Posted: May 17th, 2013
Little Reata Loft belongs to Gary Nelson. He flies with the AU under the band name JETT. You’ll see his pigeons frequently atop the lists on some of the most competitive One Loft Races in the US. Gary has built a reputation as a connoisseur of fine pigeons from the likes of Koopman, Veenstra and Sablon.
His lofts are impeccably maintained and his stable of stock birds is impressive.
Little Reata Loft of Gary Nelson
Gary’s site was one of the first that we built using the PigeonDB Engine as the backend, sitting alone in a proprietary deployment. That means, the site is built on top of and with the help of the PigeonDB Engine and is only open to the owner of the site. Gary Nelson is the only user and with some dashboard controls can manipulate not only the birds that show up on the site, but also his own record set. As he works on his records, changes are reflected immediately on the site. So if you every buy a pigeon from Gary, which you’d be a fool not to if given the opportunity, you can rest assured that you’ll have a “live link” back to the living record of the pigeon as well as all of the network of pigeons around it. Truly amazing and instills in his customers a well deserved respect and trust.
Posted: April 25th, 2013
I find it incredible the lengths to which you go with fiction and imagination in order to tug at gullible hearts. For this reason, I feel compelled to write a response to your allegations.
First let me start by saying I’m a life-long pigeon flyer. My pigeons are very important to me as they provide a great release to my otherwise stressed life. I’m a software developer by profession and as such am constantly barraged by demands on my time and stressed with deadlines.
Nothing quite takes the edge off my day like tending to my flock. I have the utmost respect for each and every one of my beautiful birds. Spending time giving them baths, feeding them, preening them when the molt comes around, scraping their perches and nest boxes, taking down notes on their development and that of their offspring, all form part of the hobby that I’ve taken to heart and which I intend to pass along to my two sons.
Each of my pigeons gets the best in health, supplements, feed and housing. My wife complains from time to time as to how lavish their accommodations are compared to our own. They are exercised daily, weather permitting, and are afforded top notch veterinary services when needed. Meticulous records are kept of everything they do, down to when they bathe, how long they fly, and on occasion, the delta in their weight before and after a race. My records on my birds go back far into the first half of the last century. That is the passion with which people like me, and those before me, have esteemed these incredible birds.
As I read the accusations your organization levied against those who choose to dedicate part of their lives to this hobby, I had to stomach each line like a nauseating concoction of deceit, as each line built upon its fictitious and poorly backed predecessor.
I will try as best as I can to debunk every bit of fiction you proposed as fact, and hopefully a fairer picture will emerge of those who enjoy this hobby. I may fail to do so in your eyes, but at minimum I’ll have given rational discourse a try so maybe the more level-headed among you can see that the brush with which you painted us was far too wide.
Your organization has an exceptional history of assigning anthropomorphic traits to animals that they simply do not possess. You may ask what qualifies me to know this. Well, simply put, I’m human. And as far as I know, there is no divorce among animals, there is no lying among animals, there is no war among animals, there is no murder among animals, they don’t have addiction problems, and they don’t need prisons. I can deduce that they don’t have the same emotions because they don’t manifest the same despicable behavior that humans do. If you intend to assign them emotions like “love”, then by induction you should also assign them emotions like “envy” and “greed”. If you can’t assign them the latter for lack of evidence, then so too you cannot assign them the former for the same reason. Simply said, they do have feelings, but not the abstract emotions that separate us from them as humans.
You say that breeders separate pigeons from their mates, with which they mate for life, to exploit the love that they have for each other. Pigeons have as much “love” for each other as they do for grit and seed. It’s not an abstract feeling like we have for each other, but instead one that Darwin would attest to as being a bond designed for the survival of the species. Animals are driven to do a very fundamental set of actions in their lifespan. Among these is the survival and propagation of their species.
