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What Happened To Supermike?

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supermike's picture
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So what happened to me?

I'm taking a break to relax. A big load has just lifted off my shoulders. I'm on my way to financial freedom.

Well, besides a painfully severe reddit addiction, the wife gave me an ultimatum to get this 4 year CRM software project written by the end of February 2007.

I'm now down to the last 2 minor features and then it's serious bug fixing time for the app. After that, it's the installer, docs, GPL licensing (Q&A plus implementation), LLC incorporation, website, and whatever else needs to take place after that.

Here's what makes this CRM unique:

  • The 4 years was also a time of study, where I watched user reaction to an early alpha, conceptual fork of the app, and learned what worked and what didn't, and what users wanted or didn't care about. All of that interest has been put into the final app.
  • Most CRM products are designed as if they are finished products. They put an unbelievable amount of bells and whistles into their app so that they feel that no stone is left unturned. Unfortunately with such a design you end up with a complex mess that no one wants to extend. Since no CRM fits all and every CRM must be customized, this complexity does not help the cause of most CRM products. My CRM, on the otherhand, was designed through careful study. It has the least amount of features I feel it needs in order to fit in many environments, and the programming under the hood is designed so that one can get started immediately in understanding how to extend it.

Meanwhile, I had to upgrade the app as I went. I felt it needed CSS "skins" because people get tired of looking at the same old app every day. It needed a sort of Web 2.0 look to make newer users appreciate it more. (It doesn't have AJAX in it at this time, but that may come in a later release.) I felt it needed a complete rewrite from scratch at least once, and then I ended up rewriting it two more times beyond that! It needed a search engine, a report tool, a knowledgebase, a project calendar, a customer rolodex with ticket linkage, a billing system, a way to grab a set of tickets at once, a web-based admin system, and linkage to a department intranet. And there are other small features inside that simply make the product a delight to use such as recently edited flags to let you know what stuff someone has worked on recently, or a similar tickets feature to try and match keywords of existing resolved tickets to what work you've done with a ticket.

supermike's picture
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For those of you wanting to

For those of you wanting to start an online business selling other services and packages with your free, open source software, it's a good idea to bootstrap your business to hedge your bets. I've read two articles today that are very uplifting and I think you should see them:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/3928955a28.html

Computer World article

So, here's some great ideas for bootstrapping:

(But first, don't quit your day job. Let your moonlight job literally pull you away from your day job and only go when it's logical and you can forecast it lasting a couple years like this. I should know -- I once quit my day job to found a startup company and I survived like that for 6 months, doing very nicely, before I hit a major dry spell and had bad sales forecasts. Luckily a friend had an outrageous deal with a startup company that had received some huge injection of startup capital, and I jumped on that deal, instead. But now I'm working for a huge global financial firm and being heavily underpaid. So now I'm looking again at the option of starting another startup.)

- Sell your web product on a bootable USB Thumb Drive (even if just a low-powered version of your app that lets someone try your product out) and make a small profit. In addition, you could be opening the door for that customer to take you seriously because you gave them a hassle-free way to try your product out in their office. In other words, you put something like Ubuntu Server on a USB Thumb Drive and install your web software and database. Then, when it boots up, make it find out its DHCP client address and display that on a non-GUI screen with instructions that other users can now connect to this server with their web browser to see what your product is like.

- Make more than one kind of software package. Yes, focus primarily on at least two big projects, but go build some other websites and host some of your smaller projects too.

- Consider stay-at-home freelancing for Linux or programming talent. You may have to start small, but you can build up repeat customers and multiple engagements at the same time.

- Do some website design, hosting, and an occasional eCommerce project. For instance, there's an occasional political candidate here or there who's willing to fork out $6K for a 2 year contract for website hosting, and where he updates it maybe 4 times a year and that's it. I should know -- one of my friends got one of these gigs and I managed to swing a $2K gig. I then did an eCommerce gig for $4K that encrypted the purchaser info and sent them via email to his inbox for processing.

- Purchase an OEM rackmount PC and resell it with your software on it, already ready to go. Of course, this takes a good bit of planning, such as making it easy to get started, or to back it up, and periodically administer and update it with a web interface.

- Consider Super Affiliate Marketing. This isn't Amway. All I'm talking about is a forum website with some moderated, filtered RSS newsfeeds, and make all your income on web advertisements. Cross-link it from other sites and learn about Search Engine Optimization. Sites like wickedfire.com can help you be on your way. From what I hear, you can make a killing on S.A.M. sites, alone!

