Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Jim Giles

Jim Giles

Journalist, co-founder of Matter

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm the co-founder of Matter, a new publication devoted to long-form writing about the sciences and technology.

I also write on a freelance basis, with a focus on the interface between technology and society. In practice, that means stories on issues like online crime, social media, privacy etc. My work appears in outlets like New Scientist, the Economist and the Atlantic.

What hardware do you use?

I have a MacBook Air that I take to my office and an iMac at home. I switched from PCs about 18 months ago and have been a nicer, calmer person ever since. My path from PC to Mac is pretty common, I think. I started off liking the fact that there was more software for PCs and that it was easier to get under the hood of the machine. Then my machines started to slow down. And crash. And break. After I while I ended up wanting something that just worked. There are things I don't like about Apple, like the way they shut anything remotely controversial out of the App Store, as well the crazy cut they take from publishers who use iOS. But the company makes machines that work.

And what software?

I use a lot of stuff that is very common: Google Docs, Tweetdeck, Skype, Dropbox etc. I recently discovered OmmWriter, a stripped-down word processing package that eliminates distracting screen elements. It's beautifully designed and helps me focus when I'm writing long pieces. Looking forward, the press around Bitcasa makes me think that Dropbox has a serious competitor on its hands -- I'm looking forward to checking it out.

I check a lot of web sites every day, so anything that makes reading easier is a bonus. Readability is a great example -- it cuts out the visual confusion that so often surrounds text on the web. Both Instapaper and Pocket provide nice systems for saving articles, which I usually come back to later in the day on my iPad. And of course one of the killer apps in this space is Flipboard. They've combined beautiful visual design with thoughtful interactive design to create an amazing product.

For non-work stuff I use mainly well-know products (Netflix etc), but I have to mention Spotify. The music critic Lester Bangs had a fantasy about a basement containing all the world's recorded music. Spotify is a big step in that direction. I love discovering new music and the depth of the Spotify collection continually surprises me.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm not sure what I'd add. I certainly don't need more processing power. If I'm allowed to fantasize about online services, I'd like to see Spotify or something similar expand to include everything. Meaning EVERYTHING -- every piece of music that was ever recorded in a studio, every radio show, every playlist, every mix tape, every concert. Let's make the Lester Bang fantasy come true! I won't go into the challenges involved in making that happen, other than to say that opposition from the recording industry would likely be more of a barrier than technical or logistical issues.