EGC Episode for Nov 30, 2004

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC episode for November 30, 2004.

I talk about why it has been a week since the last episode; I tell the story of Tony Kahn’s story about his father and an email from him; more about Butler and the Rock n Roll Geek Show and Alice Cooper; I note that Michael Geoghegan is the perfect critic for me; I play Nicole Simon’s piece about my foul mouth; I play a song from the fantabulous Gentle Readers; I talk about the IT Conversations business model discussion; I play a great newish song from Brad Sucks.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Movable Type

I saw a trickle of posts talking about problems with Movable Type over the weekend, Eric Rice and others. [Update: there is a link now.] His post was about how MT was causing a world of hurt with his hosting provider and getting his box shut down, which might have happened. Last night I tried to leave a comment on a post that I think is weird and gives me cognitive dissonance on

Making IT Conversations Self-Sustaining

Doug Kaye emailed me to point out an interesting conversation occurring on his wiki. He primed the pump by asking about models to get his operation fiscally self-sustaining. It appears that I’m in the minority on there, because I think the way to go is via an underwriting model. Perhaps this might be because I’ve had experience with it and seen it work very well.

Most people seem to think that a subscription model is the way to go. I see that being problematic in a few ways. One is that no matter how you slice it, it will need supporting infrastructure. You need to clear payments, keep up with who has subscribed, who is expiring, etc. What about people who listen to a subset of the programs and wouldn’t be willing to do a blanket subscription? Do you need subscriptions to individual programs or ala carte pricing? That puts more complexity into the system that would also need to be managed. Another issue is that any way of locking the content behind a subscriber wall will put pressure on that point and reduce listenership. Right now, I think IT Conversations is on track to becoming the “channel of record” for certain types of audio content. Anything you do to lock it up, even with a standard/premium split like Marc Canter advocates, will serve to reduce that. I could be wrong and maybe the brand is so strong that loads of people would be willing to subscribe no matter what, but my guess is that isn’t how it would go down. By taking underwriting, all the shows can continue to be totally free for the listeners and encouraged for linking in and blogged, etc.

Doug mentions in his intro on that wiki page that he doesn’t have lots of time to make sales calls and work on that end. In my one shot at working with underwriting for Reality Break, I got a quarter’s worth of it at $100 a pop with a single phone call. Counting the call, followup emails, the paperwork, sending the invoice and all that, I maybe spent two man-hours total on landing that deal. It might take a little more energy with fishing for possible underwriters, but I don’t think it would take as much resource as Doug thinks it would. Anything subscriber related is going to take resources as well, in an ongoing fashion and proportional to the number of subscribers. Some of the transactions will be screwed up, some people will pay their money and not get in, etc. I can understand Doug not wanting to get into the sales business, but on the other hand going the subscriber route he’ll de facto get into the customer support business. My contention is that making the same amount of money via underwriting will be less of an overall drag than subscriptions, but we shall see.

Update: Eric Rice sees an issue I didn’t with subscriptions.

Besides, having dozens of different sites requiring subscriptions or various methods of collecting micro-payment for various forms of content would be a hassle. Think about it. We use RSS news readers to get blog content in one place, as opposed to hunting and pecking across the Web. Why should we pay for content any differently?

If we make the assumption that whatever Doug does, others will do – do you want to have subscriptions to each channel of podcast that you listen to? Even if they aren’t expensive, do you feel like managing that? Imagine if each one had an entirely different way of paying and authenticating.

Holiday Decompression

Our family rolled out of town this morning, leaving us most of the day to kind of unwind, clean up and get back in the groove of normal life. It was fun having my mom and brother’s family here, but after having houseguests for most of the last nine days, it also feels nice to have the house to ourselves again.

I have no idea why I have this particular bug up my ass, but I felt like cleaning, arranging and organizing today. Earlier I went out to my car armed with a trash bag and the recycling bin and unloaded most of the contents of my car into one or the other. I found bottles and stuff that predate my move from Chicago to Conway, so that crap had to go. Later, I got rid of a few boxes from my office and cleaned up my desk. I’ve had these piles of boxes in here for so long that they’ve become something I stopped noticing, like furniture. Out of nowhere, they started bothering me again so I’m going to get as many gone as I can before I tucker out. I’ve got a huge amount of storage space here, so I have no excuse for not finding or making a place for every single thing I want to keep. How nice it would be to become and organized and tidy person! Or, failing that, to have for as long as I can maintain it an organized and tidy space.

