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1000th Drobe article published

By Chris Williams. Published: 1st May 2004, 21:49:13 | Permalink | Printable

A 'woo yay' for us and you

Drobe logoLast month drobe.co.uk published its 1000th article, marking five exciting years of publishing RISC OS related news, features and sarcasm online, all for free.

Way back in 1999, Peter Price, along with two other RISC OS programmers from Worcestershire, UK, came up with the name Drobe for a suite of applications that were, at the time, in development. drobe.co.uk was to be its online home, hence the name 'Drobe Launchpad'. The software in question was never released, however the website thrived and Peter became its web master and news editor. Peter also developed Just4You, the online publishing software that drives drobe.co.uk. J4U continues to be used, updated and customised by the current site maintainers. In 2001, Chris Williams became Editor as Peter moved onto other ventures and in 2003, the site served over 2.2 million pages of articles.

Commenting on last month's achievement, Peter said: "I hate to ruin your picnic, but I had got to about 300 articles before I changed the database to the current one and we started again at zero. Also, before that database, we reached well over 1,000 headlines because in the first incarnation of the site I had syndicated headlines from other sci/tech and entertainment websites. Anyway, it's still a massive achievement, especially with the number of comments - that's taken off much more than I thought it would."

Fine, make that the 2,300th article. Recalling how it all began, Peter continued to explain: "I started Drobe Launch Pad because I was frustrated by the utter incompetence of the Acorn Cybervillage. In 1999 it was the only source of RISC OS news on the web even though it was poorly designed and updated very slowly. My aim was a simple one; to create a homepage for RISC OS users. It was intended to be set as a browser's homepage and so was carefully designed to work with all RISC OS browsers and was kept up to date with daily news headlines.

"It's wonderful that the site is still going strong. I check up on the current editors' work every week and am pleased to say that Chris and his team write far more words than I ever had time to. They are a very talented group and Chris in particular is a journalist with great potential.

"When I started Drobe, I intended for it to become the biggest RISC OS website in the world. I'm delighted (and saddened in equal measure) that it's beaten the pants off the Cybervillage, RISC User, Acorn User, seen off new competition from riscos.net and the Iconbar and is still going strong. It's a victory for youthful entrepreneurship - energetic and flexible, Drobe Launch Pad has been able to grow rapidly and change direction at a moment's notice. Long may it continue."

Peter is currently a presenter at Lancaster University's student radio station, having previously acted as their BBC award winning webmaster and also as head of publicity. He hopes to graduate this year with a degree in Business Studies, before moving on to becoming a trainee studio manager at BBC World Service. Drobe's current editor is studying electronic engineering at Warwick University, but can be found writing news and sub-editing for his university's student newspaper. Drobe is also co-edited by Peter Naulls, who contributes to and maintains various RISC OS projects, including the Unix Porting Project and GCC, as well as his ARM Linux efforts. The day-to-day running of the website's server hardware and software is managed by Ian Hawkins, who sort of has this thing for Smartcars. And last but not least, we'd like to send a big thank you, in particular, to drobe.co.uk writers Ian Chamberlain, Martin Hansen, dgs, Mark Stephens, and everyone else who has written or helped research articles over the years.

Screenshot from an old drobeThe website design of Drobe has also changed over time - pictured is an early design from around 2000 when the site used to syndicate headlines from other news websites and registered users could fully customise the layout of the front page. Nowadays, users can choose which layout they prefer - either the standard columned view, a single column view with article previews or a no-frills layout for those using slow 'net connections or old web browsers. A full archive of previous drobe.co.uk designs can be found lurking in the wayback machine.

Maintaining Drobe has been and continues to be a rewarding learning experience and we'd like to thank you, dear reader, for reading this site. If you want to contribute articles, feel free to get in touch. Alternatively, you can donate cash via PayPal to help pay for our web hosting and hardware costs. Love us or hate us, here's to the next 1,000 articles.


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Here's to the next 10,000 more like.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 2/5/04 5:15AM
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Congratulations drobe.co.uk! Top notch effort - keep it coming! :D

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 2/5/04 8:39AM
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Peter and the two other RISC OS programmers were from Shropshire... not Worcestershire! I should know!

 is a RISC OS Userrob on 2/5/04 11:04AM
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Woo! :balloons:

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 2/5/04 12:17PM
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Congratulations, certainly: this is a fine achievement and Drobe has certainly worked its way to becoming the leading RISC OS site by a significant margin. Clearly much effort goes into it, and I applaud Chris and his team for the good work they've done.

However, I don't feel I can let the comments about the competition go by without a slight rebuke.

