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Author Topic: What do I do now?  (Read 6501 times)

objective

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What do I do now?
« on: May 15, 2006, 04:15:51 PM »
What do I do now?
Greetings donation coders!

In 1988, I completed a masters degree focused in analytical cytometry.  My education consisted of overseeing a project to develop, document and test an electroporation instrument (used in molecular biology to help DNA pass into cells).

After graduation, I continued the work in IT that had helped me work my way through school.  Back before US companies figured out that third world slaves from China etc worked for orders of magnitude less than free Americans, who are aware of labor laws, Constitutional laws and human rights, I was pulling down a healthy living doing software quality assurance on network instrumentation for a major manufacturer.  Over the years, I learned "bits" of C++, and when things were slow, I worked on a program that I had always wanted when I was a student. 

To make a long story short, the program is done (yeah right - saleable) now, and I am trying to figure out the best way to earn some money from it (that nest egg I put away during the good times is almost completely scrambled).

I suspect that many of you will advocate accepting donations for my work.  However, I am not sure that this is the correct approach any more than I am sure that the classic shareware registration approach is correct, or even direct sales on-line, or licensing to a box maker (I really do not want to do that). 

I do not want to get rich - just feed my family (it would be OK to be kind of rich, but really rich people need to pay strange people like me to live with them to take care of their houses etc.).

I need information about the following:

1. Relative benefits of freeware/donations, shareware/registration, direct sale (you must pay on-line to get the program without a trial),
    a. suggestions/information about registration/installation software products

2. employing website advertising as a means of increasing income and
     a. tips and tricks
     b. things to avoid

3. incidental sales (selling related hardware products for a profit from the same website where my program is available for free, shareware registration or direct sale). 

My customers are college students, college student parents, college bookstores and those who purchase graduation gifts. 

My goal is to minimize the amount of time I need to spend working with my website/orders so that I can write new code and return to my preferred use of my time - in depth study of information systems in the context of the Shannon Continuous Channel, and the design and development of global cooling devices (we can all start by putting a mirror - or even better a photovoltaic panel - on our south facing roof).

You appear to have a community of experts, and I look forward to your responses.

Thanks.
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature can not be fooled."  Richard Feynman in his Minority Report to the Roger's Commission Report on the Crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

mouser

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2006, 04:25:49 PM »
first of all, welcome to the site :)

it sounsd like donationware is definitely not something i would recommend -
it's a huge amount of work and no way to make money.

so i'm not going to be a great one to give you advice.  but there are some shareware coders here who might be able to advise you better in that direction.

but i hope you will keep us informed about what you learn, and i look forward to reading any replies from people who know a little bit more about the business end of software.

objective

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2006, 04:38:49 PM »
Thanks mouser, perhaps more than anything else, I appreciate honesty! 

We live in such a strange world - even though we are all in this life on earth thing together - we employ cutthroat competition rather than mutually beneficial cooperation.  Imagine how different life on earth would be if we all worked together as a team for the common good, rather than competing with each other over the scraps of what we tear to pieces in service to our personal goals. 

Perhaps someday...
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature can not be fooled."  Richard Feynman in his Minority Report to the Roger's Commission Report on the Crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

nevf

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2006, 05:53:03 PM »
Objective, forget about donations and free. Make the price as high as possible. Put together a clear, to the point Web site. If possible get a professional to design it. If not find a good template. If your software is aimed at professionals then the site needs to be professional.

Offer and deliver great support. Promote yourself and your product in places where your prospects hang out. eg. Forums, blogs etc. Ensure your product removes pain that people have. Ensure it looks and feels good, is robust, has good documentation etc.

Get peers to review your product and your site. Listen carefully to their feedback, especially folks that have been in the business for some time. The "Business of Software" forum is a great place to hang out, gather wisdom and get advice. Start by wading through the current posts and archives, Check out the other uISV sites mentioned there.

HTH and best of luck in your endevours.
Neville Franks, "Save anything you see on the Web or on your PC" with Surfulater

objective

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2006, 07:53:38 PM »
nevf wrote (parsed):

1. Objective, forget about donations and free.
2. Make the price as high as possible.
3. Put together a clear, to the point Web site.
4. If possible get a professional to design it. If not find a good template.
5. If your software is aimed at professionals then the site needs to be professional.

