Robosoft for Beginners

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in Online Marketing, OpenCandy, PAD, Robosoft, Software, Solutions to Problems, Super Simple, Web Sites | Posted on 29-09-2012

Software Marketing with Robosoft

For years RoboSoft has been the single most effective 1-stop way to promote software. If it isn’t already a part of your software marketing, it should be. If it is a part of your software marketing, there are most likely areas where you can squeeze quite a bit more juice out of it.

In this article I explain what it is, issues surrounding it, and how to use it to effectively promote your software.

This article is aimed at RoboSoft “beginners”, though there are some good tips for intermediate users as well. For highly advanced usage, you can refer to some of my previous articles on Robosoft here.

What It Is

RoboSoft lets you either automatically or semi-automatically submit your software to hundreds (or thousands) of download sites, news sites, and other software-related sites.

It works by having you enter information about your software, then automatically submitting that information to its large database of sites via web automation. Not all sites can be done automatically, so you can go back and submit to those sites that it “missed”.

For semi-automated submissions, RoboSoft automatically fills in all the forms with your software information, e.g. the product name, download URL, descriptions, etc.

What It Can Do For You

Used properly, RoboSoft can significantly boost your position in search engines, and consequently, increase your sales.

It’s that simple. RoboSoft increases sales. Period.

What It Costs

The cost of RoboSoft is insignificant compared to the value it delivers. A standard lifetime license is $99.00, while database updates are sold on a subscription basis starting at $8 / month. A full year of updates can be purchased for a discount.

About PAD

PAD stands for Portable Application Description. It is the industry standard way to communicate information about software, and is maintained by the Association for Software Professionals (ASP).

PAD files are simple XML files. Each bit of information is contained in a descriptive node. Nodes do not have any attributes.

RoboSoft, and most download sites, use the PAD standard to communicate your software information. You can either create your PAD file inside of RoboSoft, or you can use an external PAD authoring tool like PADGen to create your PAD file then import it into RoboSoft. See below for more information on this.

For more information about PAD, see the official PAD site here.

For more information about PADGen, the official ASP PAD file generator, see the official PADGen page here.

The Download Site Controversy and Why It Doesn’t Matter

Skimming through various developer forums, you will at some point encounter the download site debate, with many authors poo-pooing download sites. Don’t buy it.

The typical “controversy” goes on about how there are thousands of download sites, and how they have no value, and how submitting your software to them is a waste of time.

I beg to differ.

When digging deeper, it usually turns out that somebody submitted their software to a very small handful of sites (maybe 30) once then came to the conclusion that it’s a complete waste of time. Well, duh! That is a waste of time.

Follow the advice below, and you will not waste your time. You will see significant results.

But don’t throw a handful of sand on the beach then claim that you can’t make a sand castle with sand because you tried and it didn’t work.

The “Real Deal”

RoboSoft is an SEO tool.

Let me repeat that just in case…

RoboSoft is an SEO tool.

By submitting your software to a LARGE number of sites, you create backlinks to your site. This boosts your site in search engines even if you never get a single download from any of the sites. Even if you never get a single download directly from a download site (yes, I’m repeating that because it’s important), having your software listed and linked back to your site tells the search engines that the content on that page that links to your site is relevant to your site, and that translates into higher search engine rankings for you. Not all download sites post direct links to you, but they do post links to your software installer, which still translates into a link that search engines can follow.

So, your goal isn’t to get downloads from download sites. Your goal is to get better search engine placement, because the new download site is Google.

That means that you need to do some SEO work on your PAD file… Which is beyond the scope of this article. There’s lots of information available on SEO out there, and you can find an excellent article about on-page SEO here. Many of the same principles apply. Don’t worry about download sites out-ranking you. That may happen, but eventually it gets corrected.

In the past, I’ve had up to 95 out of the top 100 results in Google pointing to products that I was promoting, albeit 94 were on download sites. Still, that’s only room for 5 competitors inside of the top 100 results. Those days are done and gone though, but the tactics used still work to get your site up in the SERPs and are still very much worthwhile.

Entering Software Information

As space is short, we’ll forgoe the PAD SEO discussion, and get on to the simple mechanics of entering information…

If you have a PAD file, click “Import…” under “Company tasks” in RoboSoft to import your company information from your PAD file:

Import PAD info for Company

Follow the instructions and click the “Save and exit” button when you’re done:

Importing company info from PAD - save here

That will create your company info inside of RoboSoft. You will see your company info listed similar to as shown below:

Company is now listed in RoboSoft

Next, select your company as shown above, and do the same for your product information by clicking “Import…” under “Product tasks”:

Import product info from PAD

You may be prompted with the company info screen again; click the “Save and exit” button again to continue on to the product import screen:

Product import screen for RoboSoft

You can edit information in there, just as with the company import screen. However, make certain to click the “Save and exit” button to save your product into RoboSoft.

When prompted, make your imported product the selected/active one by clicking Yes:

Make product active

RoboSoft will now look something like this:

Product has been imported into RoboSoft

Before you submit, you must ensure that there are no errors. In the screenshot above, click the “Validate now” link, or in the Product tasks, click the “Validate…” link. This will check your software information for problems:

Validation errors

Walk through each error and correct them all. This may require uploading files, such as your PAD file, to your server and making certain that the information in RoboSoft accurately reflects the newly uploaded files.

