Geary crowdfunding: What went wrong?

OMG! Ubuntu ran a postmortem yesterday: Why Did Geary’s Fundraiser Fail?  It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves at Yorba, obviously.  Quite a number of people have certainly stepped forward to offer their opinions, in forums and comment boards and social media and via email.  OMG!’s article is the first attempt I’ve encountered at a complete list of theories.

Although I didn’t singlehandedly craft and execute the entire Geary crowdfunding campaign, I organized it and held its hand over those thirty days.  Ultimately I take responsibility for the end result.  That’s why I’d like to respond to OMG’s theories as well as offer a few of my own.

Some preliminary throat-clearing

Let me state a few things before I tackle the various theories.

First, it’s important to understand that the Geary campaign was a kind of experiment.  We wanted to know if crowdfunding was a potential route for sustaining open-source development.  We weren’t campaigining to create a new application; Geary exists today and has been under development for two years now.  Unlike OpenShot and VLC, we weren’t porting Geary to Windows or the Mac, we wanted to improve the Linux experience.  And we had no plans on using the raised money as capital to later sell a product or service, which is the usual route for most crowdfunded projects.  Our pitch was simply this: donate money so we can make Geary on Linux even better than it is today.

Also, we didn’t go into this campaign thinking Yorba “deserved” the money.  We weren’t asking for the community to reward us for what we’ve done.  We were asking the community to help fund the things we wanted to develop and share.

Nor did we think that everyone in the FOSS world needed to come to our aid.  Certainly we would’ve appreciated that, but our goal was to entice current and prospective Geary users to open their wallets and donate.

I hope you keep that in mind as I go through OMG!’s list of theories.

OMG’s possible reasons

“$100,000 was too much”

This was by far the most voiced complaint about the campaign.  It was also the most frustrating because of its inexact nature — too much compared to what?  When asked to elucidate, I either never heard back from the commenter or got the hand-wavey response “It’s just too much for an email client.”

It’s important to point out — and we tried! — that Yorba was not asking you for $100,000, we were asking the community for a lot of small donations.  Your email account is your padlock on the Internet.  Just about every online account you hold is keyed to it.  It’s also the primary way people and companies will communicate with you on the Internet.  Is a great email experience — a program you will use every day, often hours every day — worth $10, $25, $50?

Another point I tried to make: How much did it cost to produce Thunderbird?  Ten thousand, fifteen thousand dollars?  According to Ohloh, Thunderbird cost $18 million to develop.  Even if that’s off by a factor of ten (and I’m not sure it is) we were asking for far less.  (Incidentally, Ohloh puts Geary’s current development cost at $380,000.  I can attest that’s not far off the mark.)  Writing a kickin’ video game, a Facebook clone, or an email client takes developer time, and that’s what costs money, whether the software is dazzling, breathtaking, revolutionary, disruptive, or merely quietly useful in your daily routine.

The last Humble Indie Bundle earned $2.65 million in two weeks.  Linux users regularly contribute 25% of the Humble Haul.  Is that too much for a few games?  Not at all.

“The Proposition Wasn’t Unique”

I agree, there are a lot of email client options for Linux.  What I don’t see are any that look, feel, or interact quite like Geary, and that’s one reason Yorba started this project.

We were in a bind on this matter.  We wanted the Geary campaign to be upbeat, positive, and hopeful.  We saw no need to tear down other projects by name.  We preferred to talk about what Geary offers and what it could grow into rather than point-by-point deficiencies in other email clients.  (Just my generic mention in the video of Geary organizing by conversations rather than “who-replied-to-whom” threading was criticized.)

That there are so many email clients for Linux does not necessarily mean the email problem is “solved”.  It may be that none of them have hit on the right combination of features and usability.  That jibes with the positive reaction we’ve received from many Geary users.

“People Consider it an elementary App”

I honestly don’t recall anyone saying this.  If this notion stopped anyone from contributing, it’s news to me.

To clarify a couple of points: OMG! states there are a few elementary-specific features in Geary.  That’s not true.  The cog wheel is not elementary’s.  We planned that feature before writing the first line of code.  Geary once had a smidgen of conditionally-compiled code specific to elementary, but it was ripped out before 0.3 shipped.

elementary has been a fantastic partner to work with and they supported Yorba throughout the campaign.  Still, Yorba’s mission is to make applications available to as many free desktop users as possible, and that’s true for Geary as well.

