This Post Is about Ethics in Journalism

Don't worry that I'm going to rehash what #gamergate is; I'm not. If you need a rundown or refresher, the most recent solid take on the history, nature, and problems with it as a movement that may have good people in it but which is entirely corrupted by its, uh, history, nature, and ersatz leaders is from the good Dr. Nerdlove. Read his analysis. (You should also watch this short video that does an academic dissection of GamerGate as a set of  "base assumptions.")

I'd like to talk about journalistic ethics. No, seriously, I would.

I've been a writer most of my life, and started to get paid for it in 1994. I began to report for major publications, like the New York Times, Fortune, Wired, and the Economist in the late 1990s, as well as write for a variety of so-called trade magazines and sites (both consumer and industry). Every single publication I've worked for has had some kind of minimal to exceedingly detailed policy about conflicts of interest and disclosure. The trade pubs are often much more specific and restrictive than mainstream publications about what is and isn't acceptable.

As a freelancer, I have to be very careful about my actions because working for multiple publications means an intersecting superset of rules that I should be following. But I'll be honest: it's really not hard, because I disclose early and often to my editors, and make intelligent decisions of my own before pitching a story or working on one where a conflict clearly exists.

As a reporter, I'm obliged to avoid conflicts of interest, but when they are present, I'm obliged to tell my editors. I have written many times about people I know, and when it's relevant to the story, it's mentioned in it. In every case, I tell my editors; in every case, my editors decide whether to disclose friendships or other connections. I've never pitched nor written a story in which I had a stake in a financial outcome of the firm in question as a result of the story.

I give money to Kickstarters, I buy products, and I support Patreon and other campaigns. Because I'm paying money out, unless the amount is large or I've dissatisfied with the project, or if I gain special access to someone or something as a result of paying, it's not typically considered a conflict because I don't have a financial stake: I, in fact, lose money through the action, rather than gain it. If I backed a Kickstarter and it never fulfilled or the product was terrible, it's absolutely required that if I were to write about it, I tell my editor, because it is very likely it would color my writing, and readers should be aware of that, should I be allowed to write about it. (As a blogger, I also disclose such things in my blog entries.)

Many GamerGaters, whether sincerely or otherwise, beat the drum of "ethics in journalism" as a rallying cry, but the most genuine portion of their concerns seem to focus on related to clear guidelines, disclosure, and the ability to provide feedback as readers on perceived bias that won't be ignored. Why the most well-intentioned individuals aren't taken seriously is that they typically aren't addressing the right part of the equation or are asking for things that already exist.

In many cases, the people they are criticizing aren't journalists at all: they are opinion writers or essayists who work in the games industry (or unrelated industries) who are expected to disclose conflicts but are engaged in either analysis from a specific philosophical standpoint or from personal experience.

Let's break this down into a few categories:

Facts and intimacy

I know it seems obvious that reporting requires facts, and anyone reading this shouldn't have trouble with this notion. But I see over the last few months that we have a narrative problem. A set of vociferous people point to first-person accounts and hearsay (people relaying what they were told by other people, sometimes through a chain of people) as truth. Truth requires verification. A story without verification is a rumor.

The infamous essay about a breakup that sparked some of the ongoing churn of rage is one individual's highly personal account from his perspective. The assertion by others, who do not have his lived experience, that everything he represented is true is not valid. One can accept that this is his perception of what he lived through; but one doesn't use as the basis of journalism the unquestioned acceptance of a personal account.

There is the additional factor of whether the personal details of an average person's life should be examined in the media. Investigating and reporting on intimate details is typically reserved for tabloids unless both the figure is well-known and an intentional celebrity (actor, politician, book author, etc.) and the matter relates specifically to criminal or sometimes hypocritical behavior.

The essay in question wasn't reported on widely initially, because it wasn't credible or noteworthy. The person writing it and the subjects of it wouldn't meet any legal test for being public figures in most jurisdictions. The allegations contained in it were non-specific and lacked details to verify. The nature of it was prurient. The amount of money at stake, if any, was tiny (regarding reviews that would increase anyone's revenue).

