Patrolling the outer limits of science and technology

One of the constant questions we're always asking on ZDNet UK is what news to cover and how to cover it. There's only one serious rule: every story has to matter to you and what you do for a living.

One of the constant questions we're always asking on ZDNet UK is what news to cover and how to cover it. There's only one serious rule: every story has to matter to you and what you do for a living.

Sometimes that's easy to judge. New enterprise storage technology is a yes, new MP3 players from Creative, no. Other subjects are harder to call - in particular, new technology that may not make it to the market before we're all collecting our bus passes.

Things like nanotubes, quantum computing, spintronics, optical processors, DNA logic - they're all intrinsically interesting, but with rare exceptions they're an unknown number of years from turning up in a box near you. Chances are, most of them never will.

Yet there's tons of activity going on in those areas. It's not unusual to have ten or more potential stories per week from universities or the more research-minded companies covering something new. We could easily run these as short reports.

News is more than that, though. It always needs context, and in rapidly developing technical fields that context is expensive to generate. Say someone's built a new spintronics transistor in a Maryland labs: we could just re-write the press release.

But invariably, such press releases leave out important information - how fast, how hot, how much it costs, how long the researcher thinks it'll take to get to the next step, what that next step is, what might stop it working.

Getting that sort of information takes time (often days, when dealing with people in distant time zones and especially when English isn't their first language. Ever tried talking to a Japanese professor about energy spectra in cryogenically-cooled optical devices?). That's time not spent writing about enterprise storage, and often time spent after other news outlets have rewritten the press release and moved on - making the story seem stale.

We want to cover this stuff. It's exciting, and some of it will change the world, in time. But is it worth it? How much, how deep, how high tech should we go?

We'd love to know what you think. Click below and tell us!

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