We try to avoid this sort of self-congratulation most of the time since it doesn't do much for readers (you know for yourself whether or not you like TidBITS - you don't need to hear us patting ourselves on the back all the time, like other publications are wont to do on occasion. However, there is a time and place for everything, so here's what people like the most about TidBITS.
A lot of people like our writing style, and let us know with adjectives like "breezy and informal," "opinionated and insightful," etc. It reminds me a bit of a line I like to use when pretending to be pretentious about wine. First you roll the wine around in the glass, sniff it, and take a tiny little sip. Then pronounce seriously, "Obsequious, yet servile." Here's a couple of the comments on our style.
"Succinct, but rich in its description"
"It is gossipy and written with a breezy, informal style."
"The writing style. Your articles are informative without being stuffy."
"Well written; informative; witty; I've learned a lot from TidBITS."
"I am always impressed at finding knowledgeable computer mavens who can handle English gracefully; the two are often mutually exclusive."
"I like the short concise articles (when presenting information from other publications). Of course, you have articles which don't appear elsewhere and your opinions and wry sense of humor seem to match mine as well (which never hurts to endear one's self to one's readers)."
"The personal, informal, yet informative writing style"
"Timely, independent, humorous."
"The lighthearted editorial style"
"Wide breadth of info, ease of use, breezy and informal writing style - a very valuable source of info for me, a novice user, since I rarely have time to read magazines and other info sources."
"The regularity, informativeness and the general all-round good quality of the writing."
"Articles are interesting, humorous, well written technically."
Another feature which people singled out as being important was our opinions. We certainly don't ask that anyone agree with us (though many apparently do), but we try to bring together information from a variety of sources and make sense of it as a whole. We do believe it's important to have and express opinions whenever possible because that's what makes reading a publication interesting. We also believe that telling the truth, cutting through the propaganda, and keeping it humorous are essential parts of good subjective (but fair) reporting.
"Either I admire your objectivity, or I usually agree with your opinions."
"I like the timely information, the HyperCard access to the articles and the attitude of the editors." [gee, and in high school I was mostly told that I had a bad attitude :-)]
"I like that it's an opinionated and insightful digest. I read most of the articles mentioned or discussed, but you consistently make connections which make better sense of what's going on in the industry for me."
"The news I usually already have, except from the unusual sources such as Internet which I can't keep up with. What I prefer is your unique analysis, viewpoints, and opinions on the news items I've already read."
"I like the fact that TidBITS is willing to express opinions not found in the standard journals. Actually, I don't get MacWEEK or InfoWorld, and I very much like the fact that TidBITS keeps me informed of things going on in the micro-computer world. I also like the fact that it is not as myopic as MacUser (in particular) and the others: I think it is important for Mac users to know what is going on in the rest of micro-land: NeXTs, PCs, Unix, the lot; at least, the important events." [Yup, no reason to be chauvinistic about the Mac. We love it, but other machines certainly have their merits as well.]
"Frankly, I like the candor and dry humor the best. I also like questionnaires that start with a 'zero' item."
"Rather irreverent, Mac-based but ecumenical, techno-junkie compatibility "
"The fact that you are enthusiastic Mac users, as opposed to the dry "press release regurgitation" of the mainstream press."
"It's concise, and it has some interesting editorial viewpoints."
"It brings together various sources and makes something out of the whole mess that is interesting. Often, there are very insightful sources in the stories that do not seem to write in the trade journals." [They are hard to find, but well worth it when we do.]
"I personally like the commentary (editorializing) on the news/rumor items."
"News that I haven't found elsewhere. Intelligent opinions and conclusions. i.e. stuff that isn't generally obvious or immediately apparent."
"The collection of news and rumors. The analysis of multiple rumors is logical and insightful."
"Good articles. Not those of a "canned" blurb from a vendor but actually those expressing the overall view of the "viewers"." [Precisely! After all, you "viewers" are the people who count in this game.]
