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The Life And Legacy Of TextMechanic

TextMechanic is dead. Long live TextMechanic.

My favorite website for text-related tools just went paywall. You can't perform more than four actions - no matter how small - per hour, as a free user.

I understand that hosting's not free, and though I finance my own sites out of my own pocket - and know many others who do the same, as this guy did before - I realize not everyone has this luxury. Or they have a better sense for business.

I'm hoping it's the lack of luxury in the case of TextMechanic, as the latter implies an array of more negative concatenations of traits, of which the first that comes to mind is: greed.

I never figured Larry for that kind of guy though (pardon if I recall the name wrong - all references thereof have since been removed from the website). In 2016 he lost his regular job, redesigned his Text Mechanic site and seemed intent on pouring all his energy into this old hobby-project instead. He started a Patreon, he added ads (not sure if this was before or after), and he posted one blog post regarding the change, and all that was to come. I started looking forward to the upgrades.

Since then nothing. No more blogs. No Patreon updates. No tiers. Suddenly it seems he wasn't so interested after all.

A few users signed up and are currently throwing in ca $28 per month, but his activity apparently seized after those initial posts, and the promised tools were never released. I sent in some feedback on the new design when it first launched, happy that the site I'd been using for the past decade or so suddenly had a public face to go with it; a name behind all those awesome tools... but never received a response. I wish I'd saved my message, because i didn't get a copy of it either, nor a confirmation via email. And since then things have only gone downhill.

I wasn't very fond of the new design in the first place - it seemed rushed and inconsistent; adhering to modern standards more than functional practice, but I think I focused on the good more than the bad in my email. This time however... I'm not hanging around. The alternatives are, fortunately for me but not so much for Larry, in surplus. Most of them are free, most of them are equally easy to use - if not easier, and better-looking, and the one I'm testing right now doesn't have as obtrusive ads either. Some, company-sponsored ones, don't even have ads.

They don't require you to log in, they don't limit your uses, and they don't cost a thing. Some don't even need you to reload the page between actions. The ones that do have pro versions seem to at least allow you a few minutes of work before forcing you to take a break.

Maybe I wouldn't have minded this drastic change if the wait time wasn't so excessive (one hour), or the four-try limit so meager (if you're not proficient with advanced reg-ex just replacing commas, periods, spaces and line breaks in one paragraph takes all those four tries at once).

It's a bit strange how loyal I've been to this one service since I first found it, and that it had to come to this for it to hit a breaking point. Even after it started changing and growing all the more complex and difficult to navigate I stuck with it, even when I knew there were other tools out there. Old habits die hard huh. Or is it ample nostalgia?

Even now that I've found better sites I wouldn't mind going back to the original, if only it went back to how it used to be. Or better yet: better. It's sad to see a good site decay and lose visitors, and purpose, and especially so when it seemed to be going towards greener pastures just moments before. I guess with time I'll get settled in to the alternatives instead.

I'm including the letter I sent to Larry this time as reference, and if it happens to fall into his spam folder maybe he'll stumble upon it here:

Hello,
 
I've been using this site for years, for various mundane tasks like replacing spaces, and commas, and other characters in various texts, or counting lines and such. It's always been a great service, easy to open and use no matter where you are, and though I understand that servers aren't free I REALLY don't like the idea of putting it all behind a paywall like this!
 
Out of nowhere I'm now limited to four uses for each tool. There's no way these tools will be useful with such a limitation, and there's no way I'll pay $5/month either for a service like this. The amount of alternative tools (free ones) out there is staggering, and $5 isn't cheap. So unfortunately I'm left with no choice but move to other alternatives. I don't like the idea of having to login on various different computers to use the service, as I assume I'd have to if I went pro, either, and syncing passwords via browser is a real nogo security-wise, as I can't trust all devices I use. The benefits of using this online service are now suddenly outweighed by various other portable tools.
 
Maybe others use tools here that they can't be without. Maybe they don't have the same alternatives. Maybe you could restrict access to the tools you CAN'T find elsewhere, and keep offering the more basic ones for free? Seems like a possible profit/access compromise.
 
I really feel like you're going to lose visitors with this. A Patreon/Supporter route would've been nice, but although you have one you've done virtually zero marketing with that, and there are no tiers or benefits. There's no dialog with your visitors. I'm not interested in new tools, but I would be happy to support a service I can trust, which you can always rely on to be free, to whatever extent is possible, and where potential changes are communicated so you feel like you're part of the project. The blog's gone (and while it was there it wasn't active either). I sent in ideas and messages when it was, shortly after the redesign - but never received a response. The 'Privacy' link doesn't work. There's no link to the Pro page other than via notice, and no information there as to how it works. The design went from carefully crafted to modern and simplistic, and though it works I don't feel like this is the same place anymore. It's turning into something else. it's becoming impersonal and adhering to the shadier profitering schemes available, rather than really taking the community route it could, and I hoped, it would.
 
If there's another way I hope you take it! Until then, I'll be sifting through alternatives; finding the closest replacement possible.
 
All the best,
Bob

After I sent the message I browsed around a bit more and noticed a few more other pages weren't there either. The search produced results twice. The paywall's apparently a WP plugin, and both Facebook and Twitter (the only social traces left - linked to in the footer) haven't been updated in over two years, which was the date of the renowned comeback, and official person-behind-the-site presentation in 2016. And they've garnered quite a few followers since then. Maybe they were just feeds for the blog post. Entirely automatic ones as such.

To leave you with something visual, here's a memento of what the site looked like back when I found it, here's after the redesign, and here's what it looks like today.

Farewell TextMechanic. It was fun while it lasted.

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