You can resize the screen above to go about fixing the errors. If this is the first time you’ve used RoboSoft, you WILL have errors that must be corrected. This is perfectly normal as some fields are RoboSoft specific.

Correcting validation errors in RoboSoft

To correct the errors, click on the error then in the left pane, correct the error. Rinse. Repeat.

Correcting validation errors

!!! IMPORTANT !!! — For your contact and login information, do NOT use your normal email address, i.e. DO NOT use support@ or info@ or yourname@. Use addresses that are used ONLY for submissions. Use email addresses like pad@ or padsupport@ or padsubmit@. Your PAD submissions will generate a lot of email that is only relevant for your PAD submissions. You will also get automated PAD polling information from download sites to tell you that they’ve polled your software and that it has been added/listed or that there was a polling error (which is often because the download site PAD validation is not PAD compliant). So… To avoid filling up your inbox with all that, use another email address. Really. Trust me. I speak from experience. Lots of it.

When you’re done, click the “Save and exit” button.

!!! IMPORTANT !!! — Critical errors must be fixed, however, you can ignore some warnings. Try to fix everything that “makes sense” for your software, but don’t worry if something that is irrelevant to your software still throws a warning, e.g. Your PAD file may not have a press release in it, so you will get warnings there. (Press releases can be added through the press release PAD extension. See here for more information about PAD extensions and here for the PAD extensions repository.)

Before you continue, back in the main RoboSoft screen, double-click your newly imported software to edit it. Walk through each and every field and verify that it has been entered (if required), and is correct. There is a description of each field at the bottom of the screen when you click each field.

Enter or edit information directly in RoboSoft

That should take you several hours (or days) if you do it properly. Why? Because you should have a press release, and you should have site information, and it takes several hours at a minimum to write a draft-quality press release. Don’t overlook that. Remember, this is about SEO, and the more you submit, the better you will perform in the search engines. Take the time to do it properly. Don’t be lazy.

If you don’t have a PAD file, you can simply create a new company and product and enter the information exactly the same as in the screenshot above.

So… by this point you have taken the time to do things right, right? Good! It’s time to submit your software and open the floodgates of traffic!

Submitting Your Software

Before you start submitting, make sure that the database is up to date by clicking Site List > Update. Follow the directions.

Filter Sites That You Submit to

If you have an Excel utility, there is no point in submitting to games sites, and if you have a non-mobile game, there’s no point in submitting to mobile sites… So… Filter them.

Click the Sites tab. It should look something like this:

RoboSoft Sites tab

Click the “Site Rank” column header to sort by site rank. The ones at the top are the most important ones. You will want to do those sites semi-automatically, and not automatically.

In the lower right, check “Use filter” to enable the options there.

Filter the sites you submit to

For Category, uncheck any category that isn’t relevant. e.g. It’s unlikely that you’re a CAD developer, and more likely that your software may fit into the Multimedia category. Be honest. Checking them all is counter productive. If you don’t have a screensaver, don’t submit your software to screensaver sites. You will want to submit to news feed directories, search engines, press release sites, and web directories though.

For Language, you can submit to all of them. You don’t need to uncheck anything. Some non-English sites accept English software, while other non-English sites don’t. Cross that bridge when you get to it. However, if you want, you can check only one language and do your submissions by language, i.e. do multiple sets of submissions. That’s a solid tactic that can help you focus on specific language markets. It may or may not be applicable to you though.

The Flags options let you hide entire categories of sites. For example, some sites require that you pay to be listed, while other sites require that you link back to them. Show or hide the sites that you want to submit to.

HINT: For sites that require a link back, most of these will crawl your site to see if the link is on the home page, and if not, they will decline your submission. A small minority of sites will accept any page, even if it is not linked to anything in your site. I would recommend not bothering with these sites at all. You don’t want to link to them as it does not add enough value to your efforts to warrant it.

I would recommend hiding all sites that require payment or a link back.

For Status, leave that at ALL for the time being. Later on you will want to know where you have submitted, where you are listed, and where submissions failed or were skipped. Before you actually use those functions though, you should use the RoboSoft crawler to update the status by clicking Tools > Track Listings (Batch Search).

When you’ve finished filtering, click the “Apply” button. The status bar in the lower left will update to display something like this:

Filter results

You have now chosen the subset of sites that you will submit to. It’s time to get started…

Starting Submissions

To start submitting, click the “Auto…” button on the RoboSoft toolbar (or click Tools > Automatic submission…) and choose “Submit”:

Click autosubmit to start

RoboSoft will update the database:

Updating database

Once the database is updated, you must complete the automatic submission wizard:

Automatic submission wizard

Next, verify you have the right product that you want to submit:

step 2

RoboSoft then validates your software info:

PAD validation

Next, verify and test your SMTP settings as some submissions are done by email, and others require an account that RoboSoft can automatically create for you:

SMTP settings

Next, verify your site selections:

Verify site selections

Next, RoboSoft will check to see if your software is already listed:

Autosearch

In step 7, check or uncheck individual sites that you want to submit (or not submit) to. To change a category, press CTRL + click the category. If you need more categories to be available to choose from, click the “Edit possible categories” button and follow the direction in the dialog there. A green check mark means that the software is already listed at the site. Check these sites if you have an updated version. Also, make certain to check the account information in the Account tab on the right. If you don’t know what something is, mouse over the question marks (?) for more information.

