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Shareware and ISV's boom

I know I've ranted about them in more or less serious ways before (and while using other nicknames) but this time the thought has hit me.
Do you feel a wave of shareware authors and ISV's coming? People encouraged by the articles of Joel, Eric, Steve Pavlina and Nick Bradbury?

Ogami Itto
Monday, August 9, 2004

No, you are just reading a small set of forums/sites/blogs which is just one of many small circles of the sw world.

Monday, August 9, 2004

No, a shareware and ISV boom is not coming.  Everyone dreams, but few people take action to move toward their dreams.

Ewan's Dad
Monday, August 9, 2004

There is already an ISV boom, but not sure about the Shareware part.  (Eric and Joel aren't shareware authors).

I know lots of folks in little niche markets actually SELLING SOFTWARE instead of selling thier time.

But it ain't easy to get started in.

Most programmers, I think (90% ?) are contract consultants.  So you don't hear much about the (maybe 10%) that are ISVs.

I own an ISV so I'm always on the look out for people to discuss ISV issues with.

Software has reached the point, IMHO, where the DOMAIN knowledge is more important than the software knowledge.

I just had dinner with a PhD who specializes in Nano optics (microscopic micrscopes) for  studying DNA. Among his MANY tasks, he works on .net software that his company sells (I believe alone or with equipment in the several 100k range).

Now, he's smart, and has an undergraduate degree in Comp. Engr but his PhD is in Physics. So, he's not had a lot of time for experience in software. So his domain knowledge is much more important, IMHO, than is programming knowledge.

It's certainly true with my company.

So... there is an ISV boom, but it's largely with people with domain knowledge. Even with Joel and Eric who's domain knowledge is the software engr. PROCESS.

We hear about Eric and Joel b/c thier customers are programmers.

There are probably ISVs with non-programmer customers who have Blogs on optics or direct mail or whatever.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Well said.

Monday, August 9, 2004

A few years ago my sister "got religion" again after many years and joined a charismatic group. She got totally wrapped up in her own little circle of friends and contacts and assumed this was the whole world. She would carry on about how EVERYONE was coming back to Jesus and how there was this tidal surge toward those values.

Well to start with, not everone had left Jesus as she may have, so coming back was not the issue for most. And second of all she was not watching the movement from a global perspective, only from within where enthusiasm ran high. So her vision was clouded by what she wanted to see. Bible thumping is not more nor less popular now than it had been before.

If you read only developer blogs and converse with only others in ISV circles, then it will seem as though EVERYONE is getting the same religion. Step back. Examine the industry from a larger perspective and try to see if it is any more or less prevalent now than it was a few years ago.

I think not. I think it's getting tougher to start a successful new software business lately and that should translate into fewer developers striking out on their own.

The bureau of labor statistics says that about 3 million new businesses are started every year in the US and about half of them fail within 3 years. That may not sound like a good average but it is fairly constant. So yes, there are loads of new ISVs popping up all the time and loads failing as well.

Monday, August 9, 2004

I disagree that it is Joel and Eric's domain knowledge that contributes to their business "success". 

It's the "geeks looking for mentors" that has contributed largely to their success.  It is the blog "boom" and the "afterglow" of the .com era.  It is the fact that they these two guys were millionaires.  It's that fact that most geeks can identify with their writings.

There is nothing new about bug tracking software or source code control or website content management.

The domain knowledge required to make these products is very small and easily obtainable.

Face it people they are good at marketing generic products.  Their domain knowledge is largely irrelevant.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Nameless, you have put to words ideas that I had in my head for a very long time.

Ogami Itto
Monday, August 9, 2004

> Their domain knowledge is largely irrelevant.

But on the other hand if they had no idea what they were talking about, then we would know that.

It's like saying that bug-free code is unremarkable: ofen people only comment on the mistakes they see.

> It's the "geeks looking for mentors" that has contributed largely to their success.

Yes, but it's true of all customers: any customer in any domain wants their vendor to be knowledgable in the relevent domain.

