What actually is a blog? And what are Doggles? Do they chase Xbones? And can you turn some mdf, pingpong balls and a sandwich cart into a heavily armored vehicle? All these questions and more are answered in our chat with Crowdedbrain editor Brett James. We love it when a plan comes together.
Tell us about your site, how did you get started? Why did you choose your subject?
Before Crowdedbrain I worked on some other computer related sites and dabbled with Freelance for some mainstream magazine publications, but the inspiration behind the Crowdedbrain name was born out of my passion for technology. And without getting all nostalgic, the name for the site was actually conceived in the very room I’m doing this interview right now (I remember it well – brings a tear to my eye, he he).
The idea was simple, I love technology, everything about it and yet I’ve got so much going on in my brain that I have to try and get the love of all things technology out onto paper (or virtual paper I should say) hence Crowdedbrain was born; remarkably this was back in 2005 and the site is still going strong (with plenty of Tech/Movie based reviews/news/features) and has recently undergone a new design change. Mind you while I’m proud of the site's heritage (back in the day the site was certainly more blog orientated) I still get a little puzzled at people constantly referring to the site (and other similar blog labelled sites) as a blog. In the past most people thought of blogs as an early form of Twitter or people simply linking to other people's content. This may have been the case in the past, but for the most part this is total rubbish in the modern era and there are plenty of quality sites out there that produce some great original content. Personally I feel now after eight years that my site has evolved over time from a blog. If you look closely you will see that my site offers all the features of a fully blown website. I have a responsive design that adapts to the resolution that you are using it on i.e. it adapts to mobile devices, plus it covers and incorporates plenty of news items, original review content, a comments system, competitions and several features. As a result of the evolution, I feel that Crowdedbrain is now an independent review site.
How do you source content for your site?
In the beginning I used to approach PR companies/retailers for products but as the site has become better known I am now getting people approaching me with review/news content instead. This is quite flattering and I must admit it is pretty cool. However a lot of the time I try and head to the shows to meet new people and glean additional sources of content for the site. I’ve been to all the Gadget Show Live events at the NEC (mainly because they are local to me) and I also headed to the CES show last year, which was an amazing experience and this also allowed me to get more products to test for the site.
Do you have a favourite post or one that best sums up your site?
There have certainly been some amazing products that I have tested and written about over the years. But I actually don’t have a favourite post believe it or not; mainly because I just like writing about tech in general. Mind you I have to admit I prefer testing the hardware side of things over software. I just like the way the tech works and I really enjoy tinkering with the products. I have dabbled in BETA testing in the past and I always loved the A-Team which could explain my fondness for taking things apart or thoroughly testing a product when I review it.
Do you write reviews?
I have written thousands of reviews to be honest; as I have also been writing freelance material for Imagine Publishing for over eight years (not to mention the freelance I did for other computer magazines since 1996). For my own site I’ve done approximately 540 reviews now and the number of people that read the reviews varies. Sometimes it may be in the hundreds, sometimes in the tens of thousands. The latter is more when I attempt to help explain how to fix issues. For example, I wrote a feature on fixing an IOS issue which plagued the iPhone 4. This was extremely well received and read.
How did you build a following for your site?
Some of it is word of mouth, while a great proportion was gained from creating a Facebook and Twitter page. However to be honest I prefer the Twitter side. Even so, I’m not perfect – I am looking to get more involved in the communities, as it’s something that I feel will help get the site get better known. Of course advertising is also another avenue, but I think if you have a passion for something the followers will flock to your site or venture regardless. Just look at Syndicate and Yogscast. They started out with a few followers and now they have millions!
Speaking of YouTube the site does have a couple of YouTube Channels to boost the following to the site (albeit on a small scale at the moment). Crowdedbrain being the foremost, but recently I’ve launched another channel with my colleague Dan and we are currently showing videos of us playing Payday 2. You can check it out here. Granted there is a lot to learn and our follower count is pretty pathetic at the moment but it’s something we really enjoy doing so that’s the main thing.
Are you a PR friendly site? Do you accept contributions and content for your site?
Well we don’t have the sticker, but yes the site certainly is. Granted I don’t feature every single item, mainly because believe it or not the site is made up of volunteers and my lonesome; thus I am only one man, so I can’t do everything. But I think the site is certainly open to all sorts, in the past for example I have reviewed dog related products such as Doggles (sun glasses for dogs) and a Paw plunger!
How best do you like to be approached by PRs?
Email is always the best way for PR companies to contact me. You can do so by using email. Simples, as they say!
What’s on your Christmas list?
Have we got enough space left to do this? But if I was to narrow it down I would have to say I’m really excited about the new consoles i.e. the Xbox One and PS4. I’ve spent several hours reading the mags, articles and also writing about them myself to know that both machines would be great to add onto my Xmas list. If I get one that will be a different matter!
You can find Brett tweeting @crowdedbrain_UK.