6. Offer and deliver great support.
7. Promote yourself and your product in places where your prospects hang out. eg. Forums, blogs etc.
8. Ensure your product removes pain that people have.
9. Ensure it looks and feels good, is robust, has good documentation etc.

10. Get peers to review your product and your site.
11. Listen carefully to their feedback, especially folks that have been in the business for some time.
12. The "Business of Software" forum is a great place to hang out, gather wisdom and get advice.
13. Start by wading through the current posts and archives,
14.  Check out the other uISV sites mentioned there.

nevf - THANK YOU for your thorough response. 

1. Check
2. As high as possible - I will ask my beta testers what they would pay.
3, 4, 5. Professional web site: short, sweet and targeted to the customer
6. Great support - had not thought about that as a selling point/value segment
7. Already in the plan - such as it is
8.  WOW - excellent point - the software will (can) remove pain (if used), but I would never have thought about emphasizing that point. 
9. I am trying to tailor it to my market segment (pre-college teens), and as a former software tester and documentation writer (now a lost art), have worked very hard on the help and operational documentation - and upon the advice of a target segment tester - have greatly improved access to the documentation.
10. Peers (software programmers) have stated that the software looks good, but universally appear to seek to minimize expectations for income due to today's software market
11. These embedded systems guys are smart, but I hope they are wrong about the incapability of current market conditions.
12, 13, 14. Will do - soon.

Thanks again for your thorough response. 

Do you have any suggestions regarding financially accessible software to provide registration functionality and/or make installation executables?

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature can not be fooled."  Richard Feynman in his Minority Report to the Roger's Commission Report on the Crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

nevf

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2006, 04:48:23 PM »
Quote
Thanks again for your thorough response. 


Pleasure.

Quote
Do you have any suggestions regarding financially accessible software to provide registration functionality and/or make installation executables?

I use and would recommend eSellerate to handle purchasing and licensing. But there are lots of alternatives. For installers I have used Wise forever, however there are good free alternatives. One is NIS - Nullsoft Installer. I think that's right.
Neville Franks, "Save anything you see on the Web or on your PC" with Surfulater

objective

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2006, 09:51:47 AM »
Thank you again nevf - you are a veritable wellspring of useful information!
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature can not be fooled."  Richard Feynman in his Minority Report to the Roger's Commission Report on the Crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

JavaJones

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2006, 12:30:33 AM »
Hmm, is there a reason you're being vague about the actual product on offer? I don't know that I could offer any better advice if I knew, but it just seems odd advising in such a general way.

In any case I think a lot of good stuff has already been covered. Good support and user interaction can be extremely helpful. If it's appropriate, providing a support forum for your users can also be a cheap and very effective way to simultaneously lighten your own support load and build community, which most people appreciate. It's always good to see an active community around a piece of software.

For registration functionality I would recommend coding your own. There are ready-made solutions out there, but most I know of aren't really worth the cost. You're never going to outright prevent piracy but if you spend a little of your own time putting together a simple registration name hashing system and program registration functionality, you can save yourself some money and have a system that is just as effective for 99% of cases where it matters. You might want to find a registration processor first however as I believe many of them will auto-generate keys for you, and you may have to script your key generator to match their system.

I don't have personal experience with any registration/payment processors, but some of the products I use and enjoy have chosen http://www.worldpay.com/, http://www.kagi.com/index.php, Paypal (usually requires more work on your part), http://www.digitalri...orporate/index.shtml, etc.

Finally, installation systems. I strongly recommend you do not go with MS's installer or really any of the pay solutions. In my (admittedly limited) experience they are just not worth the money. There are highly functional free systems like Nullsoft Installer, Inno Setup  and GKWare (free version available).

Best of luck!

- Oshyan

objective

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2006, 12:28:04 PM »
The software is just general purpose software to assist the first year college student. 

Thank you for your response - now I have even more good information!
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature can not be fooled."  Richard Feynman in his Minority Report to the Roger's Commission Report on the Crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Jan-S

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2006, 03:33:37 PM »
In order to protect the software from being cracked, you may consider offering a freely downloadable demo version with some features disabled (i.e. the related code is not even compiled into the demo) and offer the full version for customers only. This is simple, but uncrackable, and if your program is not bigger than a few MB, hardly anyone will be annoyed because of having to download it again after purchasing it.

