One year ago today, I released FlickrExport 2 as my first shareware release. To say it has been a success would be an understatement. It has been phenomenally successful, beyond anything I could have reasonably expected.
A few thoughts:
The support load is really high. This has probably been my biggest problem over the past year. I don't yet have a good way to differentiate between "real bugs" and "user confusion" issues. You could argue that all "user confusion" issues are interaction bugs, but some users are just new to the platform. I haven't yet found a good tool for this and am still just living out of Mail.app. Ideas welcome.
Attack the noisy problems first. Related to the issue of support load, the first bugs I always fix are the ones that will quieten my inbox. I have a couple of examples:
I used to have a generic Flickr error handler that, whenever some Flickr method blew up, would pop up a sheet saying "An error happened. Here's the code, please notify firstname.lastname@example.org". REALLY BAD IDEA! What happened was that, whenever Flickr took the API offline, my inbox exploded with a flurry of "I got error code 0, what does that mean?" emails. Over time, I've tried to do more to give the user the explanation right in the error sheet, although I've stopped short of including text to the effect of "there is really, really no need to email email@example.com over this".
Because FlickrExport is a plugin, it makes no change to the UI of iPhoto when you relaunch the app after installing. As a result, I got a bunch of emails saying "I installed FlickrExport but where is it?". As a solution, in recent releases, I've put screenshots in the last pane of the installer process showing where to find FlickrExport. That has completely stopped that line of enquiry.
Pricing has probably been the most difficult part of selling FlickrExport, but the volume of comments has given me a lot of data, and I remain very happy with the price point. It's interesting that all the complaints have been about the price of the iPhoto version. I've never had a single complaint about the (higher) price of the Aperture version. Different markets, I guess. It's also been a difficult year for the US Dollar, which has slid from £1 = $1.84 a year ago to £1 = $1.99 today. That's pushed the price of FlickrExport inexorably up in its largest market, but sales have weathered that storm pretty well on the whole.
One of the highlights of the past year was working with the Aperture team to get FlickrExport ready for the launch of Aperture 1.5 last October. Blake Seely did such a great job with the plugin API that it took me maybe two days to get FlickrExport ported to Aperture and working, then a few weeks of polishing to get things right. I'm personally delighted to have FlickrExport on Aperture, since Aperture is the app I use for my daily shooting. Sales-wise, the iPhoto version of FlickrExport outsells the Aperture version by about 7 to 1. That's actually a great showing for Aperture given that it's a much younger app, it doesn't come free on every Mac, and it runs on a far narrower range of hardware and OS X versions.
If I had one wish going forward into next year, it's this: Please, Apple, document and support the iPhoto plugin API. It's been stable for about as long as it has existed - FlickrExport actually works back to iPhoto 2 - so it's not as if it's experimental or unproven code that might have to be incompatibly re-implemented in the future. There's a market for third-party plugins out there, Apple, please put it on a formal footing so that we can confidently rely on that API.
So, thank you to all FlickrExport customers for a great year. Thanks for your patience when I broke the app; thanks for not yelling at me when Flickr broke the app. Thanks for all the great feedback, and I hope to make you even happier with FlickrExport 3, when it comes out.