Category and site selection

It is important to make sure that you get things right in step 7. Take a few minutes to go through the list and verify that everything is correct. Uncheck irrelevant sites and correct any category problems. Not all sites support all categories, so just try to get as close as possible. If you can’t get close, uncheck the site because it’s a waste of your time and a waste of the site owner’s time if your software isn’t relevant. e.g. You have a photo resizing application and the site is for network administration software.

In step 8, RoboSoft does all the submissions. Take special note that it has anti-CAPTCHA built in as you can see in the screenshot:

Submissions

The various panes in the submission window detail what sites are being submitted to, show a screenshot of the submission process, give real-time statistics on the submission process, and show CAPTCHAs being cracked.

The anti-CAPTCHA feature in RoboSoft is highly effective, but not 100% of the time. At the end of the submission process, you are given the option to go back and process those CAPTCHAs that RoboSoft missed:

Process CAPTCHAs

It’s a very simple and easy process, so just click the “Process CAPTCHAs” button.

Missed CAPTCHAs

Click in the Value column and type the CAPTCHA. You can see a screenshot of the actual web site in the lower right.

If you get one wrong, you’ll be promted again. Some CAPTCHAs are very difficult, while some sites are just broken. If you can’t get one, forget about it. The chances are that the site itself is broken.

Step 9 is the “YAY~!” stage:

Success rates for software submissions

RoboSoft keeps track of all the submissions for you, including success and failure rates. Don’t worry about failures though. It’s common for a site to go down, or for a site to have internal errors, especially when you submit to hundreds and hundreds of them. RoboSoft also keeps track of why there were errors, as you can see in the screenshot above. Just make certain that you aren’t the source of the errors through some silly oversight like bad account information.

Step 10… Hmmm… Step 10… How about I let my sadistic side take over. You know… Slide on over to the Dark Side… and leave step 10 as a mystery by not telling you what it is and not posting a screenshot. Muahahahaha~! You’re tortured now, aren’t you? It’s eating you up inside, gnawing at your very soul… You must know what step 10 is… And so… You must go out and get RoboSoft and do your own submissions to find out! (You’ll be very glad that you did.)

But You’re Not Finished Yet…

That’s just the automatic part. There’s still the manual part.

Go to the Sites tab and double-click on a site that you’ve not submitted to (or one that you want to resubmit to). That will open up the site on the Browser tab. There, click the “Submit” button and carry on your submissions semi-automatically. Each site is different, so you’ll need to just roll with it. However, many sites run off of the same download site engines, and after a while, you’ll begin to recognize them. That makes submissions faster for you as you’ll know what to expect within a few seconds of visiting a site.

The important things to know are:

  • RoboSoft will automatically fill in fields for you.
  • You can use the “Autofill” button to fill in fields if RoboSoft doesn’t.
  • You can right-click in an input and choose what information to enter from the context menu.
  • This is a very important part of submissions, and if you skip is, well, you might as well throw a handful of sand on the beach and then complain about not being able to build a sand castle.

If you are diligent and aggressive, the entire submission process should take you about 2 or 3 days. That assumes some learning curve. Once you know what you are doing better, submissions are much faster; plan on a set of submissions taking a day to complete. The manual/semi-automatic portion takes the longest, as you would expect.

Again, it bears repeating: Do not skip the semi-automatic submission process. It is critical to your success. There are some very good download sites that you’ve likely never heard of, and if you skip them, you are missing out on some valuable exposure. See my praise for Softoxi here.

After You Finish Submitting…

The process doesn’t end with submissions though. RoboSoft can keep track of what sites your software is listed at, so you should periodically go back and run the batch search: Tools > Track Listings (Batch Search).

You can add in new versions, submit, and keep track of it all.

DynamicPAD

DynamicPAD is how you can turn RoboSoft from a raging 800 lb gorilla, into a fire-breathing, 800-foot high, Tokyo-smashing Godzilla. (BTW – Your competition is Toyko.)

However, DynamicPAD is well beyond the beginner or intermediate scope of this article. If you want more information about turbo-charging RoboSoft with DynamicPAD, see my articles on that here (part 1, 2, 3, 4). It’s not for the faint-of-heart, but if you really want to get some fantastic results, try it out. The articles include source code that you can use as well.

NOTE

This article has been sitting around for almost a year, but is still as accurate as the day it was written. Originally, it was written for another company, but, they simply sat on it for too long, so, I’m publishing it. I know it will be useful for someone.

Cheers,

Ryan

 

CNET and Installers: A Win-Win-Win-Win Scenario

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in Business, Internet, Money, OpenCandy, Software | Posted on 09-12-2011

money grown on treesA while back Download.com (CNET) did some pretty shady stuff with installers. People screamed bloody murder, and CNET listened. They’re now in beta with the new version of their downloader/installer, and this is a very good thing. They’ve changed all the bad stuff (from what I can tell), and are now offering what looks like an excellent platform. (I’ve not done any indepth analysis of it, but on the surface, it looks good.)

