29 July 2006
Update: It has been a few weeks. Now that the dust has settled, I'd like to note that I made an enormous mistake posting these thoughts. I am, in fact, embarassed that I even had them to begin with. I apologize to 37signals and applaud their strategy to convert freeloaders to paying customers. I am happy for their success. Conversely, I am using MonkeyGTD and haven't missed the sharing of Backpack...yet. [37signals' Backpack logo removed. I decided that it was inappropriate to include it.] I've been betrayed. I was days away from becoming a lifetime paying customer. I had converted dozens of peers to the product. Some have become paying customers already. But now I'm leaving. I'm taking my data and going home. Today I've begun to seek alternatives to 37signals' Backpack to store my GTD data. Why, you may ask? Because they are charging for a new feature...
The Backpack Calendar is included on all paying Backpack plans! Sign-up for a free plan or discover more reasons to upgrade to a pay plan.

Web-Based Calendar for Backpack

37signals is fully justified to charge for their Backpack service. It is a useful service. However, the action of limiting the new calendar feature to only paying customers violates several simple rules of software as a service. Up until now, all of 37signals' services have been available on a limited basis. Rarely has functionality been hindered. Rather, reduced capacity limitations are imposed, which are very reasonable. For instance, Backpack is limited to 5 pages for the free version. However, I currently have three pages in Backpack. I share pages with a few others, but have not found the need yet to upgrade as I have not hit the capacity limit. Now, I, nor 37signals, will ever find out whether I would hit that limit over the next few weeks as I cannot get my greasy paws on their new calendar feature. Oh, but they have video demos. Not enough to make me salivate and fork over a measly 5 bucks a month. So I'll take my data elsewhere. I'm looking at MonkeyGTD (a version of TiddlyWiki) hosted on tiddlyspot.com. I'm in the process of finalizing some scripts that uses the Backpack API and does an XSLT to the format that TiddlyWiki uses. That is something 37signals is good at...opening their data. Or should I say, my data. They do a pretty good job of avoiding a wall garden. So, one may ask what I would do if I were 37signals. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Provide the calendar for the free account but isolate it so that calendar data cannot be shared, nor can iCals be subscribed.
  2. Allow a month free for free users.
  3. Provide the calendar for free users but only allow events to be created three months away.
  4. ...There are many other ways to allow people to experience the calendar while still encouraging them to upgrade.
This all poses a question. Am I crazy? Should I be offended that 37signals has not made the calendar available on a trial basis? Ring in your thoughts.