Goodbye, my friend. You will be missed – An Ode to Social Media Widget
This isn’t going to be a really long post like many of my others, but it is important enough to me to warrant a quick post.
I first uploaded Social Media Widget to the WordPress repository in May of 2010. At that time, there were only 9 supported icons as well as 3 icon packs and there was only 1 “transition” effect – 50% opacity to 100% opacity on hover. Over the course of the next two years and some odd months, the plugin grew to support 49 services as well at 6 custom services, 4 icon packs and 4 “transition” styles. I had no idea the community support I would receive with the development of this widget. It originated as a workaround for a project I was working on. I couldn’t find a plugin that did what Social Media Widget does; Simply creating a widget that allows me to quickly and effortlessly link to my social media presences across a few sites.
Within months of publishing Social Media Widget, I started receiving e-mails and WordPress.org Support Forum submissions requesting more and more services. I continued to add them ad nauseam and each time I did, the download count of the widget would explode. It wasn’t until I received several e-mails requesting a Paypal account where people could donate money to Social Media Widget development that I added the donation button to the control panel of the widget. Donations started out slowly, but as I continued to add services and provide top-notch support to people, the download counts started going crazy and donations came in much quicker and in larger sums. It was at this point that I realized that I had something here. Something to be proud of. Something people appreciate so much, they’re willing to just GIVE me money to keep improving it.
I couldn’t believe it! I created a WordPress plugin sensation. It was just a little side project that actually became a hit with the community! Shortly, it became one of the most popular WordPress plugins ranging between 15 and 50 (Currently 18th) on the “Most Popular” WordPress.org plugin listings. That is when I really began to feel proud about what I built so I swore to protect it and make sure it continued to improve. I slacked. It had been months and months since my last update and I was neglecting the support forums (though continued to provide support via e-mail, cause those are more difficult to ignore). There were so many other things on my plate – I didn’t have time to provide free support to people for a free plugin.
The most serious contribution to its fame is when Ken Gagne from ComputerWorld.com compiled a list of “10 essential WordPress plugins” to commemorate the 9th year of WordPress’ existence. Ken was kind enough to e-mail me letting me know that he had added Social Media Widget to his list. This was my first big publication to get into. Sure, there were a huge number of small- and medium-sized blogs that recommended the widget as well as YouTube videos, but nothing to the scale of ComputerWorld.com! I was floored. Shortly after this article was published and download counts reached over 550,000 (at selling it was at 680k), I decided it was high time for me to continue to proving myself as a developer and sending out updates more often and providing much more support for the widget.
This new-found fame for the plugin didn’t miss investors and buyers. I received several offers from people to build custom plugins for them (most of which I declined – no time), and several offers to buy out the rights; However, the majority of the people I talked to wanted to monetize Social Media Widget. Sell it as a product. Sell it for self-profit and gain. They wanted to put a proprietary license of my software.
Not a chance.
When I signed up to be a plugin contributor to WordPress; When I write code in my free time; I do it for fun (and the occasional beer money). I do it for F/OSS. I am a firm believer in Open Source software and could not bare to let my beloved Social Media Widget fall into the hands of big-money, small-brained individuals who think only about their own self-preservation. My stuff is F/OSS – and has to stay that way. I will sell the rights to my product, but I will not sell the product. In came the unnamed buyer. The first purchase offer I received who agreed (contractually) to keep Social Media Widget 100% free with an Open Source license attached to it.
I thought long and hard about this decision. I have so much pride in this widget and the sentimental value that this widget provides me is greater than any sum of money, but with a wedding coming up, I couldn’t pass up the chance at quick money and giving myself free time to start doing freelance work and to begin other projects I’ve been contemplating for some time. My heart is heavy – my mind is all twisted. It’s going to be hard letting it go. Social Media Widget has been part of my professional career since it began. It’s been a part of me for two years and some change. But I am happy. I know that SMW is going to better hands. Hands more capable of keeping support at a top-notch level. More hands to develop. Like a guitar that gets passed on through the family until nobody wants it anymore, so you sell it to someone who will appreciate it like you did.
I’m going to miss you Social Media Widget (he says quietly as though nobody can hear him talking to a bunch of 1’s and 0’s). I will watch you grow in these new hands. I will watch you continue your perpetual rise to greatness. Fare-thee-well.
On to the next big thing!
(Sorry, I lied about it not being long – gotcha)