“They Chose the Wrong Platform”

Why did we go with Indiegogo over Kickstarter?  We had a few reasons.

A number of non-U.S. users told us that Paypal was the most widely-available manner of making international payments.  Kickstarter uses Amazon Payments in the United States and a third-party system in the United Kingdom.  We have a lot of users in continental Europe and elsewhere, and we didn’t want to make donating inconvenient for them.

Unlike Indiegogo, Kickstarter vets all projects, rejecting 25% of their applications.  And one criteria for Kickstarter is that a project must be creating something new.  We’re not doing that.  One key point we tried to stress was that Geary was built and available today.  (We even released a major update in the middle of the campaign.)  There is no guarantee they would’ve accepted our campaign.

Another point about Kickstarter: a common complaint was that we should’ve done a flexible funding campaign (that is, we take whatever money is donated) rather than the fixed funding model we elected to run, where we must meet a goal in a time period to receive anything.  Kickstarter only allows fixed funding.  A few people said we should’ve done a flexible funding campaign and then said we should’ve used Kickstarter.  It doesn’t work that way.

“Not Enough Press”

I agree with OMG!, we received ample press, but more would not have hurt.  The Tech Crunch article was a blessing, but what we really needed was more coverage from the Ubuntu-specific press.  Even if that happened, I don’t feel it would’ve bridged the gap we needed to cross to reach the $100,000 mark.

A couple OMG! missed

There are two more categories that go unmentioned in the OMG! article:

“You Should Improve Thunderbird / Evolution / (my favorite email app)”

We considered this before launching Geary.  What steered us away from this approach was our criteria for conversations over threading, fast search, and a lightweight UI and backend.

Thunderbird is 1.1 million lines of code.  It was still under development when we started Geary.  We attended a UDS meeting where the Thunderbird developers were asked point-blank about making its interface more like Gmail’s (that is, organizing by conversations rather than threads).  The suggestion was flatly rebuffed: use an extension.  For us, that’s an unsatisfying answer.

Evolution is 900,000 lines of code, and includes many features we did not want to take on.  Its fifteen years of development also bring with it what Federico Mena Quintero succinctly calls “technical debt”.

(Even if you quibble with Ohloh’s line-counting methodology, I think everyone can agree Evolution and Thunderbird are Big, Big Projects.)

In both cases, we would want to make serious changes to them.  We would also want to rip features out in order to simplify the interface and the implementation.  Most projects will flatly deny those kinds of patches.

In comparison, Geary stands at 30,000 lines of code today.

“I Use Web Mail.  No One Uses a Desktop Client Anymore”

Web mail is convenient and serves a real need.  Web mail is also, with all but the rarest exceptions, closed source.

Think of it this way: you probably don’t like the idea of installing Internet Explorer on your Linux box.  If you do, you probably would at least like to have an open-source alternative.  (Heck, even Windows users want a choice.)  Web mail locks you out of alternatives.  People are screaming about Gmail’s new compose window.  What can they do about it?  Today they can temporarily disable it.  Some time soon, even that won’t be available.

Consider the astonishingly casual way Google has end-of-lifed Google Reader.  Come July 31st, Google Reader is dust.  I don’t predict Gmail is going away any time soon — it’s too profitable — but every Gmail user should at least have a fallback plan.  And if Gmail did go away, Google would take with it all that code.  (This is why Digg, Feedly, and others are rushing to create Google Reader lookalikes rather than forking what exists today.)  Not so with open-source email clients.  That’s why asking Yorba to improve Thunderbird or Evolution is even askable.  Yorba improving Gmail?  Impossible.

That’s the pragmatic advantage of open-source over closed: code never disappears.  Even if you change your email provider, you’re not stuck relying on your new provider’s software solution, if they even have one.

The principled advantage of free software is that you’re supporting open development for applications that don’t carry riders, waivers, or provisos restricting your use of it.

My theory

That’s the bulk of the criticism we received over the course of the campaign.  However, I don’t think any or all get to the heart of what went wrong.  Jorge Castro echoes my thinking:

Lesson learned here? People don’t like their current email clients but not so much that they’re willing to pay for a new one.

