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Why We Don’t Talk About What May or May Not be Under Development

Posted on: December 14th, 2009 by Craig Rairdin 34 Comments

A recently posted comment questioned the wisdom of our policy of not talking about what may or may not be under development here. I thought I had discussed that policy here but apparently I haven’t.

As you know, before we started Laridian 11 years ago (October 1998) we spent ten years working at Parsons Technology. It was great to be able to make our mistakes at someone else’s expense before launching our own company. One of the things we learned was not to talk about our release dates before we were ready to ship a product.

There are two main reasons we’ve kept this policy over all these years and through two different companies. First, we don’t want to signal our plans to our competitors. We all compete for a limited number of customers. If we signal our intentions it helps other Bible software companies know how to allocate their limited resources to better compete with us.

The second reason we keep quiet about what we may or may not be working on is to avoid the extra work it creates. If we announce a product, we start getting calls and emails from people who want to know when it’s going to ship. If we announce a date and miss it (which is about a 100% probability in our business) then we have to deal with the customers who call or write to ask what’s going on. They always want to know an updated ship date, though if we missed it the first time I’m not sure why they think we’d get it right the second, third, or fourth time.

If we ignore those requests we’re perceived as unfriendly to our customers. So we have to take time to respond. You might argue that we have the same problem when we choose not to comment on what we’re doing. I can tell you, though, that it’s significantly different. When I can say, “We don’t talk about what may or may not be under development, but we appreciate your suggestions” it brings the discussion to a close. In fact in Tech Support that’s a predefined response that we can just paste into our reply and move on quickly. On the other hand, once we’ve opened the box and projected a ship date, we can’t easily close the box.

We have tried lifting this policy at various times. We did it for iPhone and it was OK for a while but when we ran into some technical issues that delayed the project by six months we ended up having to just shut off the flow of information for a while until we could figure out how to handle the issues. The combination of not really having anything helpful to say and having to answer a few customers who were downright nasty was difficult to deal with.

This raises the point that plans often change or are disrupted. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve completely changed our direction in an afternoon. Our decision to develop the original Web-based app for the iPhone (back when that was the only way you could do iPhone apps) was made on July 3, 2007 and a large amount of development on it happened on the July 4 holiday. Projects we had previously been working on were abandoned or delayed while we dedicated people to iPhone development. However, because none of this was public information, there was no time wasted explaining this massive change of direction to anyone. We didn’t have to apologize for missing a ship date, or reveal our plans for this new platform until we were completely ready to do so. (We actually hinted at it on July 5, but we didn’t really formally announce it until about three weeks later, when most of the work was done.)

I think part of our problem is that we want to be friendly and accessible. I think we’re way more accessible than most other software companies. I reply to every email sent to me, and we reply to all our tech support email in a timely fashion. (Just don’t call me at home. I mean, seriously, some people have no boundaries.) I reply to comments here on the blog. So the more information we have available and out there to talk about, the more time it takes. If we limit the information it helps us also limit the amount of communicating we have to do.

For example, I haven’t been tempted to give a long dissertation on the Android. It’s sufficient to say we may or may not be working on it. If you want to argue that it’s the Next Big Thing and that Google is obviously taking over the world and that we should just get over it and develop for Android, I can end the conversation by saying “we may or may not already be working on it”. I don’t have to get into a discussion of the relative size of the Android market vs. other platforms, the technical challenges of porting to Java, the state and maturity of the SDK, etc. I may or may not already agree with you. There’s no need for me to go into more detail. If I disagree with you, saying so might reveal our plans for the platform. If I agree with you, that also might reveal our plans. And I might be working on it while disagreeing with you on how great the platform is. Or I might not be working on it now, but agree with you and have plans to do it in the future. No matter what the situation is, commenting on it could lead you to the right or wrong conclusion, and now we’re back to the problem of signaling our intent to competitors and having to take time to communicate about it.

The obvious problem with this policy is that it may cost us some customers in the short term. However, if we’re not developing for a particular platform, then we plan to lose those customers anyway. If we are developing for the platform, we could still lose them in the time it takes for us to get our product out the door. So no matter what we do or plan to do, and no matter what we say, we still risk losing customers at any time. So if the other factors outweigh the benefits of talking about projects in advance, it’s worth not talking about them.

This isn’t always an easy rule to maintain, but every time we’ve broken it we’ve been stung by it sooner or later. We’re currently on a pretty tight-lipped phase after having been bit earlier this year. I’m sure we’ll loosen up again in the future and who knows, maybe our experience will be better. At least now you have some idea of our thought process on this policy and I hope that helps.