Pigeons mate for life, not because they “love” each other, but because they are driven to reproduce in the fastest and most efficient manner possible. Pigeons will lay their next clutch of eggs well before their prior brood has even left the nest. They are biologically driven to daisy chain their broods together, for the sake–as in every animal–to advance the species. So, that they don’t separate much in the wild is not because they are bound by some imagined commitment, but because it is more efficient to keep laying new clutches and brooding in parallel than it is for the male to go off and, as humans sometimes do, start a new second family with a completely new mate.
As a simple test, you can take a pigeon that is currently raising a pair of squabs, and present it with another mate, and it will immediately start the process all over again. A pigeon will immediately mate with the next pigeon presented to them, both male and female, when they are separated from their original mate. They don’t mourn the loss of their mate. They move on to propagate the species. Thus this is a fundamentally flawed argument by your organization and intended solely to pull the heartstrings of gullible people, from which, not coincidentally, you draw a large pool of donation monies.
No one cried foul when during World War II, the exact same methods for motivating pigeons to return to their home were used to get the messages through and save thousands of Allied troops’ lives.
Pigeons have been used as messengers well before recorded history. From before and through the time of the pharaohs and even as late as the 1950′s, pigeons were considered a reliable method of transporting important messages. During World War II, well over 90% of all messages dispatched by the US Army arrived at their destination. A company in Colorado still uses them today to deliver time-sensitive data drives over the mountains and to their central headquarters.
Pigeons have been raced–as a consequence of this great talent–for hundreds of years. Your organization apparently just discovered that we existed.
You’ll see multiple generations of people racing pigeons. It’s a hobby that is passed on from generation to generation and serves as a family bonding and strengthening pastime.
Hundreds of fallen servicemen are honored by groups of white pigeons at their funerals. Countless marriages and other special events are shadowed by a flock of these beautiful birds.
There is nothing cruel about pigeon racing. There may be individuals in the hobby who do take a more sinister approach, but such is the case with any endeavor and hobby people practice. There are bad seeds. But the vast majority are not. And as organization promoting the hobby, we seek and remove individuals who are known to not keep a minimum set of standards for housing and health. The AU offers a coveted Certified Loft award for those lofts with exceedingly high standards for health and cleanliness. Earning the award is a great source of pride.
Contrary to some of your reporting, we do not “enjoy” culling and we don’t practice it at the slightest provocation.
From a fiscal perspective, it makes no sense for us to cull after spending countless hours and large sums of money to breed and care for them. If each pigeon costs us $150 to $200 a year just to feed and house, why would we consider culling the first option when needing to make room? What typically happens is we end up passing the pigeons on to other breeders, and newcomers to the hobby, free of charge so that they may in turn enjoy them as we did. Secondly, even if a pigeon doesn’t place first, or even close to first, that does not justify us culling them. Typically we’ll race them for years. Surprisingly, many pigeons that didn’t place in the top number as youngsters, do so in their later life. With age and experience, pigeons learn quicker routes to their homes. They are confident in returning through any adversity. So the longer we keep our pigeons racing, the better and more valuable they become to us. They also help us train younger birds.
As to your assertion that some pigeon races are illegal, there are no states in the union that categorically outlaw pigeon racing.
You argue that pigeon racing is a bloodsport akin to cockfighting and dog fighting. It couldn’t be further from those two truly barbaric activities.
If by bloodsport you are citing your own flawed statistics as justification, then you are wrong on that account as well. Yes, we have experienced losses as of late that in prior years did not occur. We use the latest weather prediction sources and only release pigeons in the best possible conditions. Pigeon haulers take feed and water along with them in case the weather changes. They can wait it out a few days if need be. It’s also not unheard of for pigeon releases to occur well short of their intended distance because of bad weather conditions further out.
However, with climate changes and the proliferation of radio-wave emitting cell towers, pigeons have lately faced new challenges that were simply not the case in years previous. Unique radio frequency signatures have recently been shown to aid macro navigation for pigeons. It only makes sense that as more and more cell towers, radio stations, and network providers go up, pigeons will have a harder time identifying the radio signature that points them home.
