Monthly Archives: September 2007

Where Did the Name "No Thirst" Come From?

Back in early 2003, my wife, Judy, and I were consuming self-help tapes and dreaming of a brighter future. I was emotionally drained from working as an employee for a company where I was once a founding partner and we were drowning in debt. The wellness industry was exciting because we were trying to get back in shape (in more ways than one since wellness covered physical, emotional, mental, financial, and spiritual health). We thought that there must be a way to help others heal and improve their quality of life as we helped ourselves.

One day, Judy was thinking about “wellness” and was led to the scripture story about Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. The key part of this Gospel from John is in chapter 4 verses 13-14:

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

NoThirst.com started out as a small wellness site with articles about improving spiritual, physical, and emotional health, but never really grew to fulfill our dreams of helping thousands of people. In early 2006, I was sick and tired of being in debt and of performing a job I no longer enjoyed. This was the incentive I needed and I vowed to do whatever it took to turn around our finances and find joy in my work. The first step was to stop our financial bleeding and get some controls in place.

We read conflicting opinions on the best way to eliminate debt. Some said to pay the lowest balance first, others proposed getting rid of your highest payment first, and some wanted the highest interest cards paid before the rest. Just paying a random amount (or at times the minimum payment) on our credit cards wasn’t much of a plan. I couldn’t find a program that easily solved this problem, so decided to create one. For years, my career focused on building Windows software, but my heart’s desire was to create software for the Mac. It had been almost 20 years since my last Mac shareware program was sold and it was invigorating to be writing cool software again. We re-branded the NoThirst.com site as No Thirst Software and released Debt Quencher in October 2006 under our new company.

Soon afterward, I felt a push to create another personal finance software product and, again, it came out of personal need. Judy and I had been married 23 years, but we had yet to develop and stick to a workable budget. Of course, this contributed to our debt problem, despite using the budgeting tools in Quicken over the years. Both our parents had used the envelopes method for budgeting, but that wasn’t going to work with debit cards and checks in our virtually cashless society. Many products on the market claimed to help control spending, but nothing came close to doing the types of things I envision for MoneyWell.

I have to give all the glory to God for both these products, but especially for MoneyWell. I’m not quite sure how the design ended up being clean enough to get people excited about the product because my original screen layout was not at all what we sell today. My prayer is that I can touch thousands of lives with No Thirst Software and ease their financial pains while I continue to provide for my family with this venture.

Peace.

P.S.: This is also posted on the No Thirst Software site.

What’s Coming in MoneyWell 1.1?

Everyone wants to know what’s coming in future releases of MoneyWell. I think that’s a reasonable request. We all have a natural curiosity and a desire to know that the software we buy has a bright future and will grow to solve more problems for us.

Now the experienced software developer in me is screaming, “Shut up! Don’t promise anything that’s not already in final testing. Do you want a Longhorn/Vista disaster on your hands!?!? Geez, have you learned nothing from Bill and Steve’s joyride over the software precipice?” But I’m thinking, I can talk about some of the plans. I mean, what can it hurt to let you peek behind the curtain a bit, right? Wow, that voice in my head is really loud and annoying. Okay, here we go…

  • OFX/QFX Support: I wanted this in 1.0 because I have a ton of transactions per day and QIF support is marginally okay for bringing bank transactions into MoneyWell for me. I’ve also had several requests for comma-delimited file support from Europe and Canada, this type of import may not make the first update but it will not be forgotten.
  • Duplicate Transaction Detection: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous pain. I don’t want to have to delete duplicate transactions by hand and neither does anyone else. (If I’m wrong about this and you do enjoy boring, repetitive tasks, please contact me about being a beta tester.)
  • Account Reconciliation: This is another feature that was cut from 1.0 to get it out the door. How are you supposed to track all your transactions if you can’t reconcile your account to make sure none are missing? Of course this is coming.
  • Printing: We love paper! Back in 1986 when the Mac was supposed to help us create the paperless office, we started the greatest increase in personal printing in all of history (and it’s not slowing down). You won’t see a huge array of reports, but you will be able to get a nice-looking printout of your filtered transactions. More diverse reporting will come in the future.
  • Per Month Planning: Here’s another sliced outta 1.0 feature because I couldn’t get the interface working the way I wanted. With this you’ll be able to set a unique spending plan amount per month per bucket.
  • Repeating/Pending Transactions: There’s lots of code in MoneyWell already for this and it hurt to rip it from 1.0 so I’m going to work hard to get it into the next release.
  • Money Flow Editing: Having rollovers and money flows automatic is very nice, but there have been enough customer scenarios already to warrant adding the ability to change dates and amounts of these operations.
  • Enhanced Transfers: Allow transfers to be created/changed from the transaction detail. This will allow you to use transfers in a more flexible manner.
  • Exporting: This is a long shot for the next release, but if it misses, it will be high on the list for the next release.

