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7/22/2005
02:02 PM
Valerie Potter
Valerie Potter
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You Wow Us With Your Prose

Your entries to The Great Tech Call-'Em-Like-You-See-'Em Contest were entertaining, well-written, and a lot of fun to read--and we learned a little about you in the process.

Here at TechWeb and the TechWeb Pipelines, we're always delighted to hear from you. Usually feedback comes in the form of quick polls, comments about stories you loved or hated, or e-mails about the hot issue du jour. All of this is welcome, and we encourage you to keep communicating with us in these ways.

But we recently got the best feedback of all. Throughout the month of June, the TechWeb Pipelines held a contest in which we editors weighed in on various topics, then invited you, our readers, to do the same--in essay form. Yes, that's right, we asked you to spend your free time writing essays--and many of you did.

We weren't sure what kind of response we'd get (if any), but hundreds of you took time out of your busy schedules to write in. True, we did tempt you with a host of fabulous hardware and software prizes--including two iPods--but still, we were impressed with both the number and quality of the responses.

The Great Tech Call-'Em-Like-You-See-'Em Contest was divided into four parts:

  • The Software Hall Of Fame, in which readers waxed poetic about their favorite software apps of the last 10 years.

  • The Hardware Hall Of Fame, in which readers raved about the best hardware of the past 10 years.

  • The Next Big Thing, in which readers predicted which real-world technologies will shape our lives in the next 5 years.

  • Helpless User Stories, in which readers shared their funniest, wildest, or most horrifying tech support stories.

    Not only did we get to read a raft of great essays and stories, we learned a lot about you. For instance, it turns out that you really love your software. Although we got more user stories than anything else, Software Hall Of Fame entries were close behind--and they were by far the most impassioned pieces. A few examples:

    "Blogging is online democracy, the new vox populi. People without the means to pay for a domain name and Web host can use services such as Blogger and within minutes be speaking out to a worldwide audience." -- Jack Carlson, on Blogger and other blog software

    "I picked a name, logged on and picked a channel from a list. Bam, I was in. It was wild. Lots of people talking at the same time. WOW! It took a while to get used to scrolling text and following the thread of a conversation, but I got into it and soon I was addicted." -- Nick Charalambous on his first experience with mIRC chat software

    "The simple truth is that if you recover somebody's data from the abyss just once, they think you can do anything." -- Tony Brezovski, on data recovery software SpinRite

    "When work piled up and you began to feel like a drone, The Talking Moose would rise up with a pithy proverb and make you laugh. For those of us who grew up on Rocky and Bullwinkle, he kept us young, and he kept us on our toes. -- Michael Radway on the Macintosh's Talking Moose application

    "Whenever I have the misfortune of working on a PC without ActiveWords, I feel like I'm not wearing pants." -- Brendon Connelly on macro utility software ActiveWords

    Respondents who chose to write about hardware were generally much more utilitarian. One reader shared a tip for using low-cost ATA 133 RAID PCI Controllers for backup. Another extolled the virtues of USB connections. Several others gave a respectful nod to the simple, solid functionality of flash memory drives and other small storage media. And several wrote in to praise the usefulness of the cell phone--any cell phone. It seems that most of you simply aren't attached to specific hardware products the way you are to software apps.

    The Next Big Thing responses were illuminating as well. It isn't easy to write about upcoming technologies, but that didn't stop a few hardy souls from trying. The predictions ranged far and wide, from multi-core computing to fuel cells for mobile devices to eldertech (an array of technology designed for an aging population) to the ability to download data directly to the brain. While not all the predictions are truly possible within the next five years, they did reveal imagination and a love of technology, and were a delight to read.

    Speaking of delightful reading, Helpless User Stories was our most popular category. We're proud to say that the vast majority of you didn't relate mean-spirited tales of savvy techs playing tricks on ignorant users, nor did most of you gloat over your users' stupidity. Instead, you treated your users gently, privately chuckling at their often hilarious misconceptions while helping them along as best you could. You're the type of techie we hope to find on the line when we call the help desk.

    So who won the contest? I can't tell you that yet. We're still contacting all those who won prizes and taking care of legalities. We'll announce the winners and print the best entries just as soon as we can--and then everyone will get to see why I'm so excited about our reader essays.

    Valerie Potter is Features Editor for the TechWeb Pipelines.

    The TechWeb Spin TechWeb's editors are busy assigning and editing and linking and otherwise creating the content you see on TechWeb.com and the Pipeline sites, but we wanted the chance to tell you what we see and what we think about it directly. So, each week, The TechWeb Spin will bring you the informed insight and unique perspective of a different TechWeb editor: Fredric Paul, Scot Finnie, Tim Moran, Stuart Glascock, Alexander Wolfe, Val Potter, and Cora Nucci. We hope you like it, and even if you don't we hope you take the time to tell us what you think about it.

    Check out The TechWeb Spin Archive.

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