They Only Jump When You Hit the Nerve

Posted on October 27, 2004
Filed Under podcasting | 3 Comments

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.

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3 Responses to “They Only Jump When You Hit the Nerve”

    Comment Permalink
  1. Michael Geoghegan on October 28th, 2004 1:25 am

    Dave, why so obsessed with the naysayers? I’m glad you have finally gotten over it. For the record – we have been at this for what -10 weeks at the outside? The idea that Dvorak has come down from on high to opine about a 10 week old phenomenon – and software which is maybe 7 weeks old – that should tell you something. Add to that, that part of his problem is that his windows software doesn’t work properly. Maybe it will crash and spell doom for podcasting in print! Gasp!

    Look, I’m the first to admit that everything is still a little rough around the edges. In reality we might be in Beta at best. Experienced users are having the best experience. I did a newspaper interview the other day where I had to explain the RSS – iPodder client – subscription issues a few times over before I think the interviewer was clear on how it worked. Stuff like that is small potatoes – it will get worked out and simplified. The true measure of podcasting will come a year from now. That is when I think we can truly appraise the situation. Here are my predictions (and I’m not a tech guy):

    1. Many podcasters will come and go. As I said in an audio comment you played a few weeks ago, “Quality will be respected and participation appreciated.” Few people will want to listen to poorly produced podcasts as the medium matures. I have learned from doing my sub 10-minute “Reel Reviews” (MWGblog.com – shameless plug) that it takes some effort to produce a quality product. While I am still learning – issues such as compression, normalization, etc. become important to the listen-ability of your podcast. You, Adam and others have radio experience – that certainly helps. Me – I’m figuring it out as I go along. However, like any hobby – I am attacking it with enthusiasm. I’ve bought a mixing board, multiple microphones and mic preamps. Some people are not going to be up for that – for whatever reason. Also, many people jumped in to the long format approach – that will be difficult to maintain. I tried to pick a subject where I had an overabundance of enthusiasm for two reasons: I thought that would come across in the podcast and it would keep me going. I have been obsessed with film since high school – 20 years later I don’t expect that to change. There are a number of podcasts out there now that appear to be sustainable. However, podcasters that come and go , in no way reflect on the medium as a whole. Is radio or TV a failure because of the high turnover? Please.
    2. There will be dedicated software solutions for all platforms to ease the production experience. It is hard to make a good podcast right now. Most tools are designed with multiple music track production in mind. It takes a lot of effort to find and perfect the settings for a spoken word format. That will get simplified. Read – market opportunity. I would gladly pay $100 for a podcast production package. The time it would save me over the long run would more than pay or itself. There are many who would argue with having to pay to produce podcasts. I don’t buy it. Free speech is free – but printing has always cost money!
    3. Monetization will occur in some sectors. It will be limited and centered around those who are producing “professional” content with a listener base. I noticed podcastads.com the other day. I had a twinge as I saw it. A week prior I had almost registered that name (it was available)– but realized that it is not my business and one that I am not particularly interested in. As such, I was glad to see someone run with it. I am curious to see how that works. I think it relies on an explosion in podcasting. The google ads are trackable by click through – podcast response will be harder to gauge. Maybe it will work, but if I am an advertiser, why would I not contact you directly? I am not an advertising expert, I hope for the best and am curious to see how it pans out.
    4. John C. Dvorak will be heard on a podcast, with martini in hand. He will opine how he saw the possibilities when it first appeared – how he pushed people to perfect their podcasts. He will prove that tough love works. We will learn that without John C. Dvorak there would be no podcasting as we know it. The very next day he will warn us about the faults of next years emerging technology!

    Dave, I am taking some risks here – I am not in the technology business, but this Dvorak character appears to be someone of importance (oops almost spelled impotence). The question is, is he important now, or is he the kind of guy who is trading on his stature of having been important 10 year ago? I read a lot into his dismissive attitude of the Gilmore gang as he says,” They look more like the participants in the High Times magazine roundtable…”: makes him sound like a headline whore and an arrogant prick at the same time.

    I submit to you that the best thing that could happen is that Dvorak says that Dave Slusher’s The Evil Genius Chronicles is the worst podcast out there. That would be tremendous! Imagine the number of listeners who would “tune in” to hear how terrible you are. Then imagine what you could do with those listeners with your audio enthusiasm over the next few weeks

    The written word is important, but the spoken word has been around longer. I think we can all agree that, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” and “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you” plays more powerfully though the spoken text, then Mr, Dvorak might give it credit. Nice how Dvorak, like a politician, gave himself just enough wiggle room to say that it was an honest attempt to improve the genre and that he was a supporter once they worked these details out.

    Dvorak is a dolt! Live with it. He is sitting at home worrying about you.

    Your podcasting pal.

