Why did you start the blog?
I started the blog on the eve of signing up for my first Ironman – Ironman Canada. The blog started like pretty much every other endurance sports blog out there. I wrote about my daily training as well as life in general. You know, cooking pasta, trips, travel, me.
Along the way I decided to post an e-mail that served as a bit of a ‘review’ of the Garmin FR305, which I had sent to some co-workers. I didn’t think much of it, and figured it would be just like every other review out on the interwebs.
But in relatively short time, quite a few folks came in and found it useful and started asking questions. When it came time to pickup a new watch the following year (I’m a gadget guy), I decided to write about that.
From there, whenever I had a sports gadget, I simply wrote about it. It didn’t take too much longer until companies were offering to send me stuff to check out.
Where are you from, and where do you live?
I’m from Seattle, lived in DC for a while, and now live in Paris (France, not Texas).
Wait, you live in Paris? What happened to the ‘DC’ part of DC Rainmaker?
I liked the chocolate better in Paris than in DC. Simple enough reason to move, no?
I relocated due to work, and will be here for a few years (or until we decide to wander on). Here’s the whole backstory post explaining it all!
And, you can read the full Paris Blog here at this link.
Do you have a full time job?
Yup. In fact, on the night I’m writing this I finished up a 13-hour workday, plus 2 hours of commuting. Sometimes I work from home, but that’s fairly rare these days. Sometimes I work from around the world (more common).
For my day job I design enterprise IT infrastructures, focusing on messaging (primarily Microsoft Exchange), and authentication platforms (primarily Active Directory based) in large scale IT migrations and deployments (i.e. 50,000-350,000 users). I also work heavily in storage, datacenters and various private/public cloud deployments. As part of this I tend to travel a lot, both supporting technology pilot deployments worldwide, as well speaking at various conferences/conventions/customer sites about said deployments.
Who’s “The Girl”? And why do you call her that?
This is The Girl. For longtime readers, you got to see the entire evolution from friend to girlfriend to fiancée to married couple. She’s a runner, triathlete and super-creative baker.
As for the nickname, it’s commonplace in the blogging/internet world to often refer to people as “The Boy” or “The Girl” (though, it’s usually used for someone’s kids). I used The Girl initially as a way to give her a name without giving away anything identifying. Over time it evolved into a bit of a mystery. For probably close to a year, no identifying photos were ever actually shown. Just snippets of her hand or things of the like (actually some really funny stories there with people whispering when they thought we were out of earshot “That’s The Girl!!!!”).
These days, The Girl spends her time owning/operating/decorating a full time cupcake shop in Paris – Bertie’s CupCakery.
How much time each day do you spend on the blog?
It depends, usually no less than a few hours per day, sometimes 8-10 hours in a night if I need to knock out a review.
What’s involved in writing a post from start to finish?
More than you might think. I’ve written a fun behind the scenes post here. And another on behind the scenes for reviews that involve underwater products.
How much time does it take to write a post?
For my non-product review posts, they take about 1-2 hours to write, proof and get all the pictures set. For product review posts, the writing takes about 6-8 hours, and the photographing/etc. can take many more hours. Analyzing data, creating videos, etc. all takes a number of hours as well. On average, a full in depth product review is about 20-40 hours, depending on what it is.
Do you have a posting schedule?
Sorta but not really. I do loosely have a posting schedule worked out about 3-4 weeks in advance that somewhat outlines the next month’s worth of content. Once that’s in Jell-O form, about 50% of it goes as planned, and the other 50% tends to shift based on how much time I have to write, or news related items that spawn a different post.
Do you have a list of topics you work from?
I have a ‘backlog’ of about 100 topics to write about. Lots of potential posts and offshoots of posts in there about all assortment of things. Some items though have been on the list for a good couple years, and others are new. I’ve also got another pile of suggestions from readers. I tend to work my way through picking posts mostly based on how much time I have to write a post, and whether or not I’ve got all my ducks in a row for a given post. This means ensuring I have photos taken in the right light, and ensuring all the technical questions I want answered are done.
Can I guest post on the blog?
From time to time I do have guest posts. Though, they are somewhat rare. Guest posts have to align to all the ‘core values’ (see, I used a buzzword) that I try and strive for in most posts. For example, they have to pretend to be well written, attempt to be funny, have tons of award winning photos, and be totally spot-on from an accuracy standpoint. Also, they should be unique (I’m reasonably certain that my bike shower post fits that bill…). If you’ve got an idea for a guest post, feel free to reach out to me.
How many people visit the blog?
