The Last One, Personal Computer world and me

Still clearing out the office, ready for the move. Still chucking out my life by the recycling-bin load.

But, today, lurking in a corner, I found this 26-year old issue of Personal Computer World:

Boy, did I get it in the neck for this one.  Not from my publisher or my colleagues, but from other journalists and editors. They thought it was a huge joke and that I (at the time, both the writer of the piece and the editor of the magazine) had made a monumental mistake.

It’s only now, looking back, that I realise that they probably didn’t even read the article. Or, in fact, read the coverline which ends with a question mark. Truth is, they were probably jealous at the attention we were drawing away from their titles.

The program in question was called "The Last One" and it not only worked (eventually) but, for donkey’s years, its publisher made money out of a consulting business wrapped around the software.

Marck Pearlstone was the programmer who was called in to rescue the project in the early days, when it was very buggy. He’s been my partner (and the programmer) in Brainstorm Software for the past ten or eleven years.

If you’re interested, The Last One generated application code for commercial applications.

Should journalists disclose all income sources?

Jeff Jarvis has been suggesting that all bloggers and journalists make public all their sources of income. At least, that’s my understanding of his posts on the subject. The remarks were prompted by the New York Times’ demand that freelancers answer the following questions:

1. Please list your other current employers, whether full time or part time

2. For what other employers have you worked in the last three years?

What sort of volunteer work do you do regularly, if any, and for whom?
(Please include any public relations, advocacy or advisory board

4. Do you do any work paid or unpaid in politics or government? Have you done any lobbying of governmental bodies?

Do you have any financial investments or financial ties that may limit
your ability to cover specific topics free of conflict, and if so, what
are the topics?

6. Although we don't regulate the activities
of spouses, partners or immediate family members of our contributors,
do any of their professional or personal involvements or any of their
financial investments or ties make certain topics inappropriate for
you, and if so, what are the topics?

7. Have you accepted
any free trips, junkets or press trips in the last two years? Have you
accepted any substantial free merchandise or discounts from people we
might cover?

8. Has anything you've written later resulted
in a published editor's note or retraction for deliberate falsehood or
plagiarism or become the subject of a lawsuit involving allegations of
deliberate falsehood? (If yes, please include details about the
publication and your role in the article or story. If a lawsuit, please
describe the disposition of the case.)

To Jarvis’ credit, he’s gone for full disclosure and is encouraging the rest of us to do the same.

I’m not going to mirror his actions because making the answers to 1,2 and 3 (especially) public does me no favours at all. For a start, my clients may prefer not to be publicly named. Secondly, I don’t see why I should hand my client list to the world.

When it comes to disclosure to my publishers, I believe that this should be restricted to relevant disclosure. If I were to write a white paper for a hard drive maker and I never write about storage, why should anyone need to know?

As I have commented on Jarvis’ blog post, no amount of money from anyone is worth me jeopardising my integrity. And, for what it’s worth, I hold no stake in any company apart from Brainstorm Software, of which I make no secret. Of course, I have pension funds, but goodness knows where they’re invested. Judging from their performance I wouldn’t be surprised if they were under the CEO’s mattress.