37Signals Catches FOSS Syndrome

So, the blogosphere/twitterverse meme of the day is the incredulity everyone feels at the alleged price hike that 37Signals imposed on customers. This storm harks back to a similar storm that my friends at Zendesk suffered through a few months ago.

I’ll not go into the did they/didn’t they argument around the price rise. Suffice it to say that Jason Fried from 37signals id adamant that prices have risen while over on CloudAve Zoli delves into this part of the story some more.

However there’s something bigger going on here that I wanted to talk about – and that is the trait of proprietary software developing open-source like attributes.

Let’s swing back to three years ago when I wrote a piece suggesting that SaaS vendors could take an open source like approach to community building. The crux of the post was that I asked readers to:

Imagine if you will a situation where a revenue generating SaaS product builds a community of such committed users that they become the salesforce, an integral part of the development team and the PR gang

Well, 37Signals is the quintessential example of this in practice. They’ve got a band of almost religious users who have truly become evangelists for their product. It feels almost like the fervor that one gets from an open source conference (with fewer beards, shorter hair and less dogma!)

All that’s great, until something happens. Like a “price rise” (and for the purposes of this article we’ll accept that, despite Basecamp prices not actually rising, the hiding of the lower tiers constitutes a price rise in some eyes).

So… what to do here? Well nothing really. This is all very much a storm in  tea cup – 37Signals makes great products, it might lose half a dozen customers over this but will gain significant SEO benefit either way. As I aid in a tweet about the price hike:

If people have a problem with #BaseCamp #37Signals pricing they have two options, shut up or move on. No big deal

Perspective people, if you don’t like it you’re welcome to STFU. Or move on. Or better still build your own product to compete with BaseCamp. Either way, just chill.

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