Okay, that’s plenty of rope to hang myself. I think I’ll add a disclaimer just for good measure.

Disclaimer: Remember that none of these features are guaranteed to be in the upcoming release (or any release for that matter) and I have the ability to edit this blog entry in the future if anyone tries to use this information in any sort of extortion scheme.

Just know that my primary concern is the smooth operation of MoneyWell: Jamming a bunch of poorly executed features into software doesn’t make it better, it makes it Windows Vista. (Did I just say that out loud?) My secondary concern is prompt delivery of an update: I want to have this out by December so I will cut what I have to so this will happen.

Now, feel free to pray that most of these make the release and I don’t regret this curtain peek in a couple of months.

Peace.

Business Decisions

First let me say that I released MoneyWell 1.0.3 yesterday and I’m ecstatic about it! The release is a very nice version, but I’m more excited that it is out the door so I can focus on a patch for Debt Quencher and the next release of MoneyWell. It took me longer to release this patch than I wanted, but sometimes you just don’t have control over decisions like that—you have to hold off shipping software until the bugs are fully squashed and you can’t do anything else because customers are in pain. I hate knowing that my software could cause anyone any pain so this decision was a no-brainer—get the patch done!

Other business decisions aren’t so cut and dried. Deciding the best way to market your products or handle the sales or when to bring on new employees is tough stuff. There’s no single right answer. Even now I have to make decisions about my time. How much should I spend updating the website? Should I explore new ways to market my products? Is my time better spent writing code for new versions? How shall I punish my daughter for trashing the kitchen last night while I slept?

Okay, that last one has little to do with business except that I run my company out of my house and the war zone that used to be a fairly clean kitchen is a huge distraction. So let’s put a pin in that one and get back to it later.

For every other business of mine, I’ve had a partner or two. This meant that business decisions were either a tad easier (you handle that one) or much, much harder (I really don’t think we should go that direction). Now that I get to make the final decision, the business of business is much more fun for me. My focus has always been on making great software and providing fantastic customer service. That may sound simple and obvious to most of you, but over the years I had to fight battles over compromising functionality to appease strategic alliance partners, supporting craptastic versions of Microsoft Windows (we really should support Windows 95 in our new 2005 release), staffing and outsourcing, and my biggest fight: designing better copy protection.

If you’ve read my earlier blog posts, you know I despise copy protection. It’s one of those necessary evils in the software business, but I don’t want to spend all my time fighting the bad guys who try to get free software, which in turn, punishes the good guys who are my customers waiting for cool new features. Now I’ve been able to control that decision and put just enough protection in my products so the honest folk will get a gentle nudge to pay for the product but after that, they just don’t have to deal with it. There’s no business partner screaming at me to plug more holes to stop the software theft.

To be perfectly frank, I really do have a partner this time; but my wife, Judy, is still working her full-time job so she’s more of a silent partner. Hah! (the water I was drinking almost came out my nose) I guess that’s a bit of an oxymoron. Judy is anything but silent and I thank God for her strong opinions. She has saved me from making stupid decisions more times than I’ve had to yell at the kids to do their chores. The difference is that she trusts my years of experience in the software business and believes that I have learned from my mistakes. I know that she has our best interest in mind when she challenges one of my choices or suggests a new direction and I have learned that she is very skilled at presenting an alternative perspective. When there is a high degree of mutual respect between partners, business decisions are easier to make and delegate.

So it’s the day after the patch and the dark valley that was last week—when I couldn’t figure out how to solve a couple of frustrating bugs—is over and I’m ready to make some decisions and write some new code. Life is good.

Peace.

Day 20 – It’s a Bit Surreal

It seems longer than 20 days since I launched MoneyWell. So much has happened so quickly that I’m struggling to keep it all in perspective. Maybe it’s because the desire to have my own software company has been burning in my heart for so long. To have it now be a reality is almost surreal.

