Tag: writing

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Audience Matters

While walking along Panorama Drive, in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood today, a bumper sticker caused me to chuckle. The message seemed so appropriately placed on a vehicle parked in what locals might call a well-to-do, liberal enclave. Above the one proclamation another exclaimed: “Keep the Mexicans. Deport Trump”. So surely the driver’s meaning is unequivocally plain: Fewer weapons saves lives. In other words, disarm Americans.

I laughed when passing, because interpretation could be far removed from intention, or purpose. There are anarchists, terrorists, and other people—such as those wanting to rid the country of haughty liberals—who might see something quite good and affirming about “More Guns, More Death”, reading the same sentiment with a divergent meaning that is justified by a different, or even opposing, ethical worldview. For one audience, the slogan is an admonition. For another, it’s an invitation—a call to arms, so to speak.

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Photo Credit: Julia Folsom

Hehe, This is How You Report About the Consumer Electronics Show

Engadget features editor Joseph Volpe buries the lede, so I fix it for him by posting over at my new project, Frak That!, headline: “Steve Jobs calls Apple Watch a ‘Joke’“. Oh, the clickbait accusations will fly from some, and the Apple Faithful will fling rotten fruit for my irreverence, but the post fits the site’s core editorial principle of pointing out the absurd—in this case the otherwise lack of original reporting about the Consumer Electronics Show, to which the somewhat oddball Engadget story affronts.

Joseph rises above the CES 2016 public relations cluster-fuck to write something really original. He consulted a “higher source” to get the lowdown on the year ahead in tech: Las Vegas psychics. Brilliant! And it’s something I actually read in all the dribble designed to self-flagellate corporate egos. 

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Responsible Reporting Section 3 ‘What You Must Do’: Chapter VIII

Being so far behind serialization of my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers and so close to the end, I break the Sunday rule and sneak in an installment. That makes the next chapter the last before the book releases into the public domain.

What follows is my responsible reporting primer. The list isn’t inclusive, but encapsulates my basic guidance for writing well online during this era of contextual news gathering, 

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Origin Story

Sometimes the Internet community surprises me. My last post, “Apple, How Did It Come to This?” is why. Everyone creating content everywhere wants to know the magic formula for generating reader response. The pageview-obsessed seek the golden ticket that consistently means clicks. Me? I write obsessively. It’s like breathing—a necessary and unavoidable act.

The “Come to This” post garnered quite a bit more attention than I expected, in part because of its origin. Some of the activity is Twitter, but more of it occurred on Google+ overnight. The post is an adapted Plus response to a comment to a shared BetaNews story that I wrote based on something else I posted first on Google+. Confusing, isn’t it? I’ll explain in linear fashion. 

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My Goddamn Problem

Three months ago, I commanded: “Writers, Own Your Content!“. Some of my best tech-industry news and analysis is gone from the Web—six years of posts—because of corporation changes; one employer was acquired, while the other restructured. The sites I managed vanished. Now I defy good SEO practice and double post content to my work website and to my personal one. Art typically is different, and headlines are never the same.

Reader reaction to one recent headline just shocks me, and makes me chuckle. 

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Comic-Con Heroes: The Writer

Among the 12 profiles that are the core of my book Comic-Con Heroes: The Fans Who Make the Greatest Show on Earth, the one that follows offers the most interesting content for science fiction fans. The convention isn’t just about superheroes. Sci-fi is part of the core culture dating back to the very start during the 1970s, and it’s even stronger in the 2010s. Because what was niche more than 40 years ago is mainstream, and more, today.

This profile also introduces some valuable historical insight—if 10 years can be considered old, and measured by Internet time it most certainly is. Fans’response to a new sci-fi television show, and their torrenting it, kicked the pebbles eventually unleashing an avalanche of legitimately-available streamed TV programming. So-called video pirates of 2005 are indirectly responsible for there being Hulu, Netflix streaming, and Google’s purchase of newbie service YouTube. 

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Headline and Location Matter More Than You Think

Today I conducted an unexpected experiment when posting the same news analysis (except for outward links) to two different sites. My story responded to a lawsuit against Apple, alleging consumer harm from there being less available capacity to users than stated storage. Meaning: 16GB isn’t, because iOS 8 and preinstalled apps consume space. Funny thing: Day before seeing news about the legal filing, I nearly posted an analysis praising the company for offering double to four-times more storage than competitors give.

So I combined my response to the lawsuit with the concept; they fit. I wrote the story here but published it first to BetaNews. Difference in response to the same story posted two different places is startling. 

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Journalist sets Standard for Follow-up Gadget Reviews

Whenever I receive loaner devices, I ask to keep them for months because long-term use reveals much. Initial reviews often miss important usability benefits or problems only prolonged usage reveals. No one can get to every feature or receive all the benefits in one day or week.

Something else: As I often say, in news reporting, or reviews, bias is inevitable. Time helps extinguish the new thing glow that can bias reviews and make them more favorable than the products deserve. As the glow darkens, sounder perspective brightens. 

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Apple Apologists Sometimes Mean Well, But…

I started writing about Apple in 1999, when reporting for CNET News.com, and quickly earned a reputation for being anti-Apple. As a Mac user, the accusation puzzled me, because I didn’t yet understand how zealots sought to undermine journalists who wrote anything less than positive about the company.

My reputation got so bad that I couldn’t even deliver welcome news. In a January 2001 scoop, two reliable sources confirmed that Apple would break the 500MHz gap with new Power Macs. One Mac enthusiast site—apologies, I can’t find the link—said the story only made sense if untrue, because my news pieces were negative. So I must have written to lift Mac users’ hopes so they would be crushed when then-CEO Steve Jobs didn’t announce a 733MHz Power Mac. 

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Take ‘My Blood’, and If It Satisfies…

So you may know that I’m about half-way through a flailing crowd-funding campaign to raise seed money for my first fiction book. Here’s the campaign page But don’t go there. Go here instead. I started the campaign by offering a free, condensed preview of the book, My Blood. Read it. If you enjoy the 8,000-word teaser, and want to read the book, go to the campaign page and contribute. The more mullah I raise, the faster the book arrives.

If you don’t think much of the preview—or it’s just not your kind of story—contribute another way. Tell me what’s wrong or what you would rather read instead. I mean: that you would pay for.

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I write Affirmative Headlines

This morning, I responded to a Betanews commenter who asks: “I’m curious though about one thing and have been for a time. Does a Editor or someone else choose your titles or do you?” He responded to my story “I’m Microsoft All-In“, writing: “I personally have found my groove with ‘All-in Apple. for many years.

He asks a good question, and I answer at length, which I share below (and not in block quotes for readability reasons):