I’m excited and honored to give you a special post today. I recently had the opportunity to ask one of my favorite Mac power users, Katie Floyd, 12 questions on a several Mac topics, including her experience as a Mac podcaster and Mac consultant.
Katie is one half of the power duo in the Mac Power Users Podcast, a show that explores a multitude of Mac workflow topics in depth. She and David Sparks both do a fantastic job, and I guarantee that you’ll learn something new by regularly listening to them. I know I have.
Katie is also a frequent participant on another one of my favorite podcasts, the Mac Roundtable, a show that features a variety of knowledgeable and interesting Mac personalities.
So without further delay, here’s what Katie had to say…
When and why did you buy your first Mac?
I got my first Mac in mid-1984. My dad owned a small sporting goods shop and bought the 128k Mac used off of someone for his business. I don’t remember why someone was selling a nearly new 128k Mac at the time – but I remember my dad bought it because he got it practically new but at a bit if a discount. I was 4 years old at the time so he thought it would be cute to load up MacPaint and let me play. From there on things were history…the computer was mine.
My dad went out and bought a 512 Macintosh a few months later when they were released and the 128 officially became my computer. My parents just let me tinker and play and figure things out for myself. After that I had a steady stream of hand-me-down Macs from my dad and then later (when my dad switched to the PC for about 15 years in the early 90s) from my uncle. My uncle was a computer engineer with a serious Mac habit and always had the latest and greatest with a need to refresh every 18 months to 2 years so I was always able to pickup a generation or two old technology at a steal.
My stream of hand-me-down Macs continued until I was a Junior college when I finally had a job where I was able to save enough money that I could put enough money away to save up to buy a new machine of my own. In 2001 I bought my first “new” Mac – a 500 MHz Titanium MacBook Pro– set me back about $3,500. Quite a steep price for a poor college kid but by that time I had been getting by with second hand Macs long enough I figured I was about due for the latest and greatest.
What type of Mac do you work on the most?
I’ve always been a one-Mac person since 2001 that Mac has always been a notebook. My current Mac is a 13” MacBook Pro 2.53 GHz with 4GB of RAM and a 320GB 7200RPM hard drive. When I’m at home, I have it connected to a 20” Apple Cinema Display (it’s about 8 years old but still going strong) along with a keyboard and mouse. I love the portability of the 13” MacBook Pro on the road, and so long as I keep it upgraded every 2 – 3 years I find it has enough horsepower for my needs.
I supplement my Mac quite a bit now with my iPhone and my iPad. In fact, there are days that I don’t even turn my Mac on because I’m computing solely from my iPad. I’ve contemplated getting a more-powerful iMac to use as my primary machine and just using the iPad on the road, but there are still many occasions where I need to use a full-fledged computer away from my desk. There are additional costs involved with maintaining two systems and of course there is the ever-present problem of keeping the systems in sync (although this is getting better.) So for now, I’ve decided a one computer system works best for me with the flexibility of a notebook but the external display, mouse and keyboard for added comfort and functionality when working at home.
If you could have a 15-minute interview with with Steve Jobs, what would you talk about?
My first question for Steve would be to ask him if I could have a job.
One of the things that has always intrigued me about Steve Jobs on a personal level is his ability to persuade people. We jokingly refer to this as his reality distortion field. As an attorney, this is a great skill to have. Jobs has an innate ability to persuade people to do things they never would have otherwise done. Before the iPhone, it was unheard of for carriers to give a phone manufacturer, especially one who had never created a mobile phone, the freedom and terms that AT&T gave Apple. Steve Jobs persuaded AT&T to do it. Before the iTunes Store record labels hated the idea of putting their content on the internet, but somehow Steve made them see his point of view, and now iTunes is the single largest music reseller on the planet and everyone is making money hand over fist. If I could spend time with Steve Jobs – more than anything I would want to learn how he does that.
What has been the most enjoyable aspect about making the Mac Power Users podcast with David Sparks?
By far, my favorite part of doing Mac Power Users is working with David. Prior to starting Mac Power Users David and I didn’t know each other that well. We had worked together some on the Mac Roundtable and got to spend time together at Macworld. We were the two Mac attorneys so we had that in common. We also had this geeky productivity obsession. What I didn’t realize is just how brilliant (and a little crazy) David is. A lot of preparation goes into these episodes and I am learning quite a bit myself with every episode. I’ve learned more from David as an attorney, a Mac enthusiast, and just as a person than I ever imagined, and that has been the greatest part of Mac Power Users.
