Q&A with Brent Simmons and Daniel Jalkut
Q: First of all, what is MarsEdit and why should we be interested in it?
MarsEdit is weblog posting and editing software. It makes writing for the web like writing email: you open a window and write something, then send it to your weblog.
It has many of the same features that email applications have: drafts, text editing commands, even AppleScript support. It also has features specific to weblogs: categories, text filters, trackbacks, pings, and so on. People that have more than one weblog find it especially useful because they have just one place to write and edit all their weblog posts, even if their weblogs are on different systems.
Q: It sounds like a fantastic product, why give it up now?
I spend all my time working on NetNewsWire. It's fun to work on MarsEdit, and I have lots of great ideas (many of them from MarsEdit users) about what to do next with MarsEdit. I would, frankly, love to keep working on it -- but I also love working on NetNewsWire.
So, the question turned into this: given that I don't have time to work on it, who, among all the Mac developers of the world, would do a great job with it? The first person I thought of was Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about Red Sweater Software?
I started the company around 7 years ago, while I was still a software engineer at Apple, but I didn't really spend much time on developing the business until after I left Apple in 2002. Since then I've built a reputation as a provider of high-quality Mac consulting services, and as the developer of a few software products. I'm also fairly well known in the Mac techie community for my blog, where I write about programming, business, and my views about the Mac user experience.
I know Daniel from his products, his weblog, and his reputation, and we met in person at the C4 conference last year. Speaking now as a MarsEdit user, I feel lucky to have Daniel moving it forward -- I can't wait to see what he comes up with!
Q: Daniel, It seems like WordPress users especially have taken to MarsEdit. Do you plan to do anything special for them?
First let me say that I strive to improve MarsEdit's integration with the many popular systems it supports. The ability to use MarsEdit as the single point of contact with different systems is one of its great strengths. But I'm glad to hear that MarsEdit has taken off with WordPress users, because it's also the system I use for my primary blog. It's a safe bet that enhancing the experience for WordPress users will be among my top priorities, but I also run a blog with Blogger, and will be maintaining test blogs on other systems to better understand the user's workflow.
Q: What is the future of your other products, given that MarsEdit will take up a fair amount of your time?
I plan to devote a great deal of time to MarsEdit, but I don't see that having a significant impact on my other products. What most people probably don't realize is that I currently spend a majority of my development time working on consulting projects for other companies. I see this acquisition as part of my plan to shift Red Sweater's focus more toward in-house application development. So the extra time I spend on MarsEdit and my other applications will be coming out of a reduction in time spent consulting.
Q: Are you going to change the name to something else?
Are you kidding? Red Planet, Red Sweater! This product was destined for me :-) The MarsEdit name brings with it a lot of user trust and confidence, which I aim to maintain and build upon. Plus, the icon looks great on my site!
Not only that -- and this observation is for Cocoa geeks only -- but Ranchero Software (where MarsEdit began) and Red Sweater have the same RS initials for their Cocoa code, so the code itself will fit right in: no need to rename any classes. ;)
Q: Will the next release of MarsEdit work on Tiger? Or are you going straight for Leopard?
In general I strive to maintain existing compatibility with my products, unless there is an overwhelming reason not to. So while I might adopt 10.5 for a product I'm just starting work on, I'm unlikely to ditch 10.4 for a product with an existing user base. FastScripts, for example, still runs on 10.2. I guess I shouldn't promise anything but I'll say it's overwhelmingly likely that MarsEdit 2.0 will support Tiger.
Q: Are you going to add support for the Atom Publishing Protocol?
I'm going to have to do some homework before I'm completely up-to-speed with the various publishing protocols, but I take a pragmatic approach to questions like these. My understanding is that the Atom Publishing Protocol will bring some order to what has been a pretty wild territory, with each blogging engine reinventing the wheel for its own sake. I'm prepared to embrace any protocol that will offer users a more seamless experience in hooking MarsEdit up to their blogging software, and it sounds like Atom Publishing might do that.
Q: Are you going to give it a UI make-over? It looks like Mail in Panther.
Are you going to use Core Animation? UI bits flying all around?
Hah! It seems to be the season for UI make-overs. I recently gave FlexTime a pretty serious face-lift, so I have some experience in this area. But I want to exercise some caution with MarsEdit because of the substantial installed base of users. I expect to refine some things about the user interface, but the end result should look very familiar to existing customers. I think most
MarsEdit users would prefer to see improvements in blog system protocol support, refinements to image uploading, etc. So I'll be spending more time on those types of changes, at least in the beginning.
Q: What can existing MarsEdit customers expect from these changes?
My goal is that the only thing existing customers will notice is that product upgrades are coming out more frequently! I plan to devote a lot of time to MarsEdit, and will be honoring the MarsEdit "free 1.x upgrades" policy. I'm going to work with Brent to determine which of the outstanding issues are most annoying to users, and start hacking away at fixing them. As a MarsEdit customer myself, I think I speak for other customers when I say that I'm very excited about this prospect :-)
Daniel knows that "operators are standing by" -- I'll give him the help he needs make this transition successful. A big part of my motivation is selfish: I'm a MarsEdit user, and I want to see the product keep improving. But, more importantly, I want to make sure MarsEdit users are happy, and this is the best way to do that.
Q: What is your vision for MarsEdit moving forward?
I don't think anybody doubts that the web (and by extension, the world) is in the midst of a personal-publishing revolution, and most Mac users want to take part in it. I see MarsEdit today as the best-of-class application for achieving that, but I also think that its current functionality is only the tip of the iceberg. I've got some important changes planned from the get-go, but I'll also be "all ears" over the next few months, listening carefully to the feedback I get from users. it should be an exciting year for MarsEdit users.
I sent Daniel a big email telling him what I thought, where I would take it were I still working on it. Luckily, Daniel is a talented developer with his own mind about things, and I look forward to being surprised by what comes next.
Q: You want feedback? Great, where do we write?
I'd prefer to see feature requests and such in the MarsEdit forums
, where users can bounce ideas around and refine them in public. But I'm also excited to hear directly from users who have thoughts to share. Contact information is available at the Red Sweater Support