Mori Outliner Development Path, Clockwork Upgrade Plan, Mac Shareware MarketQuake

A brief update on developments as more customers have been querying, via private correspondence, the status of Mori and Clockwork.

What’s Going On?

Besides cooperating with other small Mac software developers on the MacToSchool software bundle (get over $300USD worth of great software at $49.95 for school, research or just work) and its promotion, I’ve been trying to kill that continuing bug of the disappearing toolbar icons. Its solution has eluded me, but I’m either going to get it corrected today via a hack, or correct it in a restructuring of the Blocks plugin support as part of the v1.7 update.

The v1.7 update is two months past my original release plan and I’m not prolonging it any further. I will be posting the development versions in a special projects version called oneill, where the brave may play with it and see how it’s progressing. While the features promised in the plan are still scheduled for inclusion, the main emphasis on the first releases in this branch is on improving the UI and outlining features.

Clockwork v1.5 is also overdue for an update, but my ambitions for that release are not as great. Support for regular alarm clock functionality will be paramount, as will UI enhancements.

I still have my own project which I was preparing to release when the opportunity to take over development of Mori and Clockwork arose. More news next week.

Where Am I?

If you need to get in touch with me, there are the fora and email. However, I can also be found online on the Freenode IRC network inhabiting #macsb. My nick is huperniketes.

What Just Happened?

VersionTracker has been bought by CNET, the folks who survived the dotcom burst by doing a lot of consumer electronics stuff and turning into the online version of the seedy classifieds of an alternative paper. They also run the software sites and It’s to be expected that a large public company tries to reduce the competitive landscape to enhance its properties. They might even be able to achieve success in the Mac market as a result of this purchase.

Unfortunately, the history of large companies buying smaller ones typically ends in misery for the smaller firm’s customers. (A concern voiced by this blogger’s customers after acquiring Mori and Clockwork from Hog Bay Software. However, Jesse’s organization is slightly larger as I have no cats.) Changes are made to meet parent company objectives and offerings are cancelled or shuttered to keep from cannibalizing sales from the parent’s main operations.

Why this concern over VT’s sell-out? Software publishers gain new customers due to publicity found on news sites, blogs and most of the time, software directories such as VT. Their traffic is over twice that of MacUpdate, which is more than twice that of iusethis.

In addition, CNET doesn’t provide its database of software as a resource for users and developers to be a good corporate citizen. It’s a profit center. And sometimes, profit centers enact policies to increase revenues at the expense of its community. Not only does CNET derive ad revenue from and its sister site, but they’re happy to charge developers up to $100USD per month to update their software listings. That’s for overnight updates, mind you. It’s free if you’re willing to wait, but it can take up to six weeks according to their promotional packages page.

Many VT paying customers have expressed their displeasure, stating they’ll not renew their subscriptions. My coopetitors in the #macsb channel on IRC consider to be a non-issue, but with its traffic being more than seven times VT’s, and its larger resources, it will affect the distribution channel. In short, CNET is aiming to expand its involvement in the Mac market in a big way, and taking out the biggest third-party resource for Mac software is the way to do it.

We’ll see how this pans out.

Louis Vuitton Must Now Save the People of Darfur (Or At Least Try To)

Social Marketing analyst Jeremiah Owyang has posted an interesting tale of artist Nadia Plesner’s hijacking of Louis Vuitton’s luxury goods brand to help raise funds for Save Darfur’s “Divest for Darfur” campaign.

As I wrote on Jeremiah’s blog,

Luxury brands do not have the luxury of remaining silent. They are the expressiveness of the well-heeled, for whom verbalizing, I’m richer than you is a sign of a lack of refinement. So LV is *required* to publicly react in this case.

Their best option would be to sponsor a forum in which the global community can participate and engage with the local Darfur community and any and all who are engaged in the atrocities or can act to prevent it; a forum which (it is hoped) effects a change, but in which, at the least, participants feel as if they’re doing something. After all, a brand which symbolizes wealth *and* power is able to wield quite a bit of both itself.

