* 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

Future of this forum

We don't usually do meta here. But it is clear that this forum is running out of steam fast. I wondered how people felt about that.

Personally I think it has fallen below critical mass and I don't see the decline reversing.

It could be left as it is, but I think it would quickly fill up with spam without moderation. And I don't really want to spend time checking a zombie forum for spam.

So I suggest that the existing content remains and no new posts are allowed - the same as was done with the other JOS forums. Perhaps Joel can add a link to another forum. I think http://discuss.bootstrapped.fm/ is the obvious successor (disclosure: I am also a moderator on that forum). But Joel might prefer a link to something in the StackExchange empire.

What do you think?
Andy Brice Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
It does seem to have had its day, not only is the volume low but the quality of the posts is pretty poor now.
Ducknald Don Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
The moderation guidelines have not changed in the time that I have been a moderator.  I believe the decline of the forum is mainly due to Joel's blog no longer driving the same volume of traffic since he stopped blogging. At this point I don't think a change in moderation or registration policy is going halt the decline. And I don't see Joel restarting blogging any time soon.
Andy Brice Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
I've been an active member of this community for fifteen years, so I'd be sad to see it go.

Realistically, it costs FogCreek nothing to host and as Scott suggests, if the current moderators are no longer able to dedicate the substantial time and effort to the task, the baton should be passed to someone else.

I'd be happy to do it, as I'm obviously invested in this forum, after all these years.

I agree with Scott that the registration requirement was a mistake, as it stopped casual posts, which often yielded useful discussion, while having no real impact on spam.

In a way, it reminds me of the onstartups stack-exchange site, where overzealous moderation drove new people away and self-sabotaged the community.
Scorpio Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
Wow, it has been over 10  years. 

I can still remember, after lurking for maybe a year,  hesitantly making my first post.
Clay Nichols Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
"the registration requirement ... stopped casual posts, which often yielded useful discussion, while having no real impact on spam"

I agree with this analysis, and this dynamic has been backed by at least one study that was done by Topix.

Registration requirements don't reduce spam or trolling much since spammers and trolls generally have much more free time than people who make high quality posts. Registration requirements reduce volume, but they reduce volume of high quality posts slightly more than of low quality posts, shifting the ratio detrimentally.

The previous system allowing casual posts allowed people to contribute useful ideas. Requiring registration may only take a few minutes but it does dissuade new users. Once a user posts a first comment, they often to come back to see if there is a response, and if they receive a good response they stay, creating a dynamic that attracts high quality posters.

There is no solution that eliminates bad quality posts. Those simply must be managed through algorithmic detection and through manual moderation. Or simply ignored.

On no-registration forums impersonators and sock puppets can be a problem. Although this can not be fixed by determined agents (for whom registration is not an impediment anyway), casual abuse can be handled fairly well through the use of algorithmically generated avatars such as Identicons. (http://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/17443/how-is-the-default-user-avatar-generated)
Scott Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
>f the current moderators are no longer able to dedicate the substantial time and effort to the task, the baton should be passed to someone else

If current trends continue, there may not be any real discussion to moderate in 6 months time. Just bots and spammers.
Andy Brice Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
I'm with Scott and Scorpio on this.
I'd hate to see it go.
I didn't like the forum registration changes but tbh I couldn't say how much of a difference they made.
Maybe there's not the appetite for this sort of forum that there was.
As long though,  as there's some demand why kill it off?
Drummer Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
With the huge burst of mobile app programming businesses and web startups in the past 10 years, you'd *think* BoS would have benefited. More low end entrepreneurs writing code than ever before.

Except that there's a huge knot of old timers here, and stale and pompous Usenet era ideology about board administration policy prevails with the admins/mods. Hellbanning of people you don't "like" drove away plenty of vitality and is shit as a policy. 

Also, moderator arrogance. I'd love a mod like Andy to admit he was wrong about something but I'll wait for  a supernova of the sun instead.

Since BoS declined in the midst of plenty, that's telling you that something is fundamentally wrong.
WannabeTycoon Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
Our sun isn't massive enough to super nova. So it will be quite a wait.
Andy Brice Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
For several years now I have been lurking happily in the background, reading the threads and picking up an idea or two.

Given the very real danger that BoS could shut down any time now I felt compelled to actually register and voice my opinion.

While the OP is right that the quantity and sometimes the quality of the posts has declined over at least the period I have been following I do not think that this is the end yet. I would hate to see BoS go away.

I second Scott's argument: if Andy is not willing to be a moderator any more and Scorpio is willing to take over then let's try to keep it running.
If that is not possible, please at least consider to leave the BoS threads online and accessible. There are quite some interesting discussions in there.

Every few months there is a thread popping up asking about the future of this forum. This time, given that the OP is a moderator, I am slightly more concerned.

