Bummed about software subscriptions

mcogilvie

Registered
I just found out MindNode (a mindmapping program for iOS and macOS is moving to a subscription model with version 7. It’s $20 a year, but initially free for version 5 and 6 users. There is a free basic version.

I am not feeling good about subscription software. I understand developers need to be paid for their work, including ongoing maintenance. I use MindNode infrequently, perhaps six times a year, and I am not sure if I want to commit to it. Software subscriptions are starting to feel like television, which has a ridiculous array of possibilities and unlimited expense for programs of marginal value. As the cumulative weight of software subscriptions mounts up, I feel increasingly selective.

There is another side to the economics. Microsoft charges around US $100 a year for a family subscription to Office. I don’t use it, but this is a lot of very powerful software. Apple gives away a lot of roughly equivalent software. Neither company is in financial trouble ;). As a general rule, the smaller the audience for software, the more a developer has to charge per user. Therefore some software is simply not sustainable commercially. I think I am seeing this with productivity software. A few companies are around $100 per year per person. Personally, I see no useful correlation between software quality and ongoing cost when it comes to gtd.

Thoughts, anyone?
 

TesTeq

Registered
I just found out MindNode (a mindmapping program for iOS and macOS is moving to a subscription model with version 7. It’s $20 a year, but initially free for version 5 and 6 users. There is a free basic version.

I am not feeling good about subscription software. I understand developers need to be paid for their work, including ongoing maintenance. I use MindNode infrequently, perhaps six times a year, and I am not sure if I want to commit to it. Software subscriptions are starting to feel like television, which has a ridiculous array of possibilities and unlimited expense for programs of marginal value. As the cumulative weight of software subscriptions mounts up, I feel increasingly selective.

There is another side to the economics. Microsoft charges around US $100 a year for a family subscription to Office. I don’t use it, but this is a lot of very powerful software. Apple gives away a lot of roughly equivalent software. Neither company is in financial trouble ;). As a general rule, the smaller the audience for software, the more a developer has to charge per user. Therefore some software is simply not sustainable commercially. I think I am seeing this with productivity software. A few companies are around $100 per year per person. Personally, I see no useful correlation between software quality and ongoing cost when it comes to gtd.

Thoughts, anyone?
IMHO ALL prices are loosely correlated with quality today.
I think a fair subscription model should be based on usage time, not calendar time. But it would further limit the commercial sustainability.
 

ivanjay205

Registered
I just found out MindNode (a mindmapping program for iOS and macOS is moving to a subscription model with version 7. It’s $20 a year, but initially free for version 5 and 6 users. There is a free basic version.

I am not feeling good about subscription software. I understand developers need to be paid for their work, including ongoing maintenance. I use MindNode infrequently, perhaps six times a year, and I am not sure if I want to commit to it. Software subscriptions are starting to feel like television, which has a ridiculous array of possibilities and unlimited expense for programs of marginal value. As the cumulative weight of software subscriptions mounts up, I feel increasingly selective.

There is another side to the economics. Microsoft charges around US $100 a year for a family subscription to Office. I don’t use it, but this is a lot of very powerful software. Apple gives away a lot of roughly equivalent software. Neither company is in financial trouble ;). As a general rule, the smaller the audience for software, the more a developer has to charge per user. Therefore some software is simply not sustainable commercially. I think I am seeing this with productivity software. A few companies are around $100 per year per person. Personally, I see no useful correlation between software quality and ongoing cost when it comes to gtd.

Thoughts, anyone?
I happen to like subscription model. Yea buying it once means I can stay on that version forever but that also means inconsistencies in what versions people use which leads to many issues for developers.
My initial fear with saas is that developers would not develop, but they do. Most of my subscriptions get regularly updated and the influx of money helps companies with that.
It also helps me budget instead of a big purchase every few years a much cheaper regular subscription spreads out the pain.
 

Jim

GTD Ninja
Make your voice heard. Write to the developer of MindNode and let him know your concerns.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Make your voice heard. Write to the developer of MindNode and let him know your concerns.
I don’t think I have much useful to say to the developers of MindNode. They are treating their users pretty well. I just don’t use the app enough to make it worth paying $20 per year. I’ve dropped other apps when they went subscription. In some cases, I thought their asking price was ridiculous and did say so. I do think developers of niche productivity apps tend to overvalue their products. The really astounding app category to me is Health and Fitness, where subscriptions are very common and annual subscription costs are often around $100 per year or more. In many cases, an equivalent book or audiobook (one-time purchase) is under $20.
 

ivanjay205

Registered
I don’t think I have much useful to say to the developers of MindNode. They are treating their users pretty well. I just don’t use the app enough to make it worth paying $20 per year. I’ve dropped other apps when they went subscription. In some cases, I thought their asking price was ridiculous and did say so. I do think developers of niche productivity apps tend to overvalue their products. The really astounding app category to me is Health and Fitness, where subscriptions are very common and annual subscription costs are often around $100 per year or more. In many cases, an equivalent book or audiobook (one-time purchase) is under $20.
Look at it the other way. 20 is pretty cheap. How much do they need to sell to make a living? Unfortunately pirating is part to blame to create all of this.
 

