The vital task of running the SC review process

Just one month out and here I am in the pages of SC Magazine yet again. It probably will take me a little while to get used to being an Editor-at-Large but I'm honored by the opportunity to continue to contribute, however minimally. The editors asked me to write a little something to recap my take on the industry over the past 50+ years of my career, particularly the past 25 with the Magazine.  I couldn't do that without welcoming Rob Cote and his team from Security Vitals and giving you a bit of background to help launch them into their new jobs here.

When I started reviewing, back in the early ‘90s, product reviews were handled much differently than they are today. Things didn't move quite so quickly then and the number of products we had was much fewer than we see today. The Internet was not the publishing platform it is today and there were fewer magazines, favoring, instead, tabloid size. Tabloid-size publications offered more room to expand a review so, when I was on the InfoWorld Review Board, we had 3,000 words to work with and each reviewer covered one product. We were paid between 50 cents and a dollar a word. Heady times for a writer.

Today, we have come full-circle, almost, and passed through the space restrictions of a magazine format to a combination of print and Internet.  On the Internet, we have far fewer space restrictions, but we are not up to the old 3,000-word limit – yet.

Those were exciting times and I enjoyed the reviewing.  When I started writing for SC, I wrote opinion columns and an occasional book review. When Haymarket took over I continued writing opinion columns and gradually worked into the reviews game as a reviewer. The review process was a bit convoluted so Illena and I set to work to modernize it and before I knew it I was the Technology Editor.

Over the next few years, we grew the SC Labs function, brought on some first-rate help in the form of Judy Traub, and started using free-lance reviewers.  As you might guess, in those days, Detroit was not a hotbed of computer and network gurus. Finding qualified reviewers was not easy.  We had my son, Mike Stephenson, Mike Lipinski, an able computer geek with an entrepreneurial streak, Justin Peltier, son of Tom Peltier, and Rob Cote. There were a few others, but these were our mainstays. We averaged 20 + products per month so we always had more than one reviewer to handle the load.

Today, there has been a lot of convergence in the field and our product groups are not as large as back then but, in contrast, the products we see are far more complex than in days past. That means that the workload is still there, but the nature of it has changed materially. That makes Rob and his crew at Security Vitals an excellent choice as the new home of SC Labs. Rob not only is a fine technologist, he is another of those successful serial entrepreneurs who just can't seem to get it wrong. Unlike some of his ilk, Rob is solid, focused, dedicated and is both a competent techie and an excellent manager. He sees the future in our field and you can bet he'll help you see it too. Being forward-looking here at SC is part of the job description and Rob and his team have that quality.

One of Rob's talents is surrounding himself with people who do what they do extremely well.  He subscribes to the tenet that a successful person becomes successful in part by surrounding him or herself with the best in their respective fields and then paying attention to what they have to say.  That's the core of Rob's success and will be the core of the ongoing excellence that you will see going forward.

Rob's team is extensive and experienced. Mike Diehl – my replacement as Technology Editor – is bringing some new dimensions to the SC Labs test bed. I have a long familiarity with the Merit Network's Cyber Range, and its application to the reviews process promises to be exciting. It is the logical next step as we migrate to the cloud and we see more and more products in the security space emerging to support that migration. The new crew will be able to bring you a new generation of testing and reviewing that represents the logical next steps in what has become your trusted partnership in product evaluations. It also will continue to offer the same general format that you have come to respect and enjoy.

So, with this little bit of history and an introduction to the future I happily bow out and become, in addition to my occasional contributions here going forward, and a sort of advisor to the team, an avid reader of Rob's and Mike's new products section.  I hope that you will join me.

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