Brief Report on Macworld Expo

Gang at mosser

The name is different now, but the friendships are the same. I had a non-stop great time at Macworld | iWorld, the new name for the 27-year-old trade show. Late January is a quiet time of year in San Francisco, which can be a beautiful city, and felt like it this time around. For the first time in many years, I stayed for the full length of the show, and even then barely talked to so many friends at the show and missed getting together with a bunch of people who live in and around SF — there just wasn't time!

My favorite story from the show starts with when I landed at SFO. At baggage claim, I turned on Find My Friends, an iOS app that Apple released some months ago. I'd barely used it before except to test. I received a group temporary request that would let me see a bunch of fellow writers during the show. I accepted it, and shortly thereafter saw that my friend was in Brisbane, Calif. Now, the only reason to be in Brisbane is because you're driving somewhere. I texted her to see if she (a Macworld editor) was on her way to or from the airport. It turns out she and fellow editor Dan were coming to pick up yet another editor, and my buddy, Lex. I knew Lex was arriving on Wednesday, but hadn't thought to ask him when. He was landing a few minutes from when we texted and his baggage claim was feet away. I walked over, met Ren and Dan, and then we met Lex.

I had a lovely drive into the city to my hotel, where Jeff Carlson (my Seattle pal) was there with his mom and daughter. Jeff and daughter Ellie were visiting his mother in Dixon, and Jeff and I were rooming together. I texted him that we were en route, so he delayed his mom's departure so I could see her. (I love his mom.) We pull up and Jeff, Ellie, and his mom Susan come out, along with Adam and Tonya Engst, my friends and TidBITS/Take Control publishers from Ithaca, also staying at the hotel. Moments later, I meet Michael Cohen, a TidBITS editor who I hadn't yet met in the flesh. (Not everyone is in the picture.)

From there it was off to two different parties and then a staff dinner, which involved miles of walking in moderate weather. The next morning, I interviewed Susan Orlean on the Main Stage at the event, something that had been in the works for a while. We had lunch with a small group afterwards, and then I breezed through the day of meeting a million other people and roaming the show floor. Friday and Saturday were also full of people, meeting longtime Twitter and email correspondents, more checking out the show floor, a brief visit to a Twitter friend at Twitter itself (a block away from the convention center), and three Macworld Live events on the trade-show floor! Sunday morning, I rose not too early, walked to a BART station, went to SFO, and flew home.

It was a busy and marvelous time. The show is such a mix of social and professional. A chance for me to meet up with friends and colleagues, and a mix of the two, and an opportunity for me to chat with some of the folks who read my work who aren't in the writing field. More pictures here. Although I'm working in my basement at home, and that can sometimes be isolating, after four days of maximum contact, I'm happy to have a little respite! I wish we could this every three or four months.

Remembering 2011

My friend Joe Kissell is an awesome fellow and awesomely productive. As a tool for him to feel that he's accomplished something in a given year, for the last three years he's assembling a list of everything he's done for work, and a fair amount of personal details, too. Here's his 2011 list.My first reaction to seeing Joe's list is always to say, holy mother of batman, how does he manage to get so much done?! I think of myself as a hard, efficient, and consistent worker, and yet I'm a piker next to Joe. I didn't move houses this year (nor have since 1993), have a baby, or travel much at all. Apparently, I'm twiddling my thumbs for 6 or 7 hours a day. Nonetheless, Joe's exhaustive list (exhaustive to think how hard he works, exhausting to assemble) made me want to put a stick in the sand about my 2011. I'm much lazier than Joe, so I'm going to be much less detailed, too. I'll start with the favorite things I wrote in 2011:

  • This obituary of Dennis Ritchie received remarkable feedback, and I tried to write something a little lyrical about a man who quietly created the underpinnings of the entire digital world of today's ability to function.
  • My friend Kim Ricketts died in April after a short, severe illness. i wrote about her ripple effect on the world, and even the way we discovered she'd died.
  • This very personal item is about how I made new friends through Twitter, something I still find remarkable. Every time I meet someone I like and have gotten to know via that social network, I am stunned how much they are in person like they are on Twitter. It's unique to Twitter, where chit-chat shows your true self.
  • Macworld let me write this crazy noir-like account of how Android phones didn't like Mac OS X software base stations. It starts with a redhead.

