as radio gets closer to release, the wraps are gradually coming off. i was invited into the beta program just three days ago, but i've had an opportunity to really bang on it (and try to break it). i plan to write a more full review, once i've spent more time with the product, and can get it into the hands of a couple of clients ... but i wanted to stake some opinion territory before release, different territory than you'll hear from others.
ever read 'the macintosh way,' by guy kawasaki? remember DICE? a product must be: Deep, Indulgent, Complete and Elegant? i still use his guidelines to judge products. following those rules, here's my three-day impression of userland radio 8.0:
radio is deep. is there a userland product that's not? radio will appeal to casual users, as well as those who wish to dig into it's intricacies. you can 'run it on auto', or customize it to your heart's content. the deeper one gets into radio, that time and effort will be a direct payoff if one chooses to move up to userland's flagship product, frontier, for industrial-strength content management. radio makes frontier more approachable in some very smart ways. starting from basic weblogging, there is plenty of room to grow and expand ... one can delve into xml, opml, xml-rpc and soap, too. yup, it's deep.
radio is indulgent. of course radio takes the drudgery of day-to-day weblogging out of your way. but a visit the preferences page will overwhelm most users with features. so indulgent as to feel like overkill? for just a straight daily weblog, absolutely. for instance, the xml category features are quite nifty, and probably most casual users won't routinely use them. but programmers and power users will. rss, news aggregating, mail-to weblogging, ftp to other servers, offline editing, upstreaming, built-in website statistics, and more ... yes, indulgent fits.
radio is complete. the userland team has obviously done an extensive amount of research into what features are most popular in the marketplace, what third-party add-ons webloggers routinely use. on first use, i was frankly quite pleasantly surprised at the main interface. everything i wanted was there, under my fingertips. userland's arranged things better in radio 8 than i have in my own weblog interface (a work in progress, that). then there's the documentation. yes, documentation. now don't fall off your chair. it's all here, designed to help you get the most out of radio. little clickable question marks dot the interface pages, to help the novice find out what's going on. an entire linked help section. hot links to mail lists and user groups exist on the main interface. it's almost to the level of "tell 'em what they're about to do," "tell 'em what they're doing," "tell 'em what they've just done." i'm anticipating that as the community of users grows, there will be a rich selection of how-to articles available. just as an aside, for the month of june of 2001, due to an unforeseen network problem with my primary site, i served my weblog with an earlier beta of radio ... from my laptop on a dialup. there is no question in my mind; this is a self-contained, complete weblogging environment.
radio, elegant? let's face it. elegance is subjective as hell. i find a command line beautifully elegant at times. but a really good example comes to mind; one could walk up to any mac user today and hear that iphoto is 'elegant.' radio 8 and other weblog/cms environments are fundamentally different from iphoto; they present you with a browser interface - with all the limitations browsers bring to the aesthetic. no, radio 8 is no iphoto. but it's got potential. with radio, the appealing bryan bell designs are present throughout the standard install and main interface, and if they don't appeal to you, you can use themes or edit the interface templates directly to suit your particular tastes. 'control' is the byword here. but i believe a program must have 'functional elegance' too. after a mere three days, i can't honestly say i'm completely qualified to judge functional elegance. at this juncture, i can say with confidence that radio is efficient, practical and smooth. it's got a clean, simple interface. it's run constantly on my win2k 400 mhz laptop without a glitch for three days, with minimal impact on system processes. but elegance? there are aspects of elegance ... the most prominent to me are the upstreaming capabilities. that server on your desktop sits in the background like an english butler, waiting at your elbow for your least command. dump anything in radio's 'www' folder, and it's been filed, uploaded, backed up, statically rendered, content managed, diced, chopped, ground, and served on a platter. it'll be taken for granted, i fear, and receive short shrift in the reviews. no, what i'd say is give radio a spin, and see for yourself. who knows, maybe you can *make* it meet your standard of elegance.
i believe radio 8 will be a great success for userland. especially if they follow up this outstanding development effort with an equally effective marketing push. there's a glow about it, and it's not just marketing hype. it's really fun to use, and i believe it will appeal to a wide range of consumers. try radio, and then picture it being offered via one of those annoying sign-on ads on aol. i think this has been targeted very well for mass-market appeal. think i'm full of it? on the main interface page, userland's put the four most addicting features of weblogging (posting, referers, total hits, hot list).
even for a subset of existing webloggers, the aspect of direct control ... not being bound (and occasionally gagged) by servers across the country ... will be attractive, too.
my particular interest in radio 8 revolves around business. for some clients i have offered blogger, manila, and other solutions for newsletter and press release pages. i intend to give radio 8 a spin with a couple of clients, just to see how it stacks up. i'll post an update at a later date, if you're interested.