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Erik Sink Dumps CityDesk

"...CityDesk is a good piece of software.  It has templates and a basic scripting language and a simple built-in word processor and tools to manage my links.

However, I stopped using CityDesk a couple of months ago (Sorry Joel!)...a few things about it kept bugging me..."

http://software.ericsink.com/articles/Yours_Mine_Ours.html

Just as well, as it looks like Joel's dumped it too.
KR Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
"Just as well, as it looks like Joel's dumped it too."

harsh.
squid
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
It's not harsh, it's just false.  CityDesk maintains all of our sites and Joel's site too..

Here's a more relevant quote from the article which might spark more interesting conversation than the trolly starter to this thread.

"If in fact CityDesk is to be considered an unsuccessful product, I claim that its failure is an issue of marketing, not an issue of product quality.  People who use CityDesk love it.  It is elegant and extremely easy to use.  I daresay it is the leading application in its market niche.  The problem is that there just aren't very many people in that niche.  In the world of content management, the war between Web-based solutions and thick clients is over -- the Web apps won.  There just aren't many people like me who want a single user desktop content management system that generates static HTML.

In other words, CityDesk did a great job crossing the canyon, only to find out that there weren't very many people standing over there."
Michael H. Pryor Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
What's to prevent FogCreek from following the herd to the Web-app watering hole and producing a Web-app CityDesk? The domain knowledge is already a sunk cost.
Spinoza Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
That market is already pretty crowded.

(so says this web-based content management developer)
Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
Everyone pretty much rolls their own, we have to make money somehow out of simple web sites tha' knows.
Simon Lucy Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
I agree with AHA. I make a living making content management systems, but only because my work caters to some very specific needs of the institution I work for. It would be very difficult to compete on the open market.

Also, rewriting CityDesk as a web app would lose a certain degree of UI slickness and impose additional server system requirements. Right now, as I understand it, CityDesk only requires FTP access to the server.

Fog Creek would have to choose between maintaining two CMS products and dropping the desktop CityDesk. The latter option carries the likelyhood of losing existing customers.
clcr
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
Welcome to the world of Tabloid Journalism...
Sensationalist Headline
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
It's not harsh, it's just false.  CityDesk maintains all of our sites and Joel's site too..
------

That is true, but it is also pretty clear that the development pace on CityDesk has, uh, slowed down.  No new features in a while, and no indication that any future releases are planned (other than a mention of 3.0 in an article from almost two years ago).

CityDesk is not Fog Creek's bread and butter, and that's okay, but with no new development on the horizon, it's just not an appealing option even for people who like the product.

So yes, Fog Creek has not "dumped" CityDesk, in that they still support it and they use it internally, but it seems obvious that new development is not exactly a top priority right now.
thinker
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
To be fair, didn't Joel make all of this about CityDesk very clear as long as two or three years ago?
Herbert Sitz Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
Very nice reading. About the integration, it shows how hard it is to please users -- they are trying to support VS, Eclipse and DreamWeaver, as if it was not difficult enough to create the GUI right in the first place (like the DiffMerge issues).
Lost in a code jungle
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
My example of MeWare:

* I created and use my own editor for development. The highlights include features that I personally use all the time, like minimum indentation (automatic and manual), syntax highlighting, commenting of blocks of code, etc. Downsides:

** the syntax highlighting is not automatic because I'm affraid that I would spend precious time working on that and in the end it could be too slow to be practical.

** sometimes the Enter key has some problem because I use it for indentation and after a rewrite of the editor I haven't had the patience to look into fixing it again.

** I use it mainly on Linux, so it works much better on Linux than on Windows (where I'm going to use it soon enough).

So, just to get the editor to the point of UsWare would be  more work than I'm willing to put into it at this point in time.
Lost in a code jungle
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
I thought a competive, fragmented market was a *good* place for a business to enter.