In addition, the thriving population of accipiter hawks and falcons has not helped. Though we respect the success of these predators, we know they only take a small fraction of the birds we release. We can live with this and do so now without complaint. After all, one can only sit in admiration at the dexterity and strength of an aerial predator in action. However, on a flat run, a well trained and healthy pigeon can outrun and outlast just about any predator short of a Peregrine falcon.
As we speak, steps are being discussed in clubs throughout the country on how to mitigate the losses. However, the percentages that your organization claim are inaccurate since they don’t take into account second and later day birds. Yes, on long flights, birds do sometimes get pushed off course by unpredictable weather patterns. But this does not guarantee their demise. Pigeons can trickle back home for days after the race. It’s not unusual to see mud on the feet of pigeons; a tell-tale sign they’ve stopped for a drink of water at some passing reservoir or water hole. Return rates in older birds close to 100% are not unusual. Some of the steps discussed in mitigating losses among young birds (less than 1 year old), are keeping the distances shorter and having longer periods of time for training.
In addition, through the Internet, an extensive lost pigeon recovery network mobilizes to get birds back to their owners. It’s also quite easy for a racing pigeon to integrate into the local feral population. This is incidentally the origin of feral pigeons in the United States. They were at one point domestic pigeons which adapted well to urban living, much like Monk Parakeets in Austin.
Pigeons are gentle birds that don’t fight and have no sustained interest in hurting other birds. Pigeon racing is no more harmful than letting wild stallions gallop through state owned parks; they face the elements of nature, just like pigeons do. And they may sometimes suffer the same fate, but it’s the same element that they want to be in.
Understand, we don’t breed pigeons all year then one magical day take them 600 miles away and let them go. They go through months and months of training. Each training toss builds more and more confidence in the pigeons. Each training toss elevates the stamina of the pigeons. And at each new toss, the pigeons line up and are ready, and yes, willing to be basketed for the next toss. We don’t force them to do anything they don’t want. Can you imagine if in this sport, which has been taken up and handed down for successive generations since the time of the Egyptian kings, pigeons really had to be forced to fly home? We wouldn’t have a hobby today. They’d go in every other direction but home. They would have been completely unreliable for messaging during war time. The hobby would have been dead hundreds of years ago.
As to the last piece of fiction in your assertions, that pigeons are released hungry and often starve on their way home, I suppose it makes logical sense to send a pigeon on a hundred mile race on an empty stomach, right? Or deprived of nutrition and unhealthy? Why would anyone in their right mind think that this is even conceivable. Why would we handicap our own birds?
No, birds are sent in the best of health, very well fed, vaccinated, and as a safety measure are trained to eat and drink at the release point, just so they are more than ready for their flight. In addition, we have strict limits as to the number of pigeons that can be transported in a crate. Overcrowding puts undue stress on the birds and they won’t perform at their best.
I find it highly suspect that when you presented the picture of pigeons in their shipping containers, you said that they were packed in tight. Well, when you shove a camera through the door of a crate, pigeons, just like probably any other animal, will scurry to the opposite end since they have no clue what the lens is doing in their space.
Before the races, they are fed highly rich and nutritious seeds like milo, peas and corn. For extra protein, raw peanuts are offered, despite their exorbitant price. Seed growers often gauge the quality of their product by how the pigeon fancying community rates their seeds, because we care about what goes into their bodies. It makes no sense to fly a bird that is in any less than optimal shape or fed anything but shiny, clean and wholesome seed.
As to the gambling charge, I will grant you that there is some gambling in the hobby that in my opinion should not be there. I have never participated in it, nor do I intend to, as it is not in my nature. I can safely say that this applies to the vast majority of racers.
