Elite Blogger: Rendezvous With Andrew Tingle

What would you expect from a blogger whose domain name was an accident that finally took bent in some impromptu direction? A Complete Failure Right? But it proved to have a different destiny for our dear elite blogger: Andrew Tingle. Yes, he had the fortune to experience this hard-earned success and takes pride in quitting his full-time job to nourish his two-blogs (TFTS and e-Potpourri), pro-active on board with one residing amongst the must-visit list of all technology bloggers and geeks. With one-hand dropped in technology-tub and other pointing fingers towards must-pick designer stuff, Tingle must be an inspiration for many, at least for me.

Here starts his narration of what led to his present success and that he unturned every stone that come his way within no time.

Introduce yourself to my readers and take us through your flow of day.
Hi, my name is Andrew Tingle and I own, and work as the sole contributor to, both TFTS and e-Potpourri, both of which I work on full time having long since given up my ‘day job’ though, prior to these sites, I also ran a very successful Flight Sim related site that featured exclusive interviews with the likes of the Red Arrows and 80’s electro-pop legend Gary Numan (which gave me somewhat of a grounding as far as developing and running sites is concerned).

My standard working day involves starting work at around 7am and working through to 5.30pm though I will work most evenings and, more often than not, into the small hours, if only to catch up on work behind the scenes and to try to make up for the fact that there is only one of me (I could actually do with cloning myself but have put off the idea as myself and I would probably not get on in the least).

I have a fierce work ethic perhaps too fierce as far as my wife is concerned but, in all honesty, I genuinely enjoy working on the sites and, whilst working at home does give me full control of my time, I very much try to maintain business hours at the absolute minimum and remain disciplined. After all, if I slack off there’s no-one to fill in, so to speak and, if the sites are to sustain the level of growth they are currently enjoying I need to keep focused. Moreover, the work it’s taken to get this far could all too easily be undone if I now decided to take it easy and I remain acutely aware of this.

Andrew Tingle

That said, I am somewhat of a workaholic and I genuinely enjoy doing what I do, so I’m wouldn’t want it any other way.

Why have you christened Nexus404 as TFTS? What does it mean?
That’s a very good question and, in honesty, it all stems from the fact that, when naming the site, I really didn’t have my head screwed on quite as much as I should have. TFTS stands for Thoughts from the Sidelines which, let’s be honest here, is a truly terrible name for a gadgets and technology site. What was I thinking of? (As I recall, I may have had a beer or three at the time).

In truth, when I named the site I was never really expecting it to take off quite to the extent that it now has which probably explains why I merely now refer to the site as TFTS. The Nexus404 element was to be the main holding site for a series of satellite sites (seemed like a good idea at the time) but it never quite worked out that way what with TFTS growing in stature somewhat quicker than I had ever envisaged.

In fairness, I am prone to moments of insane stupidity, and the initial naming of the site was one of them. Still, I’m told by friends that these very moments of abject stupidity actually serve as one of my few redeeming features (so I take some solace in that).

At present your other blog E-Potpourri features around 315 technology-driven coolest products bathed in style, design & inspiration. What led you to the creative of such a lively platform? By the way, when was E-Potpourri established?
E-Potpourri was initially the test site for TFTS used specifically for testing PHP scripts and plug-in prior to running them live on TFTS but, in wanting to develop a site that comes from a very differing angle from that of TFTS (both in terms of layout EP sports image based navigation and subject matter, as well as perspective) I rapidly grew it into a separate site by developing a custom theme and what I believe to be a somewhat refreshing aesthetic appeal that, all said and done, I’m very proud of.

EP is very much still new in not even being a year old yet from the point where it had become a fully fledged site in its own right whereas TFTS is sitting on celebrating its second birthday in August.

TFTS’s tagline reads technology, gadgets and curiosities. What level of curiosity have you reached in term of acceptance of concept-gadgets turning functional?
Not sure if I understand the question but the ‘curiosities’ element in the tagline refers to entries that cover the more wacky side of gadgets and we’ve (I always refer to ‘I’ as ‘we’ in terms of the sites have no idea why) covered some truly bizarre items that are very much included for entertainment purposes only or, hopefully, to act to raise a smile somewhere.

We do also feature quite a few concepts as these serve to provide a tantalizing insight as to what the future may hold. That said, we do get the odd complaint from readers saying that they don’t believe concepts are of either any merit or should be covered by the site. With respect to those who have that opinion, I strongly disagree on the basis that everything around us was a concept at one stage or another. I think to dismiss concepts as ‘mere works of fiction’ shows scant regard for exactly how things come to actually be. Besides, the majority of concepts is extremely well researched and is far from merely ‘fanciful’.

