Friday, September 02, 2011

Tech News Today & TWIT - Getting your (daily) tech fix

Starring: Tom Merrit, Sarah Lane, Iyaz Akhtar, Darren Kitchen and Jason Howell
Category: News
I was a big fan of TechTV despite discovering it just before it got gobbled up by G4. I watched re-runs of the ScreenSavers and CallForHelp with Leo Laporte not only because of the tech content but because it was done so well. For once, tech shows that rise above the cable public-access quality and lasted more than a few minutes. It was not only a good tech show, it was a good show. Entertaining and informative. It didn't look down on the audience but instead got them involved.

But it was not to last as the G4TechTV basically gutted the tech content in favor of games and testosterone-orientated shows. The TV executives wanted the TechTV viewers (which were in the millions, according to Wikipedia) but not the shows, apparently. Which is bizarre because aren't people watching because of the shows? Is there any surprise that the viewers like me left when their favorite shows were cancelled? It was apparently a surprise to the executives at G4.

After that, combined with the dilution of other tech news websites and periodicals, I lost interest in tech journalism altogether, finding tech news to be too much marketing, very little information. I began a long distrust of technology journalism as the articles I came across were either too biased, too opinionated and one-sided and too copied from a press release. In fact, the only tech magazine I regularly read is Linux Format and the occasional Wired Magazine.
I few months back I got a WDTV Live. One of the Internet content services that came bundled with the box is MediaFly. I loved watching NBC Nightly News on it because it was like watching it on demand whenever I wanted instead of having to sit there waiting. It also had a Technology section where I found This Week in Tech, where Leo Laporte hosts a roundtable talk show on the latest in technology and trends. The first episode I watched, he had John C. Dvorak, Steve Gibson and Jerry Pournelle, tech personalities from the  early days of (my) computing. It was both nostalgic and interesting, as they have lost none of the edge they displayed back in the day. In fact, I don't remember Dvorak being so snarky. However the format was over an hour long and bit too involved. I found that it was a good watch to sit down with but not so much to accompany me for the day. I tend to stop and focus on the discussion going on. Don't get me wrong. I still watch it but only when I can.
Browsing through the Technology section, I found an entry for Tech News Today. What attracted to me first was one of it's hosts was Sarah Lane, another TechTV alumnus. She hosts the show with Tom Merrit (who is the anchor, I guess) with Iyaz Akhtar and Jason Howell. They would report on and discuss the day's tech news. There would also be live guests or guests who Skype in. What interested me was that although they reported on the day's tech news, most of it originating from press releases and postings, they review them intelligently and brings them down to earth, stripping away the spin. They brought it down to "what does it mean to you" sense. The TNT crew does so with a sense of humor and clear sense of how important the news was in the big scheme of things. The show would have sections discussing forthcoming events, interesting slightly non-tech news and have special coverage of major events. At first, I found it strange for them to have hosts that rotate in and out as well as guests but later found out that it was because the studio was too small to accommodate everybody.
The key to success for news shows is both content and personality. Both have to match. With Tech News Today, it offers a mix of personalities covering the same content. So the discussion would cover the legal aspects, the general user's perspective as well the the geek-filled views which you would expect. The content not only covers tech news but also the driving forces behind their development both technical and business. The guests also would chime in their opinion and experiences, making the discussion even more lively. This show has that balance just right and with the right mix of both technical and business news. The personalities complement each other and it always has a light tone to it.
TWiT and Tech News Today can be downloaded, weekly and daily respectively. But you can also watch the shows live on and take in the other shows on the network. They are specialist shows on topics like Social Media, Android, Macs and Photography. If it smells techy or geeky, they probably cover it. TWiT recently moved to their new studios in the Twit Brickhouse and it is looking more like a conventional studio. Their show, which is always professionally produced, looks even better.
I'm sorry if this rubs the wrong way, Leo, but Twit is a more than a worthy successor to TechTV. And will probably prove those TV execs wrong.

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