Writers I Read: Federico Viticci

This time around in “Writers I Read”, I spoke with Federico Viticci, the founder of MacStories.net. MacStories has quickly become a must-read for Mac nerds. Federico and his team of writers are hard at work every day publishing in-depth reviews, great analysis and timely news stories. I don’t think they ever sleep over there.

Stephen: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. As you’ve probably seen, I like to keep these things informal and fun. I’ve been reading MacStories for several months now, and have enjoyed it greatly. What got you so interested in the Apple universe?

Federico: Well, it really all started when I got my first Mac. I was a Windows PC user, always having to deal with slow and, design-wise, ugly machines that I was getting tired of. The operating system wasn’t cutting it for me anymore, so a few months before the release of Windows Vista I switched to OS X. The computer was beautiful, the transition to Leopard painless.

Since then, my interest in Apple news and reviews of apps I like has been growing so much writing for MacStories has become more than a simple job. In fact, it feels like a natural extension of a hobby rather than a series of articles and tasks. I think this is what keeps me going in the end.

Also, the original iPhone I imported from the U.S. in 2007 greatly increased my interest in Apple, technology news and, overall, mobile software.

Stephen: So you’re relatively new to the Apple scene. If my math is right, then you started MacStories not that long after switching. Is my timeline about right?

Federico: That’s correct. I switched to the Mac almost three years ago and have not looked back since. I guess the iPod Classic I got in 2006 for a trip to Benicassim, Spain with my friends also helped getting my mind ready for the transition.

That iPod still rocks, by the way, although I got a larger Classic last year.

Stephen: It sounds you have a real “fork in the road” type moment. What were you doing before MacStories? Is the site your full-time job now?

Federico: Things are going very well for the site and I couldn’t be happier about the team we’re building. Since I started MacStories in April 2009 it’s always been my full-time job, even when it was paying off much and, actually, was already an expense to add to the list. However, I couldn’t see myself doing anything but this, so I guess yes – it’s a full-time job and I hope it’ll stay this way for years to come.

Before MS? I used to sell stuff on eBay for a living. True story. I worked in a “professional eBay Store” (those places where people go and ask to sell their items on eBay, because they don’t have time to waste / cannot use a web browser / don’t know what PayPal is) for roughly 10 months until I was fired. I waited a few months, then started MacStories. Before the eBay “experience”, I pretended to be a Philosophy student at the La Sapienza University in Rome, but I dropped out after 3 months. That was 2007.

Stephen: That’s crazy. How did you end up writing for a living? Did you do a lot of writing in school, or was it something you just fell into?

Federico: I think I just fell into it, by accident. Like I said I ended up jobless all of a sudden, and I was really into the MacBook Pro I had bought a few months before.

Back in high school I wasn’t really much of a writer (we didn’t have a school newspaper or online magazine students could write for), but I did enjoy laying down a good essay every once in a while if the subject was interesting enough. I knew, however, that I wanted to do something with technology someday – namely, when I was a kid I had this dream of becoming the editor for a videogame magazine, so I could attend E3, get free games and write about them for a living. Maybe when I was around 12 I even tried to write some fake reviews for Nintendo 64 games, though I can’t remember well now.

So, yeah, I think I’ve always had this thing for technology in general, but never considered myself a writer. I still don’t consider myself a writer, but I do enjoy writing about Apple (and sometimes, mobile games) for a living now.

Stephen: I’ve spoken with several full-time writers about their days, but never with one overseas. What’s a normal workday look like for you, being based in Italy?

Federico: It’s crazy. It’s true I’m based in Italy, but being MacStories a US-centric website I had to adjust my daily schedule to a different timezone, namely the EST (New York City) one. I simply couldn’t stay on top with news and write articles by forcing myself to follow “a regular life” in Italy, so while this was hard to accept for my family and friends at first, now they understand there’s a reason why I stay up late at night and wake up around noon every day. After all, it’s like I’m waking up at 6 AM – only in the wrong country.

It’s different, but I deeply enjoy it. There’s a strange beauty in breaking news at 5:30 AM with the sun rising outside your room’s window, but there’s also no denying this is still causing some problems with activities like, say, going out for dinner with friends or vacations. Like I said, everything would be perfectly normal if I just happened to live in another timezone. I don’t know if other European-based writers do this, too.

Stephen: That is pretty hardcore. From what I can tell, you are the only one dedicated to such a schedule. Where do you see this taking you in the future? (Besides maybe the hospital…)

Federico: Well, I see myself moving to the States to re-adjust my schedule to a more natural one, and finally get to meet the people and developers I’m writing about in real life. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, but couldn’t make it to WWDC this year. I’m definitely going next year though, and I hope that will be the start of a new life for me, as well as the business behind the site.

Stephen: Dude, that is intense. I assume you see this being your gig for the foreseeable future. Where do you see the site going in the future?

Federico: I see the site growing both in terms of quality of content, audience, and the range of topics we try to cover every day. What I’d like to remark is, we love to report news and analyze each rumors that comes out, but we haven’t forgotten our “indie” roots. We love talking about apps from small, indie developers that try to make a living out of developing great software for the Mac and iOS. We may be pretty good at breaking news and getting our hands on some exclusive info every once in a while (and people seem to like it) but, personally, I still love being the indie guy that covers the relatively “small” stuff.

So to answer your question, yes, I see this growing a lot throughout the next years, but with our own principles.

Stephen: That’s awesome. I know I — and many other Mac nerds — look forward to seeing where your site goes in the future. Thanks so much; go get back to work!