• Plugin & Theme Dev Community Rep

    I, for one, will agree with @cregox that one could argue that NodeBB isn't free, because you're paying for hosting it.
    However, in the same vein, none of the service he mentioned are. On Facebook you're paying with your privacy, by viewing ads AND you're paying for a device capable of running a web browser or a facebook app!
    Same thing applies to basically all services like that. You can't escape paying for something down the road, though sometimes the price is your time and attention or your data instead of money
    That's why usually to consider something to be free people only consider the price of that thing by itself, and not other things that you might need for your use of the product.

    For example - if you got a car without paying for it, would you not consider it free even if you didn't get lifetime supply of gas to go with it? I think most people would consider that car to be free.

    Usually the same applies to software. Blender is considered to be free, despite requiring a powerful enough machine to run it which isn't free. You probably got your web browser for free - which is now basically taken for granted despite not having been common in the past - but you still need to pay for your computer, internet connection and electricity. And you most likely don't count these as a price of the browser.

    Also, it actually is possible to host NodeBB for free.
    Here is a quick example running on glitch: https://nodebb-example.glitch.me/
    It's using free tier of MongoDB Atlas to store data, so the DB can grow to up to 512MB without incurring any costs. You can find the details, instructions and remix it here: https://glitch.com/~nodebb-example

    Just a warning that this hosting is far from perfect - it has quite a few limitations and while you can work around most (for example apps being put to sleep after around 5 minutes without connections - just use a service like uptime robot to ping it every 5 minutes), it's still probably only a solution for really small forums.

    You can find a few other services that might run NodeBB for free on free-for.dev but I just wanted to test glitch so that's what I used.
    There are some guides for heroku, though I'm not sure if they work with the free tier ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Hmm... I might check some other and create some guide on hosting NodeBB for free for small forums...

    EDIT: also, just a note about this glitch instance - it has a few lines modified, though I'll have to look into it again since I was making the changes in the middle of the night, so I'm not entirely sure if the changes were necessary. But basically, nconf wasn't correctly configured to use environmental variables in at least one file that can be used to start NodeBB.
    I think I'll check it later and make a PR to fix this 🙂

    EDIT2:
    Oh, I wrote most of it before the last comment here, so I'll also have to disagree with @julian - hosting can be free (as shown here) and custom development can be free too if you do it yourself
    head touch
    (I mean, except the time spent on it...)

    And I'm actually net positive when it comes to spending money on hosting NodeBB, since the one bug bounty I got is still higher than what I spent on hosting NodeBB in total 😄

  • GNU/Linux

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    hosting can be free (as shown here) and custom development can be free too if you do it yourself

    Your time and you brain work are free? How do you get your food? 😉

  • Plugin & Theme Dev Community Rep

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    (I mean, except the time spent on it...)

  • GNU/Linux

    So, free or not free at all?
    More seriously, we really need to distinguish between a service and an app...
    NodeBB is NOT a service. If you want one, it's called NodeBB Instant Hosting https://nodebb.org/pricing
    But if you want a free app (what we're talking about), it's there: https://github.com/NodeBB/NodeBB/releases

    We've already talked about buying hardware, electricity, etc., but that's irrelevant, it's another subject for which the NodeBB app can't do anything, because even with all the will in the world, no developer on this planet can make time, food, or electricity free, and it is not attributable to the application itself.

  • Community Rep

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    I, for one, will agree with @cregox that one could argue that NodeBB isn't free, because you're paying for hosting it.
    However, in the same vein, none of the service he mentioned are.

    Well HE mentioned that none of them were free. But hosting something possibly costing you money is unrelated to the thing itself being free.

    There are three key problems.... the one is that we are associating the cost of an action with the cost of an item, that can't work. That requires all kinds of illogical connections. For example, can jewelry not be free (or even exist) because it doesn't "do" anything? It just sits there. So since it does nothing, it can't be free? Clearly it can. NodeBB (and millions of other products) are free regardless of whether you want to run them, try to run them, etc. They simple "are free", even if you don't know about them, many of them are already free to you today. They are free regardless of anything you may or may not wish to use them in conjunction with.

