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Author Topic: Fairware: an interesting experiment in getting paid for Open Source  (Read 22000 times)
40hz
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« Reply #50 on: September 13, 2011, 01:02:25 PM »

OK DC coders! Paul started the ball rolling...  Thmbsup



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vlastimil
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« Reply #51 on: September 13, 2011, 01:55:52 PM »

Hm, why I am making freeware and what I expect? My goals and reasons differ:

The smaller tools: I make them available for free, because I do not think seeking compensation for few days of my time is worth the effort. I usually place a donate button somewhere and it is a rare but pleasant surprise when someone uses it.

The I have 2 bigger free tools, a general purpose image editor and a cursor editor. They already consumed many months of my time.

Cursor editor: Despite consuming a lot of resources, I made my cursor editor free, because I did not think there was a market for it. I get 100-150 USD per year in donations (= nothing). I think it is the best cursor editor on the planet and I intend to keep it that way even if it means working for free. I just want it this way, I like people using my software, the more the better. I also like to believe it brings indirect benefits.

Image editor: Me developing this was probably a bad idea, but now it is too late. I just have to continue working on it. I keep it free, because there are so many similar programs, many of them free. (I do not remember when I got the last donation, it was many months ago.) If it were paid, it would have much less users and I would get less feedback. I need that. I think I have competitive features under the hood, but I know, the user interface is too "ordinary". If I ever manage to figure out the user interface and convince myself it is worth paying for, I may start charging for commercial use or implement a nag screen. Until then, it stays free and I do not expect the donations to cover even 1% of my time spent on it.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #52 on: September 14, 2011, 06:04:52 PM »

mouser hit on something that occurred to me when I was just finishing the 1st page of this thread: I think that for some, perhaps many, who develop free/donation/open source software, there is a distinct disinterest in what it takes to run a normal business, perhaps most particularly with marketing and sales efforts. I can totally understand it, these are some of my least favorite activities. Now you could argue that free software without marketing is potentially as unlikely to succeed as commercial software without marketing.

What is potentially interesting to consider is the possibility that free is in itself a marketing factor. How you license your software affects how people think of, relate to, and talk about it. Free and open source have huge, independently motivated communities behind them that can become your evangelists without a lot of difficulty, provided you're offering an interesting product (and that may be almost the most fundamental requirement, interesting product). hsoft alludes to this affect on his products and I've seen it many times before. So in a sense people who choose free/open source as a model may be opting for "free" (in multiple senses) marketing as well, whether consciously or unconsciously, and may be doing so partly or largely out of a desire to avoid having to do explicit marketing. Given the actual potential impact of "free" on people's mindsets, this is actually a legitimate option (see the many large businesses today that base their profitable business models on "free", e.g. Google).

I also really like 40hz's idea of small devs banding together. It reminds me of the old GoD game publisher ("Gathering of Developers"), though that is not exactly a success story. Wink I'm also fairly certain I've seen some examples of things like that, though I can't recall specific links or product names unfortunately. I think the important point though is that it's vital to remove as many barriers and inconveniences as possible from the act of transferring money from user to developer. The idea of allowing SMS/mobile phone payments is very interesting for example.

Regarding users guiding software development/features, this has been discussed elsewhere on DC before, and it has its pluses and minuses. I would think many devs would be wary of having their dev priorities fully - or perhaps even largely - driven by user demand (although at the same time many would probably agree that their work is already partly or largely driven by a "filtered" personal sense of user need). As hsoft mentions, sometimes unglamorous stuff needs to be worked on. However I do think something as simple as allowing donating users to vote on features (and not allowing non-donating users to do so) could be a good approach. Just because something is voted on does not mean it's going to happen, and not attaching money directly to the vote means it carries less load and expectation.

I'm also glad to see 40hz brought up the "most people don't care" point and that this prompted mouser's previously mentioned idea of a fixed price up-front with a "show me other ways to pay for this" option. I had forgotten about this idea but I remain very curious about it and I'd really like to see someone try it on an already successful app (so we have a basis for comparison). I agree with 40hz, it's a chance to do some real experimentation and put actual numbers to our speculations and feelings on these issues. mouser, how about it? Screenshotcaptor maybe?

40hz also brings up the oft-discussed "manifesto" idea. I like the idea in concept, and there are various pieces of philosophy already scattered around the site, but I wonder if trying to distill and clarify would necessarily leave some of the things people love here behind. How do you reconcile a site that offers specific software for download and "sale" (donation), as well as support on that software, with a site that is a more general software-and-tech-advice community that is so much broader than the software the site provides itself? Well, DonationCoder, that's how! But is it really working as best it could? Would a "manifesto" focus and improve things? Are there parts of the site and its activities that really are unnecessary or just not successful enough to bother maintaining? Sad to say, that might be the review stuff actually, but I hold a special place in my heart for that. Wink

Re: "humble indie bundle", after the success of the 1st one - if not even before that - I viewed it as somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Granted the circles I run in are much more aware of and into things like that, but I never heard any single game in those bundles described in anything but glowing terms. Many people I heard from who bought it already owned one or more games in the collection and had perhaps purchased them for even more than the average donation price of the HIB, but they bought again just to support it. One could say that was the exception to the rule but the success of the HIBs might indicate otherwise. Still I think the point that their success may simply be due to novelty and an unsaturated market is likely correct so it's not necessarily something to try to emulate, or if you do, try to get in early. It won't work forever I reckon.

