A concerned user recently asked me how I was doing in the aftermath of the issue with eBay sales of JBidwatcher, specifically:

You seemed pretty depressed about it in your post to the website.

I was.

There was a really bad week there, while I was dealing with all of it, back and forth, and just feeling like crap. I got a lot of user feedback, from a LOT of people, that reminded me, as the concerned user put it, not to let the few jerks make me give up.

I took some time to work on other projects, and I’ve been fiddling with the next major rev of JBidwatcher, mostly cleaning up the code, improving the source layout, fixing small things that nobody else will likely ever see, and writing silly features just for the fun of it. (Like making the internal webserver take ‘events’ to be posted to the various subsystems, so you can add an item, do a bid, or even tell it to fire off a sound effect through a REST-ish interface. You could theoretically ‘script’ JBidwatcher through that.)

I’ve also mostly moved the code base of JBidwatcher to Java 1.5 (mmmm, tasty generics!), since 1.6 is now out. I’ve also been experimenting with including ‘Derby’, an embeddable (in the ‘ship with program’ sense) tiny SQL-based database, so that JBidwatcher’s memory usage doesn’t grow at the same rate as the number of auctions. Also so that it can offload completed auctions, so they’re not kept in memory anymore at all. Yet another thing I’ve been playing with is including a scripting language (something simple) which would get run on certain events, which would allow for making some of the complex rules people have requested as features. I’ve also written up an FAQ I need to publish on the site. (The first question addresses my inability to answer emails consistently, in fact!)

Anyway, all told I (and work!) have been keeping myself busy, albeit quiet. It all helps me get past the issue with the people selling JBidwatcher. Future versions will probably not be open source, however. 🙁 I may expose the source, or open certain sections, but almost all open source licenses explicitly allow what those folks were doing, and I’ve determined that it’s beyond what I’m comfortable with. One of the things people repeatedly said in private emails was that the open source nature of JBidwatcher was not critical to their appreciation of JBidwatcher. This means I’ll need to extricate myself from Sourceforge in various ways, and cover my own purchase of IntelliJ IDEA, but I think donations will have covered that.

I don’t want to charge for JBidwatcher; I prefer people using it and deciding for themselves what it’s worth to them. Plus, because it’s scraping eBay, I feel bad about asking for money for something that could break the next day. So I expect the program will continue to be no cost. I’m thrilled to get donations, of course, but I don’t build JBidwatcher to make money; I have a day job for that. 🙂

At the same time I’m working on building other projects so my morale won’t get torpedoed so badly when someone messes with the sole project I’ve been working on.

One of the other projects I’m working on are a health tracking tool (weight, blood pressure, hours slept, water drank, steps taken, foods eaten with nutrition information, and more stuff like that, with pretty graphs and sparklines (my weight trend: Weight Trend Sparkline)). The other major one is a comprehensive multi-user outliner tool. Both are entirely web based applications, unlike JBidwatcher, and both are in Ruby on Rails.

I’m sorry that I haven’t been dedicating more time to JBidwatcher, but it’s been fundamentally working okay recently, and I needed to blow off steam by doing cool new stuff. So I’ve been letting it percolate, and rekindling my coding passion by working on other interesting problems.

That’s the status as of now; I hope that this sheds some light on my thought processes, and what I see in the future for JBidwatcher. One important thing to take away is that YES, there is a future for JBidwatcher. 🙂

Thank you, every one, who wrote me, donated, or just thought well of me during all this. I appreciate it a great deal more than I can express.

— Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!


  1. On Liz Says:

    I am really gutted that you have to deal with muppets selling your stuff on ebay – I’ve really enjoyed using JBidwatcher, have recommended it widely and donated to say thanks for all your hard work! After all JBidwather has saved me a fortune!!

    THANKS for all your continued hard work and perseverence!


  2. On Jason Airlie Says:

    Please reconsider changing the license. It might not prevent people from selling JBidwatcher, older versions will still be covered by the GPL and it’s likely that if they are making money off of it then it would be worth their while to keep it updated enough to keep working as eBay changes.

    The real value of open source comes in when you decide to move on to other projects, or an additional developer jumps in excited to help out fixing bugs and adding features. Most users won’t notice the differences between free, and open source but it still matters. I’ve seen too many great programs wither and die as the developer lost interest, suffered a hard drive crash, or got too busy to be able to keep working on them. With open source the chance exists that it can rise again in the hands of another.

    There are a number of licenses that forbid commercial distribution Go here and search for “commercial” :

    Another option is keeping the GPL code always one or two versions behind the latest.

    JBidwatcher is a great program and where you take it next is your decision. Thank you for letting us enjoy your hard work. It would be a shame for JBidwatcher to go closed source, but ultimately what matters most is what license you are comfortable with.

  3. On Cyberfox Says:

    There’s a lot that went into the decision to walk away from the open/free licenses, the main piece being that any one that qualified as open/free explicitly allows what happened to me.

    Choosing a non-qualifying license means that I lose access to the use of Sourceforge (which I migrated off for local svn as soon as I made the decision), and probably lose the ‘qualifying open source project’ status with IntelliJ. Thankfully my users have donate enough that it’s not too hard for me to spring for a real personal license…

    I’ve really never gotten enough code feedback and contributions, and in nearly seven years nobody’s been comfortable enough with the code that I could even consider making them a co-developer on the project, much less handing off the reins.

    Right now the ‘de facto’ situation is that the old version is still GPL, so it kind of fits the ‘a few versions behind the latest’ type of development (ala Ghostscript, iirc). I’m working on substantial changes for a new version, but it’ll be a while before I have to decide whether to open that up.

    If I’m ever at the point where I want to walk away from it, I will most definitely open up the source code; that’s not really a question.

    If someone wants to take over for me…well, I’ll let them when they show they can. But the truth is that projects where the maintainer changes have a much greater chance of dying, because the new maintainer has no real ‘skin’ in the project. Especially something the size of JBidwatcher, where most of it is written already. I’m sure everyone’s had the experience of a project handoff, a few new versions, and then *thump*, the project goes dark. The list of people out there who really care about the scraping problem is pretty small, honestly, and most of them are going to build their own solutions.

    The core thing to understand is that I don’t WANT to operate in a non-open source fashion. I really don’t; I like being transparent about the code. It’s good in a lot of ways… However, I’m really not willing to let people do what was done to me. None of the ‘commercial resale prohibiting’ source-visible licenses (at least of the ones on the page pointed to) are free of other nastiness like ‘commercial use’ restrictions. If I have to hire a lawyer to go after someone, I’d rather it be very clear that the person is breaking the law, and leaving my source open leaves that question open.

    I’m so very *bad words here* tired of fighting this battle. I’d rather program, because that’s what I’m good at and love. Not legal shit. Since I am not a lawyer, and the benefits have not ever gelled and the drawbacks are very distinct, painful and known to exist, I take the simple route of saying, ‘No more.’

    Hope this helps…

    Best of luck with your auctions!

    — Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

  4. On tim marshman Says:

    Hi, I hope this is the apropriat place to ask this question. I have been using Jbidwatcher for some time and been very happy with it. Recently I am finding more and more auctions that will not past into Jbidwatcher and canot be added using the auction number either. It is generaly US sellers I have this issue with. What is this caused by and how do I fix it it almost loks like some ebay code has been deliberatly changed to disable Jbidwatcher. I can still laod most auctions but a few selers that have a lot of industrial surplus that Im chasing I am having to bid manualy ( sux). Another reminder just how valuable Jbidwatcher is when its working.

    Tim Marshman