Beginners Don’t Stay Beginners Very Long

There have always been Real Studio users that have been critical of the company and their products.  I have been known to throw a fit every now and then when I get bit by a bug.  There are currently several users in the Real Software forums that seem to be overly critical of the company these days.  These users go out of their way to hijack threads and tell everyone what a crap product Real Studio is and how Real Software is screwing everyone over.

I get their anger.  I really do.  I’ve been using Real Studio for ten years now working on a commercial products for clients all over the world.  Some of those are private apps, some are vertical market commercial apps and some are mass market  commercial applications.  I have probably been bitten by a bug in nearly every release and on every project.  It sucks but thankfully I’ve been able to find workarounds to most and come up with alternatives to others.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy about bugs.  As a developer dealing with bugs is part of the job.  When I was an electrical engineer I dealt with hardware and software bugs ALL the time.  Try explaining to the client why a 1500 degree furnace stopped working because of bad firmware or why you stopped an automobile assembly line because a PLC glitch  When I was doing Visual Basic 6 development my code was a masterpiece of workarounds.  There is no excuse for bugs but they happen.  It’s part of my job to identify them and work around them.

One Real Studio user sent ME an email explaining how crappy Real Studio is.  It was reasonably intelligent email from someone who felt very passionately about the subject.  It was obvious he had a history of using Real Studio as a consultant.  I disagree with him on most every part of his email but I can sympathize.  Am I becoming to ingrained to ‘just dealing with it’?  I dunno.

Part of the problem, I feel,  is that Real Studio is geared for beginners and hobbyists.  That’s great and it’s how many long time users started.  Beginners don’t stay newbies very long if they stick with the product.  Soon enough they get past the initial learning curve and figure out how to ask the questions they couldn’t even formulate before and this is where the experience sometimes falls apart for many Real Studio users.

It feels sometimes that RS is solely interested in getting new users (and hobbyists at that).  New users are not a bad thing (in fact they are critical to any company).  However, isn’t retaining existing customers even more important?  You’ve already done the hard work in getting them to buy into the platform.  All you have to do is find the way to get them to stick with the product and ideally find ways to get them to upgrade to a higher priced product.

The Personal license is so cheap it’s practically giving it away at $99.  The Professional version is $299 so for every Professional license you have to get three Personals.  The Enterprise Edition is $995 so for every one Enterprise license you need ten Personal licenses.  Now, I don’t know what the renewal rate is among the licenses but I would suspect that Pro and Enterprise users renew more often Personal license users.  I know from a business standpoint my toolset is part of the cost of doing business so why NOT keep upgrading until I no longer use the tool?

My point is that Pro users are valuable and Enterprise users should be the most valued customers.  Instead, many of us feel abandoned for a variety of reasons.  As an Enterprise user I really like being able to use Web Edition, and use the product on all three platforms.    IDE Scripting, Build Automation are nice, but I could live without them.  I use the Profiler maybe once a year so it’s a feature that is wasted on me.  What makes the Enterprise edition worthy being an Enterprise product?  What are the compelling features for people to upgrade to Enterprise?  Not much at this point.

I’ve been doing this for ten years and I’ve been asking for the same things over and over again:  a grid component, a calendar control, date and time controls, less flickering in Windows, and finally reporting.  I lobbied hard for reporting and I feel like a fool for doing so since the reporting tool in Real Studio isn’t what I need (nor can use).  Instead I feel like I got a checkmark on a marketing page.

Granted, there are alternatives to many of the things I mentioned.  That’s not the point.  Instead of giving me the things I could use, today, in selling the product to my clients, I’m getting a new User Interface that will probably have some major bug when introduced that will make it less than ideal to use.  Did I ask for a new UI?  No.  I could think of a dozen things I’d like to see BEFORE a new UI comes down the pike.

So my hope for 2012 is some focus on features that Pro and Enterprise users need.  You can debate all day long on what those features are but the fact no one from RS has ever seriously asked me (or any other pro developer that I know of) what I need.  That says what they are focusing on instead.  Perhaps with some true Enterprise features more people would purchase Enterprise.