On average there are about a 2.1 million page views a month, representing roughly 1,000,000 unique visitors each month. This grows at about 10-15% from March till December, and then stays constant from January to February (off-season). (As of January 2014)
RSS feed metrics are a bit of a tough nugget to crack due to the way they’re measured, but Feedburner puts it roughly in the 10,000 person range. (As of November 2012)
Will you feature my charity/non-profit/good cause?
Unfortunately, while I do from time to time feature charitable causes on the site either as a standalone post, or rolled into another post – I’m generally not accepting requests otherwise.
If you’ve got some sort of really unique proposition – then I’m certainly up for hearing about it.
Thank you so much for the posts/review/detail, how can I support the blog?
I appreciate the support! The best way is via Amazon. Essentially, anything you buy there helps me out – whether it’s a Garmin watch or a garden shovel. Just click the link, search for whatever you want, and you’re good to go. After clicking that initial link – nothing looks any different.
Additionally, I’ve also setup a deal with Clever Training – which offers endurance sports gear, like GPS watches and the sort. DCR readers get 10% off anything in your cart with coupon code DCR10MKG, plus free shipping over $75 (that’s just about everything). And, you support the site.
Or, should you prefer straight donations – I accept diamond, gold and other valuable metals. Just let me know and I can send you my address (I promise, it’s not in East Africa, and I’m not heir to the throne of a small army…well, at least I think not).
Will you guest post on my blog?
If it were up to me, I’d write everywhere and anywhere – but alas, I’ve only got so many hours in the day. At present I’m focusing all the time I have either here at dcrainmaker.com, or via a few other published outlets. And even with those publishers, I’m pretty selective given how tight time is.
Where else do you write?
At present I occasionally post a Sports Technology Mailbag to Slowtwitch. Additionally, you’ll see me in Bicycling Magazine from time to time, as well as Men’s Health magazine.
Here’s a complete list of places I’ve been featured in, or written for.
Can you translate your site into another language?
Unfortunately at this time I’m keeping all content here at dcrainmaker.com. Sorry!
Can I repost one of your reviews onto another site?
Not in full. Feel free to include a couple of sentences and then a link back here for the rest. It’s better for the whole internet that way.
Can I link to your site?
Absolutely! Feel free to link to it all over creation! Links are good, copying content is bad. Make sense?
Can I use your photos?
If the use is non-commercial in nature, you may re-post a photo or two as long as you attribute to the post here where you found it. If the posting location or goal is commercial, please contact me prior to use. Companies can pay for my stock photos (and many often do), especially retail outlets looking for non-PR photos of watches/devices. I have a pretty detailed collection of photos on each product I have – usually in excess of 500-600 high resolution, high quality photos per product.
E-Mail and Comments
How can I ask you a question?
As the blog has become more popular, it’s become more difficult to answer every question on a daily basis that comes in via e-mail, post comments, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and more. In general, I try and address questions on product reviews in bunches, so that’s usually the best place to get a question answered.
Twitter questions tend to get answered near 100% of the time, since I can quickly cook through them in 140 characters or less. And the majority of questions via the Facebook page also get answered, again, as they primarily tend to be shorter.
How come you didn’t respond to my e-mail?
I try, I really really do. But, at present the amount of e-mail I receive each day is far greater than what I’m able to respond to each day. On an average day I receive over 100 messages from folks with questions. Answering all that would take away significant time from eating the multitude of chocolate creations that my stomach desires.
Sports Technology & Product Recommendations
Which GPS watch should I buy?
Each year I consolidate all my suggestions into a single recommendations post, usually around the holidays. Here’s my most recent gadget recommendations guide (2013 edition) – covering almost every category of sports gadgets out there. Looking for the equipment I use day to day? I also just put together my complete 2013 ‘Gear I Use’ equipment list, from swim to bike to run and everything in between (plus a few extra things). And to compliment that, here’s The Girl’s (my wife’s) list. Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by! Additionally, you can always use the product calculator found on the sidebar to help narrow things down.
Which trainer should I buy?
Read this post. See, simple – all in one shot.
Can you help me select a bike? I’m looking for…
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to bike parts, or bicycles in general. In many ways, they are like my car – as long as all the wheels spin, and they go faster when I went them to, and stop when I want them to, I’m pretty much content. Sure, there are some basic things I understand (you now, like water bottle cage installation). But if you ask me to break out gear ratios at a cocktail party, you’ll see me running for the sausages on a stick…
What gear do you use?
Here’s the current crop of gear I use. As of Summer 2012. Note that this somewhat changes with the winds. I’m not paid by any of these companies, it’s just what I went out and bought myself.
