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The End Of Fox Talk And Other Things

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[2004.07.14] Anyone reading this page about "The End Of Fox Talk" should be aware that the journal was re-launched as Fox Talk 2.0 in May 2004. Details are on the Fox Talk wiki page.
[2004.02.09] In February 19, 2004 Whil posted this message in The Universal Thread (Thread ID: 878476):

Title: The end of Fox Talk, and other things

Hi folks,

Heard that the sky was falling... I wanted to wait to say anything about this until the publisher of Fox Talk (Pinnacle) got their act together; evidently that's not going to happen, so here's the scoop.

I resigned as editor of Fox Talk last September, but agreed to stay on as editor until they found someone to replace me. On February 2, I received a letter from Pinnacle, stating "Pinnacle has decided to stop publishing Fox Talk. The final issue will be the April 2004 issue."

They're currently sorting out the transition of subscriptions; if you're a subscriber, you'll be notified about what your options are with the April issue.

So I guess that concludes my involvement with new Microsoft Visual FoxPro-related activities.

Did you hear that? *NEW* activities.

I won't be producing any more Fox-related conferences, publishing new books, editing new issues of Fox Talk, or doing new development in Visual FoxPro. It doesn't make sense to invest in new Fox-related things cuz they won't make money.

I'll continue to market and sell our current lineup of books; we've got one headed to the printer shortly and another one sometime this summer. And I'm still working on deals for translations and reprints as opportunities arise. I've been badgering my printer to buy a short run press; by the end of the summer, if we run out of current stock of a book, we'll be able to print up a new one on demand - and ship within 72 hours of an order. Indeed, I imagine I'll still be selling Visual FoxPro books in ten years, although probably not a lot of them. *s* And I'll still support the community however else I can - I think I was the first to announce the 2004 line-up of Fox conferences, for example, and have done a fair amount of behind-the-scenes advising on the Southwest Fox conference later this year.

There's been a lot of talk over the last couple of weeks regarding "Why I'm Moving", starting with threads on the various forums around 2/9. I was sort of surprised by all of this, for a couple of reasons.

First, it's not "news", folks. I handed out Linux CDs at GLGDW in 2002. I've been writing about Linux for a year and a half, and made presentations at about 20 user groups and conferences in 2003. The work Paul McNett and I did even hit the international media once or twice. (Slow news days, I guess.) I have had a Linux machine on my desk as my primary workstation since late 2002. The "Why I'm Moving" piece was posted on my website in late January. I'm not sure what more I could have done to tell people.

Initially, I was sort of surprised by the vile invective unleashed at me. I'm screwing the community, I should be pushing people to .NET, not to Linux, I purposely killed the book market by creating a lousy website, I'm out to cheat my authors, I'm trying to kill FoxPro, I'm just a flat-out liar who has been stringing people along for years, I should be loyal to Microsoft, that sort of thing. I haven't been accused of beating my wife yet, but I'm sure that'll come.

It's a natural reaction to an unpopular decision.

I personally don't think that name-calling and cursing are appropriate - that childish behavior was never tolerated on the Fox Forum - but maybe I'm just old-fashioned. (And that's why I don't hang out on the electronic forums anymore - disagreeing with someone is one thing, but abusive behavior and personal attacks aren't my style, so I don't get involved in the forums anymore. You can email me if you want to chat further, but I simply won't particpate in threads on the forums where being mean and nasty is accepted behavior.)

I do have to smile at the purported underhanded motives ascribed to me by folks who have a view of only part of the market. Given my long-term involvement in magazines, conferences, books, user groups, forums, (and a couple of other areas I can't discuss publicly), I have better metrics on the size of the Fox market than probably anyone else on the planet. I started a database of Fox customers from the attendee list given vendors at DevCon in 1992, and have been adding to it ever since.

I can look up your name and tell you what purchases you've made, how many times you've been to our website, if you've written to me about Fox Talk in 1999, what conferences you've been to, if you were an officer in a user group in 1994, or if you wrote for the third issue of the Cobb Fox User Journal. It's far from perfect, but it's a bigger, more complete repository of data than anyone else has. And as a result, I have hard numbers about the decline of the Fox market since the late 90s.

I've made a good living with FoxPro from the early 90s through 2002. I billed over 15,000 hours in the 90's, to start with. And then we sold a bunch of books from 1998 through 2002. My authors and I have done pretty well - most of them have made more than twice what the average computer book author makes on a book. But over the past two years, the market has disappeared. Starting in late 2002, sales fell off a cliff, both in retail (70% of our Hacker's Guides were returned) and direct (website sales at Hentzenwerke and at Amazon were down nearly 80% from 2002 to 2003.) Our last few books on Visual FoxPro have lost money. So it's no longer possible for me to support my family by relying on strictly on Fox.

I saw this coming in the fall of 2002, and I've been trying to tell people to broaden their horizons since the beginning of 2003. And now that push has come to shove, people are getting caught unprepared and they're blaming me for it. Tsk, tsk. Sorry, but I'm not taking the rap for people who insisted on keeping their head buried in the sand.

