Monthly Archives: January 2010

Macworld Expo 2010

I haven’t been to a Macworld since the late 90s. I’ve had it in my head for a couple years that I’d like to go back, but with so many developer-focused conferences it’s been hard to justify an extra trip for Macworld. At the same time, my “indie apps”: need a nice marketing refresh. So why not exhibit at Macworld and get to see the show again while reaching a new audience of potential customers?

I knew I’d regret it this year if I didn’t take advantage of the “small indie pavilion kiosk”: So with frighteningly little planning so far, I’ve booked the expo, flights, and hotel. I’ll be at the show and I’ll be demoing the just-released Wii Transfer 2.7 and the unannounced Clipstart 1.3. The rest of the details… not so clear.

But I’m pretty excited about the conference and hope to see many of you there. The expo runs February 11th – 13th, and you can “get a free expo pass here”:

Indie Relief

It was “just last week”: that we mentioned “Today 2.0”: from Second Gear on the Core Intuition podcast, and now Justin Williams at Second Gear is making news again by organizing Mac developers to donate to charity in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.

I’m happy to announce that Riverfold is participating. Since my wife and I already gave to the Red Cross, I decided to donate my sales to “Save the Children”:, an international organization working in Haiti now. It’s amazing how many Mac and iPhone developers have come together for Indie Relief, and great that we are able to do something that reaches more charities and has a bigger impact than if we were all just making individual contributions.

So if you’ve been on the fence about whether you need Wii Transfer or Clipstart, “buy a copy today”: Thanks!

Wii Transfer 2.7

I finally took the time to give “Wii Transfer”: some much-needed attention, releasing version 2.7 of the application tonight. It’s got the usual bug fixes and some small visual improvements, but the most important change is better video streaming. The biggest mistake I ever made with Wii Transfer was to buy an Apple TV instead of forcing myself to use my own application.

For this release, I sat down with Wii Transfer and a ripped copy of Star Trek, and I just watched it over and over, experimenting with different Flash Video conversion settings and tweaking networking code. I wasn’t going to release this until I could watch a 2-hour movie without any rebuffering. The quality is never going to be as good as a console or set-top box with dedicated video streaming features — this is Flash on the Wii we are talking about — but I’m happy with what I came up with.

Wii Transfer is still only $19, and version 2.7 is a free upgrade for any customer who ever bought the application going back to 1.0 over three years ago. Also an important reminder: all sales go to charity starting tomorrow, January 20th, as part of “Indie Relief”:

Unrealized projects

Seth Godin on an “exhibit for Tim Burton”:

“Here’s the guy who’s responsible for some of the most breathtaking movies of his generation, and the real surprise is this: almost every year over the last thirty, he worked on one or more exciting projects that were never green lighted and produced. _Every year, he spent an enormous amount of time on failed projects._”

This is the kind of thing I’ll try to remember when I look at the apps I’ve started but never shipped, even as they sit very close to finished for a year or more. Almost everyone I know who has successful products also has experiments and failed prototypes and unfinished work you’ve never heard of. That’s okay as long as it doesn’t stop you from shipping the best and making those real.

I have a lot to announce this week. Posts on a new Wii Transfer, the Indie Relief effort, and Macworld all coming up.

MDN Community Award

“The MDN Show episode 16”: reveals the winner of the MDN Community Award: a tie between Matt Gemmell and Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch, with Mike Ash as runner-up. Looking back on 2009 there should be no surprise over these top three. Matt has been sharing great code with the community for years and is now a fixture of the MDN podcast; Wolf started the successful C4 conference and won a Macworld Eddy for ClickToFlash; and Mike Ash has packed more technical information into a year of his weekly Q&A series than would fit in many Mac programming books.

(This also seems like a good time to link to nominee Daniel Jalkut, who got “his own version of a community award”: last month.)

I had a tough time singling out a specific developer among a dozen or more fantastic people, many who I consider my friends. But for me it was an opportunity to reflect on something at C4 that I didn’t get a chance to write about earlier, and since he won anyway I’ll include the email I sent to Scotty here.

“There are so many worthy candidates for the “MDN Community Award”: — people who are helpful to the Mac developer community by writing books, blogging, and sharing code — but when I heard about this award I thought about leadership. My pick is Jonathan ‘Wolf’ Rentzsch.

“A leader sets the tone and attitude of the community. For example, at the C4 conference when some attendees used the Twitter backchannel to turn against and openly mock a presenter, Wolf shamed the audience instead of glossing over or ignoring the event. It was a community course-correction and a reminder that Mac OS X developers come from many different backgrounds: old-school classic Mac programmers, NeXT developers, Linux and Windows users, even designers and web application developers.

“The community went through a rough transition point migrating to Mac OS X over 10 years ago, and is in the middle of another transition to embrace everyone excited about the iPhone platform. What I learned from Wolf is that we should never be afraid to welcome ‘outsiders’ to the community even if they haven’t yet caught up on the history and conventions of the platform.”

I have nothing but great things to say about everyone listed on the MDN page. Congrats again to Matt, Wolf, Mike, and the rest of the nominees.

Apple promotions survey

I was chatting with some developers the other night about giving away software to Apple employees. If you’re not familiar with the practice, it’s fairly common to give free or discounted licenses to Apple employees as a gesture of goodwill to the people responsible for making our platform, and in the hope that they will spread the word to friends and customers in the Apple Stores. (If you’re a developer and want to set this up, “check out Dan Wood’s overview”:

I’ve given away over 1000 licenses for “Wii Transfer”: and “Clipstart”: to Apple employees since I started doing it a few months ago. I didn’t expect this number to be so high, but I guess it makes sense. Apple folks are getting a link from their internal site directly to my special registration page, and many of them probably request a serial number just in case they need it later.

The question I have isn’t whether it’s worth it; it only took a few hours to set up, and even if it just makes a handful of Apple employees happy then that’s a success. But I was curious about the greater impact of giving away my software. Is the $0 investment in a pile of other free licenses enough to engage someone to, for example, take the time to set up Clipstart and move a collection of videos into it, let alone recommend it to others? (See also: “Worthless apps”:

To find out more, I sent a special newsletter to all the addresses in my registration database, asking if they used the software, how they liked it, and whether they’d recommend it to others or not. And I included in “the short survey”: a place for general feedback, and a choice about upcoming features.

Some developers I talked with were concerned about a potential backlash. Although I send a newsletter to my customers once or twice a year, it’s debatable whether some of the people I was including had implicitly signed up by purchasing (with a 100% discount!) or whether I had crossed a line. The last thing I want to do is upset any of my customers, and I provide the same level of support to everyone whether they’ve paid full price, received a free license, or just tried the demo.

In the end I decided it was harmless. The email was short, plain text, and had an obvious one-click unsubscribe link. One of the things I like about using “Campaign Monitor”: is that once someone unsubscribes, any new mailings are automatically scrubbed against the unsubscribers list. Even if I accidentally add the customer again in the future they won’t receive an email. So far, 2.2% of recipients have unsubscribed.

As for the survey results, here are a few graphs. Not many people filled out the survey (like unsubscribes, just a couple percent, though they’re still trickling in after 2 days), but the other feedback I received in the comments and feature questions was very helpful. 100% of users said they had mentioned the product to someone else.

Survey charts

Would I do this again? No, not such a narrowly-focused newsletter as this. The quick survey served its purpose, but I am always nervous about wearing out my welcome. I plan to add an explicit newsletter opt-in checkbox to my free license page, and I should do a better job of differentiating free licenses and paying customers in the future. I’ll send another general newsletter out to all customers (and opt-ins from contests) when I have something major to announce later in the year.