David Welch Pogue is an American technology writer and TV science presenter. He is a personal technology columnist for Yahoo Tech, a tech correspondent for CBS News Sunday Morning, a columnist for Scientific American and a former technology columnist for The New York Times. He is also the host of NOVA ScienceNow on PBS and was the host of the NOVA specials Making Stuff in 2011 and Hunting the Elements in 2012. Pogue has written or co-written seven books in the For Dummies series. In 1999, he launched his own series of computer how-to books called the Missing Manual series, which now includes over 100 titles covering a variety of Macintosh and Windows operating systems and applications. Among the dozens of books Pogue has authored is The World According to Twitter, written in collaboration with around 500,000 of his Twitter followers. On October 21, 2013, Pogue announced he would be leaving The New York Times after 13 years in order to join Yahoo, where he would create a new consumer-technology Web site. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Pogue joined Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer onstage during her keynote speech to throw the "on" switch for that new site, Yahoo Tech.
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Greetings, Reddit! I'm David Pogue and I'm back for another AMA. My new book is Pogue's Basics, which just came out TODAY! I'm looking forward to your questions. AMA!
OK, y'alls...this was loads of fun! You should all become professional interviewers--your questions were amazing! Thanks for stopping by! Oh, and if you're looking for [a fantastic stocking stuff for your parents...] (http://www.poguesbasics.com)
What do you prefer using—iPhone or Android?
I use an iPhone. But the primary reason isn't preference--it's velvet handcuffs. Apple (and Google and Microsoft and Samsung...) like to build ecosystems of computers, phones, and services that all work together--and the iPhone/Mac/iCloud one is the one I'm part of. Switching, for most people, would just be exhausting!
What is your favorite gadget that just never caught on?
You know, I'm kind of sad that Microsoft's phones have tanked. I mean, this is the ONE time that Microsoft, long hated for being such a copycat, really innovated, really came up with something good. But nobody buys those Windows phones.
They're really really good, though. I think Microsoft was just late to the party.
I used to watch your stuff at the New York Times, and then you left, and I no longer have easy access to your delightful tech videos anymore. Why'd you move?
You don't have to miss me at the Times.. my column at YahooTech is even easier to find on Thursdays now! And now they're free. :)
You can bookmark this page of my columns: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/author/david-pogue
Or you can get notified by email, using a free service called Blogtrottr. Here’s how to sign up:
But why I moved? I'd been at the Times for 13 years, and, well, Yahoo made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Build a new site. Hire anyone I liked. Design it. Declare my own mission statement. Be a startup. I'd never had that kind of chance before!
Are you an Inbox Zero kind of guy?
and which email client do you use if you were concerned with analytics of said emails?
Not at ALL! I think Inbox Zero is kind of self-delusion. All you're really doing is shuffling your unread mail around, putting it into other folders!
My Inbox is the center of my life. (I use OS X Mail, because it's so well integrated with the rest of the OS, but I spend half my time furious at its inability to find messages.) A message doesn't disappear from the Inbox until I've taken care of it!
What are the names of some companies that impressed you the most when you hosted Nova's Making Stuff? Your answer would give helpful information that people reading it can research later.
You want to know the company that's doing the coolest stuff in science and technology?
It's the military!
Most of the most amazing stories we've done on NOVA tracked back to this or that government grant. Magneto-rheological fluid in shock absorbers...self-healing tanker trucks...gear for surviving extreme heat and cold...sooooo many memorable stories.
And DARPA...oh man, the stuff DARPA is doing is just amazing. We like to think that government is this sluggish clueless bureaucracy, and maybe it is...but some of their science projects are astonishing.
Oh, and Boston Dynamics (just bought by Google). The most amazing robots ever built.
You're the master of terrible jokes. Which is the worst joke you've ever heard?
A man walked into a bar. "Ouch," he said.
Do you think big-ticket wearables like Google glass or Apple watch will really catch on?
It's hard for me to imagine that they'll become big hits. The market for each is a subset of a subset (the Apple Watch works only with iPhones, for example), which makes the market smaller. Each has to be charged up every day. Each has serious limitations.
Google Glass in particular faces an uphill battle because of the smugness factor... you just kind of want to smash people in the face when they're wearing Glass.
But that said, I'll be happy to be wrong on either one!
Which tech devices do you own that you can't go a day without?
