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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Shareware development--learning experiences

After assessing the commercial potential for the shareware program I've released, and figuring out where my heart really is, I've decided to open-source it. I talk a lot about what I've learned about shareware development and how it differs from open-source development in a blog entry:


I thought others might find it of interest. My hat is certainly off to those of you who've been able to develop viable businesses around software.
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Please do not open source programs. If you open source programs, you spoil the market for other developers.

The fact that your program was a commercial failure is YOUR fault. Don't punish other programmers for it by releasing free programs.

Thank you.
Please no OSS
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I'm surprised you didn't get more sales. It looks like a good product. I'd have bought it for $25 to $40 2 years ago.

These days, I use Copernic, which is pretty darn good and free.  But the other free alternatives aren't much good.

I didn't see any mention of adwords or any other active advertising (vs. getting it listed on shareware sites which is more "passive".)
Mr. Analogy {Shrinkwrap µISV} Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
"If you open source programs, you spoil the market for other developers."

Kevin Walzer Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Simple. Maybe I want to do a product which does what your product does and sell it.

Let's suppose that I can develop a better product than yours and I can make it a commercial success (= to sell many licenses).

However, because you have released your product for free, even if your product is worse than mine, the users now have a FREE alternative.

So, I will be forced to charge a lower price for my product and fight harder to promote it.

Just because you weren't able to make your product a commercial success, that doesn't mean you should spoil the market for everybody else.
Please no OSS
Saturday, March 18, 2006
"However, because you have released your product for free, even if your product is worse than mine, the users now have a FREE alternative.

So, I will be forced to charge a lower price for my product and fight harder to promote it."

Interesting. OK, let's turn this around:

Let's say that you already had a product like this in the market. It's a good product, but a bit on the expensive side.

Let's say I came in and released something that did, say, 90% of what yours did for 50% of the cost.

It's not open-source. But it's still competition, and it would take away a good percentage of your user base. You would still be forced to charge a lower price, and fight harder to promote it.

Would you have a problem with that? Should your name actually be "Please No Competition"? Or is it strictly open-source software that you object to?
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
By releasing open source you gain almost nothing and other developers lose a lot.

I can understand you competing with me if you earn something from it. But if you compete with me "just because", without you gaining anything, I can't understand this.

Please protect our profession.

Unfortunately many developers are very smart but lack business sense, so they buy into this open source idea. They don't understand that by contributing to open source, they are in fact working to lower the wages of other developers.

I think that developers should have a little more business sense, just like doctors and lawyers have.

As a developer, you should work:

- for yourself

- to enhance the prestige of our profession

By releasing open source, you are teaching our customers to expect things for free. You are teaching them that programmers work for free and that they are, in fact, worthless.
Please no OSS
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I am against open source for business and practical reasons.

A good site against open source written from a philosophical point of view is http://antignu.blogspot.com/
Please no OSS
Saturday, March 18, 2006
For what it's worth, I'm a BSD kind of guy--not a GPL-type. The GPL has its place but I prefer the BSD because it's more commercial-friendly.
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Out of interest, what sort of sales figures have you had over the past few months?
Reckless Me Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I don't think open source/free software represents much of a threat.  We have some open source/free competition.  The difference is they don't provide proper support.  Companies are happy to rely on our software knowing that we'll be here in another ten years and will pick up the phone when they call us or answer their emails within minutes.  They won't get that from open source products.  They know we are focused on our software, with no other distractions (most open source software is written by people in their spare time with other jobs) so can implement features quickly, are constantly striving to improve the product and will fix bugs instantly.  Large paying customers know they will likely get a new feature quickly if they ask for it. In short they can rely on us now and into the future and their investment is safe. 

Relying on free software is risky.  In theory although open source means the 'customer' has the source code, in practice they don't have the time or the knowledge to figure it out if something goes wrong.  In contrast a problem with a commercial product from a long-standing company with a good reputation will be fixed quickly at no extra cost to the customer.

It would be nice to have no competition, but having competition at least means there's a market for your type of software and if your competitors are open source/free then make the most of that and yell about your committment, support and longevity.  The free offerings simply can't compete with that.

Looks like Kevin is just signalling the death of his product.  Next step - abandonware.  His competitors will be rejoicing.
Marcus Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Just read your blog post. YOU ONLY GAVE IT SIX WEEKS!

