To use the requisite automotive analogy, if Six Apart were a shiny new car, I feel like I was the person who put the first dent in it, and then a couple thousand people stood around pointing and saying "It's totalled!"
It's been a hard week for everyone at Six Apart with the difficulty with the launch of the Movable Type 3 and the licensing and communications about this. Anil seems to feel quite responsible. It sounds a bit like Rummy getting set up to be the fall guy, but fine. It was Anil's fault. ;-)

Having said that, I think everyone at Six Apart feels very responsible and is working really hard listening to all the feedback and fixing the licenses and communications of them. They're sincerely trying to be "good" so I'd appreciate any slack people are willing to cut them. Also, please continue to send them and myself ideas and feedback on how we can make the MT 3 license better for everyone. Thanks!

17 Comments

The fact remains that they could do that again for MT3.1, MT4.0 ... That's a risk I am not willing to take.

i think it sucks that people expect everything on the net to be free. MT has been good to us all for years now and keeps on getting better and yet everyone expects MT staff to continually work for free but yet pump out better updates. I can't afford the upgrade right now but if I was employed I'd not hesitate even with my discrepencies on some other issues with the mt staff. the internet attitude of give me give me is getting ridiculous.
/rant
:-)

Thanks Chey.

Michel, what is "that" in "do that again" above? To be honest, in many ways, the new licenses fixed a lot of problems in the old license, but created others. They're trying fix those problems now. The biggest problem was that they didn't communicate or consult with the community enough before announcing it. That is a mistake I doubt they will make again. Your tones sounds like "they" intentionally tried to screw or mislead the community. I assure that is not, and will never, be the case.

You say: "Your tones sounds like "they" intentionally tried to screw or mislead the community. I assure that is not, and will never, be the case."

I'm afraid that at this point, the burden of proof is on you and SA. A year of little communication from 6A, followed by a promise that they would do something and then doing another, doesn't build up confidence.

And 6A still isn't communicating with their old user base. Anil's "I'm Moving Post" and him running around the web leaving comments on people's weblogs isn't communicating. Communicating would be addressing the issues head-on at Mena's corner or Six-Log

6A essentially fired its old Sales and Marketing staff -- what are they going to do to get them back? Assuring people that you will never be bad intentionally doesn't cut it, no matter how nice we know the Trotts are personally.

Just to clarify your headline, Joi, I decided to move before the MT3 launch and everything else.

In regard to the other comments, "And 6A still isn't communicating with their old user base. Anil's "I'm Moving Post" and him running around the web leaving comments on people's weblogs isn't communicating. Communicating would be addressing the issues head-on at Mena's corner or Six-Log"

There's some who would say the appropriate way to communicate with bloggers is on their blogs. I certainly don't think this is an either-or choice, but I do think that *part* of improving our communications is, well, directly communicating with people. My sense is our "old user base", as you refer to them, is much more likely to read their own blogs and respond positively than to come back to our web site if they're disappointed with us.

You have a point, especially when you say *part*. I would just respectfully suggest that 6A might want to do the other *part*, as well.

I suspect that a lot more people would read something posted on one of 6A's weblogs than will read the comments on any 10 weblogs.

When we discussed this several months ago at Etech, you yourself told me that it was a big problem that you were the only person at 6A who weblogged.

Mena's Corner was a good start, but I'd suggest that 6A needs to do a lot more of that, soon.

Also, how come no comments on 6A's site? How about "eating your own dogfood", as Joel Spolsky calls it?

Benefits of hindsight and all that, but I still find it suprising that they could mess things up so bad. Using canned licenses... that's so dot-com. It's sad that they had to recycle the same old business plan.

I don't think Sixapart still *gets it* - the money is in not the one time sale of the software, even at thousands of dollars a pop, its in the service contracts. The software industry is unlike most other industries before it - it isn't producing a physical product which can be sold for money, instead it's providing a service, which is automated to the extent that once sold there is no longer much need of the seller.

The service industry makes up more than 70 percent of the american economy - that should tell just about anyone where the money is. Even IBM makes more than 50 percent of its money on service - not on selling hardware.

The sad part of the whole thing is, Sixapart's product is one which needs a whole lot of handholding - for which companies would pay hefty sums for. They're going about it the wrong away around now, providing the goods up front and giving away the service for free.

Perhaps a good analog to the software industry is the banking industry, which gives you the money for free but then you have to pay for it in the form of inerest.

Giving away software brought Sixapart so far so fast... by cutting off that flow they're putting a brake on that growth if not killing it outright.

Free brought them so far… could it not have continued taking them further down the road? Perhaps to places they hadn't even thought off and planned for?

"6A essentially fired its old Sales and Marketing staff..."

Ouch! Joi, I think above quote hits the nail on the head. Focus on building TypePad and mega-licensees as your primary revenue sources and use MT to keep your Sales and Marketing 'staff' happy.

Leave MT alone in terms of use. Unlimited blogs, unlimited authors. MT's business is in the plug-ins.

