I was listening to some of my music today and thought, there are times when voice, words and music come together in a brilliant, transformative synthesis that rises above what any of them can do independently, and all you can do is listen in wonder.
I’m not talking about the effect of an extraordinary voice. I’m not talking about the astonishingly perfect combination of words and music together. I’m talking about what happens when a specific combination of voice, words, and musical arrangement raises the hair on the back of your neck.
I think the first time this occurred to me was when I heard Holly Cole sing “I Can See Clearly Now.” It’s not even a song I liked that much the first time I heard it—but that voice, that arrangement… wow.
There are other examples. Eva Cassidy singing “Over the Rainbow” showed me that a song that’s a complete cliché can be made new again. Joni Mitchell’s “Case of You” is right up there as well. With a bit of time I could no doubt come up with more, but there aren’t many.
It’s subjective, of course. You might not react to these songs the same way, and wonder what I’m fussing about. I might think your choices of perfect songs are totally out to lunch. It doesn’t matter, really. They are perfect… for us.
What makes the hair on the back of your neck rise?
So. What is it about geeks and open source projects? Why are the people (who are clearly bright) developing these programs (many of which I am sure are excellent) incapable of actually documenting their projects in any way that’s useful to normal people who don’t play with code every day?
Here’s the situation. I get a lot of email. A LOT of email. I get mail related to work. I get mail related to teaching. I’m on several mailing lists. I have multiple email accounts. I probably average 100 messages a day. I set up folders and subfolders and route incoming mail to the appropriate places.
No problem so far; most email client programs allow this kind of management.
I used to use Eudora for email. It was a good solid program that did everything I wanted to. One of the key features, from my point of view, was that I could create a mailbox for every job, or every class I taught, and when the job/class was over I simply dragged that mailbox to the relevant project/course folder. Because they were no longer in the Eudora Mail folders, these mailboxes simply disappeared as far as the program was concerned; BUT all I had to do was double click on that mailbox and Eudora would open it so that I could review all the mail in the folder if I needed to.
A wonderfully simple, practical system for archiving email.
Unfortunately Qualcomm, the company that made Eudora, discontinued it. I continued to use the program for a while, but eventually shifted to Apple’s Mail program, mostly because it integrated with Apple’s Address book, which the old versions of Eudora didn’t, and I decided I needed to have all my contact info in one place. Because Qualcomm was no longer developing Eudora there was no hope for a version that would sync with Address Book.
The tradeoff was losing Eudora’s archiving system. Mail requires you to archive by selecting a mailbox and choosing “Archive Mailbox” from its menu. This saves mailboxes, with all files in them—but labels the files with numbers, so there’s no way of knowing what’s in individual emails without opening each and every one of them. Or you can import the whole mailbox back into Mail and look at it there, but this leaves you with a mailbox that you then have to delete.
This is not user friendly, gang.
Eventually Eudora was taken up by the open source community and a new version (the Eudora Open Source Edition) created, built on a Mozilla Thunderbird codebase. My hopes were raised.
However, from my point of view as a non-geek user, the interface is different enough to have a fairly substantial learning curve. So before embarking on that learning curve I wanted to find out if it would do the things I really, really want an email client to do:
(1) sync with Address Book
(2) allow me to archive mailboxes in exactly the way the old Eudora did
I’ve no idea if it syncs with Address Book, I never got that far. As far as I can tell, the new Eudora won’t let me archive the way I want to, but who knows for sure? The documentation sucks, and requires checking not only Eudora but Thunderbird information. I couldn’t even figure out how to get to user forums to ask a question about it. (Granted, by the time I was trying to find the forums I was in such a frustrated rage that the information would likely have disappeared behind a red haze if it was actually there.)
Why can’t open source creators document their programs competently? I know it’s all done by volunteers, but being a volunteer doesn’t translate into being incompetent. I’ve worked with lots of volunteers in other areas, and they are some of the most competent people I’ve ever encountered, and many are very good at documenting systems and processes.
I note that Mailsmith, which used to be a decent email client, has now gone open source as well. I’m wondering if they all have. Have all email programs but Mail (part of Apple’s standard stable of programs) and Entourage (part of MS Office) gone the way of the dodo? Are we doomed to a subhell of inadequate, incompetent documentation from here on if we choose not to use either?
Why can’t any of them make archiving EASY?
(Peri says the geeks don’t actually care if anyone uses open source programs. I believe it.)
When we moved to a rural community from the city we left behind a community of friends. And yet we didn’t leave them behind, because of course they all still are friends. (It’s just that it’s harder to visit with them.)
This week we experienced both Thanksgiving and a visit from a couple of friends, and and after we said goodbyes today and sent them off, I thought of how those two things linked.
We are so lucky. We have so much to be thankful for, including the gift of sharing our lives with others. Lives change, people spend more or less time together, people drift in and out of our day to day experience—but I am blessed in those I count as friends, whether I see them once a day or once a week or once a year or once every decade.
Thank you all, every one of you. You rock.
I swear, they look exactly like omelettes. Or possibly french toast.