Poll: Product activation in the garden of good and evil

Now, I’m not convinced of that. I like poking into programs to crack them for fun, without expecting my attempts to succeed and always being rather surprised the times they do work. (Reinstalling works great.)

But I don’t share my results. So I doubt the ones who share their cracked results are focused on the fun of it.


My thought when I saw the activation window?

About time. :mrgreen:

I’d like to participate but can’t remember activating 1.52. :unamused: All I remember was the database (or something) updating.

Setting aside the surprise factor, I think my negative reaction to the activation was because it seemed to put me into some continuing relationship with eSellerate and I do not like eSellerate.

I have disliked eSellerate ever since I discovered that buying something through them put eSellerate stuff on my Mac without my permission–stuff which is meant to stay there even after the purchase is complete. That sort of thing bothers me. So, I was not happy that Scrivener suddenly wanted to phone home to eSellerate. (I also had to wonder if the sudden activation thing was a result of my having thrown out eSellerate’s little file encampment on my Mac back when!)

Thus, activation elicited a certain distaste.

Not a deal breaker or anything – Scrivener is far too valuable – just another report from the field.


P.S. While I understand the thinking that leads the Evil One to think otherwise, I doubt that activation will make any positive difference to your bottom line. But do you have a real way of knowing if it does or will your commitment to activation always be an article of faith? Hmm.


While I am “used” to the phone home stuff for work, Greg’s points regarding eSellerate’s unapproved install does bear consideration. Those of us to strive to “keep our systems clean” find this kind of thing a tad distasteful, if only for the invasiveness.

Again, not an incrimination of Scriv or your motives, but a reflection of the abuse some of us have suffered at the hands of other companies.

Hi Greg,

I’m not sure why you dislike eSellerate just because they put a file on your system; in fact, really, it’s Scrivener that does that. When you launch Scrivener, Scrivener installs the eSellerate framework onto your machine. With activation, there is also an activation file. But both of these things are installed into legitimate places on your Mac; inside folders that Apple have set up for exactly this kind of thing. Many other apps do far worse. For instance, some apps install items into your contextual menus without asking you permission, and they are hell to remove (this is why I’ll never install Spell Catcher again). And many programs, in an effort to prevent users from circumventing their trial periods, install very-difficult-to-find hidden files on your system, containing information about your trial start date (Scrivener doesn’t do this). eSellerate’s installation of certain files makes sense, too - a number of programs use eSellerate, so having one centralised area for the eSellerate engine (rather than storing it within the application itself) makes it easier to keep up to date.

But most importantly, were it not for eSellerate and companies like them, small software companies such as L&L would be in a lot of trouble. If I didn’t use eSellerate, I would have to write my own serial number validation scheme, handle credit card transactions myself, ensure I pay VAT or sales tax to all the relevant authorities in all the appropriate countries, come up with a discount or coupon scheme, create my own secure web store and… Well, you get the idea; I wouldn’t have much time left for Scrivener. Moreover, they provide superb and fast support (even on a weekend) to the very few users who have problems with their engine or site, which helps us look good. It pains me a little to hear eSellerate criticised for things like this, just because they have been absolutely wonderful for us (I met one of their reps, Skip, and a couple of their support guys at Macworld this year, and they were all intelligent, enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of web stores and serial number schemes etc).

So, that’s my defence of eSellerate. :slight_smile:

Thanks and all the best,

Hi Jaysen,

Please see my cross-posted reply to Greg above, but also bear in mind that Scrivener has installed the eSellerate framework to users’ systems since its very first 1.0 release; nothing has changed in this regard with the activation process.


Not arguing with you, or Greg. It is the very behavior of other systems that you use in defense of eSellerate that irks folks. While eSellerate/Scriv is less intrusive it is still unexpected for those that suddenly see a new folder for an app they did not authorize.

Again, I completely support your philosophy and actions to date. I have no personal objections to eSellerate or your implementation of activation. I do understand the sentiments of folks who don’t like finding unexpected “stuff” on their system. It is a fine line to walk and you provide an excellent example of considering the customer view while walking this line.

Now get back to work on 2.0.

Hi, Keith,

I appreciate what you are saying. Ah, but you did ask for our gut reactions, eh? Bound to turn up all kinds of (perhaps irrational) feelings/attitudes that the new activation brought up.

