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JournalistHello! We are u/wiredmagazine, a disembodied brand come sentient AI. But really we’re seven journalists who work at a place called WIRED. Ask us anything!

Jan 19th 2018 by wiredmagazine • 27 Questions • 28 Points

We are a handful of writers and editors here to answer your questions about tech, science, working in journalism, or what it was like featuring Silicon Valley wunderkind Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti on our cover ( Kidding ). Feel free to ask us anything, and we’ll answer the best we can given our areas of coverage and expertise. We are:

Proof: https://twitter.com/WIRED/status/954442118688276481

We’ll be replying from the u/wiredmagazine account, but each response will indicate who wrote it. So how bout it, gang? Let’s talk!

Edit: Alright team, we're gonna wrap up! This has been a blast—thanks so much for your thoughtful questions. Feel free to keep asking! We'll continue to keep an eye on the thread and pop in when we can.

Q:

Which one of you typed up the response to Elon Musk's tweet?

A:

Group effort ftw! - Alex


Q:

What are your favorite professional development resources?

A:

Reading up on media news and difficult problems in journalism in Poynter and Columbia Journalism Review is crucial for me—basically, I love learning from the successes (and mistakes!) of other outlets. -Katie


Q:

What are your favorite professional development resources?

A:

Agreed with all the above. The things that make a pitch sing to me are enthusiasm and an obvious obsession with a topic—if you really care about it, you're more likely to make me care about it. And it helps to have something that convinces me you can do this story in a way no one else can—have you been following the subject for a really long time? Are you local to the company? -Katie


Q:

Thank you. That’s just what was needed. :)

A:

Nate, can you be any more of a hater? -- Angela


Q:

Thank you. That’s just what was needed. :)

A:

And here I thought I was the Joey to your Chandler... -- Angela


Q:

Thank you. That’s just what was needed. :)

A:

Happened to me last night! So everyone (i.e. tech twitter) right now is hating on Michael Moritz, a billionaire venture capitalist from Sequoia, for this piece in the FT about how Silicon Valley workers are soft and distracted and should be more like tech workers in China who constantly work and barely see their kids. Initially I linked to an old story of mine with some damning quotes from Moritz (about only investing in young men) to give context to his worldview. BUT even though Moritz presented this issue in a troll-y gendered way and he seems to advocate for a shitty work-life balance and says hiring women is "lowering the bar" I actually think the idea of comparing SV work life to China work life warrants a closer examination. After my tweet, a startup founder friend texted me that Moritz was really just trying to warn tech companies that China will eat their lunch because of their lack of boundaries and it changed my view. Motto: always text tech reporters to tell them they're wrong :) Here's an interesting thread on the work ethic in different countries subject. --Nitasha


Q:

If you want to ramp up your personal dread of genetic data in the hands of massive corporate interest, read Next by Michael Crichton.

A:

Thank you for the rec!! how did I forget that I love Crichton? Crossing my fingers that this is Jurassic Park but for humans. -N


Q:

If you want to ramp up your personal dread of genetic data in the hands of massive corporate interest, read Next by Michael Crichton.

A:

Like Katie, I'm more of a worrier. I think a lot about self-driving cars, and worry that if they're deployed in the wrong way, they could easily create more congestion and more sprawl, since traffic isn't so bad if you can look at your phone or, god forbid, read a book. Because that may be fine for you, but not everyone will be able to afford their own AV, and they'll be stuck with the traffic you've created. But if you can deploy them without doing that (shared vehicles is a good start), let's go! - Alex


Q:

If you want to ramp up your personal dread of genetic data in the hands of massive corporate interest, read Next by Michael Crichton.

A:

BLEAK RIGHT OFF THE BAT. I'm the social media editor so I, of course, am going to comment on social media. I'm legit afraid of how social media is affecting people's well-being, and how it exploits almost primitive reward incentives in humans in effort to get more people to spend time on their platforms. It CAN be and HAS been a force of good, don't get me wrong, but it also has the potential to head down the wrong path. — Nate


Q:

If you want to ramp up your personal dread of genetic data in the hands of massive corporate interest, read Next by Michael Crichton.

A:

Afraid is maybe too strong a word, but I'm definitely most anxious about the creep of AI into products where it benefits the company more than the customer? Like, say, a washing machine! Or really pick your large appliance. At least when I give Facebook huge amounts of data about myself I'm constantly aware, on some level, that I'm doing so, and I get to use it for free in return.

