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Results from the Second Mac DevCenter Survey

by Derrick Story
04/02/2004

The tallies for second Mac DevCenter reader poll are in, and they extend many of the themes you established in last year's survey. But there are a few twists, too.

Once again, the turnout was outstanding. More than 1,200 respondents managed to complete the online form. Beyond that, a very large percentage included comments to help us better understand what this community likes, and dislikes, about Mac DevCenter.

To put things in context, site traffic is up about 12 percent from last year, with a nice steady upward growth curve. Increased traffic has brought some diversification to this site's audience. Based on survey comments, Mac DevCenter feels like a healthy ecosystem expanding at a reasonable pace. The core audience of developers and programmers turned out in big numbers for this survey, lobbying for their interests. They were joined by power users and recent converts who seem less passionate about the specific types of articles we publish, but certainly are not less committed to the platform in general. One sentiment that spans our entire audience is enthusiasm for the platform itself. And I share that enthusiasm.

Bottom line, the editorial game plan for Mac DevCenter will continue in the same spirit as in 2003, with a few adjustments, of course, based on survey data.

Survey Data Highlights

The first two-thirds of the survey was essentially the same as last year's, enabling us to compare ... well, apples to apples. But we added a few questions to help provide a more complete picture. Here are a few highlights.

  • One third of the audience visits the site daily. Another 55 percent visits once a week or more. Many commented that they appreciate the constantly refreshed news in the right column. We'll continue to stay on top of what's happening in the Mac community.

  • The percentage of readers deploying for the Mac platform was overwhelming, as expected. But those also developing for Linux have grown, closing the gap with programmers writing for Windows. In 2003, Windows development was second most popular. This year, Linux and Windows are in a virtual dead heat.

  • The European audience for Mac DevCenter has grown five percentage points from last year. U.S. residents still comprise close to two-thirds of visits, but Europe is now 25 percent, up from 20 percent in 2003. Canadians chime in at five percent.

  • On the extremes, Macs on the workplace remain about the same as last year. Half of you said that Macs make up less than 25 percent of your workstations. 16 percent said that Macs are the only computers at work. But there was growth in the middle percentages, indicating that more Macs are being integrated in the business environment, but quietly.

  • A whopping 74 percent of you said that you use Macs at home and at work, while 25 percent indicated that you use Macs at home only. Only one percent said they use Macs at work only. (All work and no play has never been a Mac credo.)

  • The PowerBook is this audience's computer of choice -- 45 percent of you are toting metal. The desktop G4 was a strong second at 25 percent, with the iBook being used by 11 percent of you. An interesting note is that the G5 desktop is the primary computer of choice for only 10 percent of this population -- far below the desktop G4. This is a number to keep an eye on for the next survey. I would have guessed beforehand that more users in this audience would have migrated to the G5 by now. That doesn't seem to be the case.

  • When it comes to digital devices, compact digital cameras rule the roost, with 71 percent of you saying you use them regularly. The iPod had a strong showing at 63 percent (respondents could mark all devices that apply), and Palm PDAs are hanging tough at 34 percent, tied with DV camcorders. The iSight also had a strong showing at 25 percent.

  • Over 90 percent of this audience has upgraded to Panther -- not so surprising. But 56 percent of you have purchased iLife 04 and 48 percent maintain .Mac accounts. Over 30 percent of Mac DevCenter readers have moved up to the Pro version of QuickTime. And Keynote is now definitely on the radar -- 23 percent of you are using it.

Survey Comments: Likes and Dislikes

Overall, there was the natural push and pull between those who only want developer content and others who like diversity. I'll start with the developer-related issues first.

Cocoa was once again the most discussed developer technology. Some were lamenting that Mike Beam is no longer writing his regular column and yearned for the return of those in-depth pieces. But many also commented that they enjoyed Seth Roby's beginning series. Overall, the request was for more of both.

We've been churning away behind the scenes to line up new Cocoa content, and you'll see some stuff, including a guest appearing to write about the number-one-requested Cocoa topic, in April.

The desire to publish Cocoa content isn't the problem, however. Getting developers to actually write the pieces is. I get lots of bold commitments from readers who are going to write us tutorials, only never to see them materialize. If you've got what it takes to write a Cocoa tutorial, then please contact me at derrick@oreilly.com. We'll get it going!

Another popular request was for Mac server articles. This is a shift from before, when there wasn't as much interest in this area. We'll pick up the pace here. Personally, I think we're entering an era where Macs are going to blossom behind the firewall. I hope I'm right.

Other hot topics included Python, Ruby, open source tools for Mac OS X, anything Unix, scripting, and WebObjects. A number of folks asked what happened to our Java editor. Well, he took on editorial duties for two O'Reilly-produced sites, ONJava.com and java.net. ONJava publishes lots of good stuff that would interest our Mac audience, and I'll start pointing to more of those articles on Mac DevCenter. We'll also start producing more original content and get that engine fired up again. Thanks for the reminder.

I also noticed an increase in requests for articles on bioinformatics and life sciences. We had a few of those last year, too, and I never really found a good writer to cover that area. But the Mac platform is on the upswing in these areas, and I really want to provide science content on Mac DevCenter. I hear you guys. I'm on it.

Even though some readers don't want anything but pure developer content on this site, many others like the diversity. Digital-photography- and music- related technologies drum up the most interest. But the iApps in general garnered favorable comments.

The most popular article of all time on Mac DevCenter, and for all of the O'Reilly Network, is Top Ten Digital Photography Tips. Articles like these that circulate throughout the entire web-o-sphere help others discover Mac DevCenter. They also speak to the other activities that Mac users, regardless of their level of sophistication, engage in.

The editorial plan is to balance core developer content with intelligent iApp and digital media articles. We want to give the savvy Mac user a variety of compelling content, for both in the office and after hours.

Final Thoughts

One thing I like about this audience is the expressed support for the site, even when complaints were part of the communication. Almost every comment contained encouraging words, urging us to keep moving forward and to continue serving serious Macheads all over the world.

That's exactly what we're going to do. We'll be adding new technology areas, such as life sciences, and we'll redouble our efforts in the Cocoa and Java spaces. we'll keep daily news and weblogs fresh, so you always have something interesting to read when you stop by, even if you've already plumbed the depths of our posted articles.

Our publishing schedule is two to three new articles a week, refreshed news at least twice a day, weblogs as they appear, and the newsletter every other week. The welcome mat is always out for new writers, so please drop me a line if you have something good to share with your peers.

Also keep in mind that our professional publication, Mac Developer Journal, is designed to scratch those serious developer/programmer itches that many of you have. It's a solid complement to Mac DevCenter.

And finally, the emails go out on Monday, April 5 for the winners of the survey drawing. If you won, we'll contact you at the email you listed in the survey.

And once again, thanks so much for being an active participant in this community. We're glad you're here.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit www.thedigitalstory.com.


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