The credibility issue isn't that the writer was necessarily reworking a story or making things up; rather that, on its face, its veracity couldn't be determined; without actual harm or noteworthiness, there was no point to verify details.

By calling for this essay to be reported on a fact and then many later, much more poorly sourced (and often fabricated) story elements to be told, those demanding such coverage were asking publications to behave unethically and against specific widely accepted reporting practices, which I'll get into later under ethics policies.

Game developers obtaining favorable coverage

I'll exclude the specific accusations at the core of GamerGate, as they have been debunked. But the general principle is worth examining. Did a person or company use a romantic relationship, a friendship, an advertising contract, or access to events or advance review copies to get an article or review written from a certain slant, modified after publication, or removed? Did a product, event, or industry figure obtain the coverage they wanted by manipulating editorial decisionmaking and fairness? And if so, then what?

In GamerGate, one of the principal problems is that game developers are being heavily critiqued for allegedly engaging in these sorts of behavior, and typically independent game devs who are studios of one to less than a dozen people, who have little money or funding.

But game devs aren't journalists. They didn't sign up for any code of conduct with a professional organization related to publications, and they don't owe a publication any specific fealty. One can argue everyone should be held to an ethical standard in life, but that is separate from attempting to hold firms making games to what one can reasonably expect from a publication that claims to use facts and analysis as the basis of what they put out into the world.

Whether on their own or through press relations (PR) professionals, nearly all creators and companies try to get stories written at all, and preferably favorable ones, about their work. I get dozens of press requests a week from companies with staff ranging from one part-time owner to 200,000 worldwide employees.

If someone promoting their products misuses a connection or uses coercion, a publication is responsible for the outcome. (The person or company engaging in that behavior may be behaving unethically or illegally as well.)

As a reader or any interested party, you contact the publication, preferably the editor of the piece (if known) or the editor of the publication. You lay out the facts and sources of the facts. In many cases, an editor may be unaware of a writer's affiliation or relationship with a source or subject. There are regularly reports from the travel-writing world in which a writer received something free or discounted from a resort, airline, or the like, and didn't tell an editor because that was in contravention of the publication's policies. Ditto, restaurant and food reviewers who obtain free things or special treatment who don't tell their editors. When uncovered, there's often a big stink, and some of the writers involved may never write for hire again.  (There are many food and travel sites that don't have such strict policies, and that's an actual ethics problem for believing coverage.)

If the publication refuses to acknowledge what you present, and you believe the facts tell a story, then you choose how to disseminate that. This is when it's critical to have verified facts of your own that stand up, because you could wind up accused of libel, and a publication with deep pockets or an angry owner might choose to sue you. This is very unlikely, though: very few web sites, in particular, have sued individuals who claim errors or bias in stories.

Many of the stories that allege ethical problems aren't about conflicts at all, but rather about political bias. While using the term ethics, the complaints relate to the specific inclusion of modes of thought. Some in GamerGate, for instance, object to critiquing the content of a videogame in a review as opposed to just its mechanics. That isn't an ethical issue.

Suggesting a writer be fired because you disagree with a review score or an opinion (especially due to a post labeled as opinion, analysis, op-ed, or an industry insight) seems extreme unless it's part of a provable pattern. Asking for them to be fired indicates you support the site, but disagree with its editorial judgment in providing that writer with work. If that's true, then the better course of action is to provide calm critique and documentation—or, ultimately, stop reading the site.

Many documented concerns and actual incidents (some proven, some alleged) about ethics don't show up on the GamerGate radar at all, because they often involve companies that make products the movement's participants like best. Leigh Alexander did a rundown. Recently, the makers of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (Warner Brothers) were called out when its social-media PR firm required YouTube reviews to only post positive reviews if they wanted to get software codes in advance of release. This wasn't disclosed to those watching the YouTube videos (though some reviewers did so after the news came out). While YouTube reviewers may not be games journalists, they aren't far from it.

