Home Forums General General Proprietary Software Reply To: Proprietary Software


Seems to me that if you’re trying to ‘control the user experience’ by adding cool features to the production, then you’re losing sight of the end product and the end customer.

That is certainly a risk and one that comes to pass often – Whirlwind’s example of “spinning around a picture to give the impression of 3D” is a good one.

It would take considerably more motivation for me to make a purchase where the rules are the ‘user experience’, rather than the game with friends. For the ‘game with friends’ experience I want the rules to be as convenient as possible and that usually means as few technical requirements as possible. The rules need to be well written, well organized, well presented and easily accessible. I appreciate the ease and convenience of electronic distribution. I understand the corresponding threat of copyright infringement. But it’s the ‘game with friends’ experience I’m seeking. A proprietary system that restricts that experience has a far, far less chance of gaining me as a customer.

Indeed, I would generally agree. The trouble that businesses must confront is that what the customer wants often includes innate contradictions. For a very basic one, consider what you indicated above – which I think is completely reasonable – you identify three things:

1) Well organized and presented rules.
2) The lowest possible technical requirements making them easily accessible.
3) The convenience of electronic distribution.

#2 and #3 are in conflict. Now, in your case you may feel the conflict is minor, but the publisher has to judge determine if your experience is representative enough.

The lowest possible technical requirement for the accessibility of a rule set is printed paper. It lacks the convenience of digital distribution, but any form of digital distribution has a higher technical requirement. I think you’d say that a PDF is not a very high technical requirement and I would agree, but it does mean that the customer has to either own a portable device such as an iPad or e-Reader to carry the rules around, or has to pay to print them either by owning a printer or by using someone else’s. These are higher technical requirements than the product being a pre-printed book.

To many people the requirement of using a digital device at all is not terribly different from the requirement to use a specific app vs a PDF reader such as Preview or Adobe Reader. It all depends on where the audience is coming from.

My argument, if one chooses to call it that, is that software is complex, both in its design and its implementation, and that good intentions commonly lead to unintended results. Thus, while Whirlwind is frustrated by the choice of a magazine publisher, they likely intended to do something they had reasonable cause to believe their customers would really value, though that does not dictate that their intent will come to fruition.

And that is the core reason why we have avoided going digital just yet: it is easy to get right for a minority of customers but hard to get right for the majority of customers.


The Bandit