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Ian Ozsvald picture

This is Ian Ozsvald's blog, I'm an entrepreneurial geek, a Data Science/ML/NLP/AI consultant, founder of the Annotate.io social media mining API, author of O'Reilly's High Performance Python book, co-organiser of PyDataLondon, co-founder of the SocialTies App, author of the A.I.Cookbook, author of The Screencasting Handbook, a Pythonista, co-founder of ShowMeDo and FivePoundApps and also a Londoner. Here's a little more about me.

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18 December 2007 - 21:31Subscription sites – ScreenCastsOnline.com

I’m doing research on community-sites that have a paying subscription element as a part of our re-think for ShowMeDo. I found some nice data on ScreenCastsOnline and I figured I’d share it.

Don McAllister (UK) is the voice behind ScreenCastsOnline – he provides weekly screencasts to teach viewers about Mac software and web sites.

Don was interviewed by Robert Scoble in December 2006, he mentions that:

  • He started in August 2005 to help family members learn the Mac
  • He went full-time in March 2006
  • In December 2006 he had 1,000 paying members
  • He has 11-12k free listeners subscribing each week

Does anyone know of more recent information on the growth of Don’s site? I’d be particularly interested in more recent paying-subscriber figures so I could get an idea of how these things can grow.

According to the Extras page the subscription is $25 for 6 months. For that you get access to high-definition versions of the screencasts and the full back-catalog (costing $20 as a one-time setup fee). Casual followers get access to 3/4 of the content in a lower-definition format.

Don promises 1 new episode every week, the content is typically about Mac software or related websites. Episodes appear to be 30 minutes long. Apparently 21-25k screencasts are downloaded weekly (March 2007) – this is about 3* our own (according to our mostPopular page).

Christmas special – Don is offering a 10% reduction in the subscription during December.

No Comments | Tags: Entrepreneur, Life, ShowMeDo

12 December 2007 - 15:33Which sites do you subscribe (£/$) to?

We’re planning a move to a paid-subscription model inside ShowMeDo – we’d like to keep all the content freely available and start adding pro-features that enhance a user’s learning experience. Having never promoted a subscription model before I’m looking for feedback…

Here’s the question – which services do you pay to subscribe to on a monthly basis? Leave me a comment and I can do some research on how other companies get this right (and, ugh, wrong – see Experts Exchange below).

Currently I use 37signal’s BaseCamp free plan for project management, maybe I’ll pay for that when we have more to manage.

I also pay for my Yahoo email – the account came via BT back in the days of old, they were going to cut it off if I didn’t pay or [gasp] dial-in once every 3 months under the terms of my old contract (such a stupid plan – now I dislike yahoo and bt, before I just didn’t like bt).

I used to use Experts-Exchange (wikipedia) – they let you ask questions for free (though they’ve hidden the free option behind layers of pay-to-subscribe links now). You can ask a limited number of questions as a free user and more as a paying user.

You hand over ‘points’ in a very-inflationary system to the person who answers your question successfully. The system used to be successful but that seems to be broken by horrid forced-subscription options. Roughly the service costs $8 per month for users with larger plans for corporates.

HotOrNot has a unique subscriber model – it is free to join, if you want to talk to someone then one of you has to be a member (faq item 54).

In interviews I’ve heard them say that is usually the guy who pays to talk to the girls. You pay when the service looks like it has something useful for you (you rate each other before talking, rating is free, therefore you know the other person is a person and not an empty shill profile), you can stop paying as soon as you’ve had enough. I’ve never tried it.

Dating sites do something similar – I used to subscribe to The Guardian’s Soulmates – I paid a monthly fee for the option to talk to single girls, they have to be paying too to talk back. You don’t have a way of finding out if the other profile is an empty shill profile (a practice that less reputable dating sites routinely follow), otherwise the model is similar. Costs are roughly £15 a month (and yes – it worked for me :-).

There’s also a nice timely report on slashdot about ‘making a buck online without advertising‘ which details Consumer Reports’ approach to only having a subscriber model – no ads and no free plans. It seems that they do very nicely out of this.

Finally Tim O’Reilly has talked about the move from a ‘bookshelf model’ to ‘all you can eat’ for subscribers:

“With Safari, we’ve increasingly moved from a “bookshelf” model (in which you put books on a bookshelf and can only swap at month end) to an all you can eat model, because we’ve discovered that people consume about the same amount of content regardless of how much you make available.”

So – what do you pay to subscribe to? If you can point me in the right direction to services you like then I can see what might give our users extra value – and bonus points if you can point me at novel subscription methods (like HotOrNot) whilst you’re at it.

8 Comments | Tags: Entrepreneur, Life, ShowMeDo

10 December 2007 - 14:40Write-ups for £5 App and WidgetyGoodness

I’m working with Rosie and a few others on the new Project Brighton idea to review and encourage geek activity in Brighton.

To kick-off my involvement I have reviewed our £5 App Xmas Special and Ivan’s WidgetyGoodness. Earlier Rosie reviewed Mikel’s OpenStreetMap Brighton launch.

My review for WidgetyGoodness was a difficult one – I had some issues with the conference but at the same time I didn’t want to be negative – Ivan+team did a great job of bringing a new conference to the area.

How do you write-up your thoughts without wishing to offend? I did my best to be clear about my position and background as the preface to the review and I’m glad that Will weighed in with his own thoughts.

What else will happen at ProjectBrighton? We’re brain-storming later in the week. One driving theme is to encourage more geeks to work in Brighton so we have more opportunities right here on our door-step. More on this when we’ve had a think.

3 Comments | Tags: Life, sussexdigital

7 December 2007 - 20:17BadBehaviour – super-quick response for bug in open source spam-blocker software

I’m darn impressed at Michael Hampton’s quick response to a bug in his excellent anti-spam BadBehaviour plug-in:

“Within the past two days users have found themselves blocked from their own sites while using recent versions of Bad Behavior. A third party blacklist which Bad Behavior queries recently began sending false positives for any IP address queried, causing everyone using Bad Behavior to be blocked. This issue is fixed in Bad Behavior 2.0.11.”

I wouldn’t expect a commercial outfit to apologise, explain the issue and release a bug-fix in two days – let alone an unpaid sw author who does it for the love of it. I pinged Michael a PayPal donation by way of thanks, as did a few others. Roll on the gift economy.

If your MediaWiki (that’s the one behind WikiPedia) suffers from spam then I strongly recommend BadBehaviour.

No Comments | Tags: Life