Interview With David Pogue

Eolake Stobblehouse interviews David Pogue, long time Mac author, columnist, and editor. Mr. Pogue newest job is being a tech columnist for the New York Times, and we are delighted he took time out of schedule to be interviewed.

Eolake Stobblehouse [TMO]: David, you have long been a best-selling author of Mac books like iMac for Dummies and Mac Secrets. Now you write books about Palm and Windows too, and the latest is that you have become a New York Times columnist. Congrats on that. Tell us a bit about how you got that gig.

David Pogue: It was just a strange, wonderful thing. Pete Lewis, the former "State of the Art" columnist, recommended me to the Circuits section editor; as it happens, I had occasionally served as a quotable expert for some of the other Times tech writers, who also put in a good word. And I had written a few book reviews for an editor at the Times Book Review, so his word counted for a lot.

Once I was under consideration, I started by sending in a big collection of reviews, humor, and editorial articles Iid written for Macworld and other publications. When they passed muster, I wrote a series of "audition" columns for the paper, as did several other candidates; for a few months there, no regular name appeared on that column -- the authors were being rotated. I was interviewed by 10 different editors at the Times, just so they could see that I wasnit, I donit know, a smelly drunk or something.

Finally, about four months after the process began, they offered the job to me. It was actually pretty amazing how carefully and thoroughly the Times handled the process. Despite the editorsi frequent advice not to let the "weight of the New York Times" affect my writing, I couldnit help but notice how seriously the paper took this position!

TMO: Were there any fear from the editors that youid be Mac-biased on that job?

David Pogue: Yes, there was. It was one of the first questions they asked.

Two things saved me. First, Pete Lewis and, indeed, many of the Circuits writers are big Mac fans too. Second, the editors didnit really care what I *prefer*, only that Iim conversant with all sides. And I had just finished "Windows Me: The Missing Manual," which was pretty good evidence that I was familiar with Windows. (In fact, I was really only the cleanup author on that book, but I still know Windows very well -- I do most of my writing and all of my e-mail using speech-recognition software on Windows, as longtime Eolake readers know!)

TMO: Tell us what thing you got in the mail (and for review) as a NYT columnist during the past week or two.

David Pogue: My predecessor in the column, Pete Lewis, warned me that Iid soon be absolutely drowning in press releases and promotional crud from PR flacks dying to get mentioned in the column. So from Day One, Iive been extremely protective of my mailing address, and I have macros that automatically respond to unsolicited e-mail announcements that arenit up my columnis alley.

In other words, I donit get unsolicited products at all! And if I did, Iid have to pack them right up and send them back; the Times, like all serious papers, is extremely strict about its conflict-of-interest policy. You canit keep ANYTHING you review unless its value is under $20! No discounts, no dinners, no nada.

So I sort of draw up a list of cool things I want to review, discuss them with my editor, then start ordering them!

TMO: Do you still use a PeeCee for dictation, or are the Mac solutions good enough now?

David Pogue: Yes, I use Naturally Speaking for Windows. My Mac is Ethernetted to the PC, using Connectix DoubleTalk so that I can easily drag my finished Word documents straight over to the Mac for editing, e-mailing, and filing.

The Mac speech software is, alas, a long way from being ready for real work.

TMO: Some of your colleagues say that Mac OS X 10.0 should have been called Beta 2. Do you agree with that?

David Pogue: No. Mac OS X 10.0 was not for the consumers; it was for software companies. It was Appleis announcement: "OK, we are really and truly finished tinkering; you guys can start writing applications for Mac OS X now." Making such a statement was incredibly critical for Appleis hope to have Mac OS X be a viable system by late summer!

TMO: Any guesses on goodies we might see in July at MACWORLD?

David Pogue: Mac OS X 10.1, Iim guessing. I saw a really cool widescreen iMac prototype. Itis probably another one of those fakes, but it would certainly be a hit if it existed.

And more dual-processor stuff, and a new iBook, all seem likely.

TMO: Do you have any insider info on when Motorola (or anybody) will decide to comply with Mooreis law again and speed up the Power PC for Mac?

David Pogue: It doesnit look good. Long before that happens, I suspect that Apple will find other solutions to this perennial problem -- like multiple processors, now that Mac OS X can harness them instantly, or even other chip makers.

TMO: Any other interesting developments you want to spill the beans on?

David Pogue: If I knew iem, Iid spill iem. :)

Here is a recent David Pogue New York Times article, on OS X.
Notice that you can get his articles each week in the e-mail.

Eolake Stobblehouse is a contributing editor to the Mac Observer, specializing in cultural matters, and comes to us by way of MacCreator. Send him your comments and tips.