inessential by Brent Simmons

Windows out of the closet

So I pulled my Windows machine out of the closet the other day and hooked it up to the net and a monitor and all that—I wanted to try out some Windows aggregators, see what features they have, see how they’re solving some UI problems, etc.

And I had some stunningly bad luck. Almost every single app I tried crashed on launch or right after displaying their main window.

My machine is a 500 MHz Dell box running Windows 98. It’s up-to-date with security patches, and it has .NET 1.1 installed. But... apparently it’s a bit too stone age. Fair enough: I’m not complaining, just learning a lesson.

Anyway... of the aggregators I did get to work, I was struck by how Windows-y they are. Wizards for adding subscriptions!

That’s not a criticism, by the way. Windows apps should have wizards, they should be Windows-y, just like Mac apps should be Mac-like. (And Linux apps should be... GNOME-y? KDE-ish?)

This experience was a reminder for me of how unimportant the underlying syndication formats are, in a way. What percent of time does an aggregator developer spend on RSS and Atom parsing code? 50%? 25%? 10%?

I figure it’s somewhere less than 1%.

The rest of the time is taken up with things like data storage, networking, and user interface. But mostly user interface. Not just implementing—which is often easy—but designing user interface, which is difficult.

What this means, finally, is that a Windows aggregator developer is foremost a Windows developer, and secondly an RSS/Atom developer. Similarly for Mac and Linux developers.