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How to Keep on Top of Technology When You Write About It

How to Keep on Top of Technology When You Write About It

Wednesday, 15 November, 2017 - 10:00
Nick Wingfield at home in Seattle with his Macbook and Apple watch. Credit Kyle Johnson for The New York Times

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Nick Wingfield, a technology reporter based in Seattle, discussed the tech he is using.

You cover Amazon and Microsoft. Do you use their technology?

The one technology constant in my career as a journalist seems to be Microsoft Word. I take notes for all of my stories in it on a MacBook Pro. I’ve tried Google Docs and OneNote, but can’t stick with them for reasons I can’t explain. I have a feeling I might be cremated with a copy of Microsoft Word.

Like most people, I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, and I’ve tried most of their gadgets. I used an Echo for a while. My family mainly used it to turn on a lamp through a WeMo light switch with our voices. My kids enjoyed asking Alexa to play scatological sound effects. I enjoyed that too, if I’m being honest.

What do or don’t you like about their tech products that you use?

I find some of the things you can do on the Echo pretty silly and much easier on a smartphone app. I’ll give you an example. A while back I was installing a sprinkler system in my garden that was connected to a wireless control unit. I found out I could use the control unit with Alexa to turn on the sprinklers with my voice.

When I told Alexa to turn the sprinklers on, a geyser of water shot up six feet in the air from a pipe I hadn’t properly secured. I yelled every Alexa command I could think of to turn it off, but apparently she didn’t like my syntax, and the water kept gushing. I finally just opened the app for the sprinkler unit and turned it off. Also, most people have their sprinklers on timers so they don’t need voice control.

What are your favorite websites, apps or other tech tools for keeping on top of technology news?

I get so much of my news diet, technology or otherwise, through Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook. I have configured my phone to send me a text message every time Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, tweets because he’ll occasionally make news that way.

What tech gadgets or apps are you or your family currently obsessed with and why?

Another reason I’m not the most avid Echo user is that I like the sound from my Sonos speaker system better. Roughly 70 percent of the time I’m using Sonos to stream KCRW’s Eclectic24 music mix. The rest of the time, it’s Spotify and KUOW, my local NPR station. I pay for a Spotify family plan, which keeps my daughter’s playlists from contaminating my own and vice versa.

I am a contrarian on the Apple Watch, which I believe has been unfairly maligned by tech pundits. I love mine, and I get pretty frustrated by a lot of Apple products. I’m a runner and cyclist and track all of my workouts with it. I use Siri on the watch to respond to text messages.

Apple somehow managed to create a wearable device versatile enough that you can wear it on a run and with a suit. That’s impressive.

Are there technologies that you’re not crazy about?

I’ve never cared for reading books on screens, even though I almost exclusively read newspapers and magazines on my phone and computer.

I’m also skeptical of most kitchen gadgetry. I bought an Anova sous vide wand, which cooks meat and other proteins at precise, low temperatures in water baths. In most cases, I feel the results aren’t worth the effort. A cast iron pan is much cheaper, will never break and steaks taste better when prepared in one.

You once wrote about taking your kids to a video game little league. What video games are you, or they, now heavily into?

I don’t play video games. My son does. I’m embarrassed to say he spent a decent chunk of the summer wasting bad guys in Call of Duty. He also read a big stack of books and is a sweet, sensitive kid, which is how he got away with it.

What’s your advice about how much or how little kids should be on their devices and on games?

This is such a difficult issue. Most of my daughter’s homework is on a computer so policing her screen time is really about limiting certain applications or websites. The other day I gave her a hard time when I heard her listening to YouTube. It was for her Spanish class.

Overall, I try to encourage personal responsibility rather than hassle my kids all the time about their devices. It has worked so far.

(The New York Times)

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