Elite Blogger: Rendezvous With Jennifer L. DeLeo

This evening at EliteChoice, I have someone who eat, sleep, and breathe technology but doesn’t consider herself as a geek and is happy to be known as The Weird Hunter.” Rightly falling into the framework of EliteBlogger is our dear Jennifer L. DeLeo (popular as Jen), an Associate Editor for PCMag and the face behind the popular gadget blog GearLog.

If ever I am asked to handpick few extraordinary things about her existence on blogosphere then I would start with her popular compilation of top-ten-products series i.e. weird kitchen gadgets, unsinkable gadgets, and wacky toasters and would direct all geeks to visit her posts on by kooky clocks, strange USB products, and anything LED-related at Gearlog. Jennifer holds a Master’s Degree in Publishing from New York University and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University at Albany. Besides getting engaged in geeky stuff, Jen finds out time to relax herself by enjoying kayaking, bicycling, concerts, movies, scrapbooking, and reading.

Kindly lend your ears here as am sure 90% of you there won’t be aware of the hidden fact that Jen shared with us: She is also a poet.

Here starts Jen answering the pool of weird questions:

Introduce yourself to my readers and take us through the flow of your day at work.
My name is Jennifer DeLeo, and I’ve been an editor for PCMag.com for about 3 years now, reporting on the latest and weirdest gadgets on the market. A typical day starts around 9:30 am, and I’m mostly checking e-mail, finding things to write about for our gadget-related blog, Gearlog.com, and researching products and Web sites for my popular top-10 stories.

After lunch, I’m writing the top 10 lists (which you can usually find on PCMag.com every Monday and Friday), editing news stories and newsletters, Qaing online production, checking site traffic, and coming up with ideas for more roundups. For about two years, I was co-host of the now defunct Gearlog Radio podcast, an audio extension of Gearlog.com, where we talked about the hottest tech news, products, and of course, weird gear. I’m known on the blogosphere as “The Weird Hunter,” since my main objective is to find the wackiest and weirdest of tech products, like the USB Pole Dancer and LED Bra. Basically, I eat, sleep, and breathe technology. It’s kinda hard not to think about!

Within one-year, the top-10 series have featured 94 episodes across a diverse nature of products. How do you shortlist what’s next, and what is your criterion while picking those counted 10 from gamut of products available in that niche?
To be exact, I was able to cough up 97 top-10 lists in 2007! Averaging two a week, it takes a lot out of me–all of the research, sweat, tears. You see, I started my top-10 lists on Gearlog.com, and our editor-in-chief at the time loved them, insisting that we incorporate them onto PCMag.com.

There’s really no formula to how I come up with these types of stories. Sometimes I’ll receive similar types of sample products in the mail, or press releases–and I’m able to come up with a topic. Other times I just see what’s hot on the blogs, or what I find to be of particular interest to geeks. Then, I conduct my research, and presto! Of course, finding 10 worthy enough products is the hardest part of the lists. Sometimes it’s a stretch! So much so, that my boss actually gave me some leeway by letting me write only one top-10 a week, with the option of doing a story on any number of products or topics. I was relieved about that!

jen favoritesWhat is your take on the growing nature of concept-based products? Considering the advancement in technology, don’t you think these products would be of no relevance by the time they become functional, if ever?
I love reading (and writing) about technology concepts. There are so many phenomenal ideas out there that sometimes I wish I came up with them! Of course, there are other conceptual products I know I could easily leave without, like a Velcro wall outlet or a TV remote control bracelet. But who am I to judge? Maybe consumers will really love these ideas? Technology is evolving everyday, and yet, I feel as if people don’t mind taking a step back until that technology has been perfected. Take cell phones. These days, you can watch TV on them, check e-mail, snap photos…Me, I like to talk on my cell phone. Period. So I really don’t think that once tech concepts are in production and made available to the public, that they will not be of use. Someone is likely to want to buy it!

Darren Rowse from Problogger has talked about five emerging trends in blogging. Do you agree with him or feel the need to update the list? Please do the needful. Also, point us to the features that are missing in present-day blogging.
I do agree that there is definitely a trend happening with blogs. Some are even lucky enough to get purchased by big companies (Think Ars Technica). I don’t really believe that there are concrete steps one can take to have the ultimate blog, though. Sure, there are ways to get those Google spiders crawling into your blog so that it moves up in pagerank and popularity. But it really all depends on what your blog is about and the need for that kind of information. Most of the time it’s all about luck, and other times it’s all about what’s going to get picked up by Boing Boing or Digg. I remember when blogs were called Weblogs. They were just starting to pop up, and no one I knew had one or read one. Then, as if out of thin air, blogs hit the Web with such a full force. Now everyone has a blog. Even pets. That’s because it’s so easy to start a blog, given the available blogging tools for non-Web savvy individuals.

