While the world was busying downloading Ubuntu 13.04 last week, time quietly ran out on a crowd-funding campaign for Linux e-mail app Geary.
Its bid to raise $100,000 towards future development was slightly audacious, if well intentioned. But it stalled, ending on a very clean $50,860 from over 1000 donators.
Open-source projects raising money in this fashion isn’t without precedent. Just a few weeks before Yorba’s effort, Linux video editor Openshot successfully busted past its goal of $20,000 for future development, ending up with almost double.
So why did Geary fail where so many other cash raisers – often for far less useful things – have succeeded? Let’s take a look at some possible reasons…
“$100,000 Was Too Much”
‘Did $100,000 seem too much to ask for what was being offered?’
By far and away the most repeated reasoning against donating was that the $100,000 seemed too much to ask for what was being offered.
Yorba were always very upfront about how expensive the process of making ‘quality software’ was – something many people don’t realise. They argued that $100,000 was the ‘bare minimum’ needed to implement their planned roster of features, pay for staff, and cover other expenses.
But did this phrase of ‘bare minimum’ make some step back? If $100k was a ‘minimum’ level, what would happen after the cash ran out? Another fundraiser? Uncertainty doesn’t woo, not when cash involved.
“The Proposition Wasn’t Unique”
Putting aside the size of the prize being sought, another argument I ran into on social networks and in blog comments was that saying Geary isn’t unique enough.
Uniqueness is subjective. But there’s no denying that Geary approaches desktop e-mail in a less “traditional” way to other, more established e-mail clients. But many just don’t see it. They will simply see another e-mail client wanting to do things its own way instead of building on what’s already available.
Linux, they say, doesn’t need ‘yet another e-mail client’. Evolution, Sylpheed, Claws Mail, Thunderbird and the like already have many of the features Geary was seeking money to add.
“People Consider it an Elementary App”
“Geary? That’s an elementary app, right?”
I’ve heard the above statement a few times, and it’s not without foundation: Yorba and the elementary folks “teamed up” late last year to work on the design of Geary. As such there are a few elementary-specific flourishes in the app, like its cog menu. This menu, whilst useful, does lacks traditional “app menu” support (in its various formats) on more widely used desktop environments like GNOME Shell, Unity and Cinnamon.
The jarring of design approaches aside, it’s conceivable that some who saw the campaign simply thought: “I don’t use elementary, so this wouldn’t benefit me.”
A shame if so.
“They Chose The Wrong Platform”
I have a Kickstarter account; everything is set-up so when I see a project I like I can quickly click a button to throw money at the screen. Easy. As. Pie.
But for Geary’s fundraiser Yorba chose the less well-known IndieGoGo site. While still a popular route to raise money it pales in the shadow of the indomitable Kickstarter.
So it’s probable that some of those coming across the campaign wanted to donate but simply didn’t savour the idea of having to sign up for yet another account, add payment info to it, fill in contact details, etc. In fact, truth be told, this inconvenience stopped me donating straight away.
“Not Enough Press”
‘Geary’s Campaign Even Made it On To TechCrunch.’
Of all the examples on this list this final one is the least likely. Coverage of Geary’s fundraiser graced many technology publications, linux blogs, and was constantly being Tweeted and reshared on Google+. It even made it on to Techcrunch – one of the largest “tech news sites” in the world – not an easy feat!
Whatever the post-mortem yields, the cold fact is that Yorba don’t have the money they sought, though direct donations to the non-profit are likely to have increased after donators got their pledges refunded.
The good news for Geary fans like me is that Yorba say they are already working ‘to find other sources of income to cover our costs.’
“But obviously we can only continue if we can keep making ends meet.”
Did you donate to Geary’s fundraiser? If not, what put you off? What do you think would have helped the campaign to succeed?