(I have, in fact, been given review agreements for hardware and software on a handful of occasions that stated that I couldn't write negative things about the product if I accepted the review copy or loaner. In the trade press, most reviewers are allowed to keep software licenses, but all hardware above a nominal value—well below $50—must be returned. I refused loans or licenses when those terms were offered.)

Collusion

A related ethics complaint is that after the creation of the tag #gamergate, a number of sites and publications published over a period of about two days stories that were headlined "the death of gamers," and which took varying approaches to talking about the end of a majority audience of a specific kind (young men); that gaming had expanded into a mainstream phenomenon in which many of the participants wouldn't use the term "gamer."

The meme spread immediately that many sites had colluded to produce essays simultaneously with a similar title, ignoring that a series of external events, including the tag created by a celebrity, pushed the subject into the news. The idea that games sites, fiercely competing for readers and advertising dollars, would collude to produce essays that ostensibly (but not if actually read) were intended insult many of their readers and were a coordinated attack fails the smell test.

But beyond that, the essays appeared not just on some games sites; rather, they included stories in tech site Ars Technica (which has libertarians at its helm and is owned by Condé Nast), Daily Beast (owned by the International Business Times), Buzzfeed (massively well financed independent journalism/meme outlet), Financial Post, Vice (indie media) the Guardian, and others. It would be a remarkable story if a political agenda and cabal spanned all of those publications writing about something newsworthy. The fact that most took a similar tack didn't occur to many critics as a sign that many different people (and their editors) had come to the same conclusions watching the same behavior and market changes unfold.

Related, some complain that there is a covert progressive agenda to rework the way in which videogames are reviewed to always include critiques based on feminism and the like, subtly or not so subtly pushing the review scores of games down so that those that don't toe a line of political correctness suffer in the marketplace and lead game studios to shift focus to narratives that many who align with GamerGate find politically oppressive.

Conspiracies that require many participants don't stand up to scrutiny, because everyone has separate agendas. The notion that hundreds of people across many sites are working together towards a groupthink was aided by the release of messages from a games journalist list, in which writers and editors talked in part about how to deal with some of the worst elements of gaming and their effects on their sites.

Nonetheless, for this conspiracy to be true, it requires participation across the many sites that make up the consumer-facing Metacritic score for games, and for multi-billion-dollar gaming companies to ignore the direct feedback of their customers and their field testing, and to accept that a coordinated political effort in reviews will change what the market wants.

More games may exist with broader and more subtle themes, but the games that rake in the most cash now will continue to zoom along so long as a market for them remains.

Ethics policies

A repeated cry for the last few weeks has been, "If only the sites would adopt ethics policies and stick to them!" But some sites have such policies; others should! Kotaku links from its About page to an extensive post from June 2013. Kotaku also said Patreon donations are off-limits to its writers in August 2014. Polygon has a specific ethics policy page that dates back to its launch in October 2012 (confirmed via the Wayback Machine). Joystiq has one. The Escapist (Defy Media) added a specific page recently. I can't find a policy on Gamasutra, IGN, or Giant Bomb, but the latter devoted a podcast to discussing games journalism ethics in 2012.

So there's certainly not a concerted effort to avoid the topic; some of the sites that have been most heavily criticized have had a policy in place for years.

I have seen many tweets and other posts that urge sites to adopt the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) ethics code, which is fascinating for laypeople to seize upon. There are many policies, and the SPJ isn't a guild or a licensing authority, which is how they are seemingly bandied about by gamers concerned with bias. I fear those urging this policy don't read the section entitled Minimize Harm, but only point to the Act Independently portion, such as: "Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do."

The SPJ doesn't investigate and enforce policy violations. This is a living document that offers a set of best practices for publications. It's not a contract nor legally binding. All readers rely on the integrity of the publication that they are reading; the ethics guidelines help serve as a guide for how to trust them and a way to hold them accountable for hypocrisy.

It's not about the ethics

Ethical problems emerge in any industry that has its own trade publications, because the publishers typically obtain most of their money from those about which they write. As a long-time tech reporter, I've fortunately not experienced coercion or been offered bribes, but I have certainly heard and seen many occasions on which companies try to cross the line, as well as journalists offer to cross it.

