Crowdfunded feature request system - would it make users hate me?
There's a free webapp I develop and I use a feature request system where each user gets limited votes and it works great. Since I don't get paid for this though, I was thinking of turning the most time-consuming feature requests (that are in line with my vision) into mini, crowdfunded projects, where I tell users how much money it would take for me to work on them and they can pledge money towards making it happen. When a feature reaches its goal, I would start working on it.
This might not sound like a QA question so far, but I'm worried that this might have unintentional cultural side effects and cause a lashback from users. Has anyone done anything like this before? What should I be worried about and what can I do to ensure that I maintain a good relationship with users? I don't want them to feel like I'm blackmailing them or anything.
Of course it will have unintended side effects - that's what always happens when you crowdsource something, you'll have to expect the same with crowdfunding. The crowd is fickle, you never know what they will come up with, how they will respond, what kinds of natural leaders will emerge - that is a given.
But if I had to guess, what will happen is this: Once people feel like they are paying for features, they'll no longer tolerate what they would have when things were free. They will want their feature delivered as they expected (heck, it's their dime now, not yours). And if you fail to deliver even once, expect a severe reaction. Their quality expectations will be much higher than before.
And you haven't mentioned your webapp, and I don't know which one it is. But I've used lots of free sites before. Once they went to a pay model, that's usually when I left. There are almost always perfectly viable alternatives for free webapps.
Good luck. Tread carefully. Expect the unexpected. Come back and let us know how it turns out.
[Dan Ariely in "Predictably Irrational" talks about a huge difference between Free and any other price. People act in "predictable, if not always rational" ways when things are free. It's an interesting read.]