Saturday, May 10, 2008

An interview with Whozat? co-founder Alex Bäcker

As most of you know my internship here in Washington, DC is at the Office of Science & Technology at the Embassy of Austria. One of the things that kept me busy in the past 3 weeks was the crunch-period for bridges (I shall never forget the italics!), the OST's quarterly online-publication on science and technology. Having quite a thing for technology-related writing (see, and, and entries tagged with 'technology' here on the blog) I had a great time getting the job done. Even though at times my to-do lists were insanely long and I did quite a lot of overtime in the week before bridges was published.

I was also lucky to be able to do an interview with Alex Bäcker who is the co-founder of Whozat?. Whozat? is an interesting people search engine which uses real-time semantics to determine the meaning of words. My favourite part from the interview is the following excerpt:
"bridges: What are the biggest challenges that you’ve had to face while developing Whozat?

Alex Bäcker: When you’re starting something new with existing competition that has millions, as in the case of Spock, and billions, as in the case of Google, people are initially skeptical that a small start-up working out of a garage can actually do something that these companies haven’t done already. However the beauty is that you can actually prove that it works, which is very encouraging."
All in all the preparation, research and writing of this article was a lot of fun. On top of that I also learned a lot about the process behind a professional grade article. While I do have some experience when it comes online publishing over the past few years the environments where I worked were very different. It basically boils down to writing by geeks, for geeks. There simply aren't too many publications where an extensive 11-page review of the AMD GeodeLX DB800 Mini-ITX motherboard would fetch 50.000 hits. Plus normally I served as researcher, author, and editor with some input from my colleagues.

This time 'round I had to answer to an editor-in-chief. Plus my article was sent to a professional native copy-editor before we published it. It's safe to say that these two elements significantly improved the quality of the final work that I posted. Especially in terms of thinking about which audience I'm addressing, punctuation details and the overall style the input I got was invaluable. Who would have known that the 'w' in Web site is writen with a capital letter? At least according to the AP Stylebook which I'm definitely going to order before I leave the United States.

To cut a long story short: A great and very valuable experience! Already looking forward to the bridges vol. 18 where I started with some initial research this week.

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