John Forrister

GTD Connect
Staff member
I just got an email from Quicken that they are going to the subscription model. I can keep the installed 2017 desktop version I have, but the connectivity with financial institutions will end before long. That would mean lots of tedious data entry. The subscription price is not that high, but they will make more off me than I've been paying, because I don't upgrade every year. C'est la vie.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Look at it the other way. 20 is pretty cheap. How much do they need to sell to make a living? Unfortunately pirating is part to blame to create all of this.
It‘s not the money, it’s the perceived value.

It‘s interesting that you mention piracy- I don‘t hear much about it with software running on Apple hardware. Or much on windows either. I do see complaints about copy protection and other policies, on gaming platforms mostly.
 

John Ismyname

Registered
I just got an email from Quicken that they are going to the subscription model. I can keep the installed 2017 desktop version I have, but the connectivity with financial institutions will end before long. That would mean lots of tedious data entry. The subscription price is not that high, but they will make more off me than I've been paying, because I don't upgrade every year. C'est la vie.
I was in the same boat. I started with Quicken in 1994. With the advent of online banking with Quicken98, downloading data made it very efficient. With Quicken98, they introduced a time-bomb feature - auto downloading would only work for a set amount of years and then you had to renew. When Intuit sold Quicken, I swtitched to GNU cash. It is like Quicken but not as good and a freeware open source software. GNU can import Quicken files from your financial institution,
 

mcogilvie

Registered
The well-known Mac and iOS calendar app Fantastical just announced version 3 and a move to a subscription model. The annual subscription is $40/year. In this case, reaction has been swift and very negative. Most people who mention a price say $10/year would be fine, but not $40. I suspect they will end up with a core group of users who use the app a lot, lose most casual users (including me), but still make more money as long as they keep that core group happy.
 

chirmer

Registered
I have become very fatigued with subscriptions. It's not just apps, either - streaming platforms are out of control. Streaming makes sense if you look at one thing at a time and its value, but when you add everything up... Frankly, it's outrageous. Netflix + Hulu + Disney+ + CBS Access + NBC Go + etc. + etc. ... it never ends, and it adds up to WAY more than the cost of a cable subscription.

I have recently being exploring simply using the tools that operating systems come with, and lowest common denominator file types. I'm moving all of my storage out of Evernote, Google Drive, etc. and into plain text files or where I can, RTF or PDF where I can't, and saving images, videos, etc. as lone files. It's very 1998 but it's also tried and true. When we think back to technology in 2000, what existed and worked then that still works now? Not Word docs, that's for sure. I can no longer open the papers I wrote throughout school. And that really bothers me. If I'd saved them as RTF or plain text, I could open them easily.

I'm finding a kind of zen I didn't know I needed when I simplify my tools as low as they'll go. I can use a wide variety of software to edit my stuff - if one tool dies off or goes sub at a price I don't think has value, I can find another tool and not change my process. I've really missed using the Evernote web clipper, but have found that using Mac Safari's built-in reader mode and then printing to PDF creates gorgeous article layouts for web content I want to save. I still have my EN sub because I'm grandfathered in at $5/mo, but at some point I hope I have the courage to give it up and cancel. It's a great tool, but I want longevity. EN proprietary note formats are stress-inducers. If EN went belly up, my life would be chaos. I don't want that stress.

TL;DR: I'm tired of app dependency, and being disappointed when pricing/app changes make things no longer viable. KISS going forward, baby. I think I might get a tattoo of ".txt" (not really) (well, actually, that could be neat)
 

Longstreet

Professor of microbiology and infectious diseases
I have become very fatigued with subscriptions. It's not just apps, either - streaming platforms are out of control. Streaming makes sense if you look at one thing at a time and its value, but when you add everything up... Frankly, it's outrageous. Netflix + Hulu + Disney+ + CBS Access + NBC Go + etc. + etc. ... it never ends, and it adds up to WAY more than the cost of a cable subscription.

I have recently being exploring simply using the tools that operating systems come with, and lowest common denominator file types. I'm moving all of my storage out of Evernote, Google Drive, etc. and into plain text files or where I can, RTF or PDF where I can't, and saving images, videos, etc. as lone files. It's very 1998 but it's also tried and true. When we think back to technology in 2000, what existed and worked then that still works now? Not Word docs, that's for sure. I can no longer open the papers I wrote throughout school. And that really bothers me. If I'd saved them as RTF or plain text, I could open them easily.

