Archive for the ‘Blogs and Blogging’ Category

Why Do I Write What I Think About Technology?

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Tomorrow the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be released to the public. For some reason Apple has never offered me the hardware to review ahead of a public launch, so I’ll be very close to the front of the line. After the purchase I’ll start reviewing the handset online, with my first impressions at the end of the day and a more refined review a week or two later.

Thinking about how to review the device has sent me down an interesting mental path, partly because of the reaction to the existing coverage of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. How should a technology journalist report and review a new hardware release?

There is a school of thought that a reporter should be covering just the facts, reporting these fixed details to the reader, and leaving them to make their own mind up. The arguments presented by the company should be taken as ‘the one true answer’ and that the only arbiter of a success will be sales, rather than the analysis of a thousand web monkeys at their Macbeth inspired keyboards.

The other side of the argument is that the facts are nothing more than a starting point. The thinking from the manufacturer and the idyllic view presented should be challenged and questioned. Decisions made in the design process should be questioned, and through this questioning the strength of the device will become clearer to the reader.

Naturally the latter will always input some bias from the writer (or the video producer, podcaster, whoever) because their understanding around the decisions made will colour the article. I have my biases, as do others. Those who are familiar with my writing will know where I see technology going and how that impacts on a device.

For me, covering the technology scene has never been about repeating the corporate line, declaring everything new to be magical, and cheerleading the courageous decisions being made. The comfortable corporate facts are the starting point. I see my role as informing people of those facts, providing context, questioning decisions, conveying how I see this all fitting together in an entertaining way, and allowing my readers to see multiple angles to make educated decisions on a subject if they wish.

Facts are good, but facts are the starting point of a longer journey. That’s what I write about, and that’s how I cover my beat. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. But tens of thousands of people every day are happy to read my words, and for that I am thankful.

And with that said, on to the iPhone 7 review.

The VR voice you need to listen to

Monday, March 28th, 2016

You’re going to read a lot about Virtual Reality over the next few months and years. Today saw the Occulus Rift VR headset reach the public (although only those who pre-purchased, don’t go looking on a store shelf for it just yet). Lots of people are going to be exploring this space, many have changed careers to do so, but most people just want a voice that can cut through it all with enthusiasm and joie de vivre.

Like this:

One of the most common criticisms I see leveled against VR is that it’s only capable of delivering vertical slices of games, or gimmicky set pieces. That VR simply can’t provide the complete, polished, and immersive game experiences we’re accustomed to on PC, consoles, and handhelds. Even though modern VR is still in its infancy, there are already a number of games to counter that argument. One of them — Lucky’s Tale — will come bundled for free when the Oculus Rift launches on March 28 [today].

With the caveat that he’s a Forbes contributor like myself, you need to bookmark Jason Evangelho for the new world.

Is it still a blog if the comments are off?

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Amber Bouman on Engadget’s one week trial of turning all comments off:

But we’ve increasingly found ourselves turning off comments on stories that discuss topics of harassment, gender or race simply because so many of the replies are hateful, even threatening. Articles that mention Apple deteriorate into arguments of iOS vs Android, replete with grade-school name calling. Articles that don’t make mention of Samsung often include comments claiming that we are shills for Apple. Some commenters plain attack our writers or editors or other commenters. Some are outright threats. And that’s not even getting into the spam problem.

The thing is, we like having a comments section.

If we’re spending the majority of our days moderating comments, zapping spam and slaying trolls, we’re not spending that time improving the section for you. We want to make sure that our readers are getting the very best experience in our community. A week-long breather will give us the time to refocus our efforts.

Sounds exactly like the fun and games I have over on Forbes. I await the results with keen interest.

The modern day grind of a blog writer

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

TechCrunch’s John Biggs on what he has learned after writing 11,00 blog posts. There’s a lot here that I can relate to:

Nobody cares. Nobody will read you. The only way to make them care is to keep doing it, day after day. Write 1,000 words a day. Don’t stop. This holds true in everything. Can you write more words per day? You can, but start at 1,000. Once you do that, day after day, people will notice. Then people will read. Then people will come back. Then you’ll gain a following. You probably won’t make any money but you will have a marketable skill that you can sell.