I'd understand abandoning it after a year, and three or four releases, but six weeks is nothing. I'd be shocked if you achieved many sales in the first six weeks.
Reckless Me Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I have to disagree with "Please no OSS".

When I first read your reply to Kevin's post, I thought you were baiting us, hoping to get a response. But I think you are genuine since you took the time to respond several times.

There is a huge number of developers that write commercial code during the day and contribute to open source software as a creative outlet in their off hours? They should have to sell that so you have less competition?

Your defense of your point does not paint your perception of the market in a favorable light. Why would your prospect pick an inferior free product over a superior commercial product? Maybe your price is too high, or just not good enoough to ge a better value.

Anyhow, open source and lower cost products are here to stay and we need to learn howe to compete with them. The market will continue to evolve and the competition will be greater, that is just part of evolution. Welcome the challenge instead of just hoping for the easy way.

(Disclosure - I sit on the board of an open source foundation, but have no financial ties to it or any other open source initiative)
Jim Begley Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Kevin, Going open source or free isn't going to help you. Six weeks is way to short a period to throw in the towel.

Looking at your Web site doesn't leave me with a great impression. All screen shots on the home page look like crap. The larger versions don't have any text explaining what I'm looking at and why it is of value.

The text on the home page is progammer goobledegook. Nobody cares about this stuff. You need to write content that sells. Go and buy "WEB COPY THAT SELLS" by Maria Veloso.

The products page has no descriptions of the products. There is no "Support" page. The Company page says you are a "book publisher". Why would I want to buy software from a "book publisher"!

I assume there used to be highly visible "Buy Now" images.

Basically the whole site and content doesn't work IMO. If you want to sell commercial software you've got quite a way to go.

I wonder whether you've taken anything on board from the comments people have provided to your previous posts?

Seeing we are also discussing "free" I have to agree with the other poster. "Free" creates an image in consumers minds that all software should be free. This mindset seriously undermines and devalues the businesses of commercial software developers. This mindset will have long time repercussions as more and more people expect free. You can clearly set this happening already.
Neville Franks Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
BTW, the antignu blog posting is terribly inaccurate in timing of events, rational etc. The author confuses a license model, (GPL) versus a market model, (open source). It was written by someone who was not able to pull it all together, or chose not to.

You can read it, but if you are as old as I am and lived through the times, it is pretty funny.
Jim Begley Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Instead of releasing open source, please read the following fine article:

Please no OSS
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I did open-source one of my programs before and I really regret this and will never do that again.

Imagine you have built a nice house. And you decided to invite all homeless people in. And many of them come and everyone thinks that now you have to take care of them, bring them beer, food, give money and clean up after them. And ALL of them are kind of people you never want to be associated with.

Good luck.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Before you make a huge mistake by open sourcing your blood, sweat and tears, you need to read this:


As others have said, I'll re-enfoce by being blunt and honest.  Your website, which is the primary vehicle for a small software comapny, looks like shit.

Read that article.  Mr. Pavlina is spot on, and his advice applies diretly to you.  You've got a long way to go before you can truely say your product has no commerical value.
Cory R. King
Saturday, March 18, 2006

I see "please no OSS" suggested the same article.  Nice we are on the same track here!
Cory R. King
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Our clients - software houses specialized in vertical very specific markets. They are very very successful there. We try build components for wider market and also had failure now.
Too many competition there. To step in this market we have to invest huge ammount of money or just wait for a very long time our products noticed. So we just wait. No need to make them free. Well true - you have strong competitors here, including free utilities. Many horizontal market places are busy. But from other point of view I see so many vertical not busy markets with 1-2 known competitors there that also isolated from each other! So open source is not big problem at all.
It is true - software components, OS es, DB and utilities are free or almost free now. Forget about these markets at all. We did.
So do not invest in product your time any more but try sell it say for at least  some money - 3 $ or 5 $.
You can make it free only if plan atract more visitors for related product! Only this way things work.

IMHO advices about site, screenshots ets are fs.
Site looks good - no need to improve it. The only thing -place there samples of search results of yours and standard util. in comparison to show user goods.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
How can you say the site looks good!?

