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Dandy Cast 032: Calendars and the people who pay for them

Sean Anderson
Sean Anderson

This podcast episode was recorded as an accompanying audio version of the Dandy Newsletter that was published on July 07, 2020.

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Show notes

I mostly get why people don’t like subscriptions. There’s a lot of good stuff out there and no one’s got the money to pay for everything. Watching something you’ve paid for once go down the subscription route can be a frustrating thing. Who wants to keep paying for something they’ve already paid before?

This happened with the amazing calendar app, Fantastical. They chose to become a subscription-based app and the App Store was not having it. While I understand what’s causing the frustration, it’s also ridiculous to expect developers to only be paid once for their work and continue to demand new things from them. If you want to continue to have new features, then you’ll need to pay for them. Simple as that. Maybe start treating developers like the people they are, eh?

There’s also a brand spankin’ new blog post waiting for you. It’s called, Why It’s Okay and Necessary To “Kill Your Darlings.”

When doing any sort of creative work, it’s eventually going to need an edit. Remember, your first draft is rarely your best draft. It’s essential that you learn to not be so stinking precious about what you do. I mean, like it, sure, but be prepared to slash it down to make it better. Read this post today to learn why killing your creative darlings is essential to any creative process.

We’re wrapping things up with what I’m watching, reading, and listening to this week. It’s a great assortment of media that’s worth your time.

Links to stuff that was mentioned:

Apple approves Hey email app, but the fight’s not over - The Verge


Auto-renewable Subscriptions: Revenue After One Year - Apple

App Store Connect - App Store


Say hello to the new Fantastical for Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch - Flexibits


January 29, 2020 entry on the Dandy Cat Design microblog

Subscribe to Dandy Cat Design

Why It’s Okay and Necessary To “Kill Your Darlings” - Dandy Cat Design

Russell Brand | Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend - Earwolf

Justified - IMDb

I Am the Fun Blame Monster! | Menomena - YouTube

Grave Peril | Jim Butcher - Goodreads

The full text

The Dandy Newsletter — 07/07/20

Last week, I wrote about the very public dispute between Apple and Basecamp concerning the latter’s new email app, Hey. In it, I gave a pretty extensive rundown (an unintentionally long one, too—I had thought it would just be a paragraph or so when I started writing) of what had been going on between the two companies. I made the point that Apple was taking advantage of its position as the sole gatekeeper of the apps that are allowed to be installed on its customer’s mobile devices. I didn’t come down on Apple’s side in this situation and I still don’t. They’re firmly in the wrong. Unfortunately, despite the Hey app being allowed into the App Store (through a concession on Basecamp’s part), Apple still came out ahead. Nothing’s really changed, although I do hope the spotlight they were under during this dispute will make more people aware of the institutional and improper behavior Apple displayed.

At least, one can only hope.

The heart of the matter was centered on Basecamp’s unwillingness to give Apple up to a 30% cut of their service’s revenue. Apple didn’t want to lose out on that potential money and wasn’t going to allow an app on their store that didn’t have any functionality without the purchase of a subscription (despite the fact that many other apps—including at least one of Apple’s own—are allowed to do that).

It all brought to mind another recent dust-up, although this one didn’t specifically concern Apple. In late January, the developer, Flexibits, released version 3.0 of their acclaimed calendar app, Fantastical. I couldn’t have been more excited. I’ve been an enthusiastic and devoted user of Fantastical for years and have encouraged everyone I know to use it. It’s the best digital calendar experience I’ve ever had and the app has even encouraged me to become more organized and develop better time-management skills. I don’t want to imagine a world without this app in it. Sure, I’d survive, but what a dull life that would be.

Yes, all that fawning is about just a calendar app, and yes, I do love it so much and I wish I could marry it, thank you very much.

This update to the app was a major one. Among its new features were these standouts:

  • It got an all new design. One that looked similar across all its supported platforms thanks to it becoming a real universal app.
  • It got juiced-up collaboration features, and in subsequent updates has gained full support for connecting to virtual meeting services like Zoom.
  • It includes weather reporting in the app, allowing for quick glances at future weather conditions.
  • It gained full support across all devices for calendar sets. These are groups of calendars that can be set to display automatically at a specific time or location.
  • And a whole heap of other smaller improvements.

It’s the sort of app update that you dream about. When you dive into it, I believe you can experience a real quality of life improvement.

This new and major update also necessitated a fundamental change in its pricing structure. Prior to this 3.0 release, you would need to make separate, one-time purchases on whatever platform you wanted to use the app with. I paid for their 2.0 version a single time years ago and had been enjoying it ever since. With version 3.0, they introduced a new subscription tier which allowed for people to extend the usefulness of this new app. The economics of the App Store have changed throughout its lifetime and subscriptions like this one can be essential for the continued survival of app developers. It’s not reasonable anymore (if it indeed ever was) to expect a developer to live off your single purchase and also continue to create and ship new features on a regular basis.