Registration service: I'm quite happy with share-it. If you take the time to code a script that handles the software delivery (i.e. generates an account for your download area), you don't have any work with processing the registrations. Share-it even offers to automatically deliver the full version of your program by email or by generating a temporary download link.
I think most other services mentioned above offer such functionality, too.

Advertising: Try Google AdWords. You can start with a small daily budget and the minimum bid (cost-per-click). Make sure to address potential customers, and only potential customers - your target is not to lead as many people as possible to your website, but to lead interested people to your website. Otherwise you will end up paying for visitors who didn't want to spend money anyway. E.g. you should use specific keywords, exclude the term "freeware" from your keywords and don't use an advertising text in the sense of "Great program for anyone! Click Here!"
Jan Schl├╝ter, author of DoubleKiller and DoubleKiller Pro

JavaJones

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2006, 09:09:57 PM »
Great advice from Jan-S, for sure. Especially re: advertising (many people make the mistake of "the more visitors the better!" when what you really want are *interested* visitors) and re: download of full version only after reg.

- Oshyan

mouser

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2006, 09:12:50 PM »
the one thing i'd disagree with above is the comment about making your own registration/protection system..

we made our own just because we have special needs and dont care too much about preventing people from illegally using our programs since the motivation for them to do so is so minimal.  but if you are serious about protecting your software, i would not recommend using your own homemade system.  the work involved cannot possibly justify the outcome.  id recommend something like asprotect, armadillo, execryptor, etc.

i'd also suggest you consider carefully how much you want to worry about such issues..

just keep in mind that while jan-s makes a good point:
Quote
In order to protect the software from being cracked, you may consider offering a freely downloadable demo version with some features disabled (i.e. the related code is not even compiled into the demo) and offer the full version for customers only. This is simple, but uncrackable..

but you might also want to listen to zaine's rant in the last podcast against crippleware (http://podcast.donationcoder.com), since it discusses the downside/caveats to bear in mind when taking this approach.

you need to strike a balance between protecting your program and making life pleasant for your real users.

remember that your objective when selling software is to find those potential happy customers and get them as customers.  the hardest part is almost always letting these people know about your software and convincing them to give you a look.  so make that your #1 concern.  everything else should serve that.  if protecting your software prevents a few people who never were going to buy your software anyway, while alienating real potential customers, then you've failed.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2006, 09:18:17 PM by mouser »

JavaJones

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2006, 09:17:49 PM »
Why though? You can code a simple "enter serial # otherwise the software doesn't work" system fairly quickly. It only takes time when you try to make it clever. But the only people you're trying to beat by doing so are the crackers who you can not beat. Period. If enough people want something badly enough it will be cracked. It doesn't matter what the protection is.

I don't know, maybe the solutions you mention are worth the cost and not that expensive. I just remember my days at a games publisher and our company spending 100's of 1000's of dollars on Safedisc and similar systems and seeing our games come out the day they were released, or even earlier. There was a general Safedisc crack for a long time and we were still releasing games using it. It just seemed like such a total waste of money.

I've known several authors who have made their own systems and it seems to have worked well for them. But again if any of the systems you mention are not stupidly expensive than they may be worth it. Just keep in mind I am not suggesting programming a similar system on your own. I am saying that it doesn't matter whether your system is simple or complex, it deters the same level of user, and the rest will get your software if they want to. :D So you might as well use a simple system that is inexpensive or free, whether you code it yourself or not.

- Oshyan

mouser

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2006, 09:21:30 PM »
i would agree with most of your comments, but the programs i mentioned are all in the $100 - $300 range.
think about how long it would take you to write a reasonable system and what that means you are paying per hour.
lots of programmers enjoy writing their own registration/protection systems, and if thats the case, then go for it.

my main advice to people would be - don't worry so much about it.  save yourself some energy and buy one of the commercial products for < $300 and dont waste your energy being overly paranoid.  if some people get your software for free they aren't likely to be potential customers and so they aren't worth your worries.  concentrate on getting out the word to your real potential customers instead.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2006, 09:23:05 PM by mouser »

JavaJones

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2006, 12:16:01 AM »
Yep, good advice. I checked out the prices after I posted and they are quite reasonable methinks. I wasn't aware of those before, so I stand corrected. :)

- Oshyan

objective

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Re: What do I do now?
« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2006, 09:55:00 AM »
Thank you one and all!
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature can not be fooled."  Richard Feynman in his Minority Report to the Roger's Commission Report on the Crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger.