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I have the opposite problem that many here probably have. I built a piece of software that was originally intended for myself and a handful of clients. I'm rather proud of it and it works very well for what it is designed to do. It seems that one of my clients was pleased with it too, because I suddenly got a huge influx of traffic to both my personal site and the associated GitHub account about 9 months ago. I'm assuming they advertised it somewhere. I received many comments about the project, received new feature requests and even a few pull requests. Overall, I was pleased with the moderate amount of traffic and interest, but didn't do anything to actively encourage it. I also picked up a couple new paying clients, so that was good too.

About 6 months ago, a number of users (not my paying clients) started making demands for faster response times to feature requests and bugs. At one point there was an organized demand posted on GitHub with changes "the community" wanted to see in the project. I attempted to engage with the group, but the response of "this is mostly a personal project built for a few paying clients" was poorly received (to say the least). I encouraged users to fork the project and make improvements as they saw fit. The project is licensed so that they can do so and changes need to be available. Again, this was poorly received.

At this point, I'm disgusted with the "community" that has formed around my project. The non-paying users are rude, obnoxious and demanding. The paying customers continue to express, at least to me, happiness with what I provide to them.

How can I discourage the user base from growing and instead drift away? I do not want to drive away clients or potential clients by being down right rude and I do not want to abandon the project, because I utilize it daily and continue active development. I really just want the "needy" users to leave.

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    Are you actually wanting to discourage growth or rather just reducing demanding, non-contributing members? Those are two very different questions and it seems like you are actually asking the later. – AJ Henderson Mar 7 '17 at 15:32
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I would say, continue what you are doing now.

Respond and interact with the paying clients but ignore (well, perhaps not completely ignore, but have minimal interaction with) the freeloaders. It might be difficult as these people have clearly "bought in" to your product and believe that they have some say in how it develops. The only risk is that these users become so disgruntled that they start posting negative comments about you and your product elsewhere on the internet. You could mitigate this by starting a "wish list" for them to contribute to, but on the strict understanding that you are under no obligation to take up any of the suggestions, or implement them in the way suggested.

If you haven't already, you should probably put a prominent statement to the effect that your project is for your own personal use and for paying clients, but you are not adverse to people taking a fork for their own personal use. Don't let the fact that this was previously "poorly received" deter you, it's there primarily for new users to help manage their expectations of what you can do for them. If these users are truly interested in the product they'll either carry on using it under your terms or fork it.

It might also be worth talking to your existing clients and reminding them that the only person supporting the project is you and while you want to see it grow you want it to be on your own terms and that you can't cope with large influxes of new, non-paying, users.

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    I would not ignore them; if they ask you a question, consistently remind them of that same prominent statement that you have on your site as well. That's a simple copy-paste job. Keep the message polite yet firm. – Jan Doggen Mar 7 '17 at 15:21
  • @JanDoggen - Perhaps "ignore" is too strong a word. I'll update accordingly. – ChrisF Mar 7 '17 at 15:24
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It sounds like you not only don't want the community to grow - you don't really want a "community" at all. And that's A-OK - not every GitHub project has to have the whole open source community approach.

Some folks I know have found this kind of advice helpful at dealing with the frustration-level aspects.

If it turns out you do want to have a sort of limited community around your project, you might find some helpful resources on this site for technical community management.

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    Welcome to Writers. Can you summarize what "this kind of advice" is? We're looking for answers rather than pointers to answers. (Of course, a link for more information is welcome; I'm not asking you to repeat everything that's there.) Thanks. – Monica Cellio Mar 23 '17 at 19:11

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