For starters the verbage is bad, the grid is inconsitant, the navigation is horrid, and all the graphics are low quality.  I'd say the website *is* the biggest problem to this gentlemants sales.

Hire an expert to completly rework the website and I an bet there will be a significant improvement in EVERYTHING.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Our site also bad ?
Saturday, March 18, 2006
>The fact that your program was a commercial failure is YOUR >fault. Don't punish other programmers for it by releasing >free programs.

There is not fault on his part. There are some great open source projects that benefit many.

Saturday, March 18, 2006
>>A good site against open source written from a >>philosophical point of view is http://antignu.blogspot.com/

Lets hear your arguments for fascism...One world order...Opinions and views that do not align with your business model/beleifs. Just because you can code and want to code for the money does not mean all people even care for the money.

Some people have an interest in computing and software because they actually enjoy coding.

Saturday, March 18, 2006
I agree with one of the posters above--open source is here to stay.  And competition is going to heat up as more and more people in China, India, etc get educated and gain access to the internet.  Welcome to the global economy. 

Even if those folks weren't doing open source in their evenings, they'd start uISV's and thus there'd be even more competition (and if they're willing to offer it for free, they can offer it for money but undercut you on price no matter how low you go).
Doug Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
This discussion provoked a small rant on how I think you compete with OS competitors. I posted it up on my blog:

Ian L Send private email
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Hm, it does look like a useful program. I would probably not pay the price for it since I can do that stuff from the command line, but as a free program, I will definitely take a look at it. That's kind of the quandary with a real specialty tool that does one thing well. Can you sell it and at what price. Giving it away, possibly could work as a strategy to draw traffic to your site and upsell to some other, for pay product. That's just speculation though.
Art Wilkins
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Ian, that is pretty interesting and bold.


What I want to know is when are these billion genius chinese going to start writing open source software? I could do with lots of high quality free software. And I keep hearing open source is communist and the chinese are communists, so it seems like a perfect match.
Art Wilkins
Sunday, March 19, 2006
OSes , DB , system utils - we never will try make money in these areas.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Ohh - components - also do not expect some income here.
Big players already on market and a lot of free components also.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Jan - interesting and correct thought but not for all markets. For example take FTP components market.
I as developer download free components and try them by writing small unit test and live running it for a while.
If they work - no problem I will use it. If I not found good OS or free alternative I will try commercial - but also with the same attitude - writing the test. If I have some esoteric FTP server or Proxy - well probably exists chance for commercial FTP component. I belive 99 % will use free finaly. And also as developer I will look at cheap components first. I understand that in any case I have to test component - price does not metter. I know well that expencive product not always mean good.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Open Source software is essentially the same as Communism. It is collective software for all, at the total expense of capitalism. Left uncontrolled, it will bring down western civilisation.

I fear it is too late for us. How can it be stopped now?
Sunday, March 19, 2006
I think anyone who rails against OSS had be pretty damn sure they aren't using any themselves.

Personally I user Firefox, Thunderbird, gcc, Subversion, Wink, Filezilla and NVU, which are all free (and open source, IIRC).
Andy Brice Send private email
Sunday, March 19, 2006
As an open-source developer, I say to the OP, don't open-source your software for the reasons you gave.

There are many cases to be made for open-source software, just as there are many cases to be made for closed-source software. If you are trying to make a living, then you need a business case for open-sourcing your software (and yes, there are some), and not just that initial sales are sluggish. Even if it is not central to you making your living, you should have strong personal reasons for wanting to do it (open source takes time and energy!).

If you want to stop trying to market your software, and focus on other things in your life, then maybe try selling the source on e-bay.

There may be good reasons for you to go open-source, but I didn't see them in your essay.
EKB Send private email
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Open source definitely has it's place. As a software developer you just need to understand the trend and how to work within this new environment. It's basically just another option, which will satisfy some peoples needs and not others.

Wasn't MicroSoft supposed to be out of business about 3 years ago? They're still doing fine, because there's more to a purchase decision than wether something is free or not.
Ian L Send private email
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Kevin hasn't replied to any recent posts and his site has  gone awol?
Neville Franks Send private email
Sunday, March 19, 2006
It's hosted on a Mac, it must be his home machine. Maybe he had a crash and is reinstalling.
Art Wilkins
Sunday, March 19, 2006
>It's hosted on a Mac, it must be his home machine. Maybe he had a crash and is reinstalling.

