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Citydesk Jumped The Shark

Ever since Steven Denbeste posted, I've wondered about Citydesk's future.

I wonder if CityDesk has Jumped The Shark (

You know why?

* Because it was decided that version 2 was going to have XML (or whatever) enforced, customer be damned. Hey, Fog Creek ain't Microsoft, so maybe the customer shouldn't be damned.

* Because I rarely hear Joel on these Forums, which makes me wonder where he is, and what the status of Citydesk really is

* Because Fog Creek increased its overhead with new digs last year (if memory serves), around the time v3 was promised by 2003 y/e

* Because v3 was promised by 2003 y/e in no uncertain terms, and that became vaperware

* Because the same problems/irritations with CityDesk come up consistently by new users in this Forum, and not one word from Joel about service releases. Stuff like image handling, css picklist, the normal view irritant which comes up like clockwork, navigation.

* I don't see an exponential increase in users discovering v2 on these forums. There are new users, but not the increase I figured were needed to get Citydesk "to the next level". So maybe the revenue isn't there from v2 to support the product's continued development.

* consistent posts about how to input into the access db directly instead of using the Citydesk "front end", including how to manipulate the body field (a binary field). Users shouldn't be circumventing the "front end", should they?!

When I committed myself to CityDesk, I knew it was an immature product. I have no regrets. I knew it would require a lot of workarounds, as an immature product would require.

I realized going in that it was not in the slightest a true multiuser system, given that there are no controls whatsoever on user access to templates, functions, locations, etc. There are no administrative controls at all.

Yet my eyes were open and I accepted it. Improvements were in the works. There was a path to nirvana.

Here's my suspicion: there is no version 3. There will never be a version 3.

Here's my suspicion: Citydesk revenues stink so bad that they don't pay for development.

Here's my suspicion: FogCreek is doing other stuff to get the revenues to pay for its overhead.

I learned Citydesk, not a painless process. It does what it does very well, and it doesn't do what it doesn't do rather glaringly. And I've compensated for that, and I love my web site ( I live with its talents and foibles, and ratchet out a volunteer site  that can accomodate lots of content, but is light on graphics by design.

I was hoping for more "movable type" type of blog functions, in my heart of hearts. But now I'm reconciling myself that there will be no new functions at all.

A dead program also means that one day I'll have to migrate my site to another CMS, but I won't have to worry about that for another year, in my estimation. But the thinking is setting in, and I'm looking ahead to what I do with my site for that day, since I'll be doing the migration, I want it to be easy on myself.

To me, the entire Normal View thing is a fiasco. It took me away from Citydesk and back to FrontPage. Tsk tsk. It also expressed FogCreek's point of view quite well -- you can take the boy out of Microsoft, but you can't take Microsoft out of the boy.

I think Citydesk has jumped the shark. I suspect that it became a dead product right in front of our eyes.


Bob Bloom
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Feel better now ?

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, February 5, 2004

On the other hand, I'm happy with the product i purchased. Works just as godd as it did when I bought it.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Bob Bloom: Your observations

I like your website and I hope that you're client also likes it .. very nice work! I would like to offer one observation --- the JS slows down the overall viewing experience

I do not like your ati-MS remarks ... but that's OK because I do understand that jealousy is a common human foible. BTW, in case you may not have guessed it by now I happen to like Microsoft a lot ... although I do have issues with their pricing proposition.

Insofar as your "other" observations .. nicely articulated and certainly thought provoking. I do happen to agree with much :-)

David Mozer
Thursday, February 5, 2004

I don't see any evidence that Citydesk has died.
Joel has a policy of not announcing new releases. Which he articulated here ..

Ken McKinney
Thursday, February 5, 2004

First off: Ugh. Just because there haven't been a lot of empty promises from Joel, CD is dead? Right.

Second: The article referenced above takes CD to task for fixing the author's bad HTML. <p>s cannot be nested inside <small>, it has to be the other way around. This is like complaining to the manufacturer of your car that it won't let you drive at 55 mph in reverse gear.

