SIC 2005 – Day Two

The conference is now in full swing.

The morning got off to a poor start for me. The Shareware Industry Conference sponsors free breakfasts each day before the sessions begin, and having missed the omelets yesterday, I decided to partake in the waffles on offer today. Unfortunately, when sitting down to eat, my conference badge swung out and landed briefly in the syrup before dropping back onto my shirt, taking the sticky stuff with it. Worse, the waffles were not very tasty in the first place.

The first session for me was Sales & Marketing Strategies, for which one of the presenters was Phil Schnyder of askSam Systems, along with Sharon Housley of NotePage. This was a very entertaining session, as expected with Phil in the room, but Sharon got in a couple of good one-liners, too. As far as content was concerned, it was a very practical session with lots of ideas. Instead of taking loads of notes, I relied on the presentations being on the SIC Conference Sessions CD.

The next session was Visual Studio Shareware Starter Kit, presented by representatives of Microsoft, including Michael Lehman, the “shareware evangelist”, and Dan Fernandez, the project manager. Microsoft said “shareware”! Fairly early in the presentation, I asked the question about requirements and learned that the product was based on .NET, and although Dan clarified that there was an unmanaged C++ version of the kit in development, I inadvertently sparked a wave of mostly negative feedback on Microsoft and their approach to .NET. To his great credit, Michael handled everything with grace and was seriously listening to our issues. (The content of the session, beyond the audience ranting, is worthy of a separate blog entry, so stay tuned.)

Next was the ASP Luncheon presented by the Association of Shareware Professionals, obviously. I spent enough time in the previous session that most of the tables were full by the time I arrived, and the turnout was excellent. I sat between Loren Brewer of Shareware Solutions, who is also the ASP content webmaster, and Kee Nethery of Kagi, who I had never met before. Fortunately for everyone, this year I am no longer an ASP leader and did not get near the microphone (although it could have used a little amplification).

The highlight of the luncheon was the induction of three deserving individuals into the ASP Hall of Fame. The first inductee was Jerry Stern, of Science Translations Software, who has served and continues to serve as the editor of ASPects, the ASP newsletter, for many years. The next inductee was Chris Thornton, of Thornsoft Development, who is a past Chairman of the Board. The final inductee was Steve Pavlina, of Dexterity Software, who was a past President of the ASP. All three have contributed greatly to the organization beyond the brief descriptions above, and they are also wonderful people as well.

The session I attended after lunch was Software Protection Methods, which had some changes in the lineup. Kee Nethery, who I had just met, was on the panel, and Chad Nelson, recently departed from Silicon Realms (Armadillo), was noticeably absent. Rick Bump, of Digital River, took blame for the spyware fiasco with Software Passport during his introduction. The content of the session was good, although it mostly just reinforced the information I already had without providing any revelations.

The following session was Beta Testing Programs, which is one of the topics on which I would feel qualified to present, rather than merely attend. There were a couple of good presentations by Kohan Ikin, of Namesuppressed, and Dave Sampson, of MixMeister. It was nice to hear how others approach their beta testing, and the fundamental principal is that there is a beta test. However, I found myself disagreeing with a few of the specifics of Dave’s approach. In particular, he indicated that one should discourage feature suggestions from beta testers, while we value any information obtained from testers, even if we have no intention of making changes (in the current version).

For the final session of the day, I got up to attend OutSourcing, where Phil Schnyder could continue the running joke from last year that I charge less than outsourcing to India. However, on the way out of the room, Becky Lash of Epic Trends gave me a copy of her handout for the User Interfaces session. It had so much practical information that I actually returned for that session instead. The other presenters were Greg Weir, of Tucows, and Sue Pichotta, of Ace Icons, and the information was great.

This session had a special guest, heralded with a loud and very weird siren as Greg was finishing his presentation. As Sue began her discussion of icons, the public address system announced that a tornado had been spotted in the area, and that we were to climb under the sinks in our rooms. Shortly thereafter, we were ushered out of the conference rooms to the lower level. A few conference attendees were clearly freaked out, but those of us from tornado-prone areas… not so much. In fact, Sue tried to lead a large contingent back to the conference rooms, but the hotel staff was having none of that. After the “all clear”, though, most of us returned to hear the rest of her presentation.

The first official activity for the evening was Exhibit Night, which provided food, information, prizes, and, of course, more T-shirts for my wardrobe. The ASP booth was giving away prizes all evening, and I won a “goodie bag” with a shirt and discount from Promaxum, as well as a free license of Virtuoza OverSpy, which was nice considering I have not been eligible (as a Director) for the past several years. I worked the ASP booth for the last 10 minutes or so, as the “human megaphone”, bringing attention to the final drawing for the remaining ASP prizes, including some very valuable software donated by Borland.

This was followed by a dessert buffet sponsored by Dr. File Finder and NotePage. There was also an unofficial activity off site this evening, and after breaking down the booth, I had to choose between free cheesecake and free beer, and the cheesecake won. The discussions during and after the buffet were excellent, and many of the luminaries of the shareware industry had conversations until late into the evening. This certainly beats loud music in a crowded bar, in my book.

Common Ground update: Tonight I am missing Grand Funk Railroad, which was one of the big draws for me this year. I have a report that the opening act, Silvertide, did a great deal of moving around, and even climbed the scaffolding, giving the security guys fits.

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