The 10 Golden Rules for a Donate Button

On March 13, 2012, in Opinion, by Steffen Itterheim

This is a follow-up post to my Software Developer’s Guide to the Donation Button post, a rather lengthy one at that. To make the key points easily digestible I offer you my 10 Golden Rules for Donate Buttons which should guide potential donees (those receiving donations) whether they should be using a Donate Button or not.

The rules don’t leave a lot of room for acceptable uses of a Donate Button, this is on purpose.

  1. If you don’t need donations, don’t ask for them.
  2. If you own a business, don’t ask for donations for anything in the same business domain, period.
  3. If you greatly benefit from your free work in other ways (traffic, marketing, paid work, etc.), stop accepting donations.
  4. If you can’t explain exactly how donations help your work, don’t even imply that they do.
  5. If you just want to earn some money, sell something. Anything.
  6. If receiving money is a source of motivation for you, donations will be counterproductive.
  7. If you want your work to be appreciated, accept physical gifts, not monetary donations.
  8. Don’t beg for donations and don’t appeal to your user’s bad conscience. No free project that deserves to survive needs money that badly.
  9. Don’t expect or demand anyone to donate, ever. Not even Mr./Ms. Got-Rich-From-Your-Work. You decided to give your stuff away for free, remember?
  10. Every new Donate button makes all others a little less attractive, and less beneficial overall. The purpose of your Donate button should far outweigh its detrimental effect on others.

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The Software Developer’s Guide to the Donation Button

On March 8, 2012, in idevblogaday, by Steffen Itterheim

So you have this website going or some source code on github, and like to earn a few bucks. Donations, right? Hold on, there are a couple things you should consider before you add that Donate button!

UPDATE: If you prefer a concise, to the point summary of this post, you should read the follow-up post The 10 Golden Rules for a Donate Button.

In case you haven’t noticed, you won’t find a Donate button here or on my other websites. It may seem strange that the guy who never had a donation button of all people should write a guide to the donation button.

I consciously decided against having a donation button. You’ll find a number of reasons in this post, and maybe at the end of it you come to agree with me that Donate buttons are over-used, and the more developers offer them the fewer donations reach those developers who actually need and/or deserve donations the most.

I also wrote this as guidance particularly for individual indie or open source developers who are accepting donations or considering to do so, because donating to an individual is fundamentally different than donating to a (charitable) organisation or a software project (team) as a whole. You will also get some ideas on how you can improve your donation acceptance rate and which alternatives for voluntary compensation and appreciation exist.

Rule Number 1: Be a charity or a business. Never both!

I sell commercial products, both my own and third party products for which I receive a commission fee for each sale. I am self-employed, I make my living from those products and a few select contract jobs for people I know personally. It is fair to say that I’m running a business.

For me the question of whether I should ask for donations boils down to this: should a business be asking for and accepting donations?

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A Teaser

On February 22, 2011, in Announcements, by Steffen Itterheim

I’m sorry for having been so absent lately. It just so happened that a couple events lead to taking some time off away from my computer, and then I realized how much I actually enjoyed not being at my computer all day long. Respectively how little motivation I had to go back to what I was used to doing because something was off, didn’t feel quite right. So I took some time off away from almost everything computer-ish, and started recreating and pondering.

Eventually I realized I was missing something:

  • a bigger-than-life goal
  • an actual, meaningful, worthwhile project that serves this goal

Once I had this realization, finding the right goal was easy:

The Goal

I want to create something new that will have a lasting impact on how we make games.

Nothing less. I could be more specific but I’m not willing to give that away yet.

The Project

I know exactly what I’m going to have to do but you’ll have to bear with me on the details – I’m just starting. Everything seems to have fallen in place and became so obvious. In fact, I’ve done it many times over in my professional career. What I’m now working on will enable you to make games faster and with fewer technical issues. It will trade performance and complexity for rapid development and ease of use.

I can’t stand it anymore

Quite frankly, I die a little every day I see nothing done to improve the miserable state new and inexperienced game developers face when they are starting out with Cocos2D. I am furious when I see that something as essential as the API reference isn’t even complete, and either no one but me notices or no one cares to mention it. Cocos2D is neglected in areas that I consider to be more important than the source code itself.

Cocos2D will soon support OpenGL ES 2.0 and shaders. That’s fine for some people and great news for a select few who actually know how to leverage the GL ES 2.0 features. However, I know in my heart this will only cause more headaches and frustration for the majority of users because for them more options only means they’re going to face more issues they don’t understand fully, which they can’t solve by themselves. Yet they’ll be tinkering with it because new technical toys are just too damn cool. But in the end it will only keep them from finishing their games. I’m much more concerned with fixing the recurring issues the majority of users are having. And helping them getting their games finished and out there.

I can’t change how Cocos2D is developed and how decisions are made. So I’m starting my own project to change the landscape, to raise the bar and set expectations to a level that satisfies the professional software engineer in me. I’ll stop trying to crack tough coconuts for you, instead I’ll lead you to new and greener pastures where the fruits are hanging low and have much softer shells. Poetically speaking. :)

My project will not be for everyone, but even for the seasoned developers there’s going to be something worthwhile in it. And you won’t have to give up on Cocos2D completely because even I will only slowly transition away from it.