In the meantime, we may or may not be working on whatever it is you want us to be working on.

34 Responses

  1. Rick Emery says:

    As a software developer, I completely understand and agree with everything you’ve said.

    As a Christian and human being, I’m saddened by your description of what you must endure from customers or potential customers. I mean, really, it’s software for crying out loud!

    As a long-time customer who has a small investment in Laridian products, I am stuck with a dilemma. Because I love Laridian products, and feel a certain amount of loyalty besides the financial investment, I’m dying to be able to use Laridian products on my new Droid.

    Understanding your position, I am (and have been) willing to exercise some patience to see if something comes out. But eventually, I’ll need to find *some* solution.

    Thanks for your time and effort!
    Rick

  2. John Coarsey says:

    Thank you for what you have gotten out the door. I have been immensely blessed by your software on Palm, Windows Mobile, and now Iphone. God bless!

  3. Rick: The solution is to buy a phone we support. :-)

  4. Justin says:

    Thanks for your transparency Craig.

  5. John Mannel says:

    I’m looking to get some tech support. I am unable to download two purchases and can’t figure out why. I am unable to find where on the site to ask this question. I would appreciate it if you would get back with me.

    thank you

    John

  6. Derek White says:

    As a fellow software developer, I understand and agree, Craig.

    I’ve been very pleased with Laridian software in the past. I recently purchased a Palm Pre, and am disappointed that no one has developed a good Bible app for the Pre. From what I understand, though, it’s Palm’s fault for not releasing their SDK earlier in the development cycle.

    Oh, well! For now I’m using a free Bible app using a translation called the NET Bible. I’m anxiously awaiting whatever Bible app Laridian may or may not be working on for the Pre.

    God bless you!!!

  7. John: Click here for our article on how to get tech support.

    The general rule is to go to http://www.laridian.com, select your platform, then select Help Desk from the menu at the top of the page.

    You can also follow the instructions in the confirmation emails you received, or even just reply to one of those.

    Derek: Click on the Palm Pre link on the left side of the page to see our blog articles about the Pre. And by the way we’ll have the NET Bible and complete notes here shortly.

  8. David McPherson says:

    Thanks for the update (even if it is not exactly what I wanted to hear). I have read through the Bible nearly 10 time using the Daily Reader and I usually have two devotionals going at the same time. I am looking forward to trying one of the new devotionals this year. I am ready to change phones, but my Laridian software is important enough to me that I won’t make the move until I know what you will be offering for the Android and WebOS.

    I would love to link directly to the Bible text in the daily reader so that I can highlight text, bookmark passages and make notes. Is there a place that I can suggest that for future development? The ability to make notes, etc, while I read is the only thing I miss about doing my daily reading electronically.

    Thanks for all you do.
    David

  9. David: MyBible and DailyReader for Palm OS are as feature-complete as they’re going to get now that Palm has abandoned their wildly popular OS. As a result, if you can’t do it now, you won’t be able to do it ever.

    On Windows Mobile and iPhone, DailyReader features are built into PocketBible. So when you link to a passage out of a devotional you can highlight, annotate, and bookmark the passage just like any other time you’re viewing the Bible.

  10. Joel says:

    I’m not a big fan of Google at all because they have a complete lack of a moral compass and I have no desire to ride the Google train while they take over the world. Having said that, I gotta say guys…if I went out and bought a new car because it was the latest & greatest and I just had to have it and then later discovered that it would be better if it had a 3rd row seat & would pull my camper, I wouldn’t go complain to the car company that the car wasn’t updated to suit my needs. Shame on me for not doing my homework and making sure it met all of my needs before I bought it.

    One of my must have programs is PocketBible and I would never change platforms unless I knew PB worked on it. PB is more important to me than having the latest and greatest device. I can’t imagine buying a new device and being without PB while waiting for them to “port” it over to my new gadget. Everyone had to make the decision that having a Pre/iPhone/Android was important to you for whatever your reasons were, and you did so with the knowledge that PB wasn’t compatible at the time you made your purchasing decision and you were obviously willing to make that tradeoff, so I suggest you carry multiple devices in the meantime like I do.

    I wish I could consolidate everything from 3 devices to 1, but there is no single device that meets all of my needs. I plan to upgrade from a Samsung Omnia to a Omnia II which will replace my Omnia and Dell Axim, but it still doesn’t fix my multimedia desires, so I’ll still carry an iPod. The iPhone doesn’t meet my business needs, the Droid doesn’t meet my media desires so until Apple gets stronger business apps, it looks like I’ll carry multiple devices and I’m fine with that.

