Of course, if we’re going to print all those nice things people said about us, we have to print the negative comments as well. The majority of the complaints had to do with HyperCard itself and our HyperCard-based reader, which by our own admission is simple at best, if you’re being kind. The descriptions we use currently are more in the range of "god-awful slow" and "brain-damaged." Of course some people do like the reader quite a bit, although we suspect that they mainly like the idea of it and are willing to overlook our implementation problems. In the reader’s favor, all we can say is that if you have enough disk space free (more than the size of the TidBITS Archive stack), it’s stable and it does work.
HyperCard garnered a lot of animosity, some of which is completely deserved (I like the program, but I’ll admit that it has some major problems), and some of which is our fault for not scripting around HyperCard’s limitations.
"My only complaint about TidBITS is that it uses HyperCard, which I think sucks the proverbial pickle. It treats me like an idiot, is slow, and most importantly, the stacks waste enormous amounts of disk space."
"Archiving takes much time and leads to large files. Selective archiving should be supported." [Excellent point. We’ll keep it in mind.]
"The weird way HyperCard makes the scroll bars grey even when there is nothing to scroll." [Luckily, HyperCard 2.0 fixes this.]
"I wouldn’t otherwise keep HyperCard on my hard disk." [Ouch, but I understand. Wait for the tagged text format.]
" Let’s face it, HyperCard is a slow, belabored pig. Why is it that 7 weeks of TidBITS takes up gobs (211K) of my precious (read "damn near full") disk space? Keep It Simple, Stupid has been applied to the implementor, but HC is not the best tool for the end user. I’d much prefer a small application and then you could include the application with each issue in about the same space. Also, I’m sure it would be handy to keep the text of the TidBITS on a UNIX box so I can use tools like grep to find things." [This comment points to the main reasons we’re moving to an implicitly tagged text format, though we wouldn’t include an application with each issue – it would waste too much net bandwidth.]
"Leetle slow " [Lottle slow :-)]
"Various HC weaknesses: too slow (on my lowly Plus); odd textwrap, especially with hyphenation." [Yeah, I edit everything in HyperCard to avoid the worst of it, such as broken curly quotes and parentheses, but it’s still a pain.]
"That my TidBITS Archive gets compacted every time I merge a new issue, which takes about close to one minute on my SE. (What computers do you have?)" [It all takes a while on our SE/30, but I just leave the room for a while.]
"It takes forever to update the *%&(*^ index in the archive stack. (Yes, I realize there probably isn’t much of anything you can do about this.)" [There is, but it requires a complete revamping of the Archive and the distribution stacks, which would cause so much confusion that we’ve avoided doing it. I just leave the room when I’m doing it.]
"It’s slow to move from one end of the archive to the other, and there’s no REALLY easy way to print out an article to share it with people paper-wise." [Agreed. The speed problems will be fixed, and printing support will be added (which is much easier in HyperCard 2.0), much as I want TidBITS to stay as electronic as possible.]
"The text window is too small and is unstyled." [The window in the HyperCard 2.0 version will be resizable, at least between two common (9" and 13") sizes. Nothing we could do about the styles originally, since HyperCard 1.x didn’t support different styles, but that will be fixed too.]
And then there are the specific complaints about our interface. The next version of the interface will be very different, but should address the problems mentioned here.
"That it uses a different background on each issue when archive stack is made." [We fixed the background problem with TidBITS-025, I think. A major culprit was the quotes.]
"I’m not sure that I like the new font. It is a little small for me." [The font will be user-specified. We were just trying to put more text on the screen at once.]
"The magic menubar (just show it, will you?)." [Sorry, it won’t be in the next version.]
"I don’t like the fact that the index field on the left of the screen does a "find" to locate a card after you’ve clicked on the topic. In the archive stack, this becomes a very lengthy task (even on an IIfx). It would be better if the index stored the card id number and you could just go to that automatically." [You’re right, it’s dumb, but it’s also easy and a short, efficient script.]
