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The Most Succesful Worst Year of my Life

I wrote this up for the January version of the Flextras newsletter and am reposting it here:

I often like to take the January newsletter to reflect on the Business of Flextras over the past year, and take a look forward to the New Year. So much has happened in the last quarter; I'm not sure where to start. I'm calling 2011 the most successful worst year of my life.

I want to start by offering a heartfelt thanks to the customers of all aspects of the DotComIt business including those of you who purchased Flextras components, listened to The Flex Show, and let us service you as consulting clients.

Long live Apache Flex

On December 30th; the Apache Foundation accepted Flex as a podling project. There are >30 initial contributors on the Apache Flex project including myself.

As I understand it; a podling project means that Apache thinks that the Flex community has what it takes to become a formal Apache project and is giving us the chance. Now it is up to us, the Flex Community, to prove we can make it happen. At some point after the next release of Flex; Apache will promote us to a non-podling project.

For the first time in Flex's existence, features in the next version of Flex will not be decided solely based on what Adobe needs to do to sell more tools. This can have huge, positive, implications on the work we do every day. Check out our second Flex Show Roundtable for more information on this.

If the donation of Flex to Apache was announced at Max; it may have received a standing ovation from many Flex Developers. However, since the announcement came haphazardly on the back of the discontinuation of the Mobile Flash Player, this caused a lot of stir in the developer community, and with the clients that pay our bills and salaries.

However, after some time to reflect, it seems that companies are taking a pragmatic approach. They aren't abandoning their ongoing Flex projects; nor are they investing in re-writing their existing Flex projects to some other technology. Right now, today, there is no better solution for lots of Enterprise development. Flex is still the most productive way to build applications that can be deployed to multiple operating systems and devices.

However, for Enterprise companies to continue to view Flex as a viable development option, Flex cannot stagnate. I plan to help my fellow Apache Flex contributors, and the Flex community prove to the folks with the money that Flex can thrive separate from Adobe.

Where does Flextras fit in the Apache world?

I'm not sure what this all means for Flextras, yet. Flextras has been a labor of love, and not my most profitable venture. I'm pleased with what we've accomplished in the three years since we launched. I see significant opportunity, yet also significant challenges in growing Flextras to where I want it to be. This year will see Flextras morph a bit, but it is a gradual progression we've been working on for a bit.

Flextras launched in January 2009 with a single component, the DataSorter, a Netflix style queue component. We followed that with the AutoComplete and Calendar components.

2011 saw the release of our Spark based AutoComplete and the Mobile Component set. We have lots of updates planned for the mobile stuff. Let us know what you'd like to see. This is our first attempt at selling a package instead of individual components.

Here are some of the numbers we use to gauge Flextras success:

  • Over 1300 new people have signed up on our web site, and close to 400 of them signed up for this mailing list. That seems to be a pretty good metric for interest; and it is a 26% increase over the year. Someone is interested in what we offer.
  • In 2010, we made 35 sales and in 2011 we were on track to top that, but unfortunately we fell short. Traditionally, we have made almost 20% of our sales in December, but, this year you could hear the crickets. We attribute that to Adobe's recent changes regarding Flex.
  • As a corollary of the previous two stats; our conversion rates from registration to paying customer are a failure.  We'll need to work on that.
  • Despite having similar number of sales in the previous two years; the income generated from Flextras decreased by about ~35%. I believe the discrepancy is due in part to the fact that the Mobile Components set is priced 30% lower than our other components. If December sales had not tapered off; I think the two years would be similar. Releasing a free version of our AutoComplete is another factor involved here.

As we move to the world of Apache Flex, I believe that Flextras will be able to carve out a business niche and plan to work on making that happen during 2012.

What Next

Scott Adams (The Dilbert Guy) had a great post earlier this year about creating systems in which the ideal outcome can happen instead of trying to establish specific goals. I hope this year I can develop systems that will keep me moving forward on doing the stuff I love to do.

Personally, my only New Year's resolution is to swear like I'm in a Disney movie. I plan to make "Oh Bother" my new catchphrase. I wish you all a healthy and fruitful 2012.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Tink's Gravatar "Now it is up to us, the Flex Community,"

Not quite. Adobe still have a stranglehold over the Flash Player which Flex is currently totally reliant on, and they could at any time drop it without open sourcing it. The player is a major concern to the future of Flex.
# Posted By Tink | 1/3/12 2:35 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar Tink,

I suggest you listen to The Flex Show Roundtable I linked to in this post ( ). In the episode, we spoke to a few people who were at Adobe's Flex summit. There seems to be a lot of interest in separating Flex from Flash; and having Flex as a language that can compile to other runtimes.

I don't know whether the Flash Player / AIR Runtime are short term dependencies or long term weights that will drag flash down; but to say nothing can be done w/o Adobe seems disingenuous.
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 1/3/12 5:05 PM