    Keep up the good work Laridian team and don’t forget about us Windows & WM folks out here! While it may sound like there are only a handful of people left on the planet that still use Microsoft applications, don’t believe the hype! There has to be at least 12 or 13 of us remaining Microsoft holdouts!

  11. Adam says:

    As a customer I find this policy a little frustrating at times – but I totally agree with it. When I heard there was an iphone PB in the making I was checking everywhere and getting impatient.

    If I hadn’t known I would have just been happy using the one I was…but I suppose if it had gone on and I didn’t know PB were releasing one I may have bought my library from Olive Tree & then you would have lost a customer (who has referred and continues to) a number of people towards PB.

    Maybe to say we are working on it is ok but I can understand how many people would then be asking “when”. With a policy to answer every mail (and phone call ?!!) I understand a “we may, we may not” response :)

  12. RobG says:

    MyBible is so important that I’m holding off for a new phone until I know it will support Laridian products, for ex, I’m very interested in the Droid but I will not transfer from Palm to Droid unless again Laridian will work on Droid

  13. John Mannel says:

    All the pages of help talk about going to a menu button. I am unable to find such a button so I am still stuck. I also found that I didn’t need to repurchase the books what I already had which I didn’t understand in your website, as a result I made about $60 in purchases that were unnecessary. I have been a customer of Laridian for many years but trying to get my purchases into my new iTouch platform is proving to be very discouraging. I’m not a computer wiz by any means but I can usually get things done. This time I am not confident. It would be great to be able to talk with someone on the phone who can talk me through it if that is possible. Thank you for your help.

  14. John,

    The Menu button is the one in the lower-right corner that has “Menu” written under it. This is described in the Introduction section of the Help document. I also checked the Welcome document and I see it does not adequately describe the location of this “Menu” button. I’ll beef that up for the next release.

    We’d be happy to refund the extra purchases you made. Just contact technical support at support@laridian.com within thirty days of your purchase and they’ll take good care fo you. They can also help you locate that elusive Menu button if you still haven’t found it.

  15. Joshua says:

    I’m sad to say that I was one of those nagging customers to PalmOS developers years ago. God has helped me put things in a different perspective, but I do not sit in judgment of those that wrestle with impatiene… particularly in a world that insists on having everything NOW! I am really enjoying PocketBible on my iPhone and glad you guys developed it and have been so assertive in adding features and so generous, financially, to previous customers of other platforms. I also agree that you are incredibly accessible, even moreso when compared to “support” that I experience from other companies, software or otherwise. It would have been my bad for buying an iPhone without checking out in advance what software was available. It’s not that hard to find out this stuff in advance… you guys don’t require a secret handshake to get access to that info ;-) So, yeah, shame on someone for buying the iPhone cuz they want it or wanting a Droid or other phone and then getting angry at you. But, the bible remains beautiful in its simplicity and truth… the LOVE of money (or iPhone ;-) actually IS a root of evil! Bless you guys for the hard work, communication, and willingness to set some boundaries around this stuff. God loves boundaries and so should we ;-)

  16. Simon says:

    I’m sooo happy there’s now a PocketBible for iPhone! I’ve been waiting a long time for it! I having been tracking for a long long time.. and have still been using my Palm Zire with the MyBible, in spite of having an iPhone.

    So looking forward to play around with this version for iPhone!

    I echo the rest. Thanks for being so generous for allowing us to transfer the previous Bibles we’ve purchased to the new platform! That’s sooo cool!

    Really appreciate all the hard work put in to develop this software.

  17. Dave H says:

    Love everything,

    I just wish you guys would develop memorize for windows pc that’ll sync with windows mobile like you did for pocket pc.

    That’ll make me happy, because I need to study more.

    Thanks.

  18. Brian Layman says:

    I’ve been a customer from Palm days through Windows Mobile and now am regrettably using iPocketBible on the Android (regrettably only that I wish there was a native app or a menu across the bottom of the iPocketBible screen which would cure most ills). I also have developed apps on all of those platforms.

    I’m not upset or even annoyed by your statements on Android. I do wish that your attempts to give people /something/, without giving them anything, had not been made.

    I understand why you are taking the position you’ve taken, but I disagree with how you’ve expressed it.

    You can say the same thing you’ve already said, without sounding like you are teasing. The problem is that you are starting down the slippery slope of trying to appease by using hedge words and that just gets people angry.

    Statements like:
    “We don’t talk about what may or may not be under development, but we appreciate your suggestions”
    Are borderline OK.

    Statements like: “we may or may not already be working on it” cross the line.

    The “may or may not” is bad enough but you’ve thrown in the hedge word of “already”.

