Journler: Blog

License change: minimum donation required for personal use license

I have decided to institute a minimum donation policy for personal use licenses. I’ve received a number of very small donations and have in the past issued licenses for them. My reasoning has been, perhaps this really is all a person can afford.

I remember when I was a little kid in New Orleans with my parents. We were in the French Quarter at my dad’s favorite café eating airy doughnuts covered in powdered sugar. A street musician was playing jazz trumpet on the corner. I played the trumpet as well and I loved his music.

There was a penny in my pocket, all the money I had. I wanted to give it to the trumpet player. My parents advised against it, for even with the best intentions it could be taken offensively, as though I thought his music were only worth a penny.

Today I received a donation for $0.01. A penny. Single dollar donations unsettled me, but I was willing to give the individual the benefit of the doubt. A penny starts to push it.

On the one hand maybe this is a kid like I was who can’t afford more than a penny, just as there are probably individuals who cannot afford more than a dollar or two. Maybe I’m wrong to get upset about this.

On the other hand, Journler works whether an individual makes a contribution or not. There are no limitations built into the software. A person making a donation of less than five dollars or one of a penny because that’s all their finances allow need not make a donation at all. You need those dollars more than I do.

A few numbers to put things into perspective. A non-personal use license is $24.95. I make no recommendation for a personal use donation. There are ~580 registered users. Of that number 60 have made a donation of $9.99 or less. That’s 10%. 52 users have made a donation of $5.00 or less, about 9%. The average donation is $17.00. Comparing Journler’s price to related software…

Journler: $24.95 or donation
Kit: $24.95
MacJournal: $34.95
Scrivener: $34.99
Yojimbo: $39.00

Average cost: $31.80.

Journler has one of the most generous license policies of any software in its class. I have instituted this policy intentionally, moving as honestly as I can from a freeware/donationware approach to a donationware/shareware one.

Quite frankly, though, it is not working well. Many users do purchase licenses or make donations, and I am extremely thankful for it. Nevertheless, only a small percentage of downloads actually leads to a financial contribution, and the average donation is significantly less than the non-personal use price.

I am a frugal individual. I need little and want less. I like living simply, and I would stand on a soap box and encourage everyone else to do the same. It’s good for the planet and it’s good for your soul. However, in less than two months my cost of living will double with a move to San Francisco. At the current rate I am only just barely able to meet my projected expenses.

Effective immediately I am instituting a minimum donation policy for the personal use license. A donation of $10.00 or more is required for licensed, personal use of Journler. I will simultaneously be recommending a donation of $20.00, where I once made no recommendation at all.

If you have already made a donation and it was less than $10.00 don’t worry. I don’t want you to feel guilty or bad in any way, and you don’t need to make another payment to cover the balance. A personal use license was and is yours. If you were wanting to make a donation but cannot afford the $10.00 minimum, also don’t worry. You need the money more than I do, and Journler will continue working whether you donate or not.

12 Responses to “License change: minimum donation required for personal use license”

  1. Mark Millard Says:

    Right on, Phil. You’ve done great work with Journler, and your continued improvements and quick responsiveness are top notch. My Journler use recently transitioned from personal to professional, and I did not hesitate to send you US $24.95. I probably should have sent it in sooner.

    I encourage everyone that uses Journler (beyond trial use) to purchase a license. Phil certainly deserves your support!

  2. Chip Cuccio Says:

    Journler has one of the most generous license policies of any software in its class. I have instituted this policy intentionally […]

    And I applaud that. However…

    Quite frankly, though, it is not working well […] only a small percentage of downloads actually leads to a financial contribution

    And I completely understand that. I develop software, and give away my work as free/open source software. At the same token, I solicit donations. The ratio of downloads to donations is pretty disappointing. So disappointing, that I’m ashamed to discuss actual figures.

    However, developing F/OS software isn’t my full-time job as it is yours. Journler is excellent software, and while I don’t use it for professional applications yet, I anticipated that someday I very well may, and I happily paid the $24.95 for the software. To me, $24.95 is a incredibly reasonable for Journler and its feature set (I can’t take my wife and kids out to eat for that price).

    You mention that ~20% of the contributors averaged $17. With the ~80% remaining contributors (personal/non-personal), more than $17 was contributed (correct me where I’m wrong). Maybe it’s worth pondering the idea of focusing on the ~80% (potentially) registered user crowd and simplifying your licensing strategy?

    I could also be totally off-base, in which case, may warrant disregard for my ideas.