"I like the idea of a coupla people publishing their skewed view of the world (and computers, the Macintosh). I'm not into formality, I think it is possibly one of the main problems with Humanity. Many things, I think, are offshoots of formality. Another perk is that the two major Mac magazines, Macworld and MacUser, are centered around two major Mac user-groupings: stupid people and stupid people with money. I prefer to hear about what people (er, non-stupid ones) are doing with computers (or whatever) or new technologies, et cetera. Ya know?" [Yeah, I do know. Well-thought out comment, especially considering the writer is 14 years old.]
And then of course, is the mission of TidBITS - to provide succinct, timely coverage of interesting events in the computer industry, commercial and non-commercial. We're glad that we've succeeded in this, helping busy people to stay informed without drowning in the sea of information (in which the computer industry provides a strong undertow).
"Its very existence. I don't read any user magazines for the Mac (they are not interesting enough for what I usually do). TidBITS is the sole source of information concerning the Mac, besides the one presented in comp.sys.mac.digest."
"It stays crunchy in milk. That, and it lets me keep up on some of the more interesting Mac news without falling behind when I don't have time to read comp.sys.mac.vomit and MacPlanetPerson all the time. " [and we don't even add BHT for preservative :-)]
"I am most interested in news of products, especially non-commercial which usually don't appear in MacWEEK et al."
"The way it summarizes interesting Net News, so I don't have to put up with Net Nerds."
"Technical information (i.e., not beginner information I've read 50 times already). Information that I usually don't see elsewhere (MacOberon, Xanadu, etc...). Product information. Your use of good reference people (such as Kevin Calhoun for HyperCard)" [Since we are experienced Mac users, it's gotten difficult to write so that a complete novice would understand everything. Partly because of that, we don't try. Yet, we've gotten a number of comments that indicate that TidBITS is still an excellent resource for novices, perhaps in part because it doesn't talk down to them. It may take a little longer to figure everything out, but once you do, you know it well.]
"TidBITS supplements info for my Mac newsletter. It has summarized some message traffic in comp.sys.mac.* newsgroups. Good insight most of the time."
"The marble-looking background. The compact summary of key topics. The non-tree eating format. The sticktuidness of your on-going dedication. Heck, I almost want to offer my paid subscription." [Not necessary, but the thought is extremely appreciated.]
"Concise useful information. A lot less sensationalist than trade press, actually gives me the information I need and want, rather than a load of bumpf. Much more timely as well, which helps. Summarises discussions from the net, which I would like to follow but miss parts of because our news is so flaky. ("A low priority item")." [Sorry to hear about your news feed - we feel that news should almost always be a high priority item.]
"I think it gives a good overview of current concerns and items of interest. I don't have the time to wade through all the information that is available to me. "
"Concise and fairly quick reporting. Keep the new product reviews coming!"
"Rumor-style news (i.e. unreleased products). Candid, succinct product comparisons."
And let's not forget the review listings. This part of TidBITS is the least fun to do for us but is one of the most useful for many people. A friend who works at an Apple dealer in technical support says he refers to his TidBITS Archive several times a day, often for review listings. So while some people use TidBITS for all their Macintosh information, others use it as an essential adjunct to their magazines.
"The index to reviews is the most indispensable feature. You do a great job. For me, the combination of comp.sys.mac.* and TidBITS eliminates any need to subscribe to Mac[WEEK,World,User]. "
"The fact that it is a cumulative stack and the ability to search for a review location without going through the pile of magazines for one, the other thing would be to get the news electronically therefore fast and frequently since it is a weekly."
"I like the list of reviews, however it would be useful to know a little more, such as the length of the article."
One thing that many people in the US forget is that TidBITS is an international publication. It is hard for us to say much about what's happening in other countries, living in the US as we do, but we do what we can. From what we've heard, much of the rest of the world is unfortunately a bit behind the US in the latest and greatest, but TidBITS is helping to even things out. If anyone in another country knows something which you wouldn't have heard of living anywhere else (like a local developer doing some interesting work), please let us know and we'll do an article on it.
"To get an overview about articles in US magazines without going to library "
"Short list of products reviewed in Mac magazines. In Europe we get the new magazines about 1 month after they appear in the US. Info is always up to date."