Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Taking Care of the 90 Percent

I guess MoneyWell has hit the big time: it was [k'ed]. That means that some sad individual spent his or her time breaking the copy protection and posting it for the 10 percent to use without paying. I won't bother giving the thief or the download sites any publicity, but someone else was kind enough to point out that this had happened and I do appreciate that very much.

I've written before about my opinions on software copy protection. Yes, it is a necessary evil (just like the ancient adage: Trust in God, but tie up your camel), but copy protection shouldn't hamper honest users from enjoying a software product.

Because I believe that 90 percent of my customers and prospects are honest individuals and will happily pay the small amount I charge for MoneyWell and Debt Quencher, I'm not going to spend time trying to defeat the efforts of the 10 percent that are living a life of scarcity and choose to steal. The 90 percent deserve new features and software refinements and I won't deprive them of those by working on layers of protection that will be cracked by those that are determined to do so.

But this morning, I couldn't stop thinking about who these people are that steal software. They obviously think that just because software costs little or nothing to distribute, there's no physical theft. Excellent software takes months of effort to code, years of experience to design, and dedication to polish and perfect. What do the 10 percent do for a living? Would it be okay if someone where to take forty bucks out of their pocket every few hours? Does that sound fair? I can't help thinking that these people have been really hurt in their lives and they feel that everyone around them should be in pain as well. Or maybe, they are romanticizing this theft by envisioning themselves as a modern day Robin Hood. Let me tell you Bucko, the tights don't look good on you and the microISVs you're robbing from are not "the rich."

Does that mean that big iron companies like Microsoft and Adobe deserve it because they are rich? No. Absolutely not. There is no justification for software theft—it's wrong no matter how you hold your bow.

So to end this on a positive note, there are rewards to living a life of abundance—a life where there is always enough to go around and someone else doesn't have to lose for you to win. If you believe that by giving you will be rewarded tenfold, then it is true. We do more with our attitudes and actions to shape our own futures than the cynics of the world would like us to believe.

I've seen the proof of this in my own life, over and over again. When I live in fear of losing my money, time, or love, that which I most covet always slips through my fingers. When I love without requiring love, tithe without fear of want, or volunteer without expecting a reward, I am blessed with more love, money, and productivity than I expect or can explain. The math doesn't make sense (x - 10% = 10x), but somehow the test is easy to pass.

Live in the 90 percent and enjoy all of life's blessings.


Friday, February 22, 2008

It's in There!

I love creating new software releases—especially when I get to give customers the 1984 Prego response: It's in there!

"Hey Kevin, it would be great if we could select a different currency for each account. Is that planned for a future release?" It's in there.

"Is there any way to hide accounts or buckets that I no longer use?" It's in there.

"What about scheduled transactions?" It's in there!

With every new release of MoneyWell, the product moves closer to my original vision for it. Managing finances and cash flow was never easy for me—partially because I didn't like being told that I can't buy something for someone. I'm pretty good at denying myself stuff, but not so good when it comes to my family. I need structure and easy access to financial figures to help me behave myself and running a Quicken budget report didn't cut it.

My initial vision for MoneyWell was a single-window interface that could tell me quickly what I have to spend for each type of expense. The "envelope" system of allocating your income into various containers, each marked by a spending category, was ideal. If I could pull up MoneyWell and see immediately that I only had $20 left to spend on dining out, I would either be able to say, "No, we can't go out tonight" or see that there was more money left in the entertainment bucket that we could use for dining instead.

This part of my vision is complete and I know that I can't just look at my bank balance anymore and say, "Hey we have money! Let's get you that iPhone today!" I watch my buckets instead because managing cash flow is more than the act of asking the ATM how much is in there.

What's coming in the next few releases? More visuals about where cash is going and more planning tools for future spending. Now that I have today under control, I want to know what my spending is going to look like over the next 12 months or more. How much can we plan to spend for a vacation this summer? When are the big property tax bills due? How fast can we eliminate the last of our debt? Should we put more into savings or other investments?

