I agree with what you are implying about the ‘downward spiral’, Simon, but if experience has taught me one thing, it is that hoping for the ‘enthusiasts’ to foot the bill rarely works. People who use the program a lot (like myself) usually tend to greatly overestimate the number of users x the number willing to endure conditions x the number willing to continue once they smell blood in the water x the likelihood of jumping ship for a better option. It’s kind of a ‘Drake Equation’ that greatly surprises you with the incredible unlikelihood of a desirable outcome.
Another breadcrumb to put it into perspective…Dynalist personnel have stated (as of a year ago in a previous thread) that they have ‘more than 25,000 users’. Even subtracting the ‘paid users total’, which is probably far smaller than the amount of free licenses, simple math of that number multiplied by the cost per month tells you that it isn’t a lot of money if you are spending the majority of that on another product’s development. Unfortunate, but perhaps realistic. If I had to guess, I would guess that the number of paid users is no more than 1/5th of the number of free users, and even that seems very generous.
As I wrote my comment I was broadly thinking the same, I can definitely find reasons to doubt my own strategy. But on the other hand, it might not need such a huge investment. If your suggestion of 5000 paid users is correct, $100 from each is not insignificant. And if only 50% took up the offer that might still be enough to swing it.
I suspect that the bigger issue is that @Erica has less time available and is spread thinner than she was.
reminders, Siri integration and other items have been talked about
you can add stuff to dynalist via siri using IFTTT webhooks
you can do reminders using the google calendar sync and then set google calendar to notify/email x hours before each “event”
if…5000 paid users is correct, $100 from each
I haven’t seen even 100 pro users in the forums and discord…if we are wildly guessing, my guess is $5000/yr revenue - $3000/yr expenses = what two versatile SWEs take home at any tech company every day or two. In other words, hobby money. A learning project that paid for itself if your time is free. A little startup that didn’t take off or get acquired but everyone loves. But again, a wild guess, and should matter anyway. I have no clue. I just thought the 5000 x $100 guess sounded funny.
Using a third party solution is always more complex than a native solution, and the lack of those feature, whether available by third-parties, is in part what this thread was about. Time delays make IFTTT webhooks a bit unpredicable. While I admit that what you mentioned, BigChungus, is possible, the vast majority of users aren’t interested in all that linking and multi-application cooperation. Obviously, you are someone to whom that type of workflow is familiar, as am I. I had given up on getting Siri voice integrated so I wrote a dotnet executable that sits on another computer and ‘scrapes’ my siri-generated reminders immediately from an exchange server, looking for the words “in dynalist” and emails those to my DL inbox. But realizing that I had to do all that, and that it was subject to every glitch in gmail, security changes, apple iOS reminder changes and the like proved to be very annoying. To paraphrase Apple, I want it to just work so I can do what I need and not write all the ‘glue’ and maintain it. That, I believe, is what we pay for, and hope for in our suggestions and comparisons with other applications on these forums and trello.
@BigChungus, you are probably correct in guessing that 5000 users is on the high side (I was erring on the side of optimism and probably shouldn’t have). But, if what you suggest is true, and an application is a ‘hobby’, then don’t you think when large suggestions (and volumes of suggestions) are made by users that the devs should hint that “that’s never going to happen”, or isn’t very likely to manage expectations? Perhaps over optimistic goals on company management are the cause, but I’ve never been a fan of the marketing concept of “the illusion of progress”. You are also likely correct as to your guesses about Erica and she has eluded to as much in other threads. I respect that, and the limited time people sometimes have due to personal constraints and commitments. But to be honest, I’m not certain I would have moved from Workflowy to Dynalist if I’d realized it was (more or less) a two person operation.
I also agree with what you stated about Workflowy. I chuckled when you mentioned ‘having to bully’ Jesse about features. I was a user of Workflowy for some time until their development tapered off and pretty much stopped. I don’t consider going back to Workflowy lightly. To be honest, although I work on all platforms I prefer Windows and would move to OmniFocus in a heartbeat if they had a Windows version. Unfortunately (for me) that company is dedicated heart and soul to the Apple ecosystem.
There are surprisingly few good, multiplatform cloud-based outliners out there besides Dynalist and Workflowy as they rapidly bury themselves in features and development overhead. Either that, or they fall victim to what I call the “Adobe Effect”, where instead of charging a flat fee rope you in with subscriptions and slow development, guaranteeing nothing and severing the need to push new feature in order to encourage users to upgrade every year or so. It is a shame that that very marketplace doesn’t seem to have enough market share to spawn a (relatively) simple outliner that can support its own continued development and pay the salaries of enough employees to sustain itself in a stable fashion.
