Christopher Mims

Christopher Mims

Technology columnist at the Wall Street Journal.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 18, 2015

Discussion

Christopher Mims
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Who are some of the most kickass women in tech that we might not have heard of?
Christopher Mims
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 Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@mims what's the juiciest bit of gossip you've always wanted to share on your column but haven't?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ems_hodge Jawbone is worse off than you think
Jack Smith
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Mike Murphy@mcwm · Quartz
@mims What's the most useless piece of technology you've seen this year? (Is it the Mac?)
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@mcwm The Mac is pretty awful tbh
Leigh B Courtney
Leigh B Courtney@lbcourtney
@mims @mcwm Why? Our school is about to invest in iPads for the (high school) students.
Christopher Mims
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 Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Craziest person you've interviewed? Craziest thing someone's ever said in an interview?
Christopher Mims
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
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
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
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
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ems_hodge "society has really endorsed infidelity by removing all those prohibitions"
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@mims What's something you've always wanted to write about, but for whatever reason you couldn't?
Christopher Mims
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. :)
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@mims Elaborate?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@jeffumbro I'm still thinking about doing a column on this, stay tuned :)
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@mims What's your take on VR? All hype or world-changing?
Christopher Mims
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
Tim Murtaugh@murtaugh · Web Dev
@mims what kind of kombucha
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@murtaugh GT Kombucha. All the other ones have added sugar and are garbage.
Corley
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
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
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@mims @corleyh hahahahaha 😂
Tom Maxwell
Tom Maxwell@tomaxwell
Why did pmarca block me on Twitter? I honestly have no idea what heinous thing I said.
Christopher Mims
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
David Walker@walkerdavide · Founder, And Of LLC
@tomaxwell did you say anything remotely negative about Theranos? Just curious.
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@walkerdavide @tomaxwell I mean um maybe I went on a week long rant?
Danielle Newnham
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
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
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
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
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
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 Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ 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
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
Leigh B Courtney@lbcourtney
@mims Do you think the US will ever be able to stop hacking and data breaches?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@lbcourtney never, ever
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What is the weirdest thing you've seen this week?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
Leigh B Courtney
Leigh B Courtney@lbcourtney
@mims @bentossell The writer wrote, "Meet the water bottle that tracks who much you drink."! There are so many typos in every type of print now - written word, online, menus, etc. What the heck?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@lbcourtney @bentossell the economics of online #content mean everyone fired their copy editors (I wish I was joking)
Rodrigo Ghedin
Rodrigo Ghedin@ghedin · EIC, manualdousuario.net
@mims Sometimes you do bold statements, like that one suggesting Apple should phase out MacBooks and go all iOS. Have your ever published any "prediction" like that that turned out to be completely wrong on your part? If so, how did you react?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@ghedin oh man, yes. In a fit of pique I once declared an entire year a wash for technology http://qz.com/161443/2013-was-a-... And then @gruber responded cogently with http://qz.com/161443/2013-was-a-... I think the key thing is, you're going to be wrong, so you have to be as egoless as possible about that. There are no dumb questions or even dumb statements as long as you're learning. I have the best job in the world because when I'm wrong, people take the time to tell me so.
Rodrigo Ghedin
Rodrigo Ghedin@ghedin · EIC, manualdousuario.net
@mims I actually enjoyed that article. A bit harsh, but greatly written. I'm an independent writter/blogger in Brazil and, sometimes, when I have an opinion on some subject and decide to publish it, I feel scared that I'm missing something so fundamental, the kind of thing that a couple of words could collapse my thought, that's almost neurotic. (By the way, great advice to @lejlahunts. I miss a lot an editor -- I'm a former Gizmodo Brazil writer who decided to depart and start my own slow web, three-posts-per-week blog by myself.)
daniellevine
daniellevine@daniellevine · Fireside
@mims Hey Chris! Thank's for doing this AMA. I'm wondering, what's the best thing you've come across in the last 30 days and why? Could be anything, a product, an article, a tea, a quote. Anything! Thanks for answering.
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@daniellevine Pretty in love with this thing, but it's really only for people who are into Chrome OS already http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/1...
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
What interview has had the most impact on you / your personal life (and why)?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@katesegrin Definitely the one where I found out about "manfluence" http://qz.com/138822/thanks-to-t... ;)
Undisclosed
Undisclosed@anonym_us
@mims Based on your interviews, do you believe there's a programming skill shortage? What's the most compelling argument you've heard from either side?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@hackerrank I mean, market economics suggest engineers wouldn't draw the salaries they are if there wernen't. And BLS is projecting a shortage of a million programmers by 2020. I've written about this a bunch. http://www.wsj.com/articles/comp... and http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-... and http://www.wsj.com/articles/here...