The true prize is bragging rights. If you win the combine or the club, you become the envy of the other racers and your birds are more valuable and desired. That is the only prize we get, and the only one I’m personally interested in.
To be complete, gambling is present everywhere, from factory lunch pools to church bingo parlors. Pigeon Racing and gambling are mutually exclusive and do not depend on each other. Gambling was not the goal that people who fell in love with pigeon racing had as a catalyst to get involved. It is a side-effect and an unnecessary one at that. It can be done away with and racing pigeons and the hobby would not suffer for it.
However, you have, through the twisting of a few images and recorded words, tried to portray the pigeon breeder as a money hungry, irresponsible, and demonic individual who spares no expense and has no feelings toward his pigeons just as long as he can make a quick buck. Believe me, there are millions of ways to make a quick buck that do not include sacrificing time, money, family and sometimes health, in order to carefully craft our family of pigeons. People do not get rich from this. Actually, it’s quite the contrary for many.
Yes, there are money races. But these take entry fees, pay taxes, and report earnings, all conforming to local and federal laws. What side gambling exists is purely on a personal level. And if you think you can put a stop to that, be prepared to police just about any other activity that could possibly be wagered upon.
In conclusion, you have spent many man hours and possibly more money than what you report changes hands during the gambling that takes place, on hobbling together your shallow set of emotionally charged “evidence”. Further, you say that it’s an archaic sport that has to be done away with. I’ll tell you that that’s the first reaction of an ignorant individual when confronted with something not in their scope of knowledge. To be sure, there are many traditions that are old and still good for those who practice them. Most pigeon breeders I know are some of the most giving individuals I’ve ever met. Routinely we put together benefit drives for non-profits like St Judes and Cure for Cancer Centers, even fellow pigeon breeders who have fallen on hard times. In addition, we help out with 4H clubs and Boy Scout troops. We routinely offer free releases for fallen soldiers to honor their service.
In short, when you compare dog fighting and those who promote it to pigeon racing and its enthusiasts, you display a complete lack of understanding and effectively open yourself for ridicule and at minimum, a continued distrust of your tactics.
Did you talk to a few pigeon breeders before formulating your hypothesis? Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Posted: March 22nd, 2013
We just deployed the new and improved Mobile version of PigeonDB.com.
With a friendlier, more navigable interface for mobile devices, PigeonDB.com Mobile lets you bring your records with you, on your phone, wherever you go. Whether at the club meet, or the in the loft, access and modify pigeons, pairs, and teams, as easily as possible.
Adding children to a pair is a complete breeze. Adding images for your pigeons is also very easy.
PigeonDB.com’s new Mobile Interface, as seen on an iPhone.
Posted: March 7th, 2013
Every lie is two lies — the lie we tell others and the lie we tell ourselves to justify it (Robert Brault).
When you fabricate a lie, you have to convince those hearing it that it is truth. And, you also have to convince yourself, so that in the future, as is want to happen, you won’t forget the lie you told then get caught in it. You need to believe it as the truth. Thus is the complexity you introduce in your mind for every lie you tell. It multiplies exponentially the lies you’ve told before, such that each combination of paths to that latest lie does not break and reveal itself as such.
Why is this snippet of philosophy of any kind of relevance? Well, let me explain.
When you operate an auction site, your users depend that you have their best interests in mind, not your own. Auctions, especially electronic, online auctions, have an element of blind trust the buyer must accept, as well as the seller.
As an auction administrator, you hold in your control the ability to see behind the scenes of what is actually going on on the surface. You can see the amount of the proxy bids and you can see who is who. If your trust in the administrator is violated, so is your trust in the site. You’ll leave and tell your friends to do likewise. This spreads like a virus among users.
It’s fairly easy to manipulate auctions. Any off-the-shelf auction software gives its administrators the ability to manipulate prices, proxy bids, and any number of other variables behind the scenes. If you have a less-than-forthright administrator with that kind of access, you need to be very wary of the end-result.
