Who to Follow in 2014

Earlier this week Matt Gemmell posted Who to Read in 2014, where he pointed out ten writers and explained why he felt everyone should pay attention to their work in the upcoming year. At the end of his post, after listing his five favorite articles from the last twelve months, he called on other writers to provide their version of this list. Never one to back down from a challenge, I have done so with a bit of a twist: in addition to the individuals I believe everyone should follow in 2014, I also included a section devoted to people I believe we ought to stop reading before providing a collection of my own favorite works.

As Matt did I will begin with the individuals you likely already follow, ordered alphabetically by last name. Some of these writers, like John Gruber, I have read for quite some time; others, like Benedict Evans, I did not become conscious of until much more recently. Regardless of how long I have known of them though, everyone on this list brings unique insight, experience, and personality to the table. If, somehow, you do not already follow their work, I strongly encourage you do so; make it your New Year’s resolution if you must.

  • Jim Dalrymple, @jdalrymple on Twitter. While Jim and his cohorts maintain an rapid rate of publication ensuring his audience never wants for something to read, that breakneck pace sometimes comes at the price of quality: unlike other websites, I do not find every article published to The Loop interesting, and so I often skip posts there. Instead, I subscribe to The Loop because Jim and his writers have their finger on the pulse of the internet: if something happens, I know they will write about it. More importantly though, Jim has a fantastic track record confirming and disproving Apple rumors with his hallmark “Yep” and “Nope” responses. He has yet to be wrong.
  • Horace Dediu, @asymco on Twitter. Benjamin Jackson said it best in a tweet on New Year’s eve: “Pretty sure I learned more valuable info in the last year by closely following @asymco than I learned in every other school combined”. I could not agree more: Horace Dediu provides the best, most in-depth analysis I have ever seen on a variety of topics. Like someone once said of John Siracusa in reference to his Hypercritical podcast, Horace seems to have an incredible ability to become a more knowledgeable expert in any area of his choosing seemingly overnight than I could hope to achieve in a lifetime of study. His work is truly impressive and only rivaled by a select few.
  • Benedict Evans, @BenedictEvans on Twitter. Although his blog does not receive the daily outpouring Jim’s does — but honestly, who else posts that much? — when he does publish a new article Benedict Evans consistently provides valuable insight on interesting topics. Even more so than his blog though, I would argue that Benedict thrives on Twitter where he uses the medium to pose some of the most intriguing, thought-provoking questions and insightful remarks I have ever read in less than 140 characters.
  • John Gruber, @gruber on Twitter. For all the hate John regularly receives, whether for his tendency to diverge into discussions on baseball or his habit of calling it like he sees it, you cannot make an argument against his credibility nor the intelligence of his opinions, both born of more than a decade in this industry. John Gruber ranks among the most respected Apple pundits for a very good reason.
  • Federico Viticci, @viticci on Twitter. Runner-up for the latest addition to writers I follow, Federico Viticci regularly amazes both me and the internet at large with his incredible work on the iPad for which there is no parallel. He then uses this proficiency to produce some of the greatest app reviews I have ever read. If ever I wonder whether my iPad can handle a job, I look to Federico because I know that if this device can handle it, he will already have a system worked out for the task.

Next, my list of people who you probably do not already follow, but should; people who have excelled in their respective professions in 2013, and look to do so once again in the coming year to fantastic — and even disruptive — results.

  • Shawn Blanc, @shawnblanc on Twitter. Although Matt counts Shawn as a writer who everyone likely already follows, I still remember the days before Shawn had taken his blog full-time, back when this world existed in the periphery of his conscience. Perhaps that colors my judgment, because Shawn has long-since dove headfirst into this work from home, internet writer lifestyle. Today he not only updates his blog regularly, but also runs the gadget site Tools & Toys and the Wirecutter of iOS and Mac websites, The Sweet Setup. Shawn continues to impress with every venture he takes on. If you don’t pay close enough attention, his next might just pass you by.
  • Myke Hurley, @imkye on Twitter. Formerly the sole proprietor of his own podcast network 70Decibels and now a host at 5by5, Myke Hurley has made some fascinating advancements in this industry throughout 2013, as I am sure he will continue to do in 2014 with his ever-expanding roster of shows. With any luck Myke will take his passion for podcasts full-time this year, allowing him to focus fully on furthering this medium. Good luck to you, good sir; we all have very high hopes for you.
  • The Menu Bar, @themenubar on Twitter. I debated as to whether I wanted an entity rather than an individual for this entry in my “people who you probably do not already follow, but should” list, but I could not justify either Zac Cichy or Andrew Clark, one or the other, because in both cases I would have highlighted their work with The Menu Bar as justification for my choice. Although relatively new to the podcasting industry with just thirty-five episodes over seven months under their belt, its current state satisfies neither Zac nor Andrew. In 2014 I will also keep a close eye on the pair’s work not only with their show but in other venues as well, waiting in eager anticipation for the changes I have confidence they will be the genesis of.