MacBook Air. I've banged on this thing daily for two years--it's my main machine--carried it, dropped it, installed and uninstalled stuff, and it just carries on like a TANK!
It's my communications hub, my work center, and of course my movie screen. :)
Hi David! Being the holy grail for tech in the PR world, what's the best way to pitch you without driving you nuts?
Awww, aren't you nice! I've never though of myself as a beverage vessel before!
All critics (tech, food, movies, art, anything) like PR pitches--if they are SHORT and CONCISE and PERSONAL. No email blasts; address it to ME. Include a PICTURE of your gadget. Say why it's unique.
Simply delete the second paragraph, where there's an obligatory CEO quote that we all know he never said.
Concise and personal. That's it. We're busy!
How different is being part of Yahoo! vs. New York Times?
Amazing question. It's night and day.
Yahoo has been an underdog for years. So they have this zealous, fire-in-the-belly sort of startup mentality. Everybody talks about "What should we build next?"
The Times is an amazing institution, but it's old and established, with certain ways of doing things. It's a much more settled, conservative atmosphere.
I love them both, but being part of a "startup" (of 14,000 people!) is a rush.
When a family member asks for trouble-shooting advice, do you give them a disappointing look and say "You didn't read my book did you"?
All of them.
Which websites consume the most amount of your time every day?
Professional: YahooTech (I read our other writers' stuff), Techmeme, ProductHunt, Gizmodo/Engadget. Personal: Facebook, NYTimes, YahooTravel.
In the beginning, I accepted everyone on Facebook as a "friend." Pretty soon, I had 5000 "friends," most of whom I'd never met. It was useless to me!
So I finally bit the bullet and spent 3 weeks unfriending everyone I didn't know. Suddenly, I "got" Facebook. HEY COOL! It's all news from my FRIENDS!
David: I've been using a Mac of one kind of another (a couple of MBPs and a Mini) for about five or six years now. I'm fairly familiar with doing command line stuff, running services (mail, apache, etc), moving around in the interface, and so on. Given that, would you say that there is much I would get out of one of your books on the Mac/OS X?
Good luck with sales on the new book!
It wouldn't surprise me if you discovered a lot of cool sub-features you didn't know about! When I write one of these books, I really wallow DEEPLY in the muck of these apps and features. It's incredible what these engineers bury in there--almost like it's for their own pleasure, because the OS company doesn't even tell people about it!
Do you have any Steve Jobs stories you would like to share? (Or Woz stories?) (Or, dare I hope, Steve Ballmer stories?)
Oh, I have some great Steve Jobs stories!
He was famous for calling up tech writers to scream at them, or praise them, for stuff they wrote--and I wasn't exempt!
I gave iMovie '08 an "F," said it was unusable. He called me at home to rant. "You don't have any fking idea what we DO here at Apple, do you!?!?" You just held the receiver away from your head and waited it out.
Then another time, I did a music video called ["I Want an iPhone"] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vniMR6Ez9cE) that kind of made fun of all the hype, the people standing in line, etc.
Jobs called me on my cellphone. "I wanted to talk to you about this song you made," he said. I winced, preparing to be screamed at.
"It's the funniest goddam thing I've seen in ages. Can you send me the QuickTime file?"
I'm a computer help desk supervisor. How can I best keep my group's morale up -- especially because all we hear all day are problems? I cannot do money (we're a government entity), and donuts/cookies are just getting old.
I was once talking to a therapist. I remember her telling me that it's kind of a tough job, because all she ever hears about is people's problems. She spends all day surrounded by unhappiness and dysfunction.
It must be similar in a help-desk situation!
Have you considered periodic awards programs--either serious or light-hearted?
One of my favorite books (of the ones I've written) was "Tales from the Tech Line." It was a collection of the stupidest user-error stories, collected from help desks. I dearly wish I could hear some of yours!
Do you sleep? When?
Not neeeeeearly enough. I really blew it this fall. FOUR BOOKS IN FOUR MONTHS. On top of the TV and Yahoo and speaking stuff. I bit off wayyyyyy more than I could chew, and my family life really suffered!
But I learned something. :)
Which type of product would you be happy never to have to review ever again?
LOL!! OMG, any networking product. They INVARIABLY expand to eat up an entire weekend of futzing and hassle and tech support and conflicting IP addresses... I HATE THEM.
I loved you in the nova series. Any plan to go back? Do something more? Something cooler?
