15 reviewers dump on Radio 8. I might as well too.

CNET Software Reviews: Radio UserLand 8.0.5... that link goes to the negative comments section.

I sure hope UserLand actually takes those negative reviews to heart, and does something about the issues that are repeated over and over again.

To me, the scariest part about investing in a UserLand product is worrying if it's going to fall off the map in a few months when Dave Winer comes up with a new world-changing idea. The outliner interface (Clay, Frontier) to browser interface (Manila) to outliner interface (Pike/Radio7) back to web interface (Radio 8) and now back to outliner interface (Instant Outlines) mood swings over the last 4 years have been very disturbing. If I was an $899 Frontier subscriber over the last 3 years I wouldn't feel too great about having funded the development of two versions of Radio, a tool that now does little or nothing to improve Frontier's web application system or Manila's content management system / workgroup tool.

UserLand might think bootstrapping is great, but it's left a graveyard of half-implemented and/or poorly thought out and then forcibly improved patchwork-style features in its path. Perhaps its less frustrating to think of UserLand as a think-tank (no pun intended) of internet futurism than an actual software product company. In that respect they are amazing. But the perpetual lack of professional documentation and bare-bones support (no offense Lawrence, you rock but you're only one man) makes it hard to take them seriously as a product company.

That said, what Radio 8 does right now, it does quite well. There are some warts, like the flaky upstreaming daemon that badly needs rewriting (use the Queue suite please!), but overall, it does what it claims to.

I feel good about having paid the $39.95 for a license and a year of updates, but honestly, I doubt its weblogging, news aggregation or static publishing features will see much serious improvement over the next 6-12 months as the pendulum swings to the Outliner side of UserLand's attention span. You might see more of Frontier's 6-year-old HTML framework's features (glossaries and multiple templates for example) incrementally exposed to Radio's web interface, but little new ground. Perhaps if their revenues dip it'll cause them to work in the directions their customers are begging for rather than what they're personally interested in.

I like the world outline concept, I've been saying that for two years now. Instant Outlining is basically just weblogging in the outliner, and really only demonstrates maybe 10% of what it can do. I guess that's the whole bootstrapping thing again.

Written on April 7, 2002