The possibility that the administrator can change the outcome of an auction is very real. If your administrator has a very public shady past, then the probability is also very real. Would you knowingly leave something of value with someone who has the means, and because of their demonstrated past, has the will to take advantage of it?
For example, if you are experiencing a consistent pattern of maxed-out proxies, it’s likely there is some slight of hand going on. There is nothing stopping the administrator from bidding under a false username right up to the last penny of the highest proxy bid. All you as the user who placed the bid would see is that some random user keeps trying to outbid you but comes just shy, all the while maxing out your proxy bid. Leaving a high proxy bid in the hands of someone who will take advantage of it is like writing a blank check.
Off-the-shelf auction software, as with just about any other off-the-shelf software intended for sales, like e-commerce systems, has given the ability of even the shadiest characters to set up shop and wholesale take advantage of their customers. If they are burned in the process, they change the name and face and they go at it again.
If you ask them what their motivation is, with a grin and zealot-like glow, they’ll proudly pronounce, “business is business”. Well, no, not always. We entrusted our retirement accounts to the polished likes of Dennis Kozlowski (TYCO) and Bernie Madoff only to feel the sharp pain of the realization that we had been manipulated. Shady business is not business. Business by shady people is not business. It’s manipulation and it’s ultimately not in your best interest.
What To Do
So what are you to do? Stop using auction sites altogether? Well, no, not all of them. There are some tell-tale signs that you are dealing with a suspect auction site:
- Fly-by-night, cookie-cutter sites. You can tell who just set up shop by noting that they have had little to no customization to the off-the-shelf software they purchased. Typically, you’ll notice that many sites that use this software share common user interface elements, down to the color. This means that the administrators have not bothered to make the experience unique, further shedding light on their “fly-by-night” status and their likely intention to make a quick buck.
- Lack of full disclosure. Some sites that should be seen as suspect have little to no background information. The won’t list an owner or corporate entity. They will not have a way of contacting the owner. Also, template parts of the software they purchased will still say things like “Put Registration Copy Here”. Obviously the operator of such a site did not cross the t’s and dot the i’s before they decide to go live. If that glaring lack of attention is missing from their deployment, then there is really not much you can expect for the rest of the process.
- Poor grammar and spelling. Within the same site, if you notice that words are consistently misspelled, or there are glaring mistakes in grammar, tread carefully. An undisciplined mind will manifest itself in grammar that cannot be parsed and basic words that have the same consistent misspelling. You can’t attribute a pattern like that to a mere typo.
- Non-Incorporation. We all pay taxes, or at least should report income. And though we are not required to report your earnings, as an entity, AllBreedDB has to report profits to the IRS. When sites lack the basic information that would identify their corporate entity, stay clear. If they don’t disclose this on their site, then it’s likely they are practicing tax evasion as well. If they are evading taxes, there is no limit to what else they may be manipulating.
In short, use your best judgment when entrusting your possessions and your bids to an online auction site. As the intro to this article says, every lie must be supported by an infrastructure of lies. Don’t get caught in the structure of this deception.
Posted: February 19th, 2013
A few weeks ago my friend Gary Nelson, from LittleReataLofts.com, gave me a hen he’d raced in the “Texas Shootout One Loft Race”, just north of Fort Worth Texas. I had called him the day before to ask about hens since I was a few short. As I suppose it always happens to us, either we have too many of one and not enough of another. In any case, he was more than happy to pick me out a couple of nice birds.
Among these was a nice hen: AU JETT 12590 2012. She is a small bodied, strong hen with a wild eye to her, but handled like a gem in my hands. He said she’d done good at the races but that he had picked out his stock from the returning birds after the race series. So I inherited it, much to my delight. I’m always happy to get birds from Gary as he always seems to know how to pick them.
I brought her home, quickly took a couple of pictures of her, banded her with my PigeonID.com traceable bands, and I put her back in the crate to get her into the loft. I like to give new birds some time to adjust before getting them started breeding. I had picked out a nice cock for her already and was imagining the possibilities that the two could breed together.