    It’s like that slight buzz of music on a teenager’s headphones or the whispered conversation you can just not quite hear through the cubicle wall. It is better off if there is everything or nothing.

    “You input is important to us. We cannot discuss our product development plans, but we always appreciate hearing what you want to see coming out of Laridian.”

    A simple Rule, simply expressed.

    We can understand that.

  19. Thanks for the “layman”‘s point of view, Brian. :-)

    We walk a fine line any time we communicate in writing to people we don’t know. This is true of everyone, not just us, and it’s true of email, tweets, Web sites, and any written communication, not just these blog comments.

    I read a statistic that said something like 50% of people reading an email fail to correctly interpret the writers emotions or motives, while 80% of email writers feel they communicate their emotions and motives clearly and accurately. The numbers might’ve been the other way around but the point is that we all think everyone understands what we write, and we all think we understand what others write, but most of the time we’re wrong.

    So you’d think a simple statement like: “We don’t talk about what may or may not be under development” would be clear, but we find that many people interpret that as: “We’re not working on this project, we have no plans to work on it, but we don’t want to tell you that.” So depending on the context, we may have to go on to explain that you should not assume we either are or are not working on it.

    Other people read our comments and see in them an attempt to cover up development work that is already going on. We have to remind them that we would say the same thing whether or not we were already working on the project.

    So while you and I (and 50% or 80% of other people reading this comment) might understand exactly what we’re trying to say, there is a large crowd that misunderstands and reads things into it. Depending on the context, I might have to use language that you object to in order to counter those conclusions. So if someone is making an impassioned argument for their particular project, I might say “we may or may not already be working on it” in order to let them know that just because I’m not explicitly agreeing with their points, that doesn’t mean I disagree with them.

    So depending on context, I may have made all the statements you mention in your comment. What you have to be careful to do is not take them out of that context. So in general, I don’t say, “we may or may not already be working on it”. I will say that, however, in order to help someone understand why I’m not getting into a detailed argument with them over the particulars of a platform.

    Like it or not, the thing with us is that we do communicate quite a bit with the users of our software. We aren’t completely open, for the reasons cited above, but we’re at least approachable. Because we’re so approachable and because anybody can ask any question and expect an answer of some kind, you’re going to hear a lot of answers from us and I’m sure we’ll word something in a way you don’t appreciate. At least we’re talking. I encourage you to visit other popular Bible software developers’ sites and see how they reply (when they reply). :-)

  20. Lynne says:

    Please please, will you put on your already overflowing To Do List, to make the 1599 Geneva Bible available for Palm OS, etc.??? With Calvin’s notes would be nice, and the cross references, and if you were really ambitious, the underlying Greek and Hebrew words at a tap, like the NASEC I own? :-)

    Really, I cannot thank you enough for all your hard work and for making these Bibles for my all my Palms over the years. I hope to switch to a Blackberry one day, and keep using all the Bibles and devotionals, and just purchase the new Bible Reader program.

    THANKS!

  21. Nathan Martin says:

    I noticed your sort of bent the rules on the iPad and announced you are working on software for it. However, that’s understandable, given that it’s basically an iPhone on steroids. :) Looking forward to more great Laridian products in the future! (Especially on the Palm Pre, since it’s now out on Verizon and soon will be on AT&T!!!)

    Sincerely,
    Nathan

  22. Not really. The rule is we don’t talk about it until we’re confident of our schedule. Since iPad is rumored to run iPhone apps, we felt comfortable talking about it.

  23. Mike Matthew says:

    Wow, Coming from a sales background, I had a shock at the thought of what appears to be the cut-throat world of selling bible software. I thought that working on delivering Gods Word may be free of at least some of the worries that exist in other sales organisations, but that sadly doesn’t seem to be the case. I dare to go so far as to say this is not normal work but mission, in that case(?), God bless the folk at Laridian in Jesus Name. Back to the funnier side… It can be imagined that bible software developers are right now frantically dumpster diving at the rear of the building trying to find that crucial bit of intelligence to get the edge over Laridian.
    I hope you guys have a shredder – but you may or may not tell me that for security purposes.

    Love Mike

  24. We do very little of our work on paper, so there’s not much to shred. We work from home and would notice any strangers lurking about. :-)

  25. Stephen says:

    Last year I had to have the new iPhone because it finally met the requirements I had. All requirements that is but one, pocketbible. But I knew it was coming so I used a couple of the free ones out there until it came out. Would I have bought the iphone if I did not know laridian was working on it? Yes.

