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Monday, 7 September 2015

People you should know ... Stilgherrian

I'm going to get all William Faulkner on you and put this paragraph in italics in order to distinguish it from the rest of the blogpost because that's the sort of generous soul I am, flinging added quotas of typography around just like scads of silly string. To start with, I have wanted to do special pieces like this on notables in the new media landscape but I just never got around to starting. So this is the first one in the series. I may of course never do another one, you just never know. If you're lucky this feature of the blog will be regular. But don't hold your breath, people.

Renowned tech journalist and serial potty mouth Stilgherrian and I once stood in the same room; I just wanted to get this aspect of the blogpost out of the way early in case there was any misunderstanding. It was in 2010 at a media conference in Pyrmont and I had already seen the man in a 2009 video podcast from my home on the Coast when I ran across him during drinks after the talkfest had run its sordid but eminently banal course. He is quite tall. He is also quite serious, as you can tell from articles in the magazines he writes for, such as ZDNet. The highbrow tone also comes across in his colourful The 9pm Edict audio podcasts.

Like a lot of journos, Stilgherrian can be loosely classed as a liberal. Like a lot of people he sees through the poses people in power adopt in order to achieve disparate ends, and gleefully calls them out for bullshit when deserved, with added expletives for crunch. The podcasts are laced with cut-in audio from radio and TV segments, as well as a faux-earnest signature tune borrowed probably from a failed British 1950s sitcom. Stilgherrian gets around on the train and lives in the Blue Mountains. He tends to tweet photos of the Nepean River - which the regular city train must cross before ascending into the range - and of the interior of the carriage. He calls it "Purple Train", naturally. He has reported suffering the effects of depression.

Stilgherrian keeps remarkably busy. He takes regular calls from people in radio and on TV to talk about current events in technology. He also takes jobs as a systems administrator, it appears, and teaches a class at the University of Technology, Sydney, that ever-expanding educational institution that originated on Broadway but seems to be making a grab for the entirety of Chinatown.

From a new media perspective, he is highly active. As he says in his Twitter profile, his business is words, and they emerge from him in a variety of formats apparently continually at all times of the day. Presumably the stream of words is interrupted by sleep from time to time. You'd also have no problem saying that Stilgherrian is a new media native, which is hardly surprising given his IT bent. It is the unusual combination of a facility with IT and a tendency to produce complete sentences in a grammatical form that sets him apart from the run-of-the-mill. He is also iconoclastic. (He will know what that word means, I assure you.)

Another signal characteristic of Stilgherrian is his tendency to frequently change his Twitter avi. He often uses animals, and a warning: they can be cuddly. This self-consciousness is evident throughout his production, as it is in the bits about himself at the end of some of his 5at5s - the short, 5-point media snacks he assembles daily for selective consumption. His daily wrap on his personal website has the same self-reflexiveness. It's as though the wanton voyeurism of the all-seeing internet were being short-circuited in advance. You want to know about me? he seems to be saying. Well, here you GO!

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