The real dilemma for a brand which positions itself as a symbol of wealth and prestige, is how to present its position on non-lifestyle topics. To say you represent the constituency of wealth and influence, yet are unable or unwilling to exert either for social and political issues is preposterous. To choose to remain out of the “conversation” regarding these matters is to invoke the legend of Marie Antoinette, who when she was told the peasants of France had no bread (according to the legend), said, “Let them eat cake.” It indicates a shallowness of character, indifference to world affairs, impotence or fear of loss, none of which can be considered admirable traits and thus worthy of public expression by the upper crust. And to be directly hostile to efforts to assist the victims of genocide is to support the perpetrators of this outrage.

No, Louis Vuitton must demonstrate their ability to act on behalf of the victims and those who would assist them, or acknowledge that they are incapable of effecting any change and allow their brand to be repositioned as the symbol of a lack of influence, power, scruples and/or purpose.

I suppose it’s fitting that Paris Hilton has become the face of Louis Vuitton.

Engineer, Marketer and Customer: Roles a Technology Entrepreneur Must Understand

For an entrepreneur, particularly a one-man shop like a microISV, the problem of product development is one of what to produce and the feature mix it should have.

The problem is that there are different cultural values that could be represented by a product. Not just the obvious geographical, ethnic, age and gender cultural values, but values which are more subtle, and reflect an individual’s vocation and skill set more than any genetic or environmental demographic factor. These are reflected in the ways an engineer, a marketer and the customer think about a product’s design.

The Engineer
The engineer is a problem-solver. His main interest is in using his tools to build solutions.

He thinks in terms of his solution to a problem versus the previous method. Ergonomic and aesthetic qualities are not considerations for the engineer, features are. Features. Options. Variability. He’ll look to add other components to his solution so it solves a wider range of problems and is thus more useful (volume, speed, duration, size, angle, etc.). Adapting his solution for other uses though, will throw the engineer into bewilderment. “Why would you want that?”

The engineer who makes use of a variety of tools to solve his problems will build solutions to others’ problems in the same way: a plethora of tools in a variety of qualities.

The Marketer
The marketer is a persuader and influencer. His main interest is in getting his message adopted by the customer.

Because the marketing department is one of the few which are customer facing, they generally have a sense of what issues their current customers face, what they need, what price point they’ll tolerate, etc.

Due to his preoccupation with perceptions and feelings (prestige, security, intelligence etc.), the marketer’s input on product designs focuses mainly on the physical attributes (e.g., color choices, materials, textures) that will reflect qualities that bestow intangible or perceived value to the user.

The Customer
The customer is a doer and a responder: performing his routines, following his processes. He may be looking for a solution to some problem he’s currently facing (e.g., new car, faster time-to-market, rising prices). Or, as is most often the case, he may not realize there’s a problem to which someone will happily sell him the solution.

While he might rationalize his decisions with some logical arguments (takes less space, improves productivity, etc.), it is for the emotional value (trendiness, security, etc.) of owning the product for which he actually chooses.

Putting it into Perspective
This difference in perspective is vital for the microISV to know and understand in developing his products, as the tool which was developed to solve his problem is often not what the general buying public will want. Engineering a solution is one thing. Creating the want for the solution is what business is about.

In the Mac market, this conflict in viewpoints is easily demonstrated in the topic of “Delicious Generation” applications.

Many of the indie developers/microISVs developing for the Mac have criticized the arrival of apps which they have denounced as all flash and no substance. Apps such as Disco, whose designers put more emphasis on the visual quality of the product (to the extent it rendered smoke effects when burning a CD or DVD) rather than the functionality it provided, are seen as providing very little value to the consumer. These developers have a dislike for the hype surrounding these types of products, seeing them as distractions from real needs which can be solved by more functions, options, and the like.

An interesting counter-reaction was given by John Gruber in his presentation Consistency vs. Uniformity in UI Design at the C4[0] Mac developer conference, however. His description of Disco? “That’s f—— gorgeous!”

The lesson for entrepreneurs, indie developers, and anyone overseeing development of a new product: while engineers may carry the bulk of the responsibility for developing the technology that goes into your product, until machines start buying products, or your target market isn’t other engineers, you must rein in their enthusiasm to over-engineer. Think about how you’ll market the product first. Understand what the customer is motivated to want to buy. Bring them into the discussion as early as possible. Then you can engineer a solution within that envelope.

Describe. Develop. Deliver.

As I was putting the finishing touches on this entry (links, pics, and such), I came across this fabulous example.