“When I came back, I quite fortunately got the gig of writing the music column in The Listener. I was also offered a couple of technology stories that they couldn’t get anybody else to do and they were very much ‘in the future’-type stories and I’d be reading Mondo 2000 and by that point, Wired and I thought, “I can do this”. And the Deputy Editor, Paul Little liked them and said, “Do you want to do a computer column?”. I said, “I can’t do that, I don’t know anything about it”. But as often seems to happen to me, people ask twice and the second time I need the money so I said yes. I don’t think I was very good early on, but, oddly enough, the column I wrote about first getting online won me the Quantas award. I don’t think it was that good but, in that category, maybe I was bringing something different than straight-up tech writing which was perhaps what I had to offer. That was 1993. And then in 1996 – again I had to be asked twice – but I became the first online news editor in New Zealand. I was News Editor of IDG.net which was Computer World and PC World’s online presence. That was a great time to be doing that.
I don’t think that even writing in The Listener for a mainstream audience that I had to dumb it down too much as such. But there was certainly a bit of a push back against it. One day the Editor said, “People are saying to me that you should write more about CD-ROMs and not so much about this Internet thing” and I had to explain that CD-ROMs were a mere carrier for data and they would pass but this Internet thing was really important. And to her credit, the Editor Jenny Wheeler accepted that and let me keep on writing stuff. I became the mainstream guy who would explain these things and I think I have some ability to do that. It was always funny seeing certain other journalists being grumpy about the Internet – like Karl du Fresne: “I don’t trust the Internet!”. I pointed out that that was like not trusting the telephone! It didn’t make any sense.
The other side of that was as soon as I started with IDG, I was addressing a highly technically literate audience but the odd thing was that I came in thinking that I would be totally under-powered and not know anything. But because I had 18 months of home Internet use, because I’d found it really useful because I was working on my own, I didn’t have access to those kind of resources – that I actually had a head-start on everyone. I was the Internet guy. I was furiously trying to catch up but it did get to the point where everyone started asking me where I got my Computer Sciences degree which was quite funny.”