The Gadgeteer: An Interview With Julie Strietelmeier

One of my favorite things about being a geek and running a gadget and technology blog is that I have a great excuse to test and review the latest and greatest gadgets.

And though GeekExtreme opened in 2000, I’m still relatively new to the scene, having taken over the site only 8 years ago. So I decided to bring in a professional to talk shop and share her experiences running an extremely popular gadget review site called The Gadgeteer.

Enter Julie Strietelmeier, who was generous enough to chat with a random person that contacted her out of the blue, and answer some of his questions.

An Interview With Julie Strietelmeier…

Julie Strietelmeier

Geek Extreme: Mind telling my readers a little bit about yourself? 

My name is Julie Strietelmeier and I live in Columbus, Indiana with my wife Jeanne and our new American Bobtail kitten Ozzy. I recently retired (early) from my day job of 34+ years with Cummins, Inc. as an engineering software technician. 

What made you decide to start the site? You mentioned having originally started it back on Geocities. (I remember the Geocities and Angelfire days well)

The Gadgeteer originally began from me writing plain text reviews on message forums back in the days of USENET. I had been running multi-line BBSes prior to that and it seemed like a natural progression of going from posting reviews on public forums to creating my own site and posting them there. 

What was your first experience with technology?

That depends on what your definition of technology is. I grew up loving toys and mechanical things. I got it from my dad. He was into slot car racing, cameras, guns, knives, watches, and more. When my parents would leave my sister and I alone to go shopping, I would go straight to my dad’s dresser and closet to look at those things. I also liked taking things apart to remove the motors, speakers, etc. Little toys with motors were my favorite because I’d take apart the motors to remove the curved magnets inside. Stuffed toys with pull string voice boxes didn’t survive long before going into surgery to remove their voice boxes so I could understand how they worked.

How did you become interested in product reviews?

It started with one of the very early PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) devices. I bought one and thought it was so cool and I just had to share what I thought about it. Back then there weren’t many websites but USENET message forums were active and that’s where I shared my first review. I went on to post several reviews before deciding to create my own website. I wish I had saved those USENET messages/posts! 

What is your process for writing a review?

The first thing I do is photograph the product before it becomes dusty, fingerprinted, smudged, etc. Then I use it. Really use it so I know if the features work well, if there are problems, etc. I then create a template for the review with headers like “what is it?”, “what’s in the box”, “design and features”, “what I like”, “what needs to be changed”, and “final thoughts”. I add the pictures in their respective spots in the review and start writing. 

How has The Gadgeteer changed since it started in 1997?

Besides just the sheer number of reviews and news that’s been posted (right now it’s close to 25,000 posts), I went from just me, to now 35 people writing for me. It’s also gone from me begging companies to send product samples, to companies begging me to be featured on The Gadgeteer. The site has seen incredible growth in the last 25 years and I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

What are some of the challenges you face when running a product review website?

With 35 people writing for me, it can be like herding cats most of the time. Keeping track of sample offers, when the samples shipped, and publishing dates for reviews can be a challenge. I spend a LOT of time keeping my inbox tidy. Most days I receive upwards of 100 emails. There’s also the “fun” of dealing with problems that come from reviewing so many products. Defects, miss-shipped samples, samples received that we never agreed to review, etc. etc.

What advice would you give other aspiring reviewers?

Don’t expect to make a lot of money with this gig. It takes a lot of time and WORK for a site to earn a reputation. You have to be able to see the future as far as how your work now will build and grow over time. Always tell the truth in reviews. Don’t be afraid to hurt the feelings of the people who send product samples. Your readers have to trust you and the only way to do that is to always tell it like it is no matter what.

What are your thoughts on the future of technology? Any technologies you’re especially excited about?

I’m always excited about what the future holds. I hope for the next product like the Palm Pilot that changed everything and excited people to hack it and make it more than what it was. I keep dreaming of the one device to rule them all. Where my phone is my only device – camera, phone, computer, TV. We’re so close to that and for some people, we’re already there. I just need a little more horsepower and features for that to work for me ;o)

I know you’ve got your “Julie’s favorite gear” page, but was there ever one particular gadget that was life-changing for you?

I keep mentioning the Palm Pilot, but that was it back in the day. It became my calendar, address book, and my first ebook reader. Then it turned into an IR remote for my TV, a handheld game device, and my journal. It replaced so many things and just kept getting more features. 

More recently, the gadget that has been life-changing for me has been a Freestyle Libre glucose monitor. It’s literally helped me improve my health by showing me which foods that I eat spike my blood sugar (I’m a diabetic – or I was before the Freestyle Libre sensor helped me get my A1C down to the non-diabetic range).

Anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

In addition to gadgets, I like non-techy hobbies too. I enjoy drawing (on paper), leathercraft (mainly making journal covers), journaling, hiking, and photography (Ok that’s techy since I use my iPhone for all my photos! ).




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