Hobbyist License

Richard Gaskin ambassador at fourthworld.com
Fri Aug 16 03:44:01 EDT 2002

Dan Shafer writes:

> Richard Gaskin wrote, in part:
>> Further, the casual user more inclined to buy a non-professional license is
>> likely to require more support than someone with more experience and a more
>> disciplined approach to programming.
> This might be a viable argument if RR provided any support for the
> product, but in an era of Web/Internet/user-supported software, there
> is no real reason why it is necessary for a buyer of a low-end
> product to expect or receive tech support at no additional cost from
> the publisher. 

Gee Dan, you make me feel like a dinosaur for offering a year of toll-free
telephone support for the products I publish.  :)

I hope you're right.  There was a thread here a while back about no-support
licensing options, and at the time a number of folks were very vocal about
the need for support.

Then again, with the growing popularity of this list maybe that's less of an
issue today.

> I don't believe support needs to play a role in crafting such product
> policies a we are discussing here unless the publisher wanted to make
> it an issue.

It was an issue with Aldus, Alegiant, Oracle, Sybase, and I presume for
Apple as well.  But admittedly that was a long time ago, and it's quite
likely that today's audience would be more forgiving of support limitations.
We also didn't have the Web back then, and email was still a novelty for a
lot of folks (man, I'm feeling more like a dinosaur the deeper I go with
this).  Those two factors greatly reduce the cost of support.

>> And perhaps most significant of all is the role that personality types play
>> in all this.
> <There followed some good stuff about programming mentality which
> I've ommitted for the sake of reducing clutter but which I recommend
> you read!>

Dan, from one of the most widely published authorities on xTalks and other
scripting languages, that's one of the kindest things anyone's said about my
ramblings.  You are far too generous - as you'll see here:

> While you are certainly right in your basic position, I would
> challenge your underlying assumption that programming is programming
> is programming and that merely reducing the price of a tool will
> create more programmers.

You may have to retract your kind words now, as this may be just evidence of
my sloppy pre-coffee writing:  I had tried to convey the opposite belief,
arguing that the price point is not as critical for marketshare once you've
got something in the under-$300 range. (Note to self: coffee _before_
posting, not after.)

But I do wholeheartedly think you're on to something big here:

> On the contrary. When HyperCard was in its heyday and I was
> traveling the world promoting my books and speaking
> to user groups, I found literally thousands of people who had
> "accidentally" backed into becoming scripters because of the
> wonderfully seductive nature of the beast.

True fact.  It happened to me: I was in film school when one day I was
poking around in this thing called HyperCard and accidentally made a button.
It was like magic: I dropped out of film school to teach myself programming
and never looked back.  I know a lot of people with similar HyperCard

> I studied this phenomenon closely for some years. I came up with the
> phrase "Inventive Users" to describe the "next layer" of
> programmer/scripter types who were not professional programmers, did
> not engage in programming for a living, and who were really intent on
> solving problems they or their colleagues or family members had. I
> published the "Inventive User Letter" for a brief period before the
> channel of distribution for it went away. I believe Apple studies
> prove that a huge proportion of the folks who bought HyperCard or
> used it did some measure of scripting.

Certainly much larger than with Pascal or C, or even BASIC.  Even Microsoft
caught the fever: an MS employee once told me that VB was prototyped on a
Mac in SuperCard. :)

I think we're on the same page:  scripters are in limited supply in the gene
pool, but there are far more of them then programmers using more structured
languages.  And when you have the accessible grace and ease of xTalk
specifically, we're looking at the largest of potential scripting audiences
(did I mention chunk expressions this week? <g>).

> FWIW, my conjecture is that if Apple had left HyperCard with Claris,
> it would have been improved and extended so well that it would *be*
> what RR has become (at least conceptually), but with more market
> muscle behind it. Before Apple re-seized HyperCard from Claris, I saw
> demonstrated fully color versions of the product running on Mac and
> Windows. I had copies of these things (though they were time-expired
> and have long since disappeared). They weren't done yet, but they
> were clearly proof that the product was viable.

Technically viable no doubt, but did they intend to keep the $99 price tag?

> So, apologies for the long-winded reply here, but I think it is
> important as we debate the potential resurgence of xCard/xTalk
> products that we not make the mistake of thinking that Apple has
> "been there, done that" and that it didn't work. Apple hasn't been
> there, didn't do that, and really doesn't know what would or wouldn't
> work if they gave it a legitimate shot.

Good point. Reminds me of Apple's half-hearted attempt at cloning, which
some loyalists offer as "proof" that cloning doesn't work (the explosion of
the PC market somehow doesn't get factored into the analysis).

> This is why I'm encouraged by what I see and hear of RR so far. The
> company's fortunes ride not on selling more overpriced, feature-laden
> computers to an elite group of users (including me!) but on making
> this product work. They have some ways to go but their progress so
> far is remarkable. I am encouraged each time I do something in RR and
> I get goose-bumps at the prospect of being able to rely on such a
> wonderful product as HyperCard-on-steroids (legal ones, of course!)
> once again for things my wife, my friends, my children, my
> grandchildren, and I want our computers to do but for which no
> software company is going to provide a solution.

Amen, brother. Let the Revolution revolution begin!

 Richard Gaskin 
 Fourth World Media Corporation
 Custom Software and Web Development for All Major Platforms
 Developer of WebMerge 2.0: Publish any Database on Any Site
 Ambassador at FourthWorld.com       http://www.FourthWorld.com
 Tel: 323-225-3717                       AIM: FourthWorldInc

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