Gadget Website Spotlight: Dan's Data

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

Dan's Data is a website that does everything wrong: it's ugly, irregularly updated, and doesn't adhere to a strict set of marketing strategies and easy-to-digest technical overviews. And because of that, it's one of techdom's gems—a no-nonsense dissection of the insides and workings of our favorite gear. Dan's Data eponymous founder took a break from writing and reviewing to talk to us:

Tell us a quick run down on you, your weblog, and what it was that made you want to start your own?


Well, Dan's Data isn't a blog, it's a review site. I don't post news.

That aside - I'm an Australian computer journalist (we do much the same amount of cursing and drinking as real journalists, but have better pocket knives) who kind of fell into this job, because I can both write and wrangle gadgets tolerably well. I started Dan's Data in 1998 as a sideline to working on paper publications, because Web publication is better than paper for all the usual reasons, and over the years it's grown into a good living all by itself.

What do you think it is that makes your weblog website stand out?

The stunning, cutting edge design.

No, wait - the content. I write disturbingly in-depth reviews of various oddball things, and take pretty pictures of them too.

What was the first gadget that really caught your attention?

Uh... does Lego count?

I've liked fiddling with gizmoes since I was a kid, so I can't really pin down Patient Zero, as it were. I didn't have my own computer until I was 14 years old, though; before that, I was mesmerised by any 8-bit micro I could get my hands on, and that had to be what set me on this course.


What are your favorite types of gadgets?

Well, PCs, but they transcend gadgetitude.

I own a quite large number of small hand tools, partly because no serious product reviewer should be without alligator forceps, a Panavise, hundreds of screwdriver bits, dental picks, pin punches, a watch case knife, et cetera, but partly because I just enjoy their company.


For closely connected reasons, I like, but don't often review, multi-tool pocket knives. There's enough other stuff on my to-review pile that only particularly odd examples make it onto my site, but Dan's Present Box (into which I delve when caught short without a gift for someone) contains a trove of multi-tools beyond imagining.

Electronic gadgets don't turn my crank as much as you might expect. My mobile phone is an antique Nokia, the only PDA I own is a dusty Palm IIIx (if you don't count the busted Amstrad NC100 sitting around here somewhere), and my car has no navigation system, after-market ECU or MP3 player. Heck, I don't even own a game console.


I do dig LED flashlights, though, as regular readers will probably have noticed.

What's the worst gadget you've ever seen?

I don't know that I could ascribe a definite "worst" to anything in particular, because of apples-and-oranges problems; is a CPU cooler that crushes the chip worse than a portable video file player that can't actually play any known format?


Lousy products don't usually make it onto my site. If something's obviously really sucky, I just don't waste time reviewing it at all, unless it'll be fun (Empower). For instance, I got a Soundbug for review recently - one of those stick-on distributed-mode-loudspeaker widgets that's meant to make any smooth flat surface into a speaker. Well, it worked, but you'd do better to buy the worst set of crappy little plastic computer speakers you could find and throw one of them away; the sound quality was just abysmal. Then it broke, though that was probably because I wasn't the first reviewer to have played with it. So onto the not-worth-reviewing pile it went.

What's the one thing you wish you could teach the world's gadget makers?

If your marketing department is in the business of finding out what people want that you can make for them, fine.


If they're in the business of tricking people into buying stuff they don't need, then could you please, I don't know, push them down some stairs, or something?

Have you ever had a gadget change your life?

Gadgets have pretty much been my adult life, but I can't really pin down one that changed it .


What's in your gadget bag?

I, um, don't get out much (quelle surprise!), so I don't really have a gadget bag as such. Tossing my mighty ThinkPad 600X into a backpack probably doesn't make the cut.


I've got a gadget _pocket_, though. My right pants pocket always contains a Victorinox MiniChamp, an Arc Flashlight Arc-AAA, and a chrome (now mostly brass, actually...) Fisher "Bullet" Space Pen.
Read - Dan's Data