- Oshyan

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Paul Keith
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« Reply #53 on: September 15, 2011, 12:27:38 AM »

I think one thing that should also be cleared up is how marketing does not need to be marketing in the sense of how modern business should do it.

For example: When a developer, who has their own site, posts their applications here to "share" - that's marketing.

I don't know how obvious the above example is but the beauty of marketing is that it does not need to be linked to sales efforts or to the intent of marketing.

Marketing is like graphical user interface design with extra-consideration for the end user. It's a way of communicating and better emphasizing how the tools can help an audience with less effort on the person's side to understand the manuals, the functionality...even the intent to buy.

In this sense, it's very possible to be a marketer without realizing that you're being a marketer.

All these is mute though if the developers have to guess for themselves how to communicate. Example, if no one tells me that I need to add a screenshot or fix some other thing in my post I might not have realized the problem.

This is really where the inherent system/group is supposed to alleviate many of the problems with intent.

Not to beat kickstarter into a dead horse but look at the interface:

You can separate the comments/complaints from the backers from the updates. Video is not only at the fore front but it's designed in such a way that the paused video can double serve as a screenshot. Not only that, the sidebar social proofs itself with little help from the submitters.

This doesn't mean Kickstarter should be the standards for donationware. If anything the site overall is mediocre. There have been multiple problems with not only getting people to fund a project but getting the distribution right and it's still a site that gives biases to those who are somewhat below the radar as opposed to totally unknown submitters. You can't even just totally jump into the site and submit something. (without reducing your chances of being funded)

...however it's a step towards eliminating some of the exposure problems without requiring random exposure from popular blogs...and I think this type of delivery system is the fundamental requirement.

Clarity...interesting product... how many examples have we seen in our lifetime of totally boring examples that make no sense to us, gain massive interest? Why recently a scarf brought down Target's site.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #54 on: September 16, 2011, 08:45:55 AM »

So Mozilla is releasing something called open badges:



Think this may affect both Donationware and Fairware?

http://blog.mozilla.com/b...og/2011/09/15/openbadges/

http://openbadges.org/
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superboyac
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« Reply #55 on: September 22, 2011, 02:43:58 PM »

It is an interesting approach. But I still think it's largely preaching to the choir.

From my experience, the general software using public doesn't care how much work or effort has gone into something. They generally expect to be charged for software. And, if given the opportunity, they'll often try to find a way to "borrow" a copy rather than pay for it. Which is why the so-called "honor system" doesn't work very well. This is something the Association of Shareware Professionals learned back in the 80s: If you don't REQUIRE a payment, you'd best not expect to be paid.

The Free Software crowd got around it by basically saying: Screw it! Here's some software. Use it..

There was a certain subtext in there that also that said: It would be really cool if those of you people who are using it could throw some dollars our way so we can continue to develop and refine this thing. But after that, they stopped worrying about it. And if enough people didn't help support their efforts, they stopped developing. It was pure Darwinism: Software which filled a genuine need got supported and survived. Software which didn't (or was of limited or special interest) either continued on as the self-supported  'hobby' project it was - or shut down.

At the core of this was the realization of a simple truth: People (mostly) only pay for what they need. They're far less likely (and willing) to pay for stuff they merely want. And, if given the opportunity to avoid paying at all, about 98% of the people out there won't. Which is why Microsoft developed Genuine Advantage - and we get to live with all the nonsense various other DRM mechanisms put us through.

What Fairware boils down to is yet another form of crowd-sourced project financing. But  this time with a fairly interesting and complex (and IMO slightly self-righteous) allocation system for distributing whatever funding is received.

 If experience is anything to go by, there won't be much to distribute for most projects.

I personally think Fairware is a great idea. Smacks a little bit of "old wine in a new bottle" but so what?  I wish them all the luck in the world getting it to fly. Thmbsup

But I also personally believe it's doomed.  Sad

(And I sincerely hope I'm wrong about that.)  smiley
 (see attachment in previous post)
i agree, especially with that last part.  On one hand, I want the developers to be successful, on the other hand, I know this strategy doesn't work (if the end goal is financial success).

If you want to make money, you have to create stuff that people NEED.  Just because something is amazing and cool doesn't mean people need it.  Just look at Apple: we all criticize their methods and their restrictions, but they addressed a need: people NEED computers that are STUPID EASY to use.  Did Apple create that need?  Maybe, which would make it even more genius.  But usually, companies address an existing need.  If you're so good that you can not only invent a need, AND you're capable of fulfilling that need, then you're just a cash cow.

But so often, we just want things, and we make things that we want.  Then we wonder why others don't want the same thing.  It's because we started out by just considering what we wanted instead of figuring out what people actually need.  Then we're frustrated at why people don't need this great thing that we wanted.  So we start trying to make people need it (called marketing).  But it's waaaay easier to first think about what people need before you start committing your time and money to it.  Anyway, this is what I've learned in my young business career.
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superboyac
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« Reply #56 on: September 22, 2011, 03:00:16 PM »

So I think this could solve the issue of scaring away the no-nonsense-just-want-to-click-buy people, which would help a lot.