The duty we owe our readers is honesty, not cringing fealty. Games journalism publishers, editors, and writers should produce work free of entanglements that materially affect their coverage and published pieces, but they shouldn't be barred from having friends and relationships, or having advertisers and sponsors. Disclosure is the name of the game, rather than the impossible notion of avoiding connections with others, especially in small industries, and making a clean breast of things when wrong decisions are made or writers or editors are misled.

(Comments are enabled unless they get out of hand. I moderate for civility and logic.)

Private I: a New Column at Macworld

My inaugural outing as a columnist at Macworld appeared today under the name Private I. I'll be writing weekly about security and privacy as they relate to Mac and iOS users. How does new security exploit X affect you as a Mac OS X user? How does mobile hack Y reveal your location to advertisers? Oh, there's enough to fill a column every day, and I'll be hard pressed to pick a single notion a week.

Glenn writes a lot about satellites and space: links

I've developed an obsession with space in the last couple of years, particularly with satellites, probes, landers, rovers, and other gadgets that we send into it. When I was a kid, I used to read and dream about space, but wandered off into other meadows. Returning to it is a blast (sorry) as my decades studying, working with, and reporting with technology gives me an entrée into the world (or worlds) of mission planning, launches, travel, landing, and deployment. 

Glenn visits Curiosity's sibling at JPL in Pasadena.

Glenn visits Curiosity's sibling at JPL in Pasadena.

Here's a collection of what I've been writing about, largely at the Economist.

Voyager 1 & 2

The Voyagers continue to function nearly four decades after launch, delivering useful science. Most recently, Voyager 1 passed the edge of the solar magnetic bubble (the heliosphere), crossing the heliopause into the interstellar medium! (It's still within the solar system, as defined by the sun's gravitational pull, however.)

In a bit of nice timing, I visited the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena in January 2013 for a bunch of reporting, and wrote up a visit with Ed Stone for the Economist, the principal investigator of the Voyager missions from their start in the 1970s and still a

In March 2013, the first paper appeared suggesting that Voyage 1 had broken through the heliopause. I wrote an Economist Explains about it. Later in the year, after more analysis had appeared and more scientific consensus was reached, I filed a long report for Boing Boing on Voyager 1's progress and ostensible current location.

My long-time Economist editor, Tom Standage, co-wrote a feature for Technology Quarterly, "In Praise of Celestial Mechanics," about keeping all this gear alive when it's in orbit around Earth or billions of miles away. (In typical Economist fashion, I wrote a long draft from my JPL visit and other research, Tom tinkered with it and extended material from his expertise, and I was delighted with the final result.)

Nanosatellites and Other Small Birds

The cost per kilogram of pushing something from Earth into orbit, however high, has dropped substantially over the last few decades, and is poised to drop another order of magnitude if SpaceX perfects its reusable craft. However, it's still relatively expensive. But instead of relying on cheaper launches, sending up more compact and capable gear sheds cost, too! Nanosatellites — 10 cm cubes weight about 1 kg — and both somewhat smaller and larger gear are already revolutionizing how information will be gathered from near space.

I did some more travel for this piece, interestingly to San Francisco, where several firms are making bijou satellites inside of ordinary office spaces and small warehouses. Thousands of small satellites will launch in the next couple of years, bringing information from space within reach — anything a satellite can measure up, down, or sideways. I filed this Technology Quarterly cover story, "Nanosats are go!"

As part of this reporting, I wrote about the KickSat, a partially crowdfunded three-unit nanosat (30 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm) that contained over 100 femtosatellites, the size of postage stamps. It launched, but wasn't able to complete its mission — a charging problem left it unable to trigger its spring release in time. The first piece was "Magic Dust"; the follow-up, "An elegy for satellites like maple-tree seeds."

I also wrote about NASA's PhoneSat project, which takes the innards of ordinary Android phones and beefs up the battery and radio components and then puts them into space. These missions go up fast, iterate quickly, and produce useful results.

