Jun 97 Viewpoint
Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Viewpoint
by Eric Gundrum
Some Things Were Not Meant To Be
This past month I have grown to sympathize with many developers feeling abandoned, especially those who committed to OpenDoc. Apple built a lot of excitement around that technology, only to pull the rug out from under the developers. OpenDoc developers are not alone in this; GX and Game Sprockets developers got similar treatment, as did PowerTalk folks a year ago. At least now Apple is vigorously pushing the rug back for Game Sprockets. It's those unfortunate OpenDoc folks, who've been trying so hard and building some cool products, that I feel the most for. This time they got the short end of the stick as our industry changes, but looking to the future reveals many interesting opportunities.
Producing MacTech is a lot like producing a software product. As new technology comes along, we incorporate it into our next version. We have the curse, and the benefit, of having to ship a new version every month. Last month Apple pulled the rug out from under us, too. With this issue's focus on Component Technologies, we had planned heavy OpenDoc coverage. As the issue was going to production, OpenDoc was canceled and our lead writer lost his day job. As you might imagine, that threw a wrench in the works.
We really got lucky with the timing. Another week and we wouldn't have been able to change this issue. Then Apple's analysis of how to best deliver information opened a golden opportunity: a partnership with develop. That partnership helps us to deliver many more pages of editorial content to you, and that new content is developed with direct participation from Apple. We think everyone will be pleased with this development. develop even gave us a finished OpenDoc article, fitting nicely into our Component Technologies issue.
But what are those unfortunate OpenDoc developers to do, now that their "OS" has lost its champion? Many of them are still trying to figure that out. Java seems to be the most likely new direction. Java is by no means a replacement for OpenDoc; it is very different technology. However, Java is Apple's "next big thing," garnering much support among the Rhapsody development team. It makes sense for developers to begin paying more attention to Java, as you will see in this month's Building Beans article, as well as in our upcoming Java issue.
It also makes sense for OpenDoc, in fact, for all developers to look carefully at Rhapsody. NeXT has developed some powerful technologies. Look at the dynamic binding of the runtime model, for instance, and how it is used in Interface Builder. This month's ObjectWare article presents the component model of NEXTSTEP, which certainly supports at least a few of the features we liked so much in OpenDoc. The close connection between Objective-C and Java, and the multi-platform support of OpenStep suggest many new opportunities will begin to arrive once Rhapsody ships.
A Word About Schedules
Occasionally I find myself explaining to readers how MacTech schedules articles. Before I began as Editor-in-Chief, I never fully appreciated the problems with magazine lead times. I thought I'd share some of the details with you so you might better understand how we choose content for you to read.
The first stage in the entire process is choosing topics for MacTech's cover. This typically happens five to ten months prior to the cover date to give everyone time to prepare for the issue. That is my time to figure out what interesting technologies are in development and who is the best person to write about them.
We begin writing most articles and columns for MacTech approximately four months before the date on the cover. Some exceptions include these Viewpoints, NewsBits and occasionally an article that comes in late because of the timeliness of the content. We can handle one late article written only three months before the cover date.
You might think four months is a long time, and it is in our industry, but this is the reality of publishing a magazine. It breaks down like this:
The U.S. Postal service requires at least two weeks for delivery, and the magazine typically ships the first week of the month prior to the cover date. That puts it in your mailbox and on newsstands around the third week of the month. Before that, we need several weeks to take the magazine from electronic copy to film and from film to paper. Believe it or not, the printer actually has to schedule time to print the pages and for them to dry. That accounts for the last eight weeks. Just before that is when we write NewsBits and Viewpoint.
There is another month in the process to edit the content and lay it out with ads and the table of contents. Included in that month are several review cycles to make the presentation of the content as professional-looking as we can in the time allotted. That takes us back to three months prior to shipping (when that late article is slipped in). The fourth month is allocated to the authors so they can prepare their content. Another few months to select topics and find authors brings us back to choosing the cover topics five to ten months prior to the cover date.
As you can see from this schedule, we have to plan very far in advance. It is a lot like shipping a new product every month. Each version must contain enough new features to entice the reader. We go to some effort to hide as much of this lead time as possible from you, the reader. However, our industry is changing rapidly, and we are all scrambling to keep up. In fact, we developed the MacTech Now web site to address this. There you can find much of the late breaking industry news. Then a few months later, you can see the technology in action as the magazine is delivered to your door.