I am also afraid of sentient chainsaws. - Barrett


Q:

What do you think the role of the public should be with respect to tech and tech development? Besides just as a consumer.

A:

I'm the transportation editor at WIRED, and I think a lot about the role of government, especially local government, as companies like Uber and Lyft spread further and further, and as we shift toward tech like self-driving cars, and, on the loll-ier side, hyperloop and flying cars. Basically, I'd advise any city to be very careful about how it works with these companies, to make sure the public shares in any benefits, keep an eye on how data is collected and used, and maintain control over the streets—which are, after all, a public, shared good. - Alex


Q:

What's better? Twitter or Reddit? Why?

A:

I know that since we're on Reddit I should say Reddit, but I'm gonna answer from a more nuanced perspective. It's really, really hard to make a clean judgment of one over the other because they each have their own strengths in service of different ends. Reddit as a place to build and cultivate community is its strength, as I see it. Twitter is more a straight news feed, and while people do build communities there it isn't as baked in to the construction of the platform. I appreciate Twitter for real-time news, and the performance of it. If your goal is to rack up retweets and likes, it still requires a level of artistry that I haven't really able to replicate anywhere else. I will die chasing The Perfect Tweet. — Nate


Q:

Will my mint-in-box CueCat ever be worth anything?

A:

As an Orioles fan, I respect your optimism in the face of all odds. As a tech editor, I, uh ... ... ... - Barrett


Q:

What are each of your favourite tech-related features/profiles/non-news stories you have ever read?

A:

Another New Yorker entry: Kathryn Schulz's The Really Big One, about the Cascadia subduction zone in the northwest US. Earthquake awareness is, umm, high at WIRED headquarters in SF, and this one legitimately freaked me out. And made me mad we didn't do it. -Katie


Q:

What are each of your favourite tech-related features/profiles/non-news stories you have ever read?

A:

Tad Friend's 2015 profile of Marc Andreessen in The New Yorker jumps to my mind. It's a fascinating look into the culture of Silicon Valley in a moment of pure optimistic chaos. It also makes pretty clear that the money still flows uphill in that world. But of course the real reason I like that story is Joe Pugliese's portrait of Andreessen and his most impressive head. -Mike C https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/18/tomorrows-advance-man


Q:

What are each of your favourite tech-related features/profiles/non-news stories you have ever read?

A:

This piece by Mattathias Schwartz in the NYT magazine from 2008 about Weev and the /b/ board was wayyyy ahead of its time: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html --Nitasha


Q:

It's tough. I think that AI could be applied to do natural language analysis and identify gender bias and help employers do a better job at acknowledging structural barriers to women's careers in professional settings. I think Hollaback is trying to leverage technology to improve women's safety. Calisto is interesting for empowering victims to seek justice, but prevention is really tricky. I work for an org that encourages men to embrace their role in ending gender-based violence and it seems that that's the place where the most effective prevention work can take place. Maybe VR could help men practice or role play what it feels like to be an ally to women. Dunno! But thanks for the thoughtful response!

A:

Oh yeah, I debated mentioning startups trying to use tech to make hiring for equitable (at tech companies) so having candidates do games instead of whiteboard or make applications more blind. But I'm still unsure of the results. What's the name of your org? Curious if you ever try to get money from tech investors? They are big into philanthro-capitalism now, especially if it means funding tech as a solution. -Nitasha


Q:

What effect do you think the Google-Diridon building will have on San Jose's downtown area? It couldn't get any worse, right?

A:

I wonder AI would make disinformation campaigns via social media more efficient/effective considering that you're trying to persuade other humans into action. With the Russian troll farms during the US election, the imagery kinda worked, but non-idiomatic English could have given them away if you were looking for it. Do ppl respond better to personalized propaganda? idk. If your goal is to sow chaos or violence, such as spread hoax stories in India on WhatsApp, maybe you can see what's happening faster and exploit it. The other side would be that if natural language processing gets really good, you could catfish millions. (This is Nitasha, not AI.)


Q:

What do you think about the changing scientific opinions of the ketogenic diet?

A:

Part of me thinks it's hilarious how quickly we've flip-flopped from demonizing fat and cholesterol to demonizing sugar and carbohydrates—can we all just please agree that health is likely to be found somewhere in the middle? But in general, I think the metabolic science behind ketogenesis is fascinating, and if a relatively faddy diet is going to encourage a better understanding of how our bodies utilize the calories we take in and convert them to energy vs. fat, all the better. We know that a ketogenic diet can be really helpful for some very specific health problems, like epilepsy, and I'm excited to learn about what it could (maybe) do for others. -Katie


Q:

I just listened to the latest Gadget Lab podcast, and the internet won't tell me where David Pierce is going. Is this public knowledge yet?

