Interview Advice for Those New to Reporting

My dear friend Swoozy has started out on her writing career, and was preparing to interview someone for a focused piece related to sex education. She asked for my advice, and I wound up writing up a fair amount for someone who wasn't trained in being a journalist, but has good instincts for representing someone else accurately.

I just kept adding to this and structuring it, and thought it was worth sharing, as I couldn't find anything that was quite as focused on how to interview people for a written article (print or online). Most of the advice is a basis for podcasting and in-person interviews, too. I've now published it at Medium, where you can chip in with comments or advice.

A New Economy Discovered in My Own House: Derrick Dollars

Derrick dollars in production.

As a business reporter, I’m always looking for unique economic angles in the new economy. Recently, while walking through my house, I encountered a new economy worker producing a form of scrip for an economy I was unaware of, denominated in Derrick dollars. Here’s the interview, published with the subject’s consent.

Glenn: Who makes Derrick dollars?

Rex (age 8): Any valid Derrick dollar worker. You need a membership card to create valid Derrick dollars.

G: What is Derrick’s role in Derrick dollars?

R: First in command. There are commands. The reason people make Derrick dollars for him is to get higher in command. By the time I finish all of these I am absolutely certain he will rank me second in command

G: What do you get for being higher in command?

R: It means if Derrick is not at school, if you are second in command, you are in charge. If you’re lower rank, you’re trying to be higher, because a lot of people have to be out of school for you to be in charge.

G: Is there any limit to the number of Derrick dollars that can be created?

R: No, you’re trying to create as many as possible to go up higher in rank.

G: That would cause inflation. Each dollar would seem to be worth less if you create more of them.

R: Not really.

G: What can you use Derrick dollars for?

R: To buy anything that’s being sold for Derrick dollars.

G: What is being sold for Derrick dollars?

R: Dudeize cards, paper crafts, chompies (they’re those things that can chomp on things).

G: What are Dudeize cards?

R: They’re cards that have Dudeize members names on them, and pictures on them.

G: Who are Dudeize members?

R: Members of the Dudeize soccer team. It is a soccer team at school.

G: So you can create as many Derrick dollars as you want?

R: That’s true, but there is a limit to how many Derrick dollars members can spend from the Derrick dollars members they make. They have to turn all their Derrick dollars in. They get a paycheck from Derrick.

G: Derrick is the central bank?

R: He’s the first in command.

G: Does he ever destroy Derrick dollars?

R: Sometimes he says they are too big or too small. But that doesn’t matter to me, because I just put them in his desk and afterwards he doesn’t notice.

G: People are making Derrick dollars, giving Derrick the Derrick dollars, Derrick chooses how much to pay his workers in Derrick dollars, and the only thing Derrick dollars buy are paper crafts?

R: True, people are making Derrick dollars and giving them to Derrick. But anything that is going to be sold for Derrick dollars — most commonly they are paper crafts — but anything that is being sold for Derrick dollars can be paid for with Derrick dollars.

G: Who is making things for purchase with Derrick dollars?

R: Robert, the Dudeize team, and a lot of other people.

G: So you make Derrick dollars for rank?

R: Second in command gets the highest paycheck. You get the paycheck each day depending on how many you turn it. If you turn in 10 and you’re fourth in command, you get one for your paycheck; if you make 10 and you’re second in command, you get five in your check.

G: Is this a stable system?

R: As I said before, you do need a Derrick dollars membership to produce valid Derrick dollars.

G: How do you get Derrick dollars membership?

R: You just have to sign up on the Derrick dollars sign up sheet.

G: Does he turn anybody down?

R: No, unless they’ve been known to be opposed to Derrick dollars.

G: Why would someone opposed to Derrick dollars sign up?

R: To spy on Derrick.

Space Gets Farther Away

New Horizons, bound for Pluto

New Horizons, bound for Pluto

This week's Economist features two articles by yours truly about SPACE — and humanity's shortened reach.

