Sridhar Katakam is a great guy and one I’ve had the pleasure of following ever since I began using Genesis last year. If you have ever used Genesis, you know who he is and if you ever use it in the future, you’ll find out. I wouldn’t know nearly as much about Genesis as I do today without him graciously sharing his knowledge. To be honest, using Genesis has helped me become a better developer and Sri helped me learn Genesis, so… well, you can put two and two together. For all of his help, I cannot thank Sri enough.
This post is to address anyone who has delivered any sort of backlash against Sri for his recent decision to place his tutorials behind a paid membership. I fully support him for his decision and want to share my thoughts on why attacking him for it is flat out wrong. While I have been out of the loop lately working on various projects, I haven’t gotten a chance to register for his site but I fully intend to do so within the next few days as my way of thanking him for everything he has helped me learn and to continue reading all of the excellent tutorials he creates. If you are a Genesis user, I promise you that the money spent on joining his site is beyond worth it and an expense I’d consider to be an important investment in learning Genesis.
While this post is targeted at anyone who has been giving Sri crap for his decision, I will be specifically addressing Seth’s Twitter example. Here’s one tweet of his:
Here's how a clown does business on #opensource software. Considering @WordPress was given to you, sad. @srikat pic.twitter.com/B0ch8Qhof2
— Seth (@VivaLaSeth) February 16, 2015
I asked Seth where all of his free WordPress and Genesis tutorials were and his reply:
@CLE_Ren @bgardner @amymasson @srikat I think there is one piece about Google analytics on my blog
— Seth (@VivaLaSeth) February 16, 2015
@CLE_Ren @bgardner @amymasson @srikat I don't bill myself as an expert at Genesis tutorials. I do web dev.
— Seth (@VivaLaSeth) February 16, 2015
Okay, you admit you’re not an expert. That’s not a problem. Here are my points (for now).
1.) You don’t have many tutorials about anything and none about WordPress. Right now, you are a consumer who seems angry with the general notion that you might have to pay for things you consume. If you don’t have the time to write posts of your own or just don’t want to, that’s fine. No one is going to criticize you for that. But you also don’t know what it takes to write a lot of in-depth tutorials on a consistent basis. I have a lot on my own blog (although nowhere near as many as Sri has) and I can tell you that it takes a lot of time to make sure that what you are teaching is correct, clearly explained and well organized. Sri has not become so well known for having crappy tutorials so he clearly puts in the time to produce quality.
2.) The thing to consider is that for people like Sri to continue creating such high-quality stuff, they need to make a living from what they produce. That’s just how business and economics work. If Sri had to always be doing freelance work, where would he find the time to write his tutorials and provide so much knowledge to the community? In all honesty, I don’t know where he finds the time at all to write as many as he does. He is an expert and provides a great value to the community. I’d rather pay for such resources and be able to learn than to never have them at all. If you don’t need his tutorials, that’s fine as well. However, there are people who learn a lot from him and value his expertise enough to pay. On top of that, he’s charging a very fair amount.
3.) It doesn’t matter that WordPress and Genesis are open source projects. After all, open source just means that you have open access to the source code and are free to modify it. The people who dedicate so much time to improving their open-source communities deserve to generate enough income from their efforts to justify and support continuing to do so. If you don’t find enough value in Sridhar’s expertise to pay him, that’s a decision only you can make. To bash him for making a decision of his own (one that is completely fair, at that) is in poor taste and can backfire. Perhaps a potential client may see that you are against monetizing knowledge related to open-source projects and request that you write a detailed post teaching how to do something you’d normally charge them to do, whether it is related to WordPress, Drupal or whatever else. Would you do that? I believe you’d require payment. Keeping that in mind, how is Sridhar wrong?
Ultimately, you don’t need to be a fan of his decision or pay for his content. That’s your call. To publicly attack, disrespect and criticize him is uncalled for and I think an apology would be appropriate.
