Honesty has always been important to me. Therefore, one of the things I demand from our reviewers is an unbiased and honest opinion of whatever it is they are reviewing. Without going into details, one review recently drew high criticism from the software’s makers who disagreed strongly with what our writer had concluded. The software’s creators felt they were on the receiving end of an unfavorable review and wrote back taking the reviewer to task, mentioning well-known Macintosh people who they claim really like their program. While they have a right to disagree and point out their software’s better attributes, I think they overlooked the fact that our reviewer actually wrote a very fair and honest review.

I reread the review and I still agree with our writer’s evaluation. In fact, there were a few things I didn’t like about the software that weren’t even mentioned in the review, things I feel the software people should be honest enough to admit need more work.

The reviewer had pointed out what he did and didn’t like about the program, and what features he wished were a part of the program. He satisfied not only what My Mac looks for in a review, but which aspects of the software we feel our readers will use and enjoy. I felt we presented their product honestly and fairly.

In reply, the software’s writers pointed out the features they feel are important, and which new options are on the way. They also suggested it is “common sense” for the reviewer to get this information about the software, as if an upcoming software release has anything to do with the current, shipping version. A review covers what the reviewer can see in front of him, not promises about vaporware features not included already. You don’t see reviews of a computer that goes on and on about another computer still in the design stages, but rather the computer in front of you. The same is true when judging software.

If you are a software creator writing commercial products, shareware, or even freeware, you should expect your product to be reviewed somewhere down the line, and then accept the fact that the review may or may not be as ‘glowing’ as you may have wished. In my opinion, it’s “common sense” knowledge that any reviewer who invests his time into using and writing a critique is already doing his part to help to make the product better. Software users will embrace and invest in a good new product, but they shouldn’t be expected to be unpaid beta testers.

Look at Microsoft Word for a prime example. While Word 6.0 was one of the worse programs I have ever used, Word 98, the very next major release of the software, is by far the best I have ever used. Was it conspiratorial that every review for Word 6.0 had nothing but bad things to say about it? Not even Microsoft would swallow that. Instead, like any company that intends to make a profit, Microsoft took those reviews, opinions, and ideas to heart and went ahead and simply improved the software. So if you like Word 98, you may want to thank David Pogue in some way. His columns and comments about the product were scathing, but they were also completely correct.

My Mac Magazine’s position remains the same. If the review is fair, and the reviewer gives and honest, informed opinion, we will stand behind that review, regardless of what any other publication may or may not have written. Likewise, if a My Mac review doesn’t meet the above criteria, then we will refuse to print the review. It’s as simple as that.

So if you don’t like a review you read here of your product, let us know what we missed and why you think the review was unfair. You have my word that we will listen to you. We’re not perfect and we will retract anything we said that we were mistaken about.

But if your intention is to simply cry foul because your product was sub-par, we invite you to improve the software and read our next review. Because in the end that’s the best retort you could ever give us: unassailably good code.

Windows 98
I am currently writing the review for SoftWindows 98 for our next issue, but I wanted to ask you all something about Windows itself. I just can’t see what the big deal with Windows 98. Other than a very few minor improvements, why would Microsoft expect this to be the next great thing? Heck, minor Mac OS incremental system updates offer more than what this major upgrade does.

Between using Windows on my Mac and the brand new Dell PC at work (running Windows 95), all I can say is thank God I own a Mac!

Poetic Justice

One of the things you have to be, when doing in-home consulting or upgrading of clients’ Mac systems, is a good conversationalist. There are many times when the client and I are simply sitting there, waiting for Mac OS 8 to finish installing. It is these “dead times” when you find conversation can be strained. Usually, the subject of My Mac Magazine will come up, which is easy to talk about. People like to hear historical anecdotes of all things Macintosh, and I have many of these. Sometimes, though, say when an upgrade is going really slow, you have to fall back on other topics. I figured I would share one of these non-Mac-related stories with you all this month.

I was once a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. In fact, that was what I was doing when I started My Mac Magazine. I would spend a lot of my time walking the neighborhoods thinking of stuff to write in the next issue. Many good ideas came from those cold winter days!

There was one day when my mind was on the magazine when a bulldog decided to cross the street and try and bite me. Yeah, you have all heard the stories of the bad dog chasing the poor, hapless mailman. In my case, I actually relished the prospect. It was a great way to liven the day. Of course, I never ran from a dog, but rather would stand my ground and yell at them until they backed down (which was why a damn pit bull once bit me, but that’s another story!)

Don’t get me wrong; I like dogs. Cats, too! But when I was working, it was always the dogs that would make the day interesting. I had some mail routes in which I could usually count on a canine nemesis to make the day go by faster.

I had the perfect idea forming for a column when I noticed the bulldog rushing me from across the street. As a mail carrier, I was taught to put my mailbag between the dog and myself and reach for my standard-issue Mace only after there was something between us.

Up until this point in my mail carrier, I had only ‘Maced’ a dog once. I did not enjoy it, and of course neither did the animal. But I knew that while the Mace may sting and leave some red gunk on the dog, it wouldn’t really hurt the animal, but would simply make the dog leave me alone. So, using instincts only a police officer would understand, I let the dog “have it.” Predictably, the dog stopped attacking and started rubbing his face in the grass in a helpless effort to get the Mace out of his eyes. Confident my spray had dissuaded the dog from further attacks, I crossed the street well away from the dog.

Did I mention dogs are man’s best friend? They are, but only because they are extremely stupid. Other, smarter animals make a beeline away from humans when we approach. Not so a dog. So, halfway back to my mail jeep, I spot the dog heading my way with murder in his eyes. (And not a little Mace, I should add…)

“Stupid dog!” I growled, not looking forward to having to Mace the animal again. But, alas, that was just what I had to do. You would think the animal had learned its lesson five minutes before, but no. He was out for revenge. So of course I let him have it once again, with similar results as before. Only three houses from my Jeep now, I knew I would be safely on my way before the bulldog revived enough to spot me again.

Dogs are stupid, true, but this one took the cake. (I like dogs! Don’t send me any “You hate dogs, you jerk!” letters, or call me insensitive for Macing the dog! It was my job, and I don’t do it anymore!) After getting in my jeep, I pulled away from the curb with the bulldog again running after me. Normally, I would simply accelerate until I left the canine in the dust, but as close as the dog was to the front tire, I was afraid I would accidentally run him over. As I said, I may have Maced a few dogs to prevent from getting bit, but I really didn’t want to hurt any, much less kill one. (Well, with one or two possible exceptions. But those were really mean dogs!). As I drove on, the dog decided if he wasn’t going to be able to bite me he would settle for trying to chew my tire off as I drove away!

Once I had a chance to increase my speed, I quickly left the dog behind in my dust. But while I felt victorious in my man vs.beast struggle, I realized the dog attacks had made me forget my great idea for a column!

This happened years ago, and I hadn’t thought of it in quite a while. But while at work today (an office setting), I was trying to think of my column I was going to write tonight. I couldn’t think of one, so I tried going over in my head some of my past unwritten ideas. And it was then I remembered the idea the bulldog had caused me to forget lo those many years ago! Which, of course, made me think of that dog, and all the other times I told this story while waiting for some computer to finish updating. This made me tell the story to a coworker, who laughed her head off (I must admit I embellished a bit here and there). Afterwards, driving home, I realized I forgot the column idea just as before! And once again, it was the dog’s fault!

Since I can’t remember this great column/article idea of mine, I take revenge on the bulldog, and write a column relating that adventure instead. How’s that for poetic justice!

Tim Robertson

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