- Keep learning the latest trends because they are marketable for online consulting such as Web 2.0, AJAX, XUL, etc.

libervisco's picture
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What can I say. The FOSS

What can I say. The FOSS market is growing and so are opportunities. Optimism helps.

Those seem like some good points there. Some may even be somewhat applicable to my business. Smiling

Anyway, I wish you best of luck.

supermike's picture
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After Five Years of Hard Work

After five years of hard work all by myself and my testers, I have finally implemented Volo, my software company, and published my work order ticketing system software as GPLv3 free software. It's at volosystems.com.

libervisco's picture
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Congratulations Mike! This

Congratulations Mike! This is quite a milestone, and fixer is something I'm actually thinking of trying myself on our VPS for Libervis.net related bug reports. Looks great. Smiling

After so many discussions here and on Libervis I am just happy to see it all shape up. Let us know how your business goes.

Cheers

StevenBrady's picture
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Great job, Mike! Glad to

Great job, Mike! Glad to see how things have come along for you. I can't wait to give the software a run ... which I might just do right now!

Congrats on your five years of effort. I've had a large project that I've been working on for quite some time finally coming to be a reality as well. Speaking of which, we might have to talk. Eye

supermike's picture
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Great. Drop me a line

Great. Drop me a line sometime.

supermike's picture
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I guess I'm wondering, what

I guess I'm wondering, what now? What's the smoothest way to get the word out? I managed to get myself listed on Freshmeat.net. Freshmeat also had a nice category called "Issue Tracking" that seems to fit my product properly. Google doesn't seem to pick up my site even after I posted it, but I think I can swing that eventually. I know that if I post the site to Reddit it won't get picked up because it's impossible for me to get anything listed on Reddit. Digg used to be easy, but now Digg is about as hard as Reddit.

I need downloaders of the product, because it's out of those downloaders that eventually someone will want the disc media, the developer manual, the consulting, and perhaps want me to build a rackmount server.

I'm currently working in the "Volo Labs" on the rackmount server software. It's a web interface very much like ebox-platform.com's product to control most of the basic functions of managing an Ubuntu Server. I then plan to turn the web interface around as a free download as well. I've also already figured out that the rackmount server will boot up on DHCP by default, then ping all 255 hosts on the subnet every 30 seconds for at least 2 hours and then stop. Any user with an 'arp' command in a loop (BTW, did you know that even Windows has 'arp'?) in that subnet will eventually see this MAC address and IP address so that they can connect to the web interface and administer it. Most will want to switch it to a reserved, static IP.

libervisco's picture
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If the site has just been

If the site has just been put up it's natural that Google hasn't picked it up. It will be picked up as soon as google bot stumbles on a link to your site from a site that it already knows about, such as Nuxified.org. Smiling Since you posted a link in this topic it will likely know about your site very soon.

Then, once it gets listed in Google index you need it to rank as high as possible. For this you need higher PageRank. The more quality links you have to your site the bigger your page rank.

A good way to get both these incoming links and spread the word virally is to write articles related to what you are offering, basically reviewing your own software (while revealing that it is your own, so it would basically be a show off with the hope that someone will like what you're offering). You could also review that rackmount server. Once you have first users and customers some of them may want to review it too.

But right now I think the best thing to start with is a simple announcement of your business sent to sites like LXer.com and LinuxToday.com. The announcement shouldn't be framed as an advertisement but rather a genuine announcement of a new software suit becoming available for a particular purpose which is from the beginning licensed under GPLv3 (which will catch some people's eyes). Basically, you just write something up and send it to news sites so that everyone who reads them knows that you exist.

You could, perhaps, frame this one as an official PR release on behalf of your company, in which case it could also contain some "advertising" speak. Smiling

Another idea I had is to maybe get in touch with some local or international computer magazines which deal with server related topics. You could maybe even send your rackmount server to one or two if possible for them to review and publish, either for free or for a significant discount to them (because they would be helping promote your business).

Anyway, those are just some ideas. Hopefully it helps a bit.

Best of luck!

StevenBrady's picture
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How to be privately

How to be privately contacting you?

StevenBrady's picture
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The server software sounds

The server software sounds great. I'm a large fan of both SME Server and eBox Platform, but I've wanted to see something work on Ubuntu. I'm rather excited to see what you come up with. I'd love to talk to you about the software, and even help with testing.