    The second is that there is an assumption that hosting is an intrinsic component of NodeBB. It's certainly the most common use example, but it is not the only function. NodeBB can be run locally on existing resources, for free. It can be read without being run, studied, copied, forked, or stored. Or just have ownership of. All those things are free use cases. Not that that matters, clearly, but it's important to note that hosting isn't a foregone conclusion.

    The third is the notion that hosting can't be free. It is, in fact, often free. Rarely good hosting, but lots and lots of hosting is free. I actually run a provider that does free hosting, including of NodeBB (not for you people, it's for special cases, don't come asking for free hosting, lol). So it's almost important to note that just because the NodeBB team themselves don't make the hosting free, doesn't mean that it isn't. The same is try of the customization, find an intern willing to work for free, and that's free too.

  • Community Rep

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    And you most likely don't count these as a price of the browser.

    Because they aren't part of the cost. You can have a free browser without having a way to run it well, or to run it at all.

    If my friend gives me a CD (remember those?) and I don't own a CD player, that doesn't change the fact that the CD was a gift, and was free. You can have a free item, without having an assumed use case for it. The CD is free, that's an absolute. How can I listen to it? There are loads of free options, or non-free options. Plus options that include not listening to it at all.

    Imagine being given a dollar. And claiming it's not a gift because you are required to spend it. It just doesn't make sense.

  • Community Rep

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    Also, it actually is possible to host NodeBB for free.
    Here is a quick example running on glitch: https://nodebb-example.glitch.me/
    It's using free tier of MongoDB Atlas to store data, so the DB can grow to up to 512MB without incurring any costs. You can find the details, instructions and remix it here: https://glitch.com/~nodebb-example

    And that's if you just want a boxed service. There are loads of companies that will host things if there is a good purpose for it.

    We host veterinary information, for example. And we do business services, for third world locations. We don't charge, we don't even advertise. It's just... free. We can't do it unlimited, but we do it. And loads of others do, too.

  • Plugin & Theme Dev Community Rep

    @scottalanmiller said in Some questions 🙂:

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    I, for one, will agree with @cregox that one could argue that NodeBB isn't free, because you're paying for hosting it.
    

    However, in the same vein, none of the service he mentioned are.

    Well HE mentioned that none of them were free. But hosting something possibly costing you money is unrelated to the thing itself being free.

    There are three key problems.... the one is that we are associating the cost of an action with the cost of an item, that can't work. That requires all kinds of illogical connections. For example, can jewelry not be free (or even exist) because it doesn't "do" anything? It just sits there. So since it does nothing, it can't be free? Clearly it can. NodeBB (and millions of other products) are free regardless of whether you want to run them, try to run them, etc. They simple "are free", even if you don't know about them, many of them are already free to you today. They are free regardless of anything you may or may not wish to use them in conjunction with.

    The second is that there is an assumption that hosting is an intrinsic component of NodeBB. It's certainly the most common use example, but it is not the only function. NodeBB can be run locally on existing resources, for free. It can be read without being run, studied, copied, forked, or stored. Or just have ownership of. All those things are free use cases. Not that that matters, clearly, but it's important to note that hosting isn't a foregone conclusion.

    The third is the notion that hosting can't be free. It is, in fact, often free. Rarely good hosting, but lots and lots of hosting is free. I actually run a provider that does free hosting, including of NodeBB (not for you people, it's for special cases, don't come asking for free hosting, lol). So it's almost important to note that just because the NodeBB team themselves don't make the hosting free, doesn't mean that it isn't. The same is try of the customization, find an intern willing to work for free, and that's free too.