But, as you can imagine, there are people that are still not happy with it. CNET is offering developers an opportunity to get paid for their work, and at the same time, they’re doing this in an open and voluntary way. This still seems unacceptable to some people who can’t get past the fact that the downloaders from CNET add in an advertising layer where they are shown an ad with an offer while their chosen software is downloading. They’ll surf web pages with trillions of ads and lots of tracking technology in them, but for some reason, if legitimate software comes with an ad, it’s evil. And allowing developers that opportunity to get paid for their work is somehow unacceptable.

Well… Let me quickly explain a bit about some important concerns that some people face…

The thing is that at the end of the day, people that develop software are people. People need to eat. Eating involves food. In order to get food, you need to have money to pay for it. In order to have money to pay for food to eat, you need to get some of that money stuff, which is normally called “getting paid”. In order to “get paid”, you need to work. If you’re one of those people that develops software, normally called a “developer”, you need “work” at “development” and get paid for that “development”.

I tried asking at the supermarket if they’d give me some food for free, but they said, “NO!” I was rather disappointed. After all, it seems like people expect me to work for free, so why shouldn’t I get other stuff for free?

Well, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right?

So I went to fill up my car at the gas station. At the counter, I asked if I could get the gas for free. Again, the fellow said, “NO!”

By this point I was starting to get disillusioned and depressed. But, not one to be detered, I forged bravely on!

Development can be very expensive as you need all kinds of tools. So I thought maybe I can get some tools for free! (You see, I’m always thinking in new and creative ways!)

So, yet again, I forged bravely on to the local computer store.

I grabbed a hard drive off the shelf and went up to the cash register. Again I asked if I could have it for free. Y’know what? She said, “NO!”

Well, maybe it’s time I short of shift focus for a bit. Instead, I decided to see if I could get something related with Intellectual Property for free. After all, what I do is basically that, so maybe that’s got something to do with it.

So I went to a store, picked up a DVD and went up to the checkout. Sigh… You know what’s coming… “NO!”

At that point it clicked! I need to go online!

Well, I emailed the iTunes store to see if I could get some movies for free. Sigh… They didn’t even respond… I took that for a “NO!”

Then I found VODO.net and finally got a movie for free!

You can imagine how profoundly disappointed I was when I realised just how hungry I was and that I couldn’t eat the movie that I’d downloaded. Man… Was my wife going to be pissed with me! No food on the table even after I’d managed to get something for free… ๐Ÿ˜›

Then, as if a light shone down from Heaven, I heard someone say, “Yo! Dude! I can help you put food on the table. Work with me and I’ll pay you.”

WOW! Finally! There was hope! The next week would look promising as I dreamed of my wife not beating me into unconsciousness! ๐Ÿ˜€ RAPTURE! JOY~! ๐Ÿ˜€

Ok… Silly stories aside… I think it’s great that there are alternative ways for developers to get paid for their work. And, at the end of the day, these methods cost end users nothing except a few seconds of their time and perhaps a click to close a window. This looks like a win-win-win-win scenario to me.

Developers win because they get paid.

Users win because they get good software.

CNET wins because they have a business model that is profitable and that helps people.

CNET advertisers win because they get access to end users and can present them with an offer.

Nobody is losing in this scenario. Everyone is winning.

So why must some people find offense in this? CNET has a way to encourage software development. This can only be good for end users. They have nothing to lose.

I think that it’s disingenuous, arrogant, self-centered, selfish, and disrespectful for users to expect developers to work for free. Nobody else seems to think it’s ok for them to be expected to work for free. (Musicians/artists face much the same problem as software developers.) Ethical methods that allow developers to get paid can only be a good thing. Begrudging these opportunities to developers is simply mean spirited and selfish.

I also think it’s great to have free software out there. Free as in freeware and free as in freedom. Both are good.

I also appreciate commercial software that I have to pay for. I shudder to think how much I’ve spent on software, but am very glad that I have as it has helped me immensely.

The CNET solution now seems to have entered back into the realm of sanity. They are now approaching the topic with respect, much in the same way that OpenCandy operates. This is the way to go. Treat people well.

Cheers,

Ryan

The Doc Report Episode #1 with Nico Westerdale

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in OpenCandy, Software, The Doc Report | Posted on 14-08-2011

Tags:

At long last, we’ve finally got the first episode of The Doc Report out the door!

The first episode features an interview with Nico Westerdale of Bits du Jour, Iconico, and Software Marketing Resource.

In the interview we talk about software marketing, how certain software markets behave, and other software related goodness! (No spoilers here!)

Don’t miss it! =D

The Doc Report

The Doc Report is a new podcast where Dr. Apps and I interview software experts on different aspects of software. The show is accessible for everyone though, from enthusiastic end-users, to software gurus; there’s something in there for you, no matter who you are.

The show is published bi-weekly, so make certain to tune in where we keep our finger on the pulse of the software world.

