Dan Wood: The Eponymous Weblog (Archives)

Dan Wood Dan Wood is co-owner of Karelia Software, creating programs for the Macintosh computer. He is the father of two kids, lives in the Bay Area of California USA, and prefers bicycles to cars. This site is his older weblog, which mostly covers geeky topics like Macs and Mac Programming. Go visit the current blog here.

Useful Tidbits and Egotistical Musings from Dan Wood

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Wed, 23 Jul 2008

Indie Fever

Yesterday, Michiel van Meeteren released Indie Fever, his thesis about the "Indie" Mac developer culture. It's over 100 pages, and a bit technical — his field's terminology, not ours, though! But it was certainly an interesting read, and I recommend it for current or future indie Mac developers.

One thing that struck me was the notion that we members of the development community are competitors: "Despite these collaborations they still regard each other as competitors although all sorts of unspoken rules apply to the kind of competition that is allowed within the community."

Yes, there are some competitors in this community, meaning that their products overlap in functionality enough to attract potentially the same customer base. But most of the people I interact with in the developer community are not competitors at all, unless you really stretch the definition by saying that we are competing for the attention and hard-earned dollars of the Mac users out there. Miciel compares the nature of the community to "the close-knit craft communities of Northern Italy or the diamond merchants of Antwerp." I don't know if that's quite accurate, if they are all selling the same things.

To choose a fun metaphor, we're the vendors at an electronic farmer's market. I might be selling peaches, but the vendors around me are selling honey, vegetables, flowers, and jars of curry. I'm not going to have any poroblems with the guy who's selling zucchini in the booth next door; in fact we're probably going to be buddies and help each other out.

And if there are enough people mulling around the market, I'm probably not going to mind the other guy selling peaches across the aisle (unless he's, say, giving them away for free; I'd need to make sure my peaches were better than his).

You see, there are something like 20 million users of current (Tiger or Leopard) Macs out there. Sure, it's less than the numbers of Windows PCs out there, but who cares. This is a large potential customer base. We indies, in order to make a living, really only need to make customers out of a very small fraction of the Mac users out there. An indie developer needs only a few thousand customers to make a living; we're talking only about one one-thousandth of the current Macs out there.

Since there are plenty of potential users of our software to go around, I like the idea of each other helping each other out. We've had a Good Karma section on our website and in our periodic email alert blasts, where we highlight some of our favorite indie apps. This is one of our ways of being part of the developer community.

I may have some more thoughts about the developer community and the business of being an Indie in subsequent posts. Stay tuned.