All I’d add is that over one thousand people were willing to donate a collective sum of $50,000 for a new email client.  Let’s say Jorge is half-right.

I don’t intend this post to be argumentative, merely a chance to air my perspective.

Next time I’ll talk about the lessons we learned and offer advice for anyone interested in crowdfunding their open-source project.

62 thoughts on “Geary crowdfunding: What went wrong?”

  1. Jim and Yorba, my sincerest best wishes on finding other means on funding the development of Geary and your other projects. Although it must be at least somewhat disheartening to read the petty complaints of the fundraiser’s critics, I suspect that the joy inherent in doing something that needs to be done and doing it so well makes it all worthwhile.

    Isn’t that why the best of us fall in love with our chosen profession in the first place?

  2. I gave 25 dollars.
    I didn’t imagine, for a minute, this cash will bring back to me.
    In my opinion the trading platform wasn’t the good one. Why would you have to estimate a value such as 100 000 dollars? If you earn 46 000 dollars, it would be already quite sympatic, and could be very helpfull to develop Geary.
    This crowdfunding platform has a bad way of organising crowdfund. The only one target should be a due time. We could also have an expected amount, but even if this amount is not reached, money must be given to you.

  3. Maybe you should rerun the campaign for 50k ?

    As for myself, I considered donating, but the only feature I’d need that evolution is bad at is calendar printing, and that wasn’t on your list.

    Thanks for posting about the progress of the project!

  4. So I can’t still believing in such crowdfunding platforms.
    I’m just a French guy and I’d like first to apologise for my english. I only hope you will understand my point of view. I love Geary and I hope this “elementary App” will get its deserved success.

  5. Jim, your objection to webmail misses the point a bit, no? I mean, yes, *existing* webmail apps are closed source; but you could have changed that, no? I’d have happily given to a FOSS webmail client fundraiser, but haven’t used a desktop web client in nearly a decade now and don’t miss it in the slightest.

    [As a bonus, hosting/running an open source-based service is potentially a path towards sustainability as well, if you ask supporters to contribute towards supporting it, but that’s obviously Yet Another Experiment and I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to make that jump quite yet – it would be a big change for yorba.]

    1. And to be clear, I think the other complaints are mostly wrong, mean-spirited, or simply not very forward-looking. This was very much the right experiment- just for a platform that is less and less relevant in this particular problem space.

    2. On that note, is it possible co-develop a webmail version of geary? I’ve been searching for a non-folder based free software webmail client for years…

    3. I don’t think my objection misses the point. The complaint about web mail was always in the sense that the commenter was comfortable with their current web mail solution.

      There are open-source web mail apps out there, but it doesn’t appear they’re widely used. If they were, I wouldn’t have made that point.

      1. They’re out there, but they’re all awful 🙂 I don’t think the failure is lack of interest, the failure is lack of execution in the face of options that are extremely appealing on every dimension except lack of openness. Which you guys are pretty well-positioned to do something about, if you wanted to.

    4. I agree with Luis. I’d have funded an open source webmail with the same features as Geary. Today we have Roundcube, which is a great software but whose developers don’t bother about “conversation view” [1].

      Jim, of course an regular computer user won’t use an open source webmail today. The only option they have is to pay a hosting company and configure their accounts!

      I think maybe Yorba could change this by partning with Elementary or Gnome to make the hosted open source webmail service from Yorba to be the default e-mail client. The world is converging to mobile and the cloud. Everyone is trying to integrate webapps into the desktop.

      In conclusion, I didn’t thought much about this idea of “hosted open source webmail service” but I thought it worth mentioning. For now what I can just say for sure is that I’m looking for a real Gmail open source alternative and that’s why I didn’t funded Geary.



  6. I think your experiment was a great one, and I think the public perception is a little flawed, as in the focus of the general public is (seemingly) more about how sad it is that you didn’t reach the goal of raising 100K.

    Anyone who thinks Yorba should have asked for less money I think is missing the point, my sentiment is that those people are trying to sell us all short of what we are worth as FOSS developers.

    Of course, we all wish you had reached your goal, but instead of feeling sad, we should all learn a valuable lesson here. People don’t want to pay for free software development only for the sake of free software itself. Either that, or we have not found the right trick to actually feed ourselves from creating free software. If we want to continue writing free software, we have to figure out how to fund it.