Of course, I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention how overwhelmed I’ve been by the support of our fans and the success the show has enjoyed. Both David and I have been blown away by how well the show has been accepted right from the start. The response from our fans is just humbling and I’m thrilled that we also have some wonderful sponsors who also think enough of the show to support us and keep the habit going.
What has been one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had as a Mac consultant? The most adventurous? The most challenging?
I worked as a Mac consultant primarily in college and during law school as a way to make a few extra bucks and support myself in school. Since I’ve been practicing law I don’t have the time to do any consulting (other than to keep my family up and running.) I still occasionally see a few clients who have special needs, but most of my consulting days are over. Most of my consulting work is pro-bono now through my local Mac Users Group.
Probably my most rewarding experiences have come through working with the local Mac Users Group. Most of the users who come to these groups have fairly simple problems and showing them simple tips and tricks to use their Mac more efficiently can make a world of difference. Explaining to someone that you don’t have to use webmail or showing them the difference of POP vs. IMAP so you don’t end up with missing or duplicate email messages. It’s really the simple things that can make the biggest differences.
I’m going to take this opportunity to put in my obligatory plug for local Mac Users Groups. I’ve gotten great joy over the years out of working with my local MUG. Mac User Groups desperately need involvement from more advanced users. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably one of them. Take a few minutes to find out about your local MUG and get involved. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t get involved with mine sooner.
Of the Mac podcasters and bloggers I follow, you’ve been the most vocal about your struggles with iPhone 4 reception. Have these struggles cast any doubt in your mind about Apple’s future in mobile?
I’ve gotten a little flack about being so vocal about my criticism about the iPhone 4. On one hand, I’ll accept that this is a problem that seems to impact a minority of users. So I don’t want to make a bigger deal out of something than it needs to be, and I hate to annoy all those people who aren’t having problems with their iPhone with my tale of woe.
On the other hand, I think there are many people out there hyping up all the iPhone 4 problems who have no idea what they’re talking about. My purpose is not to generate hype, it’s simply to say, ‘Hey, I’m a real person who is having a real issue and this is what’s happening to me.’ I don’t know if the iPhone 4 is fatally flawed, but I can tell you that despite what a marvel of technology it is, it’s a far worse phone than my iPhone 3G and while the bumper helps, it still has serious problems.
That being said, Apple is still insanely successful in the mobile arena. The iPhone 4 is the most successful iPhone ever despite these problems. While I understand from a PR standpoint Apple has to be very measured in its response and will never admit there to be a problem, I will be very concerned if they don’t learn from this experience.
I have no doubt that Apple has done their homework and has invested billions of dollars in R&D and antenna facilities and engineers and the works. On paper, the iPhone 4 probably has the best darn antenna ever. But, I think what Apple can sometimes loose sight of is that conditions in the real world do not always match the conditions in their perfectly calculated tests.
In the real world, AT&T’s network is unpredictable; in the real world, people hold their phones with their bare hands and without a case; in the real world, there are all kinds of sources of interference. Apple’s code of silence and secrecy when it comes to new products and their lack of real world beta testing I think hurts them in situations like this. I hope they’ll learn from these experiences. If they want me to test the iPhone 5, just call me, I’m happy to help because I live in the real world and in far less than optimal conditions. If the iPhone 5 will work for me, it will work for anyone.
Do you use Macs exclusively in all your workflows or do you also use PCs and/or other operating systems?
I use a PC at work, but that’s only because it’s what the office provides me. While my office uses some PC-only billing and real estate software, it’s not software that I regularly use in my practice. So there’s really no reason I couldn’t have a Mac on my desk.
We devoted an entire Mac Power Users Show (episode 28) to this topic. Thankfully my office uses Exchange 2007 so I’m able to easily integrate my mail, contacts and calendars with my iPhone, iPad and Mac. I do some very basic document sharing with Dropbox and have the ability to access my work network through Microsoft Remote Desktop. But quite frankly, I’m happy to keep my work and personal life a little segregated since I already put in well more than 40 hours a week. There’s something about coming home to my Mac and breathing a sigh of relief and saying “ah…so nice to come home to this.”
The major downside – OmniFocus – I would kill to be able to use OmniFocus at work.
Has the iPad has changed your workflows in any significant way?
