I believe a celebration is in order!

Today marked a very important development in the life of Jer’s Novel Writer. For the very first time, I got money for it.

I’ve been working on the thing for a long time, now, but I keep thinking of one more thing I have to make better before I can charge for the software. At the urging of several users, however, I have now set up a way for people to pay voluntarily. No sooner had I put the payment option in place than one of those nagging me was all over it, and now he is my first paying customer, and a darn cool guy, to boot.

On the thank-you page on my Web site, I mention that it is people who voluntarily pay for things that are valuable to them that is fueling the small software revolution. This revolution is real, and growing, and is especially vibrant in the Macintosh world. I’ve used plenty of development environments in my day, but the one I use for Jer’s Novel Writer, called Cocoa, takes a different approach than the others, and provides incredibly powerful tools that are built into the Mac operating system. The result is a flexible and powerful environment. Nothing on any other platform that I have used comes close.

There’s another reason Cocoa has fueled a disproportionately large number of small application developers: It’s free for the asking. Were I to try to develop Jers Novel Writer for Windows, I’d be out hundreds, likely thousands of dollars before I even started, just for the basic tools. Then there are all the other bits that don’t come with the tools, that I have to go to third parties for, and then there’s the installer, and then…

Apple has in the past missed some big opportunities to market their innovations. OpenDoc, Publish/Subscribe (more than ten years ago I interviewed for a job with a company that was creating a system that allowed documents to be embedded in other documents, so when one was changed all the subscribers would be updated as well. “Did you know that’s already built into the Apple operating system?” I asked. I didn’t take the job. It was a cool idea, but nobody even knew it was there.) and plenty of other innovations have withered up simply because the big companies that made software didn’t care. Apple’s approach since OS X has been to make their new ideas instantly part of the development environment, so programmers like me have them at their fingertips from the get-go. That seems to be working better.

Now, the big companies are much more about marketing than about innovation. That’s not a bad thing, though, because there are thousands upon thousands of people like me, working away in their pajamas and bunny slippers, unconstrained by corporate demands, to come up with the new stuff. And with modern tools, we can make those ideas work. What you have now are a few giant Word-like programs that try to do everything, and a host of fleet, specialized apps focussed on a very specific niche. Most people have one of those all-in-one tools in the drawer, but also have a growing collection of tools perfect for one specific task.

When I started working on JersNW oh so very long ago, the number of options for creative writing were limited. Now there are many more (for Windows, Linux, Mac, and what-have-you). While I might lose a few users to the others, I can’t help but get excited over the new batch of truly excellent programs, made by people whose primary motivation is to have something that works right for them. There is a tangible purity of vision and a passion for excellence in these products that makes them a joy to compete against.

So I’m feeling pretty good today, not just for myself but for the bazillions of other little guys out there, transforming the way software is done.

Thank you, Heyes, for your support. Thank you Apple, Microsoft, and the rest for making the tools that give us the power to move the world, and thanks to all the other little guys for the competition. Keep those bunny slippers on.

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