Out-of-band communications

In “Top of the Day” in MDJ 2006.08.04, right at the very front of the issue, we said this:

WWDC 2006!

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference begins Monday in San Francisco, and MDJ will be there. We have more to say in preparation for the show, but we don’t want to delay this issue any further to include it. We’re therefore pleased to announce a WWDC 2006 Weblog for MDJ subscribers, where you’ll find up-dates from staff members on the conference and its revelations. It will debut this weekend, so check our Web site this weekend for the URL. You’ll need your user ID and password for the MDJ RSS feeds to gain access, so apologies, trial subscribers, but this benefit isn’t for you. We do not intend to publish regular issues during the conference, so check out the Weblog for all the latest and greatest from the show.

Similarly, MWJ 2006.08.05 said, in the same place:

WWDC 2006!

In the many, many days since we last spoke, our own production studio has fought us repeatedly – first with calamitously timed building repairs that made the normal schedule impossible, then with 19 out of 24 days of triple-digit temperatures and a heat pump that couldn’t keep up (giving new meaning to “sweating over every word”). We got a lot done, such as a massive database overhaul, and an updated Web site with a news blog for announcements that many of you have already followed. Now we’ve cleared the deck of Apple’s pressing finan-cial matters as we head to WWDC 2006 in San Francisco next week – and we’ll have a subscribers-only WWDC blog available soon so you can catch dispatches from the MWJ Staff at the show. The blog isn’t there yet, so check our Web site this weekend for the URL and opening date. You’ll need your RSS feed user ID and password to get in (sorry, trial subscribers).

During and after WWDC, it’s become clear to us that plenty of readers had no idea we had live Web coverage of WWDC. Several others wrote in to ask about their RSS user IDs and passwords, saying they’d never heard of it before.

These are problems for us.

First, on 2006.07.02, we sent individual E-mail to every MDJ and MWJ subscriber with info on the new RSS feeds. The subject line was “Info: RSS for your MDJ Subscription!” (or MWJ, if that’s your journal). They all went to the same addresses to which we send MDJ or MWJ, and while one or two of them came back with “click here to get past my spam filter” replies, most of them went right on through.

Since the only E-mails we ever send to your subscription address are either issues of the journals or information about your subscription, we didn’t really think these messages would get lost – and for most of you, they didn’t get lost. But clearly, some people either never got them or didn’t read them. We also put information about the feeds in the journals themselves, but obviously, we couldn’t put user IDs and passwords into published issues. (MDJ and MWJ are not customized for each subscriber – they’re more like magazines.)

Similarly, when we went to press just before WWDC, we weren’t 100% sure about the exact URL and timing of the live coverage, but we knew it would be there. We put an announcement about it right at the top of the issue, in bold print (for PDF readers), and the URL was live on the front page of our Web site all that week – in fact, it’s still there.

These are really the only ways we know to tell you about things – if we send you E-mail and put it on the front page of the Web site, what else can we do to bring it to your attention? Mind you, we don’t care if you choose not to use or read something (we believe you to be informed consumers), but it’s distressing for us to realize how many people did not even know we had added these features.

It’s a bit of a letdown to publish some 30-plus pages of live WWDC coverage, advertised both in the last issue and on our Web site, only to be getting E-mail two weeks later asking if we’ve published anything since August 4.

We don’t want to be one of those companies that sends out meaningless press releases every week trying desperately to get your attention about nothing at all, but when we add some value to your subscription, we really do want you to know about it sooner rather than later. But if individual E-mails and prominent journal placement don’t do the trick, we really don’t have any further ideas what will. If you do, please contact us and share your ideas!

(We are aware of one failing – we did not announce the WWDC live coverage in this news feed, an oversight due to all the scrambling and travel and such. We’ll make sure to get those things posted here in the future.)