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I find this story interesting from a number of points of view in my position as a recently-departed editor in this field. For those who don't know, I became editor of RISC User back in 1994, which was a regular colour magazine of good repute when I stepped in, and after it closed down in 1998 (following the closure of Acorn) I set up Foundation RISC User for RISCOS Ltd.

My memories of that initial, daunting time when I took over the editorship of an already highly regarded magazine are of pleasure at the support I received from the RISC OS community. Certainly there was a 'honeymoon period' while I settled in, but the community was conspicuously friendly, helpful and supportive, and that included my 'competition'. Back then, there were five paper magazines serving the RISC OS world: the big two were Acorn User and Archimedes World, then the subscription-only Acorn Publisher, Archive and my own RISC User. Each had its own individual approach and areas of interest, and there was room for all of them at the time. My fellow editors got along very well, and whilst I don't suppose that we'd expect to share sensitive information with one another, our relationsships were always extremely good in my experience. (For what it's worth, in more recent times I've got on perfectly well with John Cartmell, too.)

Taking over an established and respected magazine was a daunting prospect, and I'm grateful for the friendly support I received, including that from my nominal competitors. Setting up a new magazine from scratch is an even more daunting and ambitious proposition. If what this Drobe article claims is true then I can only sympathise with how Louie must feel and be grateful that it didn't happen to me; but, of course, it would be entirely wrong of me to speculate and comment on what was said in a private phone conversation. We can read and be shocked by this Drobe article, but it's hard to know how representative it is of what was actually said. The question of Drobe's source of information does intrigue me. There are no links to anything that we can follow up, and as for the matter of how Drobe knows what was said in a private phone conversation, where has that information come from?

Of course, I can feel for John, too: at present he's left with the only magazine of its kind in the RISC OS world, and the absence of competition removes a certain pressure from his job. My experience of editing RISC User involved constant worrying about what the rival magazines were likely to be doing, and attempting to be at least as good as them. Competition is a healthy thing, even given that the competitors may not always like the fact.

On the other hand, with all due respect, it has to be said that John has brought this problem on himself. It's about a year since we last saw an issue of Qercus (a supposedly monthly magazine), and if the publication had been coming out regularly and reliably then it would be far less likely that anyone would have felt the need to launch an alternative to it. I'll be most interested to see the next issue of Qercus to find out, for example, if it includes any of the several adverts (in different formats) that I designed for the Wakefield '06 show! I put those together specifically for this magazine (e.g. A3 DPS landscape and A4 portrait) and was told at one point that the issue containing one of them was at the printer. If a future issue appears and contains one of these adverts, then it'll be amusingly out of date, though I'd like to see the advert simply so that my unpaid work in creating it doesn't feel entirely wasted. (Contributors will also feel somewhat aggrieved about the non-publication of their efforts, but at least their work isn't time-critical in the same way as a show advert!)

Anyway, back to the point. I imagine that John is feeling rather threatened by the likely appearance of a new RISC OS magazine as there's every chance, given past history of non-delivery, that he'll lose most of his subscribers to it, and it can be seen as an outcome that he's brought on himself (regardless of whether he wants to continue to blame his printers or take personal responsibility for the problems).

He may have a point that there is no longer room for two RISC OS publications, but I don't really accept it. He may have the only remaining colour A4 magazine, but Archive and Eureka still exist as printed options and Foundation RISC User and RISC World are CD-based alternatives, and many people subscribe to two or more of them. It's certainly true that there's a lot less to write about in the RISC OS market than was the case a decade ago, and there are also fewer good people to do the writing, but the resources haven't dried up. There are still interesting things to cover, particularly in a new publication run by a new editor with a fresh pair of eyes. And there's *certainly* room for two magazines in the market if one of them doesn't actually publish any issues any more.

My own experiences in editing magazines tell me that Louie is taking on a great deal, and has set herself an ambitious task. This is particularly true if she's planning to be a full-time teacher as well. When I was editing RISC User, and trying to keep its standards as high as I could, I found it to be a full-time job that left little room for other things; and it wasn't even a monthly magazine (rather, ten issues per year). But I'll admit that I'm a meticulous rather than quick worker, and could have spent less time on it if I hadn't been so pernickety.

Anyway, I wish Louie Smith good fortune. I do have my reservations about what she's trying to do, and fear that she's attempting something that may prove to be unsustainable, but it's an heroic attempt at this point in history, and if she thinks she can make a success of it, then all the best to her.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 12/10/06 11:13AM
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