So here's a tough question: When you're creating your marketing, what do you do about competition?

I'll admit, I'm not in a position where it really matters yet. Other than dabbling in AdWords, I haven't really marketed. I'm probably going to start contacting review sites and folks that have written Markdown editor comparisons soon, but telling people why my widget is better than all the other widgets of the world isn't what's holding me back from internet fame. Though part of me does wonder if that isn't part of your press kit.

But at some point, isn't it a good thing to tell folks why you're better than your competition? We see that on TV all the freakin' time.

Tide vs. Gain project

(The irony of the above image? Both Gain and Tide are Procter and Gamble products. /sigh Still, it's a clever project someone performed in their dorm -- "If you leave two free containers of detergent, which do folks pick?" This is what happens when you search for "product comparison" images "with reuse", I suppose.)

Finding vs. exposing market fit

One of the things you need to do before you start making an application is to gauge product-market fit. I'll admit my fit measurement was a little spotty. I use Windows quite a bit, and was upset that the Markdown editor that I'd traditionally used hadn't been updated in months to maybe over a year when I started, and its live preview window was broken (as in no display at all) in Windows 10. But that same app had apparently sold enough units that its developer had rewritten the whole schmear at one point, hoping for even better future sales.

If I could get somewhere close to what that app interpreted as "enough cash that I should rewrite what I'm already doing to make real cash", I'd be pretty happy, even if that second level cash they'd hoped for wasn't there. That is, if I could create an asset that's good enough to bring in several thousand dollars a year -- plus is easily reusable for any number of apps and extensions -- that'd worth a few months' of time, right?

I did survey the state of Markdown editors before starting. It's actually, as far as I can tell, a much more crowded field on macOS. I'm not really sure why. I could guess it's because Markdown's inventor, John Gruber, runs an insanely popular Mac new blog, and there's spill-over. Or maybe having an elegant shorthand for HTML appeals to the same aesthetic as macOS. But at the same time, GitHub and StackOverflow's web interfaces both support Markdown entry, and there's nothing especially Mac-specific about either of those, even if you pretend that a disproportion number of programmers still use Macs (do they?). And every time I turned around, people publishing to the web, from readmes to blogs, were praising Markdown, releasing tutorials, and writing "Intro to Markdown" posts.

If you could get anything close to a Mac-sized following for Markdown on Windows (so even a much lower percentage of total users, just with a similar total number of users) and sell to the folks that actually depend on a decent editor to get their work done, I figured you'd be doing fairly well.

The state of Markdown editors on Windows is pretty sad. The one I used, as I mentioned, seems abandoned. The Windows Store is full of Markdown editors, but they're usually freeware and, honestly, bad. I've found a few crossplatform apps that are okay-ish, but don't feel like something I'd use if my publishing life depended on them.

Then I found an editor that has a pretty neat website and boasts a ton of features, from tables to fully customized themes to automatic outlining. And I tried its demo. Ugly, difficult to use, poor UI, and so buggy that I felt it was unusable.

Cheeky comparisons

But how do you get the fact that your competition stinks (in many ways) across to people looking for an app? Simply be good and let people find you? That's classy, but also almost certainly doesn't maximize profit.

Yet isn't it too cheeky to make a flowchart detailing what's broken?


MultiMarkdown Table Support

Some free app


The old abandoned app

Paid only, but, um, abandoned without working live preview on Win10

Allegedly feature-rich, well advertised app

Unusably buggy


Heck yes!

With names, that seems like it'd be in really bad taste. But part of my selling point is that you're wasting your time just trying out these other apps. If it takes 15-30 minutes to read through a marketing site, download, install, and test out an app just to find out it's crud, that's offensive. Our most valuable asset is usually time. I'd like to think MarkUpDown is worth the money already just in the time it'll save you from searching up a competent editor.

Setting a classy example

At the same time, look how friendly Daniel Jalkut was to John Saddington when Desk came out for macOS.

From On the Shoulders of Giants – John Saddington:

I saw this tweet this morning via Daniel Jalkut and my heart skipped a beat:

MarsEdit has a new competitor in @deskpm. Lots of 5-star reviews, looks like they got some important things right!

— Daniel Jalkut (@danielpunkass) November 12, 2014

For those that are unaware, Daniel is behind the most-famous MarsEdit app (he acquired in back in 2007) and has made it the “king” of desktop publishing apps. It is a robust and more than capable offering and if Desk isn’t the right fit for you then you should definitely check it out!

The thing that was so amazing, though, was that he didn’t come out “guns blazing” and tear me and my small indie app a new one. He could have, if he had wanted to, and totally laid me out but he choose to really tweet a very encouraging set of tweets:

@DeskPM @adamspelbring I sincerely miss the days when there were more competitors, so I am always inspired to see newcomers on the scene.

— Daniel Jalkut (@danielpunkass) November 12, 2014

I can also say that when I met John Saddington at the Release Notes conference, it became clear that post wasn't simply posturing. I asked him about the bugs I was seeing in Desk MD when posting to blogger, as I was looking to a write a similar app myself. That is, I was looking for anything -- why did he decide to ship with those bugs, what sort of reaction did he expect from users (and what was the "right" thing for me to do as a user in that situation), etc.

Saddington not only took the time to explain why he had some bugs, what he felt was fair for customers like me to say ("When you're hitting that much trouble, and I know you are, ask for a refund!"), what his priority list was then in general and for Desk, but also told me, "Hey, if you do write your own, let me know. I'll totally recommend it for Blogger. Supporting Blogger drives me crazy," or something similarly as impressively helpful (I'm pretty sure John's a Wordpress user). If I'd written MarkUpDown for Mac with Blogger extensions and had started by, as he says,

So I'm a little loathe to lambast anyone, if only because of the example these folks have set before me. Argh.

Perhaps I should just reasonably fairly review what's out there. (I say "reasonably" just because I know I'll be a little biased towards MarkUpDown. If there's something I don't like about it, I change it. And I grossly undervalue things that don't matter to me [like most reviewers, I'd assume], like, eg, dark themes.) Then at least I can honestly say what's not working and at least rationally argue for why MarkUpDown is better. /shrug

Anyhow, marketing is fun.

In other news, here's an interesting list of dev podcasts in the running for some sort of award.

There are a number of JavaScript 'casts. Guess I should check out more of them.

Worth looking around at the others too.

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