I am several years late to the party but Seth’s bitchfest misses one huge point. While WordPress is free and open source, Genesis is not. I have invested a lot of money in the Genesis developer license. Subscribing to Sridhar’s tutorials is just another way for me to continue to benefit from my own investment. Yeesh. And the bottom line, his web site, his rules. Don’t like it, pound sand. 😀
I too supported Sridhar for his decision. However he has just announced his membership prices will increase to almost $50 per MONTH! Do you still support this? I think he provides a nice value but that is very expensive.
Hi, Jeff. What Sridhar does with his website is his business. He’s a nice guy and is entitled to charge what he wants for his content so, yes, I support him. If he asked me, though, my only concern would be that $47 per month (what he’s going to be charging starting in July) is likely to be a price at which membership becomes unaffordable for many people. I’m sure he’s done his number-crunching, though, and believes the price change will increase his revenue.
To be fair – he may “hide” the code on his blog posts, but it´s on Github (and in other snippet collections he has). That much to open source. Well yes, it´s harder to search and getting the grips of it then… 😉
But basically, what people are paying for is Sridhars skills to create the code, writing it all down, explaining it step by step, putting it all together, taking the time to find custom solutions on requests and giving support when needed. And that´s perfectly fair, too.
Robert Neu says
Wow. I’m not even sure where to start with this whole thing. First of all, whether or not someone wants to charge for content they create has zero to do with WordPress, open source, or really anything at all. If Sridhar wants to put up a pay wall; guess what? It’s his website. If you don’t like it… http://bit.ly/17ro7PC
That part of the discussion aside, I have to admit that I personally don’t think putting a pay wall on your entire site is a very wise move. Unless you’re skilled at SEO and content manipulation, you’re going to have a difficult time bringing in anywhere near as much search traffic when your entire site is made up of leading excerpts instead of actual content. Google wants to deliver quality results and a a blurb with a registration button isn’t what I’d call quality. It will be much less likely to attract links, social shares, and authority in general using this format.
There are plenty of ways to monetize a popular website that don’t involve charging for what’s usually considered public blog content. You can look at affiliate marketing, paid sponsorships, or an exclusive members area which doesn’t impact the core content that made the site popular in the first place.
I think it’s worth taking a second look at the options out there for making a site like Sridhar’s successful, but regardless, Sridhar is free to do whatever he pleases. If he wanted to delete his entire site and tell everyone to go to hell, that’s his business. He doesn’t owe anyone anything. In any event, I wish him the best of luck in whatever path he embarks on. He’s a good guy and has done a lot to help the Genesis community. I don’t think the same thing can be said for most of the people giving him a hard time.
Hey, Rob. Thanks for taking the time to comment. The link you posted…brilliant 🙂
It’s also cool to have the opinion of an SEO guy. If I’m understanding correctly (and he can correct me on this), I think Sridhar is hiding mostly code behind the paywall. If that’s all, I wonder how that would impact his rankings and if Google even factors gist embeds into it’s rankings. It would definitely be interesting to hear from Sri in the future on if he sees a change in traffic.
Robert Neu says
From what I can tell, he’s hiding both code and explanation of how the code works which is a large portion of the post content. That’s taking a pretty big chunk out of what Google can evaluate in terms of search value. That part aside, I think the biggest problem with this approach is that it won’t garner the same amount of links or shares.
Would you link to a post that didn’t have an actual solution? Would you share something that only answers a problem if someone is willing to pay to see the answer? Some people might, but in my experience, most will not.
There might be some kind of a hybrid approach here that Sridhar could consider. Rather than simply cutting off the post before getting into the valuable part, find ways to split the value. Solve part of the problem, or a simpler version of the problem publicly.
Then, if people want to find out more ways to apply the solution or learn more about how it works, etc they can pay for a more in-depth version of the tutorial. It would be more work to plan out his content, but I think he would find that in the long run it might be a better strategy.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Personally, I’ve always thought memberships work best for selling supplemental material. I’m sure attracting new members who may not be aware of his content today will be more difficult than attracting members like me and many others who are familiar with his content. The social sharing and linking thing is big too. Another idea that I personally like a lot (and am considering myself) is closing off comments to tutorials because a lot of people need follow up help regarding the content. However, I know that would lead to some valuable content not being read by Google. A lot of factors to consider indeed.