I think you should work on where your passion is and where you can support your family. But I agree that it does sound a bit like it’s the beginning of the end for Dynalist. I hope it isn’t though, it’s definitely one piece of software that I just keep using. Obsidian sounds great and i’ve tried using it but it’s nowhere close to Dynalist for ease of use to just get shit down and be organised, whether I’m on my laptop or my mobile. I guess I can’t complain, I only pay for Pro when I’m really busy and want the features, but I would keep paying if I felt it had a future.
Dynalist is a far more unique value proposition than Obsidian. There are only a handful of usable, maintained, cross platform, cross device outliners & Dynalist is the best by far. Roam may have a grander vision, but their usability & rate of progress particularly on mobile leaves a lot to be desired.
I would like to add some support to Erica and the team. I use Dynalist everyday and find it invaluable. It follows the Einstein adage that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler .”
There is a real risk that we overcomplicate things and loose sight of the utility that Dynalist already provides. I have looked at other products in the sector and I am reminded why I chose Dynalist in the first place. I am sticking with it and would be happy to help/contribute if I can.
I totally agree with these sentiments. Dynalist is the best outliner bar none. I can understand, though, how @Erica feels that the tech is dated being 6+ years old and a total rewrite of the code base is probably necessary. As such, we probably shouldn’t expect any massive updates as a strategic decision will need to be made sooner or later on if this will happen and if there is any connection with the Obsidian development.
While I would love to see more bells and whistles in Dynalist, it is a mature and perfectly acceptable (and brilliant) tool to use and I am happy to be a premium member. Let’s see how things develop with OIbsidian over the next few months as there may be some investment on that side of things that may necessitate a rewrite of Dynalist 2.0. Exciting times
@Erica: congrats on your baby! Don’t worry, the time sink will ease up in… about 20 years.
Please don’t make the mistake of rewriting Dynalist from scratch. I once made a similar mistake myself, and it hurt, but if you don’t believe me, read:
Dynalist may have ugly bits that you can see because you wrote it - but that’s true of all programs. And it even has some lumpy parts from a user perspective: markdown editing on mobile kind of sucks because the text field changes size when editing, causing occasional loss of context. You’ve commented on this yourself - it’s an almost impossible feature to change in a running product with users. But any software of real depth has lumpy bits that users deal with because the value provided exceeds the frustrations. Dynalist is actually pretty close to perfect, has a low frustration index, and is more usable and powerful than most tools in its category.
Just saying, if you start a whole-cloth rewrite, you probably won’t finish it, the result won’t be Dynalist, but something else that might annoy your existing users, and you’ll run the risk of burning out (burnout sucks). From what you’ve said, your impulse to redo it stems from frustration that early design decisions are preventing it from evolving into what you dream it could be. But it already IS something great, and there’s not much else like it. It would be better to do nothing - you’ve already made a fantastically useful tool. In a way, it’s done - people can decide whether they want to pay for it or not. If you can only make small changes and fixes going forward, that’s actually fine.
There’s an asymptote involved too. As a codebase becomes more complete and more complex, it gets harder to add new features, because anything you add might break something. So, big time regression testing becomes necessary. That tires everyone out, even when it’s automated (hard to do anyway). You know this, of course. But what you might not see is that even if you completely rewrote Dynalist using everything you’ve learned, you’d be back in the same spot in a few years. It would be just as hard to add new features, regression testing would still be needed and would still be annoying. Humanity hasn’t solved these problems - it’s just the nature of complex things.
Others have mentioned that Dynalist seems to simply suffer from insufficient marketing, and I would tend to agree. I’m not a business person, but for someone with those skills, Dynalist is an opportunity. You’re a brilliant development team with a great product and not enough paying users; that’s an old story, and it’s exactly what marketers are looking for. As long as everyone is aligned and fully understands the value of the product, that should be a solvable problem. More users would provide money to address the scaling issues. Of course, then you’d have other “nice to have” problems, like finding and keeping good developers who understand the code you wrote!
I understand the need for beta testers, and I’m officially volunteering. I’ve flagged bugs for you in the past, and have years of programming and testing experience. Happy to help, and I’m sure others here would be as well. That’s not a scalable solution, but you aren’t really operating at scale anyway, so even a few itinerant testers would be useful!
Good luck with Obsidian too. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will…
Totally agreed with James. Joel is also a guru of mine.
But I guess one has to do its own experiences… we have to face reality guys. That’s the risk we take when we opt for an indie app. I wrote somewhere, months ago, exactly about this risk, something I decided to take, and here we are.