1. Charge a personal license base fee of $70.
2. Sell bundled licenses, ie: $100 for MT+ 3-6 plug-ins (plug-ins should cost $5 and no more than $10). One bundle, one installation.
3. If you buy MT basic, add plug-ins at $5 to $10 a pop with extra for installation and tech support.

THAT is were the business is. Power users don't really care so much about the blogging tool, they care about the plug-ins and hackability of the product. 6A has all that data on their support forum. They've should have read and interpreted the boards before doing so.

Ani and Joi : 6A soooooooo needs someone to just direct Customer Relations / Consumer Affairs. This cannot be a job split among 3 or 4 people. That's the job description missing at the 6A site.

I think all they really did wrong was to make the jump from free to paid price too steep, and to not better emphasize that there are two products -- the support, and the MT license.

I bet if they had offered annual support for $49/year for the single-user free licenses, the jump to the $69 introductory price on the first non-free(beer) offering wouldn't have been so scary.

Similarly, decoupling the support and license costs would have made cheaper options available that realistically reflect Six Apart's costs.

$39 for the first tier software without support, $39 to tack on support after the license purchase, or $69 for both up front (the current offering) makes the $69 sound much more friendly.

Gawd, you'd think everyone who was criticizing Six Apart were perfect. This is still a young company with green owners who still have a lot to learn. They still have to make a living. At least they admitted to making a mistake. Try getting that out of any PR pumped corporation in America now.

Geodog and Don Park have both hit the nail on the head. Sales/Marketing and even Service/Support have essentially come from *volunteers* who are not on the SixApart payroll. The same is true for the plugin developers.

It took *paid* staff five or six months to reply to an email inquiry from me, and then the reply was "do you still want a reply to your question?" and when I said "Yes" they offered to forward it to the appropriate person. I thought the situation was somewhat hilarious [though Mena didn't :/ ], yet it's another pointer to the larger problem of communication breakdown. The fact that it took thousands of users complaining about the new licensing and prices to make SixApart aware of the problem and THEN to ask for user input... well, the input should have been in ADVANCE of the changes. The impression is left that the Sales/Marketing folks (all MT users and plugin developers) don't really matter in the grand scheme of things... and that's the bigger mistake that seems to be going unrecognized.

MT users are apt to move to inexpensive OS models at this point. Best bet would be to stop updating MT after 3.0 and focus on TypePad; perhaps MT could be migrated to an Open Source license so that users can provide support and make modifications in the Open Source way?

Well, it's all about the numbers, isn't it? New stuff has to get developed, new customers have to be found and it all costs money. We here don't know what the accounts say, so it's pretty difficult for us to say what Six Apart should or shouldn't do to build their business.

I don't know anything about how MT is capitalised, and I have no idea what their stakeholders' expectations are, but I'd say that they need to have a plan to get to profit levels of around 1m/year with steady double-digit growth after that. To get to that level of profitability without having to build a company with loads of employees, they're going to have to sell licenses. And they're going to have to sell a fair proportion of them to People Like Us. Think about it. It's very difficult to get that level of return on their product development effort any other way.

All these alternative Cluetrain-ish models (sell services, sell add-ons, whatever) are all very well for the HPs, IBMs and Intels of this world, who have massive revenue and capacity and benefit from the rising tide of every technology innovation. 6A is a small-but-growing company, and it needs an immediate revenue stream to support the growth.

The unfortunate down side is that, if you're competing with free software, it's tough to sell licenses. Just look how many Movable Type users migrated to WordPress when the new pricing model was announced. Tough market. The subscription model for TypePad makes sense as a revenue source, and it might make sense to charge for MT support on an as-used basis. However I'd say it's unrealistic to base a business model on the sale of MT licenses, especially given the social as well as literal cost of enforcement.

jon, i dont think its hard to sell licences as you said.

A lot of the negative feedback to MT3 Licensing was NOT about the money, it was about communicating with a community that thanks to MT has a voice on the net.

So, its a little bit ironic, SA give voice to a lot of people trough a wonderful piece of soft, but they´ve failed in using that tool to communicate with that community.

As everyone knows a community is built on trust; and once you lost that you wont rebuild it easily.

Trust in the future of MT, trust in the license scheme, it all comes down (at least to me) in the trust that Mena, Ben, Anil, Joi et all builded by being part of the "blogosphere" communicating every single step the made and suddenly on one of the most important steps of SA as a company... they didnt "get it" and broke that trust.

If everything would have been due to money, we would have requested discounts as betatesters of Typekey, typepad, MT2.x, MT3.0, for helping on translations, etc. and no one (at least no one i read) asked for that. But, at least 3 blogs i read moved to WP and donated money to the wp developers.

If the product is worth the money, I think you should pay the cost. Maybe the issue is the pocketbook sting -- all the more acute when you've been riding on the gravy train for so long.

Perhaps a PR person is needed, I wouldn't know. Yet, it's amazing what 6A has created and acheived when you consider that there are other software juggernauts with armies of staff that produce marginal product. And most of those companies only pretend to respect their customers.

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