Internet TV host, technology writer, blogger and quality assurance tester Max Swisher knows more about technology than most adults I know. It comes naturally to him. And, it makes perfect sense to me. His parents are both involved in the technology industry. His idea of fun is mucking about in some HTML or launching a web project of one type or another. All this is pretty impressive, especially when one considers Swisher is also a seventh grade student.
In this exclusive interview, I talked to Max about what he “does for a living”, how he makes money while going to school at the same time, and whether he prefers a Mac to a Windows machine, among many other topics. Leave a comment and let Max know what you think about his work.
TCW: Hi, Max! Before we get started, tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living.
TCW: I learned about your blog, Good Morning Geek, at a recent conference. How long have you been a blogger and what types of things do you blog about?
MS: I have been blogging since October of 2008. I write how-to articles, opinion pieces, and reviews of software and hardware.
TCW: What types of products and services do you write about for each publication?
MS: For AppMinute I have written about different mobile accessories, and for MyMac I have written reviews of Mac hardware and software. In addition to these I also have played around with video and audio production creating my own Good Morning Geek show. You can watch previous episodes on the Good Morning Geek channel on YouTube or iTunes.
TCW: Do you get paid to do reviews for products, and if so, for which brands? How did you get these gigs?
MS: When I do get sent a product for review, I usually receive compensation for it in the form of the product. The main companies that have sent me products for review are Altec Lansing, which makes various speaker systems and headphones, Otterbox, which makes some heavy-duty, yet stylish and rugged cases for mobile devices, and Speck, which makes unique and colorful cases for a wide variety of mobile devices. I get most of these gigs by meeting PR people at conferences and keeping in contact with them. With Altec Lansing, I got a small speaker as a gift as they were a sponsor at a conference, and they liked my review enough to send me some more products.
TCW: What advice can you provide for aspiring communicators hoping to break into the technology review arena?
MS: The only reason people ever read reviews is for opinion on the product, so include plenty. Another good idea is to try and target which level of knowledge you are writing for with your reviews, so if you are planning on writing reviews for people that are less knowledgable about technology, try to explain things a bit more in depth and use less big technical words (or explain them if you do).
MS: All social networking tools are extremely powerful, but I find Twitter most useful as anyone in the world can start to be exposed to the things that I write and note on Twitter. I have my Twitter account working with dlvr.it, so all of my content is automatically published to my Twitter. I post relatively personal, but still technical things, to Twitter, along with links to my writing. Reading content from someone you know personally can make the content even more interesting.
[Editor’s Note: To find out how to unify your social networking efforts and automatically publish content from dlvr.it to Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, read my article entitled Content Curation: Streamlining The Process Of Populating Your Social Networks With Relevant, Interesting and Engaging Content.]
TCW: In your view, what are the five most useful/beneficial technologies today and why?
MS: The fifth on my list would be touchscreens, as they allow a whole new level of interactivity with devices. Fourth would be Global Positioning Systems (also called Geographic Positioning Systems or GPS for short), as it allows for devices to do a whole level of new stuff. I can get directions when I’m lost with nothing but my cell phone. Third would be wireless networking in general, as it removes the complication of cable length and things getting tangled. Second would be the expandability of devices and the ability to connect third party accessories to make our current devices better. And the first thing on my list would be mobile connectivity. The ability to have your apps on smart phones and mobile devices means people can take them wherever they go. Making them work requires a totally new mindset when developing ideas for applications.
TCW: In your view, what are the five most useful/beneficial products are today?
MS: There are two reasons devices are made — to make our lives easier or more fun. At number five, I would put the eBook reader, as they allows the reading experience to be less… well… heavy. Number four would be phone cameras, as they allows us to carry around/remember one less device. Number three would be the laptop computer, as it allows us to bring a large amount of computing power wherever we go. Number two would be the tablet computer, as it allows us to bring fair screen real estate but still stay mobile. And number one would definitely be the cell or mobile phone, as changes how we think about technology. Thanks to mobile devices that fit in our pockets, we no longer think about technology as what sits at our desks in our home. Technology has become a part of our lives, and having technology like this everywhere we go changes the way we think about communication and productivity.
Communication is the most valuable thing in the technology realm, and it is no longer something that happens only when we are at a desk or in the same room with people. Mobile phones add another dimension in which communication can occur, which is wherever and whenever.
TCW: iPhone or Droid or? And why?
MS: I prefer Droid, because I support the open development and use of platforms and love the ability to customize my phone farther than I could any other phone. I have a third party operating system installed on my phone!
TCW: Windows or Mac or ? And why?
MS: I prefer Mac as it is more stable and powerful, and getting tasks completed is a lot less complicated than on Windows.
TCW: Printed book or eBook or enhanced/interactive eBook app or? And why?
MS: eBooks are ok, but not exactly the most practical. You can’t easily let your friend borrow an eBook, and the price of having eBooks is highly impractical for some because you need to have a device on which to read them.[Editor’s Note: eBook lending libraries and clubs are popping up on the web. However, some publishers are nervous about the prospect of libraries lending eBooks and allowing consumers to lend eBooks to friends because they are unsure what it means for their profits. Changing existing licensing agreements to allow eBooks to be lent is also a challenge. That said, many basic eBooks are available for free (albeit, not the most in demand titles) from Project Gutenberg and others, that can be read on basic mobile phones, which in 2010, numbered over 5 billion worldwide. For context, the entire population of Earth is slightly less than 7 billion. In nations like India, there are more mobile phones than there are toilets.]
TCW: Blogging or video blogging or? And why?
MS: A variety of content is best, as some might want to read, some might want to watch, and some might want to listen. When video blogging, you can’t edit out a few words with a few hits of the backspace. You might need to redo a portion of it, and even then a cut will be noticeable. Video is also a lot harder to deal with download-wise, as it takes up more disk space and takes longer for people to download. It is for this reason that I prefer text blogging and audio.
TCW: I’d imagine you have made some pretty impressive social connections as a result of your work. You certainly follow an interesting group of people on Twitter — Robert Scoble, Michael Arrington, and then there’s Jesus, but I also noticed Steve Wozniak. What do you find interesting about following him? Have you met him? Do you have any Woz stories you can share?
MS: Steve Wozniak is highly influential in the tech community. I have met him at conferences and keep in touch with him over Facebook. I invited him to my Bar Mitzvah by calling him on his cell phone at 9:40 PM and asking if he would come, and he said he would love to. Unfortunately, he had a speech in Australia, and he was actually disappointed that he couldn’t come. I still appreciate that such an influential person was willing to come to my personal event.
TCW: Wow! That’s a great story. And, very cool. In addition to all you do, you’re a student, too. How do you find time to do all that you do?
MS: I am a seventh grader at Fisher Middle School, and keeping up with all of this involves many late nights. I am also a paid intern at Cooliris, where I do Q/A and bug testing, so all three combined can get a bit difficult.
TCW: Are your parents supportive of your work? Are they technologists as well?
TCW: What do you plan to do as a career later in life?
MS: I plan on possibly being a software engineer or a web developer.
TCW: Okay Max, look like we’ve run out of time. Our last question is: “What one question would you ask yourself if you were interviewing yourself?”
MS: The question I might ask myself would be, “What do you do for fun?” The answer is, I code HTML and make a variety of small project websites that often end up dying when I get bored of the idea. A few examples would be dtlosgatos.com, nolg.me, and superamazingsite.me.
TCW: Thanks for sharing a little about yourself with our readers. If any of them want to reach out to you for more information — or to find out how to hire you — how should they contact you?
MS: If you want to contact me, go to this web page, where you send me a message or call me.