techwork just one more time

Sorry to say it, people, but this installment of Tech@Work will be the last one.

Sorry to say it, people, but this installment of Tech@Work will be the last one.

Business realities being what they are, the folks at the Yukon News have decided they have to trim back on some of their local columnist content and, since my offering is a rather interest-specific affair, it stands to reason that it should be one of the ones de-selected.

Though it has been (for the most part at least) a pleasure to write, I am content to let the column go and to look back on it as an interesting little journey that took me to some amusing and unexpected places.

Though it turned out that way, Tech@Work was not initially intended, by me or the other people involved at its inception, as a venue for communicating the life and opinions of one particular local nerd named Rick Steele.

It was originally intended to be a space for a number of different people involved with the Yukon Information Technology Industry Society and myself at the Yukon Technology Innovation Centre to take turns talking to the public about issues and events in the world of information technology and technology in general.

I happened to be both the co-ordinator of YTIC and also the part-time executive director of YITIS, but my intention was to be the author of only every second weekly column, the one with a YTIC focus.

In those, I would be speaking not in my own right, but as a spokesperson for YTIC, writing the column on its time and dime.

As it turned out, only one person ever wrote anything for this column – once in his own right and once as a paid fill-in for me. Other than that, I did all the writing for the YITIS group too, on its dime as executive director.

The mug shot you see of me in this space did not exist then. We alternated the YITIS and YTIC logos and I alternated official capacity as the voice of one organization and then the other.

I wince now looking at some of those early columns, which boded anything but a promising future.

For one thing, writing in a spokesperson role did not come naturally or happily to me. I felt constrained in the things I could talk about and the things I could say about them.

For another thing, though I had long years of practice in academic and technical writing, getting into the groove of newspaper writing took me a while – mostly just learning how to be less academic or technical in style, without devolving into patronizing simplicity.

Eventually, I left the YITIS job and continued writing entirely under the YTIC banner. I owe a particular debt of thanks to the people at Yukon College, who gave me such a free hand as I began to take on a more personal tone and to speak more freely and sometimes controversially on technological issues.

The crunch came – and my unsightly mug took over in place of the YTIC logo – when I read through a particularly vitriolic article of mine in which I attacked the Conservative government’s proposed changes to digital copyright legislation.

Calling the government of the day a bunch of numbskulls did not seem to me like appropriate behaviour for someone writing under the rubric of a government-funded organization so I asked the editor to pull the YTIC logo for that story and just put my name to it.

He countered by saying I should put aside the YTIC logo permanently and put my face on all subsequent articles to be written now on the Yukon News’ dime.

It sounded like a good deal so I went for it.

That transformation freed me in subsequent instalments to range much more freely in the topics I took on, and in the range of tones I could use – acerbic, sometimes (though I hope not ranting), maybe sometimes a bit whimsical, but my own. That’s when the fun times really began.

It is not for me to judge my degree of success, but my intention here was always to put an unfeignedly friendly face on tech-talk, and to keep in mind that my audience were intelligent but non-technical people, who were looking for an interesting but casual read in a Friday paper.

The person who probably got the most stimulation from this column is me and I am sure I will miss it.

I always enjoyed that Eureka moment in the course of my week when I would say, “Yeah, that’s what my subject will be this time out.”

Also, the quest for subjects for this column has lead me into many areas of research and new understanding I otherwise would have been too undirected to hit upon.

I am grateful to the readers who encouraged me in my better moments and bore with me in my worse ones.

And I am grateful to the editors at the Yukon News, who gave me so much freedom here. They almost always went with my suggested titles and only very rarely altered my wording – and then usually for the better.

So, Eureka, that’s my subject for this last time out – I’m outta here, folks.

Catch you on the Internet.

Rick Steele is a technology junkie who lives in Whitehorse.