If eSellerate is a middle-man that facilitates a financial exchange between us, then my common sense expectation is that I am done with those people at the end of the financial transaction. So, when the purchase is over and done, it is only natural to wonder why the middle man has established some turf on my machine–is it still /doing/ something? If the answer is yes, then I worry what it is. If the answer is no, then what is it there for? My love and trust of Scrivener does not automatically transfer over to this eSellerate.

Speaking of feelings… I think if they didn’t have such a low-rent name, you know? ‘eSellerate’. Maybe it is the word ‘Sell’ in there. Like when they named that outfit they were just thinking of pitching themselves to people who sell things. But from a buyer’s perspective it just creeps me-- sounds so like someone who is going to sell you out somehow…*

No beef here, just indulging in conversation…because, of course, I have a submission deadline tomorrow and this is much more pleasant to think about.


  • Compare to ‘Kagi’ which just doesn’t ring any bells with me, or ‘PayPal’–I mean who wouldn’t want to pay a pal??

That’s extremely well put.

Hi Greg,

I see what you mean about the name; I’d never really thought twice about it, to be honest, other than it being a bad pun on “accelerate”. But the truth is that eSellerate - and Kagi or any similar company - is much more than just a middle man, as the unfortunate few who are experiencing activation problems at the moment (most of which will hopefully be fixed in 1.53 today) will tell you. eSellerate have been providing these users with fast and friendly support and have been resolving their issues. The developer really enters into a sort of partnership with such companies. In return for taking a small-ish cut, they provide a serial number scheme and sales portal, and these things really go further than just the sales point. What if you lose your serial number? eSellerate provides a way to retrieve it. How can Scrivener know if you’re registered or not? Only through the eSellerate engine.

I think what annoys me about gut reactions against eSellerate is that eSellerate is so good. Users never get “we’ll get back to you replies” from their support, but human replies with a solution, and in 98% of cases, on the same day. Their service allows indie developers such as myself to get on with what we should be doing - working on the program itself and supporting users - so that the developer doesn’t spend his life fixing serial number problems, worrying about piracy, filling in tax forms, working out percentages and dealing with credit card companies. Big companies can roll their own solutions for this sort of thing and employ accountants and so forth, but an indie developer trying to do all this him- or herself is risking inadvertently breaking the laws of several countries, private data of users, and time for future development. Without a service such as eSellerate, I simply could not have got Scrivener out there in January 2007, I could not have made money out of it or turned it into a full-time job, and I would be nowhere near a 2.0 right now. You really can’t overestimate how important services such as eSellerate are to indie developers, and complaining about a couple of extra files your machine (which, as I say, are not in hidden locations but are all in legitimate folders that the OS expects to be used in such a way; expecting programs never to install anything anywhere else is a little unreasonable if understandable) is a bit like complaining that your girlfriend’s feet are ugly. (At least, I think that works; I’ve never been very good at similes.)

Go take a look in your ~/Library/Application Support folder or your /Library/Application Support folder. Take a look in your ~/Library/PDF Services folder, you ~/Library/Preferences folder, your /Library/Frameworks folder. You will find hundreds of files and applications that applications have installed without your knowing, some of which you only installed once, not because the programs are trying to be malicious but simply because applications are complicated things and often need to create other files in order to work properly, or to save the user from constantly having to re-set up everything every time the program is launched.

Anyway, that’s my continued opinion on it, and all of the above isn’t intended as a moan at you (not at all) but just in the spirit of continued discussion. I hope this helps to distract you from your submission deadline. :slight_smile:

All the best,

P.S. I hate the name PayPal! That’s half the reason I refuse to use the service if I can use other means of payment. It just sounds so… MS Clippy. “Hi! It looks like you want to pay something! I’m your pal!” F*** off, I’m not a retard!!! Etc.

A psychology text-book which I have in front of me (Eysenck & Keane, Cognitive Psychology, Psychology Press) comments in its section on Decision-Making “At one time it was assumed that people behave rationally, and so select the best option … In fact, people’s choices and decisions are often decided by factors other than simply utility” p. 494. It goes on to describe work by Tversky and Kahneman that shows evidence that people are “more sensitive to potential losses than potential gains”. They will even take greater risks to avoid losses than they will to make gains. Tetlock has also done a lot of work on the influence of emotion and social pressures on decision making, and shows that being able to justify a decision to people around us will have a large effect on our choices. The basic message would seem to be that rationality doesn’t figure half as strongly in our decisions as we would like to think.


Martin BB.

Hi Keith

I think there’s a certain confidence in your reply here which is an ongoing frustration for me as a paying customer of Scrivener.

