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« What Exactly is a PDA Anyway? | Main | Vagabonding »
Monday
Dec082003

An Interview with PDA 24/7's Shaun McGill

Shaun McGillIn continuation of the interview series I've started with Sammy McLoughlin of Palm Addict, I'm pleased to offer up a new interview with Mr. Shaun McGill of PDA 24/7.

Shaun is the mastermind being many Palm OS websites (well, a few sites with many names anyway) that keep many of us Palm users updated on the latest news. In fact, Shaun's PDA 24/7 is a daily visit for me (several times daily actually) because the site offers such a great mix of news, software info and miscellany, updated all the time.

I know Shaun has put in some serious work with his site, which I appreciate greatly. Having run a website and newsletter myself, I know how just much behind the scenes work goes on and how often it feels like a thankless activity.

So, in an effort to let Shaun's readers get to know him a bit better, I am pleased to present this interview with the man himself:

Shaun, thanks for volunteering to be interviewed. I'm curious to hear how you began ClieWorld nee CliePlanet nee PDANews24 nee PDA24/7 and why.

I purchased an N770CU a while back and had an hour spare one day -- I was messing about and made a simple logo and a basic design for the site and decided to upload it to my free web space. I had previously run a web site for Psion (www.filegrabber.co.uk) and was surprised at how easy it was to find news for Palm PDAs in comparison to the Psion range.

A week later I was getting 500 visitors a day (about the same as filegrabber got in a month:)) and sort of got hooked. After a while it became a habit and has grown every month since...

Okay, I have to ask this, why all the different names for the site? Just when I settle into a new name it seems that the name changes! ;-)

Firstly, I can assure you that PDA247 will stay for as long as the site isrunning. There are some good reasons though for each name change:

ClieWorld.co.uk - this was the first name for the site and as it was only a hobby I had a cheap .co.uk domain name.

CliePlanet.com - as the site grew I decided that it was important to have a .com domain name and as clieworld.com was not available I had no real choice but to change it.

PDANews24.com - this one came about because I wanted to expand the site even further and felt that the word 'clie' in the name would deter Palm users and thus looked for something more wide ranging. Right from the start over 90% of the news was relevant to all Palm owners and I am sure that many did not visit because of the 'clie' name.

PDA247.com - this is the only change I have no good argument for. :) The site had grown to the point that I really wanted a short name that everyone would remember and I felt that PDANews24 was too long. As so many people still emailed me referring to CliePlanet I knew that it was not sticking in peoples minds. I enquired about buying www.pda.com but you really do not want to know how much money would be needed to get it! :)

Update me a little bit on the PDA 24/7 Club. Where did you get the idea and how is it coming along so far?

I got the idea from the fact that so many people visit the site everyday but very few give anything back to help the site keep running. I know this is standard for web sites and that the web is seen as a free source of information but it can get a bit annoying when the same people make an effort to help out all of the time.

Firstly, I wanted to give something back to the people who have made real efforts to help and this the idea of special offers etc. came up. So far they can receive up to 30% discounts on programs from Natara, Jason Goldman, Xavier Martin etc. etc. as well as 20% off hardware from Proporta and further discounts from companies like Seidio.

They also get all associated magazines like Syncronized, Mental Block and ClieWorld Magazine free of charge as well as advanced views of Palm programs currently in development including a game currently being worked on by Jason Goldman.

I think that's enough advertising for the club. :)

Can you explain for readers how they might join the PDA 24/7 Club if they are interested?

You can join by sending in reviews, articles and good quality news items orby donating $5 to the site.

Would you share a little bit about your plans to have PDA 24/7 covered and current when your daughter Alice arrives?

There are none -- the way the news is updated at the moment means that I can update at work (lunchtimes etc.) and from wherever I am, even with a Clié (although that is not easy) - thanks to XD for that development.

Answering all of the emails will not be easy but it will be interesting to see how long I can keep it going. People like David and Michelle help a lot by posting news articles as well.

Can you share a little about how you first came across Palm handhelds and what your experience was? Any flirtations with the "Dark Side" and Pocket PC?

I started with a Psion series 3 in 1991 and progressed through every Psion that was produced -- they made wonderful machines that in my opinion are easily the equivalent of anything available today.

I have tried a few Pocket PCs but they all ended up on eBay within a couple of weeks -- nice games but everything else was exactly what a PDA should not be (you CANNOT replicate the PC experience in a machine so small and why would you want to anyway...)

As for Palm, I purchase a Vx about 3 years ago and have had a Visor Prism, m505, Clie N770CU, NR70V, NX70V, NX80 and UX50 since.

Where do you see PDAs going in the next 5 years?
They will disappear -- I have no doubt that the SmartPhone will become the portable device that most people will carry. It's logical that the mobile phone will get more complex over time and has a market already waiting for it whereas the PDA is still seen as a luxury or a toy for the geek. :)

Tell me which handheld you consider your "daily driver" and why you chose this particular model. How does it help you in your daily routine?

I currently use a UX50, mainly for email. It is in no way a good PDA (in my opinion) but the keyboard sort of swings it for me. The NX70V was a great PDA but the lack of Bluetooth and a good keyboard meant that it was not ideal for updating the site and answering emails.

I chose the UX50 because I foolishly thought it would get me nearer the Psion experience, but Sony have dropped off on so many aspects of the machine that it will never reach the heights Psion did. Saying that, I can see me keeping it for a long time -- no more continually upgrading to the newest model for me as with 2 kids I just won't be able to afford to do so.

I understand you're Scottish. How'd you end up living in the UK?

I am Scottish by blood and was actually born in Bournemouth, which is about as far from Scotland as you can get in the UK. I currently live in Crawley, which is about 30 minutes from London by train.

Tell me something unique about Crawley that someone not living there might not know (like a special shop, club, fact, etc.)

I'm trying to think of something unique about Crawley -- it's possibly the most un-unique place I can think of! :):) OK -- lots of people say 'innit' instead of isn't it for some strange reason?

What you do when not running the PDA 24/7? What business are you in and what sorts of things do you do?

I'm a customer service manager for BT (British Telecom) and the job involves running a team dealing with the other major telecoms operators (mostly American businesses). It's actually quite interesting and I must admit to sometimes even enjoying it!

Can you share with me your top 5 albums?
1/ A Night At The Opera by Queen
2/ The Future by Leonard Cohen
3/ Why Do Birds Sing by Violent Femmes
4/ Queen II by Queen
5/ The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips

Can you share with me your top 5 books?
1/ The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
2/ A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks
3/ A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
4/ Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
5/ To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Can you share with me your top 5 movies?
1/ Philadelphia
2/ As Good As It Gets
3/ Some Kind of Wonderful
4/ The Great Dictator (Chaplin)
5/ True Romance

Shaun, tell me a funny story related to your Palm handheld... :-)

I remember when Tom was one and a half and he stood at the top of the stairs with my Clié N770 in his hand -- I shouted "Tom, do not move!" He smiled and let it go -- it fell all the way down the stairs and survived in tact.

A few weeks back my UX50 fell out of my shirt pocket onto a carpeted floor (about a 3 feet drop) and the screen fell off -- nice one Sony! :)

Shaun, Thanks for your time and insightful answers. I do hope your fans will have a more detailed mental image of you via this interview. If you're not aware of Shaun's website, please visit PDA 24/7.

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