Category: Meta

Headhost In The DarkDragon*Con 2014 was a very busy, very fun convention, and I’m very happy to have had the chance to participate not only as a wide-eyed viewer but also as a big-mouthed podcaster & presenter. :)

I was one quarter of the “Podcasting: Present, Past and Future” panel, along with good friends Chuck Tomasi and Kreg Steppe who collectively come from Technorama and individually podcast with Freestyle and Look What I Found, respectively. Also on the panel was someone I was not really familiar with, but will definitely change that in the future, the host of Nobody’s Listening and creator of the NLCast Network, James Kennison. The panel was set-up and moderated by Charles McFall, who I met last year.

Here’s the audio recorded by the good folks at Alpha Geek Radio, who were also live-streaming the entire event. I’m very happy to see this kind of support for the podcasting track, so they have my own thanks as well as bigger and better kudos.

We could have easily spent an entire panel on any one of these time eras, past, present or future. I think we spent a little too much time talking about the past, but it’s also the easiest thing to talk about. We gave some advice about podcasting, lessons learned and supportive slogans, but that was probably more effectively covered in Podcasting 101-type panels (which I did not attend this year).

About the present we spoke only a little. There are eminent things on the horizon of significance to podcasting, like the podcast patent wars, the release of new devices like smart watches, the rise of the fourth (or is it fifth?) wave of podcasters (who think they invented everything), the influx of professional radio and television productions being released as podcasts. Despite all this, we moved quickly into the future, in part (I believe) because there is some sense of frustration and urgency, and it always feels more useful to be a bit ahead of the current activity rather than reacting only to the present.

The future of podcasting is somewhat in question, and generally has always been. We’ve had some great leaders who have contributed those initial steps, and some great innovators along the way, but we are in a period of plateau. We, the podcasters, have become complacent with what has become established technology, and have ceased to truly innovate.

Instead, we see some motion in the bigger players like Apple. Despite my love-hate relationship with Apple products, they largely lead in podcasting support, from iTunes and its introduction of podcast “station”, to the Podcasts app for IOS, to the directory at the heart of iTunes which dictates certain rules, regulations and guidelines upon podcasts.

I’m not comfortable with the podcasting medium being defined by corporate or government interests. As a technologist, it offends me that we would not seek the best technological solution and possibility. As a broadcaster, it offends me that we might stifle the exciting prospects of a brand new medium by indifference. As an academic, it fascinates me that we have something which its own unique features and surprises me that we haven’t studied it properly.

So, I am revisiting this blog and podcast. The perpetual danger that always accompanies people who cry out “Why doesn’t such a thing exist?!?” is that someone will point the finger back at the speaker and say “But why don’t you do it?”.

I am not alone in this journey, and I’m going to need more time than a single hour to do it. So I’ll be blogging here, podcasting when I can, and enlisting others along the way to answer, from a philosophical standpoint: What Is Podcasting?

Update & Dragon*Con Podcasting Panel

Rusty Split

Are we doomed to division while the foundation crumbles?

It’s been a terribly long time since I stopped in, but I haven’t gone away, just got rather busy. I’m still busy, but I’m itching to get more regular posts here. I continue to work in both radio and do podcasting, and continue to wonder where this new medium is going.

Sadly, from what I’ve seen in the last couple of years, very little has actually changed.  Here are a few notes about my impressions, and a note about the panel I’m going to be at in Atlanta at Dragon*Con.

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Podcasting, Radio and Conferences

I’m a radio guy.

From a very early age, I was a fan of the radio, although when I was young, my choices were sparse. In the decades since, I’ve discovered the grand traditions of radio, largely because they are re-emerging now in both my day-job as the Program Director of an alternative, campus/community radio station and in my passion, which is podcasting.

I’m working on integrating these passions where possible, seeing where our radio programs can be podcasted and bringing shows I discovered as podcasts to radio. I continue to podcast and do radio shows every week, and continue to try to rediscover lost knowledge from the nearly-lost era of classic radio, as well as try to look forward to how it will all fit together in the future..

