As I’m sure most of you have noticed, and a couple of you have commented upon, we’ve been publishing more articles about the Internet in TidBITS over the last few months. These articles, for the most part, do concentrate on the relationship of the Macintosh and the Internet, or look at Macintosh software that one uses to connect to the Internet.
Some people feel that this is a change in our focus, and that feeling is both correct and incorrect. In the first three years of TidBITS, we focused much more on specific Macintosh programs, utilities, tips, and so on. Although there was a certain amount of Internet-related news, I included it not so much because it was guaranteed to interest readers, but because the Internet was (and remains) by far the main way TidBITS is distributed. Then, after I wrote the first edition of Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, an increasing amount of Macintosh-related Internet information started appearing.
There are a few reasons for this. First, the "mission statement" of TidBITS (not that I’m really the sort to record such a thing) is to report on news, events, and products that interest me (or Tonya, Geoff, or Mark, especially as they have taken over more of the work). Egotistical and opinionated as that may be, that has been the overriding force behind TidBITS for its entire life. As I’ve done more in the industry, learned more about the Mac, written more articles, met more people, and so on, it’s only reasonable that my interests would evolve over time, and in this case, they’ve evolved toward the Internet. Second, one of the reasons my interests have moved ever toward the Internet is that I’m a bit of a populist, at least in the sense that I’m increasingly uninterested in niches or in fields that exclude people. When TidBITS started, programs were less powerful but had less of a learning curve, and of course, there were fewer of them. They were more inclusive – more people would use something like PageMaker even if they weren’t serious desktop publishers, perhaps because it was really good at making signs or something like that.
Programs like that still exist, certainly, but the examples tend to stick out more these days. RAM Doubler is the big one, and things like Conflict Catcher, or the Now Utilities, or Retrospect – all of these are programs that any Macintosh user could want and could use. I’m not saying that everyone does, or should, but you don’t have to be in a certain industry, or have a certain skill set to use these programs. They include users.
I’ve been an Internet user for many years, but in writing the book, I learned a lot more about what software was available for Mac users to access the Internet as Mac users should – via clean graphical interfaces. I also started to meet some of the programmers and become involved in a Mac Internet culture I hadn’t previously known. In the process I realized several things. I realized that the Internet is not exclusionary – anyone can, if they want to, find something of interest, no matter what they do or who they are. I also saw what could happen when talented programmers working on their own communicate with one another. I saw programs like NewsWatcher build in a commonly agreed-upon Apple event to support programs like Anarchie and Fetch, and then later TurboGopher and MacWeb. I saw Peter Lewis and Quinn write Internet Config and release it to the public domain, merely because it was the right thing to do.
While all of this happened, I was watching much of the rest of the Macintosh industry stagnate. Everything was a "me-too" program, yet another contact database, or version X.0 of a program that had been around for years. I saw few new ways of thinking about how we use computers, and how programs and programmers can make that process both easier and more enjoyable. Sure, there were brief moments of light, a feature here or there that was just done right, but it’s been a time of bloatware and refinement. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but it doesn’t flip my pancakes.
It’s not easy putting out a newsletter every week, and the things that keep you going are the excitement of what’s changing, the feeling of having done a really solid article on something, and the kind comments from readers. And, for me personally, a lot of it is the satisfaction of having done something different, of having broken the rules (most of which I never knew to begin with anyway).
I hope that explains a bit of why our subject matter has slowly evolved to include more Internet-related topics. We are by no means going Internet-only, and only time will tell toward what we end up evolving in the future.