As an aside: could anybody give some suggestions where all the people might have wandered off? Where are the greener pastures? While the OP's link could be viewed as an alternative, I believe there is certainly room for more than one place to talk about software and entrepreneurship. Thus, no need to shut down BoS.
hash Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
Hi all - I'm one of the [basically retired] moderators. I came on when Eric Sink and Joel asked me to years ago.

Joel basically washed his hands of BOS years ago. Can't blame him - he has several successful businesses to run.

The current active moderators have done a great job of fighting the spammers and trolls, for free, for zero pay or recognition. They should be respected, not trashed.

IMO, there's a couple of core problems at BOS. They are not unique. see http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/6243/startup-business for a similar effort that died.

Those problems are:
1. The answer to every single question here is "it depends". Really. What worked for me, may not work for you. What worked for me 5 years ago may be as relevant as last printed scheduled for the Pony Express. And looking for "the best" answer is searching for fool's gold.
2. This is a narrow bandwidth situation. We type text in boxes, other people read the boxes and type more text. about as basic as it gets. Of course there's another online service with even narrower restrictions that has solved that constraint and prospered: Twitter. Will that work here? Depends on a) Joel. b) what conventions we can come up with that expand the bandwidth. Think hashtags. Think DM. Think links.
3. Echo chamber. If the people here want to see more posts, they need to get off their duffs, open up their contacts and urge people they think can gain from/offer value to join up and start posting questions and more importantly, answers. Bitching about this or that (e.g. having to register) is like whining the free meal you're getting at Christmas as the homeless shelter is missing your favorite cranberry sauce: not helpful.

My .02 cents.

So, having vented my spleen, what about starting each post here with a #hashtag? (#adwords, #findanidea, #cofounderwanted, etc.) Any of you whippersnapper prepared to stand up and be counted?
Bob Walsh Send private email
Monday, December 22, 2014
Reading the comments here, I'd like to clarify a few things:

1. The registration decision was Joel's, not the moderators.

2. We are moderators, not promoters.

3. Very few posts are removed by moderators. Beyond obvious spam, the only posts I recall being removed are those that devolved into petty name calling and bickering. Even if you disagree with the idea of moderators intervening in those cases, the total number of times that has occurred is still pretty small.
Nicholas Hebb Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Hey Nick,

Good to see [online] see you! It's been my experience that moderators here do their damnest to not censor but de-pollute. Thank you.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
I think it was just a coincidence that traffic began declining at about the same time when registration became mandatory.

Personally, I do not see any problem with mandatory registration, as long as one can register with a fake name and a disposable email address.

That said, it might have worked better if the alternative to registration was "Post anonymously, have your post manually moderated in 48 hours (maybe)".

Also, I do register with email everywhere, sometimes setting up a separate alias first, but maybe the younger people are used to "social logins"?
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The causes of the decline of the forum have been debated at great length. Here with actual data:
Draw your own conclusions. However the decline is clear to see and I don't see it reversing.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
While I agree that the enswer to all questions here (and elsewhere) is "It depends", I think there is a danger of diminishing the value of the forum (and all forums, Q&A sites) because of this. The same logic applies to Stack Overflow and probably the wider Stack Exchange communities, but they seem to be coping.

You have to give people some credit. Nobody really expects to get a step-by-step recipe for success here. Rather, it is a place to kick around ideas, like a proverbial water cooler.

I know that I enjoy reading the posts here and sometimes one might give me a spark of an idea, even if the topic isn't immediately related to what I'm working on.

As always, IMHO, YMMV, etc.
Scorpio Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate it.
Scorpio Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The landscape was very different 5 years ago. Now there are not much developers doing (or dreaming of) business of SOFTWARE. The crowd is now in mobile and web development, SaaS, clouds and other cool modern things. Only a few left in classic software business,  they usually do serious programs and do not like to chat around. So the most pragmatic decision for this forum is to close new posts/comments and keep all existing posts for good memory and warm nostalgia.
Dmitri Popov Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Is it just me who doesn't see the connection between Andy not wanting "to spend time checking a zombie forum for spam." and shutting this forum down?

If Andy doesn't really want to spend time moderating this forum this is fair enough as I imagine it can be time consumming but he should simply tell Joel about it. Other people (from what I've read above) would be happy to take over. In fact, if some people want to moderate this forum, they can/should contact Joel directly.

There is nothing special about a modetaror leaving. It's just part of the life of any forum but the forum should certainly not be shut down because of this.
Anthonyb Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
I think this forum is very useful and it is a great resources of ideas and perspectives. It's been great to have a spot to go to and have conversation about business, small business, software development, and other topics.

The site has been declining for quite a while. But there's still a few that have been hanging on.  There's still the conversation and questions/answers that occur. Just less frequently. There's still a need for a forum like this. Even if the answers to questions are it depends you still get insight or just affirmation that others have issues to and the answer isn't black and white.