Fox has been good to many of us. We've made a good living, enjoyed what we've done, and made some good friends. My last three kids all learned to walk while wearing sweaters and carrying blankets received as gifts from folks who can hack an SCX faster than Microsoft can botch a FoxPro marketing initiative.

And make no mistake - Visual FoxPro is a great tool - arguably the best development environment on the planet. It fits me like a glove and I hate to think about not having it available at my fingertips. It's the only reason I have a Windows workstation in my office at all.

I am torn between the available alternatives. The one is learning new tools on Linux and making my migration complete. The other is continuing to work on making Fox work seamlessly on Linux, despite a few small technical hurdles and the omnipresent threats hanging over my head by You Know Who. That's not a good business decision, but I cringe at having to learn new tools when Fox is so good. I'll probably try to do both until circumstances dictate otherwise.

Indeed, some of you will be using it for another ten years, making good money and loving every minute of it. In contrast, I see acquaintances at my son's Saturday morning soccer games who hate their jobs and see no way out. We've all been very lucky.

Making a living with the Fox has been a great ride, and I'm sad to see it end. But the chapter is over, for me, at least, and it's time to start afresh.


Moving to Linux: Freedom, Choice, Security, Opportunity

Note: I'm posting these messages here, just for the knowledge of those that do not attend the Universal Thread, for one reason or another, as this issue (what's going on to Whil) seems to me to be very important to our community. Sorry if what I'm doing has no reason to be done. - Fernando Alvares

Thereabove Whil states, and I quote:
Initially, I was sort of surprised by the vile invective unleashed at me. I'm screwing the community, I should be pushing people to .NET, not to Linux, I purposely killed the book market by creating a lousy website, I'm out to cheat my authors, I'm trying to kill FoxPro, I'm just a flat-out liar who has been stringing people along for years, I should be loyal to Microsoft, that sort of thing. I haven't been accused of beating my wife yet, but I'm sure that'll come.

What's in bold above (bold highlighting mine) is among several fabrications expressed by Whil in this letter. Speaking specifically to the website comments, which I brought up (See Suggestions For Thehentzenwerke Website), Whil has a crummy website (hence a crummy sales vehicle), and he knows it. Moreover he knew it a long time ago, and he never did anything to rectify it. In my view, in years of attempting to do everything, Whil's simply discovered that he could do (and market) neither thing well. The way Whil has been playing the "victim" card in his notable market exit is sad. The pivotal issue is not the size of the FoxPro market, but how well you serve that market, and how you create customers within that market, and how you structure yourself to do so. Whil reminds me somewhat of a guy who just doesn't "get" it, and doesn't even know how to quit in a business-savvy way. For example, see End Game Strategies For Declining Industries. "Piss all over everything on your way out" just isn't a smart way to divest yourself of a business whose main intangible asset is mind-share. -- Steven Black

I suppose that the decimation of the attendence at Devcon is attributable to the design of the Advisor site? If this were simply a matter of Hentzenwerke's sales declining while the overall market was not, I'd agree with you that it must be something about the design of the site, or the quality of the books, or something else specific to But given the roughly 90% decline in conference attendence, product sales, magazine subscriptions, etc., shouldn't an equivalent drop in book sales be expected, too? -- Ed Leafe

Save for the "flat-out liar..." part I think I've read those things stated in various messages.
I really don't see any playing of the "victim card" in Whil's statement, but I guess it may depend on the temperament of the reader as much as anything else.
I've never met Whil and you say that while he tried many things he showed himself to be good at none of them. I've gotta say that any stuff I saw coming from Whil and Hentzenwerkes was first class in my view. Sure, I too had difficulty with his web site but that's just a tool or delivery vehicle and has nothing to do with what actually is delivered. Border problems caused far more trouble than Whil's web site ever did.
I note also that Whil says he plans to continue dabbling with VFP/Linux until conditions warrant otherwise. I see that as a positive, and especially so *IF* it works out. All in all I feel that Whil deserves our praise and thanks and none of this crap that is being lobbed his way. -- Jim Nelson

Please note that you'll find many places in this wiki where Whil's yeoman service is both noted and acknowledged. The issue, Jim, is this: with leadership comes some measure of responsibility, and the way Whil has chosen to abdicate is neither sensible nor commendable.-- Steven Black

Here I sit as happy as a pig in mud with VFP. Whil's SDG3 is my bible. And now he's gone off and left us. Microsoft must have really pissed him off. He's seen the future and he don't like it. -- Jeff Martin

I'm posting here for two reasons. First, to thank Whil for his many years of service to the Fox community and, specifically, his eight years as editor of Fox Talk, where he presided over the development of an awesome archive of quality material. Any negative appearances of how and why he came to the decisions above are far outweighed by what he has provided the community over the years. Honor where honor is due. Second, because this page keeps bubbling to the top of the stack, I'm posting to be sure that anyone reading this page about "The End Of Fox Talk" realizes that the journal has been re-launched as Fox Talk 2.0. Details are on the Fox Talk wiki page. - David Stevenson
( Topic last updated: 2004.07.14 09:41:55 AM )