It's like a doctor says: if there are a 100 remedies for an illness, one can be pretty none of them is a cure.
Spinoza Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
er, "one can be pretty sure none of them are a cure."
Spinoza Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
<Sigh/> 

I suppose this thread was inevitable, although I would like to believe I made my admiration for CityDesk clear.
Eric Sink Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
FWIW, I've dicked around with a dozen different content management packages as well as a different HTML tools. For me, Citydesk is perfect. It has the advantage of scripting combined with needing nothing special on the server. Nothing else I've looked at is quite like Citydesk.

However, I think the marketing of Citydesk was inept. It's just not apparent to someone who isn't a programmer type what can be done with it. And it was never bundled with a substantial set of templates. Something like Citydesk really needs examples. I know Joel had some or all of these things in place but they were fragmented and available only for download. Basically, he didn't work hard enough to turn it into a "real" product with lots of refined collateral.

I've tried to explain to others how I use CD and what its advantages are. Usually I get the most befuddled looks. Even from techies and web developers.

Citydesk could have used (IMO):

- Much better templates and packaging as a 'solution'. Right now it's just a tool.
- Better pricing. $300-400ish for the professional version, for what you get, is just plain exorbitant for an unbundled tool.
- Plug-ins. IE, if you're gonna target the geek audience, then *be* geek.
- Support for external files as part of the project. Now, you have to copy and paste anything external.

Citydesk is a product that didn't know what its target market was. Professional web designers? Not pretty or functional enough for em and requiring too much effort to integrate with other programs. End users? Maybe, with a LOT of handholding. Programmers? Pretty much; but only those who a) needed to produce web sites and b) who are willing to understand what the tool can do.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
Actually, I'd probably be squarely in CityDesk's target market except that I use a Mac.
clcr
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
Well Michael, the original poster wasn't completely up front here...but I'm not sure glowing praise of CityDesk was the point of Eric's article either. Eric gave more then enough glowing praise for CityDesk, its not his dislike of CityDesk that led him to dump it, its simply an older, less relevant program and doesn't do EXACTLY what Eric wants, but I think his glowing praise was also because he doesn't want to burn the Joel bridge, which is still intact despite his creating a bug tracking software ;)... 

However, Joel has more or less said (I think he even flat out said in the VentureVoice interview) that CityDesk was a cool idea, but it never took off like he imagined, and new development on the product is pretty non-existant.  I don't think any of us would be surprised to see it drop off FogCreek's products page, but hey if a few people are still buying it...
Phil Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
"The problem is that there just aren't very many people in that niche."

Wrong wrong wrong. Look, 50% of graphic designer use Macs to make web sites. On the Mac, programs exactly like CityDesk, standalone CMS or whatever you call it, are incredibly popular and are making lots of money for their developers.

Saying there is no market for the software is just plain wrong.
Scott
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
I agree with Bored that CD's marketing failed, but I disagree as to the specifics. Joel is great at writing about development. He has 9 forums listed on my left. He is known to many engineers who chat here. So, that is great marketing for bug tracking software, right? That's his target market. And CD sells to some of these developers as well. But CD's real target market is much much much larger than developers who want static web sites. These people, well Joel hasn't made any effort whatsoever to reach them. None of them have ever heard of CityDesk. I think CD was a wasted opportunity. To get that opportunity back would require a lot of work and maybe it's not worth it to them at this point. CD's have to be brought up to date, templates added, tutorials on templating so there can be a third party market for selling templates (this happens on the Mac), and the price needs to come down to $35, to be competitive with other programs that are currently, better.
Scott
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
That's a good point I suppose, Apple just released an app that is similar to CityDesk.
JS
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
"That's a good point I suppose, Apple just released an app that is similar to CityDesk."

I haven't got my hands on a copy of iWeb yet, but I've heard very bad things about it from people who have. Apparently it's buggy and visually inflexible.
clcr
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
It's version 1 and its probably got the best UI of any software ever written. Of course it is free with any Mac. For a few dollars, you can get something better.
Scott
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
There's also an open-source desktop CMS that I haven't got to try yet:

http://thingamablog.sourceforge.net/

I agree with the above, though: A desktop CMS is intellectually too challenging for non-techies, who prefer to just use a web-based solution... or keep maintaining a static version using FrontPage et al.

