Did I Sell Out (Part II)?

When I asked “Did I Sell Out?” yesterday, I was more than a little worried about the response I’d get.  So I’m both flattered and relieved to see so many positive comments.  My thanks to everyone who took the time to reply.

Of course, there were some negative reactions, mostly about TopStyle.  I want to make it clear that TopStyle’s stagnation was just as much my fault as it was NewsGator’s.  It would be easy to blame everything on the “big company that swallowed me up,” but the truth is that NewsGator has been exceptionally good to me.  As Ian Landsman points out, being acquired can be a horrible, demoralizing process – but that hasn’t been the case with NewsGator.  They’ve been very hands-off with my work, enabling me to feel like I’m still an independent developer despite working for such a huge corporation (that’s a joke, folks – we’re a fairly small company).  I won’t say that the acquisition has been easy, but I can’t imagine it being any easier.

Before the acquisition, I was already struggling to find time to update TopStyle due to all the attention that FeedDemon required, and that situation worsened after the acquisition, in part due to the extra work required to enable FeedDemon to support NewsGator’s synchronization platform (and synchronization was the key reason I sought the acquisition).  Really, the bottom line here is that I bit off more than I could chew (both pre- and post- acquisition), and TopStyle suffered as a result.

As many of you know, we’ve been searching for a developer to take over TopStyle for quite some time, and that proved more difficult than we anticipated.  Apparently it’s not easy finding someone (1) with several years of Delphi programming experience and (2) with strong UI skills and (3) who deeply understands the needs of web authors and (4) has the ability to take over such a large project by themselves :)

This search delayed the next version of TopStyle far more than we would’ve liked, but the good news is that we have found someone who meets all four of the above criteria.  I don’t want to announce who it is just yet because he hasn’t officially started, but once he’s up to speed, I’ll introduce him here.  In the meantime, I’ll be working with him to take over TopStyle and define TopStyle 4.0’s feature set – yes, there will be a TopStyle 4.0!

15 thoughts on “Did I Sell Out (Part II)?

  1. @Jacques:
    TopStyle uses 3rd party controls that are definitely not open-sourceable, so he is not in a position legally to release the code even if he wanted to.

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  2. Hey Nick,
    It’s great to hear that you found someone to help you with TopStyle 4.0. I’m definitely looking forward to new versions as I have been using TopStyle for web development for some years now.

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  3. I’ve got to say, the NewsGator sync makes FeedDemon stand out from the rest. As a user of both TopStyle and FeedDemon I’m happy with what you’ve done.

