how to kill a software application


All the way back in April, I took a look at the explosion of twitter applications for OS X, after realizing that my then client of choice, twhirl, was essentially end-of-lifed after being acquired by Seesmic. After much exploration, I found EventBox, which was in beta and combined twitter with RSS feeds, Facebook and a bunch of other services. Unlike many of the other social networking clients out there, EventBox had a very Mac-like UI, and while short on some features, did a lot of things really well.

So I paid my $15 and used EventBox to manage my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and after NetNewsWire acquired ads, migrated my RSS feeds to Google Reader, which was supported by EventBox. So with one app, I could manage several things all at once. EventBox had a small development team that was pretty responsive, and while not associated with a large, trendy fan base like Seesmic Desktop, was a cool app nonetheless. Recently, EventBox development forked into a separate beta called Multibox, that had a lot of future features intended for EventBox. It lacked some functionality, though, like smart folders and even Facebook integration, so I kept using my EventBox beta, which served my purposes and held the promise of a lot of new functionality and even an iPhone app. I was a happy, nerdy social networker

Well, all that’s down the toilet.

Several weeks ago, EventBox was acquired by RealMac Software. I thought “Great-now they’ll have resources to bring new functionality to EventBox in a more rapid timeframe.” Boy, was I misguided. First, they renamed the app “Socialite” (note to RealMac Software: if you’re trying to build awareness of a new application whose user base is still pretty small compared with the big apps like TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop, don’t change the name).

Then they released a beta today that broke most of everything.

First I noticed that my Google Reader items, after being marked as Read, reverted to Unread after the service was refreshed. Then I quit Socialite to see if that would help, only to find that after restarting, the main window was not there unless I went into the menu bar and selected it. The Preferences item was grayed out, and a host of bugs ensued. I took the advice of RealMac and rebuilt the various services like Twitter and Facebook, and at least the prefs and window behaved as normal. But then I found that threads were no longer functional, whereas they had worked fine in previous EventBox betas. And Facebook keeps trying to update and fails. And yes, the Google Reader unread items bug is still present.

Realizing that one of my most-used applications no longer works, I went back and tried Seesmic Desktop, and while the interface is, to put it mildly, suboptimal, it works. Even better, it has a lot of functionality that isn’t found in Socialite/EventBox, and probably never will. Seesmic Desktop doesn’t do RSS, but I went back to NetNewsWire, and that works fine as always. I just have to ignore the ads, which is no big deal.

Back to Socialite. It’s a shame that RealMac killed it with this beta. I’m willing to wait it out and see if things improve, but I’d like to see new features, not bug fixes just to get me back to where I was before today. True, I could revert to the last beta of EventBox, but why bother when I have stability and added functionality, albeit with two applications rather than one?

In terms of social networking apps, I use Echofon (neé Twitterfon-what’s with all these social networking applications changing names all of a sudden? Geez…) on my iPhone, but could be convinced to use TweetDeck if I also cared to use it on my MacBook Pro, which I don’t, mainly because its layout is even worse than Seesmic’s. I’d be interested in seeing Seesmic’s forthcoming iPhone app, especially if it enabled syncing. EventBox was planning an iPhone app in the future, but that effort seems kinda dead for the foreseeable future. Which is a shame.

I’d love to have a single application that did twitter/FB/RSS and synced with my iPhone. But that isn’t the case so far. I paid for Twitterfon (now Echofon) and am pretty happy with that. I paid for EventBox (now Socialite) and am no longer happy with that. Seesmic is free, at least for now, and I can put up with the bad UI given that it works pretty well.

So this has been counterintuitive. I thought that a larger company acquiring a small application development team would be a recipe for success from a user perspective. It isn’t, at least in this case. I remember many, many years ago when Symantec acquired the makers of MacTools Pro. MTP was a really great system repair utility, perhaps the best ever. Symantec killed it after buying it. Norton Utilities for the Mac never approached the usability and versatility of MTP. In the case of RealMac buying the manufacturer of EventBox, it’s even worse, since the damned software doesn’t work. And who charges for a beta anyway? Paying for it sorta made sense at the time because it sounded like a 1.0 release was really on the horizon, and I could save a little money over the price when the official release came out. In retrospect, that was stupid. And it’s insane that the original developers (The Cosmic Machine) and now RealMac charged and continue to charge. I’d like a refund, although I doubt that will ever be in the cards. I’ll probably never ever pay for a beta, even as much as I like to support small software developers.

Sigh…back to checking my RSS feeds, Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s an experience.