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Response


The whole purpose of this blog is to generate a response chain – feedback of any kind into the hugin project, primarily volunteers to spend time on different aspects of the project: the code, the bugs, the graphics, the documentation, the building and packaging. But any kind of response counts.

Ten months ago I started publishing on this site snapshot Windows installers for download. My installers have been popular – installed over 35.000 times. What response rate have we got from Windows users?

Type Of Response Kind

One minute donated to hugin is one minute of very valuable time, no matter if it is for a critical bug fix or a simple user support post to a mailing list. The time spent to advance the hugin project is all equally valid and good response, as are donations, in-kind or financial. For the purpose of this analysis, all response is equal.

Response Rate

Response rate is the number of responses in proportion to the total number of exposures. The total number of exposures is 35.000 – that’s how many times my Windows installer has been used, until I took it down.

Precision

I may have counted multiple downloads by the same person. This makes the response rate seem smaller. It is difficult to separate Windows users from the rest. This make the response seem larger. I have used conservative estimates. some of the feedback may go to other Open Source projects and can’t be measured, as pointed out by Leo Sutic.

Comparability

Return rates can be measured for many types of exposures. A response rate of 0.0005% is excellent for spam but very bad for targeted ads. Similarly one can not expect the same response rate for shareware and for free open source software.

Polls

Two weeks ago I started a usage poll. As of today, 65% of those who have seen the poll have voted. This is a good response rate.

At 40% the merchandising poll has attracted less response – it is obviously less relevant to the readers of this blog. A further off-topic question will attract even less response.

The usage poll indicate how high interest for the installers is. At the cut-off time to write this article 45% of respondents used hugin weekly or daily; 33% used it monthly; 17% used it seldom and 5% never used it. Adjusting for the 35% who did not bother to vote and assuming the worse case (i.e. that they never use hugin), we end up with:

  • weekly or daily: 29%
  • monthly: 21%
  • seldom or never: 50%

Windows Users

The above break-down applies across all readers. It is assumed that Windows readers do not differ from other readers. This means that of the 35.000 Windows users who have used my installer

  • 10.150 use hugin at least weekly
  •   7.350 use hugin at least monthly
  • 17.500 never really bothered and are probably just curious or are hunter-gatherers.

Added value

What is the added value of my installer for them? Commercial software with a comparable feature set fetch prices of 99 EUR and above. One could argue that I’ve been giving away a value of 3.500.000 EUR in the name of the project; and that 1.750.000 EUR was a waste (because it is not being used). That’s not exactly true: the price influences the quantity. But it is undeniable that 10.150 users find enough value added in hugin.

Imagine for a moment if they would put in 10 cents for every week that they use hugin? that’s 5 EUR per year and user – much less than the 25 EUR per year that PTgui users pay to stay current with updates. 50.750 EUR per year would be enough to pay a junior engineer for an 80% job – not full time, but a lot more resources than the project has currently available. Dream on…

Expected Response Rate

So what kind of response rate can I expect? The right answer is none, because Open Source is a give economy, not a take economy. I can only influence what I give, not what I get. I can come to the conclusion that what I give cost me more than what it is actually worth, and stop giving it.

Actual Response Rate

If these users were exposed to spam the response rate would likely be 0.0005%, or roughly 2 users. And if they were exposed to target ads, it would likely be between 1% and 5%, so between 350 and 1.750 users.

Why comparing with ads? because the installer download is, in a sense, advertisement. The software is given away to advertise a community and attract tester, developer, translators, graphic designer, tutorial writers, and all other sorts of talents and supporters.

The actual response rate to my Windows installer, all type of responses considered, is closer to spam than to targeted ad.

Ads

By now it is safe to assume that most internet users know about the online ad model. I experimented to see if my installer was at least worth a click on an ad. For almost a month, I presented about 13% of those who intended to download it with an ad page. That’s roughly 900 impressions. This was done using a redirect that was already in place against deep-links.

The ad page has a twist: it closely watches user behavior and starts the download only for well behaved user.

I’ve experimented with different kind of observations. The results are discouraging: some users even try to reload the same page a dozen times, expecting that it is an error and that the download they want will come soon. None of them even bothered clicking on the ad.

Conclusion

The feedback I get from Windows user indicates that my installer is not worth the effort, and I may as well spend my time doing other things. Otherwise stated, it seems that every platform attracts a specific type of user. The Mac attracts honest people that are used to pay for what is valuable to them; Linux attract gregarious, social and righteous people that are used to share and help each other. And Windows?

13 Responses

  1. Well, you got some feedback, at least from me.
    Will it be used/useful? Don’t know.

    This blog is the best online resource about Hugin (or at least the best one I’ve been able to find out), I think the project as a whole entity should decide if and how to interact with users, rather than leaving you alone in this task.