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  4. For a few days I checked back here to see if you might respond to my comment, and just as I was about to give up waiting, I did happen to notice that you decided to post an entirely new blog entry to address it. Two entries, in fact. The first of which I cannot quite grasp the point of.
    Why are you asking the collective “us” whether you sold out? How should “we” know. How should even I, who have been passively following the progress of your various public projects, on and off, for about the past seven years, know that. YOU should be telling US whether you sold out or not. Yet after reading my comment, your initial reaction appears to be that you took insult, and accordingly, decided to make an ego restoration post, fishing for compliments to restore your morale prior to divulging any useful insight into whether or not you really did sell out.
    Well that worked, as it seems most of your TopStyle customer base chimed in to make you feel better. But I suspect that the majority of those people are not familiar with as much of your history as I am. To give you a better idea of my position, I will say that I was an avid user of HomeSite, back in its day, and remain a big fan of TopStyle. I have no interest in your FeedDemon software, so the fact that you’ve spent the majority of your programming time on it in recent years earns you no credit with me. So when I conjecture that you sold out, I base this on my experiences with the former two. In the case of HomeSite, I would say that there’s no question that you sold out there. The only question that remains is whether or not you knew that after you sold HomeSite to Macromedia that they were going to dump it. Or whether even if you had known, you still would have cashed it in to pick up that cheque.
    To be clear, my question to you is this: in hindsight are you bothered by the fact that Macromedia bought out Allaire’s flagship product, HomeSite, because they saw it as a direct competitor to their own product, and after the acquisition promptly trashed it in order to promote their original product: DreamWeaver. Or, in the same circumstances, would you do it all again in the blink of an eye with no regrets.
    The reason that I came across your blog the other day is because a few hours prior, a Web developer came to me and asked a question. Those few hours later, it was still resident in my mind, and so I thought to pay your site a visit again, since it had to have been at least a year since I bothered to check for any updates.
    The question that I had been asked by the Web developer was this:
    “I keep forgetting the name of that website software Macromedia bought out. Other than Dreamweaver. The good one.”
    Puzzled for a moment, I cast my mind back until I remembered. Then I replied:
    “HomeSite. But it’s dead now.”
    I am now writing a response on your blog because I am worried that in a few years time, I will be saying the same thing about TopStyle to someone else. If it is somehow possible to change that fate by my input, then I am willing to put it forward.
    Ever since I observed the NewsGator banner all over bradbury.com, a strange sense of foreboding told me that the same thing would happen to TopStyle, one way or another. And prior to this announcement, things certainly seemed to be heading that way. Hitherto, I have never heard of a company with such a ridiculous name and I have no knowledge or interest in what they do, so I am unable to understand their motive for purchasing your products and even less so if they chose to dump them as Macromedia did. However, from the responses that you have given in this particular post it would appear that they do not wish that; in fact you just conveniently shelved TopStyle to handle other things, coincidentally at the same time as the acquisition.
    What little I can gauge about NewsGator though, tells me that they don’t really have any clue what they’re doing. Seeing your beloved product on a page such as this one: http://www.newsgator.com/Individuals/TopStyle/Default.aspx is doing it absolutely no favours at all. I hope that you can understand that when I first got into TopStyle, it was due to a feeling that I had at the time. Something that made me think that it could be good, and worth investing my time in checking out and learning the software. Make no mistake that I am glad that I had that feeling, as now TopStyle comes highly recommended from me for every Web developer that I meet both in person and on the ‘Net. But if I was to discover TopStyle anew on this day, I cannot say that I would have that same feeling again, and that’s due largely in part to its new homepage.
    I imagine that as a Web standards aware, CSS developer of the 21st century, such as I am sure that you are, that I do not have to itemize everything that is wrong with your site’s present layout. I assume that you are not responsible for it. But just to give you an idea, so that we’re on the same page here, let’s take a brief review of the page’s left-hand menu bar. Why is this menu made entirely out of images? There is no effect achieved here that could not be achieved with merely CSS and text. Not only that, but there’s also a selection of rollover images that are not preloaded by the browser and so each menu item must be individually hovered over for an indeterminate amount of time until they do load. Not only that but each menu item does not use any of the well known image replacement techniques, making browsers with images disabled fail to display the menu at all, not to mention the number of levels on which it fails a basic WCAG validation. And that’s just the menu, of course. This is sparing to mention that the body of the page is randomly interspersed with unnecessary and non-semantic table mark-up. I feel that when you’re promoting a product for WEB designers on a WEBsite, these things matter.
    The reason that I have taken the time to write all this out is not at all because I dislike you, so please don’t take offence again. In fact the complete opposite: I care so much that I feel compelled to write. As I mentioned in my first, brief reply, I am a software developer. I am also a sole software developer such as you, with a secondary skill in digital graphic design. Like you, I spend time honing my interfaces as much as the code that drives the application to create a well rounded, pleasant and intuitive user experience. To some extent you have been a role model for my own software development projects. For this reason, I react more strongly than most when I see you make decisions that I do not respect, such as selling out, and you end up with the kind of comments that sparked off this blog post of yours. But I hope that in reading this, you might think about some of the points that I’ve made, and make more decisions that I do respect; the kinds of decisions that benefit your products and your customer base before yourself, if you do indeed have more than zero attachment to them.