> It is the fact that they these two guys were millionaires.

I'm not sure about the 'millionaire' stuff. When I read a book, like _Code Complete_ or _Deathmarch_ or _Essential COM_, I'm judging it based on how much I get out of it, and whether I agree with it based on what I know already ... and I do that while typically knowing next to nothing about the author himself.

Christopher Wells
Monday, August 9, 2004

I'm not saying that they don't know what they are talking about.  They do and they know how to twist it into marketing material.  They are playing on geeks without domain knowledge of things like marketing.

I have written a personal source code control system in C# and SQL Server.  Do I market it?  No.  Do I use it every day?  Yup.  It's simply not a difficult task.  I also have my own bug tracking system.  It works for me and my company.  Again, it was not a difficult task to create this software.

These guys have domain knowledge where it counts.  In Marketing.

So you aren't knowledgeable in the bug tracking and source code control domains?  I highly doubt that.  Given that I can write my own software, I think you can too and be successful at it.

Here's some advice for the geeks that read Joel and Eric's "articles":  Educate yourself about marketing and you'll see that these guys are pros.  How do you think they survive?  They play on your weaknesses.

"Oh my God! Joel wrote an article about the Win32 API!"
"Gotta read it!"
"Wow this guy must be a guru! I'll buy his software!"

They are playing on your wants.  You want to identify with them.  You want to be like them.

Don't fall for it.  There are other corners of the world.

Monday, August 9, 2004

I'm not sure how you are relating being rich and being able to start a business to "reading books"?

Monday, August 9, 2004

I'm 21.

I can see no reason not to be able to successful in an ISV business.

If I'm able to develop an easy-to-use software that solves a certain problem faced on daily-basis by a certain group of people, I can make fortunes. If I can win on their emotions, I can make them buy my software. No matter if a solution already exists, if I can replicate it and make it quicker and snappier to use, I can be a success.

>> See how FogBUGZ and SourceGear Vault solve a problem for a group of people. They can sell to a small business and still make money by selling it to a group which becomes dependant on their products to collaborate for a certain task. The both are viral products.

You know what? Most of the software is just plain-hard to use. Most of the software we use makes us hate our lives. It can either be a single quirk or several great features, which together can ruin the lives of its users. Just remove the hindrances. Make your customers' life better. Your customers already have a solution, but you have to provide a one which they can actually use and which does not make them bang their heads into the nearest wall. :-)

>> See how FogBUGZ and SourceGear Vault replace their inferior alernatives. How easy are CityDesk and FogBUGZ to use. How well SourceGear Vault can penetrate in a SourceSafe-based developers team and make their lives easier.

You don't and can't have a huge marketing budget (especially if you're 21). You can resort to Guerilla Marketing. You can resort to a blog. You can resort to find people in trouble on discussion forums and recommend them your product and how it can help them. You can resort to becoming a part of online communities which comprise of your market. If you're targetting something for webhosters, go join Post a lot there. Make friends there. Get yourself known. Ocassionally in your posts, point to your writings on your blog about the Web hosting industry.

>> See what Joel and Eric are doing? How did you became to know about FogCreek and SourceGear? You saw an ad somewhere? Or did you discover them through their blogs? How did you discover Eric? Through his MSDN article? Now, why did you visit You're a developer. MSDN is a part of the online developers community. The only thing Eric had to do was write for MSDN and become an active part of the online developers community. See, how actively he makes references to his company and its products?

You have to be dynamic, always thinking and always upto something. Joel and Eric were the smart ones to come up with (or pick up) these ideas soon. But, they taught this to us too. We can apply this to ourselves, our products and our companies too.

And you know what? The best part about being 21 is that I'm totally ignorant about the hard to absorb realities out there. I have no plans to go for a job, so I can try again and again. You people can decide for yourself.

Pop Eye
Monday, August 9, 2004

Any comments? This one has my email address.

Pop Eye
Monday, August 9, 2004

Pop Eye, for someone who is 21, you know some things.