In HTML, you cannot place more specific elements outside a more general tag. I.e. <b><p>paragraph</p></b> may look okay to you (because the nesting is correct), but it still is wrong, because <b> (bold) definies a property for elements inside a <p> (paragraph).

This has nothing to do with developers getting religion. This has to do with correct code and wrong code.

Speaking in HTML lingo: You cannot nest block-level elements within inline elements. So, no <font size="+1"><p>paragraph</p><p>paragraph</p></font> (let's just ignore the fact that <font> is deprecated right now). As inelegant as it may look to you, the correct syntax would be:

<p><font size="-1">paragraph</font></p>
<p><font size="-1">paragraph</font></p>

That being said, CD does sometimes introduce unnecessary syntax and questionable "corrections," often destroying layouts and valid constructs in its wake. But the one mentioned in the article is exactly one of the things CD's Normal View does right.

(P.S.: Normal View uses Microsoft's DHTML control. The blame must be laid down at MS's feet, basically.)

Thursday, February 5, 2004

No one cares that CD uses the MS control.  CD is wrong if it does the wrong thing.  I find many of the HTML "fixes" to be annoying, and I don't care what company paid the programmer that wrote the line of code that is messing me up -- it's all CD's problem.  And we all know that Joel knows that (read in defense of NIH on his blog) and he should be working on it.

Lou Franco
Thursday, February 5, 2004

If you want blogging software, I think of CityDesk more of a companion to it rather than ever being it.  CityDesk creates a static site.  You may have PHP or ASP code in your templates that get executed when a page is loaded.  CityDesk doesn't manage this, the developer does.  CityDesk will not keep track of comments or anything and I don't imagine it ever would.  I guess it's possible they could provide variables or something to make it easier to integrate with a blog tool, not unlike FogBUGZ can integrate with various version control applicaitons.

I like CityDesk because I can design a site, put it in template (making concessions to how I know content is entered in Normal View) and give the site to a client with no HTML or development background.  All they know is that they type it in and it looks good on the site.  I don't have to write my own content management solution.

I don't think Joel's lost focus of CityDesk.  I think they do things in turn.  They have two products (that I know of) and they just released FogBUGZ for Linus/Mac.  Now that this is done, I'd imagine they're going to turn their focus back to CityDesk.  Sure he's missed the date he originally told us, but you know what?  So did Valve Software with Half Life 2. I don't think anyone's thinking that's going to be vapor ware.

Wade Winningham
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Back in July on the Joel On Software site, Joel mentioned in one little paragraph that 3.0 would be released at the end of 2003.  Based on this comment (note: it was NOT designed to be a product or release announcement), and the fact that it didn't happen, you now assume that CityDesk is dead?

Geez, lighten up a bit.  Even in December, there are mentions of Joel working on CD 3 code.  Software delays are almost as inevitable as the proverbial "death and taxes".  Have a bit of faith... and as for now, CD 2 helps me maintain websites that would be very difficult and extremely time consuming using any other tool I could afford.

And unfortunately, as a past programmer,  I know what its like to use a tool that later is found to have problems.  It sucks..the users don't care that you didn't write the code that is problematic, they just want it fixed.  Not as easy as it sounds though.  You can't change the code of the third party tool and sometimes the company you bought it from is very slow (if they do it at all) in fixing it.  The only other option is find another tool.  Which could mean tons of re-written code.  ugh...

just my thoughts...

Jeff Kolker
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Hello people of CityDesk!

I wasn't lying in the year end news. Our revenues ARE up sharply and they were up a lot more in January, too. The cost of our overhead is negligible, so while I appreciate your concern, don't worry so much. Fog Creek is extremely profitable and we're going to reinvest those profits in new hires which will allow us to do more software development.

