We're considering dropping our Reviews column, and we want to know what you think of the idea. The Reviews column is located at the end of each TidBITS issue, and lists product reviews from several major Macintosh magazines. The utility of the column is that you can search a group of TidBITS issues for a given review topic and locate publication dates and page numbers corresponding to those reviews. When we started TidBITS almost six years ago, most Macintosh magazines were paper-based, and it was almost impossible to find back reviews. The magazines did publish yearly indices of reviews, but until the index you needed came out, you were out of luck. The ability to search TidBITS online and find reviews has helped many people, and that utility outweighed the fact it's a lot of work to type in the reviews each week.
The reason for the Reviews column is essentially gone now that MacWEEK, MacUser, and Macworld all have Web sites that provide search engines and often the full text of the reviews online. These searching facilities are great - we use them ourselves when we need to tread backwards in time. It seems pointless to continue our monk-like copying efforts when the magazines' Web sites offer much more than our meager lists. Before you ask, no, we are not considering adding URLs to online articles in the Reviews column, since that would add to our already formidable workloads.
However, rather than make a unilateral decision (something we're perfectly capable of, I assure you), we thought we'd try a simple survey technique. On our Web site, we've set up a survey page where you can register your opinion about dropping the column. There's nothing fancy about the survey, and - in fact - the survey totals will exist only in our WebSTAR log file. Sure, we could put a CGI behind the pages and record the count in that manner, but there's no real point in wasting effort on something this simple.
Since running the survey on our Web server only allows people with Web access to vote, you can also vote by email. To vote that TidBITS continue its Reviews column, send mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>; to vote to discontinue the reviews, send mail to <email@example.com>. Please note these messages will not be read, merely counted. As usual, comments about TidBITS should be sent to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Both survey methods will remain open until the end of February, when we'll tally the votes.
We realize that voting on whether or not we keep our review listings isn't that titillating, so - to enhance the excitement level - the survey page on the Web has a picture of Tonya and me, a picture of Mark, and Geoff's GeoffCam picture. So, if you want to check out the faces behind TidBITS, stop by. And while you're there, click either the Yes or No link to register your vote.