Cheers,

Ryan

 

Where People Use Photo Resizer – Korea #1

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in Business, OpenCandy, Super Simple | Posted on 18-05-2011

Tags:

It looks like I have quite a few users in South Korea for Super Simple Photo Resizer.

Super Simple Photo Resizer, Apr 1st 2011 – May 17th 2011

1. Korea, Republic of
2. United States
3. India
4. Germany
5. Taiwan, Province of China
6. Indonesia
7. United Kingdom
8. Australia
9. Canada
10. Mexico
11. Other

Where people are using Photo Resizer

The big slice there represents the rest of the word, which is larger, but still, Korea and the US account for the top 2 with India very close behind the US. (Statistics and graphic are thanks to the OpenCandy control panel. It includes initiated and completed installations.)

I rather like that as I have a very special place in my heart for Korea. (I lived there for almost 14 years.)

I don’t think I should be too surprised though. Having lived in Korea for so long, I’ve adopted quite a few Korean attitudes, and, looking back at things, Photo Resizer really is a reflection of that. It is designed to get a job done, and to do it well, without bogging you down with meaningless details. So I can see why Korean users would be attracted to it. They’re some of the most tech-savvy people in the world, which only adds to my pleasant surprise at seeing them as my #1 users!

The only unfortunate thing is that revenue for South Korea is very low:

1. United States
2. Germany
3. United Kingdom
4. Australia
5. Spain
6. Netherlands
7. Canada
8. Switzerland
9. Korea, Republic of
10. France
11. Other

Photo Resizer revenue

As you can see, revenue from the US takes up a very large portion of total revenue, and well over 50%.

I suppose OpenCandy just needs some good Korean advertisers! ๐Ÿ™‚

Cheers,

Ryan

 

Why Developers Need to Squeeze Software for Ca$h

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in Business, Mobile, Money, OpenCandy, Software, Super Simple | Posted on 20-04-2011

Everybody talks about Google, Microsoft, Apple, Angry Birds, Twitter, Facebook, and a handful of other software companies and applications, but they are not representative of the majority of software companies or authors. And the amount of money they make isn’t representative either.

Few developers ever make the gobs of money that you see in TV shows or movies. That’s fantasy land. Sure, a lot of developers live comfortably, but there’s a difference between being that and being truly rich.

I came across this article, “Is one dollar enough?“, and the obvious answer to me is “NO!” The author talks about games, and how the price point is being squeezed down to a buck. She ends the article with:

It is sad to realize that someone wouldnโ€™t think twice about spending $2 โ€“ $5 on a quick snack, but they themselves cannot see spending over $1 on a game that will give them hours, or perhaps even days/weeks in entertainment.

She’s bang on. People will pay $5 or $6 for a coffee that otherwise should cost $2 (adjusted for inflation), or $3 on a candy bar (in Australia) which is little more than sugary poison, but they’ll balk at spending $1 for a software title or a piece of fruit!

Software licensing is a difficult business, and software revenue models are even harder. Here are a few quick questions off the top of my head that only scratch the surface of the licensing and revenue model questions:

  • Charge for machine licenses, individual users, or CPUs?
  • Use an activation count or phone home and keep track of installs?
  • Allow multiple or simultaneous use?
  • Monetize with ads? On web site? In the software? In the installer?
  • SaaS (Software as a Service) – Charge for ongoing use?
  • Charge a setup fee with ongoing maintenance?
  • Free to use, but charge for content?
  • Free but with charged premium features?
  • Basic, standard and pro licensing?
  • Nagware?
  • Shareware (try before you buy) or purchase before trying?
  • Distribution partners?
  • Exclusive distribution?
  • Which payment system(s)?
  • How about an affiliate program?
  • MLM affiliate or flat with referral fees?
  • LAMP, WAMP, WIMP or Microsoft stack? It affects a lot of other decisions…
  • C#, C++, Delphi, Objective-C, C, C# with Mono, Java? Again, it affects other decisions…
  • Start free then charge later?
  • Free upgrades? Paid minor versions?
  • Subscriptions for upgrade protection?
  • Paid support?
  • FOSS? Get paid for integration or consulting?
  • B2B or B2C?
  • Consumer or professional? Enterprise or SME?
  • Privacy issues? People will pay for information… (Dark side alert!)
  • Download protection fees?
  • Physical media?
  • Dongles?
  • Partial key verification?
  • Bits du Jour?
  • Give Away of the Day?
  • “App stores”? They’ll screw you for pricing and restrict your business model more than you could ever imagine…
  • Amazon? eBay? iTunes?
  • Retail? Tech Data? Ingram Micro? Better have deeeeeep pockets…
  • “Software site” or “sales letter”?
  • Put it out there and go for venture or angel capital?
  • Exit strategy?
  • Online, mobile or desktop? Or a mix of the 3?

GOOD GRIEF~! It goes on almost forever. And every one of those is important for your licensing or revenue model. Some will only limit your possibilities, while others are models in themselves.

And people often don’t even want to pay you $1?

There’s a very large disconnect between what people will pay for software and the amount of work that goes into a lot of it.

Slow down music with Guitar & Drum TrainerFor example, one of my software titles, Guitar & Drum Trainer, goes for $49.95. Now, considering how much some people use it, and just how valuable it is for their music, it’s easily worth 5x that much. But, when people look at software, they don’t see value in the same ways as when they look at physical objects. Tascam makes a hardware product that doesn’t do half as much, but sells for 3x the price.

