Interview – Samer THE FreewareGenius, reveals all his secrets!
Samer from Freewaregenius agreed to answer a few questions for AppAholic. Being a reader of Freewaregenius, these are questions I’m interested in the answer to, aswell as questions I though would be interesting to everyone. For those of you who don’t know, Freewaregenius is a freeware review blog, much like AppAholic, just a different flavor. Well worth a read.
17 Questions in total, including… “What do you have in your system tray on boot?”, “What RSS feeds do you subscribe to?”, “What’s your favourite 5 freeware apps and why?”, “Name a few of your other favorite tech blogs”
1. What inspired you to create your freeware blog?
Before I started Freewaregenius I used to spend a lot of time downloading and installing cracked applications that I would almost never use. This was becoming an activity that was taking a significant chunk of my time, and it started to bother me to think that this was a rather pointless activity when, at least in theory, I could have been investing that time doing something else that was productive. I remember I started to think about how I can channel the time and energy and my interest in software in a way that was more useful. Then one day my wife’s laptop was acting strange and I clean-installed Windows on that machine, then realized that all the ‘must install’ apps that I put on it afterwards were in fact freeware. That was when I first started to seriously think about publishing a blog about freeware, but one that would include only interesting programs that I found that were worth installing or checking out.
2. Where do you find the freeware to review?
I have approx 87 RSS at this time feeds from all sorts of sites that I sift through every day. But coming up with stuff to review has always been a very serendipitous activity. I realize that there a pattern of web surfing behavior that I do that has helped me find ‘interesting’ apps, but I will also say that my way looking for and learning about freeware has changed with time. When I first started my blog I spent a long time on the alt.freeware Google group, which is an excellent resource. Then there was a time when I would spend time on Stumbleupon stumbling away, which I also almost never do now. Dapper was an important discovery for me, and it allowed me to create RSS feeds from all the major software directories that filter out any non-freeware so I don’t have to do it. These days when I am looking at feeds I’ve developed the ability to look at an entry or program and decide whether it is likely to be well made and/or interesting, and, if so, I will always go to the developer’s site to check out what other freeware they might have on offer. In fact this is an excellent way to find software nobody has heard of. I also would like to mention three good friends of mine who sometimes write for Freewaregenius and often scour the net and send me links. I’m also sometimes alerted to interesting stuff by readers emailing me to let me know.
3. What stops you giving up on writing your blog?
I almost gave up a number of times. I discovered that in order to get traffic to a site, especially a blog, you have to update it constantly, which was getting to be rather difficult give that I have a full time job and two kids. But there are a number of reasons that made me stick with it. For one thing it was successful and generally well received; most people really seem to like it. Plus I make some money with Google ads, not proportional to the time I actually put into the site but approximately 5% of my income. I am also interested in learning more about website’s and what makes people visit, which is big part of my day job, so I look at Freewaregenius as my personal laboratory that gets me exposed to issues such as optimizing for search engines, web analytics, etc.
Not to mention I actually enjoy checking out software and writing about it.
4. How long did it take for you blog to get off the ground and how did you gain your audience?
I started Freewaregenius in September of 2006 and for the first 40 days or so 60 visits per day would have been a good day (my goal was to get to the 100 visitor per day mark). Then suddenly one day I got 1400 visitors then 3000 the next when the site was discovered on Stumbleupon; that initial burst of activity faded of course but didn’t die down quite completely. It seemed that a high percentage rate of people who visit Freewaregenius tend to come back and/or bookmark, and a lot of people started linking to it from their sites. The traffic grew organically, and every seemed to double in total every month, however it seems to have reached a plateau in the past few month, and I’m not quite sure what to do to push it further. It seems people want a larger volume of content, which at the moment with everything going on in my life I am unable to provide. I think there’s a definite relationship between volume and frequency of updates and levels of traffic.
5. How many subscribers do you have?
I don’t have subscribers, although I’m thinking about setting up email updates. I get am email every once in a while with someone asking to be included in my email list.
My traffic for the past couple of months hovers between 2500 to 3000 visitors per day, with about 3000 RSS subscribers. Approximately a third of that comes from “direct traffic” (people who bookmark or type the URL in), another third from referring sites, and a third from Google.
6. Do you create your own freeware as well as review others?
I don’t create any software, although one of my colleagues and myself have recently started talking about building a simple freeware program that he would code and I would feature on Freewaregenius. We’ll see what happens with that.
7. What do you look for in the perfect freeware app?
Good design, certainly in terms of the way it looks but mostly with respect to providing a good user experience. It also needs to get the job done and, of course, not be buggy. I’m also always mindful of the extent to which an application claims resources. What goes without saying of course is that it does not contain any form of malware or adware, although I have tolerated the latter once or maybe twice in programs I posted on Freewaregenius (but pointed to it clearly in the review itself).
8. What’s your favourite 5 freeware apps and why?
Hmm… I find this question extremely difficult, actually. I’m trying to come up with answers off the top of my head without looking at any list or at my site.
- Launchy, because I use it constantly. I know there are many equivalent programs now and that some might supersede it in features, but I like it’s look and feel and will probably stick with it.
