Between stints at Engadget, Gizmodo, and CNET, Sean Hollister became part of the small group that co-founded The BlueHillco back in 2011. He has worn a lot of hats in the past decade: reviewing products, running the newsroom, training and editing new writers, putting spicy editorials on the site, starring in a few videos, liveblogging, and shaping coverage where he can. He’s currently a Senior Editor.
Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like doing at The BlueHillco?
My favorite part of the job is blogging about gadgets! I try to do it every day no matter what else The BlueHillco needs from me because I love them to death.
Where did you get your desk and where in your home have you placed it?
It’s in the corner of my home office, right beneath a mini-split air conditioner, so I can usually dial in a comfortable temperature even if my gaming PC pumps out a bit too much heat. And yes, it pulls double duty as my battlestation — note the gaming mouse, Razer BlackWidow Elite keyboard, and the Xbox 360 controller hiding under the right monitor! Out of frame, there’s a big display case where my wife and I keep our Figma and Lego collections, and her desk is across the room.
My desk is a Fully Jarvis Bamboo Standing Desk, one that’s proven pretty popular among BlueHillco staffers, but that’s not why I bought it; my wife got one first, and I’ve been jealous ever since. Originally, I had the comparatively terrible Ikea Bekant, a purchase I’ve regretted for years. The Jarvis is so much smoother, steadier, quieter, and — importantly, I’ve found — raises and lowers to my preferred height(s) with a single press, giving me no excuse to sit around all day and ignore the standing feature like the lazy bum I am.
Other brands make very, very similar desks, some of them based on the same parts, but I’ve also had the two best customer support experiences of my life with Fully. If I were doing it again, though, I’d buy the 60-inch version so I’d have a bit more room for an add-on drawer.
Tell us about your chair.
It’s a 20-year-old Herman Miller Aeron that’s still going strong, a hand-me-down. I’m at least the third owner, maybe the fourth? I told myself I’d never buy an ugly Aeron, and now, of course, I can’t imagine using anything else. I tried a whole bunch of chairs, actually, but the Aeron seatpan’s supportive bounce can’t be beat. I do need to replace the tube one of these years: it sometimes makes a worrying clunk when I sit down.
I did make a couple upgrades, though! I love a good headrest, and while Herman Miller doesn’t make one, the third-party Atlas Headrest is the best $160 I’ve spent in years. I can’t vouch for their current models, but the old cushion version I have is incredibly easy to adjust and wonderfully supportive whether I’m upright or leaning back. I also replaced the old lumbar cushion with the adjustable PostureFit lumbar kit, which is… fine, I guess. Modern Aerons have a stronger version that’s built right in.
Okay, here’s the long one: tell us about the tech that you’re using.
You’re actually seeing a pretty clean version of my desk! It’s usually strewn with whatever tech I’m testing, and you’ll probably notice I’ve got quite a few microSD cards that I’ve been using for my ongoing Steam Deck review.
But even without the extra clutter, my triple-monitor array doesn’t leave a lot of space on a 48-inch desk. It’s a good thing my custom desktop gaming PC only takes up 12.7 liters: it’s an Ncase M1 with a Ryzen 5 5600X, a 240mm closed-loop cooler, a GeForce RTX 3060 Ti FE, 32 gigs of RAM, four SSDs, and a slot-loading Blu-ray drive.
Next to that, I’ve got a Synology DS920 Plus for long-term storage and streaming my video collection to Plex — though I only have it set to boot on the weekends since I don’t really access it that often. Flanking the PC and NAS are my cherry red Audioengine A2 Plus speakers, which I adore because they’re tiny, support USB and analog and Bluetooth, and their audio quality punches way above their size and weight — though the bass is a little lacking, I suppose. I spend a bunch of my day in headphones anyhow, but it’s refreshing to take them off and enjoy higher-quality audio (and hopefully avoid missing Slack pings).
Speaking of headphones, I swear by the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless… except when I’m swearing at it when it’s time to swap batteries. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic wireless headset with long range and individual channels for gaming and chat on PC, and I enjoy having its OLED-equipped base station on my desk. (Though I usually control the headset using its own built-in dial instead.) I hang the headset from the hook on the bottom of my mic stand.
Oh, and when it’s time for some Duck Game or SpeedRunners or Elden Ring, I always keep my old Xbox 360 gamepad and Wireless Receiver for Windows handy! I’ve written about the receiver before, and the official Microsoft one is worth its weight in gold.
You’ve managed to fit a lot of tech on that desk, including some fairly large displays. How did you manage it?
