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A plea for more humanity in tech reporting: in defense of David Pogue

On Tuesday Yahoo launched Yahoo Tech, a new web site spearheaded by well-known tech pundit David Pogue and comprising work from long-time veterans of tech magazines and the blogosphere. Pogue explained that the new site is aimed at mainstream consumers, people who don’t ordinarily read technology sites. He promised to use plain language, steering away from techno-jargon and the self-obsession that marks the low point of tech journalism – buzzword bingo and yawn-inducing inside baseball coverage of the tech industry that regular joes simply don’t care about.

"Trust me, they’re great," Pogue said, referring to tech sites like The Verge, Engadget, the new Re/code and Gizmodo (using caricatural variations of their logos to avoid naming names). "Thing is, they’re by geeks, for geeks. We’ll be doing things a little different here at Yahoo Tech."

Predictably, Pogue’s damnation with faint praise got tongues wagging on Twitter and in tech blogs far and wide, especially by the staffs of those publications. How dare he suggest that their content wasn’t suitable for the mainstream audience!

As someone who’s written about technology for nigh on 20 years, I admit that at least initially, my knee jerked along with the fine folks at tech sites that Pogue mentioned. It’s hard to be told you’re irrelevant.

But Pogue is right.

Working at a computer retail store since last April, I’ve developed more sympathy and a lot better understanding of the vast majority of people who actually use the devices and software we here at iMore write about every day. And the fact is that for better or worse, most of them will never visit this web site. They’ll never come to any tech site. Because quite frankly, they have much better things to do with their time.

They’ll never visit here for the same reason that they might drive a car but never read a car magazine, or use a hundred different household appliances and other gadgets but never read Popular Mechanics or even Consumer Reports.

Most people just want their stuff to work. They’re not concerned with how it works, or why it works, or what it takes to work. It’s a tool. It’s a tool that they know they want, that they think they need, and that they have been convinced to buy, either through marketing, through the efforts of a sales person, through the recommendations of their friends or through a variety of other means.

But it remains a black box, for the most part. A mysterious gadget that does what they need it to, until it doesn’t, and that’s often when they walk in my door.

By the same token, Pogue has an uphill battle to climb with Yahoo Tech. Some mainstream consumers mistake Yahoo rival Google for "the Internet" in general; expecting them to have the knowledge, will and patience to seek out Yahoo Tech for easy-to-understand tech news is bound to be a challenge. Getting tech news from a web site, even one as relatively well known as Yahoo, is going to limit your audience.

But as someone who’s written countless books introducing the uninitiated to technology and as the tech columnist for the New York Times for years, Pogue is in a unique position, and it’s one that he plans to take advantage in this new Yahoo venture. I wish him the best of luck.

Some of the same principles that Pogue says guide Yahoo Tech guide us at iMore: making tech more accessible, demystifying the technology, and writing in plain language that’s easy to understand.

To my colleagues in the tech press: Stop taking yourselves so seriously. Really. Lighten up. Whether you believe it or not, the vast majority of people out there don’t care about what you’re talking about (and yes, I’m talking to myself a bit here too).

Trying to make tech accessible and more human is a good thing. It’s something we in the tech press should all aspire to do more often.