Well, but then again, I’m a long time Enterprise user and probably a bigger pain to support than those ten Personal licenses.  Happy coding!

16 thoughts on “Beginners Don’t Stay Beginners Very Long

  1. Hi Bob,

    I have been laughing out loud while reading your latest blog post – you seemed to start out telling some critics off and defending RS but then got into your own little diatribe 😉

    That being said I too would like to see a Grid control – the ListBox is far too limiting with only 64 columns.

    I’m a long time user myself (since 2003) and while I appreciate that REALbasic enables me to do things I could not do in C or any other language, I now find that I run into too many roadblocks. I’m not a programmer by training but a biologist, and in all these years I have progressed to “advanced beginner” at best (my main job is still biology after all, and months may go by without me finding any time to do programming). There are programming concepts that I do not understand (still don’t get the point of delegates), and there are probably workarounds for bugs which are open to an experienced programmer that I wouldn’t ever think about.

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? I shouldn’t have to. Basic controls and classes like MoviePlayer, Drawer, StyledText, etc should work – but they do not or only in a limited fashion (try StyledText with German umlaute or french accents – see )

    Yes, I’m fully aware that RS is in a transition from Carbon to Cocoa, and I fully agree that they should concentrate their resources on getting Cocoa ready. But let me give one example:

    I used MoviePlayer for a biggish project for a university. Unfortunately MoviePlayer is so badly broken (just search feedback for MoviePlayer) that it urned out to be a show stopper. Now if I were a better programmer I might be able to do something with a Canvas and declares – but I am not. After over 2 years of complaining RS actually indirectly admitted that MoviePlayer is unusable under carbon but promised it for the next release of Cocoa, and they extended my Enterprise subscription (which would run out next month) slightly so that I can use that release.

    Problem solved? Well, not really. From everything I heard EditableMovie will be removed – you will only be able to play movies! Which for me would mean that the functionality I rely on is not just broken but will be completely absent.

  2. @Markus Winter
    Well, it is my blog so it’s my prerogative to tell the critics off, defend RS, and then go off on my own diatribe. 😛

    Seriously though, I feel like I’m a broken record. The things that bugged me 10 years ago still bug me today. So it must be me.

  3. Markus Winter :
    …RS actually indirectly admitted that MoviePlayer is unusable under carbon…

    This is news to me; we use the MoviePlayer on all three platforms. We don’t use the editing functionality, though.

    Bob Keeney :
    Seriously though, I feel like I’m a broken record. The things that bugged me 10 years ago still bug me today. So it must be me.

    It’s not just you.

  4. I don’t think recognising that REALstudio has some bugs is a bad thing, that’s fine. Talking about them is fine. What I think (and maybe what Bob was talking about) was those people who search the forum looking for threads that they can inject how bad REALbasic is. There is no point in that, it helps no one.

    A grid control and date picker surely are some basic controls, it is sad that we don’t have those.

    Now as for one user being treated differently than another. I may change my mind, but I think it has some merit. I hate to say one person is not as important as another but lets put it another way… Should a person who uses REALbasic a few days out of the month get the same amount of attention of someone who uses REALbasic 10 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, 12 months out of the year? That said, maybe one should look at it that way per feature requestions. In regards to a bug, well, a bug is a bug, it doesn’t matter who reports it, IMHO.

  5. Beginners usually stay beginners because they don’t need to learn more of Realbasic for what they want/need to do. Professionals learn and grow.

    Regarding the stuff that you miss in Realbasic: Grid and calendar controls are available. For a professional there are 2 solutions. You either buy the missing functionality you need or you do it yourself. Problem solved. Next one please.

    For the reporting I have to agree with you 100%. I’m sure that the pdf functionality that is already scheduled will be similar 🙂 .

  6. My only quibble with your rant is implying that hobbyists are beginners. I have the commercial enterprise license and don’t program for a living. And no, I’m not rich. I work in the public school system in a non-tech related position.

