Journler: Blog

Journler development ends, Sprouted shutting down

September 23rd, 2009

Journler development has ended, effective immediately. Support will continue indefinitely.

It was over four years ago while I was living in Austria that I began working on Journler. I had recently broken up with my girlfriend and had waxed nostalgic about our relationship on my blog. A post inadvertently offended her. The event deeply upset me and I forswore blogging, but I still wanted to write in a digital format. I researched the available private journaling software for the Mac and wasn’t pleased with the options, so I decided to try my hand at creating one of my own.

Those of you who have been with Journler so long will recall the breakneck pace at which early development took place. At the time I was a teaching assistant in the Austrian school system. I worked twelve hours to a week and was able to dedicate a great deal of time to the program. I reckon I worked more than forty hours a week on Journler for a couple of years even as I held my regular job. It was as though teaching were a hobby and programming my work.

I did not charge for Journler. My teaching position, though requiring so few hours of my day, paid quite well, and I did not need the money. I was just excited to be writing a program and to be sharing it with others. I was excited to receive thanks and suggestions and to know that the program was useful to so many. I was excited to see a community flourishing around an application I had envisioned and executed. And I was an active member of that community, regularly contributing to the forum, fielding questions and posting updates. I accepted only donations for the work, not of the monetary kind, but books and movies.

Journler grew. It was a feature download at Apple. Macworld gave it an excellent review and it was discussed in a number of US and international publications. The program was translated into five or six languages. The user base grew exponentially, almost all of it by word of mouth. I participated in Google Adwords for a short time but otherwise I never advertised. Folks loved Journler and told their friends, family and colleagues.

I attribute the downfall of Journler to its success. As the number of users grew so too did the problems. In response to feature requests the program’s code became exceedingly complex. Bloat crept in. The volume of emails increased to a level I was not able to manage. The forum exploded with activity and I was no longer able to read let alone address every post. The support requirements were becoming too much. I would spend hours helping a user with damaged data. It would take me days to track down an esoteric bug a single user was experiencing which I could not reproduce. I could easily spend all my time on support alone. I needed to hire extra help but was in something of a bind. I was still not charging for the application. I had in fact promised that I would never charge for Journler. But as my job ended I broke that promise and began explicitly to request that users purchase the program.

For the past two years I have struggled to live on those volunteer purchases while working on the next major iteration of the program. I have made enough to live a relatively frugal life but never enough to hire help, and even after I had decided to take the next step and begin charging for Journler, I couldn’t do it without releasing the next major upgrade in which I would implement the shareware lock and so enforce the licensing policy. Help wouldn’t come until I reached that point, but I needed help to get there. I have not been able to figure out a way out of this problem. The difficulties have overwhelmed and depressed me. Consequently everything about the application has suffered, in turn re-enforcing those difficulties. Something had to change.

Emotionally I have been exhausted for many months now, but only in the last few months have I reached a financial breaking point. I am no longer able to live on income from Journler. Purchases have fallen below a sustainable level. I have borrowed from friends and family to keep going and have still not made enough progress. Were I a business I would be on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. I had hoped to push through, recently announcing that I would open source a substantial portion of Journler’s code. It is now apparent to me that I am not able to continue with that effort.

Unhappily I must announce that I am ending work on Journler, effective immediately. All development has ceased. I will not be releasing any further updates, and it is unlikely I will release updates to the already open sourced segments of the code.

I will continue to support Journler users indefinitely, that is, I do not have a timeframe for ending that support, although I imagine it will come eventually. I have hundreds of unanswered emails many of them months old to address as well as a still active online community with which to work. In fact, all of my Journler related energy will be focused here. I will make time as I am able, necessarily working around the regular employment which I am now in search of.

I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in Journler for the past four years, especially a number of unnamed individuals who contributed more than their fare share: translators, web masters, apple script geniuses, designers, editors, nanotechnologists, beta testers, friends, family and the many volunteers who took to the forums to help others in my absence. Journler has an awesome community of users and that has certainly brought the most pleasure to my work. There are tens of thousands of you. I never thought something like that could be possible. Thank you.

Finally, I would like to hold out a last hope that Journler will continue in one form or another. If you or someone you know may be interested in picking up Journler where I have left off, please contact me. I would love to see Journler once again thrive in the hands of a capable developer or team.

~Philip Dow
Sprouted, Journler, 2005-2009

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