    Honestly, the development of Geary has surely costed easily over 100K (you mention 350K to date which sounds reasonable), and it’s probably going to cost a lot more (100K is peanuts when you think about it, and you obviously must have spent many man hours just running the campaign itself, I expect it took you an hour or two to write this blog post even… those hours also need to be paid for somehow).

    I also think the statement you made was a noble one, basically: if we can raise 100K, we will commit to developping this, it’s worth committing a developer full time on this for 100K.

    If you can’t raise at least 100K, then why should you commit yourselves to developping something ? By committing yourselves to a task for only 50K you could easily be hurting yourselves by making such a short term commitment, perhaps you would have to turn down other opportunities in the coming months, just because a key developer is not available (and missing out on an opportunity can of course break a company).

    Frankly, I think 100K was a very reasonable and generous minimum, and I think that we all owe you guys at Yorba a big thankyou for running this experiment. I’m sure it costed you many hours to run this campaign and we should all try to learn something from it.

  7. I actually wanted to back this project, made an account at indiegogo but then ran into one problem: PayPal! Since they closed my account 2 years ago for no reason at all I am not willing to use their service aga in.

    Still I installed geary and used it for a while. What I did not like was the fact that it does not integrate nicely into GNOME 3 (ubuntuish icons, no app menu….)

    1. With a couple exceptions, the icons are not part of Geary — they’re supplied by your theme. Ultimately it’s up to your system’s icon theme to decide what to display.

      The Gnome-style app menu is a point of contention for a lot of people, but we’ll probably add it as an option in the future.

  8. >a common complaint was that we should’ve done a flexible funding campaign

    I might have missed it, but did you address this “common complaint”? Couldn’t you have ended up with 50 grand in the bank? It’s not everything you wanted, but it’s a lot more than you have now.

    >When asked to elucidate, I either never heard back from the commenter or got the hand-wavey response “It’s just too much for an email client.”

    I’m not sure I agree that this is a hand-wavey response, but on that topic:

    To the statement, “The Proposition Wasn’t Unique”, you respond with, “What I don’t see are any that look, feel, or interact quite like Geary”. That seems quite “hand-wavey”. Likewise, you say, “We preferred to talk about what Geary offers and what it could grow into”, yet often when asked what Geary had to offer, the response from Yorba was “Conversation view, and other clients aren’t good enough.” Lots of hand-wavey stuff.

    So while you are mourning the lack of specificity regarding Geary not being worth $100,000, the community was waiting for you to tell them why it *is* worth $100,000.

    After following the campaign and reading this post, it seems to me that Yorba was never saying “We need $100,000 for this email client”, but “We want you to *fund our organization* so we can make a living building a program we have personal subjective reasons for preferring.”

    And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it wasn’t presented that way.

    1. Regarding flexible funding, I attempted to respond to each person who asked that question. I didn’t go into it in the blog post because it was already getting rather long and I want to discuss the question in my next blog post, which is about lessons learned and advice for people considering crowdfunding.

      I feel like our campaign was pretty specific about what we wanted to offer in Geary. If you look at the Indiegogo page, we list seven features we planned to build with the money raised: As far was what Geary already has to offer, I believe we discussed that in the video and on the page. I like to believe it helps that people could actually download and run Geary today. And, in all the comments I read and responded too, I didn’t hear anyone tell me that they didn’t know what Geary could do.

      And as far as the community waiting for why it’s worth $100,000, I think we beat that drum pretty hard: that’s the cost proposition of three full-time developers building those seven features. If the community didn’t want those features, I understand. If the community doesn’t want Geary, okay, I can accept that too. My frustration were with the people who thought you can build a great email client free and clear with $20,000 (one number that was quoted to me).

      1. I think what he meant was that you could concentrate more on conventional marketing and less on defending the cost analysis. There’s no need to divert the narrative of your pitch every time some teenager on OMG! Ubuntu cries foul. People who are that naive about operating costs are probably too young to donate anyway.

  9. I considered contributiong, especially since I am in need of a good e-mail client, but I was tight on money at that time. If the founding was to happen now, I would have contributed I think.

    Also, there was in my opinion too much focus on the search engine included in the client. I don’t know how that could be implemented, but when it came in Thunderbird, it became even slower and took way too much disk space. I think the search engine and indexing of messages is better left on the server side.