I think this still leaves the most difficult nut to crack -- which is how do you deal with the problem where it takes 10x as much effort (and perceived risk) to donate vs clicking the button that says "i can't/won't donate".

I talk about the approach of trying to fix this in my essay as "work equalization" -- making sure that it's not so much easier to not donate compared to donating.

Right now this principle is used to give people free license keys so they don't have to pay for our software or see any nags -- by giving out a license key after you sign up and register.  But this does create some inconvenience and ill-will.

It's not an ideal solution because it annoys people.  It would be nice to find an alternative approach that wasn't so annoying to people but still achieved the goal of having some way to make people not choose the path of least resistance of not donating.
I would consider being a part of any software development team whose goal was to provide NEEDED software.  I have the resources for everything other than the programmers: funding, marketing, time, resources.  I also have a soft spot for programmers.  I'm very much for the idea providing profitable opportunities for young programmers either in school or freshly out and struggling with finding jobs.  I admire their talent and skills, and I hate it when they are turned down for opportunities simply because they lack a certain number of years of experience or some BS certificates or degrees.  I am very good at the business stuff, and I wouldn't screw you because I don't care for that, plus I have other things going on.  So please consider if you are interested.
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wraith808
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« Reply #57 on: September 22, 2011, 03:53:18 PM »

If they need it they will willingly pay isn't necessarily true, either.  Many people have a need for software that fills a niche, but they make do with other alternatives (of which there are always several) for the simple reason that people don't want to pay.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #58 on: September 22, 2011, 04:05:01 PM »

Quote from: superboyac
It's because we started out by just considering what we wanted instead of figuring out what people actually need.

To be fair though most Apple products don't create on the need but extend the needs to a want.

as you said:

Quote
people NEED computers that are STUPID EASY to use.  Did Apple create that need?  Maybe, which would make it even more genius.  But usually, companies address an existing need.  If you're so good that you can not only invent a need, AND you're capable of fulfilling that need, then you're just a cash cow.

If Apple is a generic company then that could apply but Apple w/ Steve Jobs isn't. Apple created a need then they revamp it into a want and then they have a model to transfer that want into a need. A need that often later helps them in their future endeavors.

Take the Ipod. It was arguably a need/want hybrid (or the need you are referring to) but then once Apple fulfilled that need, it started "updating" into a want. (The term I'm using for want)

Finally once it updated a "want", it redefined the "need". (The term I'm using for need.)

How did it do so? Once the Ipod fulfilled music, it attacked cuteness/portability/touch where as the competitors failed to quickly adopt to cuteness/portability/touch. Some even made the mistake of going for the audiophile market. Meanwhile Apple also used the Ipod to extend the brand where as others simply filled the marketplace with many products.

It's what makes Apple separate from many other companies. It's not that people don't develop needs, see skwire's software for example (that both fulfills a need but is easy enough for people who feel software is complicated to jump into). Anuran specifically could also have easily gone viral if the blogosphere wanted to give it the time of the day.

It didn't though not because of a lack of need but because it was simply part of skwire or DC's apps. It wasn't a business planned software that would slowly evolve itself into moving from PC to Ipad to Iphone to Android to Tech blogs...it was just an object that fulfills a need.

Apple on the other hand releases a good product and then instead of treating products as products, it's marketing strategy is not only based on the product nor the brand but to use the product to jump start the brand to make the next Steve Job's presentation high in hype for Steve Jobs to then hype the next product and for the next product to follow suit with another great need until it circles around it's customers like a cult and redefines their wants into needs turning Apple into a brand that "gets" the need when it really doesn't.

Example, I learned first hand this was a lie when I finally went to an app store and showed my parent the OSX demo and guess what? They couldn't get this. So much for: "people NEED computers that are STUPID EASY to use."

Albeit it's a poor example but almost everytime I interact with an Apple user (which isn't much so it's no good for an anecdote but still left me w/ an impression) they all come off to me like people who are actually people who NEED computers that are STUPID Pretty to use. Pretty and also deluxe feeling.

Almost everytime, I could ever actually meet an Apple user, they really seem to love how OSX looks. Even for group anecdotes, you often see Mac users complain that this application does not look correctly in a Mac. It's always look. That's not about ease. That's about design. Compare that to Windows or even Linux. Even those who customized these OSs to look pretty may use it because of a certain practicality or ease. With Apple, ease often seems baggaged with pretty. Not pretty as in pretty for most everyone but pretty as in like fashionable clothes where many don't like it but the person or the culture explaining it makes it seem like it's the raddest design with all the comfort in mind.

