The next 10 years

Ten’s a nice round number, don’t you think?

Next month, I’ll celebrate my tenth anniversary of walking into the Macworld offices and starting my career in the wild, wooly world of tech journalism. That first summer, I spent two days a week working with Jim Galbraith and Brian X. Chen testing older Macs with a new benchmark script for the Macworld Labs.

What a ride it’s been. Since then, I had the chance to work with fantastic teams at Macworld, PCWorld, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, the Whitman Pioneer (since renamed the Wire), GeekWire and IDG News Service.

And now, it’s time for me to chart a fresh course for the next decade of writing. As of next week, I’ll be moving on from my role at the News Service to work on AI and cloud coverage at VentureBeat.

(At least until my job can be done by a neural network trained on my past writing, in which case all bets are off. On the bright side, at least I’ll see it coming.)

Two years ago, I walked back into the South of Market office that I remembered from my teenage intern years as a Mac- and iOS-focused writer to take a job centered around Microsoft. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be in that job and loving it, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.

But it has been wonderful getting to cover that beat, which allowed me to follow some of the top trends in technology today. I’m looking forward to bringing that energy with me to VB, and I hope all of you will join me on that journey.

In my tenure at the News Service, I’ve had the privilege of working with a truly fantastic team of people along with an incredible worldwide community of IDGers. Unfortunately, the company underwent a series of major layoffs earlier this week. There’s a terrific group of folks out there looking for gigs.

To my IDG colleagues past and present, best of luck. It’s been real.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a stack of whitepapers to go read.

Linked, Personal

How to pretend to be happy on the internet (Selena Larson/The Kernel)

You can’t be sad if you’re using the Crema filter on a good hair day, right? Right? If you type enough exclamation marks and happy-faced emojis, no one knows your heart is broken.

Real talk from my friend Selena about keeping a happy face on social media. It hits real close to home for me, since my presence on the web is such a public performance. Especially on Twitter, where the majority of my followers are people who I've never met, I'm acutely cautious about what I say. I'd hate to be That Guy who's a buzzkill on social media.

It's a version of myself, to be sure, but posting tweets, blog posts and other digital items is always an exercise in editing myself. And this, I think, is one of the persistent shortcomings of all social media platforms: I'll never be as real in my posts to Facebook as I am in a private conversation.


Looking back, looking ahead: New Year's Resolutions 2015


Alright, it's time again for me to talk about my New Year's Resolutions, since mentioning them on the internet at least makes me think about them on a regular basis. I appreciated that last year – even though I didn't end up following through on all my resolutions – so I'm doing it again this year.

Without further ado, let's take a look back at what I had planned for 2014:

1. Take 52 photos in 52 weeks.

Success! I did succeed in shooting all the photos I needed for this particular goal, though I didn't publish all of them, in part because of a bug that completely killed VSCO Cam during the iOS 8 beta. Good news, though: I'll post the last few to the 52x14 Flickr album in the coming week or so.

After that, I want to actually turn this into a book that may or may not be available for purchase. I'm still thinking about it.

2. Write a blog post a month.

Well, we can all see how that went, can't we? I learned this past year that even if I really want to write a blog post a month, it can be hard for me to take time and make it a priority, especially after a day of writing other stories. One of the biggest roadblocks for me this year was dealing with my own perfectionism – I often want to make sure that my ideas are the best they possibly can before publishing, which is often a recipe for publishing nothing at all.

3. Write an iOS app I actually want to use.

I said this one wouldn't see the light of day, and I was right. I have successfully noodled around with Objective-C a bit, and built a couple small apps that give me a sense for the language but don't translate into anything useful, which is too bad. I'm hoping that I'll come to grips with Swift this coming year, which may fuel future development (and future resolutions), but I don't have anything concrete planned at the moment.

4. Develop an exercise practice and lose some weight.

I didn't mention this in my post last year because I'm of the belief that my weight and personal fitness is basically my business, and I'm not super-interested in airing that publicly for the most part.

All of that said, I would be remiss not to mention one of the largest changes in my life over the past year: I lost a little more than 50 pounds. There's no real secret to what I did – I'm eating better than I was, and exercising more – and I'm sure that my 20-something metabolism helped matters.

With that in mind, it's time for me to take a look ahead to 2015. Here's what I have planned:

1. Take 52 photos in 52 weeks.

Anyone who follows me on social media may have noticed that this photo showed up with the hashtag #52x15 attached. So yes, that means I'm doing the same photo-a-week-ish project this time around as well. I really enjoy what it does for my habits, so carrying it on makes a whole lot of sense.

I've started a new album on Flickr which will get updated as time goes on. As usual, I'll be posting items to Instagram (and by extension, Twitter) as well.

2. Use Reporter to create a record of my 25th year on the planet.

I gave Reporter a shot last year, but gave up on it midway through the year becase the app lost all data after I restored my phone to the iOS 8 beta. That said, I've been a huge fan of the Feltron Reports ever since Justin introduced me to them during his Intro to New Genre Arts Practices class, and I'd love to replicate something like that for myself.

