July 15, 2007

TreeDBNotes – time for alternatives?

I have talked of TreeDBNotes before. I like using a treeview based information manager and TreeDBNotes has been my software of choice for a few years now. One of the reasons I opted to register TreeDBNotes in the first place was because they had advertised free updates for life at the time I was considering using the app.

Fast forward a few years (or months) and here we are at TreeDBNotes 3.0 and suddenly, I notice on their forums a notice saying that old keys would not work and a new upgrade policy would be made available soon. I’m like "Huh? What do you mean new upgrade policy?" So I go to take a look at the original page which said free upgrades for life but I discover that the whole site has been revamped and there’s a new page which says that registration gets you free upgrades to all 3.xx releases – basically that free upgrades are only for minor releases. I’m like, "Did I dream it all?" So I go hunting on Wayback Machine and discover this page. According to the page (and I quote), "Registration benefits: lifetime technical support including support via e-mail, FREE upgrade to all new versions, and product notification by e-mail." (the bold text is not mine – it’s theirs)

I was confused. So I went over to the TreeDBNotes forums and posted a query about this discrepancy. The developer of the software appeared to disregard the query entirely and didn’t respond in the two threads I posted – except to say that wasn’t the place to post my question. (I did learn later however that he had posted a separate thread explaining that new upgrades would not be free even for existing users.) However, a moderator of the forum came forward to say he didn’t believe in binding a company or person to old terms. That that was politics and that no other company offered free lifetime upgrades and it was ridiculous to expect TreeDBNotes to do so.

I responded to him and said that if companies (and individuals) did not find agreements binding, then nobody could do business. I also pointed out a specific application that I had used (Now You’re Cooking) and their registration terms, which mentioned that they provided lifetime upgrades. He dismissed this by saying that I provided only one application and that didn’t prove anything and that I was bluffing. He also removed all my posts which showed that his statements weren’t true saying that the forum rules state that I couldn’t publicly contradict an admin or a moderator and that I was breaking the rules of the forum. Conveniently, it left his post saying that asking that the developer stick to the terms of the original agreement is ridiculous intact while removing all posts which showed that his arguments were specious.

All these shenanigans aside, the developer says that he has to charge for an upgrade because he rewrote 80% of the code and because he had to buy new components to use in the application. I don’t see how this absolves him from honouring the terms of a contract which was already in place. I fully accept that developers need to be paid and that he has every right to revise the terms of the contract for new users. But he cannot retroactively change terms for existing users.

In the midst of all of this, I was urged over and over again to talk to the developer privately and try to resolve this instead of talking about this publicly. I see this being pretty similar to the tactics here in Sri Lanka where people who speak out are hushed up in private by offering them something. Perhaps I will be offered a free upgraded. But that’s not the point. The point is that they are defrauding registered users and going back on their word. And that’s just unprincipled and unethical. But then again, this seems to be the pattern almost everywhere I look …

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Tags: Internet, Philosophy, Software
Posted by Fahim at 10:48 am   Comments (5)