Weekly output: Facebook clones Clubhouse, sustainable news business models, Washington Apple Pi

This week had me spending an above-average time staring into my webcam while trying not to glance away at my notes too often.

6/21/2021: Facebook adds live audio rooms, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me to discuss the “live audio rooms” Facebook launched Monday, part of a suite of upcoming audio features I wrote about at Forbes in April. The hosts wanted to know how Facebook’s clone of the Clubhouse app’s core feature might go over; I noted that Facebook starts out with the advantage of not requiring every user to create a new social graph but then holds itself back by initially only opening this feature to selected users.

Screenshot of the panel video as seen in an iPad's copy of Safari6/24/2021: The Future of Innovation in News Production: Models for Sustainability, Competition Policy International

Two months and change after the last time I moderated a panel about the state of the news business for CPI, this group (and event co-organizer Computer & Communications Industry Association) had me back to hold forth on what could put news on a sounder footing. My co-panelists this time were Poynter Institute media business analyst Rick Edmonds, Accenture managing director Andrew Charlton, Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro (who’s both a research fellow at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism and CEO of the National Trust for Local News), and LION Publishers executive director Chris Krewson. As you can watch in the video CPI has temporarily posted, our discussion was a lot less pessimistic than you might expect for this subject.

6/26/2021: Rob Pegoraro Zooms into the Pi 2021, Washington Apple Pi

I was hoping my return to the local Apple user group would not be virtual like last June’s appearance, but the Pi is sticking to Zoom for now–so I’ll have to wait for a future opportunity to appear in person and give away some of the tech-event swag that’s been collecting dust in my office closet for the past year and change. Most of my talk covered my own experience getting through the pandemic, but I also discussed Apple’s transition to using its own Apple Silicon processors and its recent privacy moves–and, because why not, space launches.


Weekly output: Chromebook, newspapers and search engines, Amtrak, photo spheres, Google Calendar, Gmail

What’s not on this list? Any gift-guide pieces or reports about Black Friday sales. I can’t say I miss those two staples of Thanksgiving-week tech coverage… and yet I feel vaguely guilty about dodging them.

11/19/2012: Google’s cheaper Chromebook: enough of a computer, Boing Boing

Having this fall’s implementation by Samsung of Google’s Chromebook laptop concept priced for half of last summer’s made the results easier to like. But Samsung also gave this $249 model better battery life and faster performance, while Google contributed more offline-compatible Web apps. I’m tempted to pick up one to have as a backup computer, which was not the case a year ago.

11/19/2012: A Business Perspective on the Snippet Tax, Disruptive Competition Project

My second post for this tech-policy blog picked up where a 2009 rant over stupid newspaper publishers whining about news-search sites had left off. Now, it’s news organizations in other countries complaining that Google News and sites like it are taking away readers; I’m not any more persuaded by that logic three years later.

11/20/2012: Amtrak’s New App: Does It Actually Make Travel Easier?, The Atlantic Cities

I like trains, and I like smartphone apps that simplify my life a little. I wasn’t sure that Amtrak’s offering for iOS and Android would be worth keeping around, but after using it to book and manage a round-trip from D.C. to NYC, I see where the railroad is going with it.

On Wednesday, USA Today was kind enough to publish a condensed version of last weekend’s Q&A about adding a Start menu to Windows 8 in its print edition. That was the first time I’ve appeared in a newspaper of any kind since Roll Call ran a version of a post I did for the Consumer Electronics Association just over a year a ago , and my first spot in a general-interest paper since I logged off from the Post in April of 2011.

11/24/2012: Spherical Panoramas from a Phone, Discovery News

Writing about a feature confined to a new Android release that most users of Google’s operating system won’t see for months, or ever, seems unfair, but the 4.2 edition’s “photo sphere” option genuinely intrigued me. Alas, I initially neglected to note that the older iOS app Photosynth–from a Redmond, Wash.-based software developer called Microsoft you may have heard of–can also generate interactive spherical panoramas from a phone’s camera.

11/25/2012: How to sync your Google calendar with your iPad, USA Today

Credit for this Q&A item goes to my wife, who asked me about this problem on her iPad. Credit for the tip about a new Gmail search option goes to the Google Operating System blog, an old favorite of mine, which brought that change to my attention last week.

New freelance gig: writing for CEA

A week ago, I alluded to the prospect of more work but didn’t name anybody responsible. Now I can: I’ll be writing a weekly post and recording a monthly podcast about the state of consumer electronics for the Consumer Electronics Association’s Tech Enthusiast site.

The TE site, as you may have read in my post about its debut last fall, is CEA’s venture into connecting with consumers. Membership cost $49 a year at first but is currently $29, and you’ll need one to read my work there, as CEA’s press release explains.

(Yes, it feels a little odd to write behind a paywall–aside from a free webinar on the perils of gadget procurement I’ll be hosting on Oct. 5. I haven’t done that in a long time.)

When I left the Post, the people at this Arlington trade association were quick to suggest that I start blogging for them. I was not as fast to accept their proposed freelance arrangement. The idea of being paid to write news by somebody besides a news organization is relatively new, at least to me, and I needed some time to think through it.

Here’s the deal: As the traditional media have cut back, companies and associations can’t count on the same coverage, and some have decided that they need to get into the news business themselves. The Chicago Bulls, for example, hired former Chicago Tribune reporter Sam Smith to cover the team and the NBA, and the Washington Capitals employ reporters of their own. (Caps owner Ted Leonsis wrote this spring that reader interest left him no choice: “We want to feed the monster.”) Many of my fellow freelance tech journalists have written for such company-underwritten news sites as Cisco’s The Network and HP’s Input Output.

And when I mentioned this possibility to friends and colleagues, some in journalism and some outside of it, most said “go for it.” A few warned that it might distract from me from better opportunities. We’ll see.

I didn’t hear any objections from current and potential freelance clients either; this doesn’t take the place of the blogging I continue to do for Discovery News. (One magazine editor joked that he could no longer assign me a profile of CEA president Gary Shapiro.)

It helps that CEA is paying an eminently fair freelance rate for my services. But you should be clear about what CEA has bought with that money: analysis, not advertising. They want somebody to give TE members insight about what’s going on in the industry, and that won’t always be positive. My first post, for example, gets into reasons for the disappointing launch of 3-D TV.

My contract does ensure one thing, though: I will be attending CES for the 15th year in a row this January.

Updated 1/31/2012 with a link to a non-paywalled version of the 3D piece.