Additionally, all the gear that The Girl uses is in this post.
How do you decide what products to review?
I choose it based on demand for a review of that unit (generally as I see it), or interest in historical versions of that unit. Additionally, for new items, I gauge demand based on whether the unique is simply ‘damn cool’.
As a geek of sorts, if something is awesome, I’ll likely review it (even if not mainstream). If it’s clunky, out of date, and not worth half the cost, I likely won’t bother. I’ve only got so many hours in the day, and I prefer to spend my time writing about really cool stuff, rather than just ‘blah’ stuff.
As I’m sure you’ve said leaving a boring meeting before “That’s x hours of my life I won’t get back” – it’s the same thing with my reviews. Since they often take upwards of 20+ hours to put together, I don’t want to say “That’s 20 hours of my life I won’t get back”.
Like most folks – I like playing with cool stuff. Sound good?
Why do you review so many Garmin watches and not XYZ brand?
Well, for two reasons. First, they come out with more watches per year than other brands. Second, they attract the most interest compared to other brands. Simply put, more folks are interested in Garmin reviews than reviews of an unknown watch brand from a company with a distribution network of four retailers.
And actually, a third reason. They’re simply better than most GPS watches out there. Whether or not you like Garmin as a company, the reality is that in the fitness category today – they (in most cases) make the leading watch in each category they enter. Sure, there are features that you may want different (or might not even work correctly) – but on the whole, they have less missing features than the competition.
That’s not to say Garmin is perfect. Far from it – and I’m happy to cause heartburn in Garmin when they (or any other company) deliver crap products (see: Garmin FR410 or Garmin Fit or Garmin Fenix reviews…).
It’s really that simple. I review watches that interest me because they interest you. Which means that sometimes I also do indeed review some off-the-beaten-path watch because either I thought it was doing something innovative, or because enough of you wanted my opinion on it. Make sense?
When are you reviewing New Watch X?
In general, I try and get reviews out pretty quickly (within 4-6 weeks) of a new watch, assuming I have access to the watch. For most of the major companies (Garmin, Nike, Suunto, Timex, Polar, etc…) – I get access prior to public availability. In some cases, things fall through and I only get it on public announcement or public release day. Additionally, sometimes the beta/prototype unit I have isn’t performing in a manner that allows me to make an informed decision on the product. I won’t publish a review that says “Product X sucks” based on beta firmware. Once final firmware – and if the product still sucks – it’s open season! In general, I’m trying to shy away from publishing anything more than first look on beta/prototype products because I’ve seen far too many times watches go from ‘great’ to ‘ugly’ while going from beta to final version (yup, seriously).
In general, I’d recommend you follow my Twitter or Facebook streams, where I often make note of products in testing. Additionally, I also usually offer little snippets into the product testing cycle during my normal posts each week (especially my Monday morning posts). Finally, with the new site, I’m putting up photos ‘In the Queue’ section, which is little snippets of things I’m working with but haven’t yet formulated a full opinion on.
I’ve got a sweet new product, will you post a review on it?
I never promise a product review. But I will promise to at least take a look at it. Sometimes that just ends up as a mention in a post as part of my weekly training notes, and other times that might end up as a full-fledged review. Just depends on many of the variables I’ve noted above.
I’ve got an awesome new app, will you post a piece about it?
Honestly, it better be good! There are hundreds, if not thousands of apps out there tracking fitness – and yours has to be something really darn special. Something that I’ve never seen before. Like ponies farting rainbows that fly with power meters attached.
For reference, I have an iPhone 4 & 4S, Windows 7 & 8 Phones, and an Android phone – so I can cover app items equally (unless it’s a Blackberry App…in which case you’re probably already up a creek without a paddle). And on the tablets side I have a few iPads, Android tablets, and a Windows Surface RT. So plenty of options to test things out.
Now, feel free to let me know about it – as I’m happy to make note of it if I think it’s appropriate. But I can’t guarantee I’ll write about it or mention it.
For those curious – I have put together a ‘My top iPhone apps’ post, which is definitely worth checking out (and many of the apps are available on Android and Windows phone as well).
Do you take paid reviews/posts/stories?
No, absolutely.positively.not. Simple as that.
(As a funny side note, I often get pitched by various PR-ish companies to do paid blog posts. The funny part isn’t so much that there’s such a concept, it’s rather the fact that they offer only $10-$15 per post sometimes.)
Do you get compensated by companies for your reviews?
Nope, never. That’d be downright funky. Like bad wet gym sock molding for weeks funky.
Do you get to keep all the gear you review?
Generally no. Almost everything goes back to the companies.