And now I am destroying my reputation on this forum by agreing with every poster who writes more than 3 lines.

(Seriously, I thought they were cool)

Ogami Itto
Monday, August 9, 2004

Congratulations on being ignorant and living with your parents?  You really have nothing to say Pop Eye.  Go back to your computer in your bedroom.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Actually, I think there's a case both ways here.  In my last job, domain knowledge was far more important that "general" coding skills.  I could train a beginning coder who knew the business well to become a strong developer.  It is far more difficult to take a strong developer and teach him a wealth of practical business experience and knowledge.

Monday, August 9, 2004

i really liked pop eyes post. the thing is not all of us are 21 and living with our parents. some of us our married (or close to it) with families and responsibilities.

Monday, August 9, 2004

LL, way to contribute to this discussion.  Whether or not you think 'the kid' had anything useful to say, your comment was certainly less useful than his.

</sigh>, I think it's interesting that you think that general development skills are so easily picked up.  It's been my experience that if you take somebody who has a lot of domain experience and teach them programming, they're likely to hack together a mess that will just drag on the business processes (of course, the extent to which this is true depends on the domain in question).  I think that a really talented developer will work with domain experts to encode their knowledge of their domain in a concise language.  While their expressions in this domain-specific language can be called "programming," the developer makes their "programming environment" work.  That we're talking about software here doesn't really matter that much.  The same principle applies in many other fields where some practitioners use tools and other people make their tools.

If I open up a coffee shop, it's in my best interest to purchase a fridge from somebody else (I might be able to make my own, but that's a cost that's not really justified given the nature of my business and the importance of my time).  On the other hand, if I just need a little pokey thing to get some stuff out from behind the fridge, I don't necessarily need to contract the development of that tool out to somebody (I can just use a toothpick or fashion some similar instrument from available parts).  However, it's very important to know where to draw the line between these two kinds of things (good software developers are probably building fridges, not toothpicks).

Monday, August 9, 2004

If you're running a coffee shop and are in the habit of digging things from behind the fridge, regardless of the implement, please tell me where the shop is so I can ensure my travel arrangements avoid it with a sufficiently wide margin.

Simon Lucy
Monday, August 9, 2004

Hmmm Kalani - an interesting observation.  As I reflect upon my own career, it does indeed occur to me that I gained my domain knowledge working as a developer, not from working in the business which my former employer targeted.  I guess my (current) thinking was clouded somewhat by the fact that I thought I was somewhat unique in that regard (boy, that sounds somewhat egotistical, eh?).  During the time that I was with them, my observation was that most of the developers I worked with were content to leave the understanding of "why" to the analysts.  Perhaps the distinction, discussed often here, between a "developer" and a "programmer"? 

Good, thought provoking post that Kalani, thanks.

Monday, August 9, 2004

" I worked with were content to leave the understanding of "why" to the analysts"

I was ALWAYS interested in the WHY.  Most of my bosses really resisted that (I was a telecom engineer). "Just do YOUR thing and don't worry about the WHY".

So, I started my own company.  I'm much happier,  although I now wish I did NOT have to worry about so many WHYs and HOWs.

It's like the whole business is running on Virtual PC inside my brain.<g>  Tough to shut it off.

Monday, August 9, 2004

> It's like the whole business is running on Virtual PC inside my brain.<g>  Tough to shut it off.

Unavoidable; on building software systems I find I have the software running on that Virtual PC.

Christopher Wells
Monday, August 9, 2004

Mr.Analogy, now you know why they're my "former" employers :-)  I took the plunge a few months ago.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Regarding the HOW's and WHY's above, I believe it was, of all people, David Lee Roth of Van Halen who once said:

Those who know HOW will always work for those who know WHY.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Who is this Eric Guy?

Monday, August 9, 2004

Eric Guy is just a guy.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Eric Guys is just some random guy. Eric Sink is another demi-deity whose mere breaths have been dissected ad nauseam in this forum.

You can find him here:

Ogami Itto
Monday, August 9, 2004

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