First of all, singling out the Acorn Cybervillage for its "utter incompetence" is not very charitable. For several years the Cybervillage was kept up to date on a regular basis by a single individual who was doing the work for love of the subject and not for money, and the Cybervillage was, for a long time, the primary source of news and rumours about the Acorn world. If nothing else, it helped to pave the way for Drobe, so a rather triumphalist public criticism on the part of Drobe seems out of place. If Peter Price (who's being quoted) feels that he's done a lot better, then that should be a matter of personal pride rather than of public gloating.

On a more personal note, having put a great deal of effort into editing RISC User volumes 9 to 11 (1995 to 1998), and making it the best quality publication I could manage, there's no way that I consider that Drobe has "beaten the pants off" my magazine. How could it? RISC User ceased publication over four years ago, when Drobe had barely got going. In any case, Drobe is not a magazine: it serves a different purpose and covers different material in a different way. Whilst I consider that Drobe currently leads the field of RISC OS Web sites, I wouldn't dream of comparing it with a magazine like RISC User; that's just plain silly. They're entirely unalike; beyond covering RISC OS they have nothing in common.

Besides, why single out RISC User for criticism? It was unquestionably one of the best quality of the RISC OS magazines throughout its life. If it's had the pants beaten off it, then I'd suggest that Archive, Acorn Publisher (only recently deceased), Qercus and whatever else you care to name are also wandering around in a trouserless state.

I don't mean this to sound like sour grapes, and I do applaud Drobe's achievement. I visit Drobe every day and read most articles, even if I don't generally participate in its discussions. I just feel that it's a mistake to start singling out the supposedly inferior competition when (a) the comparison is totally invalid, (b) some competitors are named and others are ignored, and (c) the supposed competition could easily be shown to be superior in numerous ways.

Final point: I realise that the opinions I'm countering are in quotations and are hence those of Peter Price and not necessarily of Drobe itself (standard disclaimer). He's as welcome to his opinions as I am to mine. I just felt that these points ought to be made in the interests of fairness and balance; that's all. Best of luck to Drobe: may you continue to build on your success.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 2/5/04 12:25PM
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Thanks for the unkind comments Peter.

Maybe if you too had asked for help from the Acorn Community to write articles on your web site and found that no one was interested. May be if you had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and therefore had other priorities in life then you too might not like as being described as "utter incompetence" ? :-(

Thanks for the kind comments Richard.

Why are the young such diškheads?

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 2/5/04 12:55PM
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> Why are the young such diškheads?

Why do the old make so many generalisations?

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 2/5/04 1:13PM
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"Why are the young such diškheads?"

Why do some old people take critisism so badly?

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 2/5/04 1:29PM
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They are all fair points!

 is a RISC OS UserDazzy on 2/5/04 2:46PM
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quater: Whilst I accept that Peter's tone was perhaps uncalled for, I think the critisims are entirely fair.

Both myself and Chris have given CV many constructive suggestions over the years as to how to improve. Indeed, there was a private discussion among the varios news sites around a year ago as to what could be done to address the issue of rarely updated sites. As far as I can tell, virtually none of the suggestions have been taken on board (by any of the sites)

Secondly, it's no good going on about how you asked for helpers, and none came forward. Drobe itself, and indeed other sites, have asked for contributors several times, and come up short.

People have little interest in contributing to a site that doesn't seem to be doing very well, or isn't very interesting, or really doesn't offer anything new. All of which are fair critisims of CV - yes, it did offer regular news for a long time (but only short headlines) - but, to be honest, it was a all a bit boring, especially at a time when magazines were much more dominant.

And there's one issue that AcornEvolution fell foul of, and I will take a sigular opportunity to say "I told you so" - lack of planning (if you get sick for instance as indeed you say did, which is unfortunate, but happens). Having backup editors, actions, etc and planning in advance are all important in making drobe what it is today.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 2/5/04 3:09PM
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I don't think Peter Price's tone is as harsh as it may seem to Richard Hallas and quatermass. It was most likely said with a pinch of sarcasm and good humour - something Drobe is well-known for.

But as Chocky said, beyound this seemingly hash tone, I think the critisisms are valid. Some of the inactive RISC OS news sites do more harm than good. They portray a market that is stale and slow moving when in fact, as Drobe proves, there is a lot of very positive things going on.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 2/5/04 3:36PM
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Yeah! As long as Drobe and IconBar keep upto date I'm happy. The people on the other sites seem to just not have the time!!!

 is a RISC OS UserDazzy on 2/5/04 3:56PM
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Congratulations to Drobe! It's a proven fact, that a daily dose of Drobe does you good :-)

As for the Cybervillage, even when updates to the RISC OS news have seemed sparse, the 'ARM' and 'Miscellaneous' sections have always had something interesting, and unique, to offer. And the software archive (now mirrored on Drobe?) has often been useful too. Thanks for your efforts too, Stuart.

By the way, anyone remember spoof Cybervillage rival, the 'Cidervillage'

[link] ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 2/5/04 4:40PM
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Mrchocky - well so why did I, who runs the Acorn Cybervillage, never get to hear about these 'constructive suggestions'?

