Software stories

by Giles Turnbull

There's been an interesting rash of stories about software recently. Consider the superb Audion story, which delighted Audion users of old and intruiged newcomers too.

Everything about Cabel Sasser's article -- the tone of voice, the feeling that the reader was being allowed to sneak in on some long-held secrets, and the delightful little asides and offshoot stories -- was a treat. It was one of those things you couldn't resist telling your friends about, as evidenced by the considerable amount of linkage the page got from bloggers everywhere.

But there have been some other interesting software stories recently. Another much-linked tale was that behind Graphing Calculator, which entertained and astounded in equal measure with its telling of unlikely-sounding, downright bizarre events at Apple Computing Inc during the 1980s and 90s.

Some software stories are emerging as weblogs. Developers have started to use the blog instead of a dry old list of version releases, and in many cases it works much better.

Take Dan Schimpf, creator of MacJournal. His blog is essential reading for all users of the software, and has been well used by Schimpf as a means of communicating directly with them, and answering feature requests or bug reports.

(Aside: you'll notice on the blog the announcement that MacJournal is to go commercial as of the next release, officially version 3.0. It will be released as a Mariner Software product, but Dan will still be the guy who develops and maintains the code.)

Another of my favorites is Ben Goodger's Inside Firefox blog, an entertaining and informative read for users of Firefox on any platform.

I hope more developers will start telling the stories behind their apps; it's interesting for anyone who uses the app, and can really help them understand little details. If a developer has posted some comments about a certain bug, and their efforts to squash it, the user knows they don't have to report it. They can watch the bug-squashing process in action. Just as some film makers are using weblogs to chart progress of their blockbusters, software makers can do the same for applications. Existing users feel as though they are part of the process; prospective users have something useful to read, something more interesting and entertaining than a dull old readme.txt file.

Seen any more good software stories? Got one of your own to tell?