Genii Weblog

On-line demos not restricted to the web?

Tue 7 Dec 2004, 11:06 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
I have long been frustrated by the inability to demonstrate the full functionality of our Midas Rich Text products in on-line demos.  Even though there are some cool things you can show on the web, it is hard to get past the sense that it could be smoke and mirrors, since with a sufficient amount of code, you could manage to make all sorts of things work with pure HTML.  The harder thing to accomplish is fast, simple rich text manipulation in a Notes client, and that is what Midas excels at.  I have addressed this limitation by encouraging people to request an evaluation license and download Midas.  Obviously this has worked, as many, many downloads and subsequent sales have proven over the years, but it still bothers me that a certain number of people aren't going to request the license, download the software, download the samples and try it out.  But what could I do?

Well, one thing I could do that hadn't really occurred to me until today was to open our server up to anonymous Notes connections (locking all other databases down very carefully first, of course), and modify some of our samples to use RunOnServer to run the Midas script from the server.  In this way, people could open the database or databases from a Notes client, try out the functionality in its most gee whiz worthy mode, and never have to install anything.  No samples downloaded.  No software downloaded.  No evaluation license necessary.  I could disable replication, but I probably wouldn't need to, since they would not have designer rights and couldn't push design changes back up.  If you wanted to go further, you could still take the next step and request a license.

What do you think? Would you be willing to open a database up from a vendor site to run a remote demo?  Would you be worried about malicious code?  Would it feel easier than downloading and installing software on your own machine?  Are there security issues I haven't thought about?

Copyright 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

244.1. Stephan H. Wissel
(08.12.2004 07:09)

Hi Ben,

good idea. However a lot of your corporate potentials would not get through their firewalls. You could do a staggered approach:

- Record some client sessions (Quarbon or Camtasia should do the trick)

- Annotate them, so users would get a good understanding


Stage 2: your demo on your server

Stage 3: Demo license

Stage 4: SALES

;-) stw

244.2. Stan Rogers
(12/08/2004 07:13 AM)

Ben, I think that as long as the About page is clear about the ECL stuff (what you're doing and why), people who have the level of competency with Notes that may have brought them to your site would be willing to run the demos. They always have the option to exclude you from thiings like touching other databases, manipulating the file system, etc. What you offer are solutions to the kinds of problems that would otherwise drive developers batty -- I think it's safe to assume that visitors won't be first-day newbies.

244.3. Ben Langhinrichs
(12/08/2004 07:33 AM)

Stephan - I recorded demos a long time ago using Screencam, but the technology failed under newer versions of Windows. I do think that is a good approach, and will look into the two products you suggest. Of course,this still leaves the question in some minds whether it is just smoke and mirrors, but would be effective for some users.

Stan - I think that if I do the RunOnServer agents properly, the ECL issues will at least be minimized, but it is a good point that I will need to be very clear about this in the documentation. Thanks for the thought.

244.4. Ben Poole
(08/12/2004 07:48)

As Stephan says, port 1352 isn't an option for many: most corporate networks block it.

If I was to review a Flash / Camtasia / whatever presentation, I would take it as read that the demo was "real" and not a horrible mock-up, so don't be too concerned at having to do that.

All that said, for those who don't have firewall issues, the "live" Notes demo would certainly be compelling.

244.5. Rob McDonagh
(12/08/2004 11:37 AM)

I've had a lot of success getting security admins to open up port 1352 outbound from different employers (to replicate the LDD forums), so I think there may be quite a few of us out here with that type of access. It's definitely a great idea.

Flash/Camtasia stuff is fine (and, like Ben P, I don't worry that it's fake), but one problem is that it's entirely scripted. We get a chance to see the features you pick out, but unless you're incredibly thorough we're probably going to be missing some nuances we'd get by using the demo directly.