Add-in products often not updated

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This is something of a rhetorical question, but why is it so often that I run into creators of MindManager add-ins whose latest release of their product is for something like MindManager 9, or some other "older than dirt" version?

Was there a major change in the product that made it too difficult to continue development, or change in business policy for third party component developers, or what? 

I've noticed that even the Developer Network site is not updated past, what, version 11?

Just curious.... I haven't seen so much attrition in a (great) software product before.
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Mike Danielski

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Posted 4 years ago

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Nigel Goult (Olympic & MIVAP)

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Hello again Mike,

That is a very complex question to ask because obviously the core reason and answer for each developer/vendor would probably be different.

Some will no doubt have stopped due to API changes in MindManager as it has evolved, others may have changed their business focus for varying reasons, some may have found that the demand for the add-ins was not enough to recover the time and resources spent developing and supporting it and some may not have felt sufficiently supported.

Personally I am still active in MindManager add-in development over that last 10 years because I have been fortunate enough to have built some very good relationships with Mindjet employees both in the US, Germany and the UK during this time which has helped immensely.

I was also fortunate enough to have started at a time, (2005), when MindManager and its community presence and following was growing at a dramatic pace. This enabled me to forge some valuable relationships with other MindManager add-in developers and value add proponents around the world, (when there where many of them), and I gleaned a lot of knowledge from them as I progressed.

MindManager add-in development can be very rewarding. As well as the generic add-ins I offer through Olympic, I have developed numerous bespoke add-ins for a variety of companies including a very large European corporate project that was 500 seats plus....but it can also be challenging at times. :-).

It is a shame that there is a lack of up to date public facing material and support for this area of MindManager, as you have pointed out, because the API is a USP that no other mapping application in the market today can match and I have always been of the opinion that with proper handling the resulting value add and functionality 3rd party developers would bring to the MindManager portfolio could make a substantial impact on MindManager for corporate use (as the 500 seat plus example above shows).

I continue to live in hope that a new developer network will one day launch but for the moment the appreciation and thanks I receive from clients and users of my add-ins is enough to keep me coming up with ideas and tapping my keyboard....

Come on Mindjet! How about a revamped MDN? :-)

Regards
Nigel

Olympic Limited
The MindManager Solutions Specialist
Check out our latest MindManager add-ins: Map Tracker - Topic Tracker - WordX
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Mike Danielski

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Hi NIgel,

Thank you very much for your complete and thoughtful response. I'll bet you nailed it on the head! I promise, the level of email bombing I am doing with your these days will simmer down... just trying to get the feel for the waters as it were and you and others have done a great job in helping a guy out!

Sincere Thanks,
Mike
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Alex Gooding, Champion

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Hi Mike.

I think that Nigel has covered most of the bases but although my experience is just as a dedicated user rather than an add-In developer there's one or two things I'd like to add.

First, it's not just the API that changes from release to release. The operation of core features can sometimes change between major releases, or these features can even simply just disappear. Even minor ones can do the same between point releases (for example, the recent disappearance of the split topic option from the topic context menu).

I suspect this as much as the API changes can cause grief for developers. For example when Mindjet made fundamental alterations to the relationship between task start date, task end date and task duration to integrate JCVGantt into MindManager (essentially tying them all a lot more closely together) between versions 8 and 9 I think), a number of add-ins could not be updated to work with the new paradigm.

This leads to the second Issue with add-ins. Mindjet have often acquired some of the more promising add-ins from third party developers. This is great for the developers and it would be fine if Mindjet continued to develop and market them as optional add-ins.

Unfortunately Mindjet cannot leave well enough atone. They attempt to integrate the third party add-ins into the core program and feature set, often with very mixed results. The classic example is how they handled the purchase of one of the greatest add-ins ever made, Nick Duffill's Power Markers. Having purchased it they supported it as their own add-In for a while, then with the next upgrade dropped publicising it but still made it available on request (under the counter to consenting adults, as it were). Finally with the upgrade to v14 they cherry picked a few features to "integrate" it with the main program and discarded the other more significant features which had attracted users like me In the first place.

The ghost of Power Markers lives on in things like the Marker Index and Smart Fill features but the really great bits like active legends and the ability to use conditional formatting with a whole lot of things and not just numbers have all disappeared. Mindjet have promised to bring some of these features back but I'm not holding my breath (though I'm happy to proved wrong with V15).

The problem is that Mindjet don't seem to understand that some of the things that add-ins can do will only ever appeal to a smaller number of specialised users and it makes no sense to dumb down these features to appeal to a wider audience so the add-in can be "integrated" into the core program.

So for these reasons and the ones Nigel outlined the lesson is by all means explore, buy and incorporate useful MM add-ins in your workflow (and by doing so support all the great third-party developers). However while most developers will do what they can to provide ongoing support for their products, accept that there is a chance that any specific add-in might not work after an upgrade.

(Edited)
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Mike Danielski

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Hi Alex,

Thank you for your additional thoughts. I suspected that some version of what you stated had to be true because, like I said above, I have never seen attrition like this in a software program, and to be honest, I have used hundreds and hundreds of software programs in my life, across a wide variety of software disciplines because of my work as an independent consultant in many different fields.

My interest in add-in development was really for my own uses in the first place, but I have to admit, I am even more convinced that would have to be thought of as the sole intent - solve the problem for this project and call it a success with little expectation it would go forward.

Like anything , it really depends on the level of effort necessary to get what I want done, and whether the trade-off is worth it for this project.

Thanks!
Mike