I think the biggest decline here was not with registration but when Joel stop blogging. The forum just became less discoverable unless you knew about it. And now not having changed in some years it's starting to look aged (although it still does it's job fine).

Maybe a new location is needed. But be it this forum or another I hope there still exists somewhere. The discuss.bootstrapped.fm site may be an alternative because of the open nature of the discussion. StackExchange sites are to limited to question and answer and don't allow for much for discussion.

I tried to find somewhere else a few months ago but none seemed to have the open topic and discussion format this forum does. I think a lot of us came here because we didn't know a lot of other small, lone, developers trying to build a business. But more a needed to make thriving community.

I also think whether you're doing desktop, mobile, or web the same lessons and concerns apply. You still have the same needs, processes and problems. Time, promotion, experience, technology knowledge etc... The medium has changed but not the work.
TrippinOnIT Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
This forum is pretty much dead. It will remain that way until there is investment made in it.

Originally there was Joel and his blog driving traffic. Eric drove traffic here as well with the whole mIsv thing. Since Joel and Eric no longer blog there is nothing bringing in new contributors to replace those who inevitably leave over time. (This is really an ironic situation given the incredible number of times programmers have been told here that you need to do marketing.)

The forum software is terribly dated and inefficient. No threaded comments, a single forum for all business, poor presentation on mobile devices.

Really what is to be expected when a business is given so little attention for such a long period of time.

Given all of my gripes I still hope the forum stays open. Once in a while there is something worth reading here. That's rare these days.
Oh to be anon again! Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Just to clarify:

* I don't have the power to shut down this forum or change the registration requirements. Only Joel/Fog Creek can do that.
* I am not suggesting shutting down the forum because I am bored of moderating it. I think the forum is going to continue to dwindle and die within the next year. When it reaches that point I won't be interested in spending my time deleting spam in a forum no-one reads. I would prefer an orderly shutdown before that point.
* Maybe I am wrong about the forum's impending demise. If enough people are interesting in posting on this forum, then it should stay open.
* Whatever happens, I am not advocating deleting existing content. There is a lot of great material on these forums.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
I agree with the OP that this place is going downhill, it has since registration was required.  Most of the topics are lame.

This place went to hell when people like the Bored Bystander, Brice Richard, WayneM, Peter, and others left.  They always made insightful posts that were thought provoking.

> Maybe there's not the appetite for this sort of forum that there was.

That crazyontap forum is doing well and a lot of old JOSers post there.
Mister Ed Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
I think that the real issue is that this is just a bag on the Joel's backs an he wants the forum closed. One by one the other discussion boars were closed, then this board open topics list is constantly decreasing (currently I am seeing only the last 14 listed).

If you see the last Joel's post it starts with:

"Hello? is this thing on?

I’m not sure if I even know how to operate this “blog” device any more. It’s been a year since my last post. I’m retired from blogging, remember?"

So, I think as much as we all want the forum to live on, it is impossible when the host is not here. We are all here courtesy of the owner who is not home anymore and we refuse to leave.

So, as much as I hate to say this, I am with Andy on this.
If Scorpio and Scott want this to continue going on, why don't we transfer everything to a separate domain & host and we can all move there? I am sure we can all invest some $$ to share the running costs.
ThistimeAnon Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Yes, the time for this forum is past. It would be appropriate to set it to read-only like the other fora are.
Peter Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
This is the only forum focused on the old 'try-before-you-buy' model that I am aware of.  Other forums (including the one Andy linked to in the OP) seem to be more focused on the intricacies of running a small business which while interesting enough is not something that is hard to find on the interwebz. 

Based on I'd be a bit sad to see this forum go.
Mark Nemtsas Send private email
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
I agree with Scott (no surprise there.)

The no-anonymous policy killed this forum.
Bring back anon Send private email
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
I'm just shocked to learn that Scorpio is male!  I always assumed he was female because his profile used to promote a female-written book, which I naturally thought was his (hers).
PSB136 Send private email
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Yeah, that's a little weird, but I'm definitely male ;-)
Scorpio Send private email
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
(Phew, logged in after a year or two being in R/O).

> That crazyontap forum is doing well and a lot of old JOSers post there

Is crazyontap this one?


Seems more like a politics place, eh?

I'm, too, hang on bootstrapped.fm these days -- mostly because I'm still on the bootstrapped stage of my downloadable software business.

I would love to see the people of this forum to move over there. The experience you guys can offer would help a lot of young bootstrappers over there.

