I’ve just signed off Which? Computing as we get used to the new normal of working from home. Is it working for you? How are you coping?
Photo credit: Kate Bevan/Daphne
We’ve just sent the June edition of Which? Computing to press. That’s a joint effort I’m always proud of, but today I’m even more proud of the team that creates the magazine than usual, as this issue has been produced under the strangest and most trying conditions I think I’ve ever had to work under.
I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 years, and I’ve worked on some of the biggest stories of the past few decades.
I have vivid memories from the late 80s of being at the scene of big stories having to queue up at a phone box to arrange dispatch riders to come and pick up videotapes (remember those?) to get to a local feed point so that the pictures could be on the evening news.
I was running the front page of the Evening Echo in Bournemouth the day the Berlin Wall came down: we were sending galleys of type out to the compositors on the ‘stone’ right up to the last minute for each edition before the presses in the basement started thundering.
I’ve worked on general elections, Budgets and Gulf wars: I was in the FT’s newsroom for the first Gulf war, where we worked through the night and then stumbled, punch-drunk, out into the early morning sunshine to a nearby market pub to toast our effort.
Despite all those experiences, I don’t think I’ve ever worked to produce a publication in such challenging times as getting this edition of Computing away.
We had just started working on it when lockdown was imposed, and so instead of being based in the busy Which? office, with production editors, graphic designers and reporters just a few steps away, I’ve been at home with my only companion my cat – who is not the most helpful co-worker and who is rather too keen to sleep on the job.
All our meetings have been taking place via Google Meet. That has taken some bedding in as we worked out how to join meetings and where to place our laptops so that domestic detritus such as drying laundry isn’t too visible.
Meetings have been interrupted by children and pets, and it’s been surprisingly heartwarming to see glimpses of my colleagues’ homes and lives.
I’ve also had to learn how to make content with our video team from home:
We’ve been experimenting between my work laptop – a Dell that has the webcam at the bottom of the screen and thus has to be propped up high – and my personal laptop, which produces higher-quality video and only needs to be propped up on one box.
Pulling together under pressure
The technology I’ve been using most at home is still good old-fashioned email.
Emails to Computing’s production editor, Joanna Bregosz; to art director Neil Earp, to the sub-editors who wrangle and finesse the words I’ve commissioned from Which? writers and freelancers; to the Tech Support team who help our Computing members and who make a huge contribution to the magazine.
Everything has taken longer, but I’m particularly proud of this issue, which includes a guide to video-calling, an investigation into how botnets take over insecure routers and webcams, a comprehensive look at the Windows 10 spring update and how to get ready for that, and a long read on fake news.
We’ve also got test results on routers and broadband providers: in short, it’s a magazine that showcases how brilliantly the professional and (largely) unflappable Which? teams pull together under pressure.
What technology have you been using to keep in touch with your family and friends? If you’re working from home, what have you had to get to grips with?
From technology to managing pets and family, let me know in the comments.