It’s traveling season for me, a rare treat in a life so busy, and I’m looking forward to it. What’s more, it all relates to podcasting, one way or another.

Next week I’ll be attending Balticon from May 25-28 near Baltimore, Maryland. It’s a science fiction convention by origin, but it also is perhaps the largest gathering of podcasters on the East Coast, save for Dragon*Con. There will be discussions mostly about the content of podcasts (fiction, news, fandom, philosophy), but I hope to pick the brains of several of the participants about the whole meta-discussion of podcasting. If I’m lucky, I’ll remember to record some audio for another UP! episode, but since these events also largely serve as my vacation and socializing time as well, I won’t exactly be at my most vigilant.

In June, I head to Kingston, ON for the annual NCRC event (National Campus/Community Radio Conference). At that, I’ll be talking to staff and volunteers from radio stations across this country (Canada) about the whole business, craft and madness that is community radio.

I’ll also be on four panels, two of which are going to relate to podcasting. One of them, in fact, is simply entitled “Podcasting”. I sat back last year and listened to what others had to say last year (my first year), but this year I feel confident that I can give advice and commentary (even if our own podcasting offerings have yet to flourish).

The other panel directly related to podcasting is entitled “The Future of Radio Technology”. Originally, I just proposed it as “The Future of Radio”, because while it will be related to technology, it’s not (to me) about better mics, better mixers and better transmitter. No, there is a definite need to consider what radio is, and to branch out from only having terrestrial broadcast as the primary medium. I don’t consider podcasts and broadcast radio to be the same, although the distinction between them is sometimes hard to see and even harder to articulate, but I want us to probe what the integration of such things can mean — and how we can position ourselves to best take advantage of them. It’s been a topic on the back of my mind for quite a while, but has been stifled as an active thought process by the other tasks in my life — most significantly, by the attempt to finish a PhD, which sees some progress.

The other two panels are on “Building a Kick-Ass Website” and “Advanced Audacity”, and while they aren’t directly related to podcasting, you can bet that my podcasting experience is related.

I’m going to try to record and release those sessions as podcasts afterward, but since they aren’t likely to be amplified and rooms where these talks are held are likely to be hard-walled and terrible for recording, I’m not sure what the quality will be.

If you find yourself at Balticon or at the NCRC this year, keep an eye out for some strange bearded dude talking to everyone about podcasting, by the name of Mark Kilfoil — sometimes known at the Encaffeinated ONE. :)


Managing: time, podcasts, life

Podcasting is not really a profession, as such — and neither is pontificating about podcasting.

That means that it really falls into the hobby category, and that means that other things take priority, sometimes.

Obviously, I’ve had a few priorities to deal with, but I’ve kept this blog set up and paid for the hosting to make sure that I remind myself to come back to it, when I have time.

And then I realized: I will never have time, just free-floating time that is free of all obligations.

I have to do what people have been telling me for years: I’ll have to make time.

For all those years, I’ve bristled at that term, feeling myself surrounded by obligations that don’t have any room to wiggle in. I’ll still do, but I’m starting to realize the real essence behind the phrase. It’s not about “making” time, it’s about deciding not to waste it.

With the multitude of things to distract, amuse and work at, it’s no surprise that time rarely feels wasted, but rather just consumed.

Ah, but what does this have to do with podcasting? If anything?

Actually, I think it has something very fundamental to do with the emergence of the podcasting medium. I think podcasting is one of the ultimate expressions of people wanting to organize their leisure time, to take control over the schedule of entertainment that, for the majority of its modern timeframe, was out of our control.

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UP004: Podcast Idea: “24 Hours ‘Round The World”

An audio call for comment and participation in the “24 Hours ‘Round The World” podcast, in which participants from around the world give a short slice of what their world is like, at that hour.

