Merlin Mann On Good Software (And Scrivener)

The bright and very often amusing Merlin Mann posts some thoughts on making good stuff, and he cites Keith as an example of someone who’s doing it right.

That’s a nice little mention!

Because the auteur* has a vision :slight_smile:

* is this the right word in this usage?


seemed like a bit of a dichotomy to me.

Pourquoi? Authors can have visions too, can’t they?

I like it - I like how only a couple of weeks ago one rather “outspoken” user was berating me for my “auteur methodology”, and now the same methodology is mentioned as a good thing by the great Merlin Mann. :slight_smile: Many thanks to Merlin for the kind mention.

That’s exactly what I thought when I read the line on “by-design limits”.

It’s kind of like Chemists now. They used to sell bandaids and cold medicines and drugs. Then someone obviously suggested that “hey, hot waterbottles are good when you’re sick, lets sell them!” and then that grew to fluffy pink covered waterbottles (because they are soothing) and then lip gloss for chapped lips, then lipstick, then perfume, and then - by some inexplicable leap - sandwiches. I am waiting for cheap laser printers and blank DVD RW discs to show up.

If you ask me, they forgot what they were supposed to be for!

So come visit US again and you will see this in practice. Just don’t go looking for actual medicine. If you manage to find it you probably can’t afford it.

You mean they don’t yet sell that there?

Here they do… (inkjet printers though, and digital photo frames, oh and they have photo-printing too)


In Mexico, they sell cigarettes at chemists!

while down in Stockport vik-k is still waiting for cheap wine and cuban cigars…

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to why I love the things I love, and I’ve found that most of them – the works of art, the products, the restaurants – have one thing in common: they all came from the mind of someone with the vision to create something great, and the work ethic required to ensure that that thing will BE great. On my desk is a notecard with a quote from Ira Glass, host of the radio show This American Life (a thing I love):

Basically, anything that anyone makes… It’s like a law of nature, a law of aerodynamics, that anything that’s written or anything that’s created wants to be mediocre. The natural state of all writing is mediocrity. It’s all tending toward mediocrity in the same way that all atoms are sort of dissipating out toward the expanse of the universe. Everything wants to be mediocre, so what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such a fucking act of will.

Ira Glass is a hero of mine because he’s created a show that I found enormously appealing, and he’s spent every day for the last decade or so protecting that show from those who want it to be something else – the show they want it to be.

This is a roundabout way of saying that the very thing I love about Scrivener is that it’s software with a mission – not to be everything to everyone, not to avoid offending the sensibilities of a fragile public, but to be that thing that Keith set out to make, and only that thing. I happen to like that thing very much, and I am gratified that it is has managed to expand in ways that always seem to enrich that original concept. I am quite sure that Scrivener as it exists now (and especially 2.0) is much more feature rich than Keith originally intended. I am equally confident that it is still the application Keith wanted to make, whether he knew he wanted that or not. Scrivener is great because someone is looking at it every day, making sure that everything that gets added or subtracted serves the original Scrivener vision.

The term auteur is totally appropriate here. While the auteur theory is widely accepted (and badly misapplied) today*, it was controversial when it was first suggested by French filmmakers and critics. How could a director – one of hundreds of artists working on a film set, and not always the originator of the idea – be called the author of a movie? What those guys understood was that the director is the gatekeeper of the vision. S/he is – if I may quote the worst president in the history of the United States – The Decider, and if the Decider is making decisions based on a vision that is clear and true, s/he deserves to be called the author.

I am not saying at all that being the auteur of Scrivener means that Keith is beyond criticism. The man has welcomed suggestions and complaints, and the software is better because he’s open to them. I am saying, however, that the complaint that “Scrivener isn’t what I want it to be, so Keith sucks” is counterproductive and, frankly, bullshit. It’s a manifestation of that false sense of entitlement that is the worst part of the internet culture – this concept that the labor of others should be free for the taking because taking it is easy; that because we can make our thoughts known to the masses, every fucking random thought we have is sacrosanct; and because we took eleven minutes to post our thoughts on a thing online, we are co-owners of that thing. Bitching at Keith because Scrivener doesn’t allow you to [insert non-Scrivener-like feature here] is like bitching at your coffee machine because it doesn’t squeeze orange juice.

I have to end this rant because I have something due at noon, and I just blew an hour, y’know, ranting. But I really do think that criticism of Scrivener needs to take the original vision into the account. Keith, if you’re reading this, stay vigilant. And stop reading this and get back to work, because if Scrivener 2.0 doesn’t squeeze orange juice, I’m totally switching to StoryMill. Goddam fancy pants auteurs…

Y` still aint gettin a free upgrade to 2.0

it comes back to the old axiom “a jack of all trades and master of none.”

People - and software - should realise that they need to play to their strengths and focus on what defines them.

Can you imagine how nasty the coffee would taste when you hadn’t managed to clean out all the orange?

Another evil scheme thwarted. And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley: `kyou!

Mr. K,

I believe the context in which Mr Coffee was referring to you as a youth was in terms of mental capacity or ability, not in terms of vigor or physical nature. When levied as such this moniker should be taken as an insult, not a compliment. But as I think about it, your predisposition to enjoying that which is “painful” makes delivering an insult somewhat counterintuitive, potentially even impossible, as you have no predisposition to dislike that which is typically pleasurable.

I must go and ponder the implications of this dilemma. Please ignore the burning smell.

wot? :confused:

Oh Gawd, what’s that smell is someone burning a dead horse in here??

Jaysen! Stop it!

Dead horse? did someone say there is a dead horse?