Unlike Matt I did not have five people for this list, and rather than finding two others to fill out the empty spots I chose to maintain the integrity of this grouping and leave it at the first three individuals that came to mind. Also unlike Matt’s article, I decided to include one more set of entries pointing out popular writers who I feel we ought to cease paying attention to for one reason or another. Because rather than suggest you become more familiar with their work I will instead advise you disassociate yourselves with them, I will neither include a website link nor a Twitter handle.

  • The Verge. When The Verge first came out I wanted to love it, and eventually I did: it bucked all the trends and reported only on news I wanted to hear about. For a while, everyone idolized Josh Topolsky’s site, and for good reason. More recently, however, The Verge has continued a slow descent towards devolving into the very monolithic news organizations it set out to disrupt, and I find that incredibly disappointing. Today I unsubscribed from The Verge, and I suggest you do the same.
  • Ben Brooks. I started following Ben Brooks right around the same time I added Shawn Blanc’s website to my RSS reader. I enjoyed The B&B Podcast, and both sites mirrored the topics Shawn and Ben frequently discussed on their show. Now, though, eleven months after that show ended, Ben has become much too curmudgeonly for my liking. I understand that this personality is part of his shtick, bit it has gone too far. His writing no longer has the polish it used to: instead of thoughtful pieces, his articles, as Harry Marks pointed out in a recent episode of The Menu Bar, read as a stream of conscience with just enough editing to remove the typos. Lately his writing looks less like a labor born of love, and more like an exercise in anger in vulgarity. Enough is enough; I am finished.

On that dour note, we have finally come to this year’s articles I feel most proud of. In preparation for this section I had to go through everything I published in the last twelve months. To put it frankly, they embarrassed me; I barely made it through: I had such disappointment for so many of the posts I came across that I nearly abandoned this venture altogether. Luckily, I remembered the words of a wise writer who once told me that if you do not feel some shame when looking back at past works, you have failed to grow. Hesitantly secure in this knowledge, I pressed onward and found a number of pieces I can share here with pride. So many, in fact, that I have twice the number of entries Matt did in his post. However, whereas Matt felt each of his selections stood “as a strong example of my current writing, and has some measure of truth, insight and emotional resonance”, three of the ten mark an important point in the development of both my website and myself as a writer, and I had such fun putting the other two together I could not help but include them. In those five’s absence, then, I have five left over, just as Matt did, that I feel epitomize the best aspects of the last year spent writing.

  • The 128GB iPad 4. Here I decided that, rather than another linkblog, I wanted something more for this website: I wanted it to be extraordinary.
  • I Don’t Write for Pageviews. Shortly thereafter, I explained why I write at all.
  • Retrospectively Thankful. Much more recently, I have finally grown to appreciate the time and effort my English teachers in particular, although my other teachers as well, put in to force me to become proficient at this task I so love now.
  • Nickelodeon’s Experiment. The only thing I enjoyed more than watching Avatar: The Last Airbender was writing this article about it and its sequel, The Legend of Korra. Rife with symbolism and parallels to the real world throughout its history, these two shows made for a fascinating in-depth examination. Out of all the long-form pieces I posted last year, I had the most fun with this one.
  • Book Two: Spirits. Here due to its counterpart’s deserved place as the piece I had the most fun writing in 2013, I also enjoyed this follow up article and the opportunity it gave me to once again examine the fascinating undertones present throughout The Legend of Korra.
  • Personality: Just another Excuse for Poor Writing. For quite some time in an attempt at incorporating “personality” into my work, I excused poor writing as a necessary evil. Thankfully, I eventually came to my senses.
  • Alright Tim, I’m Buying a Mac. The pivotal moment when, during Apple’s WWDC 2013 keynote address as Tim Cook demoed iOS 7 for an audience of stricken developers and tech writers, I decided I would buy a Mac.
  • Testing the Apple Tax. Just a few short months later, I highly doubt I will ever purchase a PC again.
  • Podcasting State of the Union. The latter half of 2013 saw a great deal of discussion regarding the current state of podcasts and their future as a viable medium. I added my two cents, and many agreed with me.
  • The Case for 3x. Months later Ben Brooks reignited the controversy, and I once again weighed in with my thoughts and opinions.

All complaints aside, because even if I do consider many of my posts terrible it does show growth that I could point to some proudly, 2013 proved a great year for both this website and my career as a writer. 3,356 unique visitors generated 4,416 visits and 7,902 pageviews. I know enough to realize the insignificance of these numbers compared to even Benedict Evans’ newsletter, fast approaching ten thousand subscribers, but I still had more than three thousand people come to read my work. Talk about humbling. That blows my mind.

So raise a glass to another great year, this one even better than the last. Perhaps this is the naivety of youth speaking, but I feel like 2014 will go down in history as a pivotal year for many of the industries we all rely on every day. Industries will change as will the definitions of what it means to inhibit them, all the while I hope to get just a bit better at what I do here. Stay tuned in 2014, everyone: it will be a big year for all of us.