Two pints and One thought

Corrigan's Pub, La RochellePodcasts take time and effort to produce. Most of them are produced as projects of interest by their hosts, and not as paid gigs. So is it fair to hold them to the same schedule as everyone else?

Usually, I see this question posed from the other side, as a sort of shame-inducing pledge for podcasters, an admonishment to produce episodes to a regular schedule and not let their listeners/viewers down. To not do episodes on a regular basis is to not act professionally, and this is a black mark against your podcast, your future, and any hopes you might have in becoming a professional podcaster, blah, blah, blah…

But I think we need to rethink this, at least a little bit — because podcasting isn’t that kind of medium..

A recent experience in a little Irish pub illustrates the difference between the “traditional big media” take on podcasting and what I feel is the majority, the “grass roots” podcasting.

This little Irish pub was essentially a rectangle big enough across for about 5 people to stand, and deep enough to hold a good-sized university class or two (although they better be friends). To the left as you walked in the door was the bar, taking up half the width and at least a third to half the length. Opposite it, without any elevation or real demarcation, was the “stage”, which really consisted of a few stools, a microphone on a stand, a few lights and a mixer propped up on a table. The performer arrived — he was just across the street having supper — and many people flooded in at the expected start time. Without any introduction or ceremony, the lone man with his acoustic guitar said a few words, then launched into some folk songs and modern standards.

The performance was simple, earnest and direct. The performer was good, more because he seemed to be having fun and really seemed to enjoy the songs than being absolutely stunning or professional. Mistakes were overlooked by the friendly crowd — which, as it turned out, contained a considerable number of his friends. He is a biochem professor and researcher at the local university, and in the packed pub were many colleagues and friends.

The distance between the audience and the podcaster is much shorter. It’s much more like a pub performance than a stadium show. The audience is more intimately involved, usually very friendly and understanding, perhaps even friends or other performers.

So, what is all this “professional” talk about? Why are we seeking to be professional, rather than just good?

* ~ *

In a way, this article is also a mea culpa: I set out ambitious and perhaps unrealistic goals for the regularity of this blog and podcast, and they were easily missed due to impending travel I knew I was going to take. I do have another episode ready to be edited (an interview with author and podcaster Chuck Tomasi), and there will be more updates and episodes coming soon.

But, I hope you understand as friends: episodes will probably not be on a regular schedule, but on an appropriate schedule.

And I’ll try not to spend so much time in the pub! 😉

The Structure of UP!

Before I dive into article writing, I want to give some indication of what can be expected, what kind of articles can be expected. While I’m setting this out as a plan, there will inevitably be changes along the way. Nonetheless, as one of my former software development managers loved to say: “You always need to start from a plan; it’s the only way you can deviate from it!”.

Typically, articles will fall into 15 categories:

