The United Devs of Sharewaria: What Have MacHeist and MacAppADay Done for the Mac Community?

It’s hard to remember what life was like before Phillip Ryu and Co. started giving out shareware applications for free. Through wonderful contests and communities like MyDreamApp and MacHeist, people can obtain awesome Mac applications for naught a dime by voting for a favorite application concept or solving a multi-website jigsaw puzzle respectively. In a recent post, Phill talked about his motivations for bringing together a diverse group of Mac users and giving away millions of dollars worth of shareware, as well as asking anyone reading to try and do their part, however small, in spreading the word about great applications. Phill and his team have done a commendable job with all of these community projects, and have accomplished a lot. They’ve started the development of three awesome applications through My Dream App, as well as built up massive amounts of hype towards a bundle going on sale Monday with great deals on tons of shareware. Unrelated to Phill, but with a similar notion, is MacAppADay, which is giving away 5,000 copies of a different application each and every day throughout December.

I think that Phill’s biggest underlying point in both these projects is that of goodwill, albeit in a roundabout manner. Before this fall, I hadn’t purchased much shareware. I used whatever application was least expensive, not what was best. As is to be expected, through these various events, I’ve acquired applications that I’d been using quite a bit at no cost to myself, like the Iconfactory’s excellent system monitoring utility, iPulse. Coincidentally, I was about to purchase it, so through MacHeist, the Iconfactory lost a customer*. However, through the charity of Phill and his team in doing so much for us, as well as the goodwill of the developers participating in MacHeist and MacAppADay, I’ve gained a lot more appreciation for what they do, the “thousands of hours of loving care poured into each of these creations,” as Phill says. So in the past few months, I’ve purchased more apps that ever that I’d been holding off on, such as OmniWeb and Delicious Library. On another level, by interacting on a more peer-to-peer level with the developers, as well as through their generosity, I now hold a newfound respect for what they do. There’s just something about Phill showing up in the MacHeist IRC room at 2:22 AM and declaring his intention to stay up for the next two days that makes you love this community, and feel good about supporting developers in their endeavors. In that regard, MacAppADay fails, because instead of having fun, challenging puzzles and a great community, they offer you trojan horses, where you take the application into your hard drive thinking of it as a present, when they just want a business opportunity.

As Phill said himself, the point of his projects, as well as MacAppADay, is pretty much as a hype machine, to “excite existing fans [of shareware apps]” as well as “bringing new users into the market,” and giving away free applications is a surefire way of doing that. For instance, the application given away yesterday morning (at an ungodly hour) on MacAppADay was Mira, an application which allows you to customize what your Apple Remote can do. It’s pretty cool, something I’ve tried before, but the price tag has turned me away from giving it much more than cursory once-over. However, by offering free copies of the application through MacAppADay, around 5,000 people downloaded the application who wouldn’t have tried it otherwise, and I’m sure many of them still have it installed. Good business sense? It’s debatable. Perhaps a few of the people who downloaded Mira today had already been using it, and are now disinclined to purchase a license for it, like myself with iPulse. However, some of the other people who downloaded Mira might never have heard of it. They installed it today, tried it out, and liked it quite a bit. A couple months down the line, Twisted Melon will debut a new version of Mira with some vool new feature, like scrolling through Time Machine. The user sees that, and wants to try it out. However, the license only works for the version he downloaded from MacAppADay. The developer hope that some users will get hooked enough to fork over for a real license once a better version comes out. Who knows what’ll really happen.

Another area where MacAppADay fails is in sociality. Anyone whose ever spent some time on the MacHeist forums knows what I’m talking about, almost everyone is friendly and helpful, and there’s a strong level of bonding, even when the comments do get rough. The community is even more apparent during the heists themselves, when dozens of forum threads pop up with people from all around the world working to solve these challenging heists. From wikis to IRC rooms, there’s a level of community very rare in these days of flame wars and forum trolls. MacAppADay offers nothing more than a comment box for people to thank the gracious developers. Sure, some people (myself included) have stayed up to acquire some of the applications, however, there’s nothing tying those waiting up together.

Overall, I have nothing but gratitude to those developers who give up potential sales in order to foster community goodwill, and want to give my dearest thanks to Phillip Ryu and his team of hooligans, as well as Mark Howson and Vincent Tavera of MacAppADay, for organizing such awesome events and bestowing Mac users everywhere with wonderful applications, and to the developers of wonderful applications who kindly give us free copies of their lifeblood. It’s hard to appreciate what the developers do on their side of the internet, and I think both MacHeist and MacAppADay do a pretty good job in bridging that. However, because of how MacHeist operates, it’s a lot more likely we’ll be seeing a sequel to MacHeist this time next year than a MacAppADay 2. If neither of them reopen, however, the sense of community gained in MacHeist is still there, and I’m sure that the developers will notice some rises in sales, all thanks to Phill Ryu and his crew, and to prove me right, go out there and support the developers, developers, developers!

*Although I ended up buying Stattoo instead, which is made by Panic, a company closely affiliated with the Iconfactory.

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