Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ah, the controversy. To update or not to update?

To update or not to update? That is the question.

Just how quickly do we as end users, really need to see updates to our software? Especially shareware or donation-ware? There's a lot of hype and hullabaloo about the "Delicious Generation" apps, MacHeist & Yazsoft, etc. But seriously, are we aiming for functional software or have we fallen victim to application bloat across the board? (thanks MS!)

I started with a noble goal last year — or at least a self-serving goal that I thought others might find useful — of doing application comparisons for Mac apps, since there seem to be quite a few similar apps in a variety of categories. It was a good thought but, with the myriad updates and upgrades that come out at breakneck speed for many of them, I'd need a staff to keep up with pinning down the comparisons. I see why there isn't much of anyone out there trying to compare features for people to attempt to make an informed decision about which one is the best for their use.

I'd love to actually keep doing side-by-side comparisons but seriously, with a full-time job, a family and — gasp — interests beyond my computer, it's becoming less practical. Maybe I'll try to continue with a huge disclaimer that there is no way one lone person can possibly keep up with all the updates let alone some of the major upgrades so I can't guarantee them to be fully up-to-date. (-:

I have the dashboard widget App Update. It's a great tool. One that I find more immediate and useful than MacUpdate or Versiontracker for my needs. But man, it growls me nearly daily that I've got 45... or 51... or 62 updates. I'm constantly installing updates. Then a major upgrade rolls around and I haven't even had time to look over 1/2 the "features" of the current version but... they've added more! Do I spend the $10 - $15 - $19.95? Do I really need the upgrade because of OS compatibility or just for something new and shiny or a feature I may never use?

The controversy comes in when you have a situation like the Yazsoft auto-update, which pushed the .v5 paid upgrade if you had the auto-update toggle selected. I've found that another app used the update path to upgrade my app as well — GarageSale. )-:

To be fair, iwascoding did state in the update screen that 4.x was a paid upgrade. Eventually Yazsoft put the warning in their update engine too, but the damage was done. If you selected auto-update you were suddenly a "trial user" of .v5.

Silly me, I thought I had GarageSale 4.0 and I was just updating not upgrading my app. Turns out I didn't. Part of my confusion on this was my receipt for a bundle from MacUpdate via their mupromo. Apparently the receipt page constantely updates the version to the current version of each app rather than staying static with the version you bought in the bundle. [sigh]

If the app is working it's magic for you, do you really need to see updates every few weeks? Bug fixes, perhaps, if enough people are really having issues. I can understand the possibility of developer burnout given the speed of update expectations that seem to be out there in a certain segment of the marketplace. Is there a happy medium that could be reached to keep devs in business (and working on something) while not quite the constant bombardment of updates? I just don't know. )-: