I started the year having just shut down The Magazine; I ended with something approximating a full-time living.
The Magazine was a labor of love, and with a lot of help and many subscribers, I was able to shepherd it through 58 fortnightly issues. But as revenue declined, I can only admit that it was a burden that was hard to handle, because I could afford to devote ever less time to it. Closing the books was time consuming and painful, but it freed up a lot of time for more productive work.
In March, a crowdfunding project to take the entire archives and put them into ebook form funded. After computer nightmares and meltdowns and an over-busy summer as a result of lost weeks of work, I finally published that work in August. (It's still available for purchase.)
But as early as mid-2014, I had started to look for full-time employment or recurring contract work that would meet the same mark. I had several great conversations, but nothing was the right fit. In several cases, geography was the issue: Periodicals considered me or might even have hired me, but I had to be in New York, D.C., or San Francisco to take the job, even when all the work I was doing was largely by phone and online, or requiring travel. That's the vagary of the modern editorial world: Many publications want most or all writers in newsrooms.
So in January through about September, I hustled a lot. I wrote for many publications, including Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, Macworld, Six Colors, TidBITS, and at the Economist, where I've contributed for a decade. But in February, a long-time Macworld writer, Chris Breen, left to go to work for a fruit company, and I took over some of his gigs.
Starting on his departure, I became the regular host of the Macworld podcast, with Susie Ochs, its executive editor, joining me on nearly every episode. I also took over Mac 911, the reader Q&A column, where I've filed something like 75 answers so far. (Since October 2014, I've written a weekly column there on privacy and security.)
(I briefly launched a podcast on tech with my friend Christina Bonnington, and then we both got new commitments: her, a new job, and me, the Macworld podcast.)
While I've written books for Adam and Tonya Engst at TidBITS as part of their Take Control series, I wanted to try one solo—at least solo in part. An outdated book on security and networking in iOS had sold ok for Take Control, but I thought a strong revision coupled with my Macworld work and with a lower cost structure would make it worthwhile to publish myself. I produced an edition in March, which Take Control resells; I did an update in October for iOS 9 in which I added a section on privacy, too. I also revised my long-running Take Control of Your Apple Wi-Fi Network, which has about 10 years under it belt across multiple full edition overhauls and many smaller intra-edition revisions. It's done fine, but it was invaluable to go through the whole process by myself.
During the summer, I began contract editing for The Wirecutter (and its sister site, The Sweethome). It's a rigorous, independent product-review organization, and I have known its editor in chief, Jacqui Cheng, for years, and she even wrote a great feature for me at The Magazine. I'd admired its founder Brian Lam's transition from the constant churn of gadget-site writing into this site and approach that was an ocean of calm deliberation. As summer gave way to fall, I started clocking more hours, and in November starting a three-day-a-week contract as editor at large. I work on a lot of different things, and just finished work on a team project that looks comprehensively at USB battery packs, which was done alongside a Good Morning America story featuring our writer.
It's been a joy to work with such a great group of people who are so intensely collaborative and easy to get along with on work that I think benefits anyone who has struggled over making the right buying decision. That include not buying something. We tell people products and even categories to avoid.
As a result of my Wirecutter commitment and the recurring gigs at Macworld, I've been able to step down my freelance pitching and writing substantially, which is a relief after leaping back in with both feet. You'll still see my byline elsewhere, here and there, and I have a lot of side projects. I'm working on another Take Control book; I have a secret cool brief editing project coming up; and I'm still trying to carve out the time to launch Old & New, a low-key periodical built on the ashes of The Magazine that looks at vintage technology people love and keep alive through communities. That last is long overdue, but I remain only one human being (for now), with all the limits that go with that.
On the side, I've been part of many podcasts at The Incomparable Network, including on our flagship show, and lots of the side podcasts. We talked Zardoz and I discussed Doctor Who episodes right after they aired. I was on game-show episodes, destroying them through my misunderstanding of the rules, and reprised my role as a fictionalized version of Nikola Tesla in my friend David J. Loehr's Incomparable Radio Theater productions. (I have a script idea that David is humoring me about. It involves the public domain!) I also launched Afoot, a mystery-genre podcast on the network that's just getting underway.
2015 required budgeting and executing on two support fronts: first, a major foundation project as part of our house was sinking very very slowly but had to be arrested; second, on my teeth, getting braces for the first time to fix some drifting teeth and forestall future dental issues.
With those out of the way and with a stable flow of work, I'm looking forward to enjoying 2016 quite a lot more, and should finish out that year with my braces being removed! We have some family travel already planned, and after staying close to home for most of 2015, I hope to spread my wings more next year.
I was fortunate in 2015 that so many people came to Seattle, though! My friend Swoozy came up for her birthday in March. I met Sydney Padua on her book tour through the Northwest, and we went out to dinner with several local cartoonists and writers. I briefly met Glen Weldon of NPR/Pop Culture Happy Hour as he was randomly here and invited all comers to a, uh, happy hour. Ben Thompson, a smart tech analyst, and I had brunch. I interviewed Katie Mack (astrophysicist visiting from Australia) and Madeline Ashby (sci-fi novelist and futurist from Canada) at a bookstore for a science/tech podcast I was testing out.
On my one outing to California, I met up with a bunch of Macworld & IDG colleagues, including Susie Ochs and Flo Ion, as well as twitter buddies Christina, Selena Larsen, Robbie Baldwin, and Leigh Honeywell, all of whom I'd never met in person. And up from California came Jason and Lauren Snell passing through on a trip. Dan Moren made a stop and I was able to see him too. (I'm sure I've forgotten someone!)
The kids continue to be great. Rex is a voracious reader, sucking down libraries' worth of books, and entered third grade in the fall. Ben had his first week at sleepaway camp in the summer on Orcas Island, and started middle school with a good transition. He's now playing sax and starting piano lessons—at his urgent request. He also plays recorder and helped Rex learn some songs. Lynn continues to keep the house running, help her parents who live a half hour a way with health and financial needs, and teach dance a few times a week. My dad and his wife live a couple of hours away, and we've been able to see much more of them this year than last. Somewhere in there Lynn sleeps and I guess I manage to sleep, too.
Thank you to everyone for your support. So many literally hundreds of people have done so much for me, from kind words to reaching out with encouragement and even giving me work. It's a pleasure to know you all.