Xataka

One blog I am now reading consistently to help with my Spanish is Xataka, which is a lot like Engadget or Gizmodo. One of the mild problems with my former teacher, a very good teacher and nice lady, was that she was really shaky on the technonerdy jargon in Spanish. This blog helps with that. I’m trying to give it my best read, and when I give up using Google Translation to fill in the parts I didn’t understand. It’s working pretty well on the comprehension side, but of course that all flies out the window when you actually try to access that vocabulary and create your own sentences. Still, every little bit helps.

Happy Halloween

The city of Conway decreed that trick or treating would occur last night, and so it did. I decided to wear my wrestler outfit – tights, boots and a Champion tank top – while I was handing out candy. D convinced me not to wear the luchadore mask because it would frighten the kids. Out of nowhere, she decided to dress up in the Pocahantas costume that she bought years ago but never wore. It was great! One little girl was also dressed similar, and spent a minute or two talking about the ins and outs of their different costumes.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. Because of our position near a main road but off it a little, we got a fraction of the traffic that was going on 50 feet away. As is typical, I way overbought on the candy. We’ll try to remember this lesson for next year and scale appropriately. We were led astray by predictions from the neighbor across the street, whose big house actually has a front door on the busy street even though their driveway is across from ours. Live and learn, we’ll know better. I had a hoot dressing up and hopefully we’ll do it again next year.

Simple Pleasures

On a rainy and cold (relatively – it is 70 here at the end of October) day, there was something joyous and wonderful about just having a hot bowl of tomato soup for lunch. I had flashbacks to the hundreds of lunches I had just like that, on days just like this in Kansas. I’ve always liked autumn, probably more so than spring. Something makes me feel good about the chilling weather and the long slow buildup to the holidays. Mmmm, mmmm good.

I’m listening to the Malcolm Gladwell talk on IT Conversations, and in the first minute he talked about how Howard Moskowitz, the man who invented chunky tomato sauce as the man who contributed as much to American happiness as anyone. I heard it right as I was typing the above. It’s not quite tomato soup, but that was an odd synchrony of tomato talk.

Unreality Shows

It seems like every damn ad I see for an upcoming reality show is about some kind of bullshit show where the premise is that the participants are being lied to. Give me a break. These things are tedious enough, but when the core of them is a lie, they are unbearable. How can they be a “reality show” when the premise isn’t even reality?

Speaking of that, we are currently watching “The Apprentice” (not because I want to.) I notice that in every boardroom sequence, there is a stretch where Trump is talking, but the camera is on other people in the room and you can audibly hear the quality of both the recording and his delivery change. It sounds stilted in his “I’m reading but trying to sound natural” way. What the hell is that? Do they go back and rewrite his dialog afterwards to punch it up?

Red Sox

Although I wasn’t rooting for them, there are worse things in this world than seeing the Red Sox take the World Series. I’m hoping that this is a good omen less than a week before the election, seeing the underdogs from Massachusetts taking it all. Also, I fully expect that after the gazillion.1 lazy reporters and commentators have worked it out of their system, to never in my lifetime hear about this stupid fricking “curse” again. If they lose next year, they lose on their own account and not because ghosts fluttered around preventing them from playing to their potential.

Rob Greenlee Responds

WebTalkRadio’s Rob Greenlee responds to me. I mostly agree with him and left him a comment on his blog about the couple points where I diverge from him. I probably did go too far in my previous post. Note to self – don’t post when you are pissed off by reading a bunch of backlash posts and delirious with a fever. I’m going to stand off the subject now, bow respectfully in his direction and wait impatiently for their next episode to magically show up in my iTunes.

They Only Jump When You Hit the Nerve

A combination of wise feedback from loyal readers and listeners of this blog combined with my inadvertent fever-induced vision quest and a good jolt of Robert Rodriguez has left me with a feeling of peace and clarity. I’m beginning to grok the podcasting pushback, and the more I understand it the less it bothers me. In fact I’m beginning to downright enjoy it. There will be no more time spent in my audioblogs talking about contrarians that bring me down, because they can no longer bring me down.