"The opening screen of disclaimers." [Agreed. The disclaimers will eventually move to the end and shorten significantly.]
And then there were the people who have been reading our minds all along.
"The HyperCard format is unnecessary. Straight text would be better. (Remember that I don’t use the archive feature.)" [Yup, we’re working on an implicitly tagged text format that will take over as the primary distribution format eventually.]
"Non text form distribution, making it practically impossible to read it without first transferring to Mac." [That’s another reason for the implicitly tagged text file format – TidBITS will be readable on any platform.]
"HyperCard format has to be downloaded to read." [Yup, that’s the main advantage of the text format – you can read it online and download if you want to archive it.]
At first, we didn’t think about how much time would be spent reading the articles and did not allot enough space to the main text field. Heck, we were surprised that TidBITS became as popular as it did as quickly as it did, which accounts for many of the interface problems.
"The interface, which spends a lot of screen real estate that probably could be better used. The field in which the article is in doesn’t take up more that 1/4 of the screen, and that should be increased. For starters, I think the sources should be mentioned at the end of the article instead of in their own field to save some space."
"Rather small main text window, because too much of the standard HyperCard is taken up by gizmos (such as an overly-prominent cite window). I’m not used to reading out of a 5" window, which is small even in a 9" screen, much less my 13" screen."
"I think there’s too much precious turf devoted to static advertisement (of the source) in the reader."
This is the part that hurts to read and isn’t pleasant to print, but hey, fair is fair.
"Lengthy and arcane philosophical rambling about hypertext." [Ah, sorry about that. We like the idea of hypertext and electronic text too much and do tend to go off on it a bit on occasion.]
"Sometimes too much rehashing of things I’d already read in the Mac groups." [That’s part of the point, but we always try to add information to the news we get from sources you may have access to already.]
"Long articles about nothing interesting; difficult to read for strangers." [As much as we try, we can’t please everyone. However, we’re delighted to print articles or reviews submitted by readers, so if you want to see or spread information about a topic we’re ignoring, send us information or an article. We also try to avoid writing about topics about which we know nothing, which contributes to missing certain topics. Help us fill in the gaps!]
"I’d prefer more fact and less rumor." [Whenever possible, we try to stick to fact, but sometimes it can’t be helped. I think we do passably well on rumors that come true. It’s only false rumors that are a pain.]
"I am not interested in reading opinions about the "future of …"" [Sorry. With the speed at which the computer industry moves, "the future of…" very well may be next week, which is why we often think that information is valuable.]
"Cute comments." [I highly recommend reading press releases then, they never have any cute comments.]
"No complaints. Though not every installment has exactly what I’m interested in (neither does MacUser) it’s pretty good for what you offer." [That’s what we aim for, thanks.]
"Too much concentration on "Well known" programs like Illustrator and PageMaker that poor people like me have never even seen." [I understand your complaint, but since I write over 90% of the articles, it’s hard for me to write much about programs that aren’t well enough known for me to have seen. Again, if you or anyone else wants to let the world know about a great unknown product, tell me or write an article or review about it.]
"Occasionally there’s not very much interesting news in an issue." [Occasionally there’s not very much interesting news in a week :-)]
"The political editorializing." [Sorry if that has offended you. We try to avoid political news except when it intersects with the computer industry, at which point the views offered are based on our opinions of the industry, not on our opinions of the political environment. We do take a few potshots at the political system on occasion since it’s such an easy target – we’ll try to watch that. I hope at least someone noticed that we never even mentioned the Middle East – it wasn’t relevant.]
"Economy – all those market things… but sometimes they’re necessary." [Yes, they are. As much as I dislike it, I’m beginning to believe my own jesting motto "All the world’s a marketing scheme." To understand and predict the industry accurately, we have to pay attention to the wheeling and dealing. We do try to make it interesting, since there’s little that more boring than financial news to many people.]
