Weekly output: 2014 tech policy in review, Mac scroll bars

LAS VEGAS–Here I am for yet another CES. Sad fact: I’ve made the trip to Vegas for the show so many times that I lost count in an earlier post whining about being badgered by CES PR pitches.

Yahoo Tech 2014 in review12/30/2014: Tech Policy 2014: Mistakes Were Made, Yahoo Tech

I came up with the photo illustrating this column last of all: As I was about to file the thing and stick my editor with the job of finding some stock art, I thought that a photo of OS X’s Calendar app showing “2014” with the setting sun in the background might work just as well.

1/4/2015: How to bring back scroll bars on your Mac, USA Today

Not for the first time, I used my USAT Q&A to revise and extend remarks I’d first made here. Your reward for reading to the end of a column that might otherwise seem too familiar: a tip about an OS X feature that Apple doesn’t seem to have documented.

2014 in review: old and new clients

Somewhere there must exist freelance writers who keep the same core group of clients for many years in a row, but I’m not one of them. This year, like last, saw the Web addresses and the names on checks and direct-deposit transfers change yet again.

2014 calendarRealizing the transient nature of freelance work makes me appreciate the third anniversary of my contract-columnist gig with USA Today that much more. They continue to be one of my favorite clients, and this year that association led to some enjoyable extra work at Gannett’s NowU site.

Then there’s Yahoo Tech. This year kicked off with the moderately mind-bending experience of seeing my photo and those of my fellow columnists on a giant slide during Marissa Mayer’s CES keynote; since then I’ve discovered that I work with a fun bunch of people, that moderating comments gets difficult after the first few hundred, and that I enjoy taking my own stock-photo shots more than I’d realized.

And selling extra stories to Yahoo Tech beyond my weekly column has generated some much-appreciated extra income… while allowing me to cross “fly in a private jet” off the bucket list.

After those two, the client that’s occupied the bulk of my time has been the Wirecutter. Writing its guide to wireless service–already updated once, with a second revision in the works–has involved an enormous amount of time and math, but it’s made me a better student of the wireless industry. And I appreciate how my friends there not only run a good comment system and participate in it regularly but will send me quick notes about noteworthy input there.

I’ll also give a shout out to VentureBeat, which has neatly filled a gap in my current lineup by allowing me to review gadgets and apps that I should check out but which already have reviewers assigned at Yahoo and USAT.

Most of this outside work stepped up in the last third of the year. That plus a few payment hiccups earlier that inconveniently coincided with quarterly-tax deadlines provided me with the humbling experience of developing an intense interest in each invoice’s progress. Things are fine now, but the experience left me more sympathetic to startup types who have to obsess over cash flow.

I traveled almost as much as I did last year but with a much less even distribution of trips. As in, I didn’t go anywhere for work in August but then spent over half of September away from home. Ugh. Can the conference-scheduling cabal space things out better in 2015?

Although I upgraded the security of my accounts this year, I didn’t make any serious hardware upgrades–the first time I’ve gone 12 months without any major computer or gadget purchases since I started freelancing. I hope the industry can forgive me.

Thanks again for reading, and I’ll see you all in 2015.

2012 in review: business and baby development

This year hasn’t been nearly as dramatic as last, and I think I’m okay with that (aside from not going to any rocket launches).

2012 calendarI started this year with three regular clients constituting almost all of my income and have spent a lot of my time since showing up at other places. I’ve had the pleasure of writing at some of my favorite sites and of getting reacquainted with long-form journalism in print and online.

That experimentation was the right idea, since I stopped blogging for CEA in September (not that I’d mind doing the occasional guest post there) and will be writing less for Discovery next year.

I have other income coming along; in particular, I’m enjoying opining about tech-policy matters at the Computer & Communications Industry Association’s Disruptive Competition Project. But these shifts have been a useful reminder of how as a freelancer, you can’t get too fixated on any current client–a principle that I may have let fade in my mind during those 17 years at the Post.

I’ve also traveled a hell of a lot this year. Conferences, trade shows and speaking invitations took me to Austin, Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Napa, San Francisco (four times!) and Santa Clara–plus a transatlantic jaunt to Berlin.

I’ve enjoyed coming home to my family every single time. The miniature human being who had started calling me “Dada” by this time last year now seems to learn a word a week and has developed distinct interests–including, to my delight, trains, airplanes and spaceships. She has gone from toddling around the house to fearlessly exploring playgrounds on both coasts. What will our daughter think of next? I look forward to finding out over next year.