When I was a socially awkward teen, one of my main hobbies was playing around on computers. I didn’t just want to run programs or play games, I wanted to understand everything about them – how they’re built, what each part of the hardware does, how they communicate with each other and what the difference between autoexec.bat and config.sys really was.
The vast majority of my time on computers was spent alone, much to the chagrin of my parents, for they could never send me to my room as a punishment. However, I did occasionally nerd out with my friend Ron, who was big into Macs. I was a PC guy, and I remember debating with him about why these machines that were incompatible with everything in the PC world were any better at anything. They sure didn’t have as many games, which was a big downside from my view.
Despite my confusion over his love of Macs, I did enjoy having a friend who was also into nerdy stuff. I remember stuffing my beige PC tower into a hockey bag, slinging it over my back and taking a perilous bike ride to his house to show him my new 586 machine. Not a Pentium, a 586. It was a thing, really.
Today, my nerdiness has grown, and my affinities reversed. I’m all-in on the Apple ecosystem, but that friend moved away years ago, and I don’t often have face-to-face meetups with other Mac enthusiasts in my city. But that’s okay, because what I do have is a different type of community – an online one, comprised of podcasters, journalists and pundits of many stripes – folks like John Gruber, Jason Snell, Myke Hurley, Stephen Hackett, Christina Warren, Dan Moren, John Siracusa … forgive me, I can’t run through the entire attendance sheet at Daring Relay Incomparable High School. These are not household names, unless your household is an Apple enthusiast’s dwelling. Despite that, their opinions matter to me, and I can’t imagine not keeping up with them via podcasts, twitter and their respective websites.
The community of tech journalists I follow is fairly tight-knit, despite their disparate locations. They guest on each others’ podcasts and write for themselves and different publications. After years of listening to their podcasts and reading their work, I feel as if I know these folks better than I know some people in my real life. And when you get that familiar with people, they can really enrich your life. Let me give you an example.
Watching John Gruber put lights on his comically large Christmas tree while his wife Amy broadcasts it live on Periscope and offers “helpful” commentary was one of the funniest scenes I’ve witnessed in recent memory. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at a Saturday Night Live sketch; but when Gruber, a man whose thoughts on Apple products are on par with Platonic criticism, grumbles and curses about all the advice he’s received regarding his light placement, I had to stop cooking dinner to giggle, lest I spill boiling water and pasta all over myself.
That’s just an extremely convoluted way of saying that despite sometimes feeling isolated in my interests, there’s a community out there who not only keeps me informed and intellectually stimulated, but entertained as well. And despite it being largely a one-way street, I’ve felt included as well. I’ve done my best to give back, to contribute to this community in some different ways. I enjoy micro-contributions, like exchanging tweets, but I’ve also made an attempt lately to do even more.
Jason Snell, writer of the fantastic Six Colors site and host of innumerable podcasts, asked listeners of Robot or Not to send in theme songs for the show. So I did, and I was lucky enough to have my song featured on an episode. Here’s the tune:
Hearing my song on the show, and knowing that all the other listeners would hear it too, was a huge deal for me. I’ve had other moments that should trump it, like singing on stage with Heart & Jason Bonham. But this was a moment where someone I respect in this community I follow closely chose something I made. Very cool.
More recently, Snell announced that his website Six Colors was starting a members subscription, where he and contributor Dan Moren would offer extra content and other bonuses in return for supporting their work. It falls in line with memberships announced by Macstories and Relay FM. Just as other creators flock to Patreon and Kickstarter to allow supporters to fund the continued creation of their work, so goes the membership model across the tech journalism and podcasting community.
In the first email to members, Snell asked for questions or ideas for their upcoming magazine. Here’s what I sent in:
Of all the forward-thinking eliminations of old tech Apple has made with its devices – the floppy disk, the optical drive, the 30-pin dock connector, the one-port MacBook and now this rumoured iPhone 7 with no 3.5mm headphone jack – which do you think was the most egregious, or the most prescient? Is Jony Ive’s white world a future where we just interact with a metaphysical iOS with our minds?Looking forward to your insights!