SebRT.com extends a very special welcome to RICHARD COBBETT. Richard is Features Editor of the UK publication PC Plus Magazine and a technology expert. It was Richard’s original idea that I contribute to PC Plus magazine for the January 2007 issue!
Welcome Richard. Tell me a little about yourself, how did you come to be Features Editor of one of the leading technology magazines in UK?
Hmmm… punishment for sins committed in a previous life? (Laughs) No, much the usual way. I joined Future a few years back at Editorial Assistant level – that’s the publishing term for ‘guy who makes the tea’ – and worked up through Staff Writer and Senior Staff Writer to be a section editor. In practice though, titles aren’t all that important. It’s the writing side I love, rather than the increased administration/management angle as you go up the ranks.
Ironically, despite my title, features are one of the parts of the magazine I have the least to do with. Most of my admin time is spent on our tutorial section, Hands On, our leisure section After Hours, and sneakily spending much of my time… ah… ‘heavily researching’ the latest cool stuff.
Which is always fun, especially when you get paid for it.
What is your favourite kind of technology article to write?
It’s not so much a kind of article, more the ones that let personality shine rather than chips and circuits. I’m not a hardware guy; I don’t care even a little how many gigaflops or petathingies a graphics card can handle – I want to see the passion that makes that kind of thing more important to someone than, say, their fridge’s cooling rating or the tension rating of the elastic strap in their underwear.
There’s something of a bizarre belief around the computing industry that computers have to be treated as serious and sacrosanct, which I don’t really buy into. Good humour, actual personality, the feeling that you’re sitting right with the writer as they rant, that’s the kind of thing that everyone can enjoy – provided it’s done well, of course. Without that kind of added inspiration, an article’s as inert and useless as an unplugged graphics card. Or the plugged in GeForce Go in my old laptop.
Yeah. Still bitter…
You’re also a blogger – How long have you been blogging, were you part of the first “wave?”
It depends what you mean by ‘first wave’. I was putting up regularly updated content about eight years ago, albeit via manually editing HTML pages rather than using a blogging engine. My current site – the unoriginally, yet vaguely erotically named www.richardcobbett.co.uk – has been up for around… hmm… must be four years or so now, although it started off with a different name. Although it doesn’t look like that immediately. There’s a big Journalism Archive full of articles, but the main Journal section is what I refer to as ‘Culled’ on a pretty regular basis.
Why delete stuff?
Eh, time moves on. Stuff gets outdated, parodies I wrote at 2AM last year don’t seem as funny in the cold light of next year, it keeps the database size down… there’s plenty of reasons, but the only one I need is ‘because that’s how I do it’. I don’t buy the idea that blogs are a perpetual, endless, monster that has to keep being filled up on pain of death. If I get bored, I take a break. If I get really bored, I’ll do something else.
I’m unlikely to luck into the cure for cancer while poking fun at whatever show I was just watching or complaining about a tough deadline, so I think the world will probably survive. The main reason I got into it was to get to write things that people don’t pay me for, like the parodies or more whimsical gaming posts.
Still, archivists can be happy that any articles I still like during a Culling get promoted into the main Journalism Archive. Sorry to anyone who wanted to look up the days I had the flu in 2004. The fact that it was March is officially lost to the mists of time….
If you could have one piece of technical hardware while stranded on a desert island that you don’t want to aid your escape, what would it be?
Tragically, my word processor. I’m very much a writing geek, so writing stories and things would keep me more occupied than, say, a gaming system or a big screen TV. I have the worst handwriting in the entire world, so a box of paper and pen just wouldn’t cut it.
If not that, maybe a box of assorted computer equipment, all with next-day on-site warranties. Just to see the repairman’s face after his transatlantic crossing.
How long have you been writing for magazines and other print media?
Hmm, must be about six years now, although I did the occasional odd and sod before doing it full time.
I see that you are somewhat of the resident Podcasting expert at Future, where do you see podcasting in a year?
Probably in much the same place. It’s still going to be primarily a geek-driven thing, with increased community complaints about its over-commercialisation. And everyone will still be arguing about the name, which won’t have changed.
However, the number of people listening to podcasts should be far greater, as more people get into it via things like the iTunes Music Store, companies like the BBC make their content available in that form, and the word starts spreading to less technically minded users who never have to hear ‘XML’ or ‘RSS’, or worst of all, ‘Thanks for downloading my podcast. Up first, a five minute lecture on podcasting!’ Ngggh.
PC Plus should add a regular section about RSS driven media like Podcasting and Blogging, if it is created, would you recommend me to author it? 🙂
Uh… not really our thing, not as a regular, anyway. For web generated content, the web’s better suited to keep track of the latest news. The worlds of web and print present an interesting challenge… although one that really needs words like ‘microcosm’ and ‘macrocosm’ to go into. Suffice to say, in this case, trying to match the speed of the web in a monthly publication wouldn’t work that well, especially with the (small, but you’d be surprised how important) difference between clicking a link in a browser and having to fire up a computer after reading a magazine.
What is Richard Cobbett working on at the moment and what’s next?
Well, with my plans for a perpetual motion machine coming to something of an abrupt halt, right now I’m focusing on the hellish deadlines that always come around the Christmas issue. Taking a week off’s always good, but people still want their magazine at the end of the month. I’m also writing more and more fictional stuff at the moment; it’s considered something of a cliché for journalists to be interested in writing proper books and things, but really it’s more of a truism. I’ve also been doing a bit of stuff on writing in computer games – speaking at a recent BAFTA event about the importance of story and narrative, with something similar on the cards for next year. There’s more on that over at my site.
As for what’s next, heck, I’ll give most things a try if they sound fun – I enjoy creative writing in just about any form, fiction, scripting, comic writing, whatever, and I’m always up for leads or potential projects. No? Incoming tumbleweed on the horizon? Then I guess I’ll just fall back on my tea making skills. My tea is delicious.
Well thank you for joining me Richard, it has been a pleasure to have you here on SebRT.com. You are welcome to come back at any time!
If you would like to find out more about RICHARD COBBETT go to his personal blog. Pick up the latest issue of PC Plus to read Richard’s latest articles. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions.