tech

Starting over.

There’s something about taking something you do for 15 years and trying to transition it from one media to another while going through a major transition of your own. So, this little blog has languished while I tried to deal with the question of what to do with the Packet Rat while I was in the midst of moving into a totally new personal mindset.

Hi. I’m Sean Gallagher, and I’m currently the editor of Defense Systems magazine. And for 15 years, I was scribe to the Packet Rat.

First of all, I want to thank all of my readers who followed the misadventures of an anthropomorphic rodent for all those years, and those of you who followed the Rat to this site after his untimely print demise.

In 1994, I was a technology editor and software reporter for Government Computer News. I had come to GCN after being a Naval officer, a government IT contractor, and a systems integrator. I had just been offered a job at InformationWeek, and was giving my notice, when Susan Menke, then my boss, asked if I would take over the back page of GCN with an unsigned column. In an effort to create something both informative and entertaining, I came up with the Packet Rat.

I have been transcribing the Packet Rat’s missives from his bunker ever since. They were a mix of tips I got from friends in the federal government, things I saw in my daily life as a technology journalist and tech practitioner, events from every day life and a touch of absurdism.

The Rat started to change a year ago, when I was hired by 1105 Media–now the owner of GCN– to take over Defense Systems. Since they could no longer pay me to write the Rat, my editors suggested that maybe I write some sort of riding-off-into-sunset parting. But I had 15 years of writing the Rat, and I was kind of attached to the cyberodent. So I kept writing the column as a sort of “other duties assigned” gig, as karmic payback.

A few months later, GCN undertook a redesign, and as a result the back page was reformatted. And lo, there was no room left for the Rat. So I decided to try to take the Rat into cyberspace with this blog. As you can see by the posting rate, that hasn’t exactly worked–considering I have also been managing a monthly publication and a website, and have been running the Forward Observer blog for Defense Systems. There hasn’t been a lot of time to continue to write the Rat in the new medium—for free—while I’ve been essentially relaunching another editorial brand, and launching a website (and a blog) for it.

So, here we are, on the eve of a new administration, a new beginning in Washington, and I’ve been busy trying to figure out how to pull together the changing world I live in with the world of the rodent. How, in the age of Twitter, and Youtube, and Facebook, and five billion other things, could what I created for a fortnightly (except during the summer, when frequency went weekly, and then went monthly in November and December…or something) print publication be relevant?

The Packet Rat has always been an agreggator of sorts, with a little extra personal twist, and a dash of, well, the dark humor that came naturally from life in the IT trenches, first in the Navy, then in places like Johns Hopkins, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, the Pentagon and the Pulaski Building. So, in this era of “tweets” and Facebook feeds and social media, I’ve decided that the best way to keep the Rat going is to bring him into the social graph.

But doing that means being a bit more transparent about things. And so, I’m going to step out from behind the Rat a little here. His voice will still be present—after 15 years, you don’t just tell an alter ego to go sit in the corner and be quiet. But it’s clear that it’s time for Change, with a capital C.

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