The forum could even introduce a category BoS so you'd have a resemblance of your own forum inside of bootstrapped.fm.
Vladimir Dyuzhev Send private email
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Yes it looks like the forum really may close this time, so I (a long time lurker) have decided to join and become an active user! Thanks Andy, Bob etc for all of your hard work
Billy Thorpe Send private email
Friday, December 26, 2014
I am not frequent writer here, but I am reading all the posts in rss. There are not so much activity, but from time to time there interesting posts. This is why I would leave this forum alive and let him die naturally.
BTW, where are young people now? OK, only dinosaurs are writing the software this days, but business problems of outsources, mobile developers, SaaS developers are the same: marketing, sales, lead generation, management, etc. They should ask for help somewhere. Where is the crowd?
Roman Rudnik Send private email
Sunday, December 28, 2014
People have been saying this forum is dead or dying for at least 5 years.

Sure, registration was a minor inconvenience, hence my user name but it's pretty much universal now. Name me 3 other sites that allow comments without registration?

I suspect the aggressive attitude shown by certain posters has been more detrimental to people not returning. From there it can become self-fulfilling - the forum is dying because people aren't posting and people aren't posting because the forum is dying..

You tend to get what you're looking for, and if you're looking for a dying forum that's what you'll get.

Reluctantlyregistered Send private email
Monday, December 29, 2014
Meh, the bootstrapped forums (besides having a horrible software) are full with those online marketer/sleaze salesman types. I'm not really too enthusiastic about spending more time there.
Jeremy Morassi Send private email
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
I regularly read Hacker News and sometimes browse through this forum. Sites like HN seems to be a joke compared to the quality of discussions here. I would be sad to see it go.

That said, I would respect the decision of Joel and the moderators.

I would also request Scott to reveal himself if this forum were to be closed. I have enjoyed reading his contributions over the years even though they may have been controversial and offensive to some people. I would die a sad man if the identity of Scott remained a secret to me.
Anindya Mozumdar Send private email
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Also, if anyone knoows who @StartupLJackson and @FAKEGRIMLOCK are... :)
Scorpio Send private email
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
It's great seeing all these names in this thread.  Brings me back to those halcyon days of ~2005...
Prime Suspect Send private email
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
For me it does not matter whether Joel writes his blog or not. I see that people really answer my questions and it is great.  It is also interesting to read old discussions.  I got to this forum after reading "MicroISV - From Vision To Reality"
S3 Send private email
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
My reason for walking away from this forum is probably an outlier, but I'll share it anyway.

I came here to lurk a long time ago, when I put together monthly highlights from the IT world for the executive suite  to go with my charts of economic trends and stuff like that.  The Internet has been chock full of incoherent white paper analysis since the late nineties, and this site (Joel's articles included) was pretty much the only site where a few hours worth of browsing would provide a handful of golden nuggets, and as a bonus I didn't have to read through a single argument over anonymous methods or optimizing T-SQL.

During that time a couple of things changed.  One change was the extinction of in-house IT.  After Y2K, IT budgets took a massive haircut, and by 2004 it became impossible to get good people, and too expensive to keep incompetent people on staff.  Eventually, everything that had anything to do with computers was contracted out to IBM, Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP or all of the above.

The second change was collaborative software, like Sharepoint.  No staff left who knew how to run Lotus Notes applications or develop new frontends for backoffice backends, no staff left to make simple changes to customer facing websites or even properly set up permissions for shared drives.  All that was left were 5 year contracts with service providers who wanted $50,000 per incident to keep the existing IT infrastructure from falling apart.  Or they could sell you server software that linked everything from customer service to finance to web-based portals and interfaces so simple a sales manager could set up an industrial-strength B2B ecommerce platform by himself and blog about it at the same time.

Which was the time I entered my mid-life crisis and decided I was going to develop enterprise scale information management software that actually helped people do their jobs.  So I came back to JOS and BOS looking not just for trends in the independent software developer world, but to see if and how an independent could make a living in that world.  I also looked up 20 years of business contacts and made pitches to self-proclaimed angel investors and innovation hothouse gardeners.  When I couldn't handle seeing anything but row after row of futility, I started venting by posting here.

I eventually left here because I realized I was never going to be the next Jonathan Sachs; in fact, even if another one shows up with another killer app, there aren't two dozen people left in the world who are willing to buy real software that does things existing software can't.  The only software business left is selling BS on a web page.  Even Google and Microsoft are in on the scam,  selling crappier and crappier office applications by offering to do all the behind the scenes work on their servers.  Yup, our software doesn't do anything useful, but any computer illiterate executive can spend hours doing nothing useful with it, and not look stupid.

I have a new position now, Best Practices Manager, one of those great phony baloney jobs that actually pays quite well, and because I've outlasted so many competent people, I am a go to resource for almost everyone still left here at our Canadian branch office.  I get to watch computer entropy infect co-workers, customers, strangers; basically anyone who lets a smartphone take over their brain.  Someday, I'll retire to a park model on a plot somewhere south of Jacksonville and tell my grandkids stories about the days when you had to learn how to use computers, and people looked at each other while they talked.
Howard Ness Send private email
Thursday, January 08, 2015

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