    I can’t but hope you’ll keep up the good work and try to win some win(dows) users to the cause of a more active participation to the project.
    It will take time, that’s for shure, but I think that even just bug reports are a valuable contribution to a project.
    Of course more can be done, tutorials, spreading the word, proofreading docs, performance tests … all of this doesn’t require any real technical skill.

  2. Another little feedback, I’ve looked at the download page with ads, let me add a few notes:

    1. Don’t assume anything about users, that’s what my experience says, I don’t think the average joe is even aware of the fact that by clicking on ads he can help you and the project

    2. Targeted ads are key, as I’m downloading a photo software I’m presented with the following ads:

    – Shot virtual tours (www.0-360.com) possibly interesting, but I’m here for hugin, why should I care about another software? I might be looking for it after trying hugin and finding it not suitable

    – Shoot jewelry photography (www.mkdigitaldirect.com) not really interesting, I’m looking for panoramas, not macro shoots or light tents

    – Golf in Spain and Portugal (www.golfleisurebreaks.net) ok, I might shoot great photos while golfing, but I’d say not too related to my search

    – Milan hotels (milan.gtahotels.com) again, what has it to do with my desire of stitching photos

    I’d say that more focused ads might help, if those ads are suggested looking at the content of the page then you should change it.

    Hope this helps.
    BTW: Adsense stats for my blog with tutorials about OSS databases has a CTR for page of 0,48% …

  3. Yuval, if building the Windows installer is becoming a burden to you, just stop. It’s obviously killing you slowly. Don’t bother with all this half-assed business analysis crap. Someone else will pick it up, or Windows users will be stuck with Hugin 0.7. Either way it is not your problem.

    Right now you’re lashing out at a lot of people with, I think, very little justification for it. “None of them even bothered clicking on the ad.”, “well behaved user”: Yuval, you gave away something for free and you’re angry you didn’t get paid.

    Since you view this as a business in terms of you wanting compensation – let’s start treating it as a business.

    If you want money – charge.

    If you want work – ensure it gets done before handing out the compensation.

    If you want out – get out before it kills you.

  4. Leo said it all, and btw my first comment got lost :(

  5. @Leo: And what if I want to foster a community of honest people that help each other and share?

    The adsense is just an experiment. Like a researcher observing mice behavior in a maze, I observed the behavior of a group of users whose common characteristic is that they want to download a hugin Windows installer. Call it a social observation experiment.

    With all three “Ifs” you mention, I would have to come to a sad corollary conclusion: Open Source does not work for this kind of software.

    @Pablo: Thank you for the extensive feedback. You are one of the few users who went from demanding to actually contributing.

  6. @Yuval: Well if you want to foster a community I suggest three things that you should do immediately:

    1. Accept that you may fail. That there may just not be enough people in the world that are willing and able to contribute to Hugin for a community of the size you would like to build. Don’t be so damn bitter about it! You tried, you gave it your best, and for some reason it didn’t work out. Take a break. You win some and you lose some. There’s no shame in it. Don’t let it eat you up from inside.

    ———————-
    Yuval, you can stop reading here if you want as the point above is the most important one I have to make. I really, really just wish you’d take a break before you self-destruct.

    That said, you make some statements that I do want to answer, just so there is no doubt that I disagree with them and so I know that you know why they are wrong.
    ———————-

    2. Stop referring to and thinking of the people you want to engage as mice in a maze. We’re not your lab animals or pets, and if that is your attitude to us then I’m not surprised you’re failing. Remember – the mouse is trying to get the cheese and get the hell out of the maze, not contribute to it.

    And a quick note on the adsense and your ad page: When a user clicks on the download link – what do you think is on top of their mind? Reading more about golf vacations or getting the installer they just clicked on a link to download?

    3. Stop antagonizing the people you want to engage. Sometimes you can galvanize people by challenging them to prove you wrong, but you can only do so if you have standing and a team of people who care about your opinion of them. I have no need to prove myself. Evidently I’m not alone in this. Try something else.

    As far as OS not working for this kind of software: Maybe not. There is no guarantee that OS works for a given project. Hugin is a program mostly of interest to artists, who as a group tend to be absolutely lost when it comes to development. Maybe you can find the odd one who breaks the stereotype, but I’d say they are few and far between. Since we do have a Hugin project and since it does work, I’d say OS works about as well as can be expected. Every project i know of have less contributors, fewer sponsors and more bugs than they’d like to. Much like every business have dumber customers with more unreasonable demands, less money, fewer sales and more bugs than they’d like to.