  26. jim hargett says:

    Am a little apprehensive about buying your bible software. Can’t get OliveTree software to work with my new Blackberry Curve 8900 because their Java Class applets are still in the *.JAD installation format and the latest Curve only recognizes *.ALX or *.ALI files. Being a Computer systems developer for 38 years tells me I must find some Cell Phone Bible software vendor that is keeping pace with installation software…

  27. Our Bible software for Blackberry is actually from BEIKS. You should ask them your question about JAD files: http://www.beiks.com

  28. Steven Sanchez says:

    As a software developer for 18 years, I completely understand and agree with Craig’s statements. While it’s frustrating for Customers who want to know what’s coming and when, I remember a day before Laridian when Bible apps were very poor. I’m exceedingly happy that this company exists and while it may not have every application for every platform in existance, I’m amazed at what they have been able to develop and keep supported.

    Well done, guys! Thank you and may God bless you and your company for helping so many grow in their faith.

  29. Henry Aldridge says:

    I have a small copy of The Living Bible – Paraphrased as a “Thought for Thought” translation Bible published in 1985. Recently my battery on my HP iPAQ with Windows Mobile has not been lasting long and on the way to church, finding my iPAQ dead, I grabbed my Living Bible. As I was called to read in Sunday School and in Bible Study, people were amazed at the clarity of this translation where as the wording of all other bible translations kept the reader scratching their heads! I do love this translation, but the font is like size 4 or 5 and the pages are difficult to turn. It would be ideal to have this available in my Laridian Bible for Windows Mobile.

    What is the possibility of making an electronic version of this bible translation available for the Laridian audience? And before you say that you already have it in the New Living Translation, let me say that from what I have seen, it is not the same at all.

    Thank you in advance for your response,

    Henry Aldridge

  30. It’s been a long time since anyone requested a copy of The Living Bible. I don’t believe Tyndale is issuing licenses any longer.

    You’re right that the New Living Translation is not the same. It is a translation, where the Living Bible is a paraphrase. You might want to take a look at The Message, which, while very different than the Living Bible, is a paraphrase and is more up-to-date (the Living Bible was “cool” in the 70′s but sounds a little dated in the 10′s).

  31. Robin Brenchley says:

    Hi Craig,

    Some time ago I contacted you to ask abou running Pocketbible for Windows on a Mac. You helpfully suggested that you used parallels to do just that.

    Anyway I took the plunge and bought a MacBook instead of a windows laptop last week.

    Hunting on th internet for a good price for parallels I came across VirtualBox, which I free for personal use. After following the setup instructions (well I am bran new to mac!) I now have PB running in a window on my mac and bes of all I don’t have to re-load windows each time as the app just saves it’s current state on exit.

    Now I I don’t know your policy on telling people about other companies products but it seems to me that this could b an excellent answer for those people asking about PB on Mac (ie it’s free and it works, and if you maximise PB within th windows window(!) it acts just like any other mac app).

    Anyway god bless and thanks for the updated sync!

    Robin (Sittingbourne, Kent, UK)

  32. DD says:

    Well…. I understand your position…. but when it comes to economics you have to go with what is going to give you the best bang for your buck, which also allows us to use or savings on vendors like you!
    But – if your primary focus is supporting AT&T, who has the highest phone usage costs and not the best service, i.e. 3G vs 4G…. I don’t know what to say …. except that maybe I need to find those companies that can for see the promise and diversity of the ANDROID Market … All IPhone has over the market NOW is the EASE of USE with their APPS – Once Android APPS meet those expectations – that will be the end of IPHONE leading the pack, because as of today the IPhone has lost their footing when it comes to access and service level, re dropped calls. I have never, in the past 5 years experienced one dropped call with Sprint :) along with unlimited everything for 65 bucks a month…. all thats left is to find the best APPS !!

  33. Click the Android link under “Categories” on the left to see what we’re doing for Android.

    Sprint has less coverage than AT&T where I’m at, and that’s not much. I’ve had trouble with AT&T, though not dropped calls.

    I don’t think people realize that Apple has done what it has done (24% market share) all on one carrier. It’s almost frightening to think what would happen if they had a phone that would run on Verizon’s network.

    Anyway, we’re platform agnostic here. Our decisions aren’t made based on zealotry or bigotry, but on how to best use our very limited resources (me and Jeff) to generate the most revenue for the company.

  34. Stan says:

    Hi, A long time ago, I remember reading about why you do not have word highlighting capability. I cannot remember the reasons but it would be very much appreciated to have this capability to make this truly a Bible as there are key words that are super important for me. I used to have a CE PDA and I remembered that I could do it then and then it was lost when I went to Windows PB and iphone.
    Thanks and regads,

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