  3. Phil Says:

    You mention that ~20% of the contributors averaged $17. With the ~80% remaining contributors (personal/non-personal), more than $17 was contributed (correct me where I’m wrong).

    It’s the other way around: ~75% of licenses are personal use licenses, and the average donation is $17.

    When I was developing Journler as a hobby it wasn’t a big deal. But I have in fact moved to full time programming. Unless Journler and upcoming projects pay the bill, the programming stops. I don’t think folks have a proper idea of just how much a full time job a single program Journler’s size is.

    Maybe it’s worth pondering the idea of focusing on the ~80% (potentially) registered user crowd and simplifying your licensing strategy?

    There’s actually a discussion over on the forums about this. Right after I wrote the post I noted my reservations about the changes. I’m not very happy with them.

    So I’m thinking of simplifying the license policy. The idea I threw out was to have a single license which would cost $24.95, period. At the same time there would continue to be two “uses.” Non-personal use requires a license, personal use requests it.

    Of course I don’t have any way of enforcing this, but that’s being discussed and other ideas are being put forward. Everyone may feel free to chime in on the thread.

  4. netizenkane Says:

    I find when I take my personal situations and wrap a metaphor around them, they are sometimes easier for me to process. This one I’ll spin on your behalf, Phil, and maybe the slight shift in perspective will bring things more crisply into focus: are you interested in running a restaurant or a soup kitchen?

    Seems to me you’re interested in running a restaurant: you’re obsessed with quality product, you spend most of your time laboring over its preparation so that people who consume it will be both nourished and delighted by it, and you keep a close eye on the menu to ensure what you offer is seasonal, fresh, and in line with what your customers’ are looking for. Regular customers are constantly in and out the door, giving your place a bustling sense of success.

    It’s when the check comes to the table that you start to lose your nerve. You shouldn’t. No one begrudges - though certainly no one likes to sit next to - someone who has had a terrible meal at a restaurant and refuses to pay for it. Depending on how heated the discussion gets, it can range from easily-enough-ignored grumblings to an intense and heated argument best taken outside. But the best restaurants don’t bat an eye; they ask the diner if they can bring him something else, they fuss a little extra, and they get him out the door as soon as possible with no charge for the entree.

    Yours is a different sort of restaurant, Phil. Seems to me people come in all the time. It’s one of their favorite haunts. They rave about the quality of the service and what you get here — and, like all supremely satisfied customers, they keep coming back, occassionally bringing more people with them. But it’s not a restaurant, it’s a soup kitchen — pay if you can, pay what you like, pay whenever — you’ll still get the soup. On the odd occasion you might look at someone who appears to be entirely too well-heeled to be eating in a soup kitchen and ask if he might consider dropping down a few Abe Lincolns to help keep the enterprise going, he gets up in a huff and storms out. But I guarantee you: he’ll be back for your soup tomorrow.

    As a professional marketer, here’s what I’d suggest: always make a free download of the latest Journler software available. Position it loudly and clearly as a “Free 20-Use Trial.” Explain it will operate exactly like the PAID version of the program (need to get it into people’s heads that people DO, in fact, pay for this software) for 20 uses. After that, the most attractive features — the iLife integration, the mic, cam, and pics, all that — will no longer function until a valid license is purchased and entered.

    Split the difference between your current average of $17 and your aspiration of $24.95, and go with $20/2 machines. You can add additional machines to the license for $5 more.

    So, a 3-machine license is still an incredibly reasonable $25. I would also encourage you to take a page out of the subscription magazines’ books, and when someone is signing up for their own paid registration, give them a chance to gift the software to a friend for a dramatically reduced price. If they take you up on it, tell them you’re knocking a couple of bucks off their own purchased price because they’re helping to spread the word, which will create a nice surprise for your buyer — they’ll be happy grassroots marketers who nonetheless just PAID you for their meals.

    Disappointment is the distance between where we expect something to be and where it truly ends up. If you expected to unwrap an Atari 2600 on Christmas morning in the 1970s and ended up getting a Pocket Simon and a pair of tube socks, that’s disappointment. Lifewise, Peter, the only folks around here who’ll be upset by your institution of a license are the folks who’d prefer to come into your soup kitchen and eat every day for free, without regard to what that leaves for you and your family. But I think you’ve found a pretty devoted group of fans for the delicious little confection that is Journler — and, to prove my point, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take care of this check!

  5. Dylan Says:

    Hey Phil. Thanks for your work on this software. Just thought I’d throw in my comments and some questions.