Whenever we have been approached by a designer which does not happen as much as I would like we will try to go out of our way to feature their work if we believe it offers valuable insight into what the gadgets of the future may offer us and I firmly believe it is incumbent on us to continue to do so.

Introduce my readers to the growth journey for both of your blogs.
I would like both sites to be big, both in terms of the level of content on offer as well as their positioning. TFTS has the age advantage so is way out in front but I suspect that the only thing now really holding me back is that I am the sole contributor. I have actually been looking for some additional writers to assist with content provision on TFTS but, to date, the only interest I’ve had is from a chap in Nigeria who, apart from being genuinely affable, couldn’t write for toffee.

I need to secure a good team of writers now and ensure that I pay the rates required to entice them to work for me, and that’s something I’m working on, but I do not want merely to offer more content for the sake of ‘bulking up’ the site. If it takes ages to get writers that have spirit, style, can engage readers with well written, entertaining prose and who happen to have an especially keen eye, so be it I’ll just have to work my balls off in the meantime to compensate as best I can (though I suspect that even after I have writers, I’ll continue to work as hard as I do now it’s a pride thing).

Andrew TingleArchives reveal first post got featured at TFTS on August 22, 2006. What do you count as your turning points in this journey of almost two-years?
A few things would count as turning points. Moving from a shared server to a dedicated server was one of them, as was having to move from that server only a few months after to the quad-core beast of a machine I rent now. Getting featured (with a link) in Belgium’s edition of Maxim Magazine was also up there as was the day that I realized that I was doing well enough to give up working for someone else.

It was also nice that, whilst we were in Australia looking around a few months back, I met people who knew the sites and (what’s more) like them.

In honesty, though, I watch the stats all the time and it always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to see how things are going I appreciate that this does not sound in the least bit ‘cool’, but it’s true and I think that running EP, which is very much smaller, helps me to keep things in stark perspective.

I am impressed by your coverage of technology in every sector viz. Green Technology, Social Tech, Portable Technology, Curious Technology and others. How do you do justice to such diverse offerings?

In order to respect you and those reading this I can only answer this question honestly by saying that, as I one man band, I can’t though it’s not for the want of trying. I do have to be extremely selective, therefore, with items I feature and there have been a few things that I should have featured but that were receiving such broad coverage by other sites in my niche I decided that, unless I could offer something different in terms of either perspective or from an informative standpoint, it was probably not worth featuring them.

Maintaining two blogs single handedly is an achievement in itself. What all do you count as your USPs that is keeping your blogs in perfect shape till date? How many posts you manage to play on daily basis.

I try to produced a full front page of new posts on TFTS per day but invariably fail on account of writing far longer posts than envisaged and then spending time producing the associated graphic work. I could write shorter posts, of course, but I genuinely enjoy writing and invariably get too immersed in things. At the end of the day, I must be happy with a post and cannot (and will not) succumb to merely producing content in a bid to bulk the site up and get more search terms out there.

Concerning EP, I merely post when I come across something I think fits the site and that the readers who ultimately have the vote as to how cool items actually are may like. EP’s posts are far shorter, in the main, than those on TFTS but the content is actually a great deal harder to come by.

Unique selling points? I would hope that presentation and the pride I take in my content count for something as well as the fact that I am not averse to ripping the hell out of a product that truly deserves it. Content is king in terms of producing posts that I’ve taken some time over rather than just measuring things in terms of sheer bulk.

Rather than merely offering specs, I also offer opinions in a great may cases that I hope will galvanize the reader and, perhaps, even serve as a basis for discussion.

At EliteChoice, we have captured a list of 80 world’s most expensive things including gadgets. What is your take on the production o such pricey gadgets and how open are you for inking such outlandish deals?

Each to their own simply put. I certainly have a fair few gadgets that are far from cheap but I also have some unusually cheap ones that are indispensable. For example, I’ve just purchased this small box that emits the sound of a mosquito when the lights are out but turns off when the lights are on. The wife spent over 30 minutes trying to work out what it was and where it was the other night it was really freaking her out. Money well spent in my book.

Andrew Tingle

What other areas interest you?
Aviation and flight (the very idea of flight is a source of ceaseless wonderment). I especially like fast military jets and try to make Fairford Airshow each year just to give my eardrums a good workout and get some imagery (I love photography). The Raptor is appearing this year, hence the new camera with x20 optical zoom so I can capture her (though will also be investing in a tele-converter to boost optical magnification to x30).
It’s the sheer power of these things, shockingly impressive though it all probably stems from living on airbases throughout a great part of my youth.

What is your business model? From where do you tag monetary innings?

Whilst I realize that my earnings may be of interest to some I never discuss such matters with anyone but my family and closest friends. I’m earning more now than I was as a Systems Analyst, but I’ll go no further than that I’m afraid.

