* The Business of Software

A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.

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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

Real name vs fake name

I am ready to launch website and debating if I should use real name, or just a "pen" name. Do the "publius","dark avenger" bit, or just be out with it and use my real name. I have always been apprehensive about using my real name and the same time felt that for my real site(not on sites like this one) I should use my real name to establish credibility.

Some of my concerns are employment issues( in case i have put my monkey suit on again). I know employers google you these  days and I know some are not keen on hiring people who went on their own, or  getting trashed on the site, identity theft etc.

I know some of these is just irrational stuff, but I still wonder about it and I wanted to know if any of you have had any experiences with this.
cn Send private email
Monday, January 28, 2013
 
 
I don't think there's a right answer, it's up to you, You can also use only the company name, and put your name/handle only where it's needed, for example in support e-mails.

Do you want to be rich or be king?
http://blog.asmartbear.com/rich-vs-king-sold-company.html

It's hard to sell the company later if customers are buying because of *you*. But if you want to be king, do presentations in conferences and be remembered by others, use your name.

Patrick MacKenzie became a known fellow by being open, and now his consulting business earns him more than the business he built so far,
http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/12/29/bingo-card-creator-and-other-stuff-year-in-review-2012/
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Monday, January 28, 2013
 
 
I just use my first name on my "About" page.  Like this: "Hi, I'm Harry, the founder and lead programmer of something.com".  No need for them to know my surname, and I don't think anyone really cares.
Harry Phace Send private email
Monday, January 28, 2013
 
 
As you might infer from my JOS identity, I think full names are a bit reckless identity-theft wise, but 'DarkKnight' type names are a bit childish. I would think twice about handing over money to a site that only used names like that.

OTOH, people like DHH, Patrick, Joel, the Smart Bear guy have done well with their real name. But they are on a whole different level.
GregT Send private email
Monday, January 28, 2013
 
 
If you're selling something and I've not heard of your firm (ie Adob,, Microsoft) and I can't figure out your name and street address by looking at your about page, then it's a no-sale.

If you're blogging about how the government is oppressing you, a Syrian national, I definitely expect you're using a fake name and that's OK.
Scott Send private email
Monday, January 28, 2013
 
 
Scott, why would you want to know my name and street address? That's stalker talk. Customers like you I'd be glad are staying away.
Harry Phace Send private email
Monday, January 28, 2013
 
 
When you have a credible business you make yours identity known to customers.

I accept that you don't that's fine. Your business is no different than someone selling stereo components and game cartridges out of the back of a truck in an alley.

Stalking arguments are a non sequitor.

http://www.google.com/contact/

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
USA
telephone: +1 650 253 0000
fax: +1 650 253 0001

http://pressroom.yahoo.net/pr/ycorp/company-address.aspx

Yahoo! Inc.
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Tel: (408) 349-3300
Fax: (408) 349-3301

How many people at Yahoo are complaining about stalkers based on these links? None is the answer.

You are also legally required to put your address on customer emails sent to US based customers.

http://www.business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

> Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.

The law applies to ALL business related email.

Given that you admit to failure to comply with the law, what confidence can any customer have in your obviously illegal fly by night operation that feels it is above the law?
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
This poster confuses me. Does he want to publish a book?
alexandar Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
A data point based on my experience.

I have a website/blog for the past 11 years. It's pretty popular (on the order of ~1 unique visitors/month). I list my name, e-mail address, physical address. (I no longer list my phone number but only because recruiters were too eager to call me).

In the last 11 years, no one stole my identity, stalked me or "trashed me" (what does that even mean?).

On the other hand I have over 100 unsolicited requests for job interviews in my inbox.

Why all those companies are interested in hiring me?

Because I have a website which is an advertisement for my skills. It wouldn't work, though, if it was anonymous.

None of those 100+ companies care that I'm currently self-employed. They care about my skills.

So yes, your fears are irrational and if you think about future employment, a good website is a huge asset in getting a job.
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
According to the CAN-SPAM Act you don't need to include address in all busines related e-mails, only in commercial messages (advertising). The difference is explained under "How do I know if what I’m sending is a transactional or relationship message?"

