Celebrating 20 years of writing for money—and imposter syndrome

You can blame Stuart Dredge. We’d been in frequent contact for months, with me working for a marketing department and feeding him pithy comments for Cre@te Online, a Future Publishing magazine aimed at web designers. Then the dot-com crash happened and I abruptly found myself out of a job.

I told Stuart, asking him to in future contact me on a different email address. He immediately responded to the news by asking if I’d like to pen the back page of the magazine’s next issue—a ‘Sacred Cow’ column on Flash. I jumped at the chance.

Stuart must have been happy with what I wrote, because my details were quickly passed on to other editors at Future. I started writing software reviews and took over Internet Advisor’s nascent Makeover column, where a reader would write in and I’d overhaul their website, like a cross between Gordon Ramsay and Bill Gates—only with significantly less riches than either of them.

About six months later, I plucked up the courage at an Apple Event to pitch to then-MacUser deputy editor Ian Betteridge (who I recall was happy to briefly escape several hours of dealing with reader tech support issues). I was new and had to write under a pen name. That didn’t last long.

Things continued to snowball. I started writing books on iMovie and web design. (I don’t even recall how that came about.) The number of publications I wrote for grew. Many are now gone… Computer Arts; Practical Web Design; .net. Others from those early days—most notably MacFormat and Retro Gamer—are still kicking.

That first column for Cre@te Online was 20 years ago this week. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: my brain helpfully still thinks I’m winging it. Any day now, it suggests, I’ll be ‘found out’. 20 years of experience, writing for the biggest tech publications and companies around and I have imposter syndrome. I doubt that will ever go away.

Why it’s there, I’m not sure. Prior to that first paid gig, I’d written for years—just not for money. But I suspect my lack of formal training in writing/journalism makes me think I don’t have the ’right’ to be here, doing what I do. This is logically ridiculous when I’ve been smashing words into shape for two decades and am fortunate enough to have a solid number of editors keen to call on me for more work.

Whether I’ll be lucky enough to still be doing this 20 years from now is hard to say. Since I started regularly writing for magazines, the industry has changed beyond all recognition. I half imagine by 2041 (or, more than likely, a lot sooner) an AI will be able to do what I do at the press of a button (pressed by an AI robot editor, natch). Until then, I’ll continue writing and I hope you’ll continue reading—be they my words or those of others, not least any long-time writers who also regularly mull over how lucky they are to be doing what they do.

June 7, 2021. Read more in: Opinions, Stuff by me, Writing

Comments Off on Celebrating 20 years of writing for money—and imposter syndrome

Five years in: The ten most influential iPhone and iPad apps yet

The App Store today turned five, and Apple’s been celebrating by making a bunch of apps and games free. (Top tip: they’re all worth a download.) Today’s app landscape is incredible. Apple reckons over 900,000 apps are available, and devs have made billions of dollars from iOS. Not bad for a platform that on launch had just 500 titles.

But which apps have really stood out over the years? Which have influenced those that came later? I knocked heads with Stuff’s editor and we came up with ten apps that changed everything. Doubtless, you’ll have your own thoughts on which apps were hugely important; if so, please leave a comment on the Stuff article (or here, if you like).

I hope you enjoy reading the feature and that it brings back some warm memories!

July 10, 2013. Read more in: Stuff by me, Technology

Comments Off on Five years in: The ten most influential iPhone and iPad apps yet

Looking back at 2012: Twitter jokes, iPads, back-ups, and industries being stupid

In case you’d not noticed, the end of 2012’s rampaging towards us with all the grace of a drunk rhinoceros wearing roller-blades, and I thought it might be nice to see out the year by highlighting the most popular posts on this blog during that time.

BBC mis-quotes Paul Chambers Twitter Joke Trial tweet, presumably because electrons cost lots of money

The top post by some margin, largely due to a repost by Graham Linehan and a ton of retweets that subsequently took the blog offline while I frantically tried to install and activate caching plug-ins in the one second in fifty that the site actually responded. I learned my lesson, but sadly the British legal system didn’t, because it’s still arresting people for making stupid jokes online. Even Paul Chambers’ win was bittersweet, in the sense that he shouldn’t have had to go through so much crap in the first place. Here’s hoping 2013 sees the CPS taking a more sensible approach regarding policing speech online.

What the iPad 3 really needs: fewer stupid articles about the iPad 3

Me getting a tiny bit ranty in response to yet another piece of bullshit ‘journalism’ about how rubbish the iPad 3 would be and how it was destined to fail in the face of rival tablets. In the end, it sold well, laid the groundwork for the iPad 4 (sorry, ‘iPad with Retina display’) and iPad mini, and Android tablets still aren’t selling well enough to unseat Apple from its lofty perch.

Mac OS X users: clone or back-up your Mac before installing Mountain Lion

People who don’t back-up do my head in. Too often, I get someone yelling that they’ve lost every precious picture they’ve ever taken and CAN’T YOU DO SOMETHING? YOU WRITE ABOUT APPLE! Yes, but I’m not a magician. What I could do was put some straightforward advice regarding back-ups online, and I hope at least a few people have taken note. Judging by the traffic, plenty of people have at least read it.

Mac OS X users: clone your Macs before installing Lion

The above article’s older brother, still getting a silly amount of traffic, for some reason. Maybe this just highlights Google’s sometimes a bit rubbish when it comes to search results.

