Better File Uploader, One Year Later

A few days ago I realized that one year ago I released version 2.0 of the Better File Uploader plugin for Movable Type. (And, actually, that was just over a year after releasing version 1.0.) My experience with the plugin has really been exciting, and in some ways I feel like it was the tinder for the business fire.

First, for those who don't know, a history lesson: Movable Type has a tool to help you upload files to your website--photos, audio, PDFs, whatever. It's very basic and very easy to use; if your needs are small it will do a fine job. More serious use, such as for photo galleries, will quickly lead to frustration. That frustration casued me to write an "alternate template" which I rewrote shortly thereafter as a simple little plugin to help choose some preferred options while uploading... and Better File Uploader was born. I decided to make it publicly available because there might be somebody else out there with the same need. That was September, 2005.

Little did I know, this was a need lots of people had. Over the course of the next few months I received a lot of feedback from people and released a number of feature and maintenance updates to my plugin. As my own needs grew and feedback continued to pour in, I decided the best way to proceed was to write a new version of Better File Uploader from the ground up. It was June, 2006, and version 1.x had been downloaded about 4,000 times.

In late-July, I felt I had fleshed out some ideas about how version 2 would work, as well as identified many necessary and desirable features. I started writing, learning more Perl and more about Movable Type than I expected to! By mid-October version 2 had seen several rounds of beta testing from a great, hand-picked base of about 65 people--almost all of them provided constant and regular feedback to all of my work! Documentation was a big task and took about 2-1/2 weeks, pushing the release to early November. I believe I spent about 300 hours (on nights and weekends) working on this project. At this point Better File Uploader 1.x had been downloaded over 8,000 times!

On November 8, 2006, I released version 2.0 of Better File Uploader. Version 1.x had been free and brought in a disappointing $30 in donations (remember, 8,000 downloads); I decided early on that I would charge for version 2.0 because of the breadth and quality of the plugin. Happily, people were willing to pay. The first month saw about 100 purchases of various licenses, though it wasn't tracked at all. From December 3, 2006 to November 12, 2007, there have been 302 purchases of various licenses. I'm not getting rich, but it's become a continuous stream of income. I've released a few maintenance and feature updates, and continued to improve the documentation.

Better File Uploader has led to a lot more than just dollars from sales, however. While working on the plugin I really was enjoying the had work it involved (despite what Sherree may tell you) and the eye-opening idea that this might become more than just a simple hobby--it was around this time that our website advertising began to really grow, and I felt I could see an exciting future with some side-income.

It didn't occur to me--at all--that I would pursue a career with Movable Type or related tools. It would be another 1/2-year before that realization.

In another six or twelve months I wonder what realization I'll have about the impact of what I'm doing today.

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