Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been looking back over the past year in my mind and struggling to recall more than a handful of posts I’ve written that have been actually good.
Let’s face it: When you write four or five blog posts a day, and you’re out scouring the web for news for at least a few hours a day, AND you’re editing the copy others have written, not every post is going to be Pulitzer material. Nor should it have to be. Sometimes, writing the news is just writing the news; not all news is dramatic and worthy of an investigative eye.
But just every now and then, the news is amazing and deserves a smashing write-up.
Over my career, I’ve done what I would consider to be life-changing interviews and written stories that have rocked communities. That’s been my privilege as a journalist who takes her Fourth Estate duties very seriously.
And some of that good work has come amid all the boring, repetitive schlock of 2010. Here are eight posts I wrote this past year that I’m actually proud of, things I’d put in my clippings if I hadn’t stopped collecting clippings around the time I left print entirely behind me.
1. The Stallman Series | Mashable
At WordCamp SF, I had the extraordinary privilege of interviewing someone who has changed so many lives, Richard Stallman. His dedication itself is something of an enigma in our day, because absolute beliefs always entail in their execution a certain measure of impracticality, inconvenience, and discomfort. And almost no person in modernity is willing to make those sacrifices.
Those very sacrifices, Stallman’s oddities, are why he stands out in our world of comfortable, profit-focused technologists. But they’re not what makes him great.
You can read the Mashable series, or you can see the uncut interview in its entirety. Although I prepared more for this interview than I have for any other in my life, I was as nervous as a preacher in a brothel; I have no idea how Barbara Walters does it.
2. Interview with the RockYou Hacker | ReadWriteWeb
(This post was technically from the very tail end of 2009, but the consequences spilled into 2010.) In this odd interview, I IMed for a couple hours with the man who’d just hacked around 32 million RockYou accounts, thanks to the company’s storing all the users’ passwords as plain text.
The hacker insisted he himself wasn’t the criminal; rather, he suggested that RockYou should be regarded as criminals for handling user security so negligently. And so they were.
I’m not sure that any other journalist talked to this hacker; however, at the time, I felt there was more to this story than a crazed “bad guy” going after a bunch of user accounts, which is how it was being reported in other outlets. The story ended up being much bigger, and the hacker ended up being a truly conscientious web security expert.
3. The Launch of Froyo | Mashable
This was the moment in mobile history when a non-Apple OS achieved parity with the iPhone.
I was sitting in the front rows at Google I/O, and I’d been an Android apologist for some time. During previous iterations of the OS, it was admittedly primitive, not really a pleasure to use, and not even slightly competitive with Apple’s iOS. And yes, the apps, which were decidedly fewer in numbers, were sometimes awful in quality and functionality.
We were all hoping Froyo would change that, and as it turns out, Froyo did. Last year ended up being a watershed for the Android OS and ecosystem. Devices have changed, apps have changed, and the OS itself continues to evolve.
I wrote most of this op/ed on my Droid (Moscone connectivity being the panic-inducing morass it usually is) during a series of presentations from the main stage; my premise was that for the first time, Android had the potential to kick iOS’s butt. I’m happy that I ended up being somewhat correct.
4. The “Women In Tech” Open Thread | ReadWriteWeb
I first began exploring this topic while still at ReadWriteWeb. Few women in technology are not at least slightly troubled by our mutual lot. It’s a path full of contradictions, prejudices, and struggles.
At the time, I was mostly peeved about being pandered to — being called a “girl” by professional organizations, being flirted with by “serious” males in the field, being sold pink gadgets by manufacturers. These symptoms are, of course, merely the icing on the big, pink cake; but this op/ed is where I started cutting into it in the first place.
5. Actual Numbers on Women in Tech | Personal Blog
Of course, once you start dealing with the issues of technology and gender, you have to follow them to their logical conclusions. Anything else would be lazy. This piece and the one that followed were originally written for Mashable; it’s fairly obvious why they never got published there.
This is a long, dry-as-a-bone stats piece, but what the data show is disturbing — disturbing enough that I went out and enrolled in a computer science class and decided to get into computer programming.
6. Why We Don’t Need More Women in Tech | Personal Blog
My final (so far) word on gender and technology was this blistering op/ed that earned me a lovely parade of hate mail, just as I’d expected when I wrote it. I actually started shutting down comments on my personal blog, so incensed was the blog-reading populace at my radical claims.
But what’s so radical about presenting facts and calling for gender neutrality in professional situations? (Insert snide, feminist snicker here.) The fact that my premise alone caused such a violent and emotional response indicates to me that technologists have a long way to go before they can claim any lack of gender bias.
7. Interview with Electra Records Founder Jac Holzman | Mashable
Along with Stallman, Jac Holzman was the other most interesting person I interviewed this year. I guess I have a thing for older men. But seriously, these two men have, in their lifetimes, accomplished amazing things and have had amazing stories to tell; they’re both on very different ends of the spectrum, though.
While Stallman told me stories about hackers at MIT, Holzman told me stories about the Doors and Bob Dylan. I’d be hard pressed to say which set of stories gave me bigger butterflies.
Holzman has done amazing things for digital music. He has more integrity and more passion than any other record industry person I’ve talked to. You can check out the Mashable write-up above, or you can see the uncut interview.
8. Since When Is “Hacker” a Bad Word? | ReadWriteWeb
Finally, going back to the very beginning of 2010, here’s a little research-driven op/ed on the word “hacker.”
What a loaded, misused term. In our current decade, it’s used as a pejorative for criminals and as the highest professional accolade one can bestow. It’s a mythic term. Whole books have been devoted to exploring its meaning, its ethos, and its heroes.
For some time, I had had a rather one-sided love affair with hacker lore and hacker principles. As it turned out, 2010 was the year I decided to start hacking, myself.
In many ways and for many reasons that have nothing to do with journalism, 2010 was a life-changing year for me. But I’d be remiss in my personal accounting if I didn’t admit that journalism itself changed my life this year, as it has every year and will continue to do in the years that come.