So it seems to me that the $1 being enough is a symptom of the “software price disconnect” with consumers.

Gamers are an odd bunch though. They spend a lot of money from one hand, but grip tightly with the other. ย They’ll spend $X per month on a software subscription for game Y, but won’t spend a dime for game Z. Fickle? Unpredictable? I think that goes for the market at large – consumer behavior isn’t always predictable, and even the best research can lead you in the wrong direction. We’re talking about stochastic processes, so this is trivially true.

As a conjecture, spending on software seems in many places to follow a sort of herd mentality, where the more people that spend, the more people that spend. The MMORPG is a perfect example. Some MMORPGs have gone the “free to play” route with items being available for purchase, e.g. Cabal Online. (I used to work for ESTsoft.) Get players in with the promise of free play, gain the critical mass needed to make the game viable, and offer items for sale to a crowd fighting with itself for supremacy. Seems like a great model to me!

However, I think that there’s a bigger issue underlying a lot of the problems in the market. The Apples and Amazons out there. They are effectively destroying the market for anyone except themselves. Their pricing policies are a requirement to be included in their stores, but they also limit pricing for the software developers. It’s not a good thing. It is eliminating competition, and forcing developers into the role of “starving artist of our day”, as one commenter in the article above puts it.

Developers are forced into ad networks like I talked about in “Win an iPad 2 โ€“ A Mobile Ad“. I’m not so sure that I like that very much. It looks like a win-lose proposition.

So with prices being driven down by the market at large, and price gouging being encouraged by the big players who profit to the tune of 30% from each sale of a developer’s hard work, the sale of software is becoming increasingly unrealistic in many categories, like games. This makes it all the more important to use or come up with non-traditional revenue models that don’t rely so heavily on sales. Every avenue needs to be explored and assessed.

Again, developers need to squeeze out revenue wherever they can. This is not a good thing. We’ve seen where that road leads to, and we’re heading full on down the path to the dark side yet once again, apparently not having learned jack shit from the past. There are good options out there, but the “bad” options always seem to pay more. Sorting out the good ones from the bad ones is hard enough, let alone resisting the siren’s call.

One good area that I think we’re going to see more and more of is in content driven software. I would love to be able to offer GDT users the opportunity to purchase music directly in GDT along with GDT files with premade loops and EQ settings. That would be fantastic! However, it’s also unrealistic for me to expect to be able to become a music distributor. Still, the opportunities for larger developers with more muscle than me is out there.

For games, this takes the form of purchasing items, or purchasing additional levels or episodes. Few programs out there though, compared to games, really take advantage of this though.

For Super Simple, this could be offering users the opportunity to get professional prints of their photos through Photo Resizer (or a new title). Of course there would be a lot of work to do to get that done, but it *is* a possibility, and would genuinely offer users a solid value proposition. That sort of bleeds the idea of content with services though. i.e. Your content, our services.

The Super Simple revenue model isn’t complete yet. It has a few elements in there, but it’s very far from being what I envision as sustainable. However, it is setup to allow for the addition of different revenue models, and when I have things ready, I’ll work them in. For the moment, Super Simple leverages 3 areas:

  • Web site ads – AdSense
  • Download page ads – AfterDownload
  • Installer ad – OpenCandy

So far the clear winner in terms of revenue is OpenCandy. They’re like the invisible 800 lb gorilla. While people scramble to position their AdSense ads properly, and optimize colors, they could easily trump that revenue with OpenCandy and leave all the work up to OpenCandy. Heck… That’s their job! i.e. Get and vet good software titles as advertisers, then help developers make money while introducing users to new software during the installation process.

There’s still a good deal more to come for Super Simple, but all in good time. I’m working on the next release at the moment.

Well, I meandered around quite a bit there trying to cover some aspects of the business of software and some pressures on software that are pushing it towards non-traditional routes for revenue. At the end of the day though, I believe the important thing to say is that you made an honest dollar.

Cheers,

Ryan

 

An Initial Look at OpenCandy Revenue

2

Posted by Cynic | Posted in Business, Money, OpenCandy, Super Simple | Posted on 09-04-2011

I keep getting people asking me about what the revenue for Super Simple through OpenCandy is. Well, here’s the information to date!

I can only report on the results that I’ve seen, so here are some initial results for the first 10 days of the release of Photo Resizer at Super Simple (the marked dates include days prior to the release):

Installations by country:

OpenCandy - installations by country

Revenue by country:

OpenCandy - revenue by country

Accepted offers by country:

OpenCandy - offer installs by country

So, this table puts that all in perspective:

Country Install Count Accepted Offer Count Revenue Rev/Install Rev/Offer
Australia 12 4 $0.55 $0.0458 $0.1375
Austria $0.10
Canada 7 $0.10 $0.0143
Germany 7 3 $0.20 $0.0286 $0.0667
Greece 2 $0.10 $0.0500
India 47 13 $0.04 $0.0009 $0.0031
Indonesia 17 4
Japan $0.10
Korea, Republic of 33 9 $0.05 $0.0015 $0.0056
Malaysia 8 5
Other 73 24 $0.22 $0.0030 $0.0092
South Africa 2
Taiwan, Province of China 20 5
United Kingdom 10 $0.56 $0.0560
United States 28 6 $3.19 $0.1139 $0.5317
Totals 262 77 $5.21 $0.0199 $0.0677

So US installs are about $0.50 each, which isn’t too bad. However, the offer acceptance rate is only 6 in 28, or 21%, but it is still the most valuable market by far, accounting for 61% of revenue.