The prototype of knee-jerk-off pushback is this highly cited article by Dvorak (a JV version of the same sort of thing by Sean Gallagher is here.) So here’s the thing – when some pundit sort tells you “there is nothing to this podcasting” or “a lot of podcasters are boring” or the like, what are they saying? Are they saying “If you like them, you are dumb” or perhaps “Despite what we’ve been saying about how the internet enables communication amongst people, when you actually do communicate with each other we think it is silly” or the like? I now know of hundreds of people who have directly told me they like listening to this podcast by email or writeback and I am very far from the most listened to audioblog, by orders of magnitudes. Are you, Dvorak, calling all those people dumb for enjoying podcasts? If they were as smart as you, maybe they’d realize they should hate it. Actually, the best rebuttal I’ve seen, matching him snark for snark is this one by Joe Mullins, which concludes with this:

And now an open letter to every publication that carries Dvorak:

Dear people,

Please hire me instead of John Dvorak for your sham tech industry journalism needs. I promise that I can meet or exceed John’s high standards of apathetic sloth and sloppy half-researched ass-clownery. While it may be a challenge to weaken my understanding of technology to match his flaccid, tenuous grip on the industry, I will do my best with large amounts of alcohol and prescription pain killers. Thank you.

I now desperately want to get buttons made up with the words “sloppy half-researched ass-clownery”. Brilliant!

But, here’s where my peace comes in. The only reason people feel the need to pushback is because they think there is something signifcant to push. You don’t get anywhere taking on imaginary targets. All of these people talking the smack are doing it because they want to be controversial, enjoy being contrarian, live on the umbrage, thrive on the attention. They only jump when you hit the nerve, and they only poke sticks when they think they can make you jump. I’m trying my damnedest to supress my natural inclination towards rage at this stuff, and converting that to laughter. It’s really more fun that way.

While I’m on the subject, and to get a little towards Robert Rodriguez who has been on my mind a lot the last few days, I’d like to point out some big differences between those under the podcasting tent and those lobbing rocks at it. Rodriguez repeated the cliche in his “Ten Minute Flick School” that he heard from one of his art teachers in his cartoonist days – “Every artist has 500 bad drawings in them. The more you practice, the quicker you will work through them.” The podcasting tent is highly open membership – either as listeners or podcasters themselves, anyone that says “I want to be in your club” is in the club. This group is remarkably supportive of each other, remarkably ego-free (or at least ego-resistant), and constructive. They understand that anyone has a certain number of bad recordings in them. Rather than saying “Your ‘cast sucks and you should quit boring us”, they say “Your audio levels are too low and your theme music runs on too long” or “I think you need to tighten the focus of your premise” or other things that would allow one to get better. We encourage each other to do their own podcasts, and we acknowledge that the first ones will not be as good as later ones, as they work through the bad ones and get to the good ones.

Rodriguez exhorts his viewers and fans “If you love movies and want to make them then write a script you care about, grab a camcorder, convince your friends to act in it and go. Your first ones won’t be good, but every one will get better. And for god’s sake, enjoy yourself!” I’ve encouraged a number of listeners to start their own ‘casts, and tried to give them as much detailed, actionable feedback as I can. It’s not about poopooing the medium because you heard a bad podcast, it’s about cherishing the variety of voices. It’s not about slapping down amateurs who have the gall to think they have something to say, it’s about lifting up and enabling everyone to express their passions. When people give these broad, blanket criticisms of the platform you should read what they say very closely and try to discern their agenda. Why don’t they like citizen speech? Isn’t that why blogs are supposed to be good? Are they personally threatened when the people get a voice? Is it that hard to not subscribe to podcasts that you don’t like? This way lies enlightenment.

So, I’m not the boss of anyone, so take this with a grain of salt or even a whole salt lick. I’m suggesting that we go for the best possible rebuttal of the knee-jerk-offs, by producing good and joyful work full of our own passions and our own voices. Don’t get too hung up on point-counterpoint. As my buddy Coop loves to say “If you swim with the dirty fishes, you get dirty.” Ignore the naysayers, they’ll work themselves into irrelevance soon enough. If you would like to hear an example of podcasting effecting positive change in someone’s day, listen to this post. Fight the power, bring the noise, rock the vote, joke ’em if they can’t take a fuck.

