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Mac OS X Hints and Mac Publishing, LLC: Questions & Answers

Please note that for the duration of this page, I'll refer to Mac Publishing, LLC as simply Macworld.
  • Why did you choose to join Macworld?
    As noted in the announcement, I really felt myself getting burned out as the number of hours I spent on Mac-related projects continued to increase. However, I really enjoy this work, so much so that I wanted to find a way to turn my passion into my work. Macworld has allowed me that rare opportunity, paying me a salary to keep working on macosxhints.com and continuing to write for them. So now, instead of burning out and having to leave the site, I've got a solution that lets me work on what I love, make my living while doing so, and have enough time left over for family and friends. Goodbye, burnout!

  • Why are you sticking around and working on the site, if Macworld is the new owner?
    Because I love what I do. Getting involved with Macworld wasn't a way for me to end my involvement with macosxhints; it was a way to extend it without the risk of going it alone, and to do so while balancing my work and personal time. If I hadn't found this solution, there's a very good chance I would have burned out on macosxhints before the end of 2005. Five years of 4:30am wakeup calls and many late-night writing sessions can do that to a person!

  • What exactly are your duties with Macworld?
    I really have three main job duties: (1) keep working on macosxhints.com, just as I have been the last five years; (2) write my monthly column for the magazine; (3) write various other articles for the web and/or magazine. The first will take the majority of my time; I presently spend between 20 and 30 hours a week working on hints in my 'spare time,' and I do not expect this to decrease now that it's my true job.

  • What does Macworld have to offer the community here?
    Macworld has a long history with Apple and the Mac, and they see the strength of the community that has developed here. We haven't finalized anything yet, but we're very interested in finding ways to reward the community for contributing hints, answering questions on the forum site, etc. A monthly giveaway for the best hint, as voted by the community, perhaps (just one concept under discussion). Macworld has the resources available to do these things, unlike when I was running the site. In addition, Macworld's contacts in the industry can help when I have questions on a hint -- having the ability to contact a product manager for program XYZ, for instance, could prove useful at times. Macworld can also help publicize macosxhints, bringing in more viewers and contributors to further expand the knowledge base.

  • I just sent you a donation, and now the site is owned by Macworld? That's not fair!
    I agree. Thankfully, since the site started running ads late last year, the rate of donations has fallen off to basically near-zero. But if you're one of the 15 or so people who have sent in a donation, I will refund your money, as I agree it's not fair to support an individual and then find out that the site is no longer individually owned! Please drop me an email if you're one of this small group of people and you want your money back -- we'll figure out how to get it done.

  • Will the site be 'assimilated' into macworld.com?
    Macworld recognizes the differences between the communities here and at macworld.com, and there are no current plans to merge the two together. The macosxhints.com and forums.macosxhints.com domains will continue to exist as they do today. We hope, however, to integrate features where it makes sense -- the Macworld news box in the sidebar is an example of such integration. Down the road, it would be great if one sign-on worked on every site (hints and forums and Macworld), and we're going to work to get that done. But it's not something that's easily accomplished, so it won't happen overnight.

  • Will the site become 'members only' or have restricted features for paying customers?
    Anything that's here today, June 1st, 2005, will be here in the future and remain free to access. That is, all 7,000+ hints will be fully searchable, commenting will be enabled, user preferences, etc. So no existing features will be converted to a 'pay-to-use' model. That's not what I stand for, and it's not something Macworld is interested in doing. Now, if new services are added in the future, there's a chance that they may be offered on a subscription basis -- there's always been that chance, even when I was running the site myself. I'm not saying that such things are planned; they are not. But it could happen, but it won't do so by converting a currently-free feature into a pay-to-use feature. So to sum up, let me repeat: The site and its archives will remain open and freely searchable.

  • What visible changes will I see on the site?
    The ads will now be served from Macworld, so the advertisers may change, and you may see some different positions and/or sizes for the ads -- but we have no interest in covering the page with so many ads that the content is hard to find and use! There will be changes in the footer and/or header area to reflect Macworld's ownership of the domain. There may be other small changes here and there, but we're still working through some of that. In short, hints will look much like it does today. A much more dramatic change will be coming when I roll out the next Geeklog update, which has a completely new look (not at all related to the Macworld changes; I've had this in the works for months).

  • What's going to happen to the forums? Macworld, after all, has their own forum site.
    As of now, there are no plans to integrate the two forum sites. A quick browse of both sites will show that they really serve a different audience. All current forum moderators will be moderators going forward. Over time, we may look to combine aspects of the forum sites -- for instance, the two sites currently use different programs. If we can convert both to run on one package, then we should be able to offer a single sign-on more easily. But generally speaking, the macosxhints forums are going to continue to serve their role: providing a place for users to ask questions about all things OS X, and hopefully receive answers from other readers.

