this project if you all haven’t already!

    Jason

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  8. I have been using WangGuard for years and its the most effective registration spam busting plugin on the market. I always say that if you wish to kill comment spam you install Askimet but if you want to kill Registration spam you install WangGuard.

    When I have a BuddyPress website with open registration I find it to prevent 100% of spam for my sites 100% of the time. Best of luck with the rebrand and I hope if you don’t meet your goal the project can be picked up *cough auttomatic* *cough cough* so it can be integrated in future plugins *cough askimet* to prevent both registration and comment spam.

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  9. Don’t give away too much or you’ll find that people won’t go with the paid version and you’ll still be stuck supporting thousands of people with no equal compensation for your time in protecting their sites.

    Been there, done that. Also been there and done that with the donation model. About 8 years ago I deleted a plugin from the WP repo because I received maybe $5 in donations and people were demanding support and getting angry when they didn’t get it as fast as a McDonald’s drive-thru window.

    It’s a long-standing problem with WP, people get a load of stuff free and then complain if they have to buy something – even when the price is less than a cup of coffee per month! And they complain when they can’t get immediate support for free software.

    These days I simply sell plugins, nothing free. Either they want it or they don’t. And they get support too because that’s what they’re paying for really. That model works!

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    1. I have noticed over the years that people who are serious about their websites or making money with their websites buy Pro versions of plugins when they try a free version of a plugin and they like it. All the other folks who just create websites for fun and are not serious about their sites will probably never buy a Pro version of a plugin.

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