  • “Podcasting Is…”: defining articles, usually looking at particular aspects that seem core to the concept of podcasting. Examples include “aynchronous”, “mobility”, “easy to do”, “easy to consume”, “subscribing”.
  • “Podcasting Is Not…”: defining articles in a negative way, looking at some aspect which people generally confuse with podcasting, but which don’t really fit the concept. Example include “streaming media”, “podcasting live”, “direct download”.
  • “Podcasting Means…”: articles trying to understand the importance of podcasting in a broader sense, trying to suss out what makes it important in both a positive and negative way. Example include “democratizing media”, “cheapening media”.
  • “Podcasting Versus…”: articles comparing and contrasting podcasting to other things, most particular other forms of media. Unlike the “… Is Not” articles, there is a focus on looking at all of the aspects of the other media, rather than just picking on one. Example include “radio”, “TV”, “blogging”, “newspapers”, “YouTube”, “uStream”, “MP3 music”.
  • “Podcasting Should…”: articles which look at the potential of podcasting, both from examining the things that it is doing wrong or badly now (and how they might be fixed) and from dreaming a bit about what changes can make the medium stronger. Examples include “podcatchers as proprietary software”, “organizing podcasts”, “podcast interactivity”, “closing the feedback loop”.
  • “Under the Hood”: articles discussing the mechanics of podcasting. The focus of this site is not about the mechanics — there are plenty of books and web sites which cover that. Sometimes, however, it might be useful to discuss these things and not force people to go searching for background on their own. Examples include “RSS”, “MP3 format”, “M4A format”, “routing feeds”, “tagging”.
  • “Bad Podcaster Habits”: articles describing what appears to be bad habits that podcasters fall in to, why they might not be good, and what you can do about them. This began as a series of Twitter comments borne out of my listening to thousands of podcast episodes, and people seemed to appreciate them.
  • “Good Podcaster Habits”: articles which give praise where it’s due, that point out what habits that podcasters might have which are really good — even if they aren’t conscious of doing them.
  • “News”: articles related to any news articles, statements, blog posts or related goings-on in the podcasting community. Examples include conference notifications, changes in relevant specifications.
  • “Links”: articles describing an existing or new website, mailing list/forum, blog post, podcast directory, individual podcast or something else that seems worth mentioning. This is not meant to be exhaustive, but hopefully useful and illustrative.
  • “Bookshelf”: articles discussing books about podcasts. There are a number of books on podcasting that already exist, and new ones will (hopefully!) continue to come out. I won’t necessarily be offering in-depth reviews, and my book purchasing budget is small, but I want to make sure to acknowledge them.
  • “Interview”: articles which either describe or transcribe part of an interview I’ve done, or describe and discuss interviews that others have done.
  • “Op Ed”: articles which present particular opinions. Now, this entire site can be considered my opinion, really, but I welcome dissenting and otherwise alternative points of view. I hope to invite others to participate with their own articles, and this section is meant to include them.
  • “Meta”: articles about the running of the site itself. Example include warnings of upcoming outage or delays, notice of changes to structure, answering complaints.
  • “Rant”: articles which present a highly emotional response to something, usually negative (but not necessarily always). Sometimes, there are current features or activities that just drive me nuts in this crazy podcasting world, or things which just earn from me some unmitigated praise. Rants are likely to be less structured, less cultured, more raw, less thought out, pure expression.

You might notice that these all describe articles, but not podcast episodes. I haven’t worked out any sort of podcasting schedule (if there is to be one), but in reality any of these articles might be presented as a podcast episode, or part of one. I want both the site and the podcast to be useful on their own, and when integrated together. It just so happens that, at the moment at least, it’s easier for me to type articles than it is for me to record episodes.

What is this?

Hi there!

This is a blog dedicated to understanding the media of podcasting. (Ok, that was the obvious part..)

I am interested in getting beyond the mere mechanics of podcasting and into the deeper meaning behind this emerging medium. I want to explore what makes the medium unique, what makes it the same, what it does well and what it does badly. I want to raise and attempt to answer questions like “What is so important about this podcasting thing, anyway?” and “What should the future of podcasting look like?” and “Is podcasting dying?”.

The inspiration for this site is two-fold: first, it’s simply one of my fascinations that I keep talking about and wondering about, so I figured I’d try to do something about. Second, I’ve been taking a course on teaching, and it mandates that we teach a 20 minute session about something we’re passionate about. I’ve always found that when you combine your strong interests, you tend to perform better and get something more satisfying as a result, so here we go!

I have been a podcaster for a few years now (go see my main solo show, The WEIRD Show, or my occasional show and blog, Encaffeinated!; I’m also elsewhere) and have been a massive podcast consumer as well. I have been known to subscribe to over 300 shows, and podcasts are my main media to consume.

I have been in volunteer radio for over a dozen years as well, which gives me another perspective to throw in..

I am planning to produce occasional audio podcasts on this topic, which will be found here. I don’t know exactly what those are going to be on, just yet, so suggestions about topics to cover are welcome.

Oh.. and yeah, the base design has got to go.. Suggestions about that are welcome as well! 😉

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