I started working on Debt Quencher in January, 2006, which at the time was called “Zero Debt” but I couldn’t get close to that domain name. By October, I had a finished product and I was deciding if I should risk my financial security—or at least what little there was at the time—on another start-up. After much prayer and thought, I went for it.

Now 20 days after releasing MoneyWell, the flagship product for No Thirst Software, I’m actually paying the bills without the aid of a business loan. The reality is just setting in.

There is much to do still. I’ve had to change some design patterns in MoneyWell (tech speak for redoing whole segments of code) to get around the bugs that popped up and caused me to create a third patch for the initial release and I’m not done with that yet. Then there’s the 1.1 release that’s crying for my attention. Lastly, I’m dying to create additional tutorials and add enhancements to my web site. I don’t see any boredom in my near future.

Due to popular request, I’ll talk about what’s planned for MoneyWell 1.1 in an upcoming blog entry.

Peace.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

You know the high you feel when you devour six chocolate bars and then wash ’em down with an energy drink? You’re so wired that you can conquer the world!

And then 45 minutes later you’re depressed enough to install Vista on your iMac.

Extend that feeling about a week and you have the MoneyWell product launch. Every day was a rush of sugar and caffeine seeing 18 to 21 thousand downloads each day and then, after losing the Apple place of honor, it dropped to around a thousand. I can hear B.B. King growling, “The thrill is gone baby…”

Where is that friggin’ Windows CD anyway… (Don’t worry, I don’t even own a copy of Vista. The last Microsoft OS I bought was Windows 2000.)

So, I’m working on MoneyWell 1.0.3 to cure the problems I let slip by in 1.0.2. This patch is getting double the testing because I hate feeling good about a fix that isn’t a fix. After this is done, I have some FAQs and tutorials to post to the website and a patch to put out for Debt Quencher.

Then it’s on to MoneyWell 1.1 development. Just thinking about it is like having a mouthful of chocolate!

Peace.

P.S.: Thanks to Paul Robinson for the interview. I’m honored that he took the time and blog space to record my less than mainstream thoughts and comments.

It’s Out (With 1 Hour to Spare)

Just under the wire, I released MoneyWell 1.0.2 (39) this evening. Bugs have been swatted and small features added. Overall, it’s a pretty nice patch (if I do say so myself). Run MoneyWell and you should get an update notice that looks something like this:

Version 1.0.2 (39) changes:

  • Added user preference “Localize date for QIF import”
  • Added ability to revise the initial rollover amount
  • Added QIF support for FI using currency symbols in amounts
  • Added large splitter handles to bucket and graph bars
  • Added show decimals preference on spending plan panel
  • Window size and position now remembered per document
  • Accounts now sorted by type and name
  • Initial rollover timer disabled; activates with allocate income
  • Changed initial rollover suggested amount to never be negative
  • Transaction filter cleared on new transaction or account
  • Fixed removal of bucket assignment from a transaction
  • Fixed buckets view on New Money Flow Panel dropdowns
  • Fixed buckets sort on New Memorized Transaction Panel dropdown
  • Fixed invalidated object error
  • Fixed initial rollover not saving amount without tab or enter key
  • Fixed name sorts to be case insensitive
  • Fixed edit commit failure on account change
  • Fixed auto-save failure after undo of memorized transaction update causes

Now that I have that patch put to bed, I’m going to put myself to bed. G’nite all.

Peace.

Just Because I Put a Date on It!

I was reminded this morning that I told people a patch for MoneyWell was going out yesterday and that I shouldn’t talk about a release if I’m not going to deliver. He’s right of course, but I was so sure it was going out. I don’t know why this always happens when I publicly announce a date for a release.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. You plan for what needs to be fixed in a patch
  2. You begin to code the patch and unit test each fix
  3. You test the program overall to make sure nothing else was broken
  4. You release the patch

See, in the case of 1.0.2 (39), step 2 was going so well. I made it through all but one of the fixes in a little over a day. How could I not finish that last item, I had all day!

I didn’t finish that last item. It’s just being stubborn.

So I’ll work on getting it out again today, but no promises this time (maybe that’ll help keep Murphy off my back). It’s a really good patch, so hang on and I’ll get it to you ASAP!

The upside is, I have a real download stat still (118,000+ copies). Judy also noticed that I lost my featured product status on Apple’s all categories page (Toon Boom Studio snatched it away), but I still have the business and finance page and I’m still near the top of the most downloaded list. That means I have a little more time to work out my marketing plan for after I lose the cherished Apple spot.

Peace.