    I think you’re dead on in most of your assessments. From past blogs and listserv comments:

    1. RS fixes stuff that impacts them. Awesome. I wish more stuff impacted them.
    2. Debugger. Ghastly.
    3. Database thingy/helper Just say no. Don’t use it.
    4. Debugger. Yes again. Seriously, it’s a mess. RB5.5.5 was much more intuitive.

  7. Ditto on the Debugger, I just put temp variables when I want to look at a value. I have no idea where I am in that debugger most of the time, I simply can’t find anything that I want when I want. Where I think Real goes off the rails is the number of things they have their mitts in at any one time. Great product, just needs a little “focus”.

  8. @Joseph
    Forgive the lumping together of hobbyists and beginner. I realize that not all hobbyists are beginners but a lot are. But I think the point is that long term users seem to get a cold shoulder from RS.

  9. Interesting post. I am somewhat new to RealBASIC. I have been a professional programmer for over 25 years of my life and counting. I have recently got interested in cross-platform development and mobile development which led me to look at RB a couple of times. I own a professional license but I have never done anything with it. Sad.

    It seems that there are some issues around RB and it’s product. I am not going to get into any kind of wars with anyone but I have noticed the same issues that people are mentioning here.

    It seems that Delphi and Adobe are making very large strides into the mobile and cross-platform areas recently. It would bode well if RB would start paying more attention to its users and such before something happens.

    I am currently using Flash Builder with Air and Flex at work to develop applications on. At home I am still using native Windows and native OS X development along with some Java.

  10. Thank you. One of the main things that disturbs me about RB is it seems like we, the users, are the actual beta testers for things that should be working when we put our hard-earned money down on the table. I also am not a fan of the reporting or the lack of some of the common controls mentioned here (ie. date control). Their software sale/license model is something that I am not use to but I understand it. I also think that they should cater more toward professional and enterprise users (I am not an enterprise user by any means).

    All things being said, I am sure that I will find a useful need for RB in the very near future as I begin my quest to convert one of my VB6-coded shareware applications to work on Mac and Windows.

  11. Hi Bob,
    My experience in the use of RealStudio may be of interest.
    I started using RealStudio in Jan. 2011 as an option for modernising my VB6 software (sold online). I have been able to reproduce all the functionality of my VB6 software.

    However, as I advised RealSoftware in Oct. 2011, RS is very poor in handling iterative intensive work. On VB6 the compiled program takes 51 seconds to run a 20 day building thermal simulation. The same data file on the Real Studio compiled (built) version takes 18+ minutes. (Testing is done on a Win XP SP3, 3.06 GHz PC with VB6 and Real Studio 2011r3). Individual sections of code have been measured for the number of iterations to be sure that there were no problems in the RS version and that the comparisons were fair.

    RealSoftware replied the next day indicating that their upcoming move to the LLVM compiler will probably help ‘my speed needs’ since, although the current compiler is optimized in some areas, LLVM is optimized in a lot more. Here’s hoping!

    Unfortunately I have not found a work around!!

    • Hi Allan,
      RS’ answer is crap. I would be bet that there are some ways to optimize your code. I’ve never had RB code that couldn’t be optimized to be faster than equivalent VB6 code.

      RB does some things way better/faster but only if you know the tricks which come with experience. If you want to contact me offline I’d be willing to talk to you about it.

  12. @Bob Keeney
    Not sure I’d characterize the answer as “crap”.
    Less than complete perhaps.
    There are many you can do by hand currently if you know what you’re doing.
    LLVM should allow the compiler to do a lot of optimizations that you, the developer, have to do by hand currently. And it should enable the compiler to do some that you can’t do by hand (register level optimizations)
    Some of this is already in place for RBScript (which is using LLVM already)

  13. Or the other way you can try this out today is to put things into RBScripts – they already use LLVM.
    You can set up a script with your calculation, properties to hold or return values & then the code in the script is compiled using LLVM.
    Call the run event & let it rip.

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