The only thing that worries me about blogs today (and other social networking sites) is the harsh words. People are so quick to judge you if you spell a word wrong, or say something that people wouldn’t agree with. And they’re very quick to accuse you of stealing their work. What people need to remember is that the Web is a library; anyone can visit it and take the information that they need and leave. Of course, you do need to give credit where credit is due, but it’s becoming even harder these days to find the original source of a blog post. You have to click through to all of these sites just to find it. I don’t know how this can be resolved, but it’s annoying, and I understand why some get heated about it.

Amidst a pool of gadget blogs, what do you count as Gearlog’s USP that becomes a reason for readers to digg in here?
I think our readers come to Gearlog because they know that we are part of the PCMag network, which is made up of experienced editors and technology analysts who know what they’re talking about. We offer lots of product reviews and first looks, which many gadget blogs may not be able to provide to their audience. In addition, the voice of our Gearlog writers is more tongue-in-cheek, playful, and witty; which is very different from the voice of PCMag.com. Gearlog’s weird gear category certainly helps to draw people in, too.

Which online-only publication comes closest to giving a print-magazine like experience? Apart from PCMag Of Course.
That’s an easy one: The Huffington Post. Arianna Huffington simply amazes me. Here’s a fifty-some-old woman who, in three years, has one of the most well-known and greatest news blog on the Web. I read it for its well-balanced collection of opinion and news.
The maturity in blogging was sensed when many established blogging networks today picked it in 2002-2003.

Do you think there is any scope left for evolving bloggers to try their luck?
It’s never too late! That’s one of my mottos. There’s always going to be an idea that someone hasn’t thought of yet, or an idea that someone can do better. Always go for it, because you have nothing to lose!

What advice would you give to other women who want to take up blogging?
First off, you go girl! Never let anyone make you feel that because of your gender you can’t accomplish something. Did you know that the PCMag.com team is made up of mostly women? Technology isn’t necessarily a male-dominated world. Find what you are passionate about and write about it. Again, look at what Arianna Huffington was able to accomplish.

With the increasing number of blogs, do you think the focus of blogging has changed from opinion-based blogging or reviews to mere re-blogging articles?
Like I said earlier, it’s extremely hard to find the original source of posts sometimes. At Gearlog, if a story has been done so many times on various other blogs, we tend to shy away. There’s just no point in reblogging it. I’d like to think that people are still focusing on providing their readers with original and interesting content. Unfortunately, it’s easy to be beaten to the punch on the Web.

Not everyone has the capability of reviewing products or writing original content all the time, so reblogging is OK in that respect. But blogs simply regurgitating what other blogs are already saying, without even trying to make it sound different, is just wrong. No one is going to come back.

Tell us about your ‘must-read’ or favorites blogs?
Since I’m on technology-related sites/blogs all the time, my bookmarked sites are relatively geeky. I’m a fan of:

Personally, I enjoy Television Without Pity, IdolStalker, GarfieldMinusGarfield, The Huff Po, and The Consumerist.

Can my readers know which are those three gadgetry possessions that you can’t afford to miss while stepping out?
Sprint Katana phone, Canon PowerShot SD1000, Sony VAIO laptop, and mimobot USB flash drive. Unfortunately, I don’t sound that geeky!

What would Jen have been, if not an Editor or lead in any editorial-based task? Have you ever tried a different profession?
Before I started at PCMag.com, I was a marketing associate at Forbes.com. I didn’t like it too much, only because I hated flooding readers’ e-mail inboxes with marketing blasts! I’ve always been the creative type, and for a long time I wanted to be a successful novelist. I still dream of getting a novel published some day. In eighth grade, I wanted to pursue acting, but didn’t want to give up my anonymity. In my heart, though, I always knew I was going to be a writer, and editing easily fell into my lap.

How would you like to be known as:

Gadget Diva
Weird Hunter
Radio Host

The Weird Hunter, for sure!

Have you ever come across any kind of serious criticism about your work? If yes, how did you respond?
Fortunately, not so much. But there were a few occasions where readers didn’t necessarily agree with products or Web sites I chose for a particular topic. It happens.

What innovations in the tech industry have influenced you lately? What is the extreme of technology that you can figure put in your wildest thoughts?
I think the Eye-Fi Card is pretty innovative, a Wi-Fi memory card that eliminates the need to upload photos using a USB cable. After coming home from taking photos, you just turn on your camera and your images are automatically uploaded to your hard drive wirelessly.

Then there’s the Nintendo Wii, which has taken the gaming console market by storm. Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs) are still catching on (like the ASUS EeePC and HP Mini-Note PC), but it amazes me how much manufacturers can pack into such a small form factor. I secretly want one for my commute to work on the train. But I’m not so sure I could type on something so small! In addition, what PC manufacturers are doing with processors is mind-blowing.

