Erin Kissane


Erin Kissane

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Erin Kissane. I'm a writer and editor who lives inside the tech ecosystem, kind of like the clownfish that live in anemones. I edit Source, an online magazine/community site for OpenNews, which is a nonprofit that supports open code and open process in newsrooms. I also edit books, and I've written one, so far. I recently moved from NYC to the woods.

What hardware do you use?

I use Apple laptops that are light enough for me to carry around easily, the same Logitech trackball I've had for 15 years, and a big bright high-res monitor because of eyestrain. I use the smallest viable iPhone at any given point, and lots of interchangeable pairs of low-end Sony earbuds. At night I plug in one in one ear and set the Audible app to read comforting dull books to me, which prevents my brain from freaking itself out so I can fall asleep.

My desk is a glossy IKEA thing my partner fitted with a wooden keyboard tray. It replaced a cast-iron 1914 Singer sewing table that was completely terrible and that I loved. The new one is much better.

Other good machines: Until this fall I had never had my own washing machine and dryer, they are seriously underappreciated, oh my god.

We live near a major faultline and in a place where the power goes off a lot, so we have water storage barrels, a camp stove, and a bunch of easy food stashed in the garage. Also manual coffee grinders, because I intend to live.

I use a fountain pen with a slightly bent nib, and no one but me can get it to write, which is my favorite kind of security. I carry tiny Swiss Army knives, which also have the best splinter-removing tweezers built in, but I have never used the toothpick. The big knives live in the kitchen, and I have opinions about them, but the metal object I'm really into right now is a 36" ripping bar.

And what software?

Back when you originally asked me to do this, I was really psyched about some software and mostly now I don't care. I'm writing this in Byword, and I write a lot on paper. Long things go in Scrivener, heavy research in Zotero. Google Docs for collaborative editing, Pandoc for format-juggling. It's all pretty clunky. I track Source editorial in GitHub and we also use it to make our household work. I use public library databases a lot, especially for medical and historical research. Some of them offer excellent access from home with a library card.

Clue is a good app for tracking menstrual cycles. I don't use a basal temp thermometer anymore but I highly recommend one to anyone who has a.) menstrual cycles and b.) imperfect mental or physical health, because they help establish patterns in things like pain and anxiety levels as they relate to hormonal change.

There are no music or mapping apps that don't make me want to throw my devices into the fire, everything is overfitted and terrible.

I'm cold all the time so I wear a lot of merino wool stuff and I am super into having a heated mattress pad and wool blankets.

I travel in merino and Arc'teryx super-light quick-dry technical clothing and just wash things in the sink, so I have almost nothing to carry. (This is the geekiest thing left in my life.) Extratuf boots are great for the climate I live in, which is technically a kind of rainforest.

Our medicine cabinet has fever reducers and asthma medications that are basically magic. This is all amazing. I have a few dozen herbal potions to deal with all the things that don't work well in my body, and that's a constant process of tweaking, but I'm many times healthier than I was 15 or 20 years ago, so something is working.

What would be your dream setup?

Sticking to technology, I want a sauna, an internet that isn't destroying democracy and society, and a cure for pain.


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