You could almost over-simplify Apple's success to the blogosphere. Apple is akin to a blog like Techcrunch that never sold out. It was easy/pretty/wonderful/fulfilling a need only because it constantly updated it's identity like many of the popular blogs. Over time this meant that more and more people went to it, knew the personal writers, ate up the numerous Twitter articles until Techcrunch became a pretty enough thing to sell even though from a straight criticism of it's fulfillment, it didn't really even fulfill the ultimate need for gossip or tech news. It was simply something that gained a following and continuously understood that it needs to keep feeding itself a certain way to become a certain celebrity product that it's users would extrapolate reasons for why it did great. Yet it's a house of cards that could easily fall into mediocrity just as when Steve Jobs first left Apple when it starts geting marketing upgrades wrong.
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superboyac
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« Reply #59 on: September 22, 2011, 04:34:57 PM »

If they need it they will willingly pay isn't necessarily true, either.  Many people have a need for software that fills a niche, but they make do with other alternatives (of which there are always several) for the simple reason that people don't want to pay.
I would politely disagree with this based on the definition of the term "need".  If there are alternatives that are free, then it's not really a need.  Financially speaking, a need is something you will HAVE to pay for if you want that thing.  Or else you will not be able to fulfill your need.  If you can fulfill your need with a free alternative, then that thing that costs something is not a need anymore, it's a want.

If you HAVE to have something and only one company makes it, then you will HAVE to pay for it.  That's a need.  Of course, if the price is so high that you will choose to not pay for it, then it's not really a need is it?  So this can quickly turn into a whole chicken/egg argument, but I'm not here to argue.  It's all life/death stuff.  A need is something that moves the bar away from death and closer to life.
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superboyac
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« Reply #60 on: September 22, 2011, 04:49:33 PM »

Paul, what you wrote just confirms to me more my philosophy on all this.  Forgive me if I don't sound pleasant, I'm not trying to be rude:
A poor businessman criticizes the desires or needs of the customers.  You are criticizing the fact that Apple customers care about the look of their stuff.  You are saying that looks are not important, and the features, functionality, flexibility, etc. is what matters (I would agree with you).  So as a businessman, if your perspective is one of criticism of the people who you want money from, how in the world are you going to get them to willingly pay for your thing?  This is what all of us pc guys say about the Apple people.  What we are really saying is "we like our way better, and you are stupid for liking your thing".  And it's perfectly fine to have strong opinions and to argue and stuff.  But if you want to sell stuff, don't argue with your customers.

So a good businessman, instead of arguing with his customers, will LISTEN to them and GIVE THEM what they want.  A GREAT businessman will be able to instill a great desire in his customers to want the exact thing he is providing.

That's where I feel all of us pc people are blindsided in the Apple vs. PC debates.  We keep wanting to tell the Apple people how stupid they are, how wrong they are, how Apple is tricking them to overpay.  We don't realize that the end result of all this is that we are making them feel shitty for wanting the thing they want.  Why do we have to be such assholes about it?  I speak from experience, this is not directed at anyone.  Obviously the Apple people know about PC's and they have made up their mind and chosen Apple over PC.  Just like we have made up our minds and have chosen PC over Apple.  Why do we have to make the other side feel bad about it?  Is it going to make us happy if we were somehow able to force Apple users to use something they didn't want?
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #61 on: September 22, 2011, 05:09:54 PM »

No, it's not unpleasant at all. I wholly agree with your premise.

I think if there's any disagreement, it's the line of words that you may feel semantic but I feel is due to my failure to commnicate well:

Quote from: superboyac
You are criticizing the fact that Apple customers care about the look of their stuff.

I think if it were this simple it wouldn't make sense for me to bring it up. At least I hope we both been talking enough here that we often read about what each other is saying.

I'm a casual user so especially for me I love and support aesthetics and if I was only criticizing Apple users for wanting something pretty, I wouldn't have written that long of a post just to showcase this simple point.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding but I'll just go down denying this trail for the sake of clarity:

Quote
You are saying that looks are not important

Nope. Not at all. It wouldn't match many of my posts in this topic - would not match the personality I've shown throughout DC.

Quote
and the features, functionality, flexibility, etc. is what matters

I'd go farther and say all these falls under looks too. You can't get usability if you ignore looks and think features, functionality and flexibility does not overlap with looks.

Quote
So as a businessman, if your perspective is one of criticism of the people who you want money from, how in the world are you going to get them to willingly pay for your thing?

Assuming equal resources and equal knowledge (or at least equal luck), use that criticism to create an alternative appealing product and once you get the thing down, look to see if you can steal some of your competitior's customers by adopting those things that they really want back into your product.

Quote
This is what all of us pc guys say about the Apple people.  What we are really saying is "we like our way better, and you are stupid for liking your thing".  And it's perfectly fine to have strong opinions and to argue and stuff.  But if you want to sell stuff, don't argue with your customers.

On the contrary, Steve Jobs is famous for making unpopular decisions. This video is not against his own customer but hopefully you get the idea.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF-tKLISfPE" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF-tKLISfPE</a>

Quote
A GREAT businessman will be able to instill a great desire in his customers to want the exact thing he is providing.

I disagree. You have to keep updating. Keep moving. More so than just making a company run.

A great businessman does not settle for what makes a good businessman though semantic this may seem especially coming from someone who has no business but IMO in the words of Jobs, strategy is different from ideology. You can't instill anything if you don't keep taking your customer into a place of not only sales but also loyalty and experience.

Quote
We keep wanting to tell the Apple people how stupid they are, how wrong they are, how Apple is tricking them to overpay.