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Of course, after I say this

Of course, after I say this I Google, and find out at least some of the elements of eBox are included with Gutsy. That's pretty sweet. Smiling

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Sounds like a plan. Right

Sounds like a plan. Right now I'm writing it in PHP because it's fast and easy, because there's a huge base of devs out there, and because it connects to so much stuff. I hit the site, login, and on the left I have a collapsing/expanding tree menu system (thanks to CSS and some very tiny Javascript). The menus are built up automatically by directory names. When you finally click on a sub-menu item, it loads a PHP page from inside that directory and processes it. This permits me to have a modular architecture that anyone can extend quite easily.

Some precautions I'll have to take along the way are:

* The techniques I use must be secure so that no one can hack this.

* I need to make backups of operating system settings files as the modules change them, and even keep backups at least up to a month.

* If I can identify a 'best practice' on the web for making a change on Debian, I need to follow it.

However, I have a day job, currently, so I have to work this out mostly on nights and weekends.

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Like I mentioned to my

Like I mentioned to my wife...I *really* need to get that rackmount server going. That's where the real profit will start to come in. Many people I talk to believe the same thing.

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My shameless self-promotion

My shameless self-promotion got me to # 2 on lxer.com. Only a matter of time before someone downloads, reviews it, and posts it on slashdot, digg, or reddit.

libervisco's picture
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It's number 4 now because

It's number 4 now because LXer news items scroll chronologically (as new items come the old ones are pushed down). Smiling

Anyway, if noone submits to digg you could do it too... or.. well, maybe I could do it? Eye

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I've decided that I'm going

I've decided that I'm going to do some Press Releases for Volo Milestone, yes, but I think something else might be more effective as well. Have you ever seen one of those articles that was not an advertisement but kind of was? The article talked about why you need a certain kind of product, and what to look for, and at the end it has one of those bio blurbs about the President, the company and website name, and a product name that the company makes. These articles are often very edgy and slightly humorous for today's hip, new, online readership, such as what you might find at Wired.com or Salon.com. Moreover, they can often make jabs at other products very effectively without naming a single product name. (Trust me -- I've received more than one Cease and Desist legal letter in my past. I don't want to go there ever again.)

Volo Milestone is an Issue Tracker. I thought I'd make wisecracks about organizations that still don't use one, jabs at CRM products and portals, and so on. For instance, many CRMs and portal products sure do look pretty, but at what expense when you have to use them all day? Just how many clicks does one need, and fields to fill out, to complete a task? Pretty can sometimes mean frustrating too.

I thought I'd stress the importance of free software and open source, but not make that the entire focus of the article. Last, I thought I'd talk about why it's important not to get a product that has every feature you could ever want thrown in because of how terribly off-mark and slow that product will usually be, or how hard it would be to install and get connected to your backend systems at the office for things such as login authentication (such as single signon), email hookup, and so on.

Many products make me either bust out laughing or cry. Have you seen ones such as these? I mean, management get all jazzed up about something that met everything on their feature list and price range, but when they bring it in, no one is smart enough to install all the pieces of it, it's slow enough for grandma, it requires a ton of clicks or fields to fill out in order to use it, it's not just tedious but downright baffling as far as its intuitiveness, the so-called features are heavily off mark or implemented in a completely detestable way, the source code looks like someone dropped a tab of acid, much of it is broke or vaporware, and/or everything is locked up in proprietary binaries that require high-paid vendor consultants to rework in just the right way.

Enter the beauty of open source and Bazaar-style programming. Instead of being locked into the maniacal world of the vendor of proprietary Cathedral-style software, the open sorcerer world is a glass palace that's just getting started, and you have a hand in growing it up from the grass roots and into something cool.

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Sounds good to me. I think

Sounds good to me. I think you already written a half of that article right up there. Smiling

Although I do prefer "Free Software" over "Open Source" (http://www.libervis.com/article/time_for_a_free_software_business_initiative). Eye

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Ugh! Discouraged today.

Ugh! Discouraged today. After a week of being out there, here's the stats on the Volo Milestone project:

In one week and two days, with some buzz in the middle of that on lxer.com, I'm looking at 332 visits, a peak of 177 one day, now trailing off to about 15 visitors a day. Out of that, I had 30 downloaders for Milestone (the issue tracker) and 14 for Fixer (the bug tracker). I've had zero purchases, but I guess I can understand that because it's so new and because I'm not getting enough visitors.

