Under The Microscope

Announcing LiveDiscKit

Way back in January, we showed off LiveDisc for Macworld San Francisco. We got a number of requests from other developers looking to use it themselves. At the time we just said “maybe”, and then everyone went home from Macworld and proceeded to forget about it.

I, however, went home and spent the next few weeks putting together LiveDiscKit, a development kit that anybody could use to build their own. This took some amount of work, given the first LiveDisc was mostly hard-coded, and making it totally generic for other people required a great deal of refactoring. By time I was done, we decided to just wait and release it at WWDC, at which point I proceeded to forget about it.

As such, now is as good a time as any to finally release it. And so, you can download LiveDiscKit right here:

LiveDiscKit-100.zip (~6 MB)

LiveDisckKit is completely free and open source, we merely ask for a credit line somewhere if you do use it.

So how does it actually work? LiveDiscKit is built around a plugin for InterfaceBuilder that allows you to build a complete LiveDisc application entirely in InterfaceBuilder. You simply drag “Archive Items” from the Library window into view, then configure their various properties in the Inspector. Set a background image or add other controls, then save the nib file out, drop it into the provided template LiveDisc.app and you are done:

LiveDiscKit has a complete step-by-step tutorial explaining every aspect of using it in detail:

LiveDisc OmniOutliner Files

And for those needing more power than is provided by the Interface Builder plugin, the complete source code to both the plugin and LiveDisc application itself are included:

LiveDisc in XCode

We’ve done our best to make LiveDiscKit as easy to use as possible. Feel free to submit patches for review – we’ll see about integrating them. As this is a side project, however, LiveDiscKit is provided as-is, with no guaranteed support. That said, you should have everything you need to build a simple and functional LiveDisc today.

A word of warning is required, however. At MacWorld we gave out roughly 5,000 discs with LiveDisc on them. We set our LiveDisc to ping our web server to allow us to count hits. Of the 5,000 discs we gave out, 5.8% were ever used. That may seem a bit low, but it gets quite depressing when converted to an absolute count: 288. Out of 5000 CDs given out, no more than 300 were used – perhaps giving away CDs isn’t the best idea after all.

21 Responses to “Announcing LiveDiscKit”

  1. Mitch Cohen says:

    The 5.8% sucks, but not terribly surprising. I’ll plead guilty to grabbing anything I saw at shows in my younger days, “look, free crap!” I can’t do that any more, not after the East Coast show ended and all that free crap needed to find its way into my suitcase. Call it forced maturity. What comes home with me now is little more than a big To Do list and as much B&H Photo candy I can carry.

    All sad because LiveDisc is truly a great idea. It may need a different purpose.

    Do you have any way to compare that with an uptick in web traffic around show time?

    Somewhere, someone has a PhD in Tradeshow Psychology. My theory for great response to printed material: Print a unique coupon code on every handout. They could all be the same special deal, that’s not the point. People love coupons. For a statistical bonus, tag the codes with the date & time, to see if the best customers come early or late.

  2. Paul Kafasis says:

    We’ve gone the coupon route, including on the CD itself. Sadly, these are used quite rarely too. What can be done is creating instant buys – pitch the product, then sell it there. However, we prefer to have users try our software before they buy, not just hear a spiel. Which may mean that trade shows aren’t really for us, at least as a direct sales tool.

  3. Tim Dorr says:

    What was the conversion rate on those 5.8% that installed the app? It would be interesting to see what would happen if you put the same sort of thing in a retail environment. Offer a boxed copy and alongside that include some demo discs on the shelf.

  4. dave says:

    Have to say, while people may keep a CD over a flyer because it is perceived to be more valuable, it’s a lousy way to get people to try out an internet download. It’s like the worst of everything, the waste of a CD with no product on it, the energy needed to run the server anyway’s [as it could be on the CD, even if not the very latest version], and the person needs to be connected to the internet anyway. Just to try to get the small group of users who can insert a CD and double click on something, but can’t type in a URL, download the dmg and then double-click on the app/installer.

  5. Pete says:

    This sounds like a fantastic idea, as I often keep old .dmg files on a backup drive in the event of a re-install and it’s often a pain to try to constantly re-download them as they are updated (most auto-update using Sparkle or their own system). When other developers start to see what a fantastic idea this is, I think it will really take off.

    It definitely eliminates much of the hassle of ensuring your products web links and such are up to date, and you wouldn’t have to post upgrades of the .dmg for very minor point releases…… But, at the same time, it might be an issue for people who don’t upgrade frequently due to concerns about data loss and the like.

    Either way, it’s a clever solution.

  6. Phillip says:

    One may argue that some of those people were without internet when installing or using the CDs, and the percentage of use would be a tad higher than you’re figuring. Or maybe not?

  7. Michael says:

    Little Snitch…

  8. nx says:

    very cool, thanks!

    s/then is provided/than is provided/

  9. Ken Humbard says:

    Wow this is great! I recently started selling mail oder disks of YummySoup! and this would be perfect. I know my users will love it! Thanks guys!