You see, in the 1990s, America's budgets were flush, and we funded a ton of projects to send probes and landers and orbiters and oh my all over the place. Those missions came to fulfillment through the 2000s, and even as budget tightened, the early funding helped carry through missions that might take 10 years to plan and then several years to reach their target.

So Cassini is currently still active around Saturn, New Horizons reaches Pluto next month, and Juno orbits satellite in 2016. But nearly all current NASA missions outside of Mars start winding down after that. And then nothing heads out very ambitiously until the early 2020s, when the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA separately send missions to Jupiter, arriving by 2030, under current plans.

My first story, The worlds beyond, explains how this came to pass, what funding is needed, and what's to come. The second, NASA’s dark materials, is about an almost footnote: without an adequate supply of plutonium-238, a non-weapons-grade isotope, humanity's grasp is very very small. We need Pu-238 to power missions of all sorts—until it's routine to put nuclear reactors on spacecraft, which will happen at some unknown future date.

You can find these articles online, or in this week's print issue.

Recent Glenn: Podcasts, Writing, and a Book!

In the spirit of collecting my work across many sites, here's the latest in Glenn!

Articles

Book

  • Hey, I have a book! A Practical Guide to Networking and Security in iOS 8 is a guide through all issues with setting up and using networks and encryption/security options for your iPhone and iPad with step-by-step illustration instructions. I managed this revision myself, and since you read this far, you can get 25% off the $15 price for the ebook (no DRM, all major formats included) with coupon code E18CFOG.

Podcasts

Calculating Newtons: The Physics of Force with the New MacBook Connector

The MacBook that Apple unveiled on Monday has a single port. Many connections are gone, but the MagSafe power hookup is the one people are already mourning the most. But I wondered: what if this USB-C connection was designed for a quick pop-out if someone trips over the cord?

I talked to a consulting engineering, an aerospace engineer, a sci-fi author/computer-scientist with a deep scientific background, an industrial designer/manufacturer, and an astrophysicist. The answer? Well, the cable is probably not going to pop out (or shear off) before the laptop is dragged off a surface. But the physics of it are quite fascinating. You can read my whole account at Macworld.

Recent Writing and Podcasts (mid-January to late February)

On the heels of the news that I'll be writing (and talking) more about Macworld, here's a summary of recent articles and podcasts there and all over.

Articles

Podcasts

  • Macworld podcast #445: My first appearance as co-host! We talked about Google's updated Wallet offering with cell carriers, malware in hard drive firmware, solar farms and data centers, and new emoji.
  • Clockwise #75: Apple Car, government spying, Samsung spying, and Apple's greatest threats.

Big Hair to Fill

You may have heard that veteran Macworld staffer Chris Breen joined a fruit company in the Bay Area. (Raisins? Apricots?) Chris spent 30 years as writer, and nearly 20 at Macworld. With him gone, who would fill his big hair…I mean, shoes?

Who has two thumbs and eight other fingers and loves writing about Mac stuff? No, not Two Thumbs Eight Fingers McGee. (I hate that guy.) Me! Because I'm not in California, it didn't work out to take over his job. Instead, in addition to the security and privacy column I've written weekly for Macworld since late September, I'll be co-hosting the weekly Macworld podcast with executive editor Susie Ochs and other Macworld staff, and writing the Mac 911 column, where reader questions are researched and answered. You should subscribe to the podcast right now, shouldn't you?

It's a good shift for me, as a long-time senior contributor for Macworld. I've written…I don't know how many articles for Macworld. Hundreds? It'll be a pleasure to have more recurring gigs there, especially the podcast, as I've been trying to get back into regular audio work. (The podcast I launched with Christina Bonnington, Not Enough Time in the Week, has to go on hiatus, as there's too much of a topic overlap with what we'll be talking about in the Macworld podcast, sadly!)