As you can imagine, many people were upset about this pricing change and, because the angriest people also tend to be the most vocal, they made their grievances known by sinking Fantastical’s App Store rating. Imagine, if you will, the chorus of people leaving reviews like “How dare this greedy company do something like this to me!” and “I already paid for this app! Why should I have to keep paying for something I already paid for? This is straight-up robbery!”

And yet, if someone were to suggest that those complainers shouldn’t be given a paycheck for their own jobs, you know that wouldn’t fly. There would be a new chorus of “I work hard and I demand to be compensated for what I do!”

The response to Flexibits’s decision was, to say the least, sad to see. I understand that there have never been more services requiring subscriptions to function. We want to have it all, but most of us aren’t able to pay for it all. Our wallets have been taking a painful beating over the last couple years.

However, it’s important to understand that apps like Fantastical aren’t created by lifeless computers. It’s humans. It’s people like us, who need to pay their own bills, feed themselves and their families, and be able to pay for everything else in their own lives. People who complain about having to support an app through regular payments tend to miss that point. You’re not necessarily paying for the app; you’re paying to help keep the app’s developer living and working on the app.

I feel disappointed to see people complaining about subscriptions, especially for services made by small teams or individuals, because it just seems selfish. There’s not a drop of altruism there. Those complainers are devaluing the developer’s work and lives. I wrote at the time,

It’s tiresome and frustrating to see so many people loudly complain about supporting a product and a company that they supposedly love.

No one is forcing them to use an app like Fantastical if they don’t want to pay for it, but the cherry on top of this situation sundae is that Fantastical will still work, and incredibly well, without a subscription. Yes, there are some features placed behind a paywall, but you can still use the app for free. You can still access your calendar, create events, and make great use of its amazing natural language parser. I pay for a subscription because I love the app and want to support its developers, but I would still use it if I didn’t want to pay for it and I wouldn’t be any worse off.

Creation isn’t free. It requires the time, effort, and money of the people doing the creating. It’s why Flexibits now offers subscriptions and why Dandy Cat Design has a membership option. I and other people in the business of creating things for others (perhaps that’s you, too?) can’t create the work other people enjoy without earning money to pay for our own homes, food, bills, and yes, subscriptions. I can’t imagine that I would be able to continue my work if I were destitute.

All this is to say that charging for the work you do, whether it be a one-time fee or a recurring subscription, is not and never will be a bad thing to do. No, it’s an essential thing to do. People need to be compensated fairly for the hard work they do.

I don’t want you to ever listen to the loud complainers out there who balk at the thought of having to pay for the content, products, or services they consume. Keep in mind, those loud complainers do not represent everybody. In fact, they only represent a very small portion of your audience. There are and always will be people who are willing to pay you for the work you do.

Be like Basecamp. Be like Flexibits. Neither of them are in the wrong and you aren’t either. Do damn good work and charge the prices you need to charge to keep doing the work you love. Demand that you get paid what you’re truly worth, because you’re worth a lot, friend. If you do anything else, all you’re saying to the world is “I don’t value what I do enough and I’m afraid to think otherwise.”

Trust me, this won't be as macabre as it sounds

There’s a new blog post waiting for you. Hip-hip-hooray! 🎉

It’s called: Why It’s Okay and Necessary To “Kill Your Darlings.”

Despite how terrible it sounds, I think the title to this week’s blog post is actually a very appropriate one. Also, notice the quotations around the last few words. There’s nothing to worry about.

Nah, what I’m instead trying to get across here is that we’re all too precious about the work we do. We all want to try our best and be received well by others. Who wouldn’t want that? Unfortunately, that drive to be good can act like a veil over our eyes. It can make our ability to be objective and critical about our work a very hard thing to accomplish.

It’s also hard to be good if you can’t be critical about your own work. Improvement isn’t something that comes easily and painlessly.

Follow that link above to read why you must be less adoring of your first drafts, how you can improve the quality of your final products, and why it’s always necessary to “kill your darlings.” This one’s full of great advice on always doing your best, even when it’s hard to do. Go and read it today!

If you ever want to throw some suggestions my way, then send me a reply to this email. They’re always wonderful to receive.

Seriously friend, I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time cats, stay informed, stay safe, and stand up for what’s right. Black lives matter.


Sean Anderson

Lover of productivity tips, Apple devices, and vegan ice cream. Mostly, I'm busy petting cats 🐱 and dogs 🐶

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