43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

How to be a product 43 Folders loves (and reviews)

(Pardon a largely administrative post.)

I’ve been pleased to receive so many inquiries from people who’d like me to look at their application or hardware device in order to mention it here on 43 Folders. This is good. I love looking at stuff. It’s what I do.

But to save us both time and misunderstanding going forward, here’s a rough idea of the factors that are more likely to get your stuff mentioned here (in more or less descending order of importance). Only #1 is really set in stone, but please do read all the way through before prodding me to talk about your product—especially if it costs anything at all to use.

  1. Your product runs on OS X (or is available as a non-half-assed experience for Mac users in general). This is basically a deal killer, so you can probably stop reading if your application ends in “.exe” or requires IE for Windows to run. I don’t own a PC, but, more importantly I don't really cover PC-only software anyway (kindly read and re-read). Sorry. But you’ve still got, um, the remaining 95% of the computer-using universe to try your product. UNIX-only stuff is potentially okay, but a GUI OS X equivalent will always win out. Native Cocoa apps, on the other hand, get preferential consideration here. But you knew that.
  2. Your product does something cool and unique (or does something mundane very well). If you’re making, say, a text editor or a productivity app, please make it clear why what you’re doing is different than what’s already out there. Forget Tufte: give it to me in bullets.
  3. Your product works. By that, I just mean it’s reached a level of stability where it can be launched, used, saved, and quit without crashes, beach balls, or data loss. Unless you’re doing something really ground-shaking or have cured lupus, please hold off asking for a review until you’re at a stable, mature beta.
  4. Your pay product is reasonably priced. I don’t mean “reasonably priced” in your loving father’s eyes, but in the more scrutinizing eyes of the marketplace and from within the vertical market or specific needs your product addresses. If you have a single-purpose internet widget that costs $200, don’t anticipate a lot of traction here.
  5. Your product is easy to install and use (and then stop using). You’ll do much better here if it is very easy to start and stop using your product at any time without detriment or data loss. I’ll also award bonus points for use of The Jeff Veen Principle™: whenever possible, I should be able to launch and run your app right off of a DMG with no additional install or configuration. Alternatively, app installers that also completely uninstall get a thumbs-up.
  6. The demo of your pay product is uncrippled. That means you permit a reasonable trial period (at least 30 days) with full functionality (that means Save is enabled) and that there are minimal amounts of locked-up data left over when the demo period has ended. Data blackmailers need not apply.
  7. Your pay product demo contains no nags or bear traps during normal usage. Nobody minds a friendly shareware reminder on quitting, but periodic popups with countdowns or—my personal favorite: random, punitive mystery quits—will not earn the 43F love. People don’t buy things that feel broken.
  8. You allow anonymous downloads (with no required “contact,” spam, or email newsletters). If my friends need to hand over their email address for reasons other than legitimate (and functionally necessary) account activation, you’re on shaky ground.
  9. Your free product is open source or GPL’d. This means users can make changes to the code and share it or use it as they please without earning nastygrams from your lawyer. This is not requisite, of course, but free is good and Free is even better.
  10. There’s a freebie in it for Daddy. I’ve put this last, but it’s actually pretty important. For more costly products or services, you’ll do much better if you can pony up an unlimited, full version to test and keep for good without obligation of any kind. There’s no way I could buy every app or device people want me to talk about, so please don’t ask. (I’m still looking at you PalmOne; where is the love?)

Of course, as with everything, I’m free to throw any of these out the window whenever it suits me (except for, one imagines, #1). Also I'll continue to periodically get really generous about products that address a need I have. Still, I just want to be straight up with people who take the time to contact me: please make it painless for me to try your product, and it’ll be much more likely to receive affectionate coverage on the site.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Jeff Sandquist - Microsoft Evangelist's picture

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