3. Read 24 books in 12 months.

I read a good deal less than I wanted to in 2014, in part because there are so many different interesting things I can do to relax. I tend towards leisure activities that also allow me to listen to podcasts, since I listen to more than a dozen of varying lengths a week. I can't really pay attention to a book and a podcast at the same time, but it's easy for me to whip out my Vita and play Minecraft while catching up on Directional. As such, reading has fallen by the wayside, except in certain special cases.

So, I've set myself a fairly ambitious goal of reading 24 books this year – basically one every fortnight. And that means I need books to read, so if you have any favorites you want to share, let me know. If you want to follow along with my progress, check out my Goodreads page.

If all goes well, this time next year I'll have some good news to report. At the very least, I hope to have something of a better track record.


Some fiction, finally

One of the things that has been the most difficult about being out of college is the lack of a predefined space for me to work on my fiction. The hustle of regular assignments meant that I was under regular pressure to come up with new material, which would be thrown into a feedback loop of exercises and workshops that would eventually lead to the semi-regular creation of further material. Now? Well, not so much. On any of those fronts. As it turns out, sitting down to write after a day of writing is...a difficult proposition for me. But over the past few months, I've been hashing out a rough draft in my notebook during a few plane rides, and it's finally done.

Not in any publishable form, of course, it's a first draft with loads of problems, chief among them a lack of a point. I've written the story such that things just happen aimlessly in a way that I find truly disappointing. But for the first time in a year and a half, I actually have a reason to sit down in Scrivener, and try knocking some sense into this particular piece. Which makes me quite happy.

Why am I sharing this with the internet at large? I have to get it off my chest. Putting it somewhere public, where I'll have to look at it and know others will see it too, so that I have a reason to keep plugging away at this, or at least give it a proper burial.


My New Year's Resolutions for 2014

For me, 2013 was a year of figuring out how I was going to fulfill a bunch of pre-existing commitments. As I noted to a few friends on New Year’s Eve, my theme song for the first half of the year was The Mountain Goats’s “This Year,” and it was nice to be able to sit down and realize that, as a matter of fact, I had made it through the year, and it hadn’t killed me. But that was then.

Over the past few months, I’ve felt like I was able to get my feet under me in a few key ways, and I really want to take a more proactive, less reactive approach to the coming year. I have some more personal goals that I’m going to keep to myself, but there are a few projects that I want to share with the big bad world out there, in part because I know that sharing with you means that I’m going to have some modicum of responsibility for making those things happen.

So, here are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014:

1. Publish 52 exposures in 2014.

After I saw that Rachel was working on a 365 day photo project, I knew that I wanted to do something similar with my own photography. However, the usual “one photo every day” project just has never worked for me in the past.

Still, I want to do more work on my photography this year than I did in the last, and actually forcing myself to produce some form of content seems like a good starting place. So I’ve decided that my resolution for this year is going to be to produce and publish 52 exposures in 2014, which then can be elegantly shortened to the marvelously hashtaggable 52x14. Roughly speaking, I’m going to work on publishing one image every week, though I might skip some and double-up on others if things work out that way.

If you want to keep up with my project, follow me on Instagram, or check out the 52x14 album on my Flickr page.

2. In a similar vein, write 12 blog posts in 2014.

This blog has been neglected for far too long. Part of that is just because I’ve been caught up in my day job, and actually convincing myself to sit down and write after a long day of writing can be something of a challenge. So, much like my photography project, I’ll be trying to coerce myself to do something about it.

Here are the rules I’ll be following:

  • Write and post at least one blog post per month.
  • That post can’t say “Hey, no post this month,” barring some serious difficulties.
  • Other than that, everything’s in-bounds when it comes to topic: gaming, tech, writing, social justice issues, whatever. You could see a post on my work setup one month, and Hearthstone the next. My life is a grab-bag, and I fully expect this blog to reflect that.

I’ll be going against basically all of the advice from people who talk about starting a blog, and I won’t be posting regularly. That’s because that I fully intend for the stuff that I write to be based on whatever I’m feeling like writing a blog post. To keep up with my posting, you can follow this blog's RSS feed (you're welcome, Dave Winer).

If you’re looking for more me, you can find my writing on GeekWire or follow me on Twitter @belril.

3. Code an iOS app that I actually want to use in my daily life.

I now feel like I have a space in my life to actually take a crack at iOS development. That means that I want to build something that’s more than just the moral equivalent of writing a “Hello World!” program. It’s worth noting that I have no idea what shape that will take yet, and I probably won’t actually decide to release it on the App Store.

So, in sum, a new year means more photos, more blog posts, and a new iOS app that you will probably never see.

I don’t enable comments, because I fundamentally disagree with the idea that every blog must have a space for other people to post things about what I’m saying. Still, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to tweet at me or shoot me an email, and I’ll happily get back to you.