Besides that any illegal, fraudulent business can come up with a phony name and address, I don't think it's much of help.
Peter Bagyinszki Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Scott, where's the personal name, street address and phone number of Google's CEO, then? It's not in the info you provided. Surely you don't do business with them, then?
Harry Phace Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
And Scott, for what it's worth, my name isn't hidden beyond all measure of finding. A quick WHOIS on my domain reveals my name and address.  I just don't feel the need to make it any easier than that, based on my stalker argument. Yes, I have at least two very active people from my past who are looking for me. Scorned lovers.
Harry Phace Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Thanks for all the comments. It is helpful.
cn Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Fake name or pseudonym for articles, books, publishing. Pen names have always been a widely accepted practice.

Real name for doing actual business where W-9s and 1099s and tax collections are concerned.

A registered corporation's agents and owners are usually listed on that state's database of business registrations. If you have a corporation you conduct all business through that anyway.

Part of this decision is strategic and branding and marketing based. Part of it is personal security driven.
WannabeTycoon Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
I have never understood the people who say they NEED to know someone's address before they'll do business with them. Are you bringing them a basket of muffins? If not, then you don't NEED to know.

Where exactly do you draw the line anyway? What if it is a residential address? Or a PO box? Are those good enough? Or does it need to be a Class A office building?

Lots of small business owners (particularly Internet-based software companies) work from home and don't want to post their home addresses. Get over it and focus on the quality and reputation of the software itself.
Shawn O'Hern Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
If something goes wrong, how do you debug it if you have no other way of contact?

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Sergey Brin
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043


Any more questions?
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Shown, the reason is that legitimate businesses have no reason to hide their location and contact info, and scamsters, con artists and criminals who are hoping the law won't find them do have reasons to hide their location and contact info. Businesses that are fearful to disclose their location and contact info are vastly more likely to be fraudulent. Even the ones that are marginally legitimate you end up with them run by paranoid loners who do weird stuff like put time bombs in their code so it stops working after a while, even when purchased by legit customers, or contains malware that they defend as "adware" claiming that the price you paid for the software was not enough to cover the lifestyle they desire, thus it was legit for them to sneak other things into the installer.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Scott,

I think you are right about correlation between credibility and identification.

Krzysztof Kowalczyk,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I do want to bring to your attention that on this very forum I have read posts about folks who thought self employment worked against them when they decided to go back to work for someone else.Or hassles regarding prior work and IP.  But I get your point and it is very valid point. I guess like all things there is alpha vs beta risk. I suspect at the end of the day I am taking your advice.
cn Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Harry, Shawn:

You want to sell a product. That means you want my money. Why should I send any money to $ANON?

Oh, wait, another Crown Prince of Nigeria who needs my help to transfer 20M. There are quite a lot of them, seems to have been a large and rich family. A lot more trustworthy, at least he tells me his name...

Where was I? Here in Germany, it is legally required that your business website contains the full business address and contact info ("Impressum"). Your competitor's lawyers will have a funny time when they find out it's missing.
Secure Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Scott, you dodged the question. That's not Sergey's personal address and phone number like I asked.  Try again.  After all, that's what you want from me -- my personal details so you can presumably sue me if my app has a bug.  If that's not the reason, then why do you need to know my details?  I'm PayPal Verified; they know precisely who I am.  Isn't that enough?  PayPal'll give your money back quick smart if you don't like what you bought.

"Why should I send any money to $ANON?"

First, as mentioned, I'm not anonymous because I'm PayPal Verified.  You can get your money back from PayPal (not me) and PayPal knows who I am and can chase me for it.  There's simply no way I can take your money and run off with it and hide.  So, no, as alarmist as it sounds, you're NOT sending money to $ANON at all.  Nice try at scaremongering to the lurkers here.

Let's take another recent example here.  Matthew Fender (if that's his real name, we have no proof now, do we?) launched his website not long ago and announced it here.  When I visit there, I see nothing about him personally at all.  His name doesn't appear there.  There's no address or phone number.  Just an email contact.  It's actually LESS secure than buying from myself because there's no PayPal Verification and recourse.

