Friday, July 13, 2007

A Small Interview With Tom Of The Small Wave: Insightful as Daring Fireball & as thorough as Roughly Drafted

Tom Reestman is a relatively new "Mac blogger". I first noticed his writing a few months ago when he linked to his site, "The Small Wave" in an article of mine here on FixYourThinking. Over the last two months I have found Tom's writing to be as insightful as John Gruber of Daring Fireball and as thorough as Daniel Eran Dilger of Roughly Drafted . It's great to have a new bookmark for my iPhone to catch up on Apple news - I highly recommend your adding "The Small Wave" to your bookmarks as well.

I asked Tom if he would be interested in an email interview. He has responded below and should give you a good idea of his writing style and unique insight.

My comments follow in smaller print after each question - preceded with an *



Thanks for the opportunity to interview you.

Q: Tom, I first noticed your blog "The Small Wave" after you started making comments on my blog. Was your plan to initially do some viral marketing for "The Small Wave" or do you just enjoy participating in conversations around the Mac web community?

It never occurred to me to "market" my blog at all. To be sure, as I comment on your site and others I'll put links to my blog if I have a relevant article or believe the audience may be interested, but I've made no conscience effort to try any specific marketing. I write because I enjoy it, and I write abut the tech industry because I enjoy that. I've thought about blogging for a long time but never got around to it, and then one day dusted off the Blogger account I'd opened the year before playing with Picasa/Hello to share photos and went at it.

* This is why I don't read CNet blogs - the aspect of a paid blogger. I do what I do here because I enjoy it. This is also what makes Tom's site so good ... you can tell he isn't pandering to any advertisers nor is he writing stories just to build hit totals.

Q: Why do you not monetize your site with Google adwords or affiliate advertising?

I have no specific goals for the blog. If I could ever go to FeedBurner and see a large number of subscribers (my current number is too low to talk about) that would be great. And, as someone who's read MacSurfer's Headline News for years, it would be nice to see an article of mine there. The bottom line is my day job pays me well; the blog is a labor of love.

Even if I wanted to put ads on my site tomorrow, I'd have to look into how to do it. Perhaps an advantage of my blog is that it's ad-free.

* The revenue I receive on Fix Your Thinking just barely pays the hosting and domain costs. I advertise more to assist, than for revenue. I also advertise to "appear more mainstream".

Q: What do you consider the biggest story to hit the Mac blogosphere so far in 2007? What about ever?

Tough question because 2007 has been a wild ride. It started on 1/1 when Apple put up that first 30 years ain't nothing teaser. They weren't kidding. Take your pick:

- Incredible continued iPod sales. Some Apple followers have come to take this for granted, but I do not. Here is a case of a device with no new models at the high end (though there were new nanos and shuffles), and only one price drop in two years, and sales are still through the roof. This is amazing, and allowed Apple to concentrate on other things without having to refresh the line just to keep sales momentum up. I do believe we'll get a 6G iPod no later than in time for the Christmas (say, October), and likely even earlier.

- Leopard. This is especially big in light of Vista, which is simply nowhere near the success Microsoft had hoped. I claim no inside knowledge of Leopard, but I believe it will lay a great foundation for some things Apple has in mind down the road in terms of open standards, the iPhone, Apple TV, and probably even the iPod, which I believe will migrate to OS X.

- The iPhone. Well, of course. All that hype. All those analysts ridiculing every detail (despite the example of the iPod as proof that maybe, just maybe, they were wrong). And when it's finally launched they activate as many as a million of them in the first 10 days? Did Apple expect that? Did AT&T? I honestly don't think so. They certainly expected a large run on them, but a million in a week and a half? I suspect it exceeded their initial expectations. Will it continue to sell strongly over the Summer? I don't know, but I love mine and have managed to "sell" a couple to co-workers.

Biggest news story ever? Steve Jobs' return. Steve was still seen by many as the snotty kid who got thrown out of his own company. It didn't seem to matter that Apple's history afterwards ultimately showed his ouster as a mistake. When I read about the keynote in '97 where he made the deal with Microsoft and said that it's wrong that for Apple to win Microsoft has to lose, it was obvious this was the right guy. He still doesn't get enough credit, in my opinion. And I have to laugh at "analysts" who try to deflect any credit to him out of one side of their mouths, but predict disaster for Apple if he leaves out of the other! I wish they'd make up their minds. Heck, I wish they'd get minds.

* I think the iPhone is going to be a tough act to follow, but if ONE company CAN DO IT - it is Apple.

Q: In your opinion, what do you consider Apple's biggest strength? Biggest weakness?

It's cliche, but it's so true: Innovation. Is there anything Apple does that isn't in the manner of thinking differently? Yes, I can think of a few examples, but it's not the norm. In Jobs' second reign, starting with killing the cloners and the no-floppy non-upgradeable iMac, right through to the iPhone not having a physical keyboard. There are analysts who still decry the lack of an FM transmitter and replaceable battery in the iPod. Apple wouldn't have it, and I'm glad. They didn't stick a DVD in the Apple TV, or try to make it a Tivo. Look at Microsoft's be-everything-in-the-living-room Xbox and what a disaster it's been (and with the $1.15B warranty hit and class-action lawsuit what a disaster it's likely going to continue to be). And then there's the retail stores. Wow. Steve Jobs has said the trick to all this is knowing when to say "no." Clearly, he says "no" a lot, and usually makes the right choices.

