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The end of shareware?

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Slava Karpenko of Unsanity proclaimed that Shareware Is Dead:

So I think it is time to rethink our vision of this world and get rid of the Shareware and Commercial distinction. Shareware existed a few years ago, and now has merged with other types of software distribution. I think we all have to realize that we sell and buy software, and not “shareware”, “nagware”, “commercial” and so on.

Erik J. Barzesky says it died long ago:

…shareware died when the Internet became popular…

Nowadays, being tagged with the flag “shareware” can be a death warrant to a lot of people or small companies. “Shareware” means “please steal me.” “Shareware” is too vague…

So yeah, “shareware” is dead. The term may live on, unfortunately, but “shareware” itself no longer exists. It all died right around 1994, as best I can peg it.

I must say that I hesitated between calling my product “shareware” or “low-priced commercial software”. In the end I went with the “shareware” tag, so as to not give the wrongful impressions of a larger company with a help desk and huge support resources, as seems to be expected nowadays… I’d rather be known as a one-man operation that gives excellent support under those circumstances. And of course, more informed people know that the definition of “shareware” today is very different from that of a decade ago;while less informed users may refrain from trying out software labeled as “commercial”.

…still, in a year or so I may change my labeling. Let’s see how the market evolves.

Posted by Michael Tsai’s Weblog:
Michael Tsai’s Weblog linked to this post

Is Shareware Dead?

Slava Karpenko Erik Barzeski Rainer Brockerhoff Daniel Sandler Steven Frank At present, I call my software shareware. By that I mean that it’s free to try and isn’t crippled, although it will nag you. Users get support directly from me, and I’m responsive to their suggestions. I encourage people to share the software (but not their serial numbers) with their friends, and it’s available on various compilation CDs and at Info-Mac. But I guess I agree that the term “shareware” has become meaningless because everyone has a different idea of what it means. We stopped saying in ATPM reviews whether a piece of software claimed to be shareware. It wasn’t a distinction worth making. After all, BBEdit now has a shareware-style trial, and it’s backed by a responsive company, but it isn’t shareware, is it? Instead, we list the price and briefly state whether you can try before buying and how the trial is limited (if at all). I should probably start doing this for my software. The question that remains is what to select in VersionTracker’s the License popup.

Input to output ratio

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Jeremy Zawodny worries about his input to output ratio:

I go through cycles of productivity like most hackers do. Some days I get a lot done while others are mostly wasted. Some of my productive days involve a lot of output like e-mail, code, discussion, debugging, and so on. Other times it’s a lof of input: reading, listening, etc. Once in while I manage to have a day in which the two seem to balance out and I go home feeling like I’ve accomplished three weeks wort of work.

Yes, these cycles happen to me too, and have in fact been getting more extreme. Before the Internet came up, I was buying 15 to 20 technical magazines per month, and would take every other day off to read all that stuff… even study the advertisements one by one, if you can believe that.

For the last years, information overload from the Internet has been increasing. I don’t buy any more magazines, but reading and responding to e-mail, browsing for news, and so forth has been expanding to fill most of my time. And now weblogging and reading RSS feeds is taking the place of e-mailing and browsing. (My advice: don’t subscribe to more than 150 feeds if you check them every hour, or you’ll never catch up icon_wink.gif).

On the other hand, the amount of useful input – that can be converted into productive output – has also increased vastly, so it seems to boil down to a question of discipline. Inspiration doesn’t come by every day, so I usually slack off for periods that vary from an afternoon to a couple of weeks, and catch up again in frenzied bursts of creativity. Turning off the phone and ADSL – or making a trip to somewhere off-net – often works wonders.

Joel on Software also addresses this issue:

But it’s not the days when I “only” get two hours of work done that worry me. It’s the days when I can’t do anything.

…Maybe this is the key to productivity: just getting started. Maybe when pair programming works it works because when you schedule a pair programming session with your buddy, you force each other to get started.

Excellent essay on How to be a Programmer, written by Robert Read. Every programmer should read this!

Thanks to Matt Croydon’s postneo for the link.

Joel on Software writes about the options for talking about future products:

When Apple releases a new product, they tend to surprise the heck out of people, even the devoted Apple-watchers who have spent the last few months riffling through garbage dumpsters at One Infinite Loop.

Microsoft, on the other hand, can’t stop talking about products that are mere glimmers in someone’s eye. Testers outside the company were using .NET for years before it finally shipped.

So, which is right? Should you talk endlessly about your products under development, in hopes of building buzz, or should you hold off until you’ve got something ready to go?

…I have a policy lifted from Marlon Brando, playing a mob boss in The Freshman: “Every word I say, by definition, is a promise.” The best way to avoid breaking promises is not to make any, and that’s as good a reason as I need not to talk about future versions of our products.

I find myself mostly agreeing with Joel here. While I see no harm in collecting user suggestions, and saying “this (or that) is on my list for the next product release” at reasonable places, it’s rarely good policy to preannounce major stuff. Unless (or perhaps even if) you’re Microsoft.

That said, how does this apply to XRay? While I have a quite reasonable list of features “for the next release”, some of the things on that list – like batch processing – entail a complete revision of fundamental components, such as the plug-in interfaces. I’m confident that it can be done, and it will be done in version 1.1, but I still may release another 1.0.x version before 1.1 comes out.

For several reasons, new XRay versions have been delayed. While I still spend about an hour a day with user support, time to do concentrated work on the next version hasn’t been available… until now. This weekend I’ll be restarting full-time work on XRay.

Sorry, can’t say yet when the next version will come out, or what number it’ll be… icon_wink.gif

Shareware, part III

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Here’s the third part of Sanford Selznick’s article for shareware authors. Thanks, Sanford!

Shareware, part II

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Some days ago, as I noted below, Sanford Selznick published an excellent article for would-be shareware authors.

Well, the second part is now out. Enough said.

Here’s a great article for shareware developers by Sanford Selznick:

Sanford also writes some nifty shareware himself. Check it out!

I’ll edit this post later to include some more resources for shareware developers…

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