Audioblog for Oct 26, 2004

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the audioblog for October 26, 2004. I talk about music permissions and Creative Commons; I play a song by Chuck D from the Wired CD and an excerpt from a Spanish language podcast; talk about Jaime Hernandez and Robert Rodriguez (who I suggest as a spiritual father of podcasting); and now that I’ve got permission from the label and the band, I play my favorite song by DQE.

Bonus game for this episode – count the occurrences of the words “awesome” and “cool”, of which there are many apiece.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Cards Laying Down

The Cardinals are making an idiot of me. Here, I’ve been saying that I thought the Red Sox used up everything in the tank getting through the ALCS. In fact, despite playing like crap they are winning consistently, and the Cards who were consistently the toughest team all year are unable to capitalize on that. It’s beginning to look pretty dire for St. Louis.

Audacity is Bugging Me

I don’t know why it is doing this, but my last few audioblogs have all been encoded at 22 kHz sampling rates. Each of the individual tracks are 44 kHz, the project is set to 44 kHz, and the bit rate is 64 kpbs. When I encode it to MP3 with Audacity, it shows up as 22 kHz. From everything I can see in the docs, the project setting is what controls this. If I have it set at 44, that’s what the MP3 is. I tried setting the project to 48, but it still encoded at 22 kHz. This is really really annoying, and I can’t figure out why it is happening. If I export to to WAV, it stays sampled correctly. I tried exporting to WAV and then using command line lame to encode to MP3 and it sounded really funny and flangy. Audacity is using lame anyway, so somehow it is using settings that are better but I don’t know what those are.

Does anyone know of a workaround for this pain in the ass problem?

Asking the Wrong Questions

Even though we have a fake feud going on (or at least we did, I think we’ve mutually dropped it for fear of a joke running on too long), I do like WebTalk Radio. It does seems like Rob Greenlee is torn and simultaneously understands why this new world of podcasting is exciting but is kind of bugged by it. That’s a natural enough reaction – he and Dana spent a long time and lots of effort (and I presume money) climbing over the gates of the media system, only to find that they were swung wide open after they are already through. I like the guy and I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he’s one of the guys in the “this isn’t really an innovation camp.” I’ve been talking against that outlook, and now I’m going to be as blunt as I can be about it.

In this article, Rob says a lot of things that make a lot of sense (including expressing admiration for the podcasts of Brother Curry and myself, which is always nice, and the admiration is mutual). Like I did the other day, he also credits the catchy term as giving the spark to this meme-driven brushfire. He also says this:

We are only seeing the very beginning of this time-shifting of audio movement. The truth is that most of this Podcasting news is new “old news” as many radio shows like WebTalk and KenRadio have been offering mp3 downloads for years.

The content pioneers of downloadable spoken word content are Audible.com and KenRadio.com as they have been offering content for many years.

Yes, as I’ve said 1.7 gazillion times, podcasting has no technical innovation whatsover. Trying to figure out why the old-timers in internet audio are not getting their props is asking the wrong question. The correct question is “What have all the old-timers been doing so wrong for so long that a couple-dozen dumbasses writing open source aggregators in their evening and weekends and recording amateur audioblogs have created an excitement in the space of two months that these companies with far greater stakes in the game and far more resources to devote to the problem have failed to do in years of work?”

The pioneers are missing the point if they are indignant about the situation. They should be trying to figure out how this motley group of enthused amateurs ate their lunch, and work very quickly about trying to come up with a new lunch. Rob is doing this, by podcasting their shows. The others he cites ought to be paying attention fast, or risk watching the landscape shift underneath them. This is all straight out of what Hugh MacLeod has been on a tear about lately.

Update: To make this clearer, despite the blunt wording above I don’t blame any of the old-timers for not having created podcasting or something like it previously. Like I’ve been saying, until recently it wasn’t “steam engine time” and now it is. However, appealing to seniority ain’t going to cut it . Despite the injustice of people newer to the party getting the attention, that’s the way it is. Time to learn the new dance steps,

Ill

I’ve been pretty sick for days now. This morning I felt better and recorded an audioblog entry, and then fell asleep on the couch before I could prepare it and post it. Now I feel like ass. I’ve been drifting in and out all day. I was napping with TechTV on and woke up just in time to hear Matt Bischoff asking about podcasting on The Screensavers and then watching the dumbasses call up a porn site trying to load podcast.net . Now I’m just trying to stay awake enough to see the Cards even up the series.