I agree although ironically I'm not one of them. Sometimes you just have to say something that sounds anti-Apple even though it really isn't, you know?

Finally:

Quote
Obviously the Apple people know about PC's and they have made up their mind and chosen Apple over PC.

I still agree but I just think you need to stretch this out. Apple people don't know PCs. PC people don't know PCs. That's the beauty of it - especially for those who can do something about it.
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superboyac
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« Reply #62 on: September 22, 2011, 05:39:54 PM »

Paul, all I learned from that video is that Jobs is 100% focused on giving non-techie people EXACTLY what they want.  Another very revealing statement was this: his goal is to sell $8 billion - $10 billion of merchandise.  Notice his goal was not to improve technology or advance technology.  His thinking is this:
I want to make billions of dollars.
So I need to make something a lot of people will buy.
Who buys computer stuff?
Tech geeks and non-techie people who need computing equipment.
Which one represents a larger market?
The non-techies, probably by some orders of magnitude.
So what do the non-techies want?
Easy to use.  Simple.  Good looking end result.  They are confused by event he most basic techie terms, like RAM or CPU.  It's foreign to them.
So how can I make technology for the non-techies?
(and here is where he builds the imac, ipod, iphone, ipad, etc.)

In the meantime, the techies are popping boners over the 1432x765 resolutions, honeycomb builds, java compatibility, hdmi output, expandability, removable batteries.

This is all there is to it.  I'm not arguing here, I'm just telling you what he's thinking and where it is rooted in: billions of dollars.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #63 on: September 22, 2011, 05:43:52 PM »

To each his own I guess. I do feel you're a bit selling me short (and in turn selling your own point short) by taking my post as if I've only posted a video in reply but you have made your point previously and I have made mine so I don't think there's any need to quibble about it.
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superboyac
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« Reply #64 on: September 22, 2011, 06:13:16 PM »

To each his own I guess. I do feel you're a bit selling me short (and in turn selling your own point short) by taking my post as if I've only posted a video in reply but you have made your point previously and I have made mine so I don't think there's any need to quibble about it.
I am actually. Grin  Sorry.  It's just too long for me right now.  I'm trying to avoid these discussions because I always end up sounding like a condescending douchebag.

It is a subjective issue, I know that.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #65 on: September 22, 2011, 06:34:55 PM »

Lol, no problem. It's weird to hear you say that. Often times I'm the one called/implied this way in conversations and it's the first time I found myself hearing someone say they're on the side of that fence, it's really a weird feeling. Thanks for the convo though.
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40hz
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« Reply #66 on: September 22, 2011, 06:47:23 PM »

IMHO Apple is largely irrelevant to any technical or business discussion in that the sociological factors surrounding it have a far more significant bearing on its success than any of it's claims to creativity or technical excellence.

So beyond being the central subject in what might be a fascinating study of group dynamics and psychology (i.e. herd behaviors) and shared culture and belief systems (i.e. cult meme formation) I find studying Apple - as a business - to be a largely useless exercise.

Apple is a one-off.

It was in the right place, at the right time, and took significant risks - many of which paid off. And it created a unique and highly motivated entourage in the process.

It routinely gets commended for behaviors which would not be forgiven, let alone tolerated, were any other company to do the same.

Apple holds a uncommonly privileged status in the eyes of the world. Perhaps it's the only company in the world that does hold such status.

It's not the sort of thing you can plan for in business.

Or duplicate...

 smiley


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Paul Keith
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« Reply #67 on: September 22, 2011, 07:19:03 PM »

Quote
Perhaps it's the only company in the world that does hold such status.

Google, Facebook, Nokia, HP, Blackberry, cheap Chinese commodities (the latter not so much the status but the privilege)

Quote
It's not the sort of thing you can plan for in business.

It's not a direct comparison but I thought instapaper, Dropbox, the many white space of popular blogs, Angry Birds, Evernote/Springpad, Instagram, Twitter - all have something very Apple to them.

Not that I'm claiming these concepts all took and mainly planned to mimic Apple's business model but from an end user standpoint, there's enough usability feel to them that just like gamification, one can extrapolate something Apple-like in these things that are the cause for their popularity. Even going so far as fitting the sizzle to create a pop psych book laying out how you could duplicate partial Apple "magic" from looking at the similar patterns these examples provide to some of Apple's hardware/software designs/feature route.
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superboyac
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« Reply #68 on: September 22, 2011, 08:26:06 PM »

IMHO Apple is largely irrelevant to any technical or business discussion in that the sociological factors surrounding it have a far more significant a bearing on its success than any of it's claims to creativity or technical excellence.

So beyond being the central subject in what might be a fascinating study of group dynamics and psychology (i.e. herd behaviors) and shared culture and belief systems (i.e. cult meme formation) I find studying Apple - as a business - is a largely useless exercise.

Apple is a one-off.

It was in the right place, at the right time, and took significant risks - many of which paid off. And it created a unique and highly motivated entourage in the process.

It routinely gets commended for behaviors which would not be forgiven, let alone tolerated, were any other company to do the same.

Apple holds a uncommonly privileged status in the eyes of the world. Perhaps it's the only company in the world that does hold such status.