However, more technically-competent people usually prefer to roll their own. Eric did, I did, we all did :-)

Bottom line: Looks like FogCreek didn't study its potential audience well enough. But maybe it was a very hard thing to do.
Fred
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
When they started CityDesk they didn't have all this hindsight -- it's much easier to create Web Apps than GUI apps.
Lost in a code jungle
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
"However, more technically-competent people usually prefer to roll their own. Eric did, I did, we all did :-)

Bottom line: Looks like FogCreek didn't study its potential audience well enough."

Well, IIRC, CityDesk in fact started as Joel's MeWare.
Berislav Lopac Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
"it's much easier to create Web Apps than GUI apps."

*sputter*

You can make a crappy web application much faster than a crappy GUI app but making a good (UI-wise) desktop application is *much* easier than making a good web app.

I threw together a web application just a few weeks ago in a matter of hours but at the same time I've been working on a much more complicated web application for over a year.  The former could not have been easier as a desktop app but the latter would be done by now.
Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
Thursday, February 02, 2006
 
 
>...
>On the Mac, programs exactly like CityDesk, standalone CMS
>or whatever you call it, are incredibly popular and are
>making lots of money for their developers.

Can someone cite some titles, please? I have a Mac, and I would be interested in seeing something similar.

TIA...
Paolo Marino Send private email
Friday, February 03, 2006
 
 
But a Web App has fewer events making it easier to get the code right. I threw together a Web Framework in a couple of weeks and I'm now improving it. But it was much easier than the several months that I used exploring GUI Frameworks. Right now, I use the Web Framework to prototype features that I'm later going to port to my GUI frameworks. :-)
Lost in a code jungle
Friday, February 03, 2006
 
 
"But a Web App has fewer events making it easier to get the code right."

Well my web app has almost as many events and then you have the additional fun of managing state and dealing with client-side and server-side operations (in different languages!).

For example, I have both client-side and server-side input validation.  If I say a field is required then the client-side validation is emitted and the server side validation takes effect when the form is submitted.  But that's twice as much code to do a simple task.  In a desktop environment you can just call MessageBox() and maybe do a setFocus() on a control -- on the web that's much more difficult.

Which just reinforced what I said above...  for simple, the web is easier.  For more complex (and rich) the web is more difficult and time consuming.
Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
Friday, February 03, 2006
 
 
Actually, I have transformed the Web in a kind of GUI programming, by supporting components, so for me, the Web Framework is a very lightweight GUI framework, which handles session, memory, components, in an automatic way, reducing significantly the apparent code. I don't have any JavaScript yet, though. Like I said, it's very lightweight, and I still haven't had the time to enter the territory of heavy JavaScript programming. I don't need to use the components if I want to, but they are handy for the common case when they are fit, like common form edition a la the components of ASP.Net.
Lost in a code jungle
Friday, February 03, 2006
 
 
Scott
Friday, February 03, 2006
 
 
CityDesk would be great on a Mac, the templates are practically WYSIWIG.

My take on the whole thing is CityDesk was Joel's attempt to create a more user-friendly Manila. Joel on Software used to be a Manila site (how many of you remember that?), the URL used to be joel.userland.com or something.

When CityDesk came out, Blogger, Wordpress, Movable Type etc. didn't exist. The biggest open source CMS was Nuke, and Nuke was inflexible. There was a vast gulf between Nuke (free) and, say, Vignette Storyserver ($$$$$$$$). Maybe there was Slash, but unless you wanted to be slashdot, it didn't work too well. A flexible CMS between "free, but crappy" and "tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars" made perfect sense.

CityDesk may have been "meware" (remember the Eat Your Own Dogfood article?), but at the time the market seemed ripe.