Personally, I like Dynalist so much; but I need some features, like mirroring for example, that would dramatically improve my workflow. Now that I know it won’t coming soon or at all, I have to seriously consider other options.
It’s funny talking about rewrites. I think Workflowy’s rewrite was why Dynalist exists. Workflowy lacked basic features for years and years with no real updates, and I jumped ship to Dynalist. Both were projects from people straight out of school. My friend was actually on the phone with Jesse’s old teacher yesterday. Jesse made Workflowy straight out of his dev bootcamp. I could ask what tech stack he used. I think Ruby on Rails etc. But he paused development for years to hire a more experienced software developer to rewrite things from scratch, with the goal of enabling a lot of new features to be possible all at once. Maybe it will be worth it, and Dynalist will be remembered as a stopgap solution in the meantime. But boy it cost way more time and money than anyone would have expected.
Named after the Japanese pick-up-sticks game where you have to figure out the best order to remove the sticks to get to the one you want, but applying the advantages of modern software dev tools: version control and test driven development. Basically you try a change, and if it didn’t work out (because of complex interactions), revert, figure out the complication, eliminate that complication (supported by tests confirming nothing broke), and try the change again.
In this way, software never gets worse, and always gets better, including the structure of the code behind it. It’s scalable even to something as complex as retooling the architecture to let it incorporate some code developed in a different product (Obsidian).
Congrats on your new baby and thanks for the honest feedback. I am a Dynalist Pro subscriber and an Obsidian VIP supporter. A few thoughts:
As a fellow coder (data scientist), I totally understand when a code base ceases to be fun- that being said, from a user perspective, Dynalist is rock solid, choke full of thoughtful interface design decisions, and fills a use case that Obsidian does not address. I am actively using both at the same time- Dynalist for outlining and organizing information, Obsidian for more long form work.
I hope that it is at least fully maintained until you have the bandwidth to actively develop again or maybe its feature set is fully subsumed into obsidian (Obsidian pro?).
Another thought is that at least in my case, I signed up quickly for Obsidian precisely because of how much I liked Dynalist- so I wonder if Obsidian’s rapid uptake is at least due to the good will built up on the Dynalist side.
Ahhh I know nothing can live forever but I really hope dynalist doesn’t close down anytime soon - I tried workflowy out and it was HORRIBLE [drama emoji]. You can’t send things to places, what?? how do I, what??? When zoomed in you can’t move to the next sibling, what?? I have to zoom out and then click the next one?? Madness … So many other limiting things — My brain can’t accept these things it is so used to flowing through Dynalist it’s like having my arms chopped off. Gosh we had such a flurry of incredibly responsive development to our needs for a year or two, Dynalist might not have the bells and whistles of Roam but the basic usability is SO good! I really hope you guys can fall in love with it again
PS. I have started using (free) Obsidian for my knowledge databases (the stuff I want to keep perhaps for my whole life), moving them from (pro, just renewed for the year) dynalist which now seems like a silly place to keep such long term things, so I don’t mind paying for the development of that a bit
PPS. I also really agree that if Dynalist doesn’t have that many users it’s because not enough people have tried it i.e. the word hasn’t gotten out enough, not because the product wouldn’t have wide appeal
Obsidian is not for me, until it has a true outline mode that works with markdown but behaves like Dynalist, and also had a good mobile app, and wysiwyg editing. I can tolerate a tiny bit of markdown typing such as Dynalist uses, but not as much as Obsidian has.
I tried all the other outliners out there but Dynalist was the only one with both good mobile and desktop experience.
I agree I can’t imagine managing my life in anything other than an outliner with zoom capability anymore (and a workable mobile app)
The stuff I’ve put in Obsidian are things like my notes on papers and books which I need for my work. If Dynalist dies it is really easy to transfer any text notes via OPML (PS you can actually paste the OPML code straight into Workflowy and it magically works!), however images are the real problem (I take extensive screenshots of sections of papers / books etc when making notes). These are stored on the dynalist servers, and cannot be easily transferred to other platforms. The easiest (but not easy) way is to open the image in a web browser then right click, copy the image, paste it into e.g. powerpoint, then copy and paste it from there - OR just take a screenshot of the image. I would hope if Dynalist dies that they will give us a way to easily transport notes with images, but it might be technically tricky, so my notes with images that I want to keep long term are the one thing I’m not longer going to store in Dynalist to future proof myself
images are the real problem (I take extensive screenshots of sections of papers / books etc when making notes). These are stored on the dynalist servers, and cannot be easily transferred to other platforms.
Make images publicly viewable in settings. It’s unlikely anyone will find them, given the would need to guess a very complex URL to find it.