Who are you, what do you do, etc.?
What tools do you use to get your job done? Software, hardware, etc.
My only Mac is an 11” MacBook Air (2013 model). At work I’ve got an Apple Thunderbolt display and an external keyboard (Logitech) and mouse (Apple Magic Trackpad) and I generally run with my MacBook Air’s lid closed with it ensconced in a BookArc from Twelve South. I just set up a home office and I’ve got a 24-inch Dell display there, a Logitech keyboard, and a Magic Mouse. In both offices I’ve got an adjustable sit/stand desk, so I can stand while I work.
I do most of my short-form writing in BBEdit, and my long-form writing in Scrivener. I browse the web in Safari. I’m currently using Apple Mail but I have a love-hate relationship with it, so you never know how long that’ll last before I run back to Mailplane or something like Airmail. I use Dropbox for just about everything I do. I back up with CrashPlan.
The iPhone in my pocket is an iPhone 5S, though it’s the Apple loaner and I will have to switch back to my black iPhone 5 shortly. My iPad is an iPad mini with Retina display.
How did you first land a job at Macworld? And how did you climb the ranks to Editorial Director?
When I was in grad school I was a teaching assistant to a senior editor at MacUser magazine, and I bugged her until she got me a summer internship. They liked me enough to hire me on a few months later as an assistant editor. From there, I worked up through the ranks. When they merged MacUser with Macworld I came over to Macworld and continued my rise through the ranks. How I did this remains a mystery, but it’s a combination of longevity and a series of unfortunate accidents befalling my rivals that can’t possibly be pinned on me.
Talk to me about TechHive. Why exactly the separate site from Macworld? How, if at all, is your job over there different than at Macworld? How has the site been going?
TechHive is a site that’s supposed to be able to talk about technology more generally, freed from the implied platforms of Macworld and PCWorld. It’s the place where we can talk iOS or Android but also web sites and streaming video and fitness apps and who knows what else. The feeling was that PCWorld and Macworld couldn’t talk about that stuff effectively because, well, it’s right there in their names. People were reluctant to look at “PC” World for smartphone advice and PC users with iPhones were reluctant to visit “Mac” world. It was a problem.
It’s going okay. Traffic is growing. We haven’t really had much of an investment in marketing or personnel from IDG — it’s definitely been something that we’ve added to our plates without any extra resources. So given all that, and the fact that we’re competing with sites with huge staffs spending a huge amount of money, we’re doing okay. It’s growing rapidly, though everyone wishes that growth was happening even faster. On the content side we’re not at all satisfied with it — there’s a lot more we want to do, and we’re working on that. Jon Phillips is the Editor in Chief of both PCWorld and TechHive so he’s the one who deals with that day-to-day.
You also take care of PC World. How can that be, with such an affection for the Mac? :) And, how on earth do you keep up with all that PC news in addition to everything else you’ve got going on?
Simple answer: I hired someone to be the editor-in-chief of PCWorld, Jon Phillips, and that’s his job. I don’t pretend to be an expert on PCs and Windows. I’m managing our entire group but I can’t be involved in the day-to-day planning, and for PCWorld that’s most especially the case.
If you had to pick, what is the best part about your job, asides from the fact that you’re doing what you love?
Getting to use the new stuff when it first comes out — whatever that stuff is — and honestly, getting to be the person who can answer the audience’s burning questions about that new stuff. It’s fun finding what people are curious about while also satisfying my own curiosity about new technology.
I love actual magazines. I suppose that I always will. There’s something to reading on actual paper that will always be appealing to me. But, being a tech magazine, and indeed, just a magazine period, Macworld obviously has to adjust to the new wave of digital magazines. How are you guys doing that? What does the new medium allow you to do that print doesn’t?
We’ve got a tablet edition that’s more dynamic than the print edition, but honestly, the fact that we do have to print on paper every month limits what we’re capable of doing there. PCWorld recently went out of print, and the tablet edition of PCWorld is much more dynamic and interesting than the Macworld version. That’s because PCWorld never, ever ends up on paper. So it’s designed with screens in mind, and the fact is, when you add a page to a paper magazine it costs money, but when you add pages to a tablet edition, it costs essentially nothing. It’s quite freeing.
It’s a huge effort to create tablet editions of magazines. It’s basically an entirely extra magazine that our designers and copy editors need to create every month. It’s a lot of work. But we are really in a transitional phase right now. Eventually what a magazine is will really, truly transform — but I think we’re in the early days of that transition now. Sadly, I don’t think magazines on "actual paper” is going to be a thing for much longer, in most cases. Macworld’s still kicking, but I feel like I’ve seen the future with what we did with PCWorld.
Where does the name for The Incomparable podcast (which I love, by the way) come from? On that note, what prompted you to start the podcast in the first place?
It’s not a very good story. I was looking for a new domain to start a pop-culture web site as a follow-on to TeeVee.net, which was limited to one medium (TV) and was funny and hard to spell, and didn't have a .com domain. So Greg Knauss, who ran our server for TeeVee, sent me a list of domains he had registered for projects that never came to be, and one of them was theincomparable.com. And I said, that’s fun, can I have that? And so I set up theincomparable.com as a blog. We posted something like 10 posts on it, and it died. The new name just wasn’t enough to keep that old site going. So when I decided to start a podcast, I appropriated the blog and just started posting the podcast there.
I was prompted to start the podcast by a Twitter conversation between me, Scott McNulty, Dan Moren, Glenn Fleishman, John Siracusa, and probably a few other people. I think the original conversation was about sci-fi novels.
which led me to say,
Six days later we recorded episode one.
More generally, I’ve always had a side project — InterText and TeeVee being the two main ones — and it was time for another one. Side projects are good because they allow me to explore different aspects of media that my job doesn’t allow. And sometimes it feeds back into my job, too! In this case, my new job is so abstract and management oriented that it’s nice to control every single aspect of The Incomparable creatively, to edit it myself, to post the file, to get it out there — that’s not something I’m allowed to do as much at work these days.
What's a typical day look like for you?
Email. Meetings. Email. Meetings. Maybe steal time to write part of something. Email. Meetings.
Throughout the day, what apps do you have in your Dock or open? Any favorite websites/Internet habits that you check regularly?
See above - BBEdit, Mail, DragThing, Calendar, Safari, iTunes, Messages, HipChat, Twitter.
I don’t check very many sites regularly. A lot of stuff feeds to me from Twitter. I hit Daring Fireball every day though, that’s a given. And of course my own sites — I’m looking at them regularly.
What's your iPhone/iPad homescreen look like? Single most interesting app and why?
My wife and I use Grocery IQ to share our grocery list. Is that interesting? I’m afraid maybe it isn’t interesting. I have the new Tweetbot in order to try it out, but honestly I use Twitterrific almost all the time. It just fits for me. And Fantastical instead of Calendar, of course.
My iPad’s a little different. More reading, some writing.
If you could only install one third party app on your iPhone, what would it be? Mac?
On my iPhone, Twitterrific. Can’t have an iPhone without a Twitter client on it.
On my Mac, BBEdit.
Any plans for the future, or projects in the works, that you'd be willing to divulge here?
Single favorite movie?
Impossible to pick. Six-way tie between “Ghostbusters” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” “Star Trek II” and “Real Genius” and “This is Spinal Tap” and “The Princess Bride.” And yes, those are all movies from the 80s.
If forced to choose I guess I’d say “Raiders.” It’s nearly perfect. Spielberg’s greatest work — sorry, “Schindler’s List!”
If you could have any single super-power, what would it be?
The ability to wish for more super-powers.
This BQ&A is just one of many awesome interviews with awesome people. Be sure to check them all out here.