If thats the case its just another indicator of a micky mouse business that's likely to fail.

The site has been down for quite a few hours now. I wouldn't want to be a paying customer. Maybe that's another reason he wants to give it away free, so users can't expect support.
At a loss
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Heh, ok guys, give him a break. I don't like open-source either, but this is what he gets for making a post like this in a shareware forum! =)
Sunday, March 19, 2006
If you think of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) as "giving away your crown jewels", then you are right, the market for jewellery will be hurt.

If on the other hand you think of FOSS as "a business plan in disguise" (quote from Michael Tiemann http://people.redhat.com/tiemann/ ), then you will have SugarCRM, JBoss, MySQL, and RedHat to name a few.
Painless Budgeting Send private email
Monday, March 20, 2006
Art Wilkins - +1 +1 +1 +1

Yeah, FOSS is a communist concept and the Chinese are communists.  And I come from a country from the former Soviet Bloc so I know a bit about communism wannabes.

The short story is: China will use all the FOSS software being developed across the world (but primarily in the US) to its advantage.  It will build its own mission-critical stuff, keep it closed source (even if this directly contradicts the GPL's statutes) and avoid any economic or political obligations to large software corporations (who tend to be US-owned and based)

China will rob you blind for all your naivete.  We're already seeing small-scale samples of this (e.g. IBM boasting increased profits on the backs of FOSS and giving back lip service to the community).  But China...  These guys will really drive the point home.

I wonder when the time will come for FOSS proponents and contributors to feel like 50% of Bush's electorate is feeling now: "Ohmygod did I actually vote for this person? And he came out and did all these things? I must have been stoned, high on cocaine, drunk and, above all, stupid!"
Kamen Lilov Send private email
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
First, sorry my site was down: server problems. It's back up, or should be shortly.

Second: Wow. Such hostility. You guys have nothing on Slashdot when it comes to foaming-at-the-mouth zealotry. My intent, believe it or not, was to tip my hat to you for building successful businesses on software: I realized I don't have the stomach or perseverance for that. Instead of reading my blog entry for what it was--a salute to your efforts and success--you piled on like I was Richard Stallman. Wow.

Just to clarify a few points:

1. I'm a Communist? Heh, that's pretty funny. For what it's worth, I'm a free-market Republican who subscribes to The Wall Street Journal. 

2. Those of you who believe all open-source developers are disciples of Richard Stallman display considerable ignorance about open source. Open source != Free Software. I actually find Eric Raymond's writing about the *practicality* of open-source development methods--including their applicability for commercial development--to be a lot more persuasive than anything written by Stallman.

3. My own interest in open source stems primarily from the fact that my software education has come through open source. I've learned a lot from studying open-source code, and using it in my own programs where appropriate; it's reasonable for me to give some of my own code back as well. My main development tool is Tcl/Tk, an open-source scripting language that is maintained by a community of developers (with commercial support from ActiveState). The Tcl license itself is BSD-based and is quite commercial-friendly; GPL'ed extensions are not accepted into the language's core because it would prevent their use in proprietary software.

4. I don't believe open-source devalues the work of proprietary software. In many cases, they complement each other: open-source components make it easier to develop your commercial application. In other cases, open-source sosftware may provide competition. But it's already incumbent on you to be better than your competition. Open source is just another competitor. Compete effectively and you'll do fine. Linux has not succeeded in knocking Microsoft from the desktop. Ghostscript, Gimp, and Inkscape have not put Adobe into bankruptcy.

There's not much more I can add. Good luck to all of you.
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Should we also stop volunteering in any capacity -- e.g., raking leaves and shoveling snow for our elderly neighbors -- because, after all, there are professionals willing to charge for these services?
Chris Send private email
Thursday, March 23, 2006
"My own interest in open source stems primarily from the fact that my software education has come through open source. I've learned a lot from studying open-source code, and using it in my own programs where appropriate; it's reasonable for me to give some of my own code back as well."

To me, that's a good reason. Actually, it's one of mine, too. I have business reasons and personal reasons for going open-source, and this is one of my personal ones.
EKB Send private email
Wednesday, March 29, 2006

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