This is for my Austin folks. I started a site on CafePress.com selling MetroFAIL merchandise. You should go there and buy stuff!
Tired of Capital Metro's Epic FAIL around commuter rail? Show how you feel with MetroFAIL merchandise.
One interesting observation:
Of the 500 or so developers who are participating in the program, the average contribution falls somewhere between $5 and $6, with the largest thus far being $150.
Assuming there has only been one $150 donation, that is one I received for the CCK Wizard. To be fair, though, that person has been trying to give me money for the CCK for years, and as soon as they had the opportunity, they took it. That's the only contribution I've received for the CCK Wizard.
I'm still optimistic that someone will figure out how to monetize Firefox addons well. Maybe that's a good topic for the upcoming Addoncon.
The Rebrand add-on allows you to change the names and images that are used by Firefox and Thunderbird. You can change it to whatever you want. Here's my browser:
Disclaimer: This extension is for entertainment purposes only. Do not try to ship your renamed browser. Also this add-on doesn't fully rebrand on the Mac - the menubar name can't be changed with an extension.
Recently there was a post on on the Mozilla Add-ons Blog about Contributions. While that information was interesting, what I'd much rather see is individual developers talking about their experiences with Contributions. Hopefully my post will start a trend. (For those who don't know, Contributions is a way for people to donate to the developers of Firefox Add-ons.)
When Contributions was first made available, the mechanism was flawed. You were asking a user to contribute when first downloading an add-on (which is unlikely since they haven't actually tried the add-on), or somehow expecting the user to make it back to the add-on page to do the contribution (which is again unlikely since most users never go back to the add-on page since updates are handled through Firefox.). The AMO team tried to remedy this problem by creating a first run page, but this has the same problem - a user isn't likely to contribute money at first run because they haven't actually tried the add-on yet. But the existence of this page allows us to take advantage of displaying a request at a much better point than download or first run - upgrade.
Presenting a contribution page after an upgrade is a much more logical scenario, since your users have probably had your add-on installed for a while. I chose to use this method with the Operator add-on.
We need some numbers to put this post in context. As of today, Operator has about 160,000 downloads with around 14 to 15 thousand active daily users. (I've made my dashboard public so people can see these numbers.) That means I've had about a 10% download to user conversion rate.
As a side note, this 10% number seems to be pretty common. If you look on the AMO page today, you'll see 1,624,545,716 downloads, 170,724,304 users. This works out to about 10%. I've actually seen this number with other companies and add-ons as well. It would be interesting to see if other people see this trend as well.
I released an update to my add-on on October 12, 2009. This update contained a first run page that would be seen by all users including upgrades. This page is hosted on my website so I can easily track page views. From October 12, 2009 to October 19 ,2009 (1 week), that page has received 11,469 hits from which we can reasonably conclude that there were at least 11,000 upgrades, which is a considerable amount of my users.
I set my contribution amount at 5 dollars before I released the update. During that week I received 8 contributions of 5 dollars.
So to summarize, 1 week, 11,000 upgrades and views of the contributions page, 8 contributions. That works out to about a 0.07% conversion rate. I don't know much about advertising or these types of things in general, but my understanding is that ad conversion rates typically run anywhere from 1% to 4%, so this is extremely low.
I certainly don't have any complaints about this scenario - I'm not trying to earn a living from Operator, and any funds I receive are just extra. But I was surprised at how low it was. I pictured Operator as kind of a ""niche" add-on so I thought more people would be interested in supporting it.
Some other random observations:
Any other add-on authors interested in sharing their experience?
I'm finally making Operator 0.9.5 available. You can download it from AMO. (It might not be there yet).
This version has a very significant change - I've removed the ability to have Operator present itself based on actions versus the data. I don't believe this will affect most people - data has been the default for a long time, and I would bet that is what most people use. If there is significant pushback, I'll reconsider. The reason I made this change is because I now allow you to turn individual actions on and off and I thought it would be very confusing to have the ability to specify actions on a toolbar, as well as turn off individual actions.
You also might find that some of your user scripts are not working anymore (particularly ones that install new microformats). I'll be working on solving this problem over the next few weeks. Basically the problem was that I had told people to explicitly import the Microformats API but if you do that, you don't get the new Microformats API included with Operator. I haven't found a good way to completely solve this problem so for now I had to disable anything that tries to include Microformats.js. I'm working on a way to sandbox my API from the Firefox API.
