December 26, 2011

An Interview with Joshua Topolsky

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We’ll be the first one to admit that Techblitz, being a very recent blog start up, isn’t always the first to hear big news. When on the short end of the stick, Techblitz needs to rely on an external source, one that’s popular enough to attract thousands of page views and tips from all sectors of the tech industry. Where could anyone find such a site? Enter The Verge. Launched only one month prior, The Verge has already become one of the leading technology news sites on the internet today. It’s not hard to see why; headed by editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky, The Verge is simply the most informative and intelligent websites on this fantastic world wide web. Joshua regularly appears on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, contributes in The Washington Post, and hosts his very own show, On The Verge. Joshua is a multifaceted tech journalist, to say the very least!
Techblitz (figuratively) sat down with Joshua Topolsky to question him on his favorite gadgets, memes and more.
TECHBLITZ: How’d you get your start in the tech industry ?
JOSHUA: Before I did this, I was actually a music producer. Before that I was a DJ and I was in a band; I really started making music, and I became a producer. My brother and I had a studio for several years in Brooklyn. As you know, modern music is a fairly nerdy affair. During the whole time I was very geeky; I started getting into computers when I was six, when I began building computers and I was on the internet all night long. So basically I was a life long nerd. While my brother and I were running the studio there was an open call at Engadget  for writers. Well I thought ‘Why not?’ I wrote the occasional music review for music magazines and I thought “Well I can write, why don’t I give this a shot?’ They liked what they saw and I immediately started writing part time for them in my downtime. After a month of that I was offered a full time job and I had to make a decision: do I do something in music or do I do something in [tech writing]? I chose to do [tech writing] and that is how I got started.
TECHBLITZ: Favorite childhood gadget?
JOSHUA: I don’t know if this even is a gadget, but when I was a little kid I had this SpidermanTM action figure that had a hook attached to a line. You could hook it on to something and it would pull itself up the line. It was not really a gadget, though. I would probably have to say the ColecoVision. My brother and I used to play the ColecoVision: it was an old gaming system. We had bought an add on for it, the Adam, which had a cassette drive and took these cassette tapes as data. It was really insane. That was an early gadget I was fascinated by as a kid. The ColecoVision gave us an opportunity to interact with technology that we hadn’t had before.
TECHBLITZ: What do you believe differentiates The Verge from other tech blogs?
JOSHUA: So first off, we don’t think of ourselves as a blog. I think of us as a hybrid- I think that we’ve moved on to something that is different than a blog in the sense that we are taking a hybrid approach; we’re taking the ethical, journalistic approach of traditional media and we’re combining that with the speed, looseness and freshness of blogging. Our goal is to create a combination of the two things. I don’t think of us as a blog; rather, I think of us as a news site. We are trying to have the best of both worlds. I’m a big magazine and newspaper fan, and we’ve combined the best of that stuff with the best of what blogging has to offer; I believe a lot of that has to do with the tools and the speed.
TECHBLITZ: I’ve noticed and really enjoyed the magazine style layout of The Verge. It really does help when reading a review or an article.
JOSHUA: Yeah we try to do something that goes  beyond just the traditional expectations if The Verge were just a blog.
TECHBLITZ: On a scale of “RIM Keynotes” to “Hella Awesome,” how much fun is it to work at The Verge?
JOSHUA: Hella awesome, obviously.  First off, I’m doing what I love every day, which is incredible. It’s incredible to wake up everyday and do what you really want to do. But also, I get to work with people who are smart, funny, interesting and weird. I’ve said this before, but the people I work with are my friends. I don’t have a bunch of friends outside of work; my Verge friends are my real friends. The people that I work with aren’t only great, amazing, intelligent people  to work with but they are also people that I like as human beings, so that’s pretty cool.
TECHBLITZ: Whether it’s the keynote addresses, cutting edge devices or the plentiful amount of Mike Lazaridis photoshops you receive, what is your favorite perk of being a blogger?