We're still working on a new version of CityDesk, and frankly it's only been 6 months since the last one, so the reports of its death are, shall we say, greatly exaggerated. CityDesk German is very close to shipping and that took longer than expected, as did FogBUGZ Unix and Mac, but I'm not apologizing, because I've always said, and will always say, "Don't Buy CityDesk If It Doesn't Do What You Want."

I regret that I don't have time to reply to every message on this board but there's only so much I can do in one day, and while I love you all dearly, I've found that when I don't make time to eat I tend to get unnaturally small and weak.

And finally one of our customers has his very public opinion of whether <small> should be allowed outside of <p>s, and the World Wide Web consortium has their opinion, and I think our customers benefit much more from a CityDesk that adheres to established standards than a CityDesk which adheres to one customer's opinion of how HTML should work in the perfect world, but I certainly understand the concern with the way CityDesk tries to fix your code when you do something wrong in HTML mode and then switch to Normal mode, and improving this will certainly be a priority for the next major release. But I must emphasize that for us to allow you to edit not only valid HTML code, but also arbitrary invalid HTML code, is quite a difficult proposition and it comes at the expense of other features.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Thank you everyone for your comments. Especially Joel!

Good to hear that CD development is coming. I don't mind the wait. Just worried when there is silence, and the same issues come up on this board and aren't addressed.

Thank you for acknowledging the Normal View irritant. I recognize your reasons. It's the implementation, and the lack of warning, that bothers me.

As for blog features, nice-to-have would be archiving via calendar and search.

What features would I most like to see? Beefing up the "back end" stuff. More CityScript functions, ability to specify my own database (even if its flatfile for now) and to use CityScript to query it. I really don't want to overuse keywords to compensate for limited fields per article (but would be nice to have a keywords pick-list as I forget all the keywords I use!).

So, I'm willing to sacrifice the "front-end" stuff if that helps. Like a CSS pick-list, or a table editor, or resizing images directly in the editor, etc etc. That sort of thing.

The strength of CD is the back-end, and I can't get the back end features in another program. The table editing, the images, etc I can do elsewhere :-(

The one thing that I'd like Joel to think about is importing Word docs into articles. I get so many submissions for my site in Word, and I can't bat 1.000. Indeed, this is a subject of other posts, for which I am grateful. I use the MS HTML cleaner. But even copying to notepad and then to CD can be a pain. Importing Word docs is a special situation that maybe CD can address.

Go eat! And thank you for updating us.

Bob Bloom
Thursday, February 5, 2004

> archiving via calendar

A little rabbit told me this feature exists, but is hidden from the world.

Joel, please don't shoot me for saying it.
Saturday, February 7, 2004

I have an uncomfortable feeling about being cited as some sort of stalward critic of Citydesk. I wrote the post linked above when V2 was released, but I have not written anything about Citydesk since then.

And I'm still using V1 and still quite happy with it.

Steven Den Beste
Saturday, February 7, 2004

Out of interest, Bob, why do you want to be able to use different databases as CityDesk's 'back-end'? You mentioned that flat files would be a good start, but I expect you'd prefer something else like MySQL or something? But what benefit would it give you over the current Access implementation?

Just curious...

Darren Collins
Sunday, February 8, 2004

Access is fine with me!

I find that so much of my site is really a db. Events, contacts, newsletters, links. Sometimes I don't even really need a body field!

Being able to set up these things as a db, even as a flatfile and not a relational db, would be a help. And then CityDesk could "Select" the records. And I could add, modify, and delete records as required.

Bob Bloom
Monday, February 9, 2004

It sounds like what you really want is a way to access a database from within CityScript.

I'd love to be able to do that, too. Then I can keep a list of books, for example, and use CityScript to pull them out organised by category, author, etc into nice tables. Of course, you can currently do something similar using articles (one article for each book, with the fields renamed appropriately), but that's really cumbersome to set up and maintain.

I reckon it'll come in about CityDesk 5.0.

Darren Collins
Monday, February 9, 2004

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