Gorkana Meets…Selena Larson

First, tell us a bit about the tech stories you contribute to ReadWrite and the topics they cover.

I’m the Social Reporter for ReadWrite, so as you can imagine, I cover all things social. Facebook and Twitter tend to keep me busy, but of course there are many other tools, applications and social networks on my radar, too.

At ReadWrite we like to say we are “mapping the programmable world,” so as the social reporter, I deliver news and analysis of social trends, features and tools that impact users—but I don’t just tell you what they are; I’ll tell you but why they matter.

Because the social beat is so broad, it intersects with many other aspects of technology, including privacy and security. I’m also fascinated by multiple trends in education and how technology is changing the way people learn from and teach each other.

What kind of readers visit your posts? Which stories tend to be most popular?

It’s hard to predict which stories would resonate the most with readers. What I’ve found is that when I write about my own experiences with technology, such as privacy issues on various social networks or failing my first online class, people tend to engage more.

I want readers to understand that I’m in the same boat they are; we’re constantly learning how new technologies affect us, and we’re all subject to the same changes companies force on us. I’m in the position to find out why. And if I can guide us through these changes and help folks understand how they’ll be impacted, or what difference it makes, it becomes a great story.

Any reader who is curious about social technologies and wants to better understand how and why the tools we use are changing will enjoy what they find on ReadWrite.

Before joining ReadWrite, you were a freelance journalist and VentureBeat writer. Tell us a bit about your background, including your award-winning pieces on child slavery in West Africa and on the aftermath of the Iraq War, and what inspired you to begin writing about social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

My background is not in technology. I bounced around a bit before I landed in the Bay and worked at various non-profits and publications in Arizona.

A couple years ago, I became very good friends with wounded veterans who lived in the Phoenix area. After hearing their stories from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wanted to document the difficulties of PTSD and describe the pain military members face when they come home with more than physical injuries. Shortly after that, I traveled to Ghana to document the horrors and heartbreak of child slavery in the region. It was one of the most difficult projects I’ve ever worked on.

As hard as these stories were to film and write about, I still keep them in my heart. The experiences gave me a perspective on life and humanity that I think (or hope) makes its way into my writing. Technology is seen as such a frivolous industry, especially in San Francisco; it’s easy to get caught up in the glamour of Silicon Valley—you know, the billion-dollar acquisitions and startup parties—and forget there are people in the world that don’t care about what venture capitalists eat for breakfast.

When I moved to the city a year ago I was lucky enough to start freelancing for VentureBeat, a publication that appreciated my talent as a reporter, not necessarily because I was well-connected in the startup or tech community. I always like to say I’m a news reporter, and in San Francisco, technology is the news. ReadWrite scooped me up last August, and I’ve been covering the social beat ever since.

What developments have you noticed in the social media world that you think will have a big impact on how consumers use this technology? What new trends do you anticipate covering in the coming months?

Obviously messaging is a hot topic right now. It’s a little funny to me how messaging apps are experiencing this resurgence and social networks are struggling to catch up. I mean, Facebook ended up just buying a messaging app instead of trying to compete with their own. Personally, I like it. To me it means people’s personal relationships are becoming more intimate: instead of broadcasting your daily status update, you’re messaging a friend. Of course, it might be a selfie (sigh), but still, it’s just between two people or a small and private group.

Also, I’m expecting location and context to be important in the coming months. Foursquare is already experimenting with predictive social by sending you recommendations for places nearby and learning your behavior to alert you to appealing suggestions.

Then there is this race to deliver Internet to the world. I’m curious to see how Facebook and Google, the two main players at the moment, will act as an on-ramp to the Internet in developing countries. That’s their long-term plan anyway—to become the gateway to the Internet in places that have never experienced such technology. It may be altruistic, but the revenue opportunities are huge.

What are some of the PR and promotion opportunities you or your colleagues at ReadWrite have worked with? How can PR professionals help you develop content for ReadWrite?

We really appreciate when PR professionals facilitate introductions to potential sources as well as respond quickly to inquiries.

The best advice I can give to PR folks is to tell me why your pitch matters. Do your research, see what I write about, and then tell me why I should care about what you have to say.

You’re also currently working on a book, a fiction series on Medium.com, and your own travel blog, Seeking Cities. Tell us a bit about these projects and anything else you’re working on.

I love writing fiction; it’s a nice break from the news cycle. Right now my Medium series is about a freelance writer who works as a barista and is trying to achieve her dream of becoming a journalist. I pull some anecdotes from my personal life, but mostly it’s all a fantasy. The book I’m writing is similar. I guess you could call it chick lit.

Unfortunately I haven’t traveled as much as I used to, but when I do, I like to write about it. I’d have to say my favorite places are Copenhagen, Denmark and Zanzibar, Tanzania. You’ve just reminded me I’m due for a vacation soon.


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