Working from home has its advantages, but one of the problems that many people have to face is trying to find enough space in a crowded environment. Jon Porter, who is the London-based news reporter for The Verge, has had to be especially resourceful in putting together a place where he could report, write, and review.
We talked to Jon to find out how he’s managed to do such great reporting out of a small space.
Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do at The Verge?
I’m The Verge’s UK-based news reporter. I’ve lived in London basically my entire life, and I’ve been with the site for a little over two years now.
Day-to-day, I’m responsible for covering any tech news that breaks during UK hours before the US wakes up. But once the East Coast is awake, I can get down to business reviewing phones, building keyboards, and complaining about the iPhone’s lack of USB-C.
It looks like you really had to get a lot of workspace into a relatively small area. How did you manage it?
That’s putting it lightly. I share my flat in London with three other people, so a corner of my bedroom is about as much space as I can spare for a home office. I honestly don’t think I’d manage it if I hadn’t lucked out and found this desk being given away for free on the weekend I moved in.
How did you manage that?
When we moved in, the flat was completely unfurnished, and we spent the first few months frantically scouring through services like Freecycle for any furniture people were giving away. Long story short, we met some people who were leaving the country and had a flat full of stuff to get rid of, so we rented a van and carted it all home. The van broke down en-route (don’t ask), but most of the furniture has served us well ever since.
All of which is to say that I have absolutely no idea where the desk is from, who made it, or how much it would cost to buy new. But it’s very good at packing in a lot of stuff. There’s a little shelf under the monitor where I have a PlayStation 4 Pro and an Arcam irDAC stashed, and the keyboard tray lets me keep the desk surface itself clear-ish.
Is that a wrist rest you have in front of your keyboard?
Absolutely! I love mechanical keyboards, but their keys are so tall compared to laptop-style keys that I find I need a rest to keep my wrists at a comfortable angle. I know you’re technically supposed to keep your hands raised while you type, but honestly that’s just so exhausting on my arms that I’ve never been able to stick with it.
The keyboard itself is a Filco Majestouch 2 Tenkeyless with Cherry MX Brown switches. I firmly believe that Filco makes the keyboards that feel the best to type on, and they’re what I’d recommend to anyone looking for a keyboard. The only problem is that the lettering on their keycaps can wear out a little quickly, so I swapped out the stock caps for a set manufactured by GMK. Oh, and I also installed a programmable keyboard controller in there so I could add some keyboard shortcuts for turning the volume up and down and whatever.
Looks like you’ve got a classy desk chair.
This Herman Miller Aeron was the main investment I made this year after I’d been working from home full time for a few months. I bought it after I got tired of having to sit with a pillow supporting my lower back to stop it from hurting.
In normal times I probably would have actually gone into a store and tried out a bunch of chairs in person, but unfortunately that wasn’t really possible. Instead I played it safe, and bought the chair that always seems to come up whenever people online talk about the best office chairs. I got my Aeron secondhand off eBay from a company that was clearly selling leftovers from office clearouts, but it’s treated me well so far.
Okay, now it’s time to talk about your tech. Let’s start with your computer.
Alrighty! It’s a bit of a work-in-progress at the moment while I wait for AMD’s new CPUs and Nvidia’s new graphics cards to come down in price, but for the time being I’m running an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU paired with a Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card and 16GB of RAM. That’s all packed into a Silverstone FT05 case which, much like my keyboard, I like because it’s incredibly understated.
You’ve got an interesting arrangement of displays. You’ve got one hanging off the wall, and the other is, well, impressively big. How did you come up with this arrangement?
I have to confess this isn’t how I’d have things set up if I had the choice. My main monitor is an AOC AG352UCG 1440p ultrawide which would normally be out of my price range, but I got a deal on it because it’s a little… well… broken. Its DisplayPort works perfectly, and it supports G-Sync to keep games running smoothly, but unfortunately the HDMI port seems to be busted, so I can’t use it with the PS4 Pro I’ve got sitting underneath it.
That’s why I have the second monitor sitting in landscape orientation to the left of it, for the PlayStation. Otherwise I’d have it in portrait and use it to read Twitter or something.
How about your other tech (headphones, speakers, etc.)?
From left to right there’s a Blue Snowball microphone, which does exactly what I need it to and means I can get away with wearing normal headphones on calls. Then we’ve got my Logitech Z200 speakers, which were just the cheapest I could find. They’re fine, but whenever I’m listening to something that matters I’m using headphones or streaming to an Ikea Symfonisk Sonos speaker lamp I have on the other side of the room.
There’s an Anker wireless charging stand on my desk for when my phone needs extra juice during the day, which rarely happens now that I’m at home all the time but it’s nice to know it’s there. The PS4 Pro sitting to the right of it needs no introduction. That little bar sitting on top of it is a Mayflash W010 USB sensor bar, like the Nintendo Wii console used to have. I bought one for my PC so I could use it to emulate Wii games, and hopefully get around to completing Metroid Prime 3 one of these days.
Next up is the Arcam irDAC which handles audio for both the PS4 and my PC, and those accessories on top of it are an Anker SD card reader and a pair of Samsung’s Galaxy Beans, ahem sorry, Galaxy Buds Live. There’s a Logitech C920 webcam on top of my monitor with a privacy shutter, and I have a bunch of USB cables hanging off of what’s supposed to be a headphone hook to the right.
Phew, that sounds like a lot! But remember that I live in a flatshare, so I basically have one room that all my tech lives in. One day all this stuff will spread out when I have the space for it, but for now it’s all here.
You have a relatively clean desk — is that how you like to work?
In my ideal world, this would be how tidy I keep it all of the time. But the reality is that when review season hits and the devices start rolling in, I quickly end up with piles of phones, headphones, coffee cups, and whatever else on my desk. Thankfully we’re in a bit of a quieter period at the moment so I can keep things a little more manageable.
I see there’s a notebook front and center.
It’s the only way I can stay organized. I know there are lots of good to-do list apps out there, but for me nothing beats keeping track of work using a physical notepad. Every day I force myself to write out what needs to be done, and the manual process helps me to remember each task. I also just find it much more convenient to quickly note down something on a physical pad while I’m on the phone, rather than trying to do everything from the same device.
Is that a pint glass I see?
Gotta keep hydrated!
Tell us about your guitar. Do you keep it nearby for occasional breaks, or is that just a handy place to store it?
Oh, it’s totally just a musical fidget spinner. Whenever I’m stuck, I pick up the guitar, a Mexican-made Fender Stratocaster, and play a couple of chords while I think. I also used to play a lot while I waited for things to load, but SSDs put an end to that. I must have had it for 15 years or so, and although I rarely get around to playing seriously anymore, I could never bring myself to part with it.
Update February 12th, 2021, 4PM ET: This article was originally published on December 14th, 2020; links to and prices of various products have been updated.