So to summarize the changes:
One of the problems I've seen consistently with Operator is that people don't realize there are other ways to interact with it besides the toolbar. To solve that problem, I'm creating a first run page for Operator that shows the various interaction methods. Here's what it is going to look like:
What do you think? Is this enough?
It's been way too long since I have blogged.
Most of my summer was spent on a cross country road trip which you can read about here. I worked as we traveled which went reasonably well, but didn't leave time for blogging.
The biggest news I have is that I have resumed work on Operator. In particular, I'm fixing bugs, adding a few usability enhancements and adding support for new microformat stuff like the value class/pattern for dates. I'm also considering completely removing the "Actions" toolbar and switching to interacting only with the data. I'm definitely looking for feedback on that one.
If you have anything you wish Operator did, please let me know and I'll see if I can get it in.
Note that Operator is a part of the AMO Contributions program and I'd appreciate any support you can provide. Right now I'm mixing it in with my paid work, but I'd like to spend more time on it.
The bulk of my paid work has been for Brand Thunder. We've been updating our extensions to work properly with Firefox 3.5. There's quite an eclectic mix there, so you'll probably find something that you like.
Going forward I'm going to try to start doing extension related posts, primarily to see if I can drum up some more business. So if by chance you have a question about anything I've done in the past with extensions, or should do in the future, please let me know.
UPDATE: Forgot that I've also proposed a panel for SXSW. Please vote:
Love AND Money: Can Fansites Pay the Bills?
In the description for the Personas Add-on is the following statement:
The Artist in You Should Be Able to Treat the Browser as Your Canvas
With the introduction of Canvas (formerly PhotoFox) from Brand Thunder, you really can treat your Firefox browser as a canvas.
Canvas allows you to use any image from the web or any image on your computer as the background of your browser. It allows you to move it, pin it and tile it to give it exactly the look you want. It even allows a web designer to specify exactly how they want an image to appear in Canvas with a few HTML attributes.
Adding an image from the web to Canvas is as easy as right clicking on an image and selecting "Add Image to Canvas." The image is immediately available in your browser. Try it with the image below:
By default, the image is in the upper left and is not tiled. This image would look much better tiled so click the Manage button to tile it, move it around, or change the menu and background colors. You can also give it a memorable name.
We said that by default Canvas does not tile the image and it puts it in the upper left. You might have an image that you want to make available for use as a background, but you want to designate how it appears in the users browser. You can do this by adding custom attributes to the image that allow Canvas to set the defaults for the image. Here's an example:
If you right click on this image, you'll see "Add 'Cliffs' to Canvas" instead of "Add Image to Canvas." After the image is added, it is aligned to the right and has a background color. You'll also notice that the image that was added is bigger than the preview image. This is because you can specify the actual image you want to be used in the browser separate from the image the user clicks on. (Note this feature can be used to trick you into using possibly inappropriate images, so just be aware of that). Here's the HTML from the example above:
The attributes map directly to the CSS attributes for the image, so you just set them to those values. You can also specify "menuColor" if your image needs a custom color for the menus.
We know this is a very nonstandard way to accomplish this, but we wanted something simple that anyone could use on their website. We'll be improving on this process in the future.
Canvas also supports Personas. If you go to getpersonas.com and right click on any image, you can add the Persona to Canvas. Note we do things a little different: we do not use the status bar image and we use the background color as the color of the status bar. We automatically determine a color for the status bar that works on that color. We also don't change the title bar color on Macs.
You may wonder why we added that feature. We worked very hard to support coexistence with Personas and I think we did a pretty good job. You can switch back and forth between Personas and Canvas. In the end we determined that it would be better for the user if they had one place where they could go to access all of their browser customizations.
Now that you have all these images added to your browser, how do you switch between them? The My Pix button. Clicking My Pix will display a list of all the images you've added to Canvas so you can quickly switch between them.
Note: Canvas from Brand Thunder includes the Surf Canyon extension. It also changes the default search engine to Yahoo! and adds search to new tab windows. We do this so that we can keep our extensions free. Obviously we'd love for you to use Yahoo!, but if you don't want to, feel free to change it back. We also can give you info on removing the tab search. Just let us know at getsatisfaction.com.