I received an e-mail interview from a Philippine-based popular IT
magazine, and something about the interview made me think about how
e-mail interviews are conducted. I’ve copied the letter here sans
identifying details. I plan to write articles in the future, so this
reflection will help me remember tips for when I’m the one conducting
an e-mail interview. You can find my comments below.
Dear Ms. Chua,
Good afternoon. I am XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, a writer for XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.
I am writing an article for the magazine XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, where the
story will focus on Filipino teenagers and the cyberspace. I plan to
angle the story on the general behavior of Pinoy teens online as well
as that of the parents on the idea of their kids linking up to the
cyberspace. I also hope that my interview with you will help in
shedding light to teens and the MMORPG industry.
I have below a set of questions; pardon me for this, but may I request
for your answers by Tuesday morning? I hope that it will be alright
If you have any questions or objections/clarifications, you can text
me at XXXX-XXX-XXXX. Thank you for having the time to read my letter.
Have a nice day.
Generally, how do Filipino teenagers see the Internet? Is going online
a more common phenomenon among teenage Filipinos? Do they prefer this
more than other types of media like TV or radio? How so?
With only a small percentage of the local household owning computers,
as well as going online through cafes and getting connected are still
expensive for some, is linking up to the cyberspace a difficult affair
for Pinoy teens? What do you think should parents as well as the
government do about this?
Should chatting, Instant Messaging, or joining social network services
like Friendster be allowed to teens? How so? Should parents allow
their teens to build relationships =96 platonic and/or romantic –
online? Again, how so?
How about blogging, should teenagers go for this online trend? What do
you think is its appeal to Filipino teenagers?
What dangers do these services pose to the Filipino teen? How about
the other malicious elements lurking the cyberspace?
What makes MMORPGs very popular among teens? How do these affect
teenagers? Should parents let their kids go for online gaming?
Should teenagers pursue their entrepreneurial spirits online? How is
it helpful to teenagers?
How do you think can the Internet help teenagers become responsible
adults? What should parents do to ensure this happens?
How often are you online? What do usually do when online?
I like journalists. Journalists have a hard job. They always need
stories, and they’re always chasing deadlines. They never have enough
time. I love helping journalists as much as I can, pinging them when I
hear about something interesting. I’ve even taken a few hours to
review articles and provide additional information and stories.
There’s something about this e-mail interview that distracts me from
replying to it, though. I started happily replying to a couple of
questions, but then I trailed off. The interview felt wrong.
What gave me that feeling? The questions were too generic and too
broad. There’s nothing of me in it, nothing to show how I would bring
a unique perspective on the issue. I felt like filler material that
can be dropped in to help the writer meet the word count. This didn’t
make me too keen to spend a lot of time imparting pearls of wisdom,
not that I had any in the first place. ;) This kind of shortcut-taking
also made me wary of cut-and-paste quoting, which would require me to
think in terms of soundbites and could lead to me being quoted out of
One way this e-mail interview could have been better is if it focused
on one or two key points, mentioning my background and showing how I’m
relevant to the issue. The entire e-mail was about the writer and what
the writer wanted, and I didn’t feel like my participation was at all
that I didn’t matter as long as the quotes came from somewhere. It
felt like a totally generic e-mail. Had the e-mail opened with a note
about how the writer found my blog or a personal referral from a
friend, talked a little bit about why the writer wanted my
perspective, and asked a couple of questions that tapped into my
interests, then I would’ve probably spent more time and energy
answering those questions than I did writing this blog post. As it
stands, it gives me the feeling of doing someone else’s homework,
I like journalists a lot. I’ve been tapped for quick quotes before,
and I’ve always risen to the occasion with helpful thoughts and
summaries. I hate to be unhelpful, but this e-mail interview doesn’t
make me feel good. I have great personal stories to share about how
blogging can be an incredibly good thing (I have no end of examples
for that!) and how people should be encouraged to explore their
entrepreneurial sides online (like my
laptop ad campaign), but I don’t want to be just filler, just a short line in a grab-bag of quotes.
<sigh> Is it a matter of just getting my ego stroked? I don’t
think it’s just that. I won’t say anything just for the sake of saying
something. If I’m going to say something and be quoted for it, I want
it to be based on personal experience. I want to be able to stand by
it. I’m not going to wave my hands and generalize about
entrepreneurship for teenagers, even though I think it’s a terrific
thing. I’d rather tell my story of taking a crazy idea and running
with it, or stories like that of Gary King, who started a Web business
when he was in high school and managed to talk his way into a Web 2.0
conference even though the student tickets were sold out. I don’t want
to say dry facts that anyone could say. I want to tell stories.
I’ll give this issue some time first. If I happen to blog a story
related to the questions the writer asked, then I’ll send a link
along. If not, well… it’ll be the first time I’ve said no to a
journalist. <sigh> Ah, those important little things.
On Technorati: writing
Little things can make someone smile. I wrote to the author of my new favorite statistics textbook, “Discovering Statistics with SPSS.” I included the text of my blog entry about it entitled “Wow. Statistics can be fun.“
Thanks for your email and nice comments about the book: it goes
without saying that it’s nice to have positive feedback! I also, for
the record, think it’s the first time I’ve made it into someone’s
blog. So there you are, a world first!
Interesting website by the way. Good luck with your stats and thanks
for taking the time to write: I appreciate it.