It seems that my post on lxer.com created the most buzz, and now people are finding me mostly from Freshmeat.net and Wikipedia.

As for software downloaders, we've had 30 for Milestone (the issue tracker) and 14 for Fixer (the bug tracker). So, for every 300 visits, let's assume I'll have 10% of them actually download the product.

The stats show that 50% of my viewers hit the site from Linux. 40% from Windows. The rest come from Mac and Sun.

The stats also show that 70% of my viewers have Firefox, IE has only 9%, and the rest of browser stats show very small numbers for several other kinds of browsers.

It looks like I need to branch out and speak to those guys who have the cash -- perhaps an online place where business analysts, stock traders, and financial people hang out. Perhaps then the thing will get momentum. I've written a draft of an article and an outline, and I need to submit the outline to some of these online magazine places for these types of people and see who bites. Then, I can rework the outline just for them and rework the draft into a finished work.

I found a discouraging link on Wikipedia that compares other products. The other products are really good in some cases. Some are awful, but some are really interesting, like Unfuddle.com (which isn't a product, but, rather a hosted site or SaaS).

So, unless I get any action on this project, and especially after the article posting, I'm going to have to consider it as a tool, go and find some project sites on the web where people want to hire me, and use customized versions of this tool to solve their problem (as long as they know I used GPLv3 code and must comply with that).

Other options are the server appliance, which I think might have a taker here or there, and the various government and university contracts I might be able to pick up to use this product. And I still yet have to get Google AdSense on the site -- just a matter of time for me to get that worked out.

So far, though, it's discouraging to have all this vision, spend 5 long years of my life making this product by myself, put so much stress on my wife and family, think that this product was going to explode on the market once it is discovered, convince my wife and myself that I'm going to give it away for free, and yet at this point still I can't get a single person to pay me for the CD media within a week and a half. Yet, if those downloaders were to actually compare my product and see how much faster it is, bug free, and easy to install compared to other products, and look at the price for the media + manuals, I'm sure they would realize I'm asking a fair price and pay it. But I haven't hit that point yet.

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Of course, it's only been a

Of course, it's only been a week and a half, but if this plays out at the same pace with my weekly promotions of it, then I think there might be some lessons to learn here. Still, it's too early to know. The lessons might be:

* Software as a Service (SaaS) is the next big thing. It's better than downloading and installing it yourself. Evidently, office net bandwidth isn't as much of an issue as I thought it was, and neither is data security, down time, and monthly cost.

* Server appliances might be a way to get profit with software you sell, especially if they have a really nice web-based admin interface on them. I'm thinking they will be if the web software is decent. The problem with server appliances is the warranty, the parts, and the risk of building one and returning the money. They you have to make certain it updates itself automatically on the web, warns if it cannot, warns if it's not setup properly, prevent it from having security attacks, provide some kind of update mechanism, and what about tape or DVDROM backups?

Again, however, it's still too early to know.

libervisco's picture
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To be honest these stats

To be honest these stats don't really surprise me. An LXer story and an entry on wikipedia and freshmeat.com linking to a brand new site can't really generate much better stats. Nuxified.org exists for more than a year and still doesn't get more than 1000 visits per day. Our peaks have been only when we get dugg and this fairly continuous traffic that we have is mostly due to having been on LXer and other sites like LinuxToday numerous times, got dugg a few times as well and consequently earned a sufficient amount of inbound links and Page Rank to get some continuous traffic from search engines and those who happen to stumble on one of these earlier stories (or one of the recent stories and announcements for that matter).

That said, it is actually easier to promote Nuxified.org type of site because we can come up with articles and projects to announce on a regular basis hence bringing traffic, whilst your site, if it remains static can't have all that much more to offer. It is sitting there waiting for people to serve.

But, you can do something about this. You can open a blog on your site specific to your new company and talk about your products there, and submit your articles when you believe they would generate some interest to LXer.com, LinuxToday.com, Linux.com, Slashdot, Digg.com, FSDaily.com and any other news site, wiki or anything you can think of that could possibly publish you.

Also, if you have some budget, pay for advertising or text links from high PR sites, like PR6 or more.

And of course, as you already said, get reviewed by print magazines etc.