So yes, all those products costing thousands of dollars (or even hundreds) all get sent back. Sometimes the company doesn’t want it back, so then I give it away. Other times, in the rare case someone sends me a one-time use products – then I don’t bother sending it back. An example being a thing of juice or something, I decided they didn’t want that back after I finished with it.
Do you really buy everything you review?
Just about, yup. The only exceptions are things that I simply don’t see as worthwhile to buy again. For example, I have a FR405, and the FR410 is virtually identical – and since I don’t really enjoy either, I see no point in buying the FR410 (especially since it’s not being updated). However, most other things I do buy – even stuff like Tacx Trainers. And for the most part, every other watch as well. It allows me to answer your questions when software/firmware gets updated, or just things I may not have covered in a given review. Also, it allows me to put together those nifty kitchen roller size comparison photos.
Are you willing to review or test beta products?
In fact, the vast majority of products I review actually start off in the beta phase. Typically the way this works is that a product is sent to me ahead of public availability, in some alpha/beta form (either hardware or software, or both). I’ll test and provide feedback to the company. The goal here from my standpoint isn’t to be so much a beta tester in the traditional sense (though, that usually happens as well), but to provide feedback on the product about functionality and gaps before it becomes available and/or public. In other words, tell the company the things that I expect everyday consumers will tell them – based on the thousands of comments and millions of product review page views I get each year.
One item to point out though, is that during the beta product phase, I’m not here to air the companies dirty beta laundry. Bugs are an integral part of a beta development cycle, and I fully understand that (remember, my day job is working in IT). As long as those bugs remain in the beta phase, there’s no desire on my part to note them publicly in some itemized fashion. However, once the product is deemed final, and if those bugs are still present, they should and are considered ‘fair game’ for a review.
Finally, yes, I’m fine signing NDA’s for pre-release products and technologies. Once a product is released however, that NDA no longer applies (except for unannounced product aspects of course). Media embargoes (i.e. release after a given time/date) are also fine.
Will you test our product before release?
In short, yes. But first, let’s look at the three basic ways I work with products and companies (not work for companies):
1) Products that are already released and in the market: These products have already been released, and you’re interested in me doing a review on the product. This is pretty straight forward. A product sample is provided for a typical 45-60 day period, and then sent back upon completion. Note, there’s no specific guarantee that I’ll write a review, but usually I’ll tell you this up front if I don’t think it’s going to work out.
2) Unannounced products nearing announcement/release: This is the area I work most commonly in. These are typically products within 6-8 weeks of product announcement. A company can contact me and send me a product to test ahead of release. Usually these products are in beta form (device itself or software, or both). During this time, the product is under NDA and no public comments/posts are made from my perspective. I’m simply using it day to day like any other athlete, and providing my feedback thoughts on it. Typically, these products are timed to a known release date/time (embargo lift), and I normally aim to coordinate my review post to that date/time. Again, this is how I work with most major companies that you see reviews here on: Garmin, Timex, Polar, Magellan, CycleOps, etc… Note that I don’t act as a press release gateway. Meaning, if you want me to write about a product, I’ve gotta have hands-on time with it.
3) Long term product feedback (6-24 months prior to release): During this phase, I’m open to discussing a planned product with the company. Typically this is in the late white-boarding area, or the initial prototype area. I often act as a sounding board for ideas, rebounding them against what I know of the viewpoints of the millions who read this blog, and about the industry and competitive products (released products).
Normally, these are just conference calls, or coordinated meetings and industry events I attend (CES, Interbike, Eurobike, ANT+ Symposium). I don’t charge for my time (if I charged for my time, then I’d be taking money from the company, which means in my mind I couldn’t review their products due to bias).
Finally, I also can do these same meetings/calls with an entire product team onsite at the location of your choosing (usually your company HQ). You can show me your products and I’ll provide feedback. This is typically a day-long session. Again, I don’t charge for my time – but rather do it because it’s simply interesting to me. Often times, I might make a ‘behind the scenes’ style post about the company, but discussing the upcoming product pre-announcement.
Why haven’t you yet released a review for XYZ product you mentioned months ago?
Simply put: I’m really busy.
As noted, I have a full-time day job that keeps me on the road over 150 days a year, as such, I simply only have so much time in the day. Reviews (the way I do them) take a lot of time – not only gathering data, but also writing them up. Double-checking facts and validating everything is correct.
Then there’s simply the aspect of priority. I generally try and prioritize based on what I’m hearing from readers they are most interested in. Ultimately this tends to mean that big-brands like Garmin/Polar/Timex/etc get priority, simply because that is more relevant to more people. Obviously, I review tons of devices – so it’s not limited to just those.