  • What about the privacy of the information I used when registering here?
    One of the benefits of joining Macworld is that they're a larger organization who has had to comply with federal privacy laws. They have a very-well-defined privacy policy, which is now in effect for both of the macosxhints.com sites. I think the opening three bullets of that policy bear repeating here:

    • Mac Publishing will not release your personal data to anyone else without your consent.
    • Mac Publishing does not monitor individual traffic patterns on our sites - only aggregate reader behavior is collected.
    • If you have opted to receive special offers from Mac Publishing, you may change that decision at any time.

    As you can see, Macworld values your privacy and takes it very seriously. I personally feel much better about this aspect of the site now. My old privacy policy (which basically didn't exist in a formalized sense) was clearly something I was going to have to address sooner rather than later.

  • I've had hints posted here. What happened to my copyright?
    Per the contract with Macworld, they did not purchase any of the copyrights to hints from third parties -- they couldn't, since I didn't own them to sell. You own the copyright on the original submission, as noted at the bottom of each page. This was true before the sale, and it's still true today. Macworld only purchased the domain and its copyrights, along with the copyright to anything that I wrote.

    Also note that macosxhints.com has had the following 'right to use' license on the submission page for quite a while now:
    You retain the copyright on your hint, but macosxhints.com has a right to use your hint for any purpose, including but not limited to potential publication in books and magazines and use on other macosxhints websites (such as the forum site). Whenever possible, attribution to you as the source will be given, but this is neither required nor assumed.
    That statement basically gives me the right to use whatever appears here in anything else I that I do, verbatim if I wanted to do so. And since November of 2003, yes, I have been using the hints from the site as the basis for the column.

    An interesting fact is that, even though I have the rights to do so, basically nothing I put in the column is copied verbatim from the site -- I look at the subject and the writeup on each hint, but then I start with a blank piece of paper. Why don't I use the hints verbatim? Because writing for print is an entirely different animal than writing for the web. So I basically sit down with a list of cool subject matter from the site, then write up new descriptions on how to accomplish those cool things. As such, the final result is really my original work and not the work of anyone else (with one exception noted below).

    Excluding the exception described below, understand that the topics covered on macosxhints are not in and of themselves copyrightable. Take, for instance, a recent hint on removing the grace period from the sudo command. While you can certainly have a copyright on your description of that process, nobody can own the knowledge of the process itself. So if you and I both write up a 'how to' on this matter, and we do it on our own, they will come out looking similar (since the process we're describing is the same), but the end result will be two different copyrightable works. But neither of us will own the copyright on the knowledge of the hint; just our specific version of how to do it.

    The exception is, of course, original code -- AppleScripts, shell scripts, and now, probably (to some extent) Automator actions and Spotlight queries. Although the disclaimer is still in place on the submission page, I have a new plan for action now that the site is part of IDG. If I wish to use any such scripts outside of macosxhints.com, I will seek the original submitter's approval first. If I can't secure permission, then I'll either not cover that subject, or I'll just have to include a link to the web site in the article, instead of including the script itself.

    In short, I'm going to do my best to make sure we don't upset anyone over the possible use of their material. As noted, this mainly applies to scripts, as the knowledge of hints isn't subject to copyright and I never use them as-is.

  • What changes are coming soon, now that you can work on the site more often?
    Probably the largest short-term project is the launch (finally!) of a revamped Mac OS X Hints site, with a new look, some new categories for hints, and a few new features (courtesy of the newest version of Geeklog). Beyond that, the most important projects on my plate are: finding a way to add a comments news feed (or some other means of monitoring the site's comments), adding the ability to print a hint with its comments in a 'printer friendly' version, and adding a 'Bookmark this hint' feature within the Geeklog engine. I have no set timeframe for any of this, of course, but the site upgrade will happen sooner rather than later.

  • Why didn't you sell the site to ABC company or DEF company, instead of Macworld?
    I've been working with Macworld for nearly three years, and I feel like I know the organization and its principles quite well. I was looking for a group that I felt I could trust, and who understood my site and its community. Macworld clearly understands what we've all built here, and has no interest in trying to force the community to become something else. With any other partner, I would have been going in blind relative to their beliefs, desires for the site and community, etc. Macworld was a known entity, and a good one at that -- they understand the community, and want to help us continue to grow and thrive.