A:

You can bet all your money that the internet will eventually tell you where David Pierce is going. - Mike C


Q:

Hi, thank you so much for doing this!

One thing I struggle with as a aspiring science writer is deciding what form the story I'm working on will have. Will it be a short report? Will it become a long piece of creative nonfiction? So my question is, when you start exploring a new story for Wired, have you already decided if it'll be longform or short form? Or do you have the freedom to modify the format as you explore the subject?

Also, when writing a piece that takes months of research, how do you keep up your enthusiasm for that subject?

A:

IMO, to go long, you need characters, or at least a character. Shorter stories are great for news: new tech, new companies, etc. If it's a meatier news story, or what we call a trend story, I think 1,200 words or so is a good ceiling. I, at least, don't have patience/time to read much more than that if there's not a compelling story. Stories need characters, people who are facing challenges, who have fun/interesting backgrounds, who have ups and downs. That's what makes me (and readers, I daresay) willing to spend the extra time reading. Long articles without characters are basically academic papers, and not even academics like reading those.

Re: enthusiasm, I'd flip that question around to, How do find a subject that will maintain your enthusiasm? If you're several months in and have lost interest, you picked the wrong subject, sorry! A good sign is that in your earliest research, the subject just gets deeper and more interesting. - Alex


Q:

Hi, thank you so much for doing this!

One thing I struggle with as a aspiring science writer is deciding what form the story I'm working on will have. Will it be a short report? Will it become a long piece of creative nonfiction? So my question is, when you start exploring a new story for Wired, have you already decided if it'll be longform or short form? Or do you have the freedom to modify the format as you explore the subject?

Also, when writing a piece that takes months of research, how do you keep up your enthusiasm for that subject?

A:

Such a good question! The easy answer is "it depends," which is also a total copout. But a slightly tangential answer is: By the time you start actually writing, you should at least have a word count and headline in mind (even if it's not the one you end up using, or that your big dumb editor slaps on at the end). You can write for thousands of words about pretty much anything if you let yourself, but it's rare that people actually want to read that many, or that the story you're really telling needs them all. Which is to say: I think it pays off to keep your stories narrowly focused, at least at first. And then if in the course of reporting it seems like there's something bigger there, or no way to get out what you want to say in anything less than a major big-time feature, have that conversation with your editor, who will either spare you the trouble or give you story-specific tips on how best to structure a bigger beast. - Barrett


Q:

Hi, thank you so much for doing this!

One thing I struggle with as a aspiring science writer is deciding what form the story I'm working on will have. Will it be a short report? Will it become a long piece of creative nonfiction? So my question is, when you start exploring a new story for Wired, have you already decided if it'll be longform or short form? Or do you have the freedom to modify the format as you explore the subject?

Also, when writing a piece that takes months of research, how do you keep up your enthusiasm for that subject?

A:

Don't forget Global Construction Review! Also, for those interested in tunnels, there's a World Tunneling Congress every year. I've been, and really dug it. -Alex


Q:

Alex.

A:

Alex, what have you done? — Nate


Q:

Then surely you've heard of Portable Restroom Operator magazine? Been getting it for years as a gag gift for loved ones ;)

A:

Lately I've been spending a fair amount of time reading about type design on sites like Typographica. Want to talk about glyphs? I'm here for that. -- Angela


Q:

I love playing around with glyphs! They’re compensation for my mediocre handwriting. What are you favorites currently? I’ve been playing around with Moshik Nadav’s “Lingerie” and “Paris” typefaces recently.

A:

If you're interested in urbanism (who isn't?!), read CityMetric. Best British writing about cities since Dickens. - Alex


Q:

what's the best way to send products to specific writers for possible review?

A:

The best way to do this is to ask if the writer would like to review the product. The product reviewers here at WIRED have a calendar and a list of things they're currently working on, which means they are always surrounded by a mountain of boxes. Sending a product unsolicited usually just results in the product going into a pile where it's quickly forgotten. Reach out to the writers and editors (email is best), tell them what you've got, and then if they are interested, they will definitely get in touch to arrange for a review unit. - Mike C