You are convinced enough that eSellerate is good that you’re prepared to italicise the fact even when the users say that their experience is, well, not good. Personally, I find eSellerate confronting. So your perspective is not only untrue (goodness is in the eye of the beholder - enough other people have found it confronting), but it is simply not good customer relations.

Similarly, when there is a frustration about the Scrivener paradigm or feature set that you don’t agree with, you often respond with a variation on well, that’s not how it was designed, so like it or lump it.

Personally, I don’t really care which direction you go with the software - as you often point out, it is yours after all, you have limited resources and I’m really grateful for your contribution to helping me rethink the possibilities of the computer-based writing process. I’d really love it if it became the perfect tool for me (for example, by allowing bold, italics and headers to be included in your repertoire of “writing” rather than “formatting” features), but after enough time in the forums I accept that it probably won’t. Perhaps something else better for me comes along before Scriv 2.0 (can’t imagine that one of the many undersubscribed word processors aren’t watching your work and would steal your paradigm) and I jump ship, or maybe I don’t. In any case, the auteur methodology of the project means that I keep myself ready to move on.

I do hope, though, that you get a message that a number of users may not post regularly when something bothers them, particularly if they think it is an invitation to an argument with the developer. From my POV, these users could be the difference between Scrivener’s financial sustainability or lack thereof for you as a developer, but that’s your call.

If I were in your shoes, I’d probably try and be less of an advocate for your perspective on these boards, and be more of an anthropologist. But I accept that attitude may go against the things that led you to develop Scrivener in the first place :slight_smile:

All the best,


Well, I’m sorry that you don’t like my attitude, but - and here goes that confidence again - I think you will find that the majority of users will disagree with you, both those who post here and the many who don’t and with whom I communicate via e-mail on a daily basis. Also, if you take the time to look through the Wish List or Feedback sections of the forum, you will find that a lot of my responses consist of “that’s coming in 2.0” - because I have listened to customers and I have taken their feedback on board; 2.0 (and even Scrivener 1.52) would not be as good without customer feedback. Were I really so ingrained in the “auteur” methodology, there would be no “Wish List” or “Feedback” sections on the forum at all.

To be honest, I’m pretty upset as I write this. I do my damnedest to help users, to respond to every e-mail quickly and efficiently, to be present on the forums to help users, to fix bugs and make sure Scrivener works as best as it could; I frequently spend way more time than I should on this, working until midnight and beyond, and it is somewhat hurtful that someone can just come along and not just say they don’t like the software - which would be fair enough - but feel that they have the right to attack me personally.

I’m sorry that you think that developers do not have the right to disagree any customer. In the cases where I have put my foot down and said, “Look, that doesn’t fit with how Scrivener is meant to work,” often it’s because a somewhat forceful user hasn’t been able to take “no” for an answer. Or it’s because I genuinely don’t believe the suggestion has a place in the software, and I can’t really apologise for not implementing every suggestion, which would be both impossible and bloat the software to unusability. But perhaps you don’t believe developers should ever say “No” to a user suggestion? Perhaps you could write to Apple or Microsoft to see if they implement your every suggestion? I’m sorry, but good software isn’t created by putting everything and the kitchen sink into it. It is a constant balancing act of deciding what will work, what won’t, what will improve it, and what is possible - a major part of this is listening and responding to customer feedback (which is something I do, despite your claims to the contrary), but even so, no software can possibly be all things to all users; no matter what is implemented or improved, there will always be at least one user who wishes it was done differently or that there was something extra.

You say that I am definitively wrong about eSellerate, but I am only wrong in as much as you are. I haven’t heard many users say that their experience of eSellerate is not good - far from it. The only objections above were based on extra files being installed, which I was merely pointing out is common practice. And as I have explained above also, it is not just I who have had a good experience with eSellerate, but also any Scrivener customer who has had to go through them for something. If you have a different experience please do report it though. You will find certainly not find many indie developers who do not use eSellerate, Kagi, or something equivalent.

Finally, you say that you wish Scrivener would allow bold, italics and headers to be included - I’m really not sure what you mean by this given that bold and italics have always been part of Scrivener, as Scrivener is a rich text system. Headers can be included in prints and exports.

I’m not really sure what I’ve done to upset you, but I am also very sorry that you seem to dislike me so much that you hope someone else will steal all my ideas so that I am taught a lesson by losing my livelihood and you can jump ship. I am sure you will have gathered from my reply that your post has achieved its intended effect of thoroughly ruining my day.