Other Pieces

An ancient spaceship was captured (with permission) by citizen scientists, and I wrote a three stories about it. First, after NASA granted permission and a team was booting up communications ("How to revive a satellite"). Then, when it seemed likely they'd be able to put the satellite into a new permanent orbit ("An old workhorse satellite spins back up"). And, finally, when it still seemed possible that the new trajectory would be possible ("The ancient mariner"). Sadly, the old bird was only able to make a few residual firings before it was determined the tanks were depleted — not strange for living decades past its original sell-by date.

I also filed this story on nanosatellites potentially reigniting interest in aerospace engineer careers, which had fallen on some hard times in recent years as internet engineering jobs took off.

Love, Sex, and Relationships in Age without Definitions

We can have any sort of relationship we want in America: we're not prohibited by law and increasingly less so by custom. Sarah Mirk wrote the book Sex from Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules to help people figure out how to unfold the map of contemporary life if they don't subscribe to a dogma (religious or otherwise) about precisely how they should form romantic and sexual relationships for a night or for the rest of one's life.

I wrote up a review of her book at Boing Boing, and we also had a wide-ranging podcast talk about polyamory, asexuality, feminism, sex, and much more! Give a listen below (or you can go to SoundCloud and download for later).

Sarah's writing and research phase was a great help to me as I was charting my own map, and I could read what she was finding for herself and in the many interviews she conducted for the book. She and I talk about the choices we each made about intentional non-monogamy in the podcast.

Apple's Next Products

I have no special knowledge beyond following Apple as a company for 15 years and using its products since the early 1980s. I have a feeling now for what direction Apple might take, even though I've never been able to predict a specific outcome.

What Apple won't do

There is no iWatch. A watch has never made any sense, but it's the only thing that analysts and Apple's competitors have, apparently, been able to think of as a next logical device to make. The history of technology is littered with failed computer watches; Microsoft has gone through two bad iterations itself. If Apple's partners or spies have seen an iWatch, it's more likely a feint to throw competitors off. Apple does put out false scents!

Apple is not going to buy a cellular operator. This comes up again and again. T-Mobile would have been the only firm that would have made any sense in terms of scale and availability to purchase, and besides Sprint attempting to acquire it, owning a carrier puts Apple in direct conflict with other carriers. It doesn't need the hassle and competitive trouble.

No one should expect an integrated Apple television set. For years, the only companies not losing money on TVs are the companies that are vertically integrated to make the screens and the TVs, like Samsung. Many companies lose money making TVs, but they can't exit the industry because they need to sell integrated entertainment systems, and the loss of revenue would reduce their scale of operations, too. People don't spend enough on TVs nor turn them over fast enough to represent a market worth entering at the scale Apple would need to. Sorry, Gene Munster.

What Apple could do

A wearable hub that doesn't present itself as a thing you wear on your wrist. Apple's Health initiative shows the direction. An iOS device is the heart of Health, and expect a wearable thing that integrates with smart clothing (particularly sportswear that could track heartrate and other factors). Instead of delivering another visual display with limited capabilities, like a watch, Apple more likely would deliver information through haptic, vibratory, and aural feedback. An Apple wearable will more likely be an iPod nano style device that plugs into clothing, and uses Bluetooth for comms, than a watch.

A Retina MacBook Air. This has certainly been on their road map all along, but the time is coming where some tradeoff or transition point will occur: they will either be able to produce an Air with an efficient enough display and battery to keep the weight the same, or they will eat a few ounces and make it heavier to get the better display on board. Instead of a "12-hour" battery, buyers might be fine with an "8-hour" Air with Retina, too. It seems like this could be a fall 2014 item, but I wonder if they'd wait till February 2015 for cost issues and alignment with when they introduce Mac hardware.

A revised Apple TV that incorporates a base station. The Apple TV is essentially already a base station, and with a little more processing power or a co-processor, it could easily handle an AirPort Express's function alongside its TV features. As a base station, an Apple TV could better manage throughput and other factors.