Software and cooking are very similar. The trick is to put all this stuff "in there" without mucking up the look and taste of the sauce. What happens when you put too much salt in it? Or too much tomato paste? Or too much garlic... actually I don't think you can add too much garlic. Scratch that last example. For me, it's vital to remember what I was cooking in the first place. That's why MoneyWell 1.3 is simmering a bit longer. I keep running it through strainers and taking taste tests until I think it's ready to be served. I hope everyone enjoys the next course in the meal. I know I can't wait to serve it!


Monday, February 04, 2008

Taming the Monkeys

Running your own business can feel like you've signed up to babysit four hyperactive monkeys—especially as a microISV.

There's the sales/marketing monkey that constantly needs to be fed or he starts taking chunks out of you and you die a painful death. Then there's the operations monkey that wants the books kept in order and paperwork filed or he ties your shoelaces together when you're not looking and you end up doing a world-class face plant. And we certainly can't forget the support monkey that sleeps for a while and then wakes up with night terrors and blood-curdling screams. He's the one that will give you a heart attack if you don't attend to his every need.

Lastly, and most importantly for a software company, is the development monkey. This little guy is your favorite and the reason you started a microISV in the first place. You want to give him the most attention and normally he rewards you with much affection, but he's a bit psychotic. One moment he's all happy and content and the next moment he's pulling out your hair, throwing food (or worse) at you and giving you wet willies.

And all these little guys want to hang around on your back and shoulders all the time. It can be hard to find time for yourself and your family, but you have to do it. It's essential to your sanity and survival. The trick is to keep each monkey entertained on a nice rotating schedule so that they'll leave you alone.

My method is to revolve everything around development. I get up in the morning, check on how sales are doing, look at my support emails, answer any that I can quickly, scan my RSS feeds for news and get on to development. During think breaks in coding, I check the support emails and answer them. Sometimes I can't give a complete answer without more investigation, so I try to at least move an issue forward by requesting more details. This usually works out nicely and I haven't had to deal with many night-terrors sessions.

My sales and marketing tasks are usually saved for later in the day when my three teens are home. I need less focus for doing this work than coding so the interruptions by my kids aren't as bad as when I'm fighting off soggy fingers in my ears. Unfortunately, my carpeting is littered with impressions of my nose because I just don't want to tend to that operations monkey as often as he needs me.

One thing that has helped me tame a couple monkeys is my iPhone. It lets me run errands and taxi my teens to events and still stay on top of support and sales. I can also read my RSS feeds while I'm away from my computer and I feel less guilty reading news and articles. When I'm on my iMac, it seems wrong not to have Xcode as my current application. There's so much code to write (because software is never finished), that I need to give that little chimp as much time as possible.

Lately, I've been using Google's new mobile RSS reader. They updated the interface last month and it made it much easier to use on the iPhone. Unfortunately, it wasted some of my precious "between monkey" time because I couldn't quickly tell Google that I already looked at most of these articles this morning in NetNewsWire and I don't want to see them on my iPhone now—it only allowed me to mark a page of feeds as read.

Just this morning I read NetNewsWire + NewsGator Mobile in Brent Simmons' blog and discovered the joy of NewsGator NewsGator Mobile for the iPhone. Wow! I feel like I just I was given a huge gift of time. It syncs my two readers (along with my clippings) so I only have to mark an RSS feed as read in one place. I don't know why I didn't try this before. I know that this is one of the strengths of NetNewsWire and one of the reasons I bought a copy (yes, right before it was released as a free product, I paid for it. Buy high and sell low is my motto), but I just didn't get around to trying it.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it's pretty huge for me. I love reading and I'm a big fan of several bloggers and news sites, but I only give myself small slices of time between monkeys to enjoy this activity. With the added time savings of having my feeds synced on my iMac and iPhone, I can spend less time paging through read feeds and more time reading new stuff. Shoot, I may even be able to subscribe to some feeds I had to drop because they clogged up my iPhone Google Reader. My break times just got more fun. Thanks Brent!

I have to go now, the programming primate just hit me in the back of the head with something... and it doesn't smell like food.