I'm finding a kind of zen I didn't know I needed when I simplify my tools as low as they'll go. I can use a wide variety of software to edit my stuff - if one tool dies off or goes sub at a price I don't think has value, I can find another tool and not change my process. I've really missed using the Evernote web clipper, but have found that using Mac Safari's built-in reader mode and then printing to PDF creates gorgeous article layouts for web content I want to save. I still have my EN sub because I'm grandfathered in at $5/mo, but at some point I hope I have the courage to give it up and cancel. It's a great tool, but I want longevity. EN proprietary note formats are stress-inducers. If EN went belly up, my life would be chaos. I don't want that stress.

TL;DR: I'm tired of app dependency, and being disappointed when pricing/app changes make things no longer viable. KISS going forward, baby. I think I might get a tattoo of ".txt" (not really) (well, actually, that could be neat)
Nice! And let us know when you get this tattoo.... o_O ;)
 

RS356

Practicing GTD since 2005
Nice! And let us know when you get this tattoo.... o_O ;)
I have become very fatigued with subscriptions. It's not just apps, either - streaming platforms are out of control. Streaming makes sense if you look at one thing at a time and its value, but when you add everything up... Frankly, it's outrageous. Netflix + Hulu + Disney+ + CBS Access + NBC Go + etc. + etc. ... it never ends, and it adds up to WAY more than the cost of a cable subscription.

I have recently being exploring simply using the tools that operating systems come with, and lowest common denominator file types. I'm moving all of my storage out of Evernote, Google Drive, etc. and into plain text files or where I can, RTF or PDF where I can't, and saving images, videos, etc. as lone files. It's very 1998 but it's also tried and true. When we think back to technology in 2000, what existed and worked then that still works now? Not Word docs, that's for sure. I can no longer open the papers I wrote throughout school. And that really bothers me. If I'd saved them as RTF or plain text, I could open them easily.

I'm finding a kind of zen I didn't know I needed when I simplify my tools as low as they'll go. I can use a wide variety of software to edit my stuff - if one tool dies off or goes sub at a price I don't think has value, I can find another tool and not change my process. I've really missed using the Evernote web clipper, but have found that using Mac Safari's built-in reader mode and then printing to PDF creates gorgeous article layouts for web content I want to save. I still have my EN sub because I'm grandfathered in at $5/mo, but at some point I hope I have the courage to give it up and cancel. It's a great tool, but I want longevity. EN proprietary note formats are stress-inducers. If EN went belly up, my life would be chaos. I don't want that stress.

TL;DR: I'm tired of app dependency, and being disappointed when pricing/app changes make things no longer viable. KISS going forward, baby. I think I might get a tattoo of ".txt" (not really) (well, actually, that could be neat)
I agree with you. I find that over the years my systems have become more and more complex. I was actually more productive on the computer 20 years ago with fewer options and features. I was one of the first users of Evernote, back when it had the blue styling and continuous "tape" of notes. It would sync via a thumb drive which I would carry to and from the office. Over the years, Evernote gradually lost its utility for me. Today, my digital note taking system consists solely of PDFs, text documents, or images of handwritten pages. My concession to the modern age is Google Drive, which syncs my files between devices and backs them up locally. I do create documents using Google Docs or Sheets, but these are readily exportable as PDFs. My PDF library dates back to 1995, and I can still open these files with ease. It's trusted and just works.
 

TesTeq

Registered
I have become very fatigued with subscriptions. It's not just apps, either - streaming platforms are out of control. Streaming makes sense if you look at one thing at a time and its value, but when you add everything up... Frankly, it's outrageous. Netflix + Hulu + Disney+ + CBS Access + NBC Go + etc. + etc. ... it never ends, and it adds up to WAY more than the cost of a cable subscription.

I have recently being exploring simply using the tools that operating systems come with, and lowest common denominator file types. I'm moving all of my storage out of Evernote, Google Drive, etc. and into plain text files or where I can, RTF or PDF where I can't, and saving images, videos, etc. as lone files. It's very 1998 but it's also tried and true. When we think back to technology in 2000, what existed and worked then that still works now? Not Word docs, that's for sure. I can no longer open the papers I wrote throughout school. And that really bothers me. If I'd saved them as RTF or plain text, I could open them easily.

I'm finding a kind of zen I didn't know I needed when I simplify my tools as low as they'll go. I can use a wide variety of software to edit my stuff - if one tool dies off or goes sub at a price I don't think has value, I can find another tool and not change my process. I've really missed using the Evernote web clipper, but have found that using Mac Safari's built-in reader mode and then printing to PDF creates gorgeous article layouts for web content I want to save. I still have my EN sub because I'm grandfathered in at $5/mo, but at some point I hope I have the courage to give it up and cancel. It's a great tool, but I want longevity. EN proprietary note formats are stress-inducers. If EN went belly up, my life would be chaos. I don't want that stress.