Sometimes folks don’t think before they type. It is easy to see the “creator -> created” relationship between things like parent/kid, composer/symphony, author/book. Most folks don’t see the same “I love my creation” relationship as existing between developer/software. Software is perceived as a tool by most non-developers and it is easy for them to forget that the tool is as much a work of passion as anything else created by man. They expect customer service along the line of McDonalds, forgetting, especially in the case of the small market developer, that they are really dealing with an art house. Your level of service is as good as you hope, and your willingness to consider changes to “your baby” are examples of customer service that I wish I could get from folks to whom I write “2 comma” checks.

As to the previous post about the “extra files on disk” I would make 2 points. First: Yes, others do it. I don’t like it anymore with them than with scriv/eSellerate (for the record several of my prefered apps use esellerate). I tolerate it because I have to. If I can influence you to change that behavior … I can hope, right?

Second: There is more than just the existence of files. It is the implied “what are the files really there for” question. Coming from the side of compute systems that I do, this is an imperative question. I trust your answer. But, as with Greg, I don’t like the middle man being there. Will I live with it? Of course. Do I want to? No.

Once again, I will support whichever direction you choose to go relative to activation.

Hi Jaysen,

Thanks for your reply. The main thing with the extra files is that it’s sort of a necessary evil (I don’t really mean it’s evil, of course :slight_smile: ). There is only one extra file created by activation, but as it’s in Application Support, I don’t think it’s particularly bad (I know you and Greg disagree) just because the Application Support folder on OS X is designed for exactly this sort of use - for support files on which applications rely. But ever since version 1.0, Scrivener has always installed an extra eSellerate file on your Mac, as any other programs using eSellerate do. The same would happen were I using another middleman. What I was trying to explain (and failing), was that there isn’t any way I can change this behaviour. Not without becoming a one-man shop handling credit cards, serial number schemes etc myself, which would mean Scrivener 2.0 would arrive somewhere around 2020. And suppose I did take it all on board myself, my guess is that the solution I would come up with to enable certain checks would be… install some files in the Application Support folder! :slight_smile: Actually Scrivener already installs files in its own Application Support folder… If I understand you correctly, though, it’s not just the extra files but also the fact that they are extra files provided by a middleman rather than by the application you installed. So would it be better if the filenames had “Scrivener” in them rather than “eSellerate”? I ask only out of interest - I can’t change it.

The main point I have been trying to make, though, is that although users may - understandably - be suspicious of, or just plain dislike, extra files installed on their system, realistically it is unavoidable. Or, more importantly, companies such as eSellerate are “good” because they enable companies such as Literature & Latte to exist. (I support eSellerate because I know from experience that they don’t hold onto any more private details than they have to for the transaction and that they don’t use it maliciously, and I’ve met some of their team personally and discussed such issues in detail with them. I wouldn’t use them or expect customers of Scrivener to go through their systems if I didn’t trust them.) I certainly wouldn’t be giving away a smallish percentage of every sale to eSellerate unless I thought that what they enable me to do with Scrivener was more than worth it. But really, it just comes down to the fact that I could not have gotten Scrivener to where it is, and I could not have become a full-time developer, without sourcing out the serial number scheme and web store to a third party. I hope that make sense; I still don’t think I’m explaining it very well. The other user seems to think that my response to the eSellerate thing is me saying, “Tough, I don’t care about customers’ opinions, live with it.” But that’s not what I’m trying to get across at all. Rather, I’m trying to say that I could not be getting on with Scrivener or providing the support I am (despite his opinion) were it not for eSellerate’s system freeing me up from the sales+serials side of things. Software companies used to need capital, massive loans to start up, to hire staff and set up processes such as the ones eSellerate provide. It’s not a question of, “I don’t care, you’ll use any middleman I say buhaha,” but simply a case of “How do I survive any other way?”

Thanks again and all the best,

I thought I posted this elsewhere, but apparently not – if I’m repeating myself, I apologize (apologies as well for the language to come).

So, my two cents: Cent one: Seriously, in this instance, who fucking cares? Cent two: Those complaining about their consumer “rights” need to be consistent across the board.

Do the people who complain about this kind of security not go to book stores that have security sensors at the door? Because making customers pass through them is essentially “treating us like criminals”, no? Does the fact that I can use a rubber band to pop a security sensor off a pair of jeans mean that the clothing store doesn’t have the right to try to protect their merchandise (is that not the “you shouldn’t have security measures because they’re so easily defeated anyway” argument?)?