  10. ExitToShell says:

    Now you have a good idea of how *not* to release software to users. Putting software completely “in the cloud” (I am starting to hate that term, hearing it at work once a week) is the most revolutionary advancement for software distribution. Going back to a physical medium that requires a network connection to do something just doesn’t make business sense.

  11. Henrik N says:

    Personally, I would probably not take a CD but instead download, on the assumption that the version on a CD would go stale fast. So even if you’ve solved that, chance is people won’t know.

  12. ex2bot says:

    I propose replacing “in the cloud” with . . . “on the Internet” (WWW).

    That’s what we said back in the day . . .

    Whippersnappers. Hmph.


  13. Quentin Carnicelli says:

    The CDs we distributed really served three goals.

    1. As a complete brochure documenting all our products on the CD sleeve
    2. As a physical artifact that showgoers can take home to remind them that we exist
    3. And, obviously, to finally distribute the software itself

    Although the discs fails on point 3, they are still serving points 1 and 2. Which is why finding a replacement for them (that is affordable in large quantities) is going to require a bit of thought. I have a feeling it is going to be a purely paper-based product though…

    As for other statistics from LiveDisc, the 5.8% number is the only one we have, we don’t track sales follow throughs or website traffic from it.

  14. RA Fan says:

    The 5.8% sucks

    No it doesn’t!

    That’s a great response rate for a direct marketing campaign. If you were in the advertising business, 1–2% would be a success, and 5% would make your competitors very jealous.

  15. Nick says:

    Wow, a more convoluted and wasteful way of distributing software over the internet. The future is NOW!

  16. Paul Kafasis says:

    Tim Doerr: That’d be a great experiment, but you pretty much pay by the inch in retail, so it’d never fly 8).

    dave: You seem to have missed the point here – the software IS on the CD. If the CD is currently up-to-date, the user just pulls the data right from the CD, no downloading needed. If no internet connection is found, then again, the software is just pulled from the CD. If the version on the CD is out of date, then the NEWEST version is downloaded, but the user never sees this.

    Either way, it’s all transparent, so from the user’s perspective, he’s just installing software off a CD. The point is to get the software to the user as easily as possible. Handing him a CD means he doesn’t need to go to our site, find the download, and then pull it down.

    Pete: Using this for a software disk image is an interesting idea, though it’s not one we’re currently doing. Posting a new version can be a bit of work, but it’s rare and not that difficult. I think Sparkle/in-app updating is more a powerful tool for keeping users up to date.

    Phillip, Michael: Indeed, the numbers aren’t perfect. But no internet, and Little Snitch, are unlikely to affect the numbers much – even a 7% response rate isn’t much higher than 5.8%.

    Ken Humbard: Glad to hear it – let us know how it works out.

    required. If one is available, then it’s used to get the very latest version, but otherwise, the version on the CD is used. As for “how not to release software”, I’d have to disagree. We of course have internet downloads, and that’s how tens of thousands of users get our software, but in an environment like Macworld, I think a disc is more effective than merely saying “Head to our website”.

    Henrik N: I’d wager most people don’t think that way, particularly when we say “The newest version is always right here on the CD.”

    RA Fan: If that was 5.8% sales, then sure, it’d be great. But it’s just 5.8% that popped the CD into their Macs – beyond that, who knows?

    Even if it is wildly successful, as far as costs of exhibiting and creating the package go, it’s not exactly uplifting. Whether that speaks to the efficacy of the LiveDisc or direct marketing in general is a different debate 8).

    Nick: Once again, as noted, this was for use at the Macworld trade show. The internet doesn’t really help us there. With this disc, we had a flyer/software/web URL, all in one place, to give to visitors. I’m not wild about the waste from producing CDs, but we already do near 100% of our distribution virtually – this is simply a one-off sort of thing, for Macworld. It’s certainly not convoluted as far as the user experience goes.

  17. jb says:

    Er, shouldn’t that be “prepAration” under 0…?

  18. Paul Kafasis says:

    jb: Where are you seeing the word preparation (with either correct or incorrect) spelling at all?

  19. J says:

    How do I get tech support for Audio Hijack Pro? I’ve filled out support requests twice over the past 2 weeks and heard nothing back. I’ve tried emailing to info@rogueamoeba (as listed on VersionTracker), whois@rogueamoeba (as listed on BetterWhoIs), but both of those email addresses are no longer any good.

    Basically, all I need to know is how to turn of “MegaMix mode” from my Safari Audio Hijack Pro (v2.8.1) setting. I wan’t to be able to amplify the sound from stuff in Safari (YouTube videos).

    – J

  20. Paul Kafasis says:

    J: Via the Support page: http://www.rogueamoeba.com/support/, specifically the Contact Us Directly portion. We’ll need to know your email address in order to see what the issue is with any tickets you’ve already submitted.

    As for MegaMix, you can toggle this setting in the Advanced… window, from the Input tab.

  21. jb says:

    On the second graphic – LiveDisc Tutorial.oo3 – in the post, just below the text:

    “LiveDiscKit has a complete step-by-step tutorial explaining every aspect of using it in detail:”

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