Sridhar Katakam says
Great insights Robert.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, let me say this. I do not bother about SEO or traffic or number of people signing up or the amount it brings. I continue to write and share what I learn w.r.t Genesis and WordPress as always. Earlier it was all free. Now paid. Membership is just a side thing. Even if no one reads I’ll continue to write. I mostly write for myself..kind of like documenting my discoveries. That’s what blogging is about, isn’t it?
I enjoy client work. That will remain to be my income earner for the near future.
Things might change tomorrow and I may decide to expand the membership and provide a lot more value like videos and hangouts. I’ll then revisit your comments and follow your advice.
Maybe, I ought to just drop a thought here, Sri. I’m late to the Genesis party and the booty you had given before. Because I came in at the very time every awesome (titles only) stuff on your site was behind a paid membership wall.
I don’t have a problem with that. I pay Treehouse and I’m also looking for other sites to learn FE Dev with paid membership to be sure what I get is premium.
My beef is with your rate. If you charged say 9-15dolls per month, you’d lock me in and several, several others immediately!
Please, please, consider lowering your monthly rate to under $10.
After all, just as you say, your main source of income is custom work. But I bet you you could make even more money with 10,000 Genesis enthusiasts paying you yearly for your awesomeness. I included.
Just a thought. Thanks.
Great post. Sridhar does provide a huge amount of useful information about developing with WordPress. Loads of people have gained valuable insights from him, including me. On top of that, he’s a very nice guy. He has built up a lot of goodwill.
Sadly, it seems that he’s also getting backlash. It makes a cautionary tale. Of course I have no objection to him charging people for his services, whether they’re tutorials or other things.
When a large quantity of anything is offered for free, it creates expectations, whether reasonable or not. If the free stuff suddenly stops, people get upset, and some will go ballistic. What’s really sad is that the “happy free customers” don’t say much, but the malcontents will shout.
This huge reaction can be mollified by the freemium model – giving away some stuff, but charging for other stuff. Then the shock is not so great. Of course, this is easier said than done. If one wasn’t planning to charge, but changes their mind later, it’s hard to un-ring the bell.
All my best to Sridhar’s business adventures, whatever they may be.
Hey, Dave! Thanks for commenting and well said. Many people certainly do come to expect free when that’s what they’re accustomed to. Of course, they are allowed to not like a change but it’s ridiculous to go on a public attack when the subject of the attack has done a lot of good for the community they consider themselves part of.
Kristie Hill says
Sridhar’s tutorials are awesome and he is great at creating tutorials for people that are having a hard time or need further instructions. People deserve to be paid for their work! Especially when there work is helping other people get paid.
Great support post!
Sridhar has the best Genesis tutorials and was willing to share them for free for a very long time.
His decision is the right way of doing business – there are many that are more than happy to join his membership site…
Sridhar Katakam says
Thank you Ren and others for the tremendous support. Truly appreciate it.
You’re very welcome, Sridhar! I think almost everyone who knows of you has your back on this because we know the awesome stuff you do. I hope everything is working out so far. 🙂
Samedi Amba says
I believe what Sri charges is fair, for all the world round and for all it’s worth. His tutorials have helped me big time, and I believe it’s just proper that he makes a living and gets more energy to produce more shots like those he’s already given. Moreover, viewing the world froma pay wall will increase engagement and creativity, now that he’s opened up to the community a point in which tutorials suggestions and ideas are given.
Mike Mueller says
Your expertise has a value, his expertise has value.
That goes for my Dentist, a Lawyer, a Real Estate Agent, and even a lowly web developer! 😉
How a person goes about using their acquired expertise to put bread on the table is completely up to them. You are spot on with this.
(and great response to that A$$hat)
Thanks, Mike! It’s amazing that his response to this was highlighting a sentence from Wikipedia that open source software is worked on collaboratively. I guess he never even read what I wrote. Sri’s tutorials are independent, ancillary resources that are not software. His argument is completely flawed yet he seems convinced of it. Oh well. Anyone in the Genesis community knows Sridhar is worth what he’s charging and I’m sure he knows not to listen to people like this.