    First I would like to note that I’ve been working on purely open-source software since the late 90s (OS development mainly). The community used to enjoy a ratio of something like 1:4 devs:users, but no longer. Nowadays it’s not rare to get insulted by a user because the free software one makes has a bug. The $.01 donation is just asinine … I feel your pain. I’m not jaded, and I still do what I do for my own reasons and the work is its own reward.

    I got started using Journlr while exploring for a new GTD tool, and I’m seeing that it has a lot of potential. The problem with GTD is it can be an endless quest to find the “perfect tool” and I’ve changed tool sets at least 4 times since I started doing GTD.

    So far the experience with Journlr has been great. I’m starting to settle in. Some things it doesn’t have which I would like it to have (such as better blog support with image uploading) but not showstoppers. I’d love to settle on Journlr as a tool that removes a need for several other tools (such as ecto) … As much as I like ecto and I bought ecto, I need it that functionality to be in Journlr now.

    Apologies to Adriaan, but he got my $18 so he can’t be too disappointed.

    What interests me is where the software is going in the future. I don’t want to switch tools again in 2008 or sooner. I like to think that when I buy software, it is driving at least one new major release a year, a roadmap and enhancements, not so much paying for the current version.

    I would reaily (and plan to after I write this message) pay for Journler. So my questions are: do you have a roadmap for Journlr, and what’s the process for what gets scheduled and what doesn’t? Also do you have the time as sole developer to handle more customers, large roadmap? Is this your full-time gig? Finally, would a periodic subscription pricing model work out better than fixed licenses? “Ownership” doesn’t worry me as long as the subscription terms are not hostile.

    I don’t agree with some of netizenkane’s suggestions; particularly limited-use trials tend to discourage real-world use of software by a lot of users… me included. If Journlr had 20 uses I would probably not be writing this comment or donating because I’d never be able to kick the tires enough to form a real opinion. Sometimes it may take a month or more to really get a feel for a piece of software, especially one like this, and determine if it’s a buy. I would suggest time-limited evaluations and be somewhat generous with the evaluation period (45 days seems reasonable to me.)

    Sorry for all the questions. Thanks again for your work.

  6. Louis Says:

    Hello Phil, I just wanted to say Thank you for making this great little app, and my donation is on the way. I use Journler at home and noticed I use it more often than I thought I would now. I look forward to seeing what enhancements may be included in the future.

  7. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Very nicely stated.

  8. ellikelli Says:

    I’ve only been a mac user for a few years but I have to say that Journler is THE best software that I’ve come across. I’ve been using it quite a while now and feel kind of bad that I haven’t contributed before, but I finally got around to creating a PayPal account and buying a license for $20. It’s SO worth it.

    There’s been so much though and effort put into developing this program that it’s a bargain if you ask me. You can see it’s been created with love :)

    So thanks, Phil, Journler embodies everything I love about the Mac OS X platform. And hopefully you’ll continue to develop the software in the future.

  9. Says:

    Hello Phil,

    Thanks for printing some exact numbers. It’s very useful to know just how dire the situation is. A developer who I am working with wants to release some code as donation only. I am against doing so for exactly the numbers above.

    Myself I’ve donated to lots of freeware and shareware projects - time, graphics, user interface and money. One thing which does disappoint me is when the application gets bought out - think of Macjournal (Dan Schimpf) going to Mariner Software or Textpander (Peter Mauer) now TextExpander at - I’ve had a lot of trouble getting the developers to provide the promised free upgrade keys.

    Not that they refuse. They just don’t bother answering the emails at all.

    I also think that there is little advantage in putting a quality application into someone else’s commercial system. Stay autonomous and stay in touch with your users.

    The marketing suggestions above - reduced price licenses to gift to your friends while making your purchase - will work btw.

    I also suggest making some of the features - not the core ones, but the bonus ones like audio and video - contingent on donation after a certain period. Sure some people will pirate the app in any case. Those aren’t the ones you are after - they will do it anyway. You are just trying to provide an occasional gentle reminder to the people who haven’t bought or donated to do so.

    Best of luck with Journaler.

  10. FolioVision | Should Software Be Donation Only | Minimum Donation Levels Says:

    […] an average donation of $17. That makes a total of about $9800. But in the end, Phil feels that some are abusing the donation system. Today I received a donation for $0.01. A penny. Single dollar donations unsettled me, but I was […]

  11. Says:

    Hey Phil,

    FYI, for some reason the linkback on commentator name isn’t working, even for registered users. Cheers.

  12. Says:

    The link out does work but not on old comments, i.e. if you didn’t put a website in your profile before commenting. Thanks.

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