Shareware Beach

Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Innovation or The Usual Suspects

Filed under: Shareware Industry — Jan @ 21:07

It’s that time of the year again, where the shareware industry collectively pats itself on the back at the annual Shareware Industry Awards presented at the Shareware Industry Conference. Every year, I feel like it’s a missed opportunity.

Most people seem to nominate and vote for products that they’ve either been using for a long time, or products that have been created by people they like on a personal level. There’s nothing wrong with patting your buddies on the back for a job well done. But to me, it seems like the shareware awards could be so much more. Instead of congratulating ourselves, we could be promoting the shareware industry as a whole.

Giving awards is nice for those who win. Promoting the industry helps everybody, including those that are still laboring away at their future first release, and those that haven’t even written the first line of code yet. Incidentally, many such people attend the SIC every year. It’s a great way to get started!

Since I don’t want to offend anybody, I’ll use my own products to illustrate my point. None of them have ever been nominated for or won any shareware awards.

Take EditPad Pro. EditPad has been around in various editions since forever (1996), lots of people use it, and its a solid product. Many such products win awards every year. But why? There’s a million text editors out there. Even if EditPad Pro is the very best of them all (it is according to many of my customers; others might disagree), why should it get an award? How does the shareware industry benefit if it does? Nobody is going to get excited over it. No journalist is going to write a front page article about it.

What if we nominated and voted for innovative products, new stuff? Show them what our industry is capable of. Show them that innovation often comes from the little guys, not the big established companies. That would give people something to talk and write about. That might create some buzz and raise awareness. Probably not a lot for a single event, but ten years in a row, the awards may become an event that outsiders look forward to. (When Eric Sink comments in an MSDN atricle about winning an award that he’d never even heard of, that’s quite telling.)

There’s plenty of innovation going on in the shareware industry that we can put in the spotlight for a day to raise the profile of the whole industry. Take RegexBuddy. It’s a product almost in a class of its own. No shareware download site has a category for it that comes even close. While there are a handful of other tools out there that make it easier to test regular expressions, none of them offer the full spectrum of features to help you through the whole process, from creating, to testing, implementing and saving.

Or take PowerGREP. UNIX grep was created before I was born. That’s nothing new. Yet, I don’t know of any other Windows grep tool that allows you to combine up to three sequences (each with a specific role) of an unlimited number of regular expressions to execute a search, search-and-replace, or collect data. That may sound complicated, but it actually makes PowerGREP easier to use in many situations. With PowerGREP, you can use numerous trivial regular expressions instead of one huge cryptic regex that does it all.

I’ll be the first to admit that both RegexBuddy and PowerGREP appeal to a limited (geeky) audience. That’s why there’s plenty of categories to nominate products in for the Shareware Industry Awards. I promised not to use other people’s products as examples, so I’ll leave finding more innovative products as an exercise to the reader.

Perhaps that’s where the real problem lies. Finding innovative products to nominate, particularly innovative products that you don’t have a need for yourself, takes quite some time and effort. Nominating the usual suspects is much easier.

Still, I feel it’s a missed chance to spotlight our industry. I would love to see the whole nomination and voting process revamped to focus on innovation. Perhaps fewer categories. Perhaps a restriction on older programs and/or previous winners. Certainly a message to voters that promoting the industry, not patting our buddies on the back, will pay the biggest dividents for us all.


  1. I’m 100% agreee with you.

    Comment by jean claude — Tuesday, 3 May 2005 @ 22:48

  2. SIA Nominations Have Started
    SIC is getting close again, and everyone is starting to get nervous about the Shareware Industry Awards.
    Nominations for the awards started May 1st and end May 10th.
    Many feel that it would be better if new

    Trackback by Shareware Blogs — Wednesday, 4 May 2005 @ 7:29

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