Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tech it easy

I WAS in tech journalism for the first five years in NST. I wrote for the Computimes pullout and later Computimes Shopper Malaysia magazine.

I enjoyed my time there. Assignments were fairly straightforward: go cover product launches, write about product. Get review unit, write review.

I loved the informal but purposeful way with which events were conducted. I loved the people I met. I found them to be real, resourceful and down-to-earth.

Not many people know this, but tech journalists are some of the most well-travelled ones around. They are treated very well by tech companies with the budgets to send journalists to cover overseas tech events.

So if you love to travel, tech journalism is the place to be.

My times at Computimes and Shopper were also some of the most creative periods of my life.

I taught myself video editing and problem solving, and even learnt Photoshop and started a side career in cartooning.

But the best part was still the fact that we got to play with gadgets and software.

This we used to our full advantage. Say, for example, I developed a curiosity for a particular Mac computer. I could then call Apple up, ask for a review unit and play with it until I was satisfied that all my questions were answered before buying the product, all on the pretext of doing a product review.

I loved the mental stimulation. During tea at the canteen, my colleagues and I would LOL at some of the most obscure jokes and twisted puns you can ever think of.

I really thought we were some of the coolest people in the office.

But when I moved to Life & Times in 2005, I had the shock of my life. It turned out that the rest of the company didn't think much of me.

On the contrary, they thought I was one of the more boring people in the whole wide office!

My colleagues at the new desk gave me this look of horror whenever I tried to impress them with some of my classic puns. It took me some time to control my tendency to crack a joke.

What I learnt from this episode of my life was that not many people like smart Alecs.

One of the dangers of being tech-savvy is falling into the trap of superiority complex.

You start out like any other chap: humble, precocious and willing to learn. All the right ingredients to become a talented tech writer.

After a few years when you are able to form opinions about your subject matter, you are given the confidence by your editor to maintain a column.

You begin to have followers. You find yourself having a certain influence on the general public - or at least, those within your magazine's circulation figure.

Soon, however, your followers grow to a size that worries even someone like Ayah Pin.

You get on Twitter and have even more followers. Your level of influence extends to the global level.

At this stage, you begin to feel infallible. Others' technical opinions do not matter anymore.

There is an Arabic word for this: riya' (pride). According to Islamic teaching, techies who have riya' even the size of an atom in their heart will not go to heaven.

You can tell when a techie has riya'. He walks around with a MacGyver strut and doles out unsolicited "advice" about gadgets to hapless consumers.

Don't be like this techie. On Earth, people do not like it when you demonstrate how smart you are. When you die, you will burn in hell. You lose on both counts.


  1. ahhh.. i share your techy side and travel enthusiasm. The best technology can be found everywhere and that's where i think we should be. Everywhere...Sadly now that i have three kids, i can only be at home. But to all techies, don't worry, the light shall shine on me! and if my wife lets me travel again.

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