 

Nanosatellites in the Economist

I found myself curious about tiny satellites two years ago, when Sandy Antunes released the second in a series of four books on DIY (do-it-yourself) satellites. This seemed bizarre to me, when I received the press release, so I asked for a copy of the book, interviewed Antunes for an article, and pitched the Economist on a long feature about the topic.

Antunes was documenting (and learning himself and teaching in classes) the rise of CubeSat and similar small-format satellites that have a volume of about a liter and a mass of around one kilogram. CubeSat is a specific format, in which a frame can be created in units of 10 cm cubes and about 1.33 kg per unit. A three-unit (3U) CubeSat is 10 cm by 10 cm by 30 cm, and can have a mass of up to 5 kg, for instance. Antunes was building a TubeSat, a cylindrical format that was slightly smaller and needed to have somewhat less mass.

But my editor at the time and then a subsequent one and I agreed to wait. While the topic was rich, it seemed on the verge of something happening, but it wasn't quite there yet. I kept reading press releases, NASA announcements, and blogs, and waiting. Then, suddenly, things changed. After a decade in which about 75 or so nanosatellites (a category that encompass 1 to 10 kg satellites) were launched, in November 2013 and January 2014, nearly 100 went into orbit directly or through a mission at the ISS, which released them. The time was ripe.

I made piles of phone calls, read thousands of pages of reports, exchanged hundreds of emails, and took a visit to several firms in the San Francisco Bay Area from about February to April. The result is "Nanosats Are Go!", the cover story of the Technology Quarterly section (in print and online) of the June 7th cover date issue of the Economist. My editor also wrote a leader, which is a sort of fact-based opinion piece, often advocating a position, about the potential of nanosats and the worries that regulation could strangle them.

2013 in Review

Last year, inspired by Joe Kissell, I wrote a summary of the enormity of what 2012 had encompassed. It was freaking huge. Joe enumerated for years all the words, books, articles, and such like he worked on. This year, I'm inspired again by Joe: he decided to stop the extensive documentation of his year, having felt he'd proven his productivity. I'm somewhere in between: less documentation than last year, but still quite a bit to share.

In June, I bought The Magazine from Marco Arment. It's been one of the greatest things I've worked on in my life, and it's a constant joy of collaboration with contributors both before and after the purchase. We just put out Issue #33 — we produced 26 issues during 2013, and now have some subscribers who are paid up though the end of 2015. We'd better deliver.

I launched the weekly podcast The New Disruptors in December 2012. With the help first of Mule Radio, and then my brother in law, Michael, we put out 51 episodes in 2013. (We skipped a New Year's episode last year, but had one for 2014, so we'll probably hit 52.)

I've been writing for the Economist since 2005, but 2013 was probably one of my biggest years as a contributor:

  • I crossed 300 blog posts for Economist.com, most of them, but not all, for the Babbage blog.
  • I had my first cover story (cover of the American edition, and the inside Technology Quarterly section) about the sharing economy.
  • While I often have one or two TQ articles a year in the print edition, this year I not only had the three-page sharing economy article in first quarter, but a long piece on keeping probes and landers working throughout the solar system and beyond (co-written with my long-time editor and friend Tom Standage), and then a two-page look at Bitcoin's technological pressures in the fourth quarter.

I wrote fewer articles in 2013 for other publications between my devotion to The Magazine and my gig at the Economist's blogs, but I did write a few long items for Boing Boing, my home away from home:

As has been true for a few years, one of the most fun things I do during the year is be a panelist on The Incomparable, a geeky radio show developed by friend Jason Snell. This year, I wasn't able to be on as many episodes, but I did make sure to be part of two very special ones. Friend of the podcast (and now regular panelist) and playwright David Loehr wrote radio plays we performed—two of them—as The Incomparable Radio Theater of the Air! The first aired April 1 and the second over the December holidays. (Then we spent almost two hours talking about how we made the Christmas spectacular!)