Unfortunately, soon after CityDesk came out, cheap "with php and database" hosts popped up all over and Movable Type hit the scene. Templating became *much* easier than it had previously been.

Suddenly, everyone wanted what Movable Type offered - post from anywhere, get comments, trackbacks, pings, etc. Everyone was server side, not just the uber haxxors running phpNuke and the giant corporations running Stoyserver.

Small companies were either making completely static websites, or ended up maintaining the whole thing in Movable Type.

One of my friends works for a fairly prominent NYC design firm and they just rolled their own CMS. The ironic thing is there's still a rift between "free, but does one thing only" and "tens of thousands of dollars." The amount of customization that goes in to configuring and integrating a CMS usually means it makes much more sense to roll your own.
MarkTAW
Friday, February 03, 2006
 
 
I did push CityDesk as client at a number of people at the time and I think some took it up, the reason many didn't was that it was something new to learn even if it wasn't that much, that it was a program was barrier enough.
Simon Lucy Send private email
Saturday, February 04, 2006
 
 
I've said it before and I'll say it again: CityDesk is a perfect candidate for open source.
Dave Fobare Send private email
Saturday, February 04, 2006
 
 
Here's a type of CD user that I didn't see listed here yet, so just for completeness:

I have been messing around making "personal" webpages just for fun for years, I only know HTML and very little CSS and use mostly MS Paint for the graphics. I don't know anything about PHP, MySQL, Flash, don't even have the money for Dreamweaver, I haven't programmed except for some school class... You know what I mean. But I just love typing away in notepad, trying to get that website exactly how I want it to look.

Anyway, whenever I made a webpage with multiple pages, changing something in the design was horribly slow of course, opening all those html files. So I really needed some "notepad multiple files at once editor" or something. And that's exactly what CD does!

So my point is, for a user like me, an offline CMS is much easier than online CMS, and I love CD because that's what it really is to me: a edit-multiple-files-at-once notepad editor :)
wauter Send private email
Saturday, February 04, 2006
 
 
Dave Fobare said just now that CityDesk is a perfect candidate for open source. I just don't see how that can be? What sort of business case can you make? There are still a few ways to making it work. I imagine someone championing for the refactoring of CityDesk into a well-oiled collection of VB COM/.NET classes (completely documented by a Professional CityDesk Programming book from WROX). From there add theming so that CityDesk becomes something you market to niche groups. Instead of building anything from scratch, it would be bundled with a Site Kit (site skin and wizard flows) for travel writers. Another one for doctors and their private practices--and so on. When a Powerbook carrying Renaissance Man/Trouble-maker plunks down the moolahs for CityDesk they probably didn't realize it doesn't come bundled with $3000 coupon to use with a CityDesk-savvy web designer who can make an entire docu-flow around your business. And then they get lost. But unsolicited advices are cheap :-) I am really not in a good position to advice on what would make good marketing directions for CityDesk without seeing more of it in action.
Li-fan Chen Send private email
Sunday, February 05, 2006
 
 
@scott: (a) yes, I agree, the market reaction to "mac CMS products" like Rapidweaver shows that there is surely a market for CD-like products.

CD is certainly still a valuable asset for Fogcreek.

In fact, a 2,1 version correcting a few minor annoyances and adding some minor features to loops (showing the product is not dead, and certainly not expensive to develop), and a price tag in the 80-120$ range, and my strong guess is that CD would make good money for the company who sells it.

(b) But rapidweaver and karelia don't directly compare with CD. You're stuck with vendor's designs if you're not very tech savvy, and you have no real flexibility in building archive schemes, and in advanced CMS features. of course, these two products can only improve. They're most convenient for "unblogged sites", but have nothing comparable to cityscript when it comes to flexibility.

@fred: Thingamablog is interesting, but still far from CMS abilities of CD. Works well for simple blogs.
Vincent Send private email
Friday, February 10, 2006
 
 

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