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In comparison with an open source license and requesting donations, is a free-for-open-source-projects (or free for non-commercial developers) closed source and otherwise commercial project likely to get more license fees? Or just to alienate potential users?

Assume the project has value to programmers - I'm looking for generalizations here, though specific examples comparing existing projects will be very interesting.

What I have in mind involves code generating programming utilities. And one issue I can think of, either way, is a near total inability to enforce any license restrictions. After all, I can't go around the internet demanding that everyone show me their source code just in case!

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There is an upcoming area 51 stackexchange for FLOSS questions that you might like to support. – James Crook Feb 28 '11 at 11:45
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Treat it as a commercial professional project with a special deal for open source projects.

Donation buttons don't work. Donation campaigns work a lot better - see this Mixxx post:

"We've raised more money in 3 months than we've received in donations since Mixxx was started in 2003, and for that, we'd like to thank the 43 Mixxx fans who generously donated to our cause, and our broader community for helping spread the message."

Now look at the amount of money they raised in those three months... enough to buy one PC. Are you going to have the same high traffic as Mixxx?

Treating it as a commercial project won't alienate users. You just are likely to have fewer people trying it out out of curiosity, a filter for those who see a clear need for it. No bad thing.

If you're not prepared to invest time in a protection/limited-trial mechanism, then it is a must that you have a nice GUI and nice screenshots so that people can see it is not a toy, and be seduced into paying for it up front.

Once money is coming in, question whether you really want to do that special deal for open source developers. As fanatic coders, they are rather likely to want to create their own version based on your ideas. You'll be hastening that competition. What I am saying probably sounds very mercenary, but if you need a direct income from your product, you need to put that before your other goals.

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The tools are command-line. I suppose a nice GUI front end could work - fill in the properties, here's some visualisation, real-time errors and warnings - but it'd probably be a bit artificial. Maybe make the manual free, though? – Steve314 Feb 16 '11 at 22:53
The GUI is a must have. It's your sales tool. You could add some visualisations of code metrics on the source and generated code - an outline of the structure of the generated code - how it fits in - without being artificial. – James Crook Feb 16 '11 at 23:06

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