But everyone congratulates him on the site, and wishes him luck.  I get flamed for just using my first name.  I can't win.  Great forum, these.
Harry Phace Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
I do get your point Harry - Scott, there is a big difference between a business address and a home address, which is what the business address of most mISVs actually is. I was not aware of any laws requiring physical addresses on websites, so that is news to me as well - although it appears that a PO Box might be sufficient, so that could be a route that preserves your privacy - although what "security" anyone gains by having a PO box address  for you I don't know.
I am using fastspring as my reseller, so the same sorts of protection would apply to my customers as yours through Paypal - although admittedly that is not obvious from my site.
If a customer is getting a free trial and paying for something they already know works and does what they want, I can't imagine too many of them are too worried about a physical address?
Matt
Matthew Fender Send private email
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
 
Wow, I hadn't noticed Matt's very cool software before. Looks really need.

I have no need for it, but if I did, I know I could contact him at his street number _ Capri __ in PV, QL_.

So yeah, he's not anonymous at all, he's legit.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
typo correction: looks really neat
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
My own current location is now an office space but for 10 years the office was in the garage next to my house in a rural area. People did stop by sometimes. Not very often, only a handful of times. Usually they'd call when in the area. A couple just showed up. Some people were boring, others came when we were busy with other things. I don't regret any of the visits though. No one showed up with a burlap sack, rope and a set of kitchen knives and a bludgeon to kidnap me. I guess I am lucky.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
I make no attempt to hide my identity but I am not convinced of the necessity of having my address on my site - although I have no particular objection to it. Phone number could be more problematic because of the likelihood of support calls - I would really rather keep that to email.
An interesting thing about .com.au domains is that they are tightly controlled and you cannot get one without proving a business interest in the domain name that you want - so you need to have a trading name (at the least), or a company or a product or something, and then go through an approval process - so it's rather hard to be anonymous with a .com.au. In principal that should give them more weight than .coms and other domains, but in practice I suspect that a) very few people outside of Australia are aware of this fact and b) actually most people in the US will consider a .com domain to carry more authority.
matt
Matthew Fender Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
Yeah I don't list phone number. People find it and call it sometimes. We talk to them. But advertising it is definitely inviting support calls and those are flow killers.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
BTW, if I was into fishing in the ocean I would totally get your product, it is way cool.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
I don't know about other countries, but in the UK (and the whole EU I believe), you must include your address on the website.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2009/9780111486276/regulation/7
Adrian Lock Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
Scott, where is Matthew's address on his website?  I can't see it, unless he added it after this thread progressed.

I'm still not convinced that a name or address is needed.  You don't get all that when paying on the Apple App Store, yet people are willing to spend.  I think that proves they don't care who's getting their money.

What's that? The App Store knows who you are?  So does PayPal.  ;)
Harry Phace Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
I haven't added it Harry, but since this is my real name and I'm not ex-directory its not too hard. A simple whois on my domain will get you most of the way there, and then you could look my business name/no. up on the Aus register - its all online and free. I may put my address up tho, since it appears to be mandatory in many jurisdictions.
Matthew Fender Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
I only asked because Scott says it should be on your site, otherwise he'd never buy from you.  Just trying to show Scott that not everyone does it, but I think he's pretty much set in his ways. :)
Harry Phace Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
From my experience, PayPal does not at all protect individuals making payments.

A couple of years ago, Busuu, a European company providing online language learning services, had secretly created a PayPal subscription instead of charging me once as advertised. When subscription triggered, Busuu did not return my emails and I have failed to get my money back via PayPal. I avoid using PayPal ever since.

(The funny thing is, I planned to subscribe to Busuu's services, but only after returning from vacation. They've got a few tens of Euros and bad word of mouth where they could have made a few hundred and a referral.)

Just in case someone curious from either Busuu or PayPal comes across this thread, I still have all the email exchange in my archive.
Dmitry Leskov @Home Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
The point I was trying to make is that an address is not a guarantee of quality or reliability. If you want to show your address on your website, then by all means go ahead. But as a customer, the lack of an address shouldn't be a big red flag when deciding to do business with a company. There are other factors which should be more important. @Secure, if the Nigerian prince had included his actual physical address in the email, would you have responded positively? Still no?

