Geary crowdfunding: how did we come up with that number?

geary-yorbaThe Geary crowdfunding campaign has been a wild three days so far!  We’ve even been featured in a TechCrunch article, “Crowdfunding, Micro-patronage, And The Free Desktop”.  Scott Merrill had some tough questions for me about how the money we raised would be used.  Others have also commented elsewhere about our target of US$100,000.  Are we asking for too much?  Why do we need that kind of money?

Plainly put, software development is expensive.  You can do it in your spare time, but it’s exactly that — your spare time, the odd moments in your life when you choose to put other obligations aside and devote yourself to the intricacies of code.  The success stories are out there.  Many are the stuff of computing lore, but you never hear of the multitude of abandoned weekend projects.  Coding in fits and bursts is a strategy of mixed results.

Yorba has three full-time engineers working on Geary.  We’re not going to use the raised money for sparkling new development systems or personalized catering.  Yorba’s major equipment and infrastructure purchases have already been made with past income.  The crowdfunding contributions we take in go toward people hacking on Geary code.

“An email client isn’t worth $100K,” one commenter complained.  I doubt there’s a widely-used desktop application out there developed for less than US$100,000 — it’s just that the price tag might be hidden from its users.  The person coding in their spare time is working for free, but that doesn’t mean their spare time is worthless.  Perhaps your favorite app was developed thanks to corporate sponsorship and is distributed freely.  But with that subsidy comes a price tag in terms of priorites, direction, maintenance, and, as the Google Reader announcement last week reminds us, potential abandonment.  “Great software is worth paying for.”

Yorba has no corporate sponsorship.  That strategy has worked for some open-source projects, and I’m not knocking it out-of-hand.  But direct contributions from our users means we can place their priorities — your priorities — first.

Other software crowdfunding campaigns have asked for less than US$100,000, so why is Yorba asking for so much?  Games are a good example of “cheap” crowdfunding.  They raise money by selling pre-release copies as part of their perks or incentives (“For $50, you’ll get a signed copy of the game”) and then selling full-price copies when the game is completed.  Other software campaigns develop online subscription services and offer perks of free subscriptions — again, a model of pre-selling the software in order to raise money to develop it.

This is all fine, but that’s not the position we’re in.  Geary is free software: you will forever be able to download and build Geary on your own.  Heck, you can download and run it today.  We’re not pre-selling software nor are we building an email service.  In fact, we want Geary to work with all kinds of email systems, not lock you into ours.  We want to take what we’ve started and make it better — no, we want to make it great.

Finally, remember that we’re not asking you for US$100,000.  Rather, we’re asking for everyone to contribute a little toward that amount.  What’s a program like Geary worth to you?  Most people leave their email open all day long.  They’re constantly working with it: reading a conversation, marking an email as a “to-do” for later, replying to one request, then sending off a note to someone else.  We want Geary to make all those tasks a snap, so easy you’re not even thinking about Geary, but rather the email in front of you.

What’s that worth to you?  $10, $25, $100?  That’s the question we’re posing with our crowdfunding campaign.  Please considering contributing today.

18 thoughts on “Geary crowdfunding: how did we come up with that number?”

  1. One question: will this use top-posting, or bottom-posting, by default?

    Because, if it’s the former, then it doesn’t deserve a penny, and I hope it dies. But, if it’s the later, then a firefox-like, popular email client that looks pretty and appeals to the masses would have my full support.

    Also: proper support for quoting would be crucial. Like thunderbird: where you can click quoted text, press return a few times, and comment in the space; not like outlook, where you try to type within a quote, and the quote formatting is lost.

    1. Currently the default is top-posting, but I’ve opened a ticket to make it an option here.

      As for modifying quoted text, Geary today may do what you want, I’m not entirely certain from your description. Give it a try and see!

  2. Out of curiosity, why did you choose IndieGoGo rather than Kickstarter? Historically, Kickstarter campaigns get much more press and success, and average much more funds raised. Did you apply to Kickstarter and get rejected, or go directly for IndieGoGo despite the lower popularity?

    1. A lot of it came down to payment systems. At GUADEC last year we talked to a number of people about Kickstarter and the consensus seemed to be that nobody likes Amazon Payments — especially outside the US.

      Since IndieGoGo uses PayPal it seemed to be the “lesser of two evils,” so to speak.

  3. I’m glad you guys are being honest about the costs- I trust you more with the donation if you’re not skimming your goals down to nothing significant. As long as you continue to keep Geary’s interface simple and approachable as you build a more robust application, I’m interested.

  4. Hi, i am really impressed with the ‘thanks, i’ve opened a ticket for that’ style of response. Plenty of projects could learn from that :-)

  5. Hi,

    Do you want to make geary the default gnome mail app (that would certainly imply trying to follow design and gnome releases)?

    Thanks

    1. Yorba has always had a friendly relationship with the Gnome people. We are a 3rd party application developer, but we’re proud that Shotwell, our photo manager, is the default in several Gnome-centric distributions.

      Our hope is that Geary can soon be the default mail client in many distros. It’s already available in some.

  6. Hello. Geary’s ideas are awesome, but allow me to make some questions.

    There are two things that made me adhere to use only web e-mail clients.

    First, every time I format my computer I have to backup and restore the mails. It is quite inconvenient and stressful (specially with Microsoft software).