What does this mean for my other writing? Oh, don't you worry. You'll still find me at Fast Company, the Economist, Boing Boing, and other publications. I have books in progress and a new one coming out this week on networking and security in iOS 8. With the funding nearly complete for The Magazine: The Complete Archives, a combination of my time and outside help will get that out the door by April.

And Old & New, my fresh periodical idea, will still launch as planned: as a blog with commissioned articles and a podcast. I'd always intended to launch it slowly but steadily, instead of all at once with the money and time commitment required for that.

It will be nice to have a solid anchor at Macworld, reducing the amount of time I spend pitching stories, many of which don't turn into assignments, and instead spend more time being productive in a way that benefits other people.

There Is Not Enough Time in the Week for My New Co-Hosted Podcast!

Update: We had to put this on hiatus after just two episodes. I was signed on to the Macworld podcast as a regular host, which has quite a bit of overlap; and Christina wound up competing commitments for her time as well. Thanks for everyone's interest!

I've been absent from a regular podcast for a while as I wrapped up The Magazine and sorted out my freelance career. But I'd been incubating an idea for a while, and enlisted my friend, Christina Bonnington, a staff writer at Wired, to co-host Not Enough Time in the Week. She and I have complementary technical backgrounds and interests, and we'll quiz each other each week to explain the events of the last few days — why is China blocking VPNs (and what is a VPN)? If Uber is planning self-driving cars, is that realistic in the near future? The FCC is changing how it defines broadband, and what does that mean and how will it change our available services?

We're looking forward to listener feedback and suggestions. We're keeping it timely and short: 30 to 40 minutes per episode. Give a listen below, or find us via our RSS feed or on iTunes.

The Freelance Life: Pushing a Rock Uphill, But the Slope Seems To Be Ever Shallower

As a 20-year veteran of freelance writing, my return to nearly full-time work as a reporter comes at a time when online writing has never been paid at a better rate. In 2001, I made much more per word, but it was largely for print. As online advertising revenue continues to grow and specialized publications hire more staff, especially in tech and business, this seems to be putting pressure on publications to pay more. For myself, I need to write about 250 articles in 2015 to support my family as part of how I make a living (or fewer articles and more other work). It's a challenge because of the overhead of pitching, but I'm happy with what I do and optimistic about the future. I explain this at great length in this post.

Read More

The Latest in Glenn Writing & Podcasting

My latest batch of articles from all over:

  • An Internet of Treacherous Things (MIT Technology Review, January 13). The "Internet of Things" (IoT) will grow from about 5 billion devices today to 50 billion in five years. But with the security evidenced by the largest deployed home Internet devices today, broadband gateways and routers, are we ready to keep the IoT from betraying us?

  • How “Gangnam Style” broke YouTube’s counter (Economist, December 10). Google said it ran out of numbers to count Psy's video. It had to re-engineer things to account for more than 2,147,483,647 plays.

  • Marriott plans to block personal wifi hotspots (Boing Boing, December 31). The hotel chain files an FCC petition to let it control unlicensed wireless around its facilities, and faces opposition from Google, Microsoft, and citizens.

  • How and why you should use a VPN to protect your data's final mile (Macworld, January 16). The easy options for single-click VPN-for-hire to protect all your data on a Mac or iOS device.

  • AT&T Offers Rollover Data While Defending Throttling (TidBITS, January 12). A new data rollover plan is limited, but could save some users some money, but AT&T keeps trying to pretend that "unlimited" use means something other than its intended original definition.

  • The Software and Services Apple Needs to Fix (this blog, January 7). One of the most popular entries ever on this blog, I describe a litany of problems that feel ignored or unfixed in iOS and OS X. Over 300 comments chime in with new or long-running problems.

I also did podcast-related things

  • Dr. Katie Mack Explains the Universe (live event, Ada's Books, January 13). I interviewed Katie Mack, an astrophysicist, about how everything works. (You can listen directly in the post below or download the episode.)
  • Marriott, Wi-Fi, & the FCC (Packet Pushers, January 16). We talked at some length and somewhat technically about why hotels want to jam Wi-Fi.