Another thing worth mentioning is targeting. Most of the above would probably result in a more general traffic; various geeks, technologists and enthusiasts who might take a look, say "cool" and leave. Some might be Free Software developers who will download one or both of your software tools and consider implementing them, but perhaps not buying your premium services.

So, what you apparently need to focus on is more B2B. Free Software projects that are volunteer based, meritocracy powered and without external sponsorships, will probably not be able or willing to buy premium services. They just aren't in a position to do so, but established companies looking for a better way to manage their project would probably be much more willing to, if they like your product and its benefits, go as far to buy your premium service. So how to reach them? Well.. I'm not an expert, especially on that one, but I suppose you would really have to get on sites that are frequented by them, get into forums where you can find people involved with such companies etc.

Perhaps, although this may for now seem a bit ambitious, you could even seek to partner with one of the Free Software related companies in some way, to gain recognition and the reputation that you need.

All this said was said not out of experience, though, but mostly common sense and stuff I picked up all these years reading around about Free Software, GNU/Linux and business topics that usually always creep into all this (as Free Software really competes in the business arena today and it is really business through which it will gain most adoption, which pretty much the whole community knows - we are in a capitalist world after all so we tend to pick up some of the basics whether we want to or not, and especially if we're involved in advocating a particular type of product). Smiling

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Another thing worth

Another thing worth mentioning could be StumbleUpon, at least for perhaps increasing traffic numbers. I voted it up: http://www.stumbleupon.com/url/volosystems.com/

So anyone who stumbles can either vote up or down. You could do the same. Eye

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Thanks, I'll give this a

Thanks, I'll give this a try.

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Yeah, I'm at a disadvantage

Yeah, I'm at a disadvantage because I currently don't blog directly on the site. I didn't think about that hard enough, but you're right -- it's a great sales technique to bring people back each week with something relevant to read about, much like JoelOnSoftware does. I should do something similar. The problem with JoelOnSoftware is that I feel he's kind of "naked". I mean, he kind of just lays it all out as he feels it. Some people like what he says, while others may not. Some may like him some of the time. I'm not like that. I want EVERYONE to like me! Smiling I guess I'll have to decide what to do.

I also should think this is the end-all goal of my company. I think I need to move on to other projects. As people get excited about other projects I have, they may come back to look at Milestone and say, "Hey, I need one of those," and, moreover, perhaps say, "I'd like my company to pay Volo to customize one for my office." Please say that! Smiling

To date, after two weeks, I have received one great comment on Fixer and another on Milestone. Both people liked the products. One had suggestions for Fixer that I didn't see and I'm glad they made those -- unlike Microsoft, I call a bug a bug, and I actually relish feedback.

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supermike wrote: The
supermike wrote:

The problem with JoelOnSoftware is that I feel he's kind of "naked". I mean, he kind of just lays it all out as he feels it. Some people like what he says, while others may not. Some may like him some of the time. I'm not like that. I want EVERYONE to like me! Smiling

You decide how much do you want to reveal so you don't have to be like JoelOnSoftware or anyone else. Your blog can be whatever you want it to be and whatever you believe would attract most visitors and most interest to your software and services. Many CEO's today have blogs and seem to be doing quite well with them. Just think of Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems for example. I think he earned a lot of reputation by blogging.

One maybe obvious suggestion I'd make is for your blog to be on a subdomain of your main site: blog.volosystems.com as that's how you get people to immediately associate your blog and writings with your company.

And it's great that you're already receiving some feedback. It gives an opportunity to show exactly that, you relish feedback and will act on it. Smiling

Cheers

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Say, I have a tip. I found

Say, I have a tip. I found a great web page out there that really helps you get your mind in order when trying to grow your F/OSS project you may have. Warning, though -- it throws open a couple popups and wants to sell you stuff, but if you ignore that, the content is great. Check it out at:

http://www.wilsonweb.com/articles/checklist.htm

So here's what I mean by this list. If you've built a F/OSS site and want to sell software and consulting (the GNU way, of course), and are banging your head trying to figure out how to get the thing profitable, keep thinking about that checklist above -- I really think it can work. The only reason it hasn't worked for me just yet is because I'm too busy right now to listen to customers and actually make the changes they suggest I make. (But I'm trying hard to find time, here or there, to get some changes in.)