After losing track of time, I finally walked out to the loft with crate in hand, and two nice hens from Gary, ready to place them into the hen pen. As I usually do, I closed the door to my loft behind me since I know the possibility exists that a bird would escape my grasp and off it would go. I grabbed the Houdini Hen (12590) out of the crate and noted that she was exceptionally strong. I don’t know if you’ve every held a wild dove before, but that’s the type of strength I’m talking about. It’s as if you are holding the crankshaft of a small Briggs & Stratton engine.
With two hands holding her and the pen unlatched, I tried to nudge the door open with my elbow, then that’s when it happened. It was as if the whole scene played out in slow motion in my head. She slipped, down between my knees, so I immediately collapsed to try to hold her. She found a void between my arms and bent-over body and off she went. I didn’t worry since the door was shut and I’d just have to chase it a bit to get it.
The Houdini Hen
But it wouldn’t be named the Houdini Hen if that’s all she did. No, that sassy lady went straight for the screen of an open window. And there, with her wings beating, knocked it loose and off she went. She stopped on a branch of a tree at the edge of my property. She looked back at me and gave me the bird, and off she went, into dark, rainy, overcast skies.
I don’t have to tell you how it feels to lose a good bird, or at least one that you have already imagined is good. My heart sank, my jaw dropped, and I felt like punching the ground. That wasn’t all I felt. I felt the impending embarrassment that I would inevitably feel as I called Gary to let him know.
An hour later I summoned up the courage to call him and let him know. He was very calm and casual about it, didn’t make me feel any dumber than I already felt. He just said she’d probably make it back to the one loft race in Decatur, Texas. Well, maybe. See, the problem is this year they were all flown and trained from the North-West. I sit 244 miles South-East of Decatur. I held out no hope for it returning. It probably never flew more than a few miles south of where it was trained.
The next day I get a call from Gary. I could hear the pride in his voice. He said the hen was back at the loft. It had gotten there before noon of the following day.
That it flew 244 miles in less than 6 hours is no big feat. The astonishment comes from the fact that she did this never having known what it was like to fly to her loft from the complete opposite direction from where she was trained. Further, that she did this in completely cloudy and rainy skies, having left my house at dusk, that is the incredible part.
Gary called me and let me know she would be sent the following day. It all worked out for the best. She’s proven to me that she’s a champion, even if she didn’t win in the Texas Shootout.
Posted: February 1st, 2013
Another in my series of showcase websites. Rob Ashby uses the snippet of codes that PigeonDB.com produces for each pigeon, then embedded them on his key pigeons. From his website, you can surf directly to the pigeon record in PigeonDB or to it’s pedigree more specifically.
Rob is also very good with technology and runs Pigeon Racing Forum. We are working on adding functionality in BBCode that will show and display pigeon records from PigeonDB directly inline in posts on the forum.
Rob Ashby’s personal pigeon website.
Posted: January 31st, 2013
Steve Royer has been one of our best supporters. Having been one of our original members, Steve saw the immediate potential of incorporating the shared records feature of PigeonDB.com directly into his site, .
Off of every breeder in Steve’s repertoire, you can look deeper into the bird’s history by clicking the More Information button, which immediately takes you to the shared record of that pigeon in PigeonDB.com.
Royers Loft by Steve Royer
Posted: January 22nd, 2013
After many years without one, I have finally built and activated my personal site on my own birds. I tend to delay those things that are for my own benefit until it’s just time. A procrastinator? I guess. Though I never was one in school or anything else. Then again, no one is grading me on my own personal site.
In any case, I’d like to show it off now if I may.