Hey thanks! Yes, I've been out of the NOVA game for 1.5 years, I think primarily because of budgetary constraints. But we've got THREE new miniseries under discussion for next year, all three of which sound amazing. Stay tuned!
David, when are batteries going to get good enough so that I can use my smartphone for days without a charge? What emerging battery technologies are on the horizon?
You know, we did a NOVA segment about battery tech. The big problem is that our planet has only a certain number of elements, and they can be combined in only certain ways (nickel-cadmium, etc.) to create batteries. AND WE'VE TRIED THEM ALL!
So until we find another planet, I'm not sure there are many more big battery-chemistry breakthroughs yet to find. So the emerging battery technologies will have to rely on things like software and circuitry advances to milk more from what we have!
Would you wear an Apple Watch on a daily basis? What style would you buy?
It's hard for me to imagine having ANOTHER gadget to charge every night--especially a WATCH!
Smartwatches have a tough slog ahead. Right now, there isn't much that they do that your phone doesn't already do. Is it so much harder to hold your phone up to your face...than to hold your wrist up to your face? I'm not sure the added convenience is worth $500 plus daily charging hassle.
Then again, nobody ever knows with Apple stuff until it's actually out. Remember? Most people thought the iPad was gonna flop!
How many devices are on right now at YOUR house? How do you keep everything organized, especially with kids?? And how does the Mac/PC thing break down at your house?
The big problem at the Pogue house is the shipping! Products come in all the time. But I'm not allowed to KEEP anything, even if I wanted to. So it all has to be boxed up and shipped back. It's a royal pain that never ends. Thank god my assistant Jan does the tracking, and my daughter Tia does a lot of the packaging and shipping (yes, we pay her).
I don't think we OWN any more gadgetry than any other house, or use it in any other way. Each of my kids has a laptop. My oldest is building a Windows PC for gaming, and I have a Windows laptop and desktop, but we're mostly a Mac shop around here.
I try to encourage all computer use to be in the public space of the house...that's the only real parenting I do. Well, I also try to make the kids get up and move once every 24 hours....
You started out as a musician and humor is a big part of your personality. Who are some of your favorite musicians and comedians?
There's this one kind of humor that absolutely busts my gut. Kind of absurdist, hyperbolic stuff. So Monty Python was and is among my favorites. Some of Louis CK's stuff is brilliant. Dave Barry.
As for music--you know, I spent 10 years conducting and arranging Broadway shows. So I love most kinds of music, but the kind I really TRACK is Broadway scores (and movie scores, actually). Love Sondheim, Loesser. Jason Brown's stuff is great. David Yazbek ("The Full Monty"). And the guys who wrote "Next to Normal"... amazing.
Will drones face the same legal battles that the sharing economy industry faces? like privacy issues, issues with the FAA, etc. And do you think this will be bad enough to stop drones as an entire industry?
Great question! It's not looking good. What I mean is, the FAA is just about to start making up rules that govern drones... there have just been too many idiots flying drones over airports, sporting events, spying in apartment-building windows, etc.
The proposed rules sound like they'll treat drone pilots like plane pilots: Get a license. File a FLIGHT PLAN. Get re-certified every year. Aughhhhh....
And yeah, that'll put a huge damper on things!
I haven't purchased a personal laptop in nearly 10 years, but want a personal one mainly for music, blogging and some light Web design. I'm iPad and iPhone, but used to PC for laptops - so open to either! What do you recommend?
If you're iPad and iPhone, you'll get INCREDIBLE mileage by getting a Mac laptop. The new Continuity features let your phone become an accessory for your laptop--so your laptop can take and make phone calls like a speakerphone, send and receive texts to any phone, and so on. It's a life-changer!
For anyone else: I sure hope you guys are tracking the rise of the Chromebook. I mean, these are thin, light, beautiful, fast laptops that start up in 6 seconds and run 8 hours on a battery -- and cost $200!
They don't run Windows or Mac programs--they're just for doing stuff online. But there is a LOT you can do online (Google Docs, videos, etc). Incredible machine for kids, kitchen, second computer, etc...
You have such a varied, artistic background for an IT pro. Speaking as someone who fell in love with computing young, went on to study theatre for many years and is now back training with an IT concentration, how has your work in the arts informed and helped your career in technology?
Man, you really do get me! Great minds thinking alike, I guess!