I maintain that in some cases showing your address could cause more harm than good. For example, a residential address (easy to search on Google Maps, and a lot of people WILL do it), or if you are located in India, Russia, China, etc. It sucks but it's true. Even a PO box looks kind of shady. In those cases you're better off keeping quiet about where you're located. I never recommended trying to hide your identity. A proper business should have trade name/WHOIS/etc. records on file which customers can look up if they are especially curious.
Shawn O'Hern Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
Also code signing and SSL certificates, they will have your address too.
Shawn O'Hern Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
@Shawn
"Also code signing and SSL certificates, they will have your address too."

Not signing binaries is a much bigger red-flag to me than no address. It's amazing to me how much *paid* software (trial versions usually) are unsigned. I mean - if you can't, or won't, cough up $100 for a certificate that really does't inspire a lot of confidence.
Matthew Fender Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
Harry with Matthew I feel I know who he is. He's an australian chap, he lives near the beach, he mows his front lawn, his palm trees are well trimmed, his dog looks reasonably healthy, he watches reasonable TV shows, his telephone records don't show that he is making any unusual call records. The blonde sitting on his couch right now seems to be attractive, there's no record of unusual power patterns on his electric bill that would indicate an illicit grow house, and he doesn't have an embarrassing history of political activism.

Ha ha, sorry, I made all that up.

But despite not knowing that level of detail, it seems more likely than not that he is selling software, really located in australia, and is trying to make a business of it. He might even respond to bug reports and have program updates.

When a customer has no idea who they are dealing with because the company goes to lengths to hide their identity, with no address, no indication where they are located, no names of the owners, and the whois is registered by a third party designed to hide all possible info, or contains obvious fake data, then it doesn't inspire confidence in the company at all.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
 
Okay Scott, I see what you mean.  But what about my case: my site has a small intro about myself ("Hi, I'm Harry, the lead programmer at blah.com, we're based in Queensland, and yes, that's me in the pic at left.").

But the page has no specific address listed, and only email as contact.  My "buy" page mentions that I'm PayPal Verified, with a link that explains what that means.  If you do a WHOIS, you can see my real full name.

My question (and be honest): if you liked my apps, would you buy from me, based on that info above?  Or would I still be considered a risk to you?

Because you're really making me panic and stress over this!  :(
Harry Phace Send private email
Thursday, January 31, 2013
 
 
Harry, can you share a link to your web site?
As for me, it depends on how the web site looks: if it's only 5 half-empty pages, the only contact is e-mail/web form, there's no forum or at least news - I'll never give my money to such a business.
Kuzmitskiy Dmitry Send private email
Thursday, January 31, 2013
 
 
Harry please don't stress over this. I don't have my address on my site, also my whois information is hidden and I still sell around 800 copies of my software each month.

I also get orders from very large companies, one placed an order for 2,700 licenses. These customers will normally email you first and negotiate a discount but I have no problem giving my address on Invoices or if they need it for a purchase order.

While perhaps a very small number of potential customers might not buy from you I think the percentage is tiny.

In fact having PayPal as your only payment processor will lose you far more sales than not having an address, my sales doubled overnight when I added direct card payments...but that's another topic!
Ralph R Send private email
Thursday, January 31, 2013
 
 
"While perhaps a very small number of potential customers might not buy from you I think the percentage is tiny"

I think you're right.  I asked 35 of my Facebook friends if they'd buy even though there's no address or name of me on my site, and they ALL said that's something they don't think about.  Some even asked why would they need to know who runs the site.

My conclusion is that some people are just too wary these days, especially coders like us.  The general public just doesn't care.
Harry Phace Send private email
Thursday, January 31, 2013
 
 
Unless it's an antivirus subscription or an Office upgrade, the general public doesn't pay money for software either.  The standards for free software are much lower.  People will accept free stuff from real scumballs.

So, if you want to sell software for money, you have to sell to a niche market.  There may only be 24 people in the whole world who would be interested in virtual hedge trimmer software.  Every one of those 24 prospects is going to carefully research your product before sending you money.  With the Internet, finding those 24 people isn't the problem, it's convincing a high percentage of them to exchange money for your product that's a problem.  How do you establish trust with a customer on the other end of a 40,000 km ethernet cable?
Howard Ness Send private email
Thursday, January 31, 2013
 
 
"the general public doesn't pay money for software either"

Oh, please.  I do believe you're serious.  Why are we all here, then?
Harry Phace Send private email
Friday, February 01, 2013
 
 
>> "the general public doesn't pay money for software either"

> Oh, please.  I do believe you're serious.  Why are we all here, then?