It's not the sort of thing you can plan for in business.

Or duplicate...

 smiley
Hmmm....food for thought!  Dammit 40!  My gut response is to ask, "Why can't it be duplicated?!"
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« Reply #69 on: September 22, 2011, 09:36:51 PM »

If they need it they will willingly pay isn't necessarily true, either.  Many people have a need for software that fills a niche, but they make do with other alternatives (of which there are always several) for the simple reason that people don't want to pay.
I would politely disagree with this based on the definition of the term "need".  If there are alternatives that are free, then it's not really a need.  Financially speaking, a need is something you will HAVE to pay for if you want that thing.  Or else you will not be able to fulfill your need.  If you can fulfill your need with a free alternative, then that thing that costs something is not a need anymore, it's a want.

If you HAVE to have something and only one company makes it, then you will HAVE to pay for it.  That's a need.  Of course, if the price is so high that you will choose to not pay for it, then it's not really a need is it?  So this can quickly turn into a whole chicken/egg argument, but I'm not here to argue.  It's all life/death stuff.  A need is something that moves the bar away from death and closer to life.

There are no *needs* in terms of software then, by that definition.  Show me a software package that there are no alternatives for that aren't incredibly niche so that the market is very small.  Even with that limitation, I know and have worked in some niches that are so small as to be almost nonexistent, and still there is competition.  I might restate it as you have to convince you client that they need your software.  But truthfully, by your definition, there is no one piece of software that is needed that there aren't alternatives for.
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« Reply #70 on: September 22, 2011, 10:40:09 PM »

Quote from: wraith808
There are no *needs* in terms of software then, by that definition.  Show me a software package that there are no alternatives for that aren't incredibly niche so that the market is very small.

This is not directed at me so I'm not sure superboyac agrees but to me these stand out:

Dropbox is middle on the road but in terms of it vs. it's alternatives - it's the only one that attacked it not from file storage but from file manager integration. This allowed them to ask for a higher price.

Evernote is still very early but when they shifted their design, it not only built their brand but now they have the most hardware partners for their niche + target audience and depending on how the demand evolves due to these new gadgets, they could still get away with an Evernote Suite or an Evernote branded hardware. Alternative wise, it's more of a negative. No notetaker/clipper as slow and as bad and as broken as this has gotten the model quite as right and have built a community quite as exposed as them.

Depending on where you side, MS Office Suite has never been challenged until Google did it and both cases were notable because they sidestepped the core Suite issue. Even if you side with the fact that these are major brands with their advertising, Google has had to attack the need of cloud storage rather than Office Suite to bypass this and MS had the intelligence to make things like MS Word the dominant need beyond even their own product in Wordpad/Notepad and almost everyone still see alternatives as the MS word interface and only nowadays with the Ribbon had MS attempted to eat away at Google's growing userbase. Even right now with arguably better alternatives like Zoho and Google losing somewhat in terms of focus, they have been constantly redefining and re-upgrading the spot where the want comes that it becomes close to a need.

The problem with speaking in niche though currently is that startups and this tablet transition skewers the opportunity somewhat. Instapaper for example may not be notable. It may be niche. Problem is, they have been one of the more well known niche service that killed social bookmarking and so now how do competitors compete in that space especially if the better product couldn't set forth a space because people are used to the Instapaper interface? There's a lot of these different mold-like developments right now that skewers what "need" really is and yet if you look at the direction of Apple - that's the direction they took too to get to where they are today. By platform building, they were both recreating their space and they are also giving everyone this space to compete within their space and right now it's not quite a need but long term, you're going to see a shift from software needs via hardware requirement needs, micro-payment like applications, less brand names and more brand platforms, and DLC, and it's going to redefine the need and whoever is the most strategic/ambitious  - the smaller niche pie is going to be the new big market on top of whether it's Apple or Google or if the old guard in MS releasing that next Windows platform.

Look at it this way - for the most part of the proliferation of the pseudo need space of many concepts, there was a concept that created the profits. Apple constantly got that wrong. Being more niche than you would think they are. But they also built it good enough. Unorthodox enough. Then they start releasing Ipods and then they move towards the Ipad store and suddenly just like newspapers whom became about yellow journalism, human interest, biased news reporting and sensationalism (all making news more profitable and watchable): software right now is heading more and more towards that different landscape. A landscape where need is closer to the profit way than the competitive battle to gain a better slice of the pie like what happens with the freeware/Open Source/freemium/subscription upgrades/etc model of the past/current. A landscape that, even now, is slowing making you lose out  - not because you currently have software needs but because you lack the hardware. Something that as it evolves would slowly turn into a software need much like Apple has done but this time within truer software space as opposed to the run about Apple has had because Apple originated more from a hardware setting with a more primitive history than the current scenario where everyone almost has hardware but they don't quite have the right hardware but the right hardware is gaining both popularity and closed gardens that makes it important for the need to be there.
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wraith808
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« Reply #71 on: September 22, 2011, 11:48:12 PM »

Quote from: wraith808
There are no *needs* in terms of software then, by that definition.  Show me a software package that there are no alternatives for that aren't incredibly niche so that the market is very small.

