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Taking the Ken Burns approach

It’s all about the journey of discovery. Taking the Ken Burns approach It’s all about the journey of discovery.

Those who know me know I am a huge fan of Ken Burns, the master documentary film maker. I was mesmerized by “The Civil War.” I couldn’t get enough of “Baseball.” And I’m still jazzed by his most recent film, “Jazz.” I recently read an interview of Burns in The Onion in which he explained how he could do such a good job with three vastly different topics. Burns was highly criticized for “Jazz,” because he openly admitted that he had only a few jazz albums in his collection before he started making the film.

In response to that jab, he said, in part, “But I didn’t know anything about the Civil War going in, anyway. [Laughs.] It’s not about telling people what I know. It’s about sharing with them the process of discovery…”

One of the misconceptions people have about me is that I know everything there is to know about computers. The fact is, I am repeatedly humbled by how little I know. Also, the industry changes so fast that it forces all of us into a continuous learning situation. But, I have always found that not knowing all there is to know about the whole industry is not that much of a detriment. As Burns put it, I am taking you on my journey of discovery.

But sharing my journey is not enough. After all, I could be fascinated by the mating habits of the gypsy moth. Needless to say, I won’t be sharing that with you. Rather, my job is to figure out what journeys interest our readers. Consider me a tour guide of the tech topics you need to know.

The problem is, most of the time, I have to make educated guesses about what you want to learn more about. As you know, this includes picking what I consider to be the most important news of the day on our site and putting it into the context of our collective journey. What would really help is if I had better education about what journeys you all want to take. Of course, I can analyze log files and audits. But what really helps is direct feedback from readers. What’s working? What would you like to see us cover? Chances are, my response would be in the form of a URL on our site and a promise for a follow-up.

If you’re on this long and winding road with me, tell me how I’m doing as your tour guide. This itself is the most important aspect of my journey of discovery.

James Mathewson is editorial director of ComputerUser.com and ComputerUser magazine.

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