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  5. @Bilge: Wow – that’s one of the longest comments I’ve ever seen here. Regardless of whether I agree with what you say, I appreciate your taking the time to post this. I’ll try to address your questions and concerns.
    First off, the point of my first “sell out” blog post was to figure out whether other people feel the same way as you. The response I got was very flattering, but in my mind at least, it could’ve gone the other direction. I was willing to take that risk to find out what my customers think of me.
    Second, you say that you don’t want me to take offense, yet you accuse me of selling out, cashing in, having zero attachment, etc. If you knew me as a person rather than as some abstract developer, you’d know how insulting that is to me. Choose your words better if you really don’t intend offense.
    Regarding HomeSite, when I was acquired by Allaire, I didn’t do it just to increase my bank account (I have nothing against making money, but I was already doing fine by that point). I did it because they wanted me to further develop HomeSite without my having to spend so much time on sales, support, etc. If my goal was to cash in, I would’ve accepted Microsoft’s earlier offer to buy HomeSite, and then ridden their stock gravy train through the 1990’s. But Microsoft clearly would’ve killed HomeSite, and I couldn’t do that, so I turned them down (there were personal reasons, too, but I don’t need to go into those here).
    I left Allaire two years later, and at the time, HomeSite was in good hands. I’ll say that again, just to make sure you get it: when I left Allaire, HomeSite was in good hands. We had a team of solid developers working on it, including ones who had created some of HomeSite’s most popular features (such as the “VTML” dialogs). I had no idea that Allaire would later be acquired by Macromedia, resulting in the death of HomeSite.
    My understanding is that Macromedia’s acquisition of Allaire had little to do with HomeSite – they bought Allaire to get their web development products (ColdFusion, etc.), since that was a big missing piece in their portfolio. Once I heard of the acquisition, I figured HomeSite was a goner (later confirmed when HomeSite’s features started appearing in Dreamweaver, and HomeSite ceased to be updated). I don’t hold any grudges against anyone about this – every product will die eventually – but of course it hurt to see a product I created whither away before its time.
    Trust me, I’m well aware of the standards-related problems with our site. I agree that it’s tough to sell a product geared towards creating standards-compliant sites when our own site doesn’t live up to TopStyle’s goals, but I’m not involved with our site’s design or development, nor will I ever be. Clearly, NewsGator’s focus isn’t HTML/CSS – it’s RSS (as it should be). What matters most to me is that TopStyle has a future, and I’ve busted my ass to make sure that happens. I can’t guarantee that TopStyle will be around several years from now, any more than I can guarantee that FeedDemon will – but NewsGator continues to invest in *both* products, and I’m certainly doing my best to keep them alive for years to come.
    I’m comfortable with the decisions I’ve made, because even when things didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped, I know that I never put my customers’ needs last (you can’t do that and survive in my line of work).
    So now that you have the facts, it’s up to you to decide whether I deserve your respect.
    PS: If you want my respect in return, either give your full name or provide a link to your site.

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  6. Hello,
    I’ve been using Homesite, and I’m a registered TopStyle Pro user since 2004.
    Your web authoring softwares are designed the way I expect such programs to be (as I do use and like EditPad Pro, plain text yet mighty editor). Few years ago, I thought that you deserved a better website for such high-standard software. Still hold that webspace I emailed you for a fanpage project http://topstyle.pro.free.fr/
    TopStyle rocks. (And please don’t read the source code of my homepage as it uses old table markup for image display). Thank you for your works and blog.

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  7. If it contains 3thrd party controls that are not opensources, you could still release the code you wrote and explain what “thrd controls not included do and lets open source community rewrite them

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  8. @Jacques: As mentioned in the post, TopStyle 4 is being developed. So it will not be released as open-source.

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  9. Reading through the comments on the first “Did I sell out” post maybe it’s just me but most of the positive posts appear to be from FeedDemon users not TopStyle. I suspect that FeedDemon does have a larger user base being a end user targeted app instead of a developer targeted app like TopStyle. FeedDemon has not suffered by any means and since there’s been quite some times since the last TopStyle update the vast majority of the users you abandoned have long since left. So sure if you’re looking for positive posts to make you feel better I’m sure all the new happy FeedDemon users that read this blog will be happy to oblige. But that doesn’t change the fact that you lareely abandoned your old user base to get this new one. Again though I can understand that, I don’t like it, but I understand it. It actually happens a lot in lots of different areas people move to things with more mass appeal and abandon those who supported them originally.
    On a side note while I’m happy to hear that TopStyle is being developed again… that fact that someone else is doing it while good for the product doesn’t go anywhere in restoring my faith in your support for your products as a developer. YOU aren’t supporting TopStyle it seems, this new guy is.

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