    And there was too little focus on the feature I think is missing the most from desktop clients: labels, or IMAP keywords. IMAP is fully capable of having GMail-like labels and this is the feature I am missing the most since I abandonned GMail to use my self-hosted server. And it should be relatively easy to add.

    And if you want to know, there is another young mail client that I like out there and I find it promising: Trojita. I hope to find time to contribute to add the missing features I so badly want.

    Ultimately, I think $100000 was a little too much.

      1. I don’t think $100k is too much at all. Just too much in one go. If the fundraising effort is stretched out and people have time to see the results shaping up, perhaps there could even be 3 or 4 $50k campaigns. You could pioneer a new model (on an existing, recognized platform) and at least be more likely to end up with something rather than nothing.

        1. This I think is a big factor.. Having just one month might be enough for a AAA game but not for a quite common application as a mail client. Splitting it up would probably make the potential for success bigger. I couldn’t either donate during the campaign even if I wanted to. I think Geary is necessary and do offer a good experience.

  10. You know what really bugs me about OMGU? I emailed them about the Geary crowdfunding early on, and they waited until three days before the term was over to write an article (about how far away from the goal Geary was). So, they drive traffic writing about failure, but won’t be bothered to help the project when it could’ve mattered.
    I also emailed webupd8 but they didn’t run anything at all.

    I wish the Yorba team the best. You guys do great work.

  11. The overall tone of the comments that surrounded this campaign is almost dishearting. It’s a vibrant community, ready to invest a lot in hardware and experimenting (look at the price of going to a conference!), however when it comes to software there is an incredible sense of entitlement.

    Booting up to a sleek operating system and sorting photos on a snappy, smart program, all of it for $0, and then lecturing the Yorba team about what is “too much” makes our community sound like a bunch of kids.

  12. Probably people isn’t much interested in Geary because their laptop is just one of the many tools they use to check mail. Most people also read email from their smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and so on.

    Probably if Geary were ported to support that devices things would change.

    This is of course just my humble opinion. I don’t own any ‘smart’ device and I think Geary is the client I have been waiting for years.

    1. Not really.. I do Geary on my desktop and another client on my smart devices. They work seamlessly and very well together.

  13. I’m from continental Europe and I hadn’t any problems using Amazon payments as a way to pay for something (including kickstarter). One cannot use Amazon payments as a recipient if one is not an U.S. citizen though.

    Just saying.

  14. the reason I didn’t donate was simply because when using the current version of Geary I found the ui design lacking. Deleting multiple emails leaves the selected email as a random email instead of the next one. No option for text only emails (which are a must for open source development) and other trivial ui problems. in short I simply don’t trust that you are the guys will be able to deliver on your promise of an email client I can use. in order to be able to get any amount of money out of crowd funding you need to make people believe you can deliver the goods.

    1. Geary can both send and receive text-only emails.

      Also I’m not sure I understand your point about how bugs in Geary today mean the project doesn’t deserve funding. Without funding, bugs will not be fixed, since there will be no one to fix them. So that seems like a very backward thing to say.

  15. Nice analysis, Jim.

    I would like to point out that the list wasn’t things I, as the writer or as Mr OMG!, personally thought you did wrong or were to blame, it was more a compilation of common common complaints I heard during the campaign. I wasn’t trying to point fingers or anything. Apologies if it came off that way.

    1. It didn’t, and apologies in return if anything here sounds like I’m pointing the finger at OMG!. As I said, the article was the most complete list I’ve found so far.

  16. Personally, I didn’t want to go with IndieGoGo because it would charge me before the end of the fundraise and that would make a difference for me.

  17. Can you run two campaigns at $ 50 000, one on Kickstarter and another simultaneously on Indiegogo? Like that, whether you’re American, European or Asian, with a Paypal or Amazon account, everyone should be able to give.

    1. And make them both more likely to fall short? How about leaving at least 1 month (i.e 1 payday for most people) between them.

  18. Maybe I missed something but I never saw a detailed cost calculation. “100,000 for the bare minimum” you wrote. That’s it.

    1. We said exactly what features we intended to implement with this money on the IndieGoGo page.

      1. That’s not a detailed cost calculation.
        Seriously, I organized student parties at my university and needed to present a more detailed cost calculation in order that others agreed to even vote on the funding proposal.

