Sean Sperte

Software So Good ...

16 April 2007

… it makes users bend over backwards to use it.

NewsFire iconJohn Gruber today published a link to a blog post written by Charles Miller about NewsFire and its [abnormal] activation scheme. In case you’ve not been a reader of Geek & Mild for at least a year, you might need to know that I’ve had a similar experience in dealing with David Watanabe, the creator of NewsFire. Here’s the issue: in order to activate NewsFire you must enter the email address you used to register the software. In my (and I assume Charles’) case, a commonly-known, public email address. The address is sent and checked with a server somewhere and verified.

This seems like an okay licensing solution since there’s no activation key to lose, no long serial string to save (and possibly lose) and no multi-level order number and registration code process. In fact, activation is so easy it practically encourages the procedure.

The problem, obviously, is security. What if, say, a valid email address is published on a blog whose author is an outspoken proponent of NewsFire and an obvious valid license-holder? You can bet they’ll be problems. (As hard as it is to imagine, there are dishonest people in this world.)

Do you think that’s the fault of the email address owner?

That’s what David thinks. In the tension-filled email conversation that followed my blog post about this subject last year, David explained that I should have used a non-public email address and that his product activation scheme is as secure as its users make it. (He had a hard time even trusting that I was the genuine owner of the email address.)

Ultimately, we got it worked out. It was with great humility and pent-up emotions that I agreed to delete my blog post in exchange for the use of NewsFire using a different, more private email address. To this day, I have a bad taste in my mouth because of the way I was treated as a paid customer.

What I wanted to do was just what Charles is doing – saying good riddance by admitting:

David doesn’t want me as a customer, and given how few rights standard software licences actually grant the purchaser these days, I suspect he has the right to make that decision.

NewsFire's interfaceI just couldn’t do that. You see, I’d tried out several alternative RSS readers (and continue to do so even now), none of which fit the bill – none like NewsFire. Whether it be a web-based solution, built-in to a browser, or a feature-laden desktop client, none compliment my lifestyle and computing habits like NewsFire.

In complete contrast to my recent post about bad software ruining the experience, NewsFire’s interface actually creates an experience wherein I willingly swallow my pride and practically beg to continue its use.