I think my arts background informs EVERY PART of my technical career! My reviews are very liberal-artsy, if you think about it...focusing less on the gadgets and more on how they affect us. I do a lot of music in my reporting, too... see my new ["12 Days of Techness" video series on Yahoo Tech, for example] (https://www.yahoo.com/tech/you-dont-have-to-spend-a-fortune-to-buy-nice-tech-104699225154.html).
I'll be making a new music video at CES this year, too... should be a blast!
There are those who say that everything I DO is basically corny and hammy, which is clearly related to my theatrical background.
So, for better or worse (and plenty of people say it's worse!), my artsiness and my science/tech careers are hopelessly entwined!
Why does the dog have the missing manual in his mouth?
AHA! Nobody has EVER asked me that before!
I started the Missing Manual series in 1999. And there were two little cartoons. On the back cover, a guy turning a software box upside-down, shaking it to see why no manual was falling out.
And on the front cover: the dog, bringing you the manual. Get it? It's "the missing manual." The dog is bringing it to you. Fetching it, as a service.
Also, he's cute.
A prediction for the future: Do you think things like drones or VR will ever take off a mass consumer product or will it keep more of a niche audience akin to SLR cameras or high end speakers?
Yes, I think drones are coming on strong, and we haven't seen nearly the end of it. Wait till something as god as DJI's drones... come down to the price where almost anyone can buy them!
Drones are so heady because they TOTALLY change your reality. They make three dimensions, with the addition of altitude, part of how you see your world--instead of walking around on this flat plane all your life. It's a huge perspective shift.
Hi David! Been a fan of yours for years.
What writing would you say you enjoy more: reviewing the latest tech or authoring how-to books? Also, I really enjoyed a talk you did at a conference in Providence a couple of years ago; do you enjoy doing talks and do you plan to keep doing them?
I'd rank the joy I get from my work like this...
But yeah, I plan to keep doing all of it!
Hi David! I'm a proud owner of your novel Hard Drive. When's your next work of (adult) fiction coming out?
Also: As one Yale man to another, which residential college were you in?
OMG! "Hard Drive!" Copyright 1993! You're one of the few... the proud!
I had so much fun writing "Abby Carnelia's One and Only Magical Power" (for middle schoolers), that I think my next novel will also be for young adults. Nothing like getting fan mail from kids!
But if I have a good enough idea, I'll write an adult-fiction book.
And oh--I was in Calhoun!
What was your favorite video to make and why?
Often, I hire actors or comedians to play roles in my videos--especially this one guy, David Del Grosso. He's been in a bunch of them.
One time, he was representing the dying AM/FM radio industry. He lay like some kind of Mafia don in my bed, putting on this ridiculous accent, as I played the doctor with a new service (record-on-demand radio shows) that could revive him. David was so funny, we had to keep cutting because I was doubled over laughing!
That had to have been one of my favorite shoots... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PX8vIILlh2s
Your taste in humor sounds like mine. :) I'll bet you like the Far Side, too.
YES!!! And The Far Side!
I remember reading somewhere that you have a liberal arts background. Despite this, you do a great job of making tech simple for everyone - hard to do without a technical background
Can you tell us how you made the successful transition ?
Yes, I was a music major. Never touched a computer until senior year in college. And I think that's maybe my ace in the hole: I never really was a techie! I came to technology as an outsider. So my point of view in my writing is always from that stance, like it or not!
It was a long, strange transition. I started reviewing software for a computer club in NYC because it meant I could get free software (review copies)! That was while I was still doing Broadway shows.... and over time, it slowly became clear that my writing and teaching skills were in more demand than my musical ones!
I'm curious if your interest in technology filters over to gaming, and if so, what are your favorite video games?
Sadly, I'm not much of a gamer. (We have our games columnist for Yahoo Tech, and it's not me!)
The main reason is TIME...it takes a lot of experience and playing to know what you're taking about. And time is the one thing that's in very short supply in my life!
Through my son, though, I've learned a lot about Portal and Portal 2, TF2, and Borderlands...
I thought there was a way to get out of a group text on the iphone but I can't seem to figure it out. I pay by the text and not everyone in groups use iPhone so it get's pricey. What is the tip here?
It's new feature in iOS 8.
At the top of the chat, tap Details. Scroll down a bit--you'll see the button that says, "Leave this conversation." That's the one you want!
It appears identically on the Mac, in Messages, by the way.
Will Kell get into college?
God, I hope so. :)