        You didn’t specify how much each programmer gets paid over what amount of time, for example. (Meaning USD X per hour, 5 days a week, over Y weeks.)

        1. Hmm, I don’t think they need to go that far. No offence but these guys are adults, not students.

          Maybe multiple, smaller campaigns would make it easier to understand what the goals are and easier to see the results in milestones

        2. You didn’t specify how much each programmer gets paid over what amount of time, for example. (Meaning USD X per hour, 5 days a week, over Y weeks.)

          Not everyone at Yorba felt comfortable publishing their salaries online. That said, it’s not rocket science to take the number of developers and the amount we’re asked for — both of which were published — and do the math yourself.

      2. It still seems a common complaint though. I think the all-or-nothing, everything-up-front approach just makes people feel apprehensive, even if there’s no reason to be. I know Yorba have a solid track record of delivering but perhaps many don’t.

  19. Just wanted to say that I am sorry the kickstarter didn’t work out. I did donate some money instead through your donate page and hopefully we can crack the open source crowd sourcing secret at some point and get a lot of development funded. 100K is not to much to ask, and should not be an impossible target to reach at all. People need to realize that running a development house do cost money.

    1. 30 days to solicit $50k ain’t bad going for a first attempt though. IMO the all-or-nothing approach is a bad fit for an ongoing open source project. Yorba could be using the 50k to do something right now, as opposed to the usual commercial projects that really do need the up-front capital to be certain they can even see it through. The only value of kickstarter/indiegogo seems to be in setting a big goal and attracting media attention (“will it succeed?!”) and the fact that no better model currently exists in usable form.

  20. It’s a pity the fundraiser didn’t succeed. I agree with your theory: I’m a frequent user of Evolution and even though I think it has many flaws, I’m reasonably satisfied with it. As a consequence I didn’t feel a need to donate.

    I did consider a donation out of sympathy for the project, but what stopped me from doing so was the lack of an option to donate by bank transfer. I don’t have a credit card and since PayPal decided to screw WikiLeaks I’ve sworn never to do business with them again.

    1. Have you considered Bitcoin? Coinbase would let you buy bitcoin via bank transfer. Regardless of all the recent nonsense about the exchange rate with other currency–it’s still a good way to transfer money w/out going through PayPal.

      1. For the record, we couldn’t accept Bitcoin for the campaign since IndieGoGo doesn’t support it. (That said, we happily accept Bitcoin donations otherwise; our hash is on the donation page.)

  21. I actually tried to donate, but my credit card was rejected with no explanations (“You can’t use this credit card for this payment” iirc).

    About why it failed: it should be clear both from your and OMGU’s analysis that there isn’t a single reason, IMHO the main ones are that 1) yep people are sort of happy with what they have 2) wrong platform, Kickstarter is better from what I hear 3) the 100k, even if you explained what you meant to do, was perceived as a black hole, with no clear connection to the planned features 4) the “too much” factor: don’t know exactly how to explain it (except pointing to 3), but it seems real for some people.

    Hope you’ll keep working on Geary, albeit on a much slower pace, and perhaps try again with another fund raising campaign.


  22. I hesitated about contributing to the campaign, mostly because I felt you weren’t going to make it in time (the “why bother” reason). I realised however that this wasn’t helping, so I went ahead and contributed a small amount anyway. Honestly the fact that it reached 50k surprised me and is already a success in my mind.

    If I had to pick one reason why it failed, it’d be the relatively short duration of the campaign. I think you probably could’ve gotten the full amount, but not in such a short amount of time, with such a fragmented market. Reaching all the people that might have been interested in contributing requires a lot of work and time.

    If you’d start another campaign – even if it is for the 100k – I’ll donate again.

    I’m less keen on donating via the donate page, because it feels like a black hole. If you’d give us a way to communicate to you what we’re donating for (“geary”, “shotwell”, …), how much was raised (ie a way of measuring “success”), give a few updates what you’re doing with the money (unlike KKugel I don’t think we need to know exact details, just general), then I would.

  23. I didn’t contribute because when I read what would be done I see it is all for things that I won’t be using.

  24. I donated, even though I’m currently a happy Thunderbird user. I liked what I read about Geary, and the campaign seemed honest and to the point.