JOSHUA: So I think this what I would consider a perk that also kind of sucks in a way! I get to play with new stuff before anybody, and it’s great to be able to do that. When I was younger, when I wanted to get a gadget or a new computer, I would plan, wait and save my money to get that gadget. There was a sense of excitement to go and finally get that thing, but now that I have to see all these gadgets for work, it’s a little less thrilling.  I know I am going to have to see this phone: for example, Motorola has this new phone and I’m going to get to play with it, versus saving and waiting and researching and going to the store. I love the opportunity to do so but it also going to take a little excitement out of my regular  experience with gadgets. But I believe that the best perk is not only being able to play with gadgets but also being able to see new things and watch as new things are created. I just went to Microsoft to see their research projects, which is something I would never had been able to do if I wasn’t covering technology. The stuff they’re doing is super futuristic and I got to play around with [the research projects] and look at how they’re building [these projects]. It’s really exciting to be able to see the future as it is being created, even in some instances  before it’s being created, not just seeing the end result of the process.
TECHBLITZ:  If given a chance to work in any other employment field, where would you go? Let it be known that teen popstar is not a valid choice.
JOSHUA: I think I’ve passed my prime for teen popstar! I’m a guy who doesn’t sit still; I’ve got a lot of different interests. I think there a couple of places I’d love to go at some point in my life. I’d love to do something in fiction that has a narrative, whether it is a book or a movie; I’m kind of  a sci-fi fan, so I’d love to do something with a narrative, fiction. I’d also love to be more involved in product design. I can see myself down the road being involved in user interface design or product design. That’s the stuff that is really exciting to me when I see real genius in user interface design and product design. It’d be interesting to think about what we use and how we use it.
TECHBLITZ: What do you expect at this year’s CES?
JOSHUA: I’d expect to see a lot of Android tablets and ultrabooks/Macbook Air clones. I also expect to see TV’s with internet access, as always. However, I think phones will be less present this year compared to previous years. Nokia, of course, will be there, so that will be interesting. However, I believe this CES will be fairly tame as we’re at a midpoint in technology: Windows 8 isn’t here yet and the iPad is still the dominant tablet, so not much has changed... yet. 
TECHBLITZ: What do you believe is going to be the “next big thing” in consumer technology?
JOSHUA: I believe the next big thing natural human interfaces — whether it's voice, motion, touch, or any combination of the former. The computer is going to get more and more out of the way. The iPhone really kick started this type of human computing where the technology is there to help you.  There also is a trend that is happening after all these companies entered the consumer technology space. These companies have to choose what works for them, because in a rough economy like this, there really can’t be any more unsuccessful “experimenting. “ These companies need to prove their value for consumers. 
TECHBLITZ: Of the many people you follow on Twitter, who could be considered your favorite?
JOSHUA: Well, this is a tough one. I might sound biased here but I’d have to choose my wife @laura_june. Whereas I often tweet about The Verge and other technology related items, Laura has the free range to tweet truly funny thoughts that aren’t always related to technology. I enjoy them quite a lot.
TECHBLITZ: We just want to make sure we didn’t create inter-office fighting over who Josh’s favorite is!
JOSHUA: No, I don’t think that choice will bring about any fighting…
TECHBLITZ: Besides your own darling, The Verge, what website is your favorite? Saying Techblitz may or may not award bonus points.
JOSHUA: I am a feed reader, so I read a lot of blogs in Google Reader. I often read The Atlantic,  I believe they have quality articles over there.  I also read a lot of Bloomberg Businessweek, FFFFOUND!, Brand New / Under Consideration, magCulture.com, Sci-Fi-O-Rama, Lapham's Quarterly Tumblr, This Isn't Happiness, and Convoy.

We want to thank Joshua Topolsky and Michael Shane for making this interview possible You can read more from Joshua at The Verge and follow him on Twitter.  You can also follow Techblitz on Twitter and like us on Facebook! Don’t forget to subscribe via RSS!
Photo via New Cruelty

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