I have always asked: How will this affect users?
After 500 or so of these columns in four years, this will be my last as editor of ComputerUser magazine and ComputerUser.com.
I leave the day-to-day operation of the publication in the very capable hands of Elizabeth Millard and Dan Heilman. the two will collaborate on the everyday decisions. Dan has been my right hand for five years and never wavered in his pursuit of clean, readable copy and consistent editing style. In recent years, he has added several bylines to his editing, making him the most versatile managing editor I know. Elizabeth has been a prolific writer, with the ability to grasp the big-picture trends and how our content reflects those trends.
I will continue to contribute to the publication’s content as editor at large. Beginning with the September issue, I will write a new monthly column (on the back page of the magazine) to be called Outfitter–the anti-Insights. While Insights has always pointed readers inward, putting the content in context, Outfitter will point readers outward–sending them on their adventures with a warning or two about obstacles and a tip or two about special places that lie in their path.
I believe we are all newbies; some are just farther along on our technology journeys than others. However far along we are, we all see technology from the perspective of the traveler in a thick forest (without GPS). We don’t know how far we have come or how far we have to go. There are surprises around every corner. It is often trying. But when we find our way despite all the obstacles, it is exhilarating. Every tech tool I take out of the box takes me on an adventure. Sometimes I can get the thing going and start working with it right away; other times it takes me months to figure out all of the features before I take full advantage of the product. Usually it is some combination of the two. Take my Suunto watch. I knew how to use it to tell time and get my compass bearings right away. Later I found out how to set my three alarms in the middle of the night without waking up my wife with the lamp on my bedside table. And I’m still trying to figure out how to calibrate the altimeter. The user advocate is a fellow traveler down these long and winding roads who doesn’t have all the answers (or the GPS coordinates). Even if I did, I can’t take the journey for you. All I can do is lend support and try to find the answers you need.
In my new place, I will rededicate myself to the role of the outfitter who prepares adventurers for the journey by showing them how to use the tools they will need and how to navigate their path. I will continue to be available to answer your questions if you get lost or suffer a mishap. And I will welcome the stories you bring back from your adventures.
James Mathewson is editor-at-large of ComputerUser magazine.