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Adam Betts

A MacHeist member strikes again: Adam Betts has accused me of "revenge" and "threatening a lawsuit" for rejecting an icon. The full tale, as you might suspect, is a bit different.

To be clear, yes, Cyndicate is an RSS aggregator coming from Cynical Peak Software, a software company run by former FSSer Brad Miller. Cyndicate been referred to on this blog as "Iris," and it's about two months from shipping.

Brad and I had used Adam Betts before and been quite pleased with his work and rates. We tried to use him on subsequent FSS icons, but were unable to do so. Having sold FSS well over a year prior, I contacted Adam while MacHeist was finishing up and he agreed to do a full suite of icons for Cyndicate - app icon, document icons, toolbar and preference bar icons, small list-view icons - the works.

The application icon's general idea stemmed from someone I'll refer to only as "John" right now, and we passed it along to Adam along with a Google image search for "press hat." ((As a general aside, I'm pleased as punch with both the name of the icon and the idea for its design. The company is named "Cynical Peak," so "Cyndicate/Syndicate" play off each other well. Given the "Cyndicate" name, the mind might wander to "crime syndicate." That both mobsters and the press wore fedoras is yet another interesting twist, letting us embed the "" icon in the band of the fedora. Good stuff all around, if I do say so myself.))

We agreed on a price and timeline and Adam Betts agreed not to disclose the details of the project to anyone prior to release of the application. He'd previously leaked FTPeel's icon and name prior to release, so we were clear about this point.

Six weeks after beginning work on the project, on January 23, Adam sent us an application icon he'd tweaked at our request(s) to near-final form along with toolbar icons we'd not seen before (let alone approved). He said "I will need to move on and start working on other projects."

My response, in part, was "You've had several months to get this far, and we were very clear about our deadlines and goals from the start. Knowing all of this, you agreed - in writing - to a contract. I expect that you will honor your word."

Adam chose not to honor the commitment he made, instead attempting to enforce the invoice he'd attached to his initial "I'm moving on" email. Adam seemed to believe that he was doing us a favor by taking on this project. I countered that the business world does not acknowledge favors, only agreements and contracts. Adam, clearly, had failed to honor his agreement to complete the work, and was effectively asking us to pay for partially done work while simultaneously forcing us to find another icon developer to finish a set of icons, a process that delayed Iris's release several weeks.

I told Adam he had two choices as I saw it: honor the agreement or propose a resolution to which we could agree. I then said "I suppose you have a third, in fact, but it involves lawyers and I'd just as soon avoid them if possible." Despite Adam Betts' claim that I "threatened a lawsuit," I was clearly telling him that if he felt so strongly he should be paid for breaking a contract and delivering less than half a product he committed to deliver, he had the option to find a lawyer.

I did, to be clear, make several mentions of the fact that he was on legally shaky ground to both bail in the middle of a project and then to demand (partial) payment. But never did I threaten litigation as Betts' post ((Don't link to it in the comments - links will be removed.)) asserts.

Adam later sent a payment deadline reminder on February 19. I responded "We don't pay for half-done jobs and agreements broken ((Great grammar, eh? :-P)). We've hired another icon designer who is designing icons for us from the ground up. We're not using your icons in any way, shape, or form." I continued, saying "Good luck with your future endeavors. You've lost Brad and I as people who will recommend you to anyone and everyone."

Adam responded (quoted in full):

Hi Erik,

No problem, thanks for letting me know that icon won't be used in final product. Just to make sure it's clear, I still retain the full rights to all Iris/Cyndicate icons I've sent you. They cannot be used anywhere without my permission or until payment has been made.

Sorry about disappointing you but I hope you will understand soon why I'm unable to continue working on the toolbar icons. I know it is important for my future career and I felt that I have done a lot of goods for you despite the late deliverance of PulpFiction final application icon and unfinished Cyndicate toolbar icons. I hope you realize that I'm not the type of guy who would screw people over such a small and simple project like Cyndicate toolbar icons. There is a reason why I cannot continue and I can't tell you why yet but I can safely say that it have nothing to do with me doing graphics for any competing products.

I bear no ill-feeling toward you though. I still respect you as much as it was before the Iris/Cyndicate project.

Best Regards,

This email not only notes past examples of poor work ethic ("late" PulpFiction icons, "disappointing" customers simply to take on a "bigger" job, delivery of "unfinished" icons, and so on), but clearly contradicts Adam's later comments on the topic.

As I see it, the simple non-subjective facts of the matter are:

  1. Adam Betts knowingly agreed and contracted to do work in a certain time frame. The agreement expressly listed all work to be done, the time frame in which the work was to be done, and the non-disclosure of details of the software prior to its release.
  2. Adam Betts was given plenty of time to complete the work. In fact, he still had time left - the "I quit, please pay me" email was sent weeks before the deadline.
  3. Adam Betts failed to uphold his end of the agreement, yet repeatedly requested payment for the small portion of the work he'd nearly finished.
  4. We refused to pay, citing the fact that he broke the agreement, and allowing him a chance to set things right, either by finishing the work or retracting the invoice.
  5. Adam Betts sent a final "reminder" and claimed he bore no ill feeling towards us, then contradicts himself by publishing fact-poor retelling of the tale.

I'll be the first to admit that I made a large mistake: all business was conducted via email and IM. I thought nothing of it at the time as it's how we'd worked with Adam before. Though as legally binding as a verbal agreement, email is not nearly as official as it could be - with signed, dated duplicates and the works. As a "startup," I'm sure part of our reasoning was to save the expense and hassle, and again, we'd worked with Adam reasonably before. Though we felt we could trust Adam Betts, we now know differently. Live and learn.

2 Responses to "Adam Betts"

  1. Adam's latest comment (that I've bothered to check) says:

    Honestly, don't you find it slightly odd that this client has had an excellent relationship with me in the past until the day I couldn't continue to work on the project due to limited timeframe which this client was very aware of? As much as this client want to spread misinformation, I assure you this was not a breach of contract but more of "personally offended."

    I treat all of my clients very fairly but this one was just too out of this world. I don't appreciate it when one start threatening a law suit just to scare others, especially without a solid case to back him/her up.

    My off-the-cuff response would be:

    We didn't have an "excellent relationship" with Adam - he'd previously breached an understanding (and etiquette and common sense) by releasing the name and icons of a software project we'd not yet released or announced. Then he disappeared for a year when FSS needed MailDrop 2.0 icons to play World of Warcraft. But Adam typically does good work, so we hired him again.

    The time frame was completely under Adam's control, and Adam had several weeks to complete a project that didn't even reach $1000. We (Brad and I) did not in any way, shape, or form agree to a half-done job or to a time constraint. Our feedback on icons was supplied to Adam within 24 hours each time.

    Furthermore, again, I never once threatened a lawsuit. In fact, as mentioned above, I told Adam that he had that option if he felt he should be paid for breaching the agreement. So who is truly spreading misinformation?

  2. [...] Cyndicate is on MacUpdate and VersionTracker, of course. As for the story behind the current MU comments, well, pfft. [...]