Dear TV and movie industries: stop being dicks

The obligatory rant about the stupidity of the media industry, possibly before it was cool, then uncool and then cool again to write about this kind of thing. Or not. I stand by every single word of this piece. DVDs still drive me up the wall with their unskippable crap, and many films and TV shows really need to get worldwide far more rapidly.

OS X Lion and motion sickness from full-screen animations and transitions

I imagined precisely seven people would read this, but it had a couple of major spikes, bringing in thousands of readers. Unsurprisingly, Apple’s done precisely nothing to deal with the issue of animations on OS X possibly triggering motion sickness, and nor will I imagine it’ll do anything to help in the future. After all, it’d be really hard for an engineer to add a ‘turn the fucking sliding shit off’ checkbox in System Preferences. TotalSpaces at least provided an answer for people wedded to full screen; personally, I now just use Moom to resize windows and ignore OS X’s full-screen mode entirely.

Why do magazines look so bad on the new iPad?

As a contributor to Tap!, Future’s iPad mag that’s made on an iPad, I was sick at the time of writing this article of all the crap online about how rubbish all iPad mags were. Reports were inevitably US-focussed and ignored magazines doing things right. This hasn’t really changed a great deal, but at least magazines are shifting away from rendering every page as a PNG.

An interview with Rob Janoff, designer of the Apple logo

This one actually went online in 2011 and, as I’ve just noticed, has pretty awful formatting with this site’s new theme. Still, it’s one of my favourite interviews, not least because it lays to rest a bunch of rumours about Apple’s logo.

Office 2013 shows that user interface extremes aren’t the way to go

Over the year, I’ve seen dozens of articles arguing Apple’s UI design should be as minimal as its hardware. In a sense, this is what Microsoft’s tried to do with some of its new software, and the result has been a user-experience disaster. I’m not a fan of Apple’s excesses (such as torn paper in Calendar), but UI designers must shoot for usable and beautiful, not just stark and minimal.

The freemium model and how it threatens iOS gaming

When the new Tetris for iOS arrived, minds boggled at the IAP. It was absolutely crazy, offering subscriptions to slightly increase how rapidly you earned in-game currency, and you could pay $99.99 for an extra 200,000 coins. $99.99. For Tetris. I argued then that freemium threatened iOS gaming, and it’s not an opinion that’s changed. On the plus side, a ton of really great iOS games arrived during 2012, and the majority of them had pricing models that put Tetris to shame.


In addition to these, a couple of more recent articles have done well, in terms of traffic, but didn’t make the top-ten, due to only having been posted recently:

Temporarily fixing problems with iTunes 11 Wi-Fi sync with an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch

iTunes 11 bafflingly continues to be a bit rubbish when it comes to finding iOS devices on the local network. A strange connect/checkbox dance usually sorts this on my system. Judging by the traffic this article got, it’s a problem Apple really needs to sort.

Skyfall: James Bond’s return to male-gaze misogyny

Not really my usual subject matter, but I was so blown away by the hideous nature of Skyfall that I had to say something. Most of the comments that subsequently arrived were really good, although I’ve more recently had a bunch of vile rants in from the YOU SAID SOMETHING BAD ABOUT BOND AND NOW I HATE YOU AND WOMEN brigade. Take a step back, chaps, and perhaps wonder why this piece needed writing before adding to the sludge with your own sexist rants.


And on that not very festive note, that’s it for 2012 and Revert to Saved. I’ll be back in 2013, assuming I don’t overdose on mince pies.

December 19, 2012. Read more in: Revert to Saved, Stuff by me

Comments Off on Looking back at 2012: Twitter jokes, iPads, back-ups, and industries being stupid

Self-pimpage: Tap! 3, for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, hits stores today

Issue three of the rather spiffy Tap! magazine hits UK newsstands today. It’s another chunky 132-page tome, packed full of reviews, tips and features about the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Yours for a fiver, guv.

This issue, in my role as Contributing Editor, Games, I lead the games section with the excellent World of Goo HD, and we also cover another 30 titles, including Helsing’s Fire HD, Dead Space and Real Racing 2.

Elsewhere in the mag, there are the usual helpings of Matt Gemmell, Ian Betteridge and Caitlin Moran, an in-depth feature on using your iOS devices to watch tele, an interview with an indie company using iOS devices and social media to compete with global brands, and more app and kit reviews than you can shake a stick at.

Tap! 3

March 10, 2011. Read more in: Magazines, News, Stuff by me, Tap!, Technology


Tap! Issue! Two! Out! Nowish!

Issue 2 of the super soaraway Tap! (the iPhone & iPad magazine) is arriving with subscribers and available in shops nowish.

Again, you get 132 pages of personality-infused awesomeness for a fiver, including my chunky games section (slightly chunkier this month, clocking in at 19 pages, written by yours truly and Mr Andy Dyer). Elsewhere: loads of app reviews, a feature where the magazine forced some poor bugger out into the winter cold to test fitness apps (although he deserved it, since he didn’t include RunKeeper Pro in his essentials list, the bounder), how to tune a ukulele, an iPhone battery cases group test, and a fab new columnist in the shape of the wonderful Caitlin Moran.

BUY IT NOW! (Or, you know, when it’s out.)

EXCITING UPDATE: Apparently, the ‘three issues for a fiver’ deal’s up again, although that’ll likely kick in for Tap! issue 3 if you grabbed it now.

January 11, 2011. Read more in: Stuff by me, Tap!

Comments Off on Tap! Issue! Two! Out! Nowish!

« older posts