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:
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.