Authors like getting mail. Write and put a smile on their face. =)
Today’s laundry gave me an insight into what kinds of clothes I love
and would like be part of my personal style. With limited space on my
clothing rack and not enough time to handwash everything, I picked out
just the pieces I love wearing. The clothes that made the cut today?
All of my malongs, my Thai silk pants, and a couple of nicely textured
tops. Jeans, t-shirts, stretch pants, buttoned blouses: all stayed in
the laundry pile for another day. And there’s the fact that I’m typing
this blog entry while dressed in a black sari…
I don’t think I’d be happy just shopping at Gap. Or at a Vera Wang
boutique, for that matter. I like clothes with stories. I can get away
with my ethnic clothes now because people give students a lot of
latitude when it comes to outfits. If I can figure out a way to wear
clothes with character throughout my life, that would be fantastic. I
may have to be semi-conservative for a while if I work with IBM, but
if I can find out how to get ethnic accents into business and business
casual clothes, I’ll be happy. =)
If money were no object, I’d probably be more likely to bring a wallet
from Sagada than one from Louis Vuitton. If I could have anything I
wanted, I’d rather bring to light an obscure designer than clothe
myself in Armani. I’d rather have tailored clothing than designer
ready-to-wear. I’d rather wear homespun cotton than crisp pinstripes.
Clothes may make the man, but I make my clothes – that is, I can make
my clothes special.
All of this is academic, of course, because I have other things to
spend time and money on – particularly as a grad student! <grin>
But I get the sense that this is probably one of those unchanging
things, and I’d like to find role models who’ve gotten away with it.
The woman from Sonja’s Garden, for example – I remember really liking
So here’s the deal: I’ll keep a few business-type suits around just in
case I have to wear something conservative. I’ll probably use those a
lot if I work at IBM, anyway. But if people want me to wear anything
fancy, they should give it to me. ;)
More thoughts on this eventually…
Kevin Aires of IBM just called me up to tell me to check my e-mail. I just might make it to the Greater IBM Connection party in New York! Woohoo!
I *really* love this company, and I really love this universe!
I picked up a package from the front desk today. My mom had sent me a
box of Crane stationery, perhaps reminding me that I still owe her a
handwritten letter for my birthday. I have to admit: I’ve been
absolutely terrible at keeping in touch. I haven’t talked to my
barkada at home in ages, although I check LiveJournals once in a
I need to set aside time for this. I’m missing out on people’s
stories, on the cool stuff that’s happening in their lives. I miss
hearing about my dad’s adventures and my sister’s colorful goings-on.
I miss listening to my mom’s insights and chatting with my barkada.
I should schedule that in. It’s at least as important as meeting my
research supervisor regularly or hanging out with my friends here. I’d
like that time to be less about me telling them stories or asking for
advice and more about me listening to their stories. My mom doesn’t
blog, so that’s the only way I’ll get to hear about Ginger and Adphoto
and all of these other things…
(Which reminds me – I still owe them the map thing.)
Okay. The New York thing is going to happen. Awesome!
Travel. I found bus tickets for $100.
Sure, I have to leave at 6:00 AM and arrive at 2:00 PM, but I can deal
with that. I’ll just have to take the night bus on Thursday, and…
errr… deal with New York at 5:00 on Monday. That’s okay. I can hack
that. Simon suggested just going ahead and booking a flight, but the
backpacker in me resists the idea of spending nearly five times more
money than I have to, even if IBM might end up paying for it. When I’m
a high-powered executive, sure, they can fly me in. But if I can nap
and write on the bus, I might as well take the bus.
Okay. Ticket booked. Next.
Accommodations. Chaya’s offered her couch. Yay! The party probably
won’t run too late – the Greater IBM thing ends at 8:30, and there
might be a later event that ends at 10:00 or something like that. I
should give myself margin on the first day to account for travel
fatigue, etc. Still, I don’t want to inconvenience Chaya, so I can
stay at a hostel (or with an IBMer?) for the first night and then stay
over for the weekend. *Somehow* or another, it’ll all get sorted out
and I’ll find myself back in NYC for the 6:00 AM bus trip back on
Goals. What do I want to do in NY? Whom do I want to meet?
Greater IBM Initiative: My primary goal is to link up with the
Greater IBM Initiative folks. There’s just something about meeting in
person. I’m so looking forward to swapping tips and ideas with them!
I’m going to do that entire dogear thingy there again. Oh, I
absolutely have to wear The Shirt.
Other IBMers: It would be totally awesome to have a blogger
meetup at IBM in New York. There is one, right?
Family friends: I wonder if Tita Inda would like to come over
and help us learn how to cook…
My friends: I’ve pinged Byron and Ernest. Who else might be in
Other people: Anyone here from New York, or know anyone I
should definitely meet while I’m there?
This probably won’t be my only trip to New York, so I’m not too panicky about organizing a geek dinner or cramming my sched full of interesting things. I’ll get around to watching a Broadway musical eventually, and someday I’ll focus on tapping the New York tech scene. =) But yeah, it’s all good.
Send me your number if you’ll be somewhere near NY this weekend, or if you know of something interesting I should do!
Headline: Educational Administrator, Connector, Evangelist
Currently: Sr. Director, Management Programs at New York University
I love his headline! And he’s a personal/business coach, too. I wonder if I can set up an informational interview while I’m down in NY…
I definitely have to write about using LinkedIn to look for role models.