Next, if outside one of the major names, I look at what the device is bringing that’s exciting to the market. If it’s something I go “Damn, that’s cool!”, then it gets higher priority. Whereas, if I look at something and think “Hmm, kinda the usual.”, it gets lower priority. Then there’s the broad-appeal aspect. If the product is only offered in a single region (outside the US), it’s less likely to make it to a review. There’s just too many devices as-is already for me to review to do ones that have limited availability. Then, I look at how well products from that company have resonated with readers in the past. If I’ve done a review in the past and have seen lower views of the product and/or low comments – it tends to be an indicator of low-interest (which of course may or may not reflect the next product).
Finally, unannounced products which have time-embargo’s tend to also get priority. Meaning that if a product is destined to be released/announced on August 7th (but is previously not announced), I tend to ensure the review is ready for August 7th. If a company asks me to review a product 3 months after release, that’s of lower priority to me since information is available via so many other channels already.
I wish I could publish reviews every week of multiple products, but with the amount of time it takes, I only have one of me, and have to prioritize in some fashion.
What kind of camera do you use?
I primarily use a Canon 7D for all the ‘pretty’ shots. And then for all shots where I’m swim/bike/running I use a waterproof/shockproof Panasonic Lumix TS3 (TS4 is now current). It’s my go-to camera for just about anything that I don’t want to lug a full DSLR camera around on.
Here’s a post on more of the photographic stuff I use.
Random other stuff
I’m from out of the country and will be visiting the US, what’s the best triathlon shop in city XYZ?
While I can cover the Washington DC ones (and do here), I don’t know too many other tri shops outside of the DC area. Your best bet is definitely Slowtwitch for this one, the forums are a wealth of information.
One thing to keep in mind, is that if you’re looking for technology gear – you can have it direct shipped to your hotel in the US. Meaning, you can order it on Amazon or wherever and simply ship it straight to your hotel. I often do this on business trips where I’ve ordered something I need mid-trip. Simply fill out the address as such:
John Doe (change to your name)
C/O Sheraton Hotel (change to your hotel, but keep the C/O in front – which means Care Of)
123 Main Street
City, State, Zip
That’s it! Super easy, it’ll just be waiting for you at the front desk when you arrive.
I’m headed to Washington DC – what do you recommend for training?
See this massive post here. Gotchya all covered!
I’m headed to Paris – what do you recommend for training or sightseeing?
Uhh…our cupcake shop?
No idea, but hopefully in due time I’ll have it figured out! For now, I just aim not to lose sight of the Eiffel Tower, and then I can avoid getting lost.
In all seriousness – pay the roughly $1.50 a day to get a Velib pass (do it online, it only takes a second) and enjoy exploring the city on bike with thousands of others. There’s probably more Velib bikes in Paris than trashcans.
How does advertising work?
I do NOT accept any advertising revenue from any of the sports technology companies (either products I review or don’t review). Simple as that.
I do let Google Adsense do it’s thing, which mostly results in ads that are supposedly relevant to you. So if you’ve been searching for woman’s lingerie lately, it’ll likely show you ads from that. Additionally, I’m working to offer ad space directly to those endurance sport companies that may wish to advertise here and aren’t technology related (i.e. races, nutrition, bikes, wetsuits, etc….).
I explain everything in detail here on the advertising page.
I’m interested in advertising – how can I get in touch with you?
Yup, just contact me via the contact form and I can get you what you’re looking for. Again, remember, if you’re likely to be reviewed by me, you can’t advertise with me. Generally speaking, that covers the sports gadgets market. Garmin, Timex, Polar, etc… is a no-no, but a bike or wetsuit company would be fine. All good?
Why do you travel so much?
I like airplane food.
In actuality, I just like to travel (and some airplane food is indeed good!). I have a fairly even blend of both international and domestic travel, for both work and pleasure. My work schedule (as noted earlier), tends to take me to all sorts of interesting places. The more out of the way, the better. I just love to see new places.
What are you favorite countries/places?
That’s a tough one!
For the perfect blend of outdoor, scenic, city and people – I LOVE South Africa, and in particular, Cape Town along the coast/Garden Route. You’ve probably seen a number of posts from there before.
Within North America, I really enjoy all that British Columbia has to offer (skiing, cycling, city). And in the US specifically, being from Seattle, I have a soft-spot there.
For pure beach vacations – I prefer to get far, far away from everything. Thus, the Maldives.
What are your least favorite countries/places?
Places that shoot at me. Beyond that, I’m pretty non-discriminatory.