I'm not even supposed to be here. While, strictly speaking, I started my career in BBC local radio, I soon moved into computer magazines -- and then I left, from boredom. I'm only telling you this because it's you. Also because they were PC computer magazines: I struggled to get excited when this month's grey box was one percent faster or perhaps 10 percent greyer than the last. Yet by sheer number of hours alone, I think I've written more computer journalism on MacNN
in the last 19 months than I have anything else.
There is a reason, though, and it's not only a reason motivating me as a writer, it has long been motivation for me as a reader. For I realized -- after I left technology for entertainment news, and then settled into drama writing, book writing, and radio writing -- that the boredom was because I was writing about technology for its own sake. I don't think I ever remembered a single specification, and I certainly wasn't remotely as clever as my colleagues back then, but I wanted to be doing more than timing these machines. I wanted to do more, I needed to do more.
I needed to use these tools to make things. Not to comment or review, but to fashion, produce, create. I learned a lot about magazines back in those days, but I did also pick up one key piece of technology knowledge for myself: when I went freelance, I bought a Mac. I no longer had any job requirement to study Windows, and I was having to pay my mortgage, so I had no more interest in fiddling with device drivers than I had time in which to do it.
Only, it's a funny thing with Apple. I read a suggestion once that Android phones are made just badly enough that you know you need to upgrade, while iPhones are made well enough that you want to. As I would edit videos and audios for Radio Times
, write television books for the British Film Institute
and script Doctor Who radio dramas
for BBC and Big Finish, I would also keep an eye on what was coming from Apple.
Keeping an eye on it meant both knowing what was happening, and gathering an idea of what was worth my actually looking at. So I've got an RSS newsreader, and it has 40 Apple news sites that I would at least skim every day.
One of the things with having been in news in any way -- as well as technology magazines, I was a Broadcast Journalist for the BBC's Ceefax and News Online services -- is that you can't help but follow breaking news in an area you're interested in. Most of those 40 Apple sites were fair-to-good on their news coverage, and the speed of it. If they hadn't been, I'd have dropped them. I did drop many.
Then one of the things you learn from having your books and dramas reviewed, as well as reviewing a lot of things yourself, is how to see when the review is real. Just as with Amazon reviews, you recognize the shills quickly. With professional, published reviews, I'm afraid you also get to see who has actually used the software or hardware that they're writing about.
It seemed to me, as a reader, that MacNN
always actually used this stuff before reviewing it. It seemed to me as a reader that MacNN
people got how important that is. No, hang on, important is too weak a word. If you are not using the software or hardware that you are reviewing, then you have no business being in this business. You have no right to waste readers' time with your opinion. Nobody reads you because you're you, nobody cares what you think, they care what you found out and what you can tell them. I like talking with you, but I'm not going to waste your time.
Across television, radio, film, stage and technology reviewing, I've known this much from the start: while I hope and strive to write entertainingly and interestingly, your sole reason for reading me is that I've used or seen whatever it is we're talking about. I've seen the film, I've used the software. If I tell you about something you didn't know, and which proves to be as big a boon to your working life as certain software has been to mine, fantastic. If you use me as part of your buying decision, fantastic. Nothing else matters. Certainly not me.
Now that I've been a writer on MacNN
, I know that the perception of the site staff knowing this stuff is all true. Every one of the staff are writing these farewell articles: do have a look at them all. Such different people, all doing and creating and bringing such different things; but every one with the same aims, the same awareness that we as individual writers are not important, that the subjects we cover, and the audience we cover them for, are.
, we've got producers, academics, games experts, and managers juggling all the productivity tools you can get. We've got people gallivanting off to produce events. We've got drama, we've got books. All of it done on Macs and iOS, not because that's what we're paid to write about, but because that is what works best for us.
I don't think Apple gear is the best because I write about it. I write about Apple gear because I think it's the best. I got to do that here, and I learnt from my new friends on the site, I learnt from the terrific verve and activity in the forums. I got things wrong, and I got to correct them. I got to try new things, and I got to stretch as a writer, reaching deeper into myself to express points that were nebulous yet important to me.
Writing for MacNN
and within its ethos that I so admired and identified with, I've come full circle on computer journalism. I'd have liked a bigger circle, to be frank, but I'm working on that. Only, the fact is that I won't be doing it here. It is a knife under the ribs to me that I can't continue working on MacNN
, that I can't continue working with these people at the same time.
-- William Gallagher (@WGallagher