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Bribing the Jing Project to Be Open Source

Date: 2-Dec-2007/11:58

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UPDATE Since the time of this posting in 2007, many proprietary screencasting programs have grown by leaps and bounds, or new ones come on the scene like Screenflow. While the good ones aren't free, they are importantly better-enough that if I'm going to use a proprietary program, then I would suggest one of them for those who can afford it. But since one of the premises of this site is to practice what constitutes good open source evangelism and outreach, here is my historical record of engaging TechSmith.
I really enjoy using Jing. It is a quick and easy-to-use solution for making screen capture movies--like Camtasia Studio or Snapz Pro. But it has one-click publishing to a network service, so you don't have to figure out how to deliver your captures to your friends.
It uses the SWF Flash format which--though not an open standard--at least is widely supported on platforms like Linux. Though not "free as in freedom" at the moment, the program itself is at least "free as in beer". Plus you can save files to your local hard drive or ftp site if you want, so it's not an obvious example of an attempt at locking you into anything. All signs point to "cool program made by cool people".
Yet I almost never got started using Jing. I'd almost bought Snapz Pro for $65 to do the same demos and screenshots, which I would have published in Quicktime. It was a near miss at using an inappropriate tool for the task and spending a not-insignificant amount of money on it. Of course, the people who make Snapz almost certainly do know about Jing...yet don't make an effort to educate you about it.
Don't get me wrong at all--by our current standards in software, Snapz Pro is a great product. Yet I'm sure a lot of people who buy Snapz would be better suited by a tool like Jing. What I want to believe in my heart of hearts is that if money weren't part of the picture, dialogue between the creators of these two excellent Mac products could create a whole greater than the sum of its parts... free for all. (I've written before about bribing developers to make their work free.)
Then I noticed that Jing was openly soliciting feedback comments on their weblog, where the world could read it. They end a blog post with:
So go ahead, download Jing and inform, entertain, explain, educate, and even rant. Just be sure to tell us what you think, or how you’re using it. We’d love to hear your story!
Hey--they asked for a rant, and that's what I do best! So I decided to share some of my recent Jing videos that I made for my site, told them about a couple of Snapz Pro features I'd like to see added, and I threw in a little bit about the Hostile Fork mission:
UPDATE 27-Jan-2014 Links corrected to reflect a site restructuring.
Hi Jing project...! I have started using Jing on a daily basis to demonstrate some of my ideas, and it's a great communication tool that I encourage others to use:
Before Jing, I tried Snapz Pro--which is a nice OS/X tool that I almost bought. But my bias for free software and specific target of a flash-based web player made Jing a better choice. Still there are a lot of features in Snapz Pro which you could implement.
For instance, I often wish to type in a fixed size for the capture rectangle and then position the rectangle by dragging it to the right place. That is important. Also, I like to be able to send screen captures directly to the clipboard sometimes.
Yet the biggest thing that I'd like to see is for Jing to become an open source project. That would open a lot of doors to using GPL libraries for things like image and movie encodings (PNG only is a bit limiting...) Although I know you might not be planning to give away Jing free forever, you could have a pledge drive through Fundable, where rather than buying copies of the program, the Jing userbase would buy the source?
UPDATE 27-Jan-2014 I would now suggest the more popular and well-known KickStarter
This is what happened with The Blender Foundation, and I would consider it personally satisfying to see great tools like Jing doing the same thing. What do you think?
The comment was not immediately published on the site, rather it was put into a moderation queue. That meant I got this screen:
Jing site telling me my comment is awaiting approval.
I waited until the next day and looked to see if it had been approved. Although I didn't receive any email or feedback saying my comment had been rejected, I got a clue that it was being shelved and not going to be approved. That clue was the appearance of another comment that had a later timestamp--which showed that someone was reading the queue and approving comments...they just hadn't approved mine.
If my comment was inappropriate, then what met the bar? Well, this is what they approved from the next day:
Could you make it on jing so they come out as mov file?
But... never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by site malfunction. Also, perhaps they wanted to wait to publish my comment until they had pondered a response. (Unlikely, why wait?) So I decided I'd follow up on this by sending a note through the feedback form on their website, and explicitly ask what was going on:
Hello there!
I'm a fan of the Jing project who posted a comment on your blog yesterday morning. Yet it was awaiting moderation, and has not been approved. In the meantime you have approved a comment saying "Could you make it on jing so they come out as mov file?"
(Which isn't a terrible idea or anything, but I think my comment was more insightful and represented a bit more of an sincere investment in dialogue!) :)
Would you mind either approving it -OR- writing me a note about why you won't... with what changes would be required before you would consider it appropriate content for a comment on your site? (e.g. removal of URLs to my own jing videos, the mention of a competing product by name, etc.)
Though I disagree with such policies, I can cope with them as long as they are made explicit and public. Thank you for your consideration, and I've attached another copy of the comment for review:
---original comment---
Hi Jing project...! I have started using Jing on a daily basis to demonstrate some of my ideas, and it's a great communication tool that I am evangelizing to others:
Before Jing, I tried Snapz Pro—which is a nice OS/X tool that I almost bought. But my bias for free software and specific target of a flash-based web player made Jing a better choice. Still there are a lot of features in Snapz Pro which you could implement.
For instance, I often wish to type in a fixed size for the capture rectangle and then position the rectangle by dragging it to the right place. That is important. Also, I like to be able to send screen captures directly to the clipboard sometimes.
Yet the biggest thing that I'd like to see is for Jing to become an open source project. That would open a lot of doors to using GPL libraries for things like image and movie encodings (PNG only is a bit limiting...) Although I know you might not be planning to give away Jing free forever, you could have a pledge drive (through Fundable?) where rather than buying copies of the program, the Jing userbase would buy the source?
This is what happened with The Blender Foundation, and I would consider it personally satisfying to see great tools like Jing doing the same thing. What do you think?
So there's the story, and I'll follow up with any updates if they happen. It does perhaps hint that it may be difficult to engage in public dialogue of whether there exists any price at which companies would be willing to open-source a proprietary product. I'll keep thinking about improving the methods.
UPDATE 14-Dec-2007 I received a response from Betsy Weber, who is the Technical Evangelist for Jing. She mentioned she couldn't find my first comment but approved the second one.
Hi - Sorry about that...I've been on the road most of November and part of December so I'm way behind on email and blogging. My apologies.
I've found your 2nd comment and approved it. Not sure what happened to your first comment though. Sorry about the delay. Thanks for your patience.
I appreciate your feedback and comments.
Betsy Weber, Chief Evangelist<br />
TechSmith Corporation<br />
www.techsmith.com<br />
*(MSN IM, Skype, cell omitted)*
It doesn't really address my suggestion itself, but it at least puts my idea out there. And it is a good reminder that following up can be good, and that one shouldn't assume that failure to get feedback indicates a response to the message.
UPDATE The original blog link is no longer valid, so I updated it above to a link to the Internet Archive's version.
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