    I remember thinking (and worrying a bit about it) that instead of going for one big 1x100K campaign, I would’ve preferred if the features had been split up into smaller packages. I don’t think 100K is too much (I’m a developer myself, I know how long it takes to code stuff), but I do think that 100K can be perceived as too much by the average user.

    Smaller campaigns, with a projected campaign roadmap, would have alleviated some of that worry.

    Also since I’m not a rich man, I much prefer to donate small amounts more often, as opposed to larger amounts not so often. It’s easier for me to find room in my economy for 12x$25 spread out over a year than it is to dump a full $300 in one pile. With one big 100K campaign, you didn’t give me an option to help fund Geary a few months later. Yea, I know about the donate buttons, but it’s the fundraising efforts that grabs my attention. There are _a lot_ of donate buttons out there, all vying for my $ and attention.

    I sincerely hope you will give this a shot again, perhaps with 2 or 3 campaigns instead of one “big” one. 🙂

  25. I tried to donate but I stopped de process when I realized that it was impossible to make a completely anonymous donation with Visa Cards. I don’t want to be into a ranking of donators :s. Maybe the best solution is just the traditional one, open a “donation” site without goals, rankings or timings. If you are clear with what you receive and how you invest that money, people will be more open to contribute with money.

  26. I followed the campaign closely and considered pledging a couple hundred dollars. What put me off was there being no way to sponsor a specific feature or goal. I like supporting free software and I often donate to projects that make my life easier, purely out of appreciation, but I think in this case, if you’re asking for a fairly large pot of money, you might have to concentrate more on accountability.

    I’d love to sponsor a few of the specific features on the Geary todo list but if everything just goes into a big pot with no specific goal attached, I find it much harder to feel a personal connection with the pledge and much less assured that any of the features it goes towards will be of direct benefit to me.

    I know that sounds kind of mean and against the spirit of the whole thing and maybe a little self-absorbed with my relatively tiny donation, but crowd funding is mostly about tiny donations and people are way more likely to donate if you give them something specific to look forward to. Instead of putting people’s name in a general list of credits, you could mention them in the release notes alongside the specific features they backed.

    It’s interesting you mention that many crowd-funding projects are raising capital for a product they intend to later sell. I think those campaigns do well specifically because they offer backers something specific in return. Even the GNOME fundraisers are quite specific about their goals.

    With regards to accountability, even if you continue to use all-or-nothing platforms like IndieGoGo, you could still set fewer goals and make it clear you intend to run a series of smaller, targeted campaigns over a period of time.

    Just thought I’d share those insights for what they’re worth…

    1. I followed the campaign closely and considered pledging a couple hundred dollars. What put me off was there being no way to sponsor a specific feature or goal. I like supporting free software and I often donate to projects that make my life easier, purely out of appreciation, but I think in this case, if you’re asking for a fairly large pot of money, you might have to concentrate more on accountability.

      This was something I heard a few times. I think the answer is this: the “feature bounty” model sounds great on paper, but doesn’t translate well to the real world.

      I’m not just being cynical here, that exact model has been tried a number of times over the years and has always landed with a thud.

      It’s not entirely clear why that model hasn’t caught on, but there’s some most obvious problems:

      Not everyone will agree how a feature should be implemented. Letting the people with the deepest pockets decide may not be in anyone’s best interest.
      Are people willing to pay for “boring” tasks like refactoring, packaging, messing with the translation system, setting up continuations integration servers, etc.?
      By the time you’ve spec’d out a feature, you’ve already done at least half the work. Who will pay for this?
      Who pays for things like management, QA, build and release, taking care of IT, responding to email, etc?
      Are donors necessarily qualified to evaluate competing plans and make a good decision?
      Is that income model stable enough to hire full-time employees?

      My takeaway from this has largely been that the opposite approach is more effective. In the US we have public radio and television stations that “crowdfund” successfully without making specific promises.

      Wikimedia Foundation is another example of this. Jimmy Wales doesn’t promise new features or new websites, he just asks for financial support to keep doing what they’ve been doing.

      I would also argue there’s a difference between specific goals and overall accountability. Yorba has been around for several years and already has an established reputation for providing quality, easy to use apps for the Linux desktop. Unlike some crowdfunding campaigns, we’re not new to the scene and I think there’s already some established trust.