    Michael
    Reel Reviews
    WMGblog.com

    See you at BolggerCon

  2. Comment Permalink
  3. Michael Geoghegan on October 28th, 2004 1:54 am

    Dave, why so obsessed with the naysayers? I’m glad you have finally gotten over it. For the record – we have been at this for what -10 weeks at the outside? The idea that Dvorak has come down from on high to opine about a 10 week old phenomenon – and software which is maybe 7 weeks old – that should tell you something. Add to that, that part of his problem is that his windows software doesn’t work properly. Maybe it will crash and spell doom for podcasting in print! Gasp!

    Look, I’m the first to admit that everything is still a little rough around the edges. In reality we might be in Beta at best. Experienced users are having the best experience. I did a newspaper interview the other day where I had to explain the RSS – iPodder client – subscription issues a few times over before I think the interviewer was clear on how it worked. Stuff like that is small potatoes – it will get worked out and simplified. The true measure of podcasting will come a year from now. That is when I think we can truly appraise the situation. Here are my predictions (and I’m not a tech guy):

    1. Many podcasters will come and go. As I said in an audio comment you played a few weeks ago, “Quality will be respected and participation appreciated.” Few people will want to listen to poorly produced podcasts as the medium matures. I have learned from doing my sub 10-minute “Reel Reviews” (MWGblog.com – shameless plug) that it takes some effort to produce a quality product. While I am still learning – issues such as compression, normalization, etc. become important to the listen-ability of your podcast. You, Adam and others have radio experience – that certainly helps. Me – I’m figuring it out as I go along. However, like any hobby – I am attacking it with enthusiasm. I’ve bought a mixing board, multiple microphones and mic preamps. Some people are not going to be up for that – for whatever reason. Also, many people jumped in to the long format approach – that will be difficult to maintain. I tried to pick a subject where I had an overabundance of enthusiasm for two reasons: I thought that would come across in the podcast and it would keep me going. I have been obsessed with film since high school – 20 years later I don’t expect that to change. There are a number of podcasts out there now that appear to be sustainable. However, podcasters that come and go , in no way reflect on the medium as a whole. Is radio or TV a failure because of the high turnover? Please.
    2. There will be dedicated software solutions for all platforms to ease the production experience. It is hard to make a good podcast right now. Most tools are designed with multiple music track production in mind. It takes a lot of effort to find and perfect the settings for a spoken word format. That will get simplified. Read – market opportunity. I would gladly pay $100 for a podcast production package. The time it would save me over the long run would more than pay or itself. There are many who would argue with having to pay to produce podcasts. I don’t buy it. Free speech is free – but printing has always cost money!
    3. Monetization will occur in some sectors. It will be limited and centered around those who are producing “professional” content with a listener base. I noticed podcastads.com the other day. I had a twinge as I saw it. A week prior I had almost registered that name (it was available)– but realized that it is not my business and one that I am not particularly interested in. As such, I was glad to see someone run with it. I am curious to see how that works. I think it relies on an explosion in podcasting. The google ads are trackable by click through – podcast response will be harder to gauge. Maybe it will work, but if I am an advertiser, why would I not contact you directly? I am not an advertising expert, I hope for the best and am curious to see how it pans out.
    4. John C. Dvorak will be heard on a podcast, with martini in hand. He will opine how he saw the possibilities when it first appeared – how he pushed people to perfect their podcasts. He will prove that tough love works. We will learn that without John C. Dvorak there would be no podcasting as we know it. The very next day he will warn us about the faults of next years emerging technology!

    Dave, I am taking some risks here – I am not in the technology business, but this Dvorak character appears to be someone of importance (oops almost spelled impotence). The question is, is he important now, or is he the kind of guy who is trading on his stature of having been important 10 year ago? I read a lot into his dismissive attitude of the Gilmore gang as he says,” They look more like the participants in the High Times magazine roundtable…”: makes him sound like a headline whore and an arrogant prick at the same time.

    I submit to you that the best thing that could happen is that Dvorak says that Dave Slusher’s The Evil Genius Chronicles is the worst podcast out there. That would be tremendous! Imagine the number of listeners who would “tune in” to hear how terrible you are. Then imagine what you could do with those listeners with your audio enthusiasm over the next few weeks

    The written word is important, but the spoken word has been around longer. I think we can all agree that, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” and “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you” plays more powerfully though the spoken text, then Mr, Dvorak might give it credit. Nice how Dvorak, like a politician, gave himself just enough wiggle room to say that it was an honest attempt to improve the genre and that he was a supporter once they worked these details out.

    Dvorak is a dolt! Live with it. He is sitting at home worrying about you.

    Your podcasting pal.

    Michael
    Reel Reviews
    WMGblog.com

    See you at BolggerCon

  4. Comment Permalink
  5. Dave on October 28th, 2004 6:37 am

    Michael, consider it my tragic flaw. It’s hard to both be open to feedback and willing to be thoughtful on a subject while simultaneously filtering out the null-energy stuff. The way pundits get their certitude is by closing their ears and assuming they know it all. Keep on doing your good work and I’ll keep on doing my good work, and eventually the naysayers will flake off like cheap paint. I’ll do what I can not to let them bother me.

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