If anyone wants an idea of what I do for my job, BIggs has pretty much summed up what I call ‘the grind’.

The reality of living from YouTube earnings

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

It’s hard. Really hard. Unless you can get right to the top of the pile, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to live from social media video views. At least that’s the viewpoint of Gaby Dunn in a sobering article on the business of vlogging:

I’m 27 years old and have been building an online following for 10 years, beginning with a popular Livejournal I wrote in high school. A couple of years ago, after moving to Los Angeles, I made the transition from freelance writing to creating online video. The channel I have with my best friend Allison Raskin, Just Between Us, has more than half a million subscribers and a hungry fan base. We’re a two-person video creation machine. When we’re not producing and starring in a comedy sketch and advice show, we’re writing the episodes, dealing with business contracts and deals, and running our company Gallison, LLC, which we registered officially about a month ago.\

And yet, despite this success, we’re just barely scraping by. Allison and I make money from ads that play before our videos, freelance writing and acting gigs, and brand deals on YouTube and Instagram. But it’s not enough to live, and its influx is unpredictable. Our channel exists in that YouTube no-man’s-land: Brands think we’re too small to sponsor, but fans think we’re too big for donations.

Windows Live Writer lives again

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Really glad to read that Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer has been open-sourced and is being maintained by a group of volunteers. I spent a huge amount of time inside WLW when I was writing on a Windows machine, and while I’ve moved over to MarsEdit on OSX in the last year, my secondary machines are running Windows 10 (mostly for my podcasting and radio software), and its great to have a solid offline blogging client for those machines as well.

You can find Open Live Writer at and the code is at GitHub.

Boys and girls, can you see which way Twitter went?

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Nothing says Christmas (in the UK at least) than a pantomime. And nothing says innovating online than successfully holding an online pantomime as a piece of performance art. How about a pantomime on Twitter I hear you say-

…traditional wait as you all shout ‘how about a pantomime on Twitter?’ at me…

Been there, done that, it was cutting edge in 2008. Jon Bounds recalls the bleeding edge of comedy 2.0:

 Looking back at the first Twitpanto, which was organised haphazardly and quickly. It stands out for me that it had no commercial or charitable goal. It was purely for the enjoyment and to see if it was possible, and more than that it was able to break across social groupings and filters. A nib in the Birmingham Post the following day reminds me of the cast: some people whom I was friends with mainly online and had never met; some people I had worked with; some journalists, and a cabinet minister. The cabinet minister was Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich near Birmingham, a ferocious advocate of digital technology’s place in the real centre of social discourse – but this was no demonstration piece, this was for laughs. This era, is sadly over. Could the now deputy leader of the Labour Party play Barron Tweetup today?

Medium Keeps On Boiling The Frogs

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Ev Williams waxes lyrical about all the changes at medium, from the new app and ability to be mentioned, to  updates to the online editor and the rather Zune-like logo:

Increasingly, people come to Medium to find the most diverse thinking on issues they care about. And they don’t just find it, they read it. And they don’t just read it, they respond, they share, they highlight the best parts. When you read on Medium, you’re reading and thinking with others – others who share your views, as well as those who don’t (which makes you smarter).

I’m proud of where we are, but, as I like to say: There’s always another level. Another level of polish and power in our product. Another level of breadth to our content. Another level of dialogue and discussion. And another level of progress.

The problem is, I’m looking at Medium, I’m looking at the high levels of Ron-speak on show from Williams, and I’m wondering what I’m missing? Where’s the end-game for investors, where’s the big out, what does Williams have everybody writing for?

Yet I’m still cross-posting my weekly links digests to the service. Is this how a frog feels when the water temperature starts rising?

Ten For Techmeme’s Tenth Birthday

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Techeme celebrates its tenth birthday today, so the relatively publicity shy Gabe Rivera has been convinced to post ten facts about the little news aggregator that I still visit every day.