Of importance to note on this site is my direct integration of records pulled from my account on PigeonDB.com and incorporated into the site, in the form of an iframe. It’s relatively easy to do. You have to first make the pigeon you want to show to the world public. You do this by going into the pigeon record, then selecting “public settings”. As soon as you make the pigeon public, you’ll get a lot of cool code that you can use on your own site. \
The public url is the one I use to set as the “src” attribute of the iframe. Make sure your iframe is at least 1000 pixels wide. Or, alternatively, you can set the scale smaller, so it essentially shrinks the content to fit a smaller iframe.
Posted: January 11th, 2013
Online software is a relatively new paradigm, say in the last decade or so. It’s typically called “software as a service” by many in the software domain. It’s just a way of saying that instead of giving you a shrink-wrapped box with a CD or, as in the old days, a stack of 3.5″ disks, you get to use your software by logging into some website through your web browser. The site is the software. You log in, move things around, save them, and get back to them later, possibly from another computer or even mobile device.
The differences between software as a service and shrink-wrapped software are easy to enumerate but sometimes hard to explain to a customer. You can say that the good and the bad balance out when you compare them. They each have merits, but in the long run, when possible and available, software as a service just makes more sense.
Shrink-wrapped software usually comes as a one-time investment to the user. If there are revisions for it, the smarter software packages will auto-update themselves, given your permission. These automatic updates are usually small. They may be free but typically don’t add a whole lot of features and value. They are intended as a way for the developer to send you fixes to issues that were not found before the package was sent to production and distribution.
Shrink-wrapped software tends to be big. By that I mean lots and lots of space is required on your hard drive to store the bits that make it do its thing. Some vendors will let you download an installer from their website, in your computer’s native “byte” code. You unlock the features with some key they provide you.
There are some inherent issues with shrink-wrapped software. Among them, you may not find what you are looking for in terms of a features set to satisfy a problem. This is because there just might not be a version made for your particular operating system. That’s very common as some vendors specialize in particular operating systems, but not necessarily all of them.
Another drawback to shrink-wrap is that revisions with substantial updates may cost you just as much as the original product. Take Adobe and it’s suite of products for example. Every year it seems they release a new major version, and every year it seems you have to drop another $600 to get those new updates.
Online software has inherent advantages to shrink-wrap that can be best described as providing continuity of service from the “mothership” that is always up-to-date with whatever internal versioning scheme the company follows. You will hardly ever see a “version” associated with an online service as it doesn’t really mean anything. It is a “living” system that is always at the leading edge of what the company has decided to try on their users.
This is good in many ways. You don’t have to worry about upgrading manually, or buying the new version. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that the vendor will fix known errors without needing you to lift a finger.
Online software has the distinct ability of being accessible from any computer that is wired to the Internet. This includes an array of tablets, phones, laptops, and of course the venerable desktop. From any connected device and from any operating system, you have access to your software and data.
As a customer you may be in a position to decide to use a particular piece of software that comes in both of these paradigms. Which do you choose? What are some of the questions you need to answer before you make that decision?
Not all functionality available in a shrink-wrapped product, written specifically for a particular OS, can be found in a comparable service online. Sometimes this is just not possible. Shrink wrapped software uses the local processor to do most of the work. Lag times need to be taken into consideration as well. You can’t use an EKG with software that is on a central server. The EKG machine can’t wait for the Internet. So if you can’t find what you are looking for online, then the answer is obvious, buy the box.
If, however, you find that there are equally attractive offerings which satisfy your need, and can be consumed either by buying the box or subscribing to some online service, then the decision is one of longevity. Which do you think will help you out the best, and which is the best option for the money you want to spend. Will the service be there next year? What if not? What contingencies do you have if the services fails?
These are all very important questions when you are deciding between two equally attractive alternatives.
As a builder of online software, I have frequently answered the question…..”what if your company disappears next week, what about my data?” Well, I try to answer this question the way I would like someone to convince me that their product is the one I want. It’s my job, of course. I want to make my products the most popular out there. So I strive to make the answer direct, simple, and always truthful.
