The Shape of Everything
A website mostly about Mac stuff, written by August "Gus" Mueller
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September 7, 2007
(This post is from my old, old, super old site. My views have changed over the years, hopefully my writing has improved, and there is now more than a handful of folks reading my site. Enjoy.)

For fun, I recently interviewed a fellow Pacific Northwest developer whose company is about to ship a shiny new OS X app on Monday, which has been in stealth mode for a number of months. It's a fun app. But then paranoia crept in and they made me black out portions and cut out other things and so on. I don't like wasting keystrokes, so here it is anyway. Slightly less informative, but The Man can't keep me down. Just kind of down.

XXX's Icon
redacted's new icon, in full 256x256 pixel glory.

MUELLER: So how long have you been working on redacted?.

DEV: About 10 months now. 10 long long months. Thank God for caffeine!

MUELLER: redacted seems like a pretty ambitious project, and the space you are going into already has a bunch of competitors; not to mention a certain 800lb gorilla that I'm sure you didn't miss seeing. What were you thinking?

DEV: I'm slightly nuts that way. I wasn't really happy with the product offerings that were currently out there, and I've been in discussions with other people who felt the exact same way. And the 800lb gorilla that you speak of is just that- too big and complicated. People launch redacted and just get confused by all the *stuff* that appears. I'm anti-stuff, although I didn't start out that way with redacted.

And I don't honestly expect to take any market share away from redacted. That's a foolish thought. What redacted does, it does very well. Is it a competitor? I guess so. But I'm not worried about them, and I know for sure redacted isn't worried about me. They probably pay their lawyers more in an hour than I make in a year. I'm not worth their time (I hope!).

MUELLER: You say you are anti-redacted. Why?

DEV: Anti-redacted is probably too strong. But look at the iLife apps. Look at iPhoto. They are simple, and they do what people want. They just work, and people like that. Take away all the clutter if you can. If someone wants something more powerful- those options are there. But what are the options for the people who don't want all that power? There aren't any. It's like there is an arms race and everyone is rushing to pack features into their apps, but what about the folks who just want to redacted?

MUELLER: Well- there are some redacted apps out there already that are pretty simple. Why not those?

DEV: I'm not happy with them. They don't really fit my "mode".

MUELLER: So you figured, what the heck- why not make another redacted?

DEV: Sure. There's a ton of mac users out there now, we can all share. A rising tide lifts all boats, right? Plus, the problem space just really interested me. It was a ton of fun to write.

MUELLER: I've played with redacted a bunch, and it's pretty nice. I like it. But it's obvious that there are some missing features. Why are you shipping a 1.0 without redacted, or even redacted?

DEV: It's a 1.0, remember? redacted is coming in a future release, but I can't tell you when that is. It's high up there on the todo list for sure. That was one of the big challenges with redacted; what goes in a 1.0, and what doesn't? It's almost a philosophical question.

One of the biggest problems I've had is meeting expectations, among beta testers and even with myself. That 800lb gorilla casts a very large shadow, and people expect things to work a certain way. But at the same time I don't want to be redacted- I'm trying to do it different, right? What's the point of copying every single little redacted with a little bit of Cocoa magic sprinkled on top and maybe some flashy graphics? Do people really want that?

MUELLER: Some people will say yes.

DEV: True. But that's not what redacted is about. At least to me. Some people are going to really like it, and some people are going to really hate it. That's fine, it's not for everyone. But at the same time- there's tons of room to grow. It's a start, it's a seed.

XXX's Icon
redacted's redacted window.

MUELLER: I like how you worked everything in the redacted window. How did you come up with that design?

DEV: It wasn't originally that way. Originally everything was laid out exactly like redacted does things. Ten billion redacteds everywhere. Then I cut it down. Then I cut it down some more. Then one day I got a chance to play with another app that had a feature set very similar to redacted, and I just said to myself "This sucks. I'm only going to have a single redacted". And it worked.

The folks at 37 Signals often say that constraint drives creativity (see one of their latest posts "But there's only so many ways to do something, right?"). While I think that having constraints is sometimes a bad thing (I hate web development for instance), it really worked out in this instance.

MUELLER: You've not had any public betas. I tend to do that with my apps, I'm not shy about where the latest builds page is for Voodoopad- but I was originally threatened with losing toenails if I talked about redacted to anyone.

DEV: A lot has changed in redacted since I started it. Take the redacteds for instance- if I had put out a public beta, and then realized that what I was doing was all wrong, would I be able to redo it without sparking outrage? Some testers weren't too happy with that change originally. So I've been under the radar so I can make sweeping changes without upsetting anyone.

I've also put in features, and then took them out (and then put them back in again, only to be pulled out once more). How do I do that once someone blogs about a feature that isn't quite read?

MUELLER: Good point. So what is redacted going to cost?

DEV: $39.95 intro price, $49.95 once 1.1 ships.

MUELLER: How did you come up with that price? You realize people are going to complain no matter what price you put on it, right?

DEV: Just a gut feeling. I'm not worried about the complaints. I like it, I think redacted is worth the price.

MUELLER: OK, um... what was the hardest thing to implement in redacted?

DEV: Undo support. That stuff can be tricky.

MUELLER: I thought Cocoa had magic undo support?

DEV: For the most part It does. But there are some things that are just hard to do anyway, especially in redacted.

MUELLER: Yea, I can see that. What was the trick?

DEV: There was a trick, but I'm not saying what it was.

MUELLER: You can tell me later. I noticed you are using redacted as a way to extend redacted. I'm a big fan of scripting languages (such as Lua), why did you pick redacted?

DEV: Because redacted has more books than Lua.

MUELLER: Ouch! But do you think people will use it?

DEV: I don't think the average user will. I think it would be cool if there was some central repository for redacted scripts where people could grab little actions to use. It just seemed like a nice open way to let developers extend the app. There's also an Obj-C API as well.

MUELLER: Sounds good. I think that just about wraps it up. Are you ready? Is redacted ready?

DEV: I don't think a 1.0 is ever ready.

MUELLER: Ha! Good luck on your release.

DEV: Thanks. And you better link to me- I know where you live.