    Finally, as one coming from a software development background, I’m at a loss as to what the big deal with building an installer is. At every shop I’ve worked you got an installer by either:

    1. Log in on the build server, double-click on the “build all” icon.

    2. Wait for the build server to run a scheduled build, something which happened every three hours.

    The end result would be a fresh build of the latest snapshot, along with any other versions the server was told to build.

    This isn’t just a convenience that reduces the build process to twiddling your thumbs for three hours and a bit, it is an absolute necessity for quality control, to ensure that all build steps are done consistently and repeatably.

    Right now building Hugin for windows is far from twiddling your thumbs – it is actually impossible: “IMPORTANT: Since the introduction of new dependencies with the Google Summer of Code 2008, these instructions only work for SVN revisions prior to 3479. For later revisions, you’ll need an updated SDK which is currently not yet available.”

    Faced with that, let me make a wild-ass guess: The few and far between people who both use Hugin and can code are not only both artistically and analytically gifted, they are also smart enough to see a death march undertaking when they see one and fit enough to run the other way.

    So Yuval, you get the Hugin project to get their ducks in a row first, then we can talk about why people aren’t contributing. As long as the project is this dysfunctional you won’t see any volunteers.

  7. I’m one of those windows users. I love Hugin but I’m admittedly a passive consumer of your efforts. What can I say? Thanks, I guess. I’ll buy you beers if I ever run into you. I owe you.

    In any case, 35000 people is a lot. I used to be a researcher. 50 references to my article from other articles (not written by me) for something I wrote years ago is considered good. That’s in some cases months or years of work and I had quite a good time doing it. So think of it: that’s 35000 people that you provided something cool to. Doesn’t matter what else you do: that’s something you did.

    But I appreciate if you have better/more interesting things to do and am not complaining here. I got some value out of Hugin and basically didn’t do anything back so I’m not exactly in a position to tell you to do otherwise (though keeping my fingers crossed on free goodies in the future obviously).

    As far as I understand it, OSS is about scratching an itch and hoping others help you scratch the itch. If there’s no more itch, maybe it’s time to move on?

  8. Hey, I’m one of those window users and I appreciate the effort that you’re making. I typically upgrade when a new stable release comes out.
    And I’ve written a tutorial that a few people have enjoyed and some haven’t.
    I also follow your blog.
    Thanks for Hugins. I really appreciate the program and your effort.

  9. @Bryan, very nice tutorial.
    This is something that should be featured on the official Hugin website.
    Something like http://www.planetmysql.com an aggregator of blog posts about hugin would be a valuable resource and another (more useful) way of gauging user interest.

  10. Yuv, over Christmas I’m going to sort out another hard disk, re-install windows and get building Hugin.. Need to get my head round cross-platform development a bit more.

  11. Hi Yuv,

    First of all thanks for all the effort you put in to Hugin and the valuable information you put up here. You’re doing a good job, and I’d hate to see you go. But I don’t quite understand the rant. People download the installer because they do not have the knowledge of software development to build the installer themselves. At least that is true for me. I tried a while ago, I installed Cmake and WxWidgets and the lot, and after the umpteenth error message I just gave up and downloaded the latest installer from TKsharpless. If you’re looking for people who can build an installer ask among those that downloaded the source, don’t bark up the wrong tree. The ‘3.5 million dollar’ argument doesn’t make sense at all, I hope you see that too. How many downloads do you think you would have had if you had charged a 100 bucks?
    Anyway, there are different ways in which otherwise clueless users can contribute to the development. Like by reporting bugs, or donating. I donated but admit that I haven’t been very active in reporting bugs. I’ll promise to to better in that department in the future. In the mean while, keep up the good work, it is appreciated!

  12. I am a windows user who is extremely thankful for Hugin. However I don’t even see ads as I automatically use AdBlocker Plus with Firefox, which might be a common problem. I don’t see the floods of ads anymore so I don’t think about them, and it really has nothing to do with my appreciation for Hugin at all.

    Perhaps finding sponsors who would be willing to support the project in exchange for providing advertisement space during the hugin windows installer itself might be an idea. So users who install hugin on thier machine are streamed ads during a delayed install as a trade off to help support the project? Or rather than downloading the entire software package, a software installer could be made available that would then download and install hugin along with advertisements. Of course this limitation would require that a person have an internet connection to install Hugin but they would need one initially to download Hugin anyway and it is better than having the whole project lost due to lack of support. Just some brain storming for you.

  13. Hi Yuval,

    Thanks for your work on Hugin, it is my favorite panorama stitcher. I am one of the Wondows users.

    “Hugin and other free panoramic software Google group” and “this week in panospace” keep me informed about the progress you developers make.

    I love Hugin, and I always recommend it to people who like my panoramas. Your work was surely not in vain. I am a very satisfied user!

    Happy holidays to you and the other developers,

    Ruud

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