Ouch! Sorry to hear that - sounds miserable!
I feel like this is really the root of the issue. Even if you had a SaaS app with no encrypted source code that was deployed, if your support plummeted, your customers are going to begin to hate you.
So I don't think this necessarily has to do with encrypted source.
And I know full well that if my support ever did plummet, the community would begin to hate me. I don't expect to get a pass because of my pretty face. There are several vendors in the community that have absolutely horrible reputations amongst developers.
I care a lot about the developer community - and about my customers - and it's something that I'm not going to let happen.
I'm also not looking to grow super quickly - I'm looking to grow steadily and keep my customers happy. And as I'm interested in the solopreneur route, I'm not looking to farm out my support to someone who has no idea what they're doing.
I hear this a lot. It's one of those statements that has a grain of truth to it but on the whole is just plain false.
I think the truth is that there is a segment of your customers that would pay you anyways even if they didn't have to.
The whole truth is that making it hard for people to steal stuff is a Good Thing. It's why doors have locks. It's why grocery stores have those thingies at the doors that check to see if something got stolen. It's why SaaS apps have pay walls.
What I will say is that if you go to lengths to protect things from being stolen in such a way that you're making your customer's life miserable, you may on the whole be getting less of a return overall than you would if you didn't make their life miserable and didn't try to protect your stuff.
But I'm thinking very carefully about how to not make my customers lives miserable.
Anyone who genuinely feels that this is true and has a SaaS app with paying customers, I would challenge to give their customers an option to use the product completely for free (in the same way that a person could use and share unencrypted source code for free) - and just encourage them to pay but don't force them to.
Until someone does that, I'm not going to give a lot of credibility to this idea.
I know that there are musicians, for example, that don't charge anything for their music, and they develop a fan base that voluntarily pays them for their work. I think that's pretty awesome, but also these people make their money on their concerts.
A lot of people I know make their money selling custom solutions but have some modules on the side. They're in a similar situation. They don't actually care too much if people steal their product, b/c at the end of the day they're an agency.