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Latest: * I've been trying

Latest:

* I've been trying to get some decent programming time. Between audits at my office, huge bouts of performance monitoring improvements, and other major project and trench work with Linux, it's been tough to get some time in with my site to satisfy my customers. But I'm trying hard. I make changes every weekend and plan to have a release soon on Fixer, the bug tracker. From that, I plan to eventually fork it so that I make Volo Stat, which will be a Fixer-like Issue Tracker that runs on SQLite.

(An aside: by the way, in the interim, I've learned great things about SNMP with the Net-SNMP project for Linux, and I've been using HP Mercury SiteScope to plot this stuff. I would have used MRTG, Cactus, and Nagios -- stuff like that -- but unfortunately my employer wanted me to use HP Mercury SiteScope. It's got it's quirks -- one of them being that it can't do much math at all and requires another Linux box for cases where you need to do math -- but darn if it's not easy to install! Wow! I also found out how much more I prefer SNMP monitoring than I do monitoring via SSH -- so ask away, should you want that. (Ask in the appropriate Nuxified forum, of course. Note, in the spirit of Nuxified's emphasis on free software, I will only provide advice about free software regarding this.))

* I got verbally beat up by a good friend who finally came out and told me the truth. He told me that the sad truth is that MySQL's marketing engine is too strong, that PostgreSQL is wonderful and all and puts the slam down on MySQL but darn if it doesn't have weak marketing and has poor tech support options. (Actually it has great tech support options, but nothing like MySQL where a central group supports you and, should that change require a programming fix, the actual product is changed. Instead, using PostgreSQL requires a paradigm shift in what you expect from a tech support solution for it.) He also said that many newbie programmers don't like having to figure out how to unlock the security mechanisms of PostgreSQL before they can use it. (Well, I actually /like/ that.) He said that where it's at is MySQL and SQLite right now, no matter how badly I prefer PostgreSQL over MySQL. So, anyway, this was all the more impetus for me to introduce Volo Stat, which will be based on SQLite. Right now, like I've said, "simple is white hot right now."

* When starting a F/OSS business, I didn't realize how important it is to build relationships for value-added reseller opportunities. I had no idea I would get any traction with this, but there's been some interest here. Whenever you build a new software project, you should definitely keep in mind the VAR angle, as well as partnerships where you make your product plug into other products.

* Don't give up on press releases. Keep up your faith in yourself. Release one quarterly. Keep it very short and to the point, with something enticing in every one. Keep the marketing language out, and don't say junk like "free offer" either. As for me, I landed a place on Ubuntu Marketplace for my efforts, and you can do that and more with yours if you work at it and strive to make the best F/OSS product for your customers.

* Again, in case you missed that, Volo got carried on Ubuntu Marketplace. Yay!

* Others are telling me that F/OSS projects take perhaps as much as two years before they take off or become profitable. In that time, they tell me that it takes a heck of a lot of listening to your customers and giving them what they want, and release often or stand the threat of being forked. Keep a positive outlook because F/OSS business growth is a slooooooow process, initially. If you listen to your customers and give them what they want, how can you not look at that positively that someday that's going to switch into a profitable mode? It can.

* Again, remain positive. If you have 40 visitors a day, and 10% download the product, and they come even on Sundays, and still no one purchases -- don't give up. I mean, at that point, you're getting mixed results that show promise. Listening to those customers is key. At least the downloaders are doing the free marketing for you, telling others, and you can see that's the case because why else would you be getting 40 visitors a day (on average)? (Note, the stats above are my current stats, which is why I use these numbers. I also filtered out the spider traffic to come up with that number.) Anyway, surely a track record like that is going to hit a paying customer eventually. And when you find out why they paid, that's the magic formula for getting others to do the same.

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Joined: 2006-02-17
From Being Up To Going Down

You know, I try to remain positive about free software and a free software business, but it's awfully hard when you put five years of night and weekend effort into it, think things through to a tremendous degree, rewrite it three times to make it even better, release it, and all I get is a bandwidth bill. But no, I try to stay upbeat and think well, I need to keep improving it until finally someone decides to pay for it. I certainly know how unsuccessful things can be when you try to sell the software and don't give it away -- been there, failed at that too. It's just that my wife doesn't have such a great entrepreneurial spirit and wants results much faster.