Pen down those three technology-driven products that you can’t afford to miss while stepping out.
My Cameras especially my Olympus SP-570UZ (a magnificent camera once you’ve got to grips with it, and I cannot recommend it enough).
Cell Phone (an old beat up N80, lol) May replace with a new 3G iPhone when released or a Soul, not sure.
In the market for a replacement for my laptop, HP’s Mini-Note being the front runner at the time of writing.

Your views on Traditional Journalism V/S Blogging.
The two have become virtually indistinguishable the way I see it. Professional journalists, I believe, are becoming more accepting of blogging as being a form of journalism that can, and often does, prove somewhat more accessible to an increasingly fickle audience. I love the fact that blogging has served to open up so many channels and that, as long as you have a PC and a net connection, you’re invited to partake. The average man/woman on the street now has a far greater voice and the mechanism to be heard that should be widely celebrated (and fiercely defended).

Andrew Tingle

Pen down your daily online-reads or favorite sites.
It’s really hard to single out three as I there are a great many sites that I hold in high regard, but these three are certainly right up there as far as I am concerned.
Dark Roasted Blend: Not related to my particular niches but a truly phenomenal site and one I am in awe of. The work that goes into the posts shines through and the owner, Avi Abrams, is an absolute star (and a thoroughly nice chap).

The entireGizmodo network. Not only because they are right up there but because they are genuinely supportive of smaller sites. Their crediting policy is a breath of fresh air and, for that alone, I have a great deal of respect for them. Some sites get that big and forget what its like to be a smaller fish in the sea, Gizmodo have an extremely humanistic approach that’s rare for a network of its stature. I hold Gizmodo in the highest of esteem.

Yanko Design: The leader in its field by a considerable margin and a tour de force as far as featuring breathtaking design and concepts is concerned. Oozes professionalism and sheer class.

Provide us with two of your favorite posts from your blog.
Impossible, I’m afraid. I simply cannot single out posts as the equation is too dynamic and, more to the point, would be subjective to the point of lunacy and I’d change my mid the moment you posted this, lol.

How you would like to be known as and why?
a) Blogger
b) Technophile
c) Entrepreneur
I consider myself to be all three but, as uncool as it sounds, I’d rather just be known for being a nice chap who can almost hold his beer (on occasions).

What is the USP of TFTS? Amongst gamut of technology-related blogs, why should one digg in here?
I like to think it’s a pithy writing style and the tendency not to take ourselves too seriously whilst not pulling any punches when the need arises. Being true to ourselves and our readers. Having passion and pride in what we do (note that ‘I’ has become ‘we’ again Gees, starting to wonder if I have a personality problem lol).

One Hidden Truth
Everything is harder than it looks but, if you’re determined, more can be achieved than you quite possibly believe though once having achieved something, never to take it for granted. Things that have proved hard to gain invariably prove all too easy to loose.

What was that first geeky toy that you got when you were kid?
Big Trak (left 90, forward 10, right 90, fire phaser).

Where do you see your blog after five years from now?
Hopefully more writers and hopefully I’ll be living in Perth, Australia by then (our emigration papers are already lodged as we are very disillusioned with the UK and its politics that seem to show scant regard for the average Joe on the street just trying to make an honest living).

What piece of advice you would have given yourself five-years ago?
Start blogging (I had not started these sites at that juncture).

Share one of your unfulfilled desires with us related to gadget world.
I would love to be approached by a company to trial gadgetry from a user’s perspective at the development stage. A gadget crash test dummy, if you like (on the premise that I have the ‘dummy’ part sussed).

What’s next for Andrew?
Probably a beer, to be honest.

Give us your honest views on EliteChoice.
Love the idea of interviewing gadget site owners, a great way to get inbound links (lol) whilst giving people like us the opportunity to talk openly about out sites in a way we seldom can.

You can ask me one question.
Your series of interviews seems to be based on interviewing 80 bloggers, why 80? That seems like an especially high number. What made you decide on this particular number and how do you qualify exactly which bloggers to approach?
Well, to correct you the figure is 125 and not 80. True, it is actually a big number with an honest confession that reaching this number wasn’t purposeful. In fact the target was to feature 100-top most blogs but on my hunt I couldn’t do justice to other 25 that were shortlisted. And hence had to glue to this number. Apologies to the rest worthy and established lot, who would be considered surely on priority while featuring 2008-Round Up.

Why these 125? The EliteBlogger series aims at capturing these 125 plus other visible bloggers delivering some kind of USP. Right on my heels, the short listing was done considering their traffic figures, Alexa and Technorati ranking and not to forget the foremost factor of fulfilling the criterion to participate in EliteBlogger series i.e. Being Elite in some way…. it could be their niche, visibility or plugging-in of other features.

I take pride in declaring that my initiative is not only being welcomed but also appreciated across the blogosphere.
Andrew Tingle

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