Evaluation Software

Fuller’s Fifth Law: always bite the hand that feeds. In dutiful obeisance to my own laws, I have chosen  to vilify  the sponsor of  my blog,  Red Gate, whose evaluation software makes, in my opinion, a foolish mistake.

Before I explain why, let me ask, How many hours did you work last week, and the week before? And how many hours do you expect to work in the coming week.

Fuller’s Eleventh Law: Emergencies are punctuated by even greater Emergencies.

Therefore, any software firm whose target market is developers (in the broadest sense – that is, including DBAs, middle-tier developers, fat-client developers and website developers) should not offer time-trial evaluations. To do so is to reveal marketing unrecognition. The most important thing about this target market (meaning you and me) is that we are overworked and backed against a wall filled with knives). How could any marketing person assume that I have time in the next N days to examine her software offering? Only by completely misunderstanding my sad position in life.

I cannot remember my child’s name, nor my wife’s. I got home at midnight the past three days in a row, and headed back on the 7:30am train to Toronto.

March 31st is a drop-deadline. (Have you ever paused to consider why it is called a deadline? If you fail to meet it, drop dead.) We have to finish, else there goes our software career and from here on in, it’s killing baby seals for the rest of our lives – a fraction of the wage, and a lot more dry-cleaning. (A joke, perhaps a little  too  Canadian  for you, but  think about it:  this baby seal walks into a club.)

To the marketing team at Red Gate and numerous other vendors proffer offer ostensible solutions to my abundant problems: wake up! A timeline evaluation copy is – let me phrase this as gently as possible – asinine. Even if it’s 30 days, it’s asinine.

Change your evaluation model to “number of uses”. I don’t care which number you choose, but get away from the time-line view of this. Wake up and smell the coffee. You want me to license your product. I want to be convinced that it solves some problem(s) of mine.

Realize that before I get around to testing your evaluation copy, I must kill three alligators and wrestle two pigs to the ground. Predicting the unpredictable is – well – asinine. “How long do you think it will take to fix the unforeseen problems?” I could invoke  Werner Heisenberg, but what manager do you know that has read  him or even comprehended the Uncertainty Principle?

This is not rocket science. There are several established (i.e. buy it) solutions to the eval-copy problem. For developers, the date-sensitive solution is the least appropriate; number-of-uses makes much more sense, and also displays a sensitivity to the situation in which virtually all developers find themselves – too many tasks and not enough time to make the deadline, let alone discover the cool products that might help win the war.

In keeping with Fuller’s Fifth Law, I point out that Red Gate is one of my targets in this missive. Therefore I suggest to the hand that feeds, Ask your own developers how much time they have to investigate potentially useful products. Trust them, if you don’t trust me.

Since this is my first blog courtesy Red Gate, I wanted to demonstrate that RG has expressly stated that I will not be expurgated. The obvious conclusion was that I should test this alleged guarantee. This blog is the test. Should it survive, then in subsequent blogs I shall tell you, dear reader, all the sordid  details of the  personal lives of the Red Gate  development team. Clearly they have no  lives, else why would they be writing tools for you, who has  an even more pitiful  life? And why would I be telling you all this, unless I had an even more pitiful life?

Just because you’re paranoiac doesn’t mean don’t have enemies, or in this case, just because my life is even more pitiful than that of the Red Gate developers doesn’t mean that I am wrong.

In certain cases, time-limited software evaluations make sense — but not in the case of software whose market is developers. Red Gate’s marketing folks have stumbled on this, but they are hardly alone. I could name a hundred firms who have made the same mistake, and I could name a couple who know their target market and have chosen to offer “number-of-uses” evaluation copies.

The latter group make me feel warm and fuzzy.  They understand the pressures that I face, and they appreciate that I might download the evaluation today and not even open it for three weeks – not because I am not interested, but because Berlin is burning.

I haven’t even got time to make love with my spouse, let alone use your evaluation copy in the next 14 days. Think “number-of-uses” not “number-of-days”.


Son of Uther Pendragon,

Defeater of the Saxons,

Lord over Alllllll England,

And King of the Dorks.

(c.f. Monty Python)