Potential author here. Let's talk [long]

Hi everyone - so recently there has been talk about the new item support policy that is going into effect during the next few days. I wanted to discuss the changes in regards to new authors to the community. Please understand I have been an author and buyer here before and I am speaking under a new account due to some of the opinions in this thread.

My concern is the shift in attitude from Envato towards their marketplaces and authors. When these marketplaces first launched, the policy was that if you are lucky, you will get some support. It was completely optional due to the low cost nature of the items being provided. With this new policy, it means authors will need to spend more time in support which can result in lost time which is equatable to lost money.

Support is a tricky subject, and there is no universal approach to how it should be handled, you only need to look at the largest conglomerates such as Steam/Valve to understand how bad their support is, and yet games cost up to $60 a pop and still some games are released and never touched again.

However, here we are talking about items that cost $5, $10 and the author may get 50% or more of that, and now authors are expected to provide support, even for third party plugins which are not in an authors control (wordpress, jQuery, Laravel, etc)

So I have a few points I wanted to talk about here:

1: Third party plugins

Many items here utilize third party assets in whatever way, whether it’s a platform like wordpress or components such as angularJS, frameworks for backends (codeigniter, laravel), small helpers using Javascript and so fourth. It is unreasonable to expect an author to be adequately versed in any plugin they may use, as it is included to make the product function as they want. This is the entire purpose of documentation, which can include links to all the plugins used; as far as I am concerned as a buyer this should be all that is expected, remember, this could be a $15 script, we’re not making miracles happen here.

Envato’s policy here claims that authors should “Answer questions about third party assets or functionality (e.g. plug-ins) bundled with the item, such as how they work and other technical questions.” The reality is this is not feasible, due to the sheer number of plugins that may be used. If a user is confused, the onus should be placed on them to find that information out. These marketplaces must assume the buyer has some prior knowledge.

2: 0 day authors

The other problem that the support policy has is the ability to create a new wave of what I call “0 day authors”. These are authors that make a plugin or theme, get it accepted, get as much money as they can into their paypal accounts and try their luck as far as they go. They may wait until they are banned/item disabled due to breach of policy or may manually disable the item. There is no encouragement from Envato (as far as I can see) for authors to actively maintain their software, and in the past, this has always been acceptable. Some items here are simply released, make money and never supported.

3: Abuse

My main concern here is how will Envato handle the potential abuse going forward? I know from first hand experience how easy these marketplaces are to game. Utilizing the whole “isn’t as described” aspect it is very easy to buy a product (script, theme, video etc) and claim that there is a defect. Now, it could be that you are using “1.3” of a something (plugin, CMS etc) and claim it has a security vulnerability, then the user claims their money back, the author loses theirs and I have one free product of yours, thank you very much.

Bare in mind this is a digital marketplace, it is not steam which only very recently got refunds and only under certain circumstances. It should not be fair that an author gets their earnings revoked due to item support in any way; I spend my time how I want, and pandering to the whims of buyers is not an effective strategy going forward, and if they can be allowed to give you 1 star, with their money back, this will hurt the entire ecosystem of the marketplaces going forward. Authors are already likening themselves as slaves, which surely is not a good thing.

4: Support platform

My other issue here is that nowhere have I seen Envato demonstrate an upcoming support platform alongside their new support policy. I am sorry but it is insane that email support is still used in 2015 between buyers and authors. It would take Envato a few weeks at best to get a support platform up and running. This can then provide a channel for authors/buyers to communicate officially, with Envato being able to respond to reports (if a buyer claims “xyz” Envato can just open the support discussion up).

With emails, how does Envato take a side? It’s not on their system, it’s all done via email, it’s easy to manipulate or change words and who do you believe?

The simple truth is, if Envato is serious about item support, then they need to provide a dedicated platform on their own marketplace. Otherwise this entire policy is a waste of time since there is no way to moderate the policy from a buyer or authors perspective.

5: Updates

Envato says that updates should be provided in the case of security vulnerabilities. Does this mean, if a theme was using wordpress and a flaw was found in the login system that every single wordpress item would have to be updated or disabled? Does this mean I can go to all wordpress “3.0” items and say “3.1” is out, this theme is unsecure" and they will all be taken down? Because that means the marketplace can lose its entire catalog of items, unless this new support policy will not be enforced.

5: The reality

This support policy will launch in September, and it is going to be one of the biggest marketplace disasters to date, least not for the fact updates are being made days before it goes live (as of this post), and the lack of the ability for moderation to take place. Envato will have to take a strict stance as to whether this will be actively enforced or not, as both buyers and authors will be looking to take advantages wherever they can. As a new author who could potentially make a $15 script, a buyer would get 10/15 minutes of my time max, otherwise they can pay me directly to my paypal for each hour of my time, and whose to say this is not allowed? Sure, it could be against the TOS or whatever but there have been plenty of those over the years, it just goes with the territory of running a global marketplace on the internet. I will not, as an author, spend any extra time for free and not make money off of that, which I believe is a reasonable expectation and has always been the case since these marketplaces were created.

Thank you for reading.

Basic support should already be provided by all authors in my opinion, so this change is good for me as I’m already providing that. I think the key here is to separate support from customization and charge extra for any of those requests. If your plugin is not working with another plugin, I feel that is a customization to get get them to work together. Others may disagree, but this has worked well for me since you can’t test your plugin with all other plugins.

no that’s silly. the login system has nothing to do with the WordPress theme.

if a bug is in the theme or plugin (e.g. allowing read access to any file on the system, xss exploit, etc…) it gets disabled and fixed, as we’ve seen happen many times in the past.

I’m looking forward to the new policy. It will give buyers much more confidence knowing if a product is supported and what is included in the support package.