This is not directed at me so I'm not sure superboyac agrees but to me these stand out:

There are free alternatives to all of the ones that you mention, and there have always been.  To single out the biggest one on your list, Microsoft Office has not become the giant it is because you need it, nor because its the best, nor because there aren't alternatives.  They have become the largest because of marketing, and the ability to convince people that they need it.

And that's my point.  In software, there are very few that are actually needed.  But there are quite a few that convinced people otherwise, either through some sort of perceived characteristic.
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« Reply #72 on: September 23, 2011, 12:46:17 AM »

That only applies if you only ignore the software needs of the user.

Part of superboyac's point is that your alternatives is looking at it from categories and often tech categories.

It's not that the free alternatives are not there but the alternatives are not addressing the need.

Marketing can only answer a portion of it. Innovation, focus, usability...there's a lot there that is being missed out.

This is why in the Office Suite, I specifically aimed it at Word. Why is it that marketing couldn't do the same for notepad or wordpad? Not only that, why is it that a relatively marketing ignored OneNote was considered among the most innovative notetakers when it was released. Not only that, when it was released, there were no free or paid alternatives that were exactly like it. Even today I'm still not sure if there is one though the hype has died down in favor of Android/Iphone apps.

This doesn't mean the above are extremely good examples but the point is, your point does not conflict with superboyac's points. It only does so if we quibble on what "needs" truly mean. Not when it has actually entered the consciousness of the consumer. It also belies the fact that marketing can't solve anything. Google Wave had the marketing. Had the initial hype. It was killed off eventually.

It would be both an insult to marketing and to users to say that they are only being convinced. Part of it is perception but the key to perception is always to recover that perception and to recover that perception, especially for software, you have to engage both outside the software (the hype, buzz, etc.) then once it dies down you still have to have a feature that the user wants (the initial ui, the obvious feature) and then finally you have to have not only the long lasting combination of both that slowly turns the wanting user into a needy user but then you have to do so every update or find a way where people are just getting used to their ownership/perceived ownership of a product being updated and then continue to churn their interest.

Only when that circle of cult-like effect has been begun can you get to the proverbial "convince people that they need it" effect. (Key word in begin, as Apple is a good example of a brand that continues weaving it as opposed to just settling on the surface + beating the marketing through pure quantity of marketing/ad style exposure and linear upgrades.)

...and to get to that stage especially in competitive arenas, the actual software need has to be focused elsewhere while on the tech surface seeming like it's merely a "category" when in actually it's a different "intended" category. Sort of like movies. The difference between big budgeted well marketed movies that succeeds is often times those that failed simply tried to believe they are convincing people that the movie is a movie of this kind. The ones who often succeeded so much though were actually ones that can be argued as mainly aiming at a different actual need/want.

Example:

I'm not claiming he intended this but when you actually look at the effect of the Nolan Batman movies versus that of movies trying to be superhero movies, his movies fit that bill but what Nolan was actually offering at the time of Batman Begins was a decent departure from the perceived comedic Batman movies. Basically instead of focusing on the want/pseudoneed for a superhero movie, he focused on the pseudoneed for a decent Batman film and instead of adding the want on the feature, he added it to the casts and thus he didn't need to create the want after it's released. The need he focused on combined with the want of the consumer mixed to become a fulfilled want that seemingly wasn't there that further helped the marketing blow up the movie beyond what it is which further increased interest and not only profit hence producing a different type of convinced want that was so in demand that it became close to a celebration within it's circles. A celebration that in turn can be rationalized as a justified need for getting back superhero films into being profitable.

The Dark Knight was another example that had the Joker failed, it was just Batman in a bad voice in a generic summer film. Had the Dark Knight tried to fill the want/pseudoneed for a sequel to BB, it would have been the same disappointment. Because it didn't and focused on the want of a BB sequel but worked on the need for a next generation villain that caught everyone off guard - the Dark Knight became somewhat of a controversial classic and broke new grounds for a superhero film.

You could say, well Batman is unclonable but what about Iron Man? Many people felt like Jon Favreau was handed a movie that couldn't fail but it was just as much that Iron Man succeeded along with Batman despite being an entirely different film because Iron Man tried to be a technological masterpiece rather than a superhero movie. How did it do this? By not focusing on the actual quality of the movie or the storytelling but on focusing on a supposed need for making fans proud of the great casting and great special effects. You could argue that this was the obvious route to take but still, considering how lacking the Iron Man is and yet comparing it to how much it was praised? It's still somewhat of a trend setter in that it's still considered one of the better superhero movies. Most importantly is though is how it answered Why it did this like this. Had it been a more traditional superhero origins film, it would have associated itself with BB and because it was competing with the Dark Knight - being associated as BB Iron Man would have made the actual post-feel of the movie seemed inferior, dated or somewhat off in a bad way. Instead it was somewhat lacking yet garnered more praises even from those who criticize it.

