What’s it all about, Alpha?

I’m not big on conspiracy theories, ulterior motives, or “the real story,” but if Allan Odgaard were to announce that he’d been planning for months to release a public alpha of TextMate 2 by the end of the year, that it had nothing to do with BBEdit 10, the switching of longtime users, or the persistent speculation that TextMate 2 will never be released, I’d call bullshit.

It’s been a bad few months for TextMate. BBEdit 10 was not only a significant upgrade with an aggressive price, it was a reminder that Bare Bones has acted like a company of grownups, consistently releasing improvements rather than hinting and hiding. Lots of people have left TextMate, and those who haven’t (ahem) have been thinking hard about when they might be forced to.

Worse is the conventional wisdom settling around the idea that TextMate has reached the end of the line, that version 2 will never be released. Dan Benjamin is probably the most influential purveyor of this notion; for a few weeks, he seemed to say it on every 5by5 podcast.

It’s impossible to believe that all this bad news had no influence on Odgaard. Questions about TextMate 2 on the TM mailing list are one thing, a public perception throughout the Mac community that you’re going to renege on a promise you made repeatedly is something else.

So we get the announcement, and it raises more questions than it answers. A public alpha? Does that mean that TM2 still isn’t feature-complete? And if you’re going to release an alpha, why hold off another few months? Why should we have to wait for a buggy, crashy, incomplete application? Can’t we get buggy, crashy, and incomplete now?

It may be that the TM mailing list has answers to some of these questions, but I just don’t have the heart to go there and look. The list has been like a funeral parlor for ages; I’m not sure I want to peek in on the day the guest of honor sits up in his casket.

Of course, I’ll be one of the first to download and install the public alpha. Because as much as I dislike the way TextMate 2 has been handled, as much as I wish Allan acted more like Rich Siegel, I want to use TextMate 2.

When it comes right down to it, the behavior of the developer isn’t as important as the behavior of his application. I don’t write in Allan Odgaard, I write in TextMate, and that’s what I want to keep on doing.

Update 9/27/11
To be clear, when I used the phrase “renege on a promise,” the promise I was talking about was the release of TextMate 2, not that it would be a free upgrade. Like Marco Arment—and a lot of other users, I’m sure—I’d be perfectly happy to pay for TextMate 2. I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth out of TM 1 and wouldn’t think twice about buying TM 2 once it’s released.

6 Responses to “What’s it all about, Alpha?”

  1. Clark says:

    Got to admit that while there are some things that still bug me about BBEdit (no Lion styled resizing) I’ve found that I like it a lot. And it has a lot to make up for Text Mate’s annoying character by character undo, the lack of split screen, and getting choked up on even moderately large files.

    Plus the customer relations from BBEdit have been astoundingly good. Twice I’ve reported a bug or feature request and had it in a new build in a couple of days.

  2. Dave Overton says:

    Great piece and I think you gave a point, I too would really like to use TM2. I decided to switch from TextMate a few months ago after trying BBEdit 10. Although my TM habits are still present I have decided I will not revert back, even to the Alpha. While we do write in TextMate, it is the developer and the roadmap for the application that we do rely and trust in to keep us writing at our very best. In this case the promise of TM2 has long been dangled, but as you say if it isn’t even ready for buggy, crashy launch Now, why wait?

  3. Donald Curtis says:

    Interesting thoughts here. I think most important is that just because all of a sudden word has come out from the dark that there is an Alpha, users have no reason to trust the word.

    Aren’t users destined for the same pain again? Isn’t it completely possible that TM2 will get this burst of development and then we will be stuck waiting around for TM3?

    For a person (or company) that made such an awesome product in TM, I don’t understand the struggle to make TM2. Maybe it’s like an artist who creates their masterpiece and then struggles to create anything again — feeling like anything they do will not live up to their original work.

  4. Joseph Jaramillo says:

    TM2 would have to be the second coming for me to consider using it. I’ll try it out, but I spent years using MacVim while I waited for TM2, and have since switched to Sublime Text 2 and haven’t looked back. You make a great point about the app being more important than the developer, but given the way it’s been handled there’s no way I can recommend TM2, even if it is great.

  5. Jamie says:

    I have to say I’ve never understood the love for TM. I was warped early on by vi (on Sun and HP boxes), so maybe that explains it.

    BBedit is fine. Overly customizing an editor just means you should be using Emacs, because you want to play with your editor instead of writing code.

  6. Dr. Drang says:

    I have to say I’ve never understood why someone who purports to be productive would waste his incredibly valuable time reading and commenting on a post that discusses software he claims to have no interest in.