David combined a true love and deep knowledge of old-timey radio theater and serials (shared by many of us in our 20s, 30s, and 40s, surprisingly, on the podcast!) with mild parody and great writing. Jason did most of the editing, with an assist from David in the latest production. Serenity Caldwell, who studied radio-play directing in college (!!), did a fabulous job directing us mostly amateur actors. I played Tesla in a sort of Doctor Who tribute/parody in both shows, and did a plummy New England stuffed shirt as a minor character in the first one. (What's that?)

After years of not traveling much, I was on the road quite a bit for both personal and professional reasons in 2013. I went to Los Angeles in January to visit Jet Propulsion Lab for the Economist story and several Babbage posts, and dropped in to watch a taping of Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions in which two contestants were people I had met during my stint on the show in 2012.

In February, I flew to D.C. to help a friend move to New York, and we wound up driving a moving truck into the biggest blizzard of the year. It was very entertaining, the roads were fine, and we had quite a story to tell. I met up with three of my oldest friends there, too, for a mini-reunion, our second. In March, I was back in New York for a quick visit with a dear friend and some meetings.

I stayed home a bit, then our family, my brother-in-law's family, and my father- and mother-in-law all went to Kauai for nearly a week! Which was great, except I was feeling a bit crummy during the trip. We came back, I saw my doctor, he ordered some tests, and I wound up getting a stent put into one of my main arteries. Turns out the radiation therapy I had had in 1998 to help cure me of Hodgkin's Disease caused some early onset of cloggage. The stent took, I feel terrific, and my heart is in great shape.

I went to the XOXO festival in September, which was another wonderful meeting of so many creative people: finding old friends and online acquaintances, and making piles of new friends. November, I flew back to New York again to record a podcast live at a conference, and then to San Francisco and Los Angeles in December for meetings, meetups, and renewals of friendship.

The year ended with a bang. I had long planned to stage a Kickstarter campaign to underwrite production of a book drawn from The Magazine's first full year in publication (October 2012 to October 2013), and we raised over $56,000 in 29 days, with over 1,000 hardcover books and even more electronic versions that we'll be shipping off in the next two months.

I finally got a Fitbit in 2013, and have been quantifying myself. I started using a treadmill that fits under my standing desk in earnest, and spend about 3 hours a day walking and the rest standing. Fitbit's stats tell me that from May to December 2013, I walked 1,025 miles (2.4 million steps), and climbed the equivalent of 2,424 stairs. I lost about 25 pounds after my heart stent was put in place, and while I've gained a few back over the holidays, I'll be pushing for 50 more off  in 2014 and into 2015 to reach a goal weight my doctors are happy with.

I made a lot of new friends in 2013. Because of the travel many "Twitter buddies" became real buddies. (I may have tweeted 50,000 times in 2013. Sorry.) I turned some people from acquaintances into some of my closest friends, and encountered and gave a lot of love, which is what it's all about. I'm hoping for a little bit less of a hectic pace in 2014, but more fulfilling work, collaboration, love, and happiness, which I wish for you all as well.

Help Us Make a Book

After some months of planning, I launched a Kickstarter campaign today to produce a hardcover, offset-printed book of essays and articles drawn from the first year of The Magazine's publication. Over two dozen essays about a huge range of topic — aging chickens, D&D, becoming a superhero, a 60-foot-tall lava lamp, and much more — are featured in the book.

I turned to crowdfunding because printing is expensive, and it made sense to build a project that could scale, but wouldn't start unless the necessary interest were expressed. As I post this, the project is nearly one-quarter of the way to its basic funding after about eight hours! It's quite exciting. 

Join in on the fun, and get a great, beautifully designed book (and an ebook version, too). You can download a preview to see what it will look like and watch the video below, too.

A Transformative Year

I have sometimes joked that I never know precisely what I will be doing from one year to the next. As a freelancer, I am dependent on both the goodwill of editors and the persistence of business models outside of my control. This means that my primary sets of income one year could have shifted somewhat the next and be entirely gone the year after that. It means I have to be fleet and agile.

Read More