Christopher Mims

Technology columnist at the Wall Street Journal.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 18, 2015

Discussion

Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
Hi, I'm Christopher Mims, tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal. My head is full of never-printed gossip gleaned from hundreds of interviews with people involved in all aspects of tech, so now's your chance to extract some previously undiscovered insight from all that. Also I'd love to hear about what you think I should be paying attention to and writing about next.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hey, Chris! You've interviewed hundreds of people in your career. Who's been the most interesting or surprising interviewee and why?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@rrhoover Good first question. There have been a bunch. Probably the most salacious one I can't talk about because it would literally get people's doors kicked down by the feds. And that was *before* Snowden! But here's one that was good purely on an intellectual basis: Dharmendra Modha, of IBM's attempt to create microchips that work like neurons. He is one of the smartest person I've ever interviewed and his voice is totally hypnotic. I've subsequently read that IBM's attempt to simulate the brain is too literal, which is a shame. There's huge potential in AI, but not of the human-replacing variety. (Lots of thinkers get that wrong -- but the engineers actually doing it know the score.)
Mikkel I. Karlsen@thekarlsen · Junior Consultant
@mims Hi Christopher. As technology becomes a bigger part of society, and it becomes increasingly more advanced AND invisible at the same time, do you think technology is contributing to the creation of a new upper-class in society? The tech-literate vs the tech-illeterate (sometimes refered to as a digital divide).
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@thekarlsen No question. But I wonder if it's always been like this. My pet theory is that what drove the evolution of the human brain was, essentially, technology. Richard Wrangham gets into this in his book on how fire made us human. So I anticipate this will just continue.
Mikkel I. Karlsen@thekarlsen · Junior Consultant
@mims @thekarlsen Thank you for the answer. Do you think that this divide is getting harder to bridge? I would argue that technology has been more simple, and thus easier to use and master, but that we're seeing increasingly complex systems and technologies, and as a result, mastering and profiting from the use of technology will get harder. The learning curve is getting steeper in other words. Or do you perhaps think the quite opposite is the case, and that democratization of technology (everyone can potentially make the next Facebook from their couch) will be what drives the development?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@thekarlsen Climate change is going to wipe out the world's poorest billion, is the short answer.
Kate@katesegrin · Community @Tierion
Who are some of the most kickass women in tech that we might not have heard of?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@katesegrin Rui Ma of 500 startups. Angela Bassas of EnerNoc. Danielle Morril. Karen E. Robinson of Google. Too many others to name, it would be a list 100 names long.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@mims what's the juiciest bit of gossip you've always wanted to share on your column but haven't?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ems_hodge Jawbone is worse off than you think
Jack Smith@_jacksmith · Serial Entrepreneur & Startup Adviser
Hi Christopher - of the ~1500 people that you follow on Twitter, who do you recommend that I (or anyone else reading) should follow and why?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@_jacksmith There are so many smart people on Twitter, this is kind of an impossible question. How about, all my colleagues at the Journal? :) Lots of them are retweeted at our main account: @WSJD
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Hi Christopher! How does someone with a degree in neuroscience end up in journalism? Did you always know this would be the career you'd pursue? A second question -- advice for people hoping to improve their writing/column skills? Thanks :)
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@lejlahunts I started out as a science writer, which was a challenging but also awesome career. I just happened to be interested in tech so, very gradually, I wrote more and more about it and, voila. As for improving your writing skills... find a place you can write where you can get access to a real hard-ass of an editor. It's the only way. :)
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi Christopher! What's your view on online schools/education? What is the missing component that would allow it to grow exponentially?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@theo_dimarhos Ugh, this is a hard one and very personal. I think the problem here is that education doesn't scale the way technologists want it to. Also, America's teachers are working pretty freaking hard already. That said, we desperately need to figure out how better to federate the kinds of things that Altschool (once it's ready) and Summit public schools are doing http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-...
Anthony Stipa@steepspizza · PR
@mims Would you ever write a column focused on geographic regions impacting the greater tech economy? Also, when are you going to buy a @getsmartplate ?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@steepspizza Sure, I love that "rise of the rest" stuff and if my editor would pay for it, I'd do a road trip from one cluster to the next. As for the smart plate, you're going to have to remind me the terms of our bet :)
Anthony Stipa@steepspizza · PR
@steepspizza Follow back so I can DM you details. We'll make the most of a grand Philly tour.
Mike Murphy@mcwm · Quartz
@mims What's the most useless piece of technology you've seen this year? (Is it the Mac?)
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@mcwm The Mac is pretty awful tbh
Leigh B Courtney@lbcourtney
@mims @mcwm Why? Our school is about to invest in iPads for the (high school) students.
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@lbcourtney @mcwm Kidding! I love Apple. I'm not even fooling when I say that, they're a little scattered these days but they still set the standard. This is Mike's sly reference to a piece I wrote http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-...