Sheree N. Johnson
Sheree N. Johnson@firstraga · Account Manager, Tandem Marketing Comms
@mims What do you think about the utilization of machine learning and AI technology for personal assistants? Do you think machine learning is now the way of the future of tech?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@firstraga Yeah completely. It's going to be huge. I'm pretty confident chat will replace search, basically. Side note: Google is sunk unless they can get in front of this. See: http://www.wsj.com/articles/ask-...
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@mims Who are your favorite Baltimore entrepreneurs?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@jeffumbro One I can't say because they'll be in an upcoming column. The other is the two guys behind TrackOff, who are working on one of the most critical but slept-on problems in cybersecurity http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-...
Sheree N. Johnson
Sheree N. Johnson@firstraga · Account Manager, Tandem Marketing Comms
@mims What do you see as the new technological trend for 2016?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@firstraga in 2016 all of Intel's wireless tech is going to come out and I think people will be surprised how useful it is. Wireless power, wireless high speed data connections. If by the end of the year it's in phones too, that has potential to change how we use our devices, in unexpected ways. A couple years after that it will lead to product form factors that don't exist at all right now, like this https://www.getneptune.com/
frog man
frog man@accretivegrowth · amphibian
@mims why did @pmarca block everyone? is he a big baby?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@accretivegrowth I support people's right to filter the media in any way they see fit. I just like busting his chops about it because he was always my favorite person on Twitter to mentally debate and now that's gone I'm restless.
David Walker
David Walker@walkerdavide · Founder, And Of LLC
The calculus of private valuations in tech is so opaque to the general public, yet we all seem to have opinions on them. What is a good resource for learning more about how they arrive at those numbers?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@walkerdavide CB Insights is great. Dan Primack at Fortune is great. Rolfe Winkler and Doug Macmillan at the Journal are great. (e.g. http://www.wsj.com/articles/tech...) Jason Lemkin is good on Twitter. Oh and, most important, Heidi Roizen of Stanford (and elsewhere) http://heidiroizen.tumblr.com/ who inspired this http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-...
neeharika sinha
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hi Chris! Great meeting you here. Technology landscape has changed a lot . Do you see a certain change coming in this field in the next 10 years?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@neeeharika computing everywhere. absolutely everywhere
CT
CT@chrisamp · Co-founder, VP of Marketing
I am looking to launch a product on product hunt, what advice can you give?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@chrisamp can't help you there, I'm just a journalist hanging out here for an hour :)
CT
CT@chrisamp · Co-founder, VP of Marketing
@mims @chrisamp Thanks Chris, What key things do you look for in a product that you decide to write about?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@chrisamp I'm so overwhelmed with pitches it's pure gut instinct at this point. I have a mental list of a few dozen things I'm sort of following, to one degree or another. If it happens to fit into one of those threads, I'll pay attention.
CT
CT@chrisamp · Co-founder, VP of Marketing
@mims @chrisamp Thanks Chris! i'll keep you posted :)
Sam Colt
Sam Colt@scranecolt
What's the strangest (non-identifying) personal fact a source has told you?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@scranecolt one time a guy at a bitcoin exchange implied that companies were investing in both bitcoin and bitcoin tech to juice the value of their bitcoin holdings
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@scranecolt I guess that's not a personal fact. Another time a source told me that despite the fact that he was the CEO of a very successful ($250mm+) startup he was roommates with another CEO of an equally successful startup because Palo Alto rents are so insane
Sam Colt
Sam Colt@scranecolt
If you could create a flavored Soylent, what flavor would it be?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@scranecolt medicine
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
If you had a $billion what would you do first?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@bentossell start or fix a bunch of schools as per http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-...
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Hi Christopher! What do you find most inspiring about the tech startup community? What do you find the most concerning or off putting?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@alexcartaz The boundless enthusiasm and complete disregard for history! I say a lot of cynical things about tech on Twitter but we'd all be facing a species-scale existential crisis if not for these two characteristics of tech / SF / the Valley. The thing that's most off-putting is that the high-paying jobs in tech are disproportionately going to the same people who have always benefitted from the latest technological revolution. That's a labor market failure and a waste of human potential.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@jakecrump I wake up super early and start reading. Then the kids start stirring and that eats all my time until 9am, when I'm at my office which is one corner of a weird old pile of bricks that also houses an architectural fabrication shop. That's an average day, but there's also a lot of traveling to interview people. Yesterday I was in DC wondering why anyone would build an entire city on the model of a corporate office park.
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@mims tell us about one of your defining moments and how it shaped who you are.
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@corleyh oy, can we do this over beers instead? :)
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@mims @corleyh lol - for sure. i clearly ask the tough questions. ;-)
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
What new sector or technology are you personally most interested in / think will gain momentum over the next 5 years?
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
@alexcartaz augmented reality
Christopher Mims
Christopher Mims@mims · tech columnist, Wall Street Journal
OK everyone, that was super fun! Now I have to get back to my day job. Thanks for all the good questions.
Rodrigo Ghedin
Rodrigo Ghedin@ghedin · EIC, manualdousuario.net
Ignore that. Wrong place.