When? What? Where? Etc.

The specifics of this project will be announced in due time. Just like I did with the book I’ll write a weekly, Friday-ish update post about recent developments and revealing new features. Also I will share with you my insights and thought processes and my approach to software development and what I’ve learned.

These posts serve an important purpose: by making public announcements, by writing down my goals and committing to them publicly, and by recording achievements my motivation will remain high, and I will keep enjoying what I’m doing. It also allows me to kick myself in the butt if I have to because I can’t possibly let you down. This will keep me going and will have me striving for nothing but excellence.

In the coming weeks and at least during the initial development phase I will focus almost all of my time on either project development, or recreation away from my computer. I will also try my best to avoid any and all distractions like forums, Twitter, email, unnecessary research, funny videos and generally just wasting time. If the past few weeks were any indication I will be harder to reach and even slower to communicate with. I will not be able to respond to every personal message because I need to focus my attention on the task at hand, or living my life as a crucial counter-weight. I will focus my attention more on speaking to the overall community via my Blog, Twitter and the planned Cocos2D Podcast with Mohammad Azam.

Watch this space for more info, and definitely join my Newsletter and follow me on Twitter.

I would like to preemptively thank you for your outstanding display of collaborative patience!

I’m off to building a better future! :)

Book Feedback: the Spiders got fixed!

On September 22, 2010, in book, by Steffen Itterheim

Just a quick note: the single most requested respectively criticized part of my book was in Chapter 4 where I’m introducing the moving spiders. The @interface code was missing from the book as well as the line in the init method calling one of the new methods. These are added now, so the code works directly from the book. It should be in the next chapters & code update (but don’t ask me when, I don’t know either).

Thanks for letting me know about it, and in general for all the great feedback! What amazes me most is that there wasn’t a single person saying that the book isn’t good, or not good enough, or could be so much better if only … Normally one has to expect at least a certain percentage of responses to be less than happy, but no, every single one was positive, even those with criticism. And a few very overwhelmingly appreciative. I can’t say thank you enough for all of that praise, it’s been a great source of inspiration and motivation, especially at the times when I was super-busy and working 14-hour days for a week. Thank you! :)

Amazon Book Reviews

I thought it’ll be great to see some of the cocos2d book reader reviews appearing on Amazon. If you’d like to write a review, I’d really appreciate it, because right now there are none. Here are the links to the cocos2d book for every Amazon store worldwide:

Amazon.com (United States)
Amazon.ca (Canada)
Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)
Amazon.de (Germany)
Amazon.fr (France)
Amazon.co.jp (Japan)

Please mention that you read the book in its Alpha form. I don’t want anyone to think that the reviews are hoaxed because they came in before the book came out. Not everyone may be aware of Apress’ alpha program, and pre-release reviews are often viewed with skepticism.

Btw, Amazon.com lists the book’s release date as December 30th. Right now that’s just a rough date, like I said earlier, the goal is to get the book out in time for Xmas. Hopefully even several weeks before Xmas.

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I’m out of “Office” …

On August 30, 2010, in Announcements, by Steffen Itterheim

Or, in other words, I’ll be away from home (which happens to be my office) from Tuesday (tomorrow) to and including Friday for a much needed short vacation. That is to say I’ll probably be unresponsive for the rest of the week and I’ll catch up on emails next week, please be patient.

At one day I’ll be visiting the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, the world’s largest model railroad exhibition, on Wednesdy or Thursday. On the off-chance that you’re in the Wunderland too and would like to meet me in person, send me an email. Maybe we find a time to meet up and have a quick chat and connect. Speaking of meeting, I’ll also hold a cocos2d presentation (in german) at this year’s Macoun conference in Frankfurt, October 2nd and 3rd where I’d be happy to meet up with you, if you happen to be there. And in general, if you’re able to come to Mainz we can meet up just to connect and talk about experiences, like I recently did with Johannes Seidel from Blacksmith Games. That was a meeting I enjoyed very much, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he was also the person behind the AppventCalendar, which essentially spawned Free App A Day (run by someone else). He also had some great marketing ideas that helped make his game Plushed a success (before you ask: it’s made with Unity). And it’s a deserved success. Definetely watch out for more games from him, and follow him on Twitter.

Those developer experiences and life stories are very inspiring and a fun thing to hear and talk about. I’ve been reading a lot of Paul Graham’s Essays once again because he’s the go-to guy for those kinds of experiences in writing, and I bought Founders at Work for exactly the same reason. Motivation, inspiration and thinking outside the box. For that I’m very happy that I can read those essays, docs and eBoos on my wirelessly (meaning: no wifi) iPad by using Instapaper and GoodReader for eBooks. Have I ever used iBooks? No, I don’t need it thanks to these two excellent iPad Apps.

Before I sound too much like a product marketer … I’ll see/hear/write/email you next week!