As for biggest weakness, does perception count? We see it even with the iPhone. It's a "toy," it's not for business, blah, blah, blah. I was around for the GUI revolution and I've heard all this before. There is no question Apple is more respected and highly regarded now than probably at any time in their history, yet the perception frequently is still one of them being a maker of toys. It was analysts and IT groups spreading that crap then, and it's the same now.

Another weakness may be the ability to rebound from a mistake. When Steve Jobs introduced the G4 cube, and finally expanded the four quadrants to include a slot between the consumer and profession desktops, I was thrilled. Ultimately, the Cube was too expensive for a "high-end" consumer machine, and it's custom design and boards probably made it difficult to lower the price. Add to that the quality issues (cracked case) and it just didn't sell. So it was (rightly) dropped. But what did Apple do? Did they get right back up on the horse? Unfortunately, no. Having been thrown off, they went off to lick their wounds. I'm still waiting for that Mac, Steve, still waiting for the quadrant to expand again...

* I never considered the Cube a failure - the ironic thing is - it may not have been a hit commercially, but wouldn't you love for your failure to be in the Museum Of Modern Art - such as the Cube was? The Cube continues to fetch premiums on eBay as well.

Q: Do you consider the volume of quality blogs to be an asset or liability for Apple?

I don't see how quality blogs can possibly be a liability, no matter how many of them there are. Even the "bad" blogs spur publicity. Look at all the free advertising Apple got for the iPhone the last six months, and there was more of it negative gloom and doom articles than otherwise. Better in the public eye than out of it.

* I do consider some blogs to be a liability because they spread incorrect and harmful information. Some Mac blogs such as Think Secret seem to have the sole purpose of reporting on rumors and bad news to hurt Apple in the press and to put an enormous strain on Apple to perform up to unrealistic expectations. While on the other hand you have sites like IPRONG that blatantly copy other blogs, willfully disregard Apple's intellectual property, and purport to be bigger than they are - giving a bad name to smaller blogs every where. Both of these blogs are high quality, but in my opinion, harm Apple rather than helping. There are others I could name; Dvorak, Thurott, and Scoble come to mind - with Dvorak actually saying he makes stuff up and writes negatively about Apple just to rile the user base and get hits - Thurott and Scoble do the same but just aren't as bold as Dvorak to admit it.

Q: What can you predict will be Apple's next big thing?

To be honest, I have no idea. It does seem clear that Apple expanded almost to the breaking point the last few months. With the iPhone out and no major issues being reported, I have to believe there are a lot of sighs of relief in Cupertino. Still lots of work to do, as the iPhone has plenty of software enhancements/fixes to make. I do think that Leopard will spawn some corresponding "goodies" in the iPhone, Apple TV, and Apple applications.

Q: Is there any advice you would give to bloggers in the Mac Community?

Did I mention my subscription count? I'm in no position to be giving advice to bloggers. Taking some, perhaps, but giving, no. :-)

I will offer an opinion, but I wouldn't call it advice. As Apple has become more and more successful and is (albeit begrudgingly) getting some respect in tech publications, even those aimed at corporate users, I see the Mac community "toning it down" a little bit. Long before blogging existed, Mac users were very vocal (passionate) about the Mac and Apple and the company's overall philosophy. Indeed, I think there's little argument that this passion is what kept the platform alive after a misguided board of directors ousted Jobs in '85 and a succession of CEOs with little vision simply tried to cram the Mac through every channel possible. Do you remember the Performa infomercial? I think I wept for all of humanity when I saw that.

Personally, I see no reason to tone it down just because Apple is successful and some of the big boys are letting them play in the sand box. And I don't even consider myself an Apple worshiper. After 10 years I actually left the Apple fold when I needed a new computer and Steve still hadn't filled that middle quadrant (the iMac 24" comes close, though). I run Windows XP Pro and Home, and have experience with more operating systems (starting with the mainframe) than I care to name. I know the Microsoft side quite well. In my view, Apple stands out now nearly as much as it did in the early '90s when comparisons between System 7 and Windows 3.1 were laughable.

I've had an iPhone for six days and am simply amazed by the device. Let the others too "cool" to be impressed downplay it or quibble about what it can't do, perhaps in the interest of acting "fair" or unbiased. I've got a list of improvements I'd like to see myself, but what it can do, and how it does it, is amazing. I tell people it's the best laptop I've ever had. It's the PowerBook 170 all over again! Last night I was sitting with my feet on my desk listening to tunes and reading sites via Google Reader all on the iPhone, when my regular computer was right there! To me, that's a pretty good testament to what a great little device this is. And it can only get better.

Thanks for the interview. I've been blogging for just under two months and am having fun.

Tom Reestman


So ... check out Tom at "The Small Wave" ... I'm sure you'll feel the need to shake his hand if you ever see him at a MacWorld Expo.

[ I'll post a little more about Tom and the site history on Monday ... so come back and read more ]

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Tom of Small Wave is a great writer. I just discovered him today and immediately added him to my links.

I look forward to reading him even more in the future.