Over 102,000! How About Trying to Bring Down My Server?

Downloads and traffic to the No Thirst Software site have been trending down (from 20,000 per day to around 18,000) so I didn’t expect the 21,000+ bonus that happened yesterday to put downloads up over 102,000 just before midnight.

This will probably be the last new prospect/customer trend I will be able to record with any accuracy because I’m going to release the 1.0.2 (39) patch today and all the people that have MoneyWell will get an automatic notice to download the new version (Thank you Andy Matuschak! You deserve an award for Sparkle!). These repeat offenders will skew the trend to look better than it really is, but part of my brain will just continue to think these are new views and be giddy all over again.

I’m excited about this MoneyWell patch because it incorporates many of the bug fixes that people have reported and also finishes up some features that I had to cut out of the 1.0 release due to time constraints (saving window size/location, large splitter handles, etc.). MoneyWell has two more additions to QIF importing that should make it able to read just about any QIF file out there.

Now I know that I’ve just opened the door to be proven wrong by the first new customer that uses it, but I’m getting used to being proven wrong—that’s either humility finally sinking in or I’ve been broken by the tech support emails over the past week.

Actually, I have no reason to complain about the support email traffic. I think God knows that I can only handle so much at one time and He throttled this down for me. Almost everyone has been very polite with their bug reports and the feature requests have all been very consistent. There is a common set of requests that just happen to match what I have planned for the next couple of minor releases. I couldn’t ask for a more cooperative customer base!

Now I have to get back to testing the patch so I can release it today and pretend like I’m getting double the downloads from new prospects. In fact, would every one of the 102,000+ downloaders please just run MoneyWell once after the patch is posted and update to 1.0.2 so I can stress test my hosting service? Server Logistics has been so good so far, I want to see what they can handle (don’t worry Aaron, they all don’t read this blog).

Peace.

I’ve Never Really Been Popular Before

You know those kids in school that are a little too straight-laced and quiet to be popular? Yeah, that was me. I just never was popular.

This morning I looked at Apple’s “most popular” section of their downloads page and I see the following:

  1. iTunes 7.4
  2. Quicktime 7.2
  3. Safari 3 Public Beta
  4. MoneyWell 1.0
  5. Windows Media Player for Mac OS X 9.0

How cool is that?!?! MoneyWell’s not only popular, but the three products more downloaded than it are free stuff from Apple and it beat a Microsoft product (okay, that last one isn’t so hard to do on the Mac)!

Does that make me popular?

Probably not. I still have to rub my dog’s belly to get her to even hang with me. But I’m just that desperate to take this as being popular by association. W00t!

Peace.

One Week Can Make One Weak

It’s been a full week since I released MoneyWell and I’m as happy as I am exhausted.

Starting a micro-ISV is so wonderful because you have full control over your product. There’s no corporate committee deciding features or a sales department making outrageous promises—it’s just you and your ideas.

And starting a micro-ISV is so incredibly tough because you have to wear every hat. There’s no marketing department, no sales force, no operations person—it’s just you and maybe some generous friends throwing their talents your way.

If you’ve read an of my previous blog entries (you brave soul you), you’ll know that this is not my first time starting a software company. I’ve been in this business since CP/M was the hot operating system and I’ve been blessed with a second chance (four times actually). Some people say I’m persistent, others are closer to the truth when they say I’m an idiot.

Luckily, I’m an idiot that learns from my mistakes. No Thirst Software is very close to the perfect company for me. If it wasn’t for Judy, my wife, and lots of great friends that prayed for me and supported me, I wouldn’t have lasted the whole year that this has been going on and I certainly wouldn’t have had the guts to launch MoneyWell by myself.

After having to learn Cocoa and Objective-C, redoing my website four times with four different tools (I’ve settled on Coda and hand-coded CSS/HTML, which I now love so much more than using big iron web tools), creating lousy graphics with my poor Photoshop skills, creating better graphics with my poor Photoshop skills, and finally, creating acceptable graphics with my still poor Photoshop skills, I was able to pull together enough to launch a mere seven days ago.

But now I feel I’ve run a marathon at sprinter speeds and I’m a bit worn out. If tomorrow morning’s statistics are even close to as good as they have been over the last two days (over 20,000 MoneyWell downloads each day), I’m sure I’ll be riding high, coding like it was day one again and ready for week two.

God bless everyone who has given me feedback (positive and negative) and all those who encouraged me to keep going forward. I am truly blessed.

Peace.