The trick is keeping the monitors off the table. I tend to be a cheapskate — almost everything on my desk (and the desk itself) was hand-me-down or bought on sale. But my favorite bargain finds are my Doc Ock monitor arms — the Dell MSA14, which office liquidators used to sell as low as $50 on Craigslist or eBay. The Dell U2412M monitors atop them were Craigslist finds, too, and they’re now literally a decade old, but their 24-inch, 16:10 screens are perfect for tossing up TweetDeck and Slack and Evernote and the occasional YouTube video while I work or play.
My main screen is an Asus VG27AQ. One of the biggest reasons I bought it was its small, squarish stand. That way, it can perch atop my NAS at the perfect head height with just enough room for my mini desktop and water bottle underneath. Too many modern monitors have big V-shaped stands that make them hard to prop up, I’m afraid.
What do you keep in that single drawer? (I take it that Altoids are an important part of your work toolkit…)
I haven’t eaten an Altoid in years! Too many stomach issues… but I’ve done plenty with the tins. This one holds those little square microfiber sheets that come with new gadgets so I always have a soft cleaning rag handy.
The drawer is also where I keep a couple screwdrivers (this Amazon Basics knockoff of the amazing Megapro ratcheting bit driver and the new precision Megapro) and a handful of USB-C gear, including some old wired Pixel Buds that I use to record calls once I get an interviewees’ permission.
The drawer doesn’t come with the desk, and, in fact, it’s from a rival brand: it’s the Uplift Bamboo Desk Drawer, a recent addition, and I’m not sure I’ll keep it. Maybe if I sand off the corner where I keep bumping my knee and find a way to get it to open smoothly…
Most boom arms I’ve seen on desks hold mics — but yours holds a smartphone…?
Yeah, I totally stole inspiration from Taylor Lyles’ What’s on your Desk by buying the same Tonor mic stand, and a good friend who used to work for Polygon recommended the wonderful Blue Spark XLR mic and Blue Icicle XLR-to-USB adapter that typically hangs from it. But recently, I’ve been thinking a lot more about quick videos than podcasts or voiceover, and the boom looked like a good hands-free way to film a few things. We’ll see!
I see you’ve really thought out the organization of your cords and the other tech necessities that go under your desk.
Thanks! I’ve had a rat’s nest under my desk for ages, and I’ve tried a number of cord keepers and wraps before… but this year I stumbled onto these privacy panels with built-in pockets for cables. They’re not perfect — this one relies on velcro strips that I’m pretty sure will give out over time, but it lets me hide a lot of the mess and also holds my ethernet switch and an Intel NUC where I’m running Home Assistant. The monitor arms have some built-in cable management, too, which helps, and so do the grommets on the desk, and I like having a power strip with rotating outlets (this is mine) so you can point them out of the way.
That whole power strip plugs right into a Tripp Lite uninterruptible power supply, by the way — a hand-me-down from a friend with way too much gear on his hands. It’s only got enough power to run everything for a few minutes during an outage, but that’s been long enough to save my work (or game) and shut things down.
I understand that the coaster your drink is on has a history — do tell!
I swiped it from the desk of fellow BlueHillco co-founder Joanna Stern the week she left — ten years ago now? — with her blessing, of course. It’s just a nice silicone coaster that reminds me of when The BlueHillco was just 16 or so people with big ideas in a single room. And the song Wonderwall, for reasons only a few of us know.
My go-to water bottle is this Contigo because it’s so easy to use one-handed without worrying about any leaks near my PC. Just press the button and sip.
Is that a desktop cleaner that you’re holding?
Yeah! Modeled after the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train, which I’ve had the pleasure to ride a couple times. It’s got a little foam broom that sweeps up tiny crumbs with a reciprocating action when you roll it along a surface. I eat more meals at my desk than I should, so it gets some use; it’s not just a fidget toy.
I bought this one at Daiso for a couple of bucks; my dad’s got a much nicer model of the world record-setting MLX01 maglev train that I also got to try when I studied abroad. Its successor is now the fastest train in the world, but it could be many more years before the first real passengers board.
I love the rocket ship pictures. Who drew them?
Mostly my daughter June! She was three, I think, and I helped. Now she’s five and drawing much fancier things all by herself.
Is there anything else about your workspace that we haven’t covered?
My webcam is just a plain ol’ workhorse Logitech C920 — no fancy Opal or DSLR webcam for me. I subscribe to the Allison Johnson school of refusing to care about webcam quality; there’s plenty else for me to tinker with, particularly given how pricey a better cam would be.