That’s a very small set though, and the product hasn’t even been public for 2 weeks. I have a lot more work to do on the site and getting it known out there. Like I’ve said in previous posts, this is ground zero. It will take time to build the reputation of the site with more software titles and with more people knowing about it. That will accelerate over time, but the initial period has very little momentum. Momentum takes time to build.

Anyways, that is a little bit of information.

Cheers,

Ryan

Opening Up OpenCandy

5

Posted by Cynic | Posted in Internet, Logic, OpenCandy, Security, Software, Uncategorized | Posted on 03-04-2011

Tags: ,

open candy logoI’ve been involved in a discussion about OpenCandy over at DonationCoder. It’s kind of got a fair bit of fight in it as the topic is hot and the opposing sides are passionate about the issue. What’s the issue? Spyware.

A few people have accused OpenCandy of being spyware. In the above post I briefly outline the smoking guns that show that OpenCandy is NOT spyware. Here I’m going to show that again, but I’m also going to open it up for non-technical people with some additional explanation. There are technical details in here, but I explain them all in simple, straight forward English. Later on I won’t explain the same things again as there’s no sense in repeating myself too much.

First, I’m not going to cite a trillion different definitions of spyware because more often than not they include wishy-washy garbage and contradictions that make them pretty useless as definitions. Instead, here’s a simple definition of spyware that is clear and succinct.

Spyware: Software that sends personal or unique information about a computer or user to a third part over a communications connection such as a network connection, e.g. the Internet or a mobile phone connection.

There’s nothing controversial in there. It could be made better, but it’s good enough.

OpenCandy does not do that. What it does is to download a list of possible offers, then choose one of the offers and present it to a person during a software installation.

Using WireShark, I pulled this information out from the OpenCandy powered installer for Photo Resizer, my own software:

clientv=27&cltzone=600&language=en,en&method=get_offers&mstime=0.280
&os=WIN6.1-64&product_key=613b8aaa21ae201a2c054a63f3e87f8d&v=1.0&
signature=5b437627dd2fdb9897e0bbd47c2c3d58

That’s a query string sent to the OpenCandy offer server. I’ll break it down and explain each part. Please note that in some places I am making educated guesses based on a good amount of experience with networking and software.

If you aren’t familiar with what a query string is, it’s just a list of key/value pairs that contain some information for a server on the Internet to process. You can see this in the address bar when you visit different Internet sites. The part to the left of the equals sign (=) is the key, and the part to the right is the value. They are separated by an ampersand (&) in the query string as you can see above.

clientv=27

This key/value pair looks like an identifier for the OpenCandy version to use. It’s a necessary value in case OpenCandy decided to upgrade their software. By identifying the version, they can keep things working. This is exactly the same principle as you use every day in Microsoft Office with new file types being named differently. That tells Windows and Office what version of the file format they are looking at. e.g. DOC vs. DOCX.

cltzone=600

This key/value pair looks like “client zone”, which would lead me to believe that it is identifying the country. While I’m not certain, it looks about right. That information could also be gotten from the IP address though, so I could be mistaken. However, 3 characters, “600”, is not enough space to send back any kind of personally identifying information. It’s just too small, so this could not possibly be used to justify an accusation of OpenCandy being spyware.

language=en,en

This is obviously the language, which is obviously not any kind of a basis to accuse someone of distributing software. This value is present in all browser communications and is fundamental for proper communications. Some web sites use this value properly, although most do not. e.g. Google does not use this value properly, and instead of serving you the proper content in the language that you request, they send you information in the language based on your IP address.

method=get_offers

This is an instruction for the OpenCandy offer server to send a list of offers. It may have other values. This is not a basis to accuse a piece of software of being spyware. The string “get_offers” is obviously not personally identifying.

mstime=0.280

This looks like a kind of time stamp. My guess is that it is the time since the installer was run or the startup time for the installer or the OpenCandy DLL. That would be useful for diagnostics, but would not serve any other purpose. The field is too small to contain any sort of personal information.

os=WIN6.1-64

This is obviously the OS version of my computer, Windows 7 x64. Again, this is not a unique value. All browsers supply this information and more, so it’s only repeating information.

product_key=613b8aaa21ae201a2c054a63f3e87f8d

This is the unique product key for Photo Resizer. There’s nothing secret about it. You can decompile the installer or get this value during installation through WireShark. It identifies the program being installed, and not the computer or user.

v=1.0

I believe that this is the version of the Photo Resizer installer that has been submitted to OpenCandy for inspection and certification. But no matter, again 3 characters isn’t enough to send information about you or your computer.

signature=5b437627dd2fdb9897e0bbd47c2c3d58

The signature value looks like an authentication parameter to check to see that it is indeed Photo Resizer and not some rogue software. That is, it looks like a security measure to protect the integrity of the OpenCandy network from malicious users or attacks. Now, if I’m wrong, which I kind of doubt, the length of that value is still too small to contain any kind of personal information.