    Did you read my full post? Because that was kinda my point. You can argue that there are costs around NodeBB therefore NodeBB isn't free, but it's all really arbitrary because you can argue the same way about many different things that seem obvious. The question is where do you draw the line?
    Because at some point everything will be paid and the word "free" becomes literally meaningless since there are no fully free things.

    And usually, when talking about a specific product, where the costs are similar between different products within the same category, people draw the line on the cost of the product itself. Hell, often even if costs to run things are different, people consider only the cost of this specific product, not the cost to run it (for example, computers - I don't usually see people mentioning the power consumption as part of the price...).
    NodeBB usually isn't free to run, but no forum software is, and some have upfront cost. So when asking "is NodeBB free" a reasonable assumption is that we don't count the costs to run it, since that's kinda the standard.

    Especially since there is free hosting. I mentioned one example and linked to a list with some other possible options. And that's just stuff that's available for free to anyone, because sometimes there will be circumstances where you can get a better hosting for free - for example sometimes larger open source projects can get something like this free/at a discount (for example it's free at NodeBB Instant Hosting), something like GitHub Education for students, some friends or something.

    And additionally, the actual price of paid hosting is not constant and not something that the creators of the product are responsible for. It all depends on hosting providers and your needs...

  • GNU/Linux

    @scottalanmiller I figured all those supposedly free presents I got at Christmas were fake. If they were really gifts, they had to offer me the Hifi system, the house to store the equipment, the electricity bill for life, and a clone/duplicate of myself to listen to the music so it wouldn't cost me my free time. 😁

    @oplik0 You're not talking about an app, you're talking about a service. It's not for lack of saying it again, and again...

  • Community Rep

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    That's why usually to consider something to be free people only consider the price of that thing by itself, and not other things that you might need for your use of the product.

    The idea here isn't bad. But the terminology is all wrong. People usually only consider the cost of the thing by itself, because that's the only part that applies. A hammer is free when given as a gift. The cost of using the hammer, of the lifetime of the hammer, couldn't be assumed or calculated by any means. If it is hung on the wall as a souvenir or a momento, it might cost $.10 for its lifetime of very valuable use. Or to swing it for 50 years might cost... well how do you calculate that cost even if you knew how it would be used indefinitely in the future? It's ephemeral at best. But doesn't change the fact that the hammer and the use of the hammer are two different things.

    What you are talking about is TCO, or Total Cost of Ownership. That's a wholly different concept. That is what we use in business to determine the total cost of "achieving results" that comes from the entire process of procuring and using a system, which may include multiple items, uses, etc. That driving nails for 10 years has a cost is different from "obtaining a hammer" has cost. The cost of the hammer, if used to drive the nails, becomes part of that equation, but if the nails cost money, and the hammer doesn't, the hammer is free and the nails have a cost. And the two together, plus the cost of labor, management, insurance, etc. is the TCO.

    But you can't use a TCO that is greater than zero to claim that an item whose cost is zero is greater than zero.

  • Community Rep

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    The question is where do you draw the line?

    Exactly, which I had pointed out. There is only one place that one can draw the line - where the language says that it is drawn. NodeBB is a product, an item, and not a service. Saying that NodeBB is free has zero implication that hosting is free, or isn't free, or is required, or is an option. NodeBB itself is free, no grey area, the line is an absolute. So there should be no question of where to draw a line, the line is determined by the language.

    If you start down the hosting path and include "anything someone might do with the free item" then there is nowhere to clearly draw a line. Likewise, to do this, the concept of free can't exist at all.

  • Plugin & Theme Dev Community Rep

    I now feel really weird because I feel like this discussion is now literally an argument where all sides agree 😄

    I don't disagree that the cost of ownership shouldn't apply here. That's what I stated in the original post. If you use it in this context, why not in other contexts? At some point the word "free" just stops existing because everything has some cost attached to it - so nothing can be free.
    Or as @Per0x put it:

    all those supposedly free presents I got at Christmas were fake

    Which is kinda stupid.