    Second, I can read my personal e-mails even when I’m not at home.

    Maybe I just don’t know how to use e-mails on desktop and web simultaneously. Can Geary benefit people concerning these two questions?

    Thank you.

    1. To answer your questions: (a) Geary uses IMAP, which means your email stays on the server. You don’t need to back up your Geary files and move them to your new computer. When you run Geary on your new machine, it’ll re-synchronize with the server and you’re on your way. (b) Geary doesn’t require you to stop using web mail. I use Geary at home and work, but if I need to get to it somewhere else, I can always log in with web mail and use that too.

  7. To start off I do love Geary and I think its a great project!

    However, I don’t want to rain on the parade but I can’t find a way to justify $100,000 as the money required for this campaign.

    The reasons provided don’t support the argument at all and I really think ye guys should have set the bar for donations much lower. Lots of days are left in the campaign but I really see it failing because that kind of money is just simply too much.

    1. How much do you think Yorba has spent so far to produce Geary? I can assure you, it’s taken far more than $100,000 to get Geary to where it stands today.

      1. You could say the same for other Open source projects. I just think ye guys are crazy to think a target of 100,000 is possible. Projects that go into fund raising usually set a realistic goal. Geary is more known than alot of the unknown software out there but is still relatively unknown to Linux users.

        Now the point was made that other projects set a lower price point because they plan to sell the project at a later stage, this isn’t true.

        Take a look at OpenShot, which recently completed their kickstarter goal of 20,000 and made it far beyond that. This isn’t a product for sale, it will still be Open source after its release.

  8. At the time of writing this comment, there is 14 days left, and you guys are at 25%.

    I allow myself to humbly give my opinion on this.
    First of all, let me state that I would pay if I could (I am in a country blacklisted by paypal); I understand that software costs a lot, I know that weekend hacks don’t work (for trying a million times), and I agree with your assessment.

    Also, I don’t really care how much Geary is worth; I would pay what I think it is worth for me (for info, I’d consider anything between 5 and 20 dollars to be fair).

    Despite all I am saying above, I still think you made a mistake setting the target that much higher than what people are used to see:
    1 – As your software shows, you guys have experience in user experience design. You therefore surely know that people simply won’t read. They will just see the 100000$ tag and walk away.
    2 – You are going against user’s expectations. People are not used to see such a high price tag when, as you justly say, games are set at a much lower price. I understand your reasoning, but it was still a mistake to assume people would think logically. You know how sales go much higher if you price a t-shirt 5.99$ instead of 6. It is a human thing. Can’t do anything against it.
    3 – The OS community, although willing to pay much more on average than microsoft/apple users (if humble bundle stats are reliable), are still a little niche market. Of those users, those needing/wanting a desktop app for email are even fewer; most people are content with gmail, and with reason, since it is a fantastic piece of software; Of these users, those having the means to pay are even fewer. A rough estimation (which I didn’t do, so I might be wrong) of the number of users times how much they’d pay on average would probably yield a final number much lower than 100000$.

    I really hope the indieGoGo campaign will work for you; But in the event it does not, here is what I have to say:
    1 – Please do not stop working on Geary. It is the only decent email client across all platforms, as far as I am concerned, and I tried a plethora, from Outlook/Thunderbird to Mutt/Sup/NotMuch
    2 – Do a per-feature donations system, like Ubuntu does. Instead of working towards version 0.4, you do quick bursts of features that correspond exactly to what the crowd wants. Less work on useless stuff and more targeted development.
    3 – Next time you do an IndieGoGo campaign, let it be flexible, at least you keep the money you got. You can do much more with a little money than no money at all, even if it is less than ideal.
    4 – Do not restrict payments to paypal, which blacklists (unethically, but this is not the place to discuss it) several countries, of which mine.

    If you feel this comment might be harmful to public perception, feel free to remove it, I do not mind.
    Just wanted to add my two cents.

    Keep up the good work, you are doing an amazing job.
    Wish you the best of luck!

    1. I just wanted to say that if you guys want to sell your software, I’d gladly pay for it.
      I don’t see open-source and commercial as incompatible.

      You could release the source, but still keep the compiled binary commercial. My guess is a large number of individual would pay for the convenience of not having to compile, or simply because they believe that good software should be bought.

      It doesn’t have to be evil either. You can do it like the Sublime Text guys did: a screen that doesn’t appear too often, is not annoying, appears fast (no slow down), is dismissable instantly just by hitting enter, but still manages to remind you that you are using a great piece of software that you could pay for, if only to keep it alive.

      Bear in mind that this isn’t necessarily incompatible with running a campaign on IndieGoGo or other. I for one would pay both during the campaign and the software. 10$/20$ per year to keep a software I like and I use daily is not much.

    2. Just to address a couple points, we went with IndieGoGo because they accept PayPal. We were originally considering Kickstarter, but we had a flood of complaints about Amazon Payments. Seems like whatever payment system you use, not everyone will have access to it. Very unfortunate!

      As for accepting less than what we asked for, that seems highly unethical. We’ve promised a certain feature set for this version and people have agreed to donate based on that condition. If we don’t get the full amount, we simply can’t afford to deliver those features. We might not be able to afford a single programmer!

      Please understand that we’re not asking for an arbitrary amount of money here — we’re asking for the amount required to sustain Yorba.

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