Techmeme’s original mission statement still holds up nicely today, allowing for a few addendums. The goals outlined here in 2005 (1. Recognize the web as editor, 2. Rapidly uncover new sources, and 3. Relate the conversation) endure even to this day. However, as Techmeme became the first stop for tech news for a growing and influential segment of the tech industry, other goals became imperative too. In particular: strive for comprehensive coverage of the day’s most significant tech stories, and post big, breaking news story quickly.

The aggregation empire that Rivera has (Techeme, Memeorandum, Mediagazer, Wesmirch, and BallBug) has always been something that I have a huge amount of respect for. There’s a consistency of vision, there is utility, and there is Rivera’s decision to define success on his own terms.

Success in Silicon Valley is not always about taking investors money and turning it around for a huge IPO or sale to a Unicorn-hunting megacorp.

I posted this on January the 2nd.

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Not posting on January 1st means I don;t have to worry about any sort of ‘try and post every day on your blog’… so I wrote this on the second of the month, but I backdated it because much as I know I’m not going to write on this blog every day, I do write every day, and want to show that.

Or it’s OCD, go figure.

Uber’s magic ingredient is inequality

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Leo Minari writing for Quartz:

There are only two requirements for an on-demand service economy to work, and neither is an iPhone. First, the market being addressed needs to be big enough to scale—food, laundry, taxi rides. Without that, it’s just a concierge service for the rich rather than a disruptive paradigm shift, as a venture capitalist might say. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a large enough labor class willing to work at wages that customers consider affordable and that the middlemen consider worthwhile for their profit margins.

To compound this, it’s very (very) likely that once more the millions of workers who create value in Uber will see nothing at the value point (be it IPO or being taken over), just as those who created the value in Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, and so on throughout the ‘Web 2.0’ boom, saw nothing.

Which simply increases the inequality in the world. What we really needs is an ‘Uber for Vicious Circles’.

Writing about feeling a great disturbance in the Internet

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Why does every online publication pile on and (re)write the same popular story, asks Pando’s David Holmes:

If you’ve spent any time consuming “content” today, you know that a new trailer is out for J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars” reboot. You know it because virtually every news site on the planet, including Huffington PostCNNthe VergeWiredForbes, and ABC News, has “written” about it in a mad dash for those delicious Internet clicks.

Those “delicious internet clicks” are clicks you know you are going to get. As a content producer when you have stories you know are going to generate income that take a relatively short amount of time to write, you are leaving yourself more time to write up more in-depth stories that might not be as attractive to advertisers, but are more attractive to readers.

Posting a story on a popular movie trailer in effect finances the journalism you want to see on your favourite sites.

When The Blogging Flag Drops…

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Veteran F1 reporter Joe Saward talks about the issues around blogging, wire services, quotas for stories, attendance (or otherwise), in the world of online F1 coverage:

In part this is due to people called news aggregators. These are the bottom feeders of F1 who pick up stories wherever they can, in whatever language. They have no means of checking the information they gather and so they package up the stories in bite-sized chunks and pump them out to dozens of lazy websites that run the same stuff. This has two effects: the first is that they have deals for x number of news items a day and so if they cannot find enough stuff, they stretch the facts, or run non-stop “he said-she said” stories, with nothing but claims and denials; the second is that an awful lot of websites have exactly the same stories and all of it is pretty lightweight because no one writing it is actually involved in the sport and thus they have no idea about their subject matter – and no contacts to even ask. This is the downside of so-called citizen journalism.

Saward is an old-school reporter, travelling to each Grand Prix, and has a subscription magazine for his online followers alongside his blog, and his thoughts reflect that older approach. There needs to be some progress in reporting, but the microcosm of F1 feels like a reflection of the larger questions around journalism today.

(Truth and Consequences [in F1]).

XKCD and the X-15 Astronauts

Monday, June 9th, 2014

There are moments when you can look at an XKCD cartoon and now exactly what the mouseover text is hidden. ‘Astronaut Vandalism‘ was one of those moments, although I was half-expecting the change from 62 to 50 to be done not be ‘retired USAF pilots’, but by Joe Engle, the last of the eight X-15 astronauts still alive.

Shut up, Metafilter, and take our money

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Metafilter has hit a rough patch (see also Medium). Metafilter is community. The Metafilter community is rising to the occasion.

I. Love. Metafilter.