- JKDefragGUI: a defragmenter may be a strange choice but I really like this program constantly defragmenting my machine whenever I am away from it.
- Google Reader, is my RSS reader of choice (a web service but I am assuming it will count). I’ve tried many RSS aggregators both online and offline including Blogbridge, Omea, Bloglines, Netvibes, Protopage, Pageflakes, Klipfolio and a number of others, and found Google Reader to suit my needs best.
- JOCR: quick OCR on any image or part of the screen. If I had a nickel every time I used this and invested that amount in Apple stock 6 month ago I probably would have a nice stash :). Very dependable program with excellent character recognition.
- I also want to add Dapper, which I mentioned above.
9. What’s your favorite 5 paid apps and why?
I almost never download paid apps these days (things have certainly changed from before I started Freewaregenius).
- Excel 2003. I am a bit of an Excel Guru and work extensively with VBA (visual basic for applications) to do my day job. I think OpenOffice is fantastic but unfortunately with my need for VBA I have to use Excel. I might mention that I have both Excel 2003 and 2007 installed on my machine and much prefer the former.
- FinePrint. This is a fantastic program and I am always looking for a good freeware alternative; very surprised that there isn’t one yet.
- Adobe Premiere Pro: I used this one extensively for a project about a year and a half ago. An excellent program.
I really cannot think of any other paid programs that are worth using, except for Crystal Xcelsius which is a fantastic reporting platform that works with Excel.
10. Are you a one man band or do you work with a team or a few other people?
A bit of both, I think. I have had many people help me get Freewaregenius off the ground, including a number of friends whom I have turned to for review submissions and people at work who have helped me with advice and technical support. I’ve tried to get other people to create content for Freewaregenius with limited success. These days I am always thinking of ways to get a handful of good, serious bloggers to write for Freewaregenius, including the possibility of multiple ownership of the site and/or transparently divvying up any ad revenue. We’ll see.
11. What did the first few people you showed your blog think?
They were very positive. Most of the people I know whom I showed it to have sites of their own and they were as surprised as I was with the increasing levels of traffic that I was getting.
12. Name a few of your other favorite tech blogs.
I like Confessions of a Freeware Junky, Ghacks, DonationCoder, Bear Bottoms, Shell Extension City, SimpleHelp, The Great Software List (and blog), Open Source Alternative, and, of course, Appaholic 😉
13. What makes you say, “Some day, all software will be free”?
Well, just look at question number 9; I cannot really think of many paid software titles that I like even when I have to. Actually every so often somebody will ask me why there is so much free software out there, and I never quite know what the answer to that question is.
I have found that while a lot of people really like this slogan, some seem to have an aversion to it, as if I were saying “some day programmers will not get anything in return for their efforts”, which is not at all what I am saying. I am assuming that there is or will be a different model whereby developers of software will be financially rewarded when people use their software rather than when they pay for it, by virtue of having a relationship with the user base, perhaps, that their competitor doesn’t. In this world of hyper information you ultimately compete for people’s attention and if they are using your software then, well, that must be worth something.
In any rate what I do know is that with every passing day there is more and more free software out there, which suggests to me that it will probably be more and more difficult to charge for software in the future. I stick by my slogan 100%.
14. What’s the first app you install on a new system (apart from security apps)?
That would probably be Launchy.
15. Who would you say is your target audience?
Hmm. This is a very good question. Back when I first started Freewaregenius I thought I might fashion it as a list of recommended apps with a small description for each, which is the standard model for most freeware sites. However, I suspected that this model would not get me anywhere, not just because these sites are quite common and I needed something to differentiate mine, but because I suspected that to build an audience I needed to entertain people and offer something that looked interesting, which is where the idea of a “proper” review came from.
But to go back to your question, I think my audience consists of one third uber-geeks that are into software, technology, the internet, etc., that check the site on a regular basis, while another third consists of average users that might visit twice a week on average. The remaining segment, I think, are passers by who were delivered into my site by Google and who might come back to it only intermittently.
16. What do you have in your system tray on boot? What’s the first programme you open normally?
That’s changing all the time, really. At the moment I can see SysTrayMeter, Transfz, Spyware Terminator, Comodo, BOClean, Unlocker, RadWinMan, and Folder Scout.
The first program I usually open is either Excel or Post2Blog.
17. What RSS feeds do you subscribe to?
As mentioned in question #2 I subscribe to most if not all the software portal/directory sites (I think Fileforum is fantastic); for many of these I have created a freeware-filtered custom RSS feed with Dapper. I also subscribe to a few dozen tech blog type sites, including all the ones mentioned in question #12.
Samer from FreewareGenius.com, a freeware blog well worth reading and subscribing to. One of my favorites! Of course, keep watching out for AppAholic. We are different people, and therefore will find and review different freeware. There has already been several bits of software that I won’t review that he will, and the reverse is also true.
Lovely picture of Samer and his family there.
Thanks Samer for the picture and your time. Keep up the good work!
This is the first interview of many to come. Let me know what you think and I will try and improve it. I have 2 more lined up, but who? Well that’s a secret for now.