TL;DR: I'm tired of app dependency, and being disappointed when pricing/app changes make things no longer viable. KISS going forward, baby. I think I might get a tattoo of ".txt" (not really) (well, actually, that could be neat)
For me getting my lists out of Things, Nozbe etc. to TaskPaper file was really relieving. TaskPaper app on Mac has really fantastic outline/tag/search infrastructure. And... it's just a text file!
 

aderoy

Registered
One reason why I have been moving more toward the plain txt, xml, local non-cloud (local owning go data was one big trigger for 'personal computers' now moving back to cloud). Having lost the ability to open a file due to software no longer running on the current OS (Windows/Mac not so much Linux/Unix) is going to be a problem near term. LaTeX files no problems so OK, yet Wordstar 4 (can be done via DOSbox), WordPerfect, AmiPro - when the printer changed so did the output.

Then of course I look at one bookshelf which has my old DayTimer, Franklin, Time/Design, Filofax - agendas from early 1980's all perfectly reading, just not the best for searching. Yes the Franklin/DayTimer monthly tab indexes did help for sure, jus not lighting fast as you can get electronically. Will not even include notebooks containing notes (my Book of Knowledge etc.) without the benefit of bullet journal style, just date start/end with index at the end.

Even backups of my machines - have to test monthly and migrate to new software as needed. When a backup program software is updated and you find that that it will not read the version before bad news. Image to another offline HD seems to be what I am leaning to, can at least load into a VM to extract the data.

Subscription model if you can lock version and still use may not be too bad, yet if you stop the subscription and now cannot access any file = bad news. Then if the export/import features do not keep the majority of the file structure will migration away even be possible?

With the number of subscription options assist programmers/companies with a steady / known income and can keep the doors open. Double edge sword?

Rambling, must find coffee.
 

mcogilvie

Registered
The problem with free platforms is that they are free (developers must eat ;)).
The problem with paid platforms is that they are paid (users must eat :D).
@Longstreet @mcogilvie
A bit binary, Tes, but true. There has to be an equilibrium point, but supply/demand curves don’t work the same for software as physical goods, and response time is shortened. When a seller is perceived to be acting badly by users, they react very quickly. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Fantastical, but ”the market” is certainly punishing them. On the other hand, MindNode transitioned to a subscription model just a bit before Fantastical with no problems. They explained what they were doing and why, treated existing users well, released a solid upgrade, and priced the subscription at a price the market accepted.
 

chirmer

Registered
The problem with free platforms is that they are free (developers must eat ;)).
The problem with paid platforms is that they are paid (users must eat :D).
Well, this isn't *quite* true when it comes to open source software, but it does mean there's a bit more of a risk there. It's a cost that comes with better control and access to a service, so each person will have to juggle what's important for them to see if it fits. There are a ton of amazing open source projects out there that do just fine and work well for many folks, and there are some that languish and don't see frequent updates because there are no funds backing it up (and thus, it's not a priority for the developers).

But there are also paid software that languish despite getting subscription fees from users each month, too. I've recently returned to trialing Workflowy since development picked back up, but it wilted for years despite charging users each month. So like anything else, it's a case-by-case basis. In this case, BookStack looks really nice!
 
Late to the party, but this has been an interesting thread. I started keeping a list of services I'm subscribed to and their related cost. It's an interesting excercise. Ouch.

I'm not that opposed to subscripton models but I agree that the cost is sometimes way off the map. When I look at Fantastical's new model I thought: Whoa! But then I used to pay $50 or so (CDN)/year for DayTImer and thought nothing of it. I guess it depends on the value a service brings to you and maybe it is a good way of forcing you to think about that.

I am a long-time Nozbe user but the annual price $130 CDN always felt like a bit much compared Todoist and others. (I was also a bit frustrated at the time with their Nozbe 4 plan and thought it was becoming a teams-only software. But this turned out not to be so at all).

So I went through a period last year of trying others: Todoist again (still don't like it). WIth @chirmer wonderful assistance, I setup a system in Trello that I really liked but because I was a heavy user of the Butler power up I had to move to the business pricing model (as an individual) at $13.50 CDN/month. That was just too much for what I perceived I was getting. So, after a half year away, II went back to Nozbe and so happy that I did (except I still feel a little guilty cuz @chirmer was so helpful and a great advocate of Trello!).

And GTD Connect is another example. $40 CDN/month. I would love GTD Connect but $500/year for me as an individual is waaay off the map.

I read @chirmer move back to text files. It made my heart go pitter patter. Love text files and even, briefly, ran a GTD system in one, yes one, text file with some markdown language. Honestly it was great but not terribly functional in this age.

So, bottom line, I think it is all about value for money. I get subscription models and they don't bother me too much because it forces me to think about what I really need to be efficient with the dollars I spend.

Peter
 
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