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Interview with David Pogue

January 1, 2005

in All Articles,Culture

Like Leno guest-starring on David Letterman, or Jon Stewart interviewing Brian Williams, I’m interviewing David Pogue. I have no delusions I in any way resemble Letterman or Stewart. I’m just trying to illustrate how you can have an interview between two people who work in similar fields. And the best way to do an interview like this is to focus on opinions and differences. David and I write within the same tech genre, but we’ve got differing opinions, methods, foci and goals.

You may realize I haven’t yet clarified, “Why an interview with David Pogue?” Easy:

1) Readers who are here reading my column and find it interesting probably have crossover interest in what David has to say.

2) David Pogue is a technology columnist. He writes about tech trends, toys and tools. But he’s always writing columns about other things, and in my opinion needs some coverage on himself. So I, as a technology columnist, am dedicating an article to techie David Pogue. He’s an interesting person, with his own perspectives on technology, tech industry and how these affect us.

On to the questions.

Andy: User privacy and security: Let’s talk about the Sony DRM issue. In your November 9th column, you wrote:

“Audio CD’s that install software onto your PC are just creepy. I believe that distributing copies of a CD to the Internet at large is wrong, so I understand the record companies’ concern. But installing secret, self-masking code onto customers’ computers seems just as wrong. It’s an ‘any means necessary’ approach to the problem, like dealing drugs to raise money for charity.”

As much fun as it might be, I don’t want to speculate on motives and ethics of people at Sony or First 4 Internet. But we can look at the privacy and security questions exposed: What amount of privacy and control do you think users should have over their own PCs? Something like full privacy, requiring a “federal electronic warrant” to do anything rootkit-ish? Can there be a happy, trusting medium between user security and non-user-installed software, or do events like the Sony DRM issue squelch that idea?

David Pogue: It’s impossible to say how much security and control I think someone should have, because life changes constantly. It’s one of these “I’ll know it when I see it” situations. But maybe this will help: You cross the line, and lose your right to total control, when you use your PC (or any tool) to break the law, which is why the line Sony crossed is so gray and blurry.

Andy: User privacy and security in the future: Looking at current computer trends, in what direction do you see user security issues evolving? Will we have tighter and more paranoid anti-malware software to keep out Bad Things from virus coders, hack attempts and corporate-approved monitoring tools? If so, can the anarchic nature of the Internet be positively maintained in this environment?

David Pogue: Anyone who says he can predict the future of tech is lying or an idiot. So far, though, it appears that the record companies are winning their war on piracy. They’ve shut down Grokster and several similar outfits, copy protection of music and video is on the rise, and consumers are increasingly inconvenienced.

As for viruses and stuff: that’s the bed you choose to lie in if you go with Windows as your OS. It’s easily avoided if you choose, say, an operating system that was written AFTER the dawn of the Internet (ahem).

Andy: Technology limitations: It’s safe to say you review a colossal amount of hardware. Looking back on this constant exposure to new technology, it’s awesome to see the speed of tech improvement and amount of new innovation. Now take a pessimistic step to the side for a moment: What aspect of technology do you think needs more work? Is there a certain component, feature, or problem that you feel no one has yet been able to improve to your satisfaction?

David Pogue: Obviously, software design has a long way to go. Common sense is lacking, too: you just can’t believe the millions that get poured into products and technologies that I–or indeed my mother–could have told you wouldn’t fly in about five minutes.

Tech support. There ya go.

Andy: So you want to be like David Pogue: Your bio is a little vague about how you got into tech writing. It says you went from teaching celebrities how to use their Macs, to writing for Macworld magazine, which grew to encompass “Desktop Critic” and “State of the Art”. Do you have any advice or secrets for aspiring-Broadway-conductors-turned-aspiring-technology-columnists?

David Pogue: The careers I’ve chosen have been meritocracies, bless their hearts: Industries where you rise if you’re good. No politics, no “who you know.”

That’s fortunate for anyone who really wants to follow those paths. If you want to be a tech writer, for example, you can easily practice your craft, get noticed, and amass a file of “clips” by writing for Web sites for free. Then when you’re ready to make yourself known to paying publications (online or not), you’ll have something to point back to!

Andy: David Pogue, stranded: You’re stuck on a desert island with just a single 120-volt power socket, handfuls of batteries, and plenty of food and water. The rescue ship won’t be around for a couple weeks. What gadget, tool or toy would you want to have?

David Pogue: Just as long as I’m online, I’ll be ok. I can’t last very long without email and the Web, on an island or not!

Andy: Daydreaming: If you were given time and money to research, study or play with anything you wanted, what would you do? To keep you from getting in trouble at home, let’s assume you’ve already answered “Be with my loving wife, daughter and sons.” I’d like one more answer, please!

David Pogue: I’d teach. Teaching is really want I want to do when I grow up. The books, the public speaking, the TV segments–it’s all teaching in a way. I’ll embrace any mechanism that lets me teach larger groups of people than, say, a classroom of 15.


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