  • GNU/Linux

    @scottalanmiller said in Some questions 🙂:

    Likewise, to do this, the concept of free can't exist at all.

    Yep. And if it can't exist, there's no point in wanting it anyway. In fact, it will make us even poorer for wanting it. 😄

  • Community Rep

    Something that I think should be mentioned, is that there is a standard pattern for discrediting free software where someone uses the expression that "free isn't free" or something like that. And then alludes to TCO being higher for a free product than some paid product, without any substantiation. And because it feels natural that a gift would cost more to operate than something that you paid for, people tend to accept it without attempting to validate if the statement is true. It's part of a greater marketing psychological tricks set of patterns. You lead people to where they assume you mean to take them and they will lie to themselves the rest of the way.

    Here is how it is often done....

    End User: "Wow, Ubuntu is free."
    Salesman: "Well now, you know free isn't free. You have to consider the total cost of operating and supporting the product. When you consider the total cost, can you really afford Ubuntu?"
    End User: "Oh wow, that sounds scary, you, the expert, just told me it's too expensive for me to use!"

    It's a great pattern because the salesman didn't have to lie. They pointed out that operating cost is the real cost and not the cost of acquisition (which is almost always true.) They then asked a question and didn't even imply an answer. But they said it in such a way that nearly all end users will assume that they meant to imply that Windows would be cheaper to operate (hint, it isn't) and so the up front cost of Windows must be offset by a lower cost to operate.

    This exact use of the pattern is used over and over again; even though support companies will tell you that supporting Linux is way, way cheaper than supporting Windows at any scale. The fact that it is free to acquire is really irrelevant because that isn't the real savings. But because it is free to acquire, it's easy to use the high cost of Windows as a way to confuse end users because people assume that other people are honest and rational.

    And if other people are honest and rational then... why would Windows cost more than Linux if it isn't dramatically better? And why would the salesman warn me about the total cost if I was about to do the less costly thing?

    And somehow the obvious... Windows does it to make money and its value to you has no bearing on their pricing; and the salesman's job is to sell you something you wouldn't purchase via logic and only if someone talks you into it... facts never cross their minds.

    It's a powerful pattern.

  • Community Rep

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    I now feel really weird because I feel like this discussion is now literally an argument where all sides agree

    I think that's called an expoundtion.

  • Community Rep

    @oplik0 said in Some questions 🙂:

    At some point the word "free" just stops existing because everything has some cost attached to it - so nothing can be free.

    Exactly. And it's an important concept that we don't want to lose. I mean, we can always just state that the cost is zero, but zero/free has a special value - where were acquisition has no friction.

    The reality is, from a purely utilitarian perspective, TCO is what we all work with in our heads, but TCO is so individualized and unique that no one can start to calculate it for us individually. So we need the accurate costs of things on their own, so that in our minds we can put together the TCO to make decisions. If we start applying other peoples' TCOs for other use cases as assumptions to our own, our entire mental processes around calculating value stop working.

  • GNU/Linux

    On the other hand, to have a service that is NEARLY free, there is always the possibility of having someone else pay for it for you. The best known are advertising, or patronage or volunteering. There's stealing, which is pretty good, too ^^

  • GNU/Linux Admin

    @Per0x you're talking about breaking even... I'm afraid that's just called running a business 😉

  • GNU/Linux

    @julian In this capitalist world, life is a business. 😄

  • Community Rep

    @scottalanmiller They still playing this old saw? I mean, most of them "embraced" Linux and make at least token effort to be "FOSS Friendly" these days so as to leverage the marketing. Even M$, who now owns GitHub, runs all kinds of Linux in their cloud, which they built with a ton of FreeBSD code.

    So, be all that as it may, I'm a bit surprised this gambit is still played?

    Anyways, although years since I've heard this tired argument, it is good that you illuminated it here for those who may have missed that bit of history.

    Party on, Wayne! 😉

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