SIC 2006 Diary, Day Three

This is the last full day of the conference (this year).

I began the morning with a small breakfast (which is still more than usual for me), but the highlight was definitely not the food. Sherry and I sat with Michael “Doc” Callahan (Dr. File Finder) and several others, and a discussion of the SIAF awards started, providing a bit of a preview to Doc’s session later in the day. With the victory of shareware marketing, the majority of packaged software products having an evaluation version available, there is some question about what actually constitutes a “shareware company” and who should be eligible for the awards. As we did at breakfast, I will leave the final commentary until later.

With my presentation behind me, I was relaxed and able to attend whichever sessions appealed to me. For the first hour, I sat in Learning From Experience: From Programmer to Business Person. This was simply a panel of three successful professionals, Gary Elfring of Elfring Soft Fonts, Jerry Medlin of Medlin Accounting, and Ed Trujillo of Contact Plus, who each talked about business considerations in this industry, as well as some pitfalls to avoid. It was good to hear how these established developers face similar issues and learn about some of the decisions, and mistakes, they had made. This was definitely a worthwhile session.

We were actually going to skip the next session to socialize/network. One session sounded pretty dry: Differences and particularities of Distribution and Re-sellers Agreements in the European Union member states. Fortunately, I happened to be standing next to that room and noticed that session had been cancelled in favor of a relatively impromptu session entitled (I think), Networking 2.0, a sequel to a kind of communication workshop I enjoyed last year. It was presented (again) by Ronny Karl of SurfWare Labs and (for the first time) by Sharon Housley of NotePage. Of course, Ronny called on Phil Schnyder (of askSam), his copresenter from last year, to provide a truly impromptu story to illustrate a point, and that provided much amusement.

The opposite session, under the general category of “Different Approaches to Shareware”, was How to make Money from the 90%+ of Users who don’t pay for Shareware, and it was, ironically, the most discussed session of the conference. Alastair Rampell (of Rampell Software) presented a method whereby customers could “pay” for software by clicking on offers from other companies, who in turn kick back a referral fee to the publisher. Personally, I am not convinced that this is a positive or sustainable business model, but there were lots of developers who apparently were. In fact, I heard that several pointed questions got Alastair to admit that he was planning to offer a service in the future. [Note: The new venture, TrialPay, has since been announced and is currently in beta.]

The official lunch on Saturday was the ESC Luncheon, hosted (of course) by the Educational Software Cooperative, which Sherry attended. The ESC is traditionally less ambitious than the ASP in scheduling luncheon activities, and there was not much to report, except that the award for Outstanding Achievement in Educational Software was given to Harry Keller of ParaComp, and the People’s Choice Award for Best Educational Software went to Dick Bryant of Open Window Software for his WinFlash Educator product.

Meanwhile, I took the children offsite to have lunch, where were joined Patrick Bailey of 10×13 Software and his fiancee, enjoying the conversation right through most of the next session. Oh, well…

The next session I attended was the aforementioned, The SIAF Awards, led by Doc. This was not so much a presentation as a lively group discussion about the awards. Doc talked a while about the history of the awards and how they have changed over the years, and then he mentioned some of the complaints he has heard and changes that have been requested. There were some categories that will probably be axed for next year due to limited participation or, in the case of the .NET awards, a somewhat arbitrary division. Unfortunately, indications are that Best Action/Arcade Game will likely disappear, but the nomination of Unreal Tournament (released in 1999, last updated in 2004) indicated that at least some people were not taking this category seriously.

The most significant issue, really, was whether or not huge companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and Google should be allowed to win “shareware” awards, and likewise, whether freeware should qualify. There was some suggestion that the number of awards should be limited, but with Pretty Good Solitaire having won six times in the past, and being nominated again this year, I was not an unbiased participant. The bottom line is that shareware authors nominate/vote for the SIAF awards, so shareware authors must take responsibility for the results. It sounded like that was the common consensuss (though Doc always has the final say).

For the final session of the conference, I attended Develop for Windows Vista with Project Glidepath, presented by Michael Lehman of Microsoft. He had been promising a big announcement, which was Project Glidepath, a program for micro-ISVs that provides guidance in developing and shipping products using three of Microsoft’s key technologies, Microsoft Vista, Visual Studio 2005, and .NET Framework 3.0. It was a very interesting initiative, for which I applaud him, and it was good to hear. Of course, we have not yet chosen to whole-heartedly support any of these Microsoft products yet, so our participation is still in question.

There was a break before the main evening event, the 2006 Shareware Industry Awards Banquet. Traditionally, attendees spend this time to get prepared for the banquet, and then at the scheduled start of said banquet, everybody lounges around outside the hall (many partaking of the cash bar) for between 30 minutes and an hour before the doors are opened and the guests can seat themselves. When everybody is seated, the meals are served and, toward the end of the meal service, an entertainer performs. This year, the entertainment was magician/comedian Gayle Becwar, who was definitely amusing to watch, picking on friends
and acquaintances in the audience. (My son, William, got to pick a magic card.)

After the entertainment, and a short intermission, the award presentations began. Our game, Pretty Good Solitaire, was nominated for an SIAF award in the Best Non-Action Game category. WE WON! Because Thomas Warfield was unable to make the trip to Denver this year, I went on stage to receive the award, where I was, on Tom’s behalf, able to thank his wife, the artist, and myself. In the moment, I forgot to thank Martha Seward of Freelance Works, who does submissions and ongoing marketing for the product, so I am doing that publicly right here.

When the banquet ended, I deposited the beautiful award safely in my hotel room and returned to the lobby, where the usual crew had gathered for a dessert run. Somebody had suggested “pie” for a change of pace, but the selected establishment had apparently ceased to be. Therefore, we proceeded undeterred to Bonnie Brae Ice Cream, the site of the gathering on the previous evening. Sherry joined the party for this final evening, and a good time was had by all, as we talked until the lights went out, literally.

It had been a very enjoyable day, and an excellent way to end the conference.

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