Perhaps because they were a bit too private?

If you're going to discuss me or my site, at least Drobe could have had the decency to invite to join in? Or was that a too grown up thing to do?

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 2/5/04 4:40PM
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quater: read again carefully what I said. "Both myself and Chris have _given_ CV suggestions". All these suggestions you knew about, although perhaps some were directly stated as such.

I guess however, now that you started the name calling, you aren't really interested in the constructive comments we have, so perhaps I'll just leave it at that.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 2/5/04 4:45PM
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You're worried that people looking for RISC OS news will remember they went to cybervillage, go back there, see there was something last month and think everything's dead?

This assumes they don't use google to search for news, don't click any of the links to other sites on every news site and are basically so stupid they should really stick to using Windows.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 2/5/04 6:10PM
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I think everyone would agree that CyberVillage was the dogs bollocks back in the early days of the net, and I myself certainly checked it out on a regular basis (When I were a lad, and had the oppourtunity to play about at staffs uni the first place I visited was cybervillage).

Everyone appreciated (by looking at the site regularly!) your efforts keeping the site up to date and it definately has been a valuable resource to the Acorn/RISC OS comminuty over the many years that it has been running.

But, over the last few years though Cybervillage *has* slowed down in terms of updates (but the content was still there) and in the relatively small (compared to Windows sites) area of RISC OS this has allowed other portals(IconBar, Drobe, etc) with more resources/manpower/people/nutters to sneak up behind you and inevitably overtake in terms of readership.

Peter Price has been outside of Drobe for a number of years now, and his comments are meant more 'in present' than comparing drobe to cybervillage/other portals in the past. And remember, quoted comments are exactly that.

What's more is that I myself do not agree with petty bickering about someones comments to turn into a name calling match. This is one of the reasons why article comments are limited to a maximum of 30 before they are forced into the forums as by that time they have mostly have drifted off-topic. If I had a majority say in the content of drobe.co.uk I would also be denying posting of any comment with an offensive word in it.

I for one will be remembering cybervillage as a useful resource in its heyday. But, as with all things something newer comes along, and becomes better ;)

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 2/5/04 6:25PM
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Although the cybervillage once did hold lots of up to date news (and indeed the cancellation of the phoebe was announced on there, unless I'm talking out of my hat..)

Now, however, it seems to me that what does get on the Cybervillage has already been reported elsewhere, mainly on Drobe or Iconbar.

Following on your theme of where first visits go to when playing about at Staffs uni, I tend to visit drobe first ;))

Andy. Wooyay to Drobe for 1000 articles :)

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 2/5/04 7:09PM
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RichardHallas: "Drobe is not a magazine: it serves a different purpose and covers different material in a different way."

I'm not sure I agree. I've written a fair number of articles for Drobe, for Acorn User, and for Foundation RISC User; plus a smaller amount of material for Archive magazine. Whilst the articles have been on different topics, my approach to what content to provide and how to provide it has been basically the same. My articles for Drobe have not been as long as some of those I wrote for AU and Foundation RISC User (normally less than 1500 words), but I've seen articles in all the magazines of equivalent length.

I've greatly enjoyed AU, FRU and Archive over the years, and I'm certainly not suggesting that Drobe replaces them. But it's wrong to suggest that Drobe is not doing part of the same job.

Drobe has the advantage of being an on-line magazine, so news can appear immediately - a big difference to printed magazines. But it's often covered in the same depth. It also means that feedback to the news can appear immediately, and with far less editorial interference (in some ways a good thing, in some ways a bad thing).

Drobe is also freely accessible to everyone. That means it can't pay contributors (except with pizza). But that hasn't prevented some very in depth articles on a regular basis (including technical ones), which all goes to show - money isn't everything.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 2/5/04 7:47PM
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quartermass: there's no point arguing with mrchocky, he's one of those people who is always right and always has a smart answer.

I agree Cybervillage slowed down and wasn't updated, and thus bound to frustrate people. I'm sure Mr Price meant no personal offense to you, just was engaging in enthusiastic competitive banter!!

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 2/5/04 7:58PM
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Cybervillage was the dog's bollocks, though. I used to visit all the time.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 2/5/04 7:59PM
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I loved Cybervillage too. It's a shame Drobe have managed to turn a positive into a negative again.

Drobe's only failing is the sixth-form geek-journo tone with it's lead balloon humour and occasional smugness and ugly personalty.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 2/5/04 10:25PM
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JessFranco: I'm not quite sure whose articles you're talking about there, but I'll assume you mean Chris Williams' contributions, since they outnumber mine by about 100:1, and anyone else's by about 20:1. (Very rough estimate).

The ratios there might just hint at the effort that has been put in by certain people, and why Drobe is a continuing success.