The bottom line is this, there are many ways to run an online service that offers premium features at a price. The most successful and common model is to charge a yearly, monthly, or other temporal based fee to keep your account open, or in premium mode. The alternative, which is the purpose of this article, is to do as a competitor of PigeonDB.com has done, which is to offer a lifetime membership based on a on-time fee.
Lifetime Memberships A Harbinger
A lifetime membership was a membership plan I used to offer at PigeonDB.com. It cost more, and promised a lot, but It was intended to bootstrap the service. With the large subscription prices up front, I was able to purchase the services I needed while the regular, renewing membership grew. Once I was in a place where I could remove the lifetime subscription because I could rely on the renewals to keep the business afloat, I dropped it, no doubt to the chagrin of some of my users who wanted to upgrade to a lifetime membership.
The goal in any service online is to keep the business solvent and obviously to make some profit for the vendor. Since I have a personal investment in my service since I use it on a daily basis, I have a modified set of requirements to keep the service open to the public. I don’t necessarily need to be profitable all the time. I need to be able to cover my operating costs. Anything extra is gravy. But since I use my service daily, I personally have a vested interest in keeping my service open. Given this, I can keep my prices low. And, I can promise that as long as I’m physically able to race pigeons, my personal attention will be dedicated to it and to the services I provide.
As long as I have renewing customers, I will have the revenue to keep the service open and growing. Yes, that’s a tall order, but also a measuring stick by which I gauge the success of my services versus that of others.
In sharp contrast, if you remove your renewal base, as my competitor has done, then you don’t really have anything to keep the business afloat down the line, once the initial payment is received and spent. Unless you are a very measured person, and have determined the exact amount of money required to keep the business afloat for the next 20 years, and additionally can predict prices for bandwidth and storage, then coming up with a “lifetime” price to customers is really an act of randomly pulling numbers out of the air. A business that arbitrarily determined how much it needed up front to support a user base for 20, 30, or 40 and more years, is destined to run out of funds to keep the business afloat, possibly much sooner than its users are expecting.
So when someone asks me what is my guarantee that my service will be here in 10 years, the answer is simple: “As long as I have users, and features that keep them here, the service will be here 10, 20, or more years down the line.”
Holding Your Data Hostage
Keeping you planted and hostage to a service is another concern that must be nipped early on, and in a clear manner. As a builder, I have provided export facilities so that you can take your data with you, in self-referential and complete form. This means you don’t have to stay with our products. You can take it and have it imported elsewhere.
Our competitor does not do this. He provides only a minimal set of export facilities, but not enough to reconstruct your account in its entirety elsewhere.
From the start I asserted and recognized that I did not have any ownership of your data. I’m merely a stewart of it. And when you are ready to leave for, hopefully, a better service, you can pack up the bags and take everything with you. It’s my promise to my members that I don’t hold their data hostage. I don’t lock them out of their data for failure to pay.
In short, the business model that will keep an online service solvent, and even profitable, is renewal fees. This ensures that minimally the service has gas in the tank for year to come. If you don’t have this, you may as well just give your data, and your money, to a black hole.
Posted: January 4th, 2013
I have known Gary Nelson for a few years now. I approached him initially because I was interested in racing pigeons. He was nearby so I stopped by his place in North Austin. I was floored by the array of lofts and the incredible stock he had on hand.
Gary goes by JETT on the race sheets and owns Little Reata Lofts, which you can visit here: LittleReataLoft.com. After some getting to know him and spending time looking at his birds, we started working together on his new website and records system.
LittleReataLoft.com is based on the PigeonDB Engine. It builds on top of it a custom set of pages that together form both the records system and website for Little Reata Loft. Adding birds and subsequently displaying them in key parts of the public pages of the website are one-in-the-same and are done effortlessly.
As part of his site, I also created a custom pedigree for Gary. It is displayed below.
Custom Pedigree for Little Reata Loft