The other day I got my car washed, and had to give the guy a receipt before I could get my car back. That receipt had my name and the last four digits of my credit card number on it. I was essentially giving up a modicum of personal information in order to get back my own personal property. Should I stop going there? Is the car wash violating my rights? Do the people worried about their information being broadcast through a secure server also follow waitresses back to the credit card machine at a restaurant? (That is certainly your right, I guess. It’s also impractical, and kind of douchey.)

I think that the digitization of all sorts of transactions – financial, artistic, interpersonal – has mucked with our collective sense of entitlement. Sit us in front of a keyboard and all of a sudden we have all kinds of “rights” as a consumer that we never asserted when the transaction was in person.

My brother in law, who I like and respect, will tell me that downloading software he hasn’t purchased isn’t stealing, because he doesn’t deprive anyone else of having it. Bullshit. When someone steals a copy of Scrivener, he steals Keith’s time, effort, and his right to make a living. If Keith can no longer make economic sense of supporting Scrivener because too many people are getting it for free, then the pirates are stealing from all of us. By the same token, if Scrivener’s security messes me up, I have the right to not pay for 2.0 when it comes. But even there, what’s the definition of “messing me up”? Is my workflow so precious and inviolate that a few minutes of downtime when I’m registering the product suddenly becomes a disaster?

Sorry to be so strident about this, but it’s fucking crap. As a consumer, we have rights. But so does the community at large. Not all digital security is evil, just like not all digital copying is a crime. We can pretend that “we can do anything we want with something we paid for,” but that’s not even remotely true in the real world. I own my car. Where I live, I still need to register it, I still need to maintain it at a certain level, and – much as I really want one when I drive in L.A. traffic – I am prohibited from mounting a machine gun on the roof.

I now feel the urge to rant about the ways in which all of our new internet-y rights have led* to people bringing guns to presidential events, but I’ll leave it here. Thanks for bearing with me. Sorry I wrote fuck twice.

*OMG! I looked up led vs. lead online and my browser showed me ads for LED flashlights! Privacy rights… violated… Must… burn… hard drive…

I think that was three times. :slight_smile:

I hope neither Jaysen nor Greg - both of whom I have huge respect for and sincerely hope I have not inadvertently offended in the ongoing discussions - mind too much that I laughed like a drain at Mr Coffee’s rant. It’s the funniest thing I have read all week and has cheered me up no end. (Although I hope no one will take that as me saying they shouldn’t disagree… Ugh, I now feel I have to justify myself and over-explain that everyone is entitled to disagree etc. Dammit, I set up this thread just so people could express their disagreement!)

Sean, thank you. :slight_smile:

:open_mouth: :blush: :blush: :blush: :blush: :blush: :blush:


I understand your position. I am one of the votes for “I don’t mind” (#2 in your poll). As a corporate analyst/engineer/security type by trade I am painfully aware of how other companies manage their solutions to this problem. Many of which are terrible. I think your approach is as good as can be hoped for in today’s world.

This would be a good compromise point. This would make it easy to ID which program is really responsible for which files on the system. The problem comes in that I would not have 3 different eSellerate installs, each in its own program directory. For folks like me that isn’t a big deal, but it is terribly inefficient. What this does not address is the “middleman” aspect. As you clearly state, and I again acknowledge, there really isn’t a way for YOU to get around this problem. This is where Mr Coffee’s post comes into play.

Mr Coffee,

Re cent one: Lots of folks. Did you know that I get regular warnings from my security department about my internet usage? “We would like to make you aware that your IP address was used to access XXX on YYY. This access is deemed unsafe. Please contact ZZZZZ at #### to verify your system as not been compromised”. An automated check can be a VERY bad thing. I know your cent was more to the tune of the philosophical side of the argument, but sometimes the philosophic side is influenced by the practical.

Re cent two: Some of us try to be consistent. There are always points of compromise. I pay cash when I can. I bought Scriv with a CC. I don’t by media online. I go to a store and buy a disk (and exercise my right to copy to my personal usage method of choice). While KB’s decisions have been pretty innocuous there are numerous examples of folks making the same “it is harmless” claims where much harm was done. Remember the Sony root kit? There is legitimate concern.

But, the shock should be that I agree with you. KB’s explanations have been clear and detailed. His rationale and desire to vet the idea with the community are commendable. Why it has become such a heated topic is hard to understand. I guess some passions run deeper than others.

[size=70]If you were leveling the 2¢ at me I apologize for seeming to care more than I really do.[/size]