"US bias" [Absolutely nothing we can do about this complaint without help from you, our international readers. Tell you what. If enough people from enough other countries send us information about the state of the Macintosh in their country, we’ll edit it all together and release a special issue on the International State of the Mac. So if you don’t live in the US, send us your views on the Mac in your country. Operators are standing by.]
Here we thought that everyone would want a short, succinct summary of the week’s interesting events. But no, it turns out that lots of people want more and more from TidBITS. We just can’t spare the time, though if a company wanted to give us lots of money to produce TidBITS, we might be able to find more time.
"Amount of info in each issue, could be bigger."
"I would like more gossip and news, but that’s a small beef. You guys do a real nice job."
"Limited information, I know there are only a couple of you working on producing TidBITS."
"It could have more news ,the size is irrelevant at least for me as long as it has valuable news"
"The few instances where information is vague or missing, such as "it may or may not be v.everything." You probably could have found the answer to the question that this phrase implies by giving your source another phone call. I am not blaming you. I know you can’t spend as much time as someone who is paid for such work. I am simply fishing for the thing I like the least and there isn’t really anything that truly annoys me." [Yup, we just can’t be as thorough as would be ideal, but at least we admit it when we don’t know and seldom make completely inaccurate statements.]
"Information I can get easily elsewhere." [We can’t be completely different from other publications each week in terms of subject matter, but I hope that our format, article selection, and opinions set us apart enough to make reading TidBITS worthwhile. And try finding something in MacWEEK a few months after the fact.]
"I have already read most of the articles from the mainstream press which you re-review for your readers. Go for some new underground news!" [We’d love to, but we’re limited by our sources, many of whom are not in the mainstream press. If you or anyone else know of underground news, please tell us!]
"The fact that it’s getting smaller as it goes on. It’s too useful to disappear entirely." [I think that was a temporary trend before the first of the year when everything slowed down for a while and there simply wasn’t much interesting news.]
A few more miscellaneous complaints.
"The reviews. (I don’t think I get any of the magazines) (Oh, and the names, sounds very downmarket – tabloid newspaper type – sounds like your articles are on the same level as the Sunday Sport -‘Space Alien ate my hamster’)" [The reviews are mostly useless if you don’t get the magazines, but a lot of people do find them very useful. As far as the titles go, we’re trying to keep them short and light – short because the index field isn’t that wide, and light because otherwise they’re just plain boring. And please accept my condolences on your hamster :-)]
"Written in English :-)" [Very little we can do about that, but if you want to translate each issue into your native tongue, please feel free.]
"Not having a quote of the week anymore. I can see where they would be hard to find, but they were interesting." [They were a lot of work, a big pain to find, and were the primary reason a new background was created every week before TidBITS-025.]
"Timeliness of information" [We try our hardest, but sometimes we have to wait a week or two to gather more information on a subject and figure out what we’re going to write about it. If you know about something interesting and we haven’t written about it yet, please tell us.]
Finally, a few miscellaneous suggestions about features that are lacking.
"No binary file attachments. You say things about various public domain packages and yet, for those of us without FTP abilities, we see no such programs. It would be FANTASTIC if you added a button (where the quote was) to "extract" the attachments. They could be anything from programs to actual images of various things. Even sound! I think this would be great. Again for those of us with limited resources to snarf the programs anyway. If no "attachments" were available, you could have it dump the text file of information along with the references." [This is a good idea, but given the size of many freely distributable programs and utilities, it wouldn’t be efficient. After all, you’d hate me if I attached a 200K file that you already had or weren’t interested in and you still had to download it all.]
"You ought to incorporate a little hypertext of your own, cross-referencing, if you intend it to be reference." [We’ve been thinking about this, but it’s unreasonable to impress our ideas on what should be linked on others. More reasonable would be a general purpose linking tool, but that involves a lot of work on your part. Suggestions are welcome, especially since we haven’t thought of anything ideal.]