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Craziest person you've interviewed? Craziest thing someone's ever said in an interview?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ems_hodge The head of Ashley Madison! I've never published anything from that interview but here goes...
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
"if online dating now can trade at 20x then my company’s worth a billion dollars and if someone offered me a billion dollars I might just take it"
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ems_hodge "we are actually the first and maybe the only global dating co and we should trade at a unique multiplier - we will have a robust chinese [presence]"
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ems_hodge " I’ve labeled myself as king of infidelity b/c I think this is a behavior pattern that’s never going to change the more I invest in it now this will be an annuity for me and my investors I know the massive returns we create it’s all working really well it’s been the right call if anything I should have globalized quicker and been more aggressive"
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ems_hodge "society has really endorsed infidelity by removing all those prohibitions"
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
@mims What's something you've always wanted to write about, but for whatever reason you couldn't?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@jeffumbro This crazy experience I had in a high tech meditation pod / sensory deprivation lounge chair that completely changed my mind about the future of how we care for our minds without medication. It's just a little too far out for the Journal. :)
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
@mims Elaborate?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@jeffumbro I'm still thinking about doing a column on this, stay tuned :)
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@mims What's your take on VR? All hype or world-changing?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@russfrushtick Funny you should ask. I used to think it was bunk, http://www.technologyreview.com/... and then I went and tried HTC Vive and had a come to jesus moment. http://www.wsj.com/articles/virt... It's important to remember, however, that VR is just one step on the way to much bigger things that will probably eventually eclipse it. http://www.wsj.com/articles/virt...
Tim Murtaugh@murtaugh · Web Dev
@mims what kind of kombucha
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@murtaugh GT Kombucha. All the other ones have added sugar and are garbage.
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@mims thanks for joining us! Today you offered some life advice regarding getting your relatives to tell you their stories. So besides that tidbit, what is your best life advice? What's the story behind it?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@corleyh as anyone who knows me personally can attest, I'm in no position to advise you on anything besides which smartphone to buy next :)
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@mims @corleyh hahahahaha 😂
Tom Maxwell@tomaxwell
Why did pmarca block me on Twitter? I honestly have no idea what heinous thing I said.
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@tomaxwell Did you say something cynical about tech? Dude's got a new baby, he's probably trying to pare down his online life to only the most positive stuff. Can't blame him.
David Walker@walkerdavide · Product Lead at Carrot, a Vice Company
@tomaxwell did you say anything remotely negative about Theranos? Just curious.
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@walkerdavide @tomaxwell I mean um maybe I went on a week long rant?
Danielle Newnham@daniellenewnham · Founder, The Junto Network. Author
Hi @mims, I won't lie, I was upset with the WSJ takedown of Elizabeth Holmes, especially as it sadly came just two days after she launched the #ironsisters campaign. How did the article start - what led to you guys digging deeper into Theranos and, as a journo, do/would you ever feel bad for the protagonist when you run a piece like that?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@daniellenewnham I have no insight into the genesis of that article, I don't even think that reporter is part of our tech bureau but I don't know for sure. I do know how insanely thorough is the vetting of pieces like that at the Journal. I don't think any publication on earth is as careful as we are about these kinds of things. That's what I wish people realized -- once you've been through the editors, and then the lawyers... I can't even tell you what it's like to be fact-checked by *lawyers*. That's why it was pretty easy, once that piece came out, for me to stand behind it without even knowing the author. I know the system that produced the piece. That said, it's certain there is a larger story that he didn't capture -- that's always the case. How that will play out will be telling, but I'm not sure we'll ever have "resolution" over what all the accusations mean.
Sheree N. Johnson@firstraga · Account Manager, Tandem Marketing Comms
What's one piece of advice you'd give your 22 year old self about your current career?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@firstraga could you elaborate? Like, what I'd tell him about how it's going to turn out, or what to avoid or...?
Sheree N. Johnson@firstraga · Account Manager, Tandem Marketing Comms
@mims @firstraga Positive advice on next steps in life. Not what to avoid, because I believe that helps create a person's character, but more like stay open minded to new ideas or succeed by failing fast kind of thoughts...
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@firstraga Oh, hmmm, I think what just about every 22 year old needs is more confidence. It's easy to look at people who are older and think they're smarter when the truth is they've just had more time to learn than you and -- more importantly -- more time to gain confidence, which always makes you seem smarter than you are.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@mims Thanks for being here today 🙌 During your career to date, what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) most surprising moment? d) favourite story you've ever covered?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ems_hodge a) having a kid and trying to be a freelancer writer at the same time b) getting the job I have now! c) getting the job I have now d) this crazy-ass thing that failed in Iceland but still could happen and if it did it would be the most sci-fi energy story ever http://www.popsci.com/environmen...
Leigh B Courtney@lbcourtney
@mims Do you think the US will ever be able to stop hacking and data breaches?
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@lbcourtney never, ever