Thanks for commenting!
Seth Miller says
Actually Sridhar’s tutorials carve the way to create software. If you do not realize that this is software I think we’re looking at a much bigger picture problem with the WordPress knowledge base. Maybe you don’t ship software, but my sites are fully featured including robust dashboards for business. CRM, Employee Time off, E-Commerce, Contact Forms, Custom Post Types, Social Media Integrations, and heavy back-end Analytics integration.
Also can you please do something with the awful terrible viewable area on your website, I mean have you looked at this thing on a MacBook Air? I feel like I’m looking through a peephole to write this. Your header and sidebar make up 35% of the entire real estate if I’m not full screened.
Sorry to critique. 🙂 I’m glad to have engaged you in the conversation and would look forward to a more broad based discussion about Open Source software and the direction of WordPress.
To be honest with you, I don’t care what types of websites you build (or what you think of my site’s design for that matter). You can think of WordPress websites as whatever you want but the reality is that Sridhar’s tutorials are third-party/independent resources not associated with the project itself. He’s not charging for access to code that is required for core WordPress to work, he’s charging for premium stuff to extend it. His content is stuff anyone can create if they are willing to spend more time learning from another source. You have no right to call someone a clown and bash their practices because you have a distorted sense of reality.
Since you are so against charging for knowledge, why don’t you do the community a favor and write up detailed tutorials on doing everything you mentioned that you do. Show your knowledge and make everything available for free. Will you do that?
Seth Miller says
After I wrap up my current contract work I am going to make it a point to find everything that I can possibly contribute to the community to use. I do have a pretty good collection of snippets that’s unfortunately not in the form of Gists (Dreamweaver snippets).
A lot of what I do is plugin based and very specialized, but not all. I know you think you know me, but it’s fairly obvious that you are a completely clueless newb. For instance, when you mentioned that I had a “Google Analytics post on my blog” on Twitter, what you actually don’t realize is that it provides information that is no where else on the web in a single place.
It’s obvious that you can’t see the referring/incoming link spam on your WP back-end. But I can. My clients’ could, so I wrote up that blog post. So, technically, that would be something I have committed to the WordPress community that exists nowhere else.
And I didn’t charge a dime for that lesson. Don’t be a sheep.
Haha. Good for you man…you have a total of 9 posts, one of which applies to users of Google Analytics so, by default, that may include WordPress users, thus you’ve contributed to the community. You’ve done so much! I think you contributed more to making yourself look like a moron with that stretch than you did to the WordPress community. Clearly, you’re the clueless one because I was pretty specific about you not having any WordPress tutorials, as in dedicated to WordPress. Put together at least a hundred or so and spend time helping out on some forums then come back and talk about your beliefs and what you’ve done for the WordPress community. Until then, enjoy trying to convince people of your ideas that have made you a part of this. If you want to begin a broad discussion on the direction of WordPress, I suggest you get in touch with Matt Mullenweg. Disagreeing with me and most other WordPress users isn’t going to get you anywhere. In case you missed his tweet, Matt directly replied to you about being wrong regarding his ideas. Good luck.
Seth Miller says
You might want to listen to the most recent podcast Matt was in and hear his vision for the State of WordPress. There are links from my twitter account, and for more information, you may find that here:
This will be the last time I respond because your site is literally hurting my brain to even have to come back to. Cheers
ps. Before firing off some stupid response, look at what i wrote, and then listen to the podcast. If you want the short form check my Twitter as it has links to direct quotes (probably about 15 tweets down)
FWIW I’ve never seen you before you were playing Scrappy Doo to Shrihar, which again, I have no problem with, I have a problem with people turning their back on Open Source
I don’t have a problem not being heard of by anyone, especially you. What I’ve done isn’t anywhere near what Sri has done. You have a problem with people “turning their back on open source” and I have a problem with people like you attacking someone who has done exponentially more for the WordPress community than you have and then acting like your views are the only correct ones. Goodbye.