All these are controversial of course but the superhero films are one of the most head scratching movie genres to get correctly. The ones who truly succeed at the box office often are stereotyped as ones who went away from the plotlines or feel of the comics when at the same time, the genres who try to be more of a comic also often get accused of ruining the characters it tried to represent where as these movies are seen doing justice to it's movie interpretation of the heroes - even though that's what comic book fans often are critical about before a well done film trailer hypes them out of it. It almost like no one truly gets it until they get it. Even for the recent blockbuster movies nowadays, read the critical reviews and watch the actual film, they are very lacking but in their lacking they become more highly praised. The ones with more traditional content and movie pacing are often the ones that are seen as very bad.

It's one of the most weird categories to nail down for movie makers and it's a genre whose alternatives can be considered aplenty but despite better technologies, it's also a genre that seems to keep falling on it's head especially for ambitious projects. Yet why is that? The answer is controversial but for me, like software design, one strong hint is this focus on actual needs. (Using superboyac's terms, not mine.) An actual need that is a mix of wants turned needs turned wants turned pseudo need turned brand success turned brand need turned brand convincing turned effective brand convincing because at the point it took place it had a loyal fanbase already and was trending turned brand again turned credit being given to charisma, marketing, intangible "personality" of the actual dev/maker/company/etc. post success turned the mythology for it's success. (I'm not trying to say your words should have been more specific though - just that it's a different kind of procedurial "need" - at least to my observation. One that can be credited to x company having intangible mojo, timing, un-duplicable something and yet something that has also been shown to be duplicable in small spurts that follows a certain focus on a specific direction not unseen even for the most ignorant consumers as often they are the ones who pick it up, and one that when it succeeds often seems to mess up the clones who try to follow it's categories that range from features to specs to usability but never seeming to capture that moment. I still don't want to just call it working on the users' needs [too simple; too many failed/middle range business fulfilling that but never getting past a certain exposure; too implicative of the idea that the customer knows what they want] but that's the term superboyac used.)
« Last Edit: September 23, 2011, 01:12:59 AM by Paul Keith » Logged

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40hz
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« Reply #73 on: September 23, 2011, 05:23:51 AM »

My gut response is to ask, "Why can't it be duplicated?!"

Three reasons.

Apple has enjoyed the benefits of:

  • Public tolerance and forbearance for most of its excesses
  • Unusual luck
  • An easily abused legal system



(1) Steve Jobs (and Apple by extension) is divine.

Divinities are usually held to be exempt from the rules that govern the lives of the non-gods. And as a general rule, society only tolerates one divinity at a time.

One of the reasons why Madonna got away with what she did for as long as she did was because she was the designated "bad girl." When Madonna misbehaved, society bent over backwards to justify it in the name of "art" and "creativity." Anybody else who attempted to copy her shtick too closely, or horn in on her bad girl act, was denounced. Because Madonna was Madonna. She had permission to carry on that way. Anybody else who did was considered a common "slut."

Steve Jobs is very much like Madonna in that regard.

Unfortunately, we eventually tire of our gods - and offer them up for sacrifice once we do.

Madonna went from being a 'sensation' to being generally scorned. And it happened virtually overnight.

Steve Jobs is not like Madonna in that respect.

At least not yet.  Wink


2) Being in the right place at a unique time.

Apple caught the leading edge of a radical and unpredicted technological change (i.e. the microprocessor) and rode it for all it was worth.

Full props to them for doing so. But that's not the sort of thing you can plan on happening.

And with the maturation of the industry and market, many of the profit niches have now been occupied. And most of the low hanging fruit has also been harvested. Which is not to say there still aren't fortunes to be made. But those newly entering the fray will quickly discover they'll have to climb higher - and shinny out onto much thinner branches - to do so.




3) Barriers to entry.

There are many.

But in this context, the single biggest barrier to entry is the advent of litigation as a key element in corporate competitive strategy. Patent and tort law are being widely abused in order to stifle innovation and prevent competition.

Apple may have gotten where it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. But they (like most of the other big players) are hell bent on making sure nobody else can follow their example.

And because it's become a mature industry, size and capital offer major advantages when dealing with the competition. Especially on the legal front.

          

If you truly do have an innovative technology you've developed, expect to either be bought out by one of the big companies - or sued out of existence.

This issue has been discussed so often that it's not necessary to say much more about it than that.

-----------

And it's for those reasons that I say Apple's game can't be duplicated. Cool



« Last Edit: September 23, 2011, 08:08:20 AM by 40hz » Logged

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wraith808
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« Reply #74 on: September 23, 2011, 06:09:30 AM »

Why is it that marketing couldn't do the same for notepad or wordpad?

They're free and MS includes them as a courtesy as part of the FS so they don't care about it?

This doesn't mean the above are extremely good examples but the point is, your point does not conflict with superboyac's points. It only does so if we quibble on what "needs" truly mean. Not when it has actually entered the consciousness of the consumer. It also belies the fact that marketing can't solve anything. Google Wave had the marketing. Had the initial hype. It was killed off eventually.

I wasn't quibbling on the word need.  My point was that need doesn't drive consumption necessarily.  In the other situations that you refer to (dropbox, evernote) it was marketing, also.  People discount marketing, then talk about the church of Jobs/Apple.  Truthfully, on an innovation level, they aren't doing anything differently than they have been for years.  It's all about the marketing.  Look at their history, and IMO its pretty clear to see.
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