I think technology only really goes too far when manufacturers try to cram everything they can into one device. Take the iPhone, for example. Sure, it has an awesome Web browser, but the phone capability not so good when PC Mag tested it. What I think is really wild is Microsoft’s Surface technology the coffee table-like PC where you can drag photos and other media with your finger, right on its surface.

Since how long have you been associated with Gearlog Radio as a co-host? How do you find this role? What new avatar can we expect from you in near future?
Unfortunately, we had to ax Gearlog Radio. (PCMag Radio was kicking our butt in terms of listeners!) But being a co-host of the podcast was tons of fun. Sure, I didn’t get to speak often enough, since most of the time the technology we discussed was way over my head, but I felt proud to sit in that chair and talk to our listeners. It was so much fun, and a nice break from my work routine.

But don’t fret, because my ‘Weird Gear’ segment and Brian’s ‘Hot Five in Five’ segment are supposed to be integrated into the PCMag radio show. So stay tuned.

Hopefully I can carry my Weird Hunter name FOREVER!

Jen, many congrats for your new online venture aimed at developing and designing TV the Pools Network. Kindly talk at length about the concept and growth plans that you wish to materialize with this new site.

It was during American Idol season last year when my co-workers and I wanted to start an office pool for the hit reality TV show. I searched the Web for a good pooling site that would let me post questions each week, but I couldn’t find any. That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head. So my boyfriend, Eric Kertz, who just happens to be a Web designer and developer, worked with me to develop a site that would not only offer an efficient online pooling system, but also automate the points awarded to each player. A little over a year later, TV Pools Network was born.

TV Pools Network (TVP for short) is an online community for the TV-consumed fan. Users can start a pool on popular TV shows, awards shows, and sporting events to compete for points on the outcomes and then share their pools publicly or privately.
While some pooling sites on the Web will manage the pool for you, we wanted something different. We wanted to give users complete control over their pools from the questions they want to ask to the debates they want to initiate with friends to the ability to mark players’ votes correct or not. There are private pools which can only be seen and participated in by the people you invite, and public pools which can be viewed by any TVP member. In addition, pool scoring is automated, so users won’t have to do the math each week in their heads.

Of course, we didn’t stop there. Since we were aiming for a community-like feel, we designed a forum, where users can chat about the entertainment world whenever they please. There’s also an entertainment news section that consists of 14 RSS feeds from various news/blog sources like TV Guide and Television Without Pity. It’s like being able to watch all of your favorite shows on one channel all the news you can handle on one page.

We have plenty of other ideas and features that we will be rolling onto the site in the coming months, so stay tuned. But in the meantime, check out showpools.com, and let me know what you think!

Weird things that you have come across:
Gadget: USB Humping Dog
Moment: I was riding the train home from work, when this man (who apparently didn’t appreciate the sun shining in his face) pulled out one of those suction-cup sun visors from his bag, and put it on the train window.
Blog: icanhascheezburger.com Potos of cats with hilarious captions!
Weirdest gift you have gotten for your boyfriend: Surprisingly, I’ve never given him anything weird!

Quick questions:
Hours you invest digging net: 7 to 10 hours a day

Posts you plan in a day: 2 stories/week on PCMag; at least 5 posts/week on Gearlog.com

Counts of professions you have been into: 2 (marketing and editing)

What piece of advice you would have given yourself five-years ago? Don’t let people intimidate you.

One Hidden Truth: I’m a poet

Give us your views on EliteChoice.
To be honest, I had never heard of EliteChoice before. This was surprising, considering I’m always on the hunt for new tech-related blogs! Going through the site, there’s a wealth of content and lots of different categories covered. (I dig the geeky, high tech bathtub!) What’s even more amazing is the amount of content posted to the site each day! I don’t know how many writers you have, but each day seems to be chock full of posts to read. That’s something that can be difficult for most bloggers these days having enough writers and content to write about to keep readers coming back for more.

Focusing on the luxurious world is definitely a niche, too. I like your use of large photos. That’s one thing that always draws me in to a post, besides the headline, of course.
The slideshow area is something I haven’t seen other blogs do, and I like the photo gallery. EliteChoice is a blog that I can definitely see myself coming back to.

Elite BloggerWhom would you recommend for being featured as my next EliteBlogger and why?
I think you should interview Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post. I’d be interested in hearing how she came about the idea of creating her present news blog site and the road that let her to where she is today.

You can ask me one question.
What are the five things you wish to accomplish while you’re alive?

a) World Tour
b) Developing a Blogging Community with a difference
c) Marry my love-:)
d) Establish myself as an Entrepreneur
e) Do as much good as I can

Many thanks for your dignified presence here at EliteChoice and we wish you luck for your future endeavors!
Elite Blogger: Rendezvous With Jennifer L. DeLeo

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