None of the fields are long enough to contain any information.

Now, for the XML itself… I’m not going to explain it all as that would simply take too long. Instead, I’m going to run my FL Studio update and find the OC information in there, post it, and the resultant XML from that.

So, when installing the OpenCandy powered installer for FL Studio 10, this is the OpenCandy GET request:

clientv=27&cltzone=600&language=en,en&method=get_offers
&mstime=0.219&os=WIN6.1-64
&product_key=aa0891b96e4cdc07b5c878e7de2316c0
&v=1.0&signature=df54629db8357026c13c68df288225b8

Again, it looks pretty much the same, with nothing alarming in there.

The FL Studio installer EULA contains this:

Recommendation software
This installer uses the OpenCandy network (or similar) to recommend other software you may find valuable during installation of this software. OpenCandy (or similar) may collect and use *NON personally identifiable* information about THIS installation and the recommendation process. Collection of this information by OpenCandy ONLY occurs during this installation and the recommendation process; in accordance OpenCandy’s Privacy Policy, available at <www.opencandy.com/privacy-policy>.

OpenCandy downloaded some XML. I’m not going to explain it in depth as it’s simply very long. However, here’s the short explanation…

XML is a container format that lets you easily transfer arbitrary information. The nice thing about XML is that you get to define everything yourself, unlike HTML which is already predefined.

Now, the XML for OpenCandy contains offer listings. Those include things like some text to display, the name of the program for an offer, the download location, the downloader that takes care of it all, a graphic to make things look nice, etc. etc. In short, it’s very similar to what you might see on a web site. There are some additional directives and parameters for the offers, but they aren’t related to the computer or user; they are related to the offer. Again, it’s got nothing to do with the user or computer and isn’t in any way, shape, or form personally identifying. It’s been downloaded from the server. It’s information FROM the server, and not from the user or computer.

For the XML, click here. If you examine it, you will see that there is nothing remotely like spyware.

I declined the offer from Uniblue as ย I don’t need it.

Next, after I declined the offer, this request was sent:

accepted_ind=0&clientv=27&method=track_offer_result&mstime=606.626
&offer_id=790&offer_shown_secs=34157&opt_shown_count=1
&product_key=aa0891b96e4cdc07b5c878e7de2316c0
&session_key=94f78bd10c5abef3bf7f0b928cf5319a
&skipped_offer_ids=&v=1.0&signature=be82fca424013cff56f1e593b67842e0

Breaking that down gives this (a bit more readable):

accepted_ind=0
clientv=27
method=track_offer_result
mstime=606.626
offer_id=790
offer_shown_secs=34157
opt_shown_count=1
product_key=aa0891b96e4cdc07b5c878e7de2316c0
session_key=94f78bd10c5abef3bf7f0b928cf5319a
skipped_offer_ids=
v=1.0
signature=be82fca424013cff56f1e593b67842e0

Most are the same, but there are some new ones. What happens there is that the OpenCandy DLL simply tells the server that the offer was declined. Again, there is nothing personal or identifying in there.

In fact, if you look at the 2 from Photo Resizer and from FL Studio and compare values, you’ll see that they are different. If they were the same, then there might be some reason to suspect that my computer were uniquely identified. But there are no similarities. They are clearly not related.

I also found this in the packet analysis:

clientv=27&method=track_product_installed&mstime=1181.412
&product_key=aa0891b96e4cdc07b5c878e7de2316c0
&session_key=94f78bd10c5abef3bf7f0b928cf5319a
&v=1.0&signature=277e0b3a8b8577d3a79720310e55bb10

Which along with the 1 immediately above just finishes the FL Studio installation and alerts the OpenCandy server that the FL Studio installation completed. Again, nothing to worry about.

The long times there are because I was writing this as I was installing my FL Studio upgrade, and farting around with other things as well.

I hope that the above has sufficiently demonstrated that there is nothing at all in OpenCandy to remotely suggest that it is spyware.

Ad supported? Yes. OpenCandy enables software authors like me to support software by presenting people with offers to install other reputable, vetted software titles. So both Photo Resizer and FL Studio are supported by ads. That doesn’t make them spyware though. That’s an entirely false accusation that I’ve just gone on at length to prove isn’t true. You can replicate the experiment yourself with WireShark.

In related news, Eset, the makers of NOD32, have still not gotten back to me about this.

Man… I think those guys at OpenCandy should hire ME as an evangelist~! =D

Cheers,

Ryan

Off to a Start

2

Posted by Cynic | Posted in Money, OpenCandy, Super Simple | Posted on 31-03-2011

Tags:

Well, downloads are picking up. I’ve just released Photo Resizer, and there isn’t much data. This shows the first week where I had a pre-release for a few people, and 1 day of release data.

I’ll post again in a month or so with a follow up.

But so far, it’s been a bloody Hell of a lot of work to get $0.53! Fortunately the future is looking like it’s picking up.