In terms of counts and amounts:

  • 100 articles for the Economist.com's Babbage blog and one in print. I started writing twice-weekly for the blog in September 2010, and kept up the pace in 2011. It's relentless and fun. I write from 500 to 1,000 words on technology, typically where it crosses with culture. I also had a piece on computational photography appear in print. (This search will find you most of them. I appear with initials as "G.F.")
  • For Macworld, I wrote about 70 articles, although about 40 of those were shorter iOS app reviews. I appeared on three Macworld Pundit Showdowns, but only won once.
  • At TidBITS, I wrote about 40 articles. I also spent the year working on integrating our Take Control account management system with TidBITS so that we could manage our mailing list using the same accounts (done earlier in the year), and launched paid memberships in December.
  • Boing Boing let me write for them ten times last year.
  • This was also the year I stopped actively updating Wi-Fi Networking News as there wasn't enough traffic nor news to justify keeping it running. I now write the same stories (but fewer about wireless) for other outlets. I explained why I halted the blog in this article.
  • 15-odd articles for The Seattle Times, where I've been first the then a Mac columnist for a decade.
  • I published three truly enormous features (one split into two parts) at Ars Technica: on in-flight Internet service, on powerline networking for the home, and on using virtual private servers (VPS) instead of your own hardware.
  • I usually write a lot of books. This year was a little lighter, or seemingly so. For the Take Control series, I updated three titles: iPad Networking and Security (for iOS 4), iPhone and iPod touch Neworking and Security (also for iOS 4), and Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network (for Lion and iOS 5). But that's only part of the story. An update to Screen Sharing (for Lion) that now incorporates the separate Back to My Mac book was finished and will be out soon, as well as an iOS 5 update to the Networking & Security titles that puts all iOS devices into one book. I also wrote about 15,000 words (maybe a third) in 2011 and the rest this month for a new title I'll announce later.
  • I like to be on the radio, and I was on Marketplace Tech Report at least 10 times (they broadcast 200 episodes a year). I also appeared on Talk of the Nation Science Friday on August 19th, one of my favorite shows. I was on All Things Considered back in January 2011.

There were some good personal landmarks, too, of course.

  • My children turned 4 and 7. They are magnificent, and wear me out with their total engagement in life.
  • Lynn and I celebrated 14 years together, 9 of them married. Nice round numbers to come in 2012.
  • I moved out of a shared office of six years when the lease ended, and set up a very workable standing/sitting desk and walking treadmill at home. So far, not insane.
  • Rosanne Cash liked something I said to her enough to tweet it.
  • I met my Twitter buddies Ayelet Waldman and Susan Orlean (links to pics) on their respective book tours this year. It was neat to meet after tweeting.
  • We took a goddamned vacation in the summer. Lynn and I are bad at planning to take time away from the routine. We celebrated her folks' 50th wedding anniversary on the Oregon coast for about a week. We also visited my dad in beautiful Port Townsend a few times! 2012 resolution: more vacations.
  • I made new friends, but kept the old. Some are silver, others gold. Still others, a mix of zinc, antimony, tin, and lead.
  • I continue to be part of the regular crew for The Incomparable podcast, which is now hosted over at 5by5, a great podcast network. This is the most fun thing I do, quite honestly, getting together with new friends and old to talk about aspects of geek culture. It forces me to take the time to watch TV shows and movies, read books, and listen to music so that I can be part of the discussion. I was on an impossible 24 episodes in 2011, and was responsible for the unspeakable "Stephen Fry (Does Not Appear)" episode, as well as inventing the game that we played, "Fantasy Television Draft," a two-parter, that had us come up with characters from across all TV shows, and then create pilots from them. I also hosted an episode about Douglas Adams—our 42nd podcast, of course.
  • I took a letterpress printing course in winter, and it was an incredible blast. It didn't yet inspire me to get my own tabletop press, but I have begun work on a proposal for a book about typesetting and type founding. If I were less busy, I'd have already started writing it! I gave an Ignite Seattle talk in August about letterpress's revival.

Okay, now I'm worn out just writing about what I did. I may have written 200,000 published words in 2011 (at least 60,000 for the Economist alone). I'm nearly at 6,000 Twitter followers, at which I think I tweeted 10,000 times last year. Onward and upward.