The iPad has changed my computer usage in a very significant way, as it has quickly become my preferred consumption device. For surfing the web, reading RSS feeds, checking twitter content or viewing online media the iPad is tough to beat. If you calculate all the hours I spend on my computer for “non work” purposes, a large number of them probably fit into that category. I’ve found that I’m using my Mac less and less and reaching for my iPad more and more.
The iPad has also become almost a second computer in many instances. It’s my bedroom computer, my patio computer, my kitchen table computer and my living room computer. The on-screen keyboard isn’t great, but it’s growing on me and even in the last few months I’ve found my typing skills have gotten better and better. Instead of one or two sentence replies to emails I’m up to a couple of paragraphs. As the more powerhouse applications come out for the iPad (most notably Omni Focus for iPad and soon Omni Outliner) I look forward to getting even more work done.
I recently ordered a Tom Bihn Ristretto for iPad and along with my Bluetooth keyboard I plan on taking my iPad along with me more places and getting even more done. This in combination with iOS 4 update which will bring multitasking and background applications to the iPad I think will make it an even more functional device. In October I’m flying out to Las Vegas for Blogworld. I’ll be gone only four days so I figure it’s a great opportunity to try traveling without a notebook for once.
If you could only have 5 Mac applications, what would they be? 5 iPhone apps?
I’m going to assume for this list that I at least get to keep all the built-in apps that come on the Mac and the iPhone like Mail, Safari, iTunes, etc. So this list is of my must have third party apps.
On the Mac:
On the iPhone:
Who do you view as the most influential Mac personality in the last 30 years (excluding all Apple employees)?
Because you had to make this question difficult by eliminating all past or present Apple employees, them I’m going to have to cheat a little and not name one specific person but instead name a category of people – albeit a little self-serving. The Fanboys.
By Fanboys I mean that to include men and women. Apple has gone through a lot of changes in the past 30 years. The company went through some particularly bad years in the 90s and nearly died countless times. (Oh boy, do I wish I had bought some Apple stock when it was around $10.) It’s easy to love a company when it’s doing well, but it’s hard when it’s failing. 15 years ago it wasn’t easy to be a Mac user but there was always this hardcore base of Apple enthusiasts to kept the dream alive.
Today, Apple is stronger than ever so perhaps the company doesn’t think it needs the Fanboys as much as it once did. But Apple evangelism is still alive and well.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in starting a podcast?
I would tell anyone who wants to produce a podcast to sit down and think about why they’re doing it and what they want to get out of it. Don’t just sit down to the microphone and start recording. You really need to put a lot of time and effort into planning what you want to do, how you’re going to do it and how you see it evolving over the long term. From a technical standpoint, producing and publishing a podcast is not hard. But producing a good one with staying power is really, really hard. To be successful you have to know your subject matter, present it in a unique, interesting and informative way, and be consistent with your delivery.
David and I knew that we wanted to produce a podcast long before we actually sat down to record the first show. We spent a good six months brainstorming and mapping the show. We spent time analyzing what was already out there and what we through we could contribute to the field. We only wanted to bring another Mac podcast into the already crowed field if we thought we could bring something unique and interesting. There are many great Mac podcasts out there and we thought that we owed it to our fellow podcasters (many of whom are close personal friends) and our audience not just to rehash all the other content that was out there. I think that was one of the best decisions we made.
You also have to ask yourself why you’re podcasting. Believe me, it’s not for fame or fortune. If you think that you’re sadly mistaken. If you’re really lucky as David and I have been, you’ll have some wonderful experiences and meet some great friends along the way and get to interact with a brilliant audience. Statistically the odds of making a career out of podcasting are probably less than becoming a pro athlete.
So, find a topic you’re passionate about, think about why you want to do this and get all the specifics of your show and format worked out in advance, make sure you have something interesting and unique to say, don’t just rehash other content or rip off another show format and be consistent with your production quality and release dates.
Are you involved in any interesting projects at the moment, have any Mac Power Users news, or other news you’d like PE readers to know about?
Mac Power Users is rocking along nicely. We’re kicking around adding another type of show with more of Q&A format on occasion to supplement our “Workflows” shows. We’re constantly getting a feedback and questions from our listeners that really don’t fit with any of our show topics but yet don’t quite warrant an entire show of their own and we want to find a way to address all of those questions rather than responding to individual emails.
Other than that I’m looking forward to attending my first Blogworld in October and getting some ideas from the new media experts and catching up with some of my podcasting friends. After that, Macworld 2011 isn’t too far away.