As I'm reading it, I think the key word there is *general*, with the "non general" public still being large enough a market for software companies to make money.  Non general here would include niche and also B2B.  General is John and Jane Doe.

But isn't even that statement now belied by iPhone apps?  I get the impression that many members of the general public *are* buying those apps, and the reason is it is built into their new iToys and lends itself to impulse buys (and the apps are often very cheap). 

(Anybody gearing up for huge Groundhog Day promotions tomorrow in your businesses?)
Racky Send private email
Friday, February 01, 2013
 
 
" I do believe you're serious"
I am.  The general public pays for food, clothing, transportation, cell phones, soap, etc.  There are roughly 2 billion computer users in the world, and an estimated 500 million installations of MS Office.  We could argue whether that translates into 500 million unique users of Office, but let's say it does.  Other than the Windows OS itself, no other paid software comes close to the 25% market share Office has.  Next is Lotus Notes (IBM claims the accumulated total of licensed Notes seats is over 200 million, but the general public doesn't buy Notes, their employers do).

Then we get into video games.  The big winner is Tetris.  $1.99 for the official version, hundreds, maybe thousands of free clones.  100 million paid downloads, so it's still a big deal.  20 million licenses for Sims have been sold, or 1% of the computer user market.  There are at least 20 million people using a paid version of Quicken at the moment, but it really drops off from there.
A high percentage of the general public that are computer users use web browsers and file managers, and a significant, but much smaller percentage use standalone email clients.  Nobody pays money for a web browser.  What other software do you need to be a personal computer user?

There is nothing wrong with selling software to a niche market, in fact it's your only hope of making money.  But the market that doesn't care if you are a credible business or not, doesn't like to spend money on software.
Howard Ness Send private email
Friday, February 01, 2013
 
 
"Nobody pays money for a web browser"

That's because nobody pays for something that's already free, ie. Internet Explorer on Windows, Safari on Mac.

"What other software do you need to be a personal computer user?"

Depends on what you do, and what your interests are. People pay for games. People pay for niche products (as you said). People pay for solutions to problems.

Anyway, I guess the best I can do is just hope my software sells. If not, who's fault is it? Mine, or as you say, because people just don't buy? How does one work out which is which, in order to improve?
Harry Phace Send private email
Friday, February 01, 2013
 
 
Oh I've paid for a web browser. Was worth it too.

Obviously though most people don't.

I also prefer to pay for compilers. XCode is crap.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, February 02, 2013
 
 
"I've paid for a web browser"

Yes, Scott, but you're one-of-a-kind, I've come to realise.  What you do, and what the general public does, are entirely different.  I've come to the conclusion not to take you seriously.  :)
Harry Phace Send private email
Saturday, February 02, 2013
 
 
It's true I do thinks differently. Buying a good web browser that had a lot of developer tools in it before any other browsers did enabled me at the time to maintain my own web site, and make it very fast back in the days when everyone was on dialup and at-home cable modems were a sci-fi concept to most people. This enabled me to develop a customer base because people could come and talk on the company forum about topics related to the business and it would load fast and not bog down their computer.

There's no longer an advantage to this - few people have dialup and most free browsers have development tools.

I've also paid for an email client that enables me to tag and track customer issues and questions.

I've also paid for development tools that have made me far more productive than using the free ones like gcc and gdb.

Meanwhile you have all these other small time software companies who say "I don't pay for shit!" And then they take forever to produce low quality poorly performing software, and complain that they can't get any customers: "Dey pirates took ur jerbs!" For nearly all these losers though the problem is they write crap software no one wants and part of the problem is they won't spend $1000 on a good tool that saves them 200 hrs of work a year AND increases the quality of work they accomplish.

So yeah, I do in fact do stuff a lot different from you, and yes, you should definitely not do what I do.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, February 02, 2013
 
 
"I have no need for it, but if I did, I know I could contact him at his street number _ Capri __ in PV, QL_.  So yeah, he's not anonymous at all, he's legit."

And that info was only added AFTER this thread started.  I know, because I looked before and it WASN'T there.  Just for the record.
Harry Phace Send private email
Saturday, February 09, 2013
 
 

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