      1. All very valid points.

        The only platform I know of for sponsoring features with minimal fuss is The immediate problem with that seems to be that the website has a lot of usability and design problems. It’s the kind of website people tend to close after 30 seconds in frustration.

        I guess in the case of KickStarter/IndieGoGo, the early commercial projects with high mainstream/media appeal subsidised a lot of the development of the platform and helped a lot with the credibility of the idea.

        Critical mass? Maybe I’m just guessing now 😉

  27. Hi Jim

    Sorry to hear that your fundraiser was unsuccessful.
    I think you make some good points above.

    However, you say that you couldn’t use Kickstarter because “one criteria for Kickstarter is that a project must be creating something new. We’re not doing that. One key point we tried to stress was that Geary was built and available today.”

    I’m not convinced that this would matter. Openshot recently had a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter – Openshot is not a new project… it has been around a lot longer than geary. Openshot were not prevented from fundraising on Kickstarter though because they were not a new project, so why should Geary be?

    Also, something that I think needs mentioning. It is all very well to ask for individuals to donate towards projects such as geary, but most individuals have very limited income… what about the likes of Canonical, Red Hat and Novell? For them £100,000 is a drop in the ocean. Red Hat is a billion dollar company now and Canonical and Novell are hardly paupers. It could enhance their “product” considerably if they funded the accelerated development of an app like Geary.

    Also, without wanting to start a Gnome versus KDE flamewar, I’m curious as to why Yorba make all their apps Gnome/GTK apps rather than KDE/Qt ones?

    1. I wasn’t saying it was guaranteed that Kickstarter wouldn’t approve our project, only that it was not guaranteed they’d take us (unlike IndieGoGo). OpenShot (and VLC) used Kickstarter, but note that they were in fact producing something “new” — a new port of their projects to Windows and/or Mac. We were only pitching improvement of an existing Linux app. I could find no project on Kickstarter that did something similar. The point is, people who off-handedly said “You should’ve used Kickstarter” I suspect don’t really understand Kickstarter’s criteria and process (especially when they then said “… and used flexible funding”, which isn’t available with Kickstarter).

      As far as Canonical and Red Hat, I’m certain they were aware of our campaign. You would have to ask them.

  28. The recent fairphone fund raiser shows that you dont need to be on kickstarter to do crowd funding.

  29. Maybe you should start a little research what people want, with a simple poll and then start crowdfunding. I know you guys are creative and have skills

    Some possible projects:

    – Filebrowser (with tags and integrated shotwell?)
    – Music Player
    – Calendar
    – Texteditor


  30. I’m a huge fan of Yorba (donated to this campaign and outside of it) and I love the Shotwell GUI.

    I have also been reading lately about Trojita ( as I believe it is likely to be used as Ubuntu’s phone email client. I understand that it is one of the best technical IMAP implementations out there at the moment. I wonder if there is scope to use that for the IMAP functionality to let Yorba focus its limited resources on desktop integration and GUI?

    1. Trojita is written in Qt. We specifically wanted to write an email client for the GNOME desktop that took advantage of GNOME technologies, as well as provide an email implementation that could potentially be used in other GNOME projects.

  31. The reason I did not back it is because the project was not going to support Exchange. IMAP and POP email clients are a dime a dozen on Linux but there is not a single mail client that supports Exchange fully. If the project had pledged full push mail support and full calendar for Exchange. I would have donated $200. For me this is real need that prevents me from using Linux full time at work. I hope one day you are able to add support. I love Geary. Keep up the great work and good luck!

  32. Hi,
    In my opinion, we must give user the feeling of using a webmail. Geary already has an innovative interface and different from other mail clients (thunderbird, kmail, evolution, outlook).
    What is missing:
    – Sync contacts with Google contacts (for example)
    – Sync only the mails of the day (no old mail stored, no mail stored)
    – Add an option to search an old mail without storing anything locally
    – Add an option to reduce the application on systemtray with KDE and Gnome (with thunderbird, we need a plugin to do this )
    – Create a mail service for geary : only address mail, no webmail, free for 1Go .


  33. I’m with Jon Purcel, Exchange support is very important for me.
    Strong points for Geary: fast, good looking, simple and easy. Bad points: no exchange support

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