The holiday season, as seen by a tech journalist

To those of you with normal jobs, this time of year means things like eating and spending too much, long travel to see far-flung relatives, having to remember where you stashed the ornaments, and wrestling with wrapping paper.

WreathIn my line of work, however, the holiday season includes all of those things and then a few extras:

  • Gift guidance: We’re expected to reel off lists of what computers, phones, tablets, other gadgets and games to buy, even if knowing that CES will offer us a peek at the next year’s crop of consumer electronics discourages gadget purchases at this time of the year. (I have escaped that particular obligation so far this year, but my Yahoo Tech colleagues have been busy offering tech-procurement advice; won’t you please check it out?)
  • Watching people make purchases they’ll regret: You will inevitably see somebody you care for buy the wrong device or app–perhaps because they read somebody else’s misinformed gadget-gift guide–and you can’t get too bent out of shape over that.
  • Holiday tech support: Taking a look at issues on the computers, phones, tablets and other gadgets of the people we see over the holidays is part of the deal. I can’t say I mind, since I can count on getting at least a couple of ideas for my USA Today Q&A column every holiday season.
  • A break from business travel: December is second only to August for its paucity of tech events likely to land on my travel schedule. I’m okay with that!
  • CES is coming: My enjoyment of quality time with friends and family always gets eaten away by the realization that only a few days after New Year’s, I’ll have to leave all that behind and spend five or so hours in a pressurized metal tube on my way to Vegas for this annual gadget gathering. CES is a good and useful event, but I sure would like to see it happen later in January.
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Weekly output: Gadget-guide guidance, Kindle Fire

A holiday-shortened week, an absence of the gadget-guide pieces that used to swamp my schedule about this time every November, and no freelance pieces for other sites make for a much shorter list of articles compared to last week’s.

11/21/11: “Gadget-guide guidance,” CEA Tech Enthusiast (subscription required) CEA Digital Dialogue

Yeah, about those gift guides… in this post, I try to explain how these catalog-style pieces tend to align more closely with the interests of publishers and advertisers than those of readers. They’re also often a nuisance for writers, if anybody’s interested in our concerns. I conclude by offering some suggestions about what sorts of gadget guides might be more and less useful to people looking for help on what hardware to give or get.

11/22/11: “Amazon’s Kindle Fire: The Paperback of Tablets,” Discovery News

The lede for this piece popped into my head just as I started work on it–which could have been inconvenient if my evaluation hadn’t matched that phrasing. Fortunately, it did: The Kindle Fire is a good but not quite great tablet that does enough things sufficiently well that it should escape the dismal fate of earlier iPad competitors. (That’s “competitor,” not “killer”; calling anything an “iPad killer” ensures its demise. Just ask all the “iPod killers” nobody can unload on eBay.)

Updated 1/31/2012 with a non-paywalled CEA link.