Audioblog for Oct 24, 2004

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the audioblog for October 24, 2004. I talk about how negative reviews can suck the life out of you, citing Poppy Z. Brite and Caitlin R. Kiernan; I play some feedback from Brendan Creecy; I play a clip from another Gnomedex show on IT Conversations and comment on it; same thing with last Friday’s Gillmor Gang; why I hope podcasting will eliminate the silly talk about “filling up an iPod”; and finally I play a song by DQE.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Lights Go On, Some Stay Dim

I listened to yesterday’s episode of the Gillmor Gang. Dave Winer and Adam Curry were both on, as were several members of The Firesign Theater. It was really fascinating to listen to how quickly Ossman, Proctor and Bergman got from knowing nothing about podcasting to the “bingo” experience. This is a perfect example of what I’ve been saying – people in the business of creating interesting audio for other people to listen to need very little explanation to realize the value. Very quickly, one of the FT guys realized that they could podcast all their live performances when they go on tour next year. Yeah, daddy! Listen to this show, it is absolutely great. I’ll admit that I am even somewhat immune to the Firesign Theater gene (I never played them on my late 80’s comedy show for WREK because I didn’t like them) and I liked everything they said and now am more likely to go back and give them a fresh listen.

I’ve lost the link but I saw a reference to someone who points out the irony of webloggers that dismiss podcasting, because most of the arguments they use are straight out of dismissals of weblogging circa 1999. “Why do I want to listen to amateur radio?” is easily mapped to “Why would I want to read amateur journalism by random knuckleheads?” The argument “But there is more I can listen to” is the same as “There are more weblogs I can read.” The webloggers who don’t see the value in podcasting because it isn’t an exact analog of blogs are standing so close to the tree they fail to notice they are in a forest. That line of thinking, the “I can skim blogs faster than I can listen to podcasts” shows a remarkable lack of vision. If you think of the value of podcasting as tied to that of weblogging, you have your sights set waaaaaay too low. Even though much of what is out there originally were audioblogs, very soon they will be in the minority as lots of new kinds of programs go online. The fact that you can hear fresh voices talking to you about subject matter of mutual interest with such a low barrier to entry at both ends of the pipe, that is the value here. Already, we are seeing the early days of the explosion in variety of that subject matter and there is so far to go until we hit the limit that it is effectively infinite.

I’ll talk about this in the next audioblog at more length, but I also think people are attributing a weakness that isn’t there. I hear a lot “There is more than I can listen to”, but that’s a completely bogus argument. There is more anything in any medium than you can consume. You can’t read all the books and magazines published even in a small field, you can only listen to one radio show at a time, even with TiVo you can’t watch all of the TV that comes down. BFD, podcasting is bound by the same physical laws of the universe as all media. Oh the humanity! The key here is not your ability to cover completely everything published via podcast, it is whether you can be interested and engaged for all the time you want to devote to it. The important variable is not your “percentage completion” in listening to everything that came down the wire, it is the amount of time you spend bored and wishing you had something more to your liking to listen to. If that latter time is approaching zero, then mission accomplished via podcasting! As long as you are never at the mercy of listening to radio that doesn’t meet your needs just because it is your only option, this system is working just fine.

Update: Here is Rory Blyth making similar points.

Violent Agreement

Just to put it in text once here, I actually like Russell Beattie and like his work. He and I disagreed on one small point in the larger context of enthusiasm for podcasting. I made a few remarks about him that were not called for, for which I’m sorry. He made a few about me that were not quite correct. I’m cool with that. You gots to be able to take what you dish out.

Around the blogosphere I have seen a few things that made me think that some people have been influenced by me to have a negative opinion of him. That’s not my intention. He in general is every bit as excited about podcasting as anyone, and I appreciate that from him. I just want to be clear on that. However, I do want him to turn up the volume on his podcasts so the damn things are audible. Cranked all the way, I can barely hear them.