5 Easy Questions for Scott Rosenberg

On this blog I have published interviews with Steve McConnell, Johanna Rothman, Alistair Cockburn, Scott Berkun, Mary Poppendieck, Grady Booch and many others. Everytime I ask the same five questions, and everytime I am pleasantly surprised by the answers I get.

Scott Rosenberg is the author of Dreaming in Code, listed at #52 on the Top 100 Best Software Engineering Books, Ever. Scott is a writer, editor and web site builder. He was co-founder of Salon, where he served as technology editor and later managing editor and VP/editorial operations for many years. You can find Scott's blog at www.wordyard.com.

These are the five questions I asked Scott, and the answers that he gave me…

1. What has been the toughest challenge in your past?

Scottrosenberg
Breaking into a career as a writer after I graduated from college in the early 1980s. This was a time rather like the present — a terrible recession in which publications were closing left and right, only, unlike the present, there was no online universe to provide new hope and new ideas. My first assignments were reviews for a weekly newspaper in Boston, where I was paid $50, $75, maybe $100 for something extra long. I stuck it out because I couldn't imagine doing anything else. Since then I've done many things — including editing, managing a newsroom and building and running websites (chiefly at Salon). But writing is still the heart of what I do, 25 years later.

2. What is the main source of inspiration for what you do?

I guess there are different meanings to "inspiration." In the broadest sense, I think most writers of nonfiction, myself included, seek to capture some experience in words, to bottle it somehow and make it pungent and potent for readers far-off in space and time. That goal inspires you through all the grunt work, the daily struggles with intractable sentences and paragraphs.

There is also a smaller kind of inspiration that one gets in real time or on a shorter term basis from friends and colleagues and peers. Those of us who work (or worked, as I did) in newsrooms received this water-cooler style — a comment of appreciation for a particularly deft turn of phrase, reaction to something funny, an argument with some provocative statement. Today, we can get this sort of inspiration even when we work alone, with the right combination of IM, blogging, Twitter, or whatever else you like to use.

3. What activity should be on every manager's daily list?

One that's critically important, and that I'm afraid I neglected more often than I should have in my years as a manager, is checking in with people individually, not in terms of "how far along is that project" but in terms of "How are you doing? What's going on? What's working for you around here and what isn't?" Depending, of course, on the number of people you're responsible for, if you make sure to do this once a day with one person you manage, you will do a better job.

The other thing is something for yourself: if you're an office or desk worker, like a software developer or a writer, take care of your body. Every day, do *something* — stretch, exercise, yoga, whatever it is that works for you. If you're in your 20s you may not think this matters now; but your older, wiser self will thank you if you accept that it does.

4. What can we learn from you in the near future?

This is an easy one for me: I just turned in the first draft of my next book, which is an attempt to tell the story of blogging from the early days in the mid-90s to the present. (The title is SAY EVERYTHING, and it should be out in mid 2009.) What I hope readers will learn from it is a little more about how and where innovation arises on the Web. Also, I'd like people to develop a healthier respect for the ostensibly "trivial" technologies like blog software, which often turn out to have real social impact. I'm hoping that the stories in the book, about how bloggers have dealt with problems of identity, privacy, transparency, civility and authority, will prove valuable to anyone who's trying to navigate the strange waters of the social web today.

5. What is more interesting than software development?

Music. And beer!

Well, these are the answers given by Scott Rosenberg. I hope you liked them!

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