by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For a few weeks in February, we held an informal survey to determine whether or not our readers thought the weekly listing of reviews in the main Mac magazines was useful. A few people mistakenly thought we were proposing to cease reviewing products in TidBITS - that was pure invention on their part. Every week for the last six years, the final article in TidBITS has been a listing of the reviews in MacWEEK, Macworld, MacUser, and other magazines. Starting with this issue, we will no longer be typing that information in and including it in TidBITS.
Let me explain the rationale behind the decision, since it wasn't as cut and dried as we had thought it would be. The survey revealed that 70 percent of people voting (1,682 votes) felt we shouldn't bother with the reviews listing. That was a bit lower than I'd expected. The 714 votes that made up the remaining 30 percent were significantly buoyed by 418 email entries, which wasn't surprising since people who can use the Web can read the full text of reviews in those magazines online. Those who only have email access to the Internet aren't so fortunate.
Given those numbers, we set to thinking about the purpose of those review listings. Originally, the idea was to provide an index to the magazine reviews that users could easily search. With all the magazines now having Web sites, that original idea doesn't make as much sense. We were also concerned that by listing those reviews each week, we were in essence advertising for those magazines. It would be one thing if the act was often reciprocal, but TidBITS has only been mentioned in traditional magazines a handful of times over the past six years.
We do recognize that some TidBITS readers have come up with other uses for the reviews listings, especially in countries where it often takes some time for the U.S. magazines to arrive. However, we could include many things in TidBITS that would be useful to some readers, and we must figure out which of those things are the best use of our time and the most interesting to us.
The fact of the matter is that no creative thought goes into typing in reviews from the table of contents of a magazine, and by virtue of that fact, the reviews listing is less interesting to us than most other things we might want to do. Any trained monkey could do that typing, and we prefer to spend our time doing things that only we can do. (Working with someone else to enter all the reviews each week would require coordination work as well, and would still take up space that we would prefer to use for other purposes.) After all, we hope the skills and analysis that we bring to TidBITS is what makes reading TidBITS worthwhile.
In the end, that's the main reason why we will no longer publish the reviews listing in TidBITS. We have to move forward and continue to focus on things that interest us, or else we risk losing interest in TidBITS entirely. The recent April Fools issue is a good example: putting out two issues of TidBITS on two consecutive days is a lot of work, but it's so much fun to fabricate fantastic articles from thin air that it was worth the effort. We've always published TidBITS as much for ourselves as for everyone else, and that's why it's so important the act of publishing continue to be fulfilling for us as well as our readers.