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.