I was trying to remain positive when my wife stopped me tonight. She said she has supported me for these few years, but it's sort of like my son with skateboarding. She said my very young son is skateboarding on ramps and rails, trying hard, and keeps saying, "I'm going to get sponsored!" Meanwhile, his grades have recently took a downturn, he has no aspirations for what he wants to do in life except skateboards, continues to want to be annoying, rude, loud, and obnoxious to anyone and everyone, and we're finally accepting that he has ADHD (but refuse to medicate him because of the side effects). So today, my wife sat him down, took a deep breath and gave him this speech: "Son, I'm sorry, but there's no way you're going to ever be sponsored. It's just not going to happen. And for those few kids who did, they're now growing up to the point where they're starting families, and they look stupid out there on bikes and skateboards still. Those kids didn't get college degrees and are wasting their lives away. But someday, their little skateboarding will come to an end and the man paying their paychecks will have no option but to give his checks to the next hotshot. At the rate that a Tony Hawks may spend money, their million dollars may dwindle fast. So off they will go and they'll have to get a long-hour, low-pay job like the rest of us, their skateboards, trophies, and pictures put up on a wall until their wives want it auctioned off to make room for a new couch or a room for the new baby. So, no, you're not getting sponsored, and even if you did, it doesn't last forever and you'll need to think about what to do with the rest of your life."

So then she turned to me after this and said, "You too! You've got this free software business and you're doing what -- making bug fixes and improvements -- and not getting any sales on software, consulting, or tech support. You're not even recouping your initial investment of a couple thousand dollars. And you've wasted five years of weekends and nights on this. So no, you're not going to get sponsored, Mike, and you should just give it up."

And that, my friends, can get you down.

So then she proposes that I stop the software as is, and make all future versions non-free. However, that's a GPLv3 violation, so I can't go that route.

So then she proposes that I stop the software as is and make all future add-ons non-free. Yeah, I think that's possible and not a GPLv3 violation, and has been successful for SugarCRM, but my software isn't that modular with add-on technology built into it.

So then she proposes that I fork the software, make it into an even better issue tracker, change it up a good bit, and never release this for free. I told her, again, this is a GPLv3 violation.

This frustrated her a good bit and I had to remind her how unsuccessful I was with pay-only software, previously. Looking back through the options, there seemed to be only these choices:

1. Improve the products with the latest feature requests and bug fixes, improve the download count by any means necessary, collect the proof of the web stats in PDF form, and try to sell the whole business on eBay for a few thousand dollars.

2. Stay the current course and hope that someone wants to pay for consulting, tech support, or the software.

3. Bring up another site that hosts the product for customers so that they don't have to do it themselves. (She quickly tore this apart and asked how I will guarantee my customer data will be 100% secure from hackers, and how I will ensure their data will not be lost. She also said that if the site goes down, they need me available 24x7 to get things going or to switch over to an alternate system, and that requires me to quit my day job.)

4. Make the server appliance version of the product. (She quickly tore that one apart because she doesn't want to pay anymore into something that hasn't even generated one red cent.)

5. Bail on the whole project.

a thing's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20
...?
"supermike" wrote:

Improve the products with the latest feature requests and bug fixes, improve the download count by any means necessary

...What does that mean...?

supermike's picture
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Joined: 2006-02-17
Oh, you might be reading

Oh, you might be reading too much into that? I just meant listen to the potential customer's needs and try to satisfy them. If they pay, great. If not, don't worry about it because you're only trying to gain marketshare and increase the download count such that you can flip the business on eBay.

tbuitenh's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-21
As I understand it, if you

As I understand it, if you didn't copy any code from others, you can change the license any time you like and you won't be violating anything. However nothing is stopping anyone from using/forking the versions of the software released before the license change under the original terms - you granted those rights and can't take them back.

But switching to a more restrictive "pay me" license won't help a bit. Not even never having used a free license would have helped. The thing is, there is other similar software out there which may not be as good but which is free, more well-known, or both. Beating that with gratis software is difficult, beating it with payware is even more difficult.

So, how to gain market share quickly so at least some users will pay you? I trust you have taken good care of quality, but in this world quality doesn't matter. Herd mentality is so bad that even many of those who lose data to a blue screen every day still won't consider using different software because it's not "what everyone else uses", it just might be "difficult", and maybe-maybe-maybe the change could cause a minor data loss less bad than what they deal with every day. Quality doesn't matter. Quality is what you do because not taking care of it would make you feel dirty. What you need is brand recognition, fame, hype. Think of something extremely cool that can be done with your software, then do that thing and let that project generate news all the time.

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