If you are commenting on the stylistic and grammatical problems of my own articles, just say so and I will be happy to reply. I'm sure there are many possible points of contention.

If not, could you refer us to articles written by yourself, as a guide to style, tone and content that might please you better?


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 2/5/04 10:38PM
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dgs: pretty close. I have some numbers here for articles written in 2003 by various portals. As follows:

Cybervillage: 30 MyRISCOS: 41 riscos.org: 66 IconBar: 110 Drobe: 391

Of which Chris wrote 318 and I wrote 40.

In other words Chris wrote as many articles as everyone else put together (including myself). Naturally, I did help him with many of his, and he with him, but you get the idea.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 2/5/04 10:54PM
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[link] was particularly dire. I'm sure I could trawl for milder examples.

Oh, and books are freaking books, not dead trees, for gawd's sake. This kind of reaching-for-humour tone - or 'sarcasm' as drobe labels it - is just grates after a while IMO.

This article is ruined by these snipes at other much enjoyed publications.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 2/5/04 11:03PM
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I'd praise Drobe for the style of the writing, actually - informative, and fun to read, and a distinctive style. And for what it's worth, I like the sarcasm; and I've had it applied to myself a couple of times.

I think when you write like that, you're always going to alienate a certain section of the audience to some extent. But I'm sure the Drobe writers can live with that ;)

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 2/5/04 11:23PM
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Come on, we can handle one more of those self-congratulatory articles. They should get their own section soon.

 is a RISC OS Userjerryf on 2/5/04 11:24PM
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With the amount of brilliant articles they do publish, they're allowed a few of those :)

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 2/5/04 11:29PM
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JessFranco: From the specific article you mention, it sounds almost like you object to articles that consider the technical merits of common suggestions.

It also seems that you ignored the question I asked. But I'll overlook that just this one time.

I don't really understand the horror with regard to calling something a "dead tree". I can't even imagine someone who is centrally involved in a dead tree publication, seriously using that as an attack on the many such publications appearing every year. (Did you see it as that?)

To me, "dead tree" didn't really add anything to the article, but used less bytes than "printed paper". To you, it was an assault on something or other. Time to calm down, perhaps?


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 2/5/04 11:41PM
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True articles are very few and far between, moss. Most pieces are unhealthily subjective, biased and increasingly boring rambles from the same few writers. Drobe is a tabloid. And its writers certainly not 'press'.

 is a RISC OS Userjerryf on 2/5/04 11:59PM
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jerryf: "Most pieces are unhealthily subjective, biased and increasingly boring rambles from the same few writers"

Is this some sort of competition to see how many quotes you can get into the joke corner in the top right? ;-)


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 03/05/04 00:58AM
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I like the 6th form geeky humour! :D As far as I'm concerned keep it coming! Just ignore the stroppy old men who just can't take a joke, drobe.co.uk, keep reeling out those articles and I'll still read them! As for Drobe's supposed know-it-all manner, well they are in the position of /having/ the information in the first place so they might not know it all, but they certinally know more than the reader does initialy.

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 03/05/04 07:05AM
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I'm late to the party as ever, but many congrats to the current drobe crew, whatever the article count. Generating an active site like this isn't easy, and I know they put in a lot of effort in keeping it going, and it is quite rightly a success.

The tone may not suit everyone, but they're free not to read, which is generally what people do if they don't appreciate something. Unless that is those of you that post regularly here and claim not to like it have sado-masocistic tendancies or feel the need to punish yourselves for something.

Anyway, congrats again, and keep up the good work!

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 03/05/04 08:59AM
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fylfot: "Some of the inactive RISC OS news sites do more harm than good. They portray a market that is stale and slow moving when in fact, as Drobe proves, there is a lot of very positive things going on."

When you've just had your platform compared to the Amiga, perhaps those stale portayals aren't entirely misleading.

Snig: "I like the 6th form geeky humour!"

And American teen movies, too? Perhaps the market might be more invigorated if it grew up from sixth form squabbles (Drobe vs. Microdigital, RISC OS Ltd. vs. Castle, Drobe vs. Castle, etc.) as well.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 03/05/04 10:48AM
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Drobe vs. Castle? Since when?

 is a RISC OS Userhutchies on 03/05/04 11:25AM
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guestx: "Perhaps the market might be more invigorated if it grew up from sixth form squabbles"

It seems to me that applies more to the computer market as a whole, than the RISC OS part of it.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 03/05/04 2:41PM
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The fact that there's still controversy in the RISC OS market is surely a sign that it's still alive :)

Well done drobe, for all of your great articles!

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 03/05/04 10:35PM
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Well done to all at Drobe.

I notice you've updated the quotes database... :)

 is a RISC OS Usermonkeyson on 03/05/04 11:35PM
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