Hearing the Concerns of a 20th Century Tech Survivor

This morning a visitor to my blog posted a rather interesting comment as a reaction to my purchase of Mori and Clockwork from Jesse of Hog Bay Software. The writer isn’t a current customer, nor was he aware when the transaction occurred. So being in the market for notepad and organizer software (digital notebook), he was naturally cautious regarding which product to purchase. The reasons why I’m publishing his comment as this blog entry rather than leave it as a comment are, first of all, he’s expressing a sentiment shared by many visitors which I wanted to address again to reiterate my commitment to the products purchased from Hog Bay Software, and secondarily, he expresses a rather alarming state of mind which technology purchasers now have and which I wanted to bring to your attention: customers are quite gun-shy when it comes to making technology purchases in this day and age, expecting very little in terms of stability, lifetime, and service and support by the provider.

As a result of a business climate which values short-term gains and maximizing profitability and privileges at minimal cost, and a society which celebrates independence and adversarial relationships over cooperative ones, (Over the course of a week, measure the quantity of media impressions you would classify as self-indulgence, community, conflict and cooperation to which you subject yourself.) buyers no longer expect to be able to engage with the people in the supply chain of the goods they purchase and use, nor that those people will actually stand behind those products.

Most people are willing to accept a loss and chalk it up as a lesson learned rather than assert their rights and demand to be treated as more than someone else’s ATM. You should be able to tell when a relationship puts you at a disadvantage, when to impose upon your relationship partner to meet your own needs, and how to work out differences in understanding. If you’re unwilling to fight for your interests, how do you expect anyone else will? Don’t put it off hoping someone else will know and anticipate your every need. And if you see that your prospective partner has significant failings in the way it treats other customers, it’s wiser to accept the short-term pain by not adopting his technology than it is to delude yourself that you’ll get better treatment. Eventually, tech companies will learn to value their customers more highly than they do their marketing partners.

Here’s his comment. My reply follows.

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Author : Don (IP: n.n.n.n , dslnnn-nnn-nnn.xxxx.xxx.X.net)
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Comment: Just discovered Mori. Looks great on first glance. But I’m hesitant to spend $39 on an app that’s just changed hands. And even more important than the money is the possibility ones “life” – notes about an enormous myriad of stuff, could become useless in the future. It wouldn’t be the first time such a change went well and smoothly, perhaps even improving substantially over time, but it also wouldn’t be the first time one didn’t (or even that an app went downhill in both functionality and level of bugs).

I had such an experience, about eight years ago, when the makers of PaperPort and the software that went with it (I should have guessed that having one company make the hardware and another the software was a recipe for disaster) failed to to offer software for the then-new OS X. This was after I invested in several copies and we converted our office, as much as possible, to scanning and filing all paper documents using the system. Many hundreds of hours went down the drain with their self-serving decision, and our easy access to the old data went with it. And we had to go back to dealing with paper.

There were a number of similarly worrisome user comments in your forum. My take: Good, that you were willing to leave them there – shows integrity. But your “base” is going to be mighty nervous until you (1) answer all relevant posts promptly and (2) actually get a track record in moving forward on product updates and bug fixes. And inheriting a product that apparently has as part of its plusses an expectation that it will be modified by user consensus makes the weight all the more heavy!

So I’ll watch to see what happens in the next 30 days before I decide to migrate our ways of organizing much of our data toward Mori.

It looks promising. Good luck to you. I wish you success.

I certainly understand your apprehension in risking an investment in time and effort in moving your firm to a software product, let alone one which recently changed hands, and is now published by a tiny, tiny software outfit (microISV). Considering the issues certainly is a demonstration of wisdom on your part and requires a disclosure of the facts on mine.

I purchased Mori from Jesse because it represented a savings of substantial time on my part in developing a system I have had in development for some time. So I’m not abandoning the vision of my ideal system (which Mori is still quite short of) by dropping the product or not furthering its development.

The actual risk assumed by Mori’s customers (as with any microISV) is that I am somehow incapable of continuing development and my heirs are unable or unwilling to do so in my stead. The saving grace in such circumstances is that ownership of Mori and Clockwork will revert to Hog Bay Software. This is quite a distinction that Mori enjoys over comparable offerings, in that its survival is assured by contract.

Issues of future compatability have always been a concern for technology. While the differences between Tiger and Leopard are much smaller than those between Mac OS 9 and X, current releases of Mori and Clockwork are known not to work on Leopard and won’t be rectified until the night of its release, at the earliest. (Let’s pray there are enough copies of Leopard available on its release date so I don’t have to physically harm anyone to deprive them of same.)

The question of our expectations for future technology persists through any purchase cycle. It was present when I decided Jesse’s work on Mori and Clockwork sufficiently corresponded to my goals to make the investment. It is present when someone selects the software on which to run a website (Apokalypse has four main CMS packages, with several versions, on which its various web properties are run, so I understand the frustration caused by a lack of interoperability and upgradeability.), purchases a new computer system, etc. It is a sad fact of the current state of technology that until it’s advanced enough to adapt itself, we cannot hope to be certain that our choices will continue to match future needs. The best course of action is to select technology which will serve our needs for the present and next three to five years, and ensure that there is some bridge to preserve our investment should we find that the chosen technology has hit an evolutionary dead-end.

To address that issue, and overcome such objections, Mori will have better export options in the post-v1.7 future. As for the present, my continued development of Oneill (Mori v1.7) has revealed further bugs in the v1.6 branch which will see an additional bug release to rectify them for current users. This v1.6.4 release will ship before Leopard, but I don’t expect it to resolve the incompatibilities with it.

You’re welcome to continue monitoring the progress of Apokalypse’s products. Honest questions and discussions are welcome here and the forums. It’s unreasonable to expect customers to have confidence in what a company does if its employees and principals don’t, which is why I make rare exception to letting comments remain on the forum which aren’t euphoric or gushingly pro-Apokalypse. As the line in 1776 goes, “The king is a tyrant whether we say so or not. We might as well say so.” Public perception of my commitment to my offerings will be echoed through other locations on the Internet regardless of any posturing on my part. So I might as well permit them here, where I (and hopefully future employees) have a duty to read and respond to them, and those who’ve invested their time, effort and money in support of Mori and Clockwork (and all future Apokalypse products) can trust their concerns and sentiments are reproduced accurately and honestly and answered in a similar spirit, respecting their intelligence and value to the community. Thus I won’t attempt to dismiss the forum postings which you characterize as worrisome as I recognize their concerns as legitimate when it seems as if there’s noone responding to customer needs. To that end, I’ve made my contact information more publicly accessible. (Now I just need to remember to properly set my status messages as necessary!)

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