A decision for POP Forums

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 15, 2006, 1:01 PM | comments: 1

I've been thinking a lot about what I really want to do with POP Forums when I finally finish v8. The truth is, because it's actually the center piece of the various sites I run, it holds up everything else for me, and that's kind of been torturing me for the better part of two years now.

So to think about what I'll do with it, I have to think about where it has been. It started as a simple app for Guide to The Point (which is now PointBuzz). It was old ASP, it was simple, it was fast, and it was far easier to manage than UBB. It even ran on an Access database. It was absolutely full of security holes. But wow, it was so simple, basically three or four ASP's.

But I made it a self-contained app, and I sold it for about $200 a license. I made a couple grand that year (2000). ASP seriously lacked community back then, and it never did draw people in the way that ASP.NET has.

In 2002, I ported it to ASP.NET. That was a lateral move, because it lacked any object-oriented coding. What an embarrassing mess that was. It wasn't until a year later that I started from scratch and wrote what largely remains today. It's not ideal, but it works fairly well. In late 2003, I removed the licensing and started giving it away, because I just didn't feel there was a market for selling it.

I did a point release of sorts in late 2004, but there was no significant upgrade. It has essentially been the same for three years. Why? I think in part it's because there's no financial incentive to keep doing it. For my own use, it doesn't perform horribly enough to stress about it, so there's little internal incentive.

Money generally doesn't motivate me, as I really only need enough to eat, pay the mortgage, travel now and then and buy electronic toys. I've had the potential to be a six-figure earner for a long time now, but I choose not to do it, opting instead to live a comfortable lifestyle and spend more time doing my own thing.

That pretty much leaves just one incentive to finish the revision, and that's to enhance my own sites and start over from a far more manageable code base. Then what? The way I see it, there are several options...

  • Keep it all to myself. (Insert evil laugh here.) OK, I don't think that's really a choice I would take, but for the sake of completeness, there it is.

  • Continue to give it away. To be honest with you, I'm not so sure I want to do that anymore. I hate that Web culture doesn't see enough value in much of anything anymore to pay for it. Yet, people buy bling and ringtones for their wireless phones at ridiculous cost. By giving it away, am I saying I don't think there's any value in the product?

  • License it inexpensively, with source code, on the honor system. There's a lot of appeal here because even if someone doesn't want to pay for it, they can get something out of it by looking at my code and hopefully learning something from it (even if it's how not to do things). You can download, play, and if you see that value I hope is there, you can pay for it.

  • License it, and lock it down. That means no code to see, and it won't work without a key. If I did go this route, I suspect the return on investment would be low since this is very much a commodity item many aren't willing to pay for. See: phpBB (which is crap, by the way). I think I'd at least have to do a "lite" version the way I did in the old ASP days, as that sold a lot of licenses.

The biggest point in all of that is actually the last one, about it not being something a lot of people see value in. Sometimes value isn't defined in terms of quality, but relative to what else is out there and at what cost.

This is what I've been thinking about.


Onceler, August 15, 2006, 5:33 PM #

I think one of the big hurdles you would be up against is the whole concept of open source. Like you said above with people not seeing value in it, I think it is more that with the whole open source / free software movement, there are so many other options out there. If ringtones had an open source-like app or site that caught on, the money spent in ringtones would plummett.

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