Tony Kahn’s Thanksgiving

For some reason, the automatic podcast download was truncated, so I had to go back and manually fetch the most recent of WGBH Morning Stories, which was host Tony Kahn telling his own story this time. I’m glad I did because it was the most moving one I’ve heard yet. The story of his father and the blacklist is sadly relevant in our current times.

Happy thanksgiving, everybody!

Why I Live in Conway, Part 49

Talking with the guys in the home office in Chicago, snow is falling right now. Here in Conway SC it is 72 degrees. I walked to Subway for lunch, and didn’t wear a coat. Ahhh.

Your Radio Voice

I mentioned in yesterdays cast about people “wishing they had a radio voice.” Here is one such post by Robert Scoble. Folks, you may not have a “radio voice everybody” but you have something far superior – your own voice. I think that is a vastly underrated asset in this world.

Be yourself, sound like you and let it rip. That’s really what I want to hear, not podcasts full of clones of the morning zoo crews. They’re already all clones of each other anyway. Talk to me in your real voice, and I will listen.

EGC Episode for Nov 23, 2004

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC episode for November 23, 2004.

I talk about why I’m dropping the term “audioblog” as relates to our clambake here; talk about Ross Rader and his interview with Bret Fausett who is trying to get his podcast licensed under webcast rules; I say why I don’t like that and why I think big media machine music is leaving me in the cold; I encourage people to podcast in their own, authentic voices; I play a great newish song from Brad Sucks; I talk more about the grand Bittorrent experiment; I play a song by DQE and tell a one degree of separation story between me and the head of their record label.

I made a false statement in here, in the heat of passion. I say that “no one has asked me anything about Bittorrent in podcasting.” That’s not true, a few people have. I was thinking of some specific people who are exploring it and haven’t, but after I finished the episode I remembered a few who have asked for and received my input. Sorry guys, didn’t mean to diss you.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Apple Firewire Audio Interface for Consumers

Even though I’m pretty happy with my Griffin iMic, I’ll admit that one of these Firewire audio interface boxes looks pretty sweet. Assuming the levels could be worked out right and pre-amps are no longer necessary, this would be able to take two XLR inputs from actual microphones, getting rid of the need for mixers for most people.

Ah, by following the links to the Apple Insider article I see that these boxes can be chained together, include circuits to prevent clipping and mate up with a software gain control on the Mac. This could conceivably be a pretty sweet device for podcasting. If it doesn’t have that horrible delay that all the USB audio sources do, I’m buying one.

Busy Days

Not much blogging time lately, unfortunately. Our houseguest from round 1 leaves at lunchtime today, and our guest from round 2 arrives Thursday morning. I’d like to record a new podcast today or tomorrow, but there are no promises. We’ll see how it goes.

Shooting Too Low

As you that follow this blog or podcast know, concision of expression is not my strong suit. I’m trying to boil down a notion I have scattered through casts and blog posts down to an absurdly simple sound bite. If anyone can help me digest this even further, please jump in.

To think that podcasts are about the next step of blogs is wrong in the same way as thinking that the X-Prize is about the next step of taxi cabs.

Here’s a post that is on to what I’m thinking. He begins with the statement ” I have stopped listening to the radio on my commute.” Bloggers who keep saying that blogs work better because you “can skim them, read faster” ad nauseum are, to put it bluntly, fucked. They are complaining that the rules of nickle-ante game don’t apply when you go to the $100K ante. If you think they should, you ain’t got the ambition or vision to play in the big games.

Cinema of Dust

Since we moved here over 3 months ago, we haven’t attended one movie or rented a single film. We’ve watched a few on TV or cable and watched The Station Agent as a test of our Time/Warner video on demand system (pretty sweet, we thought, even if we forgot to use the coupon to rebate the cost of the rental.) I also watched Once Upon a Time in Mexico which I had bought but never watched.

Last night, I went to the nearest rental place and rented Elf for everyone to watch and Kill Bill V2 for just me. After Elf everyone else went to bed and I stayed up watching the tail end of the Sam Peckinpah documentary on Encore Westerns and then Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. In junior high, I read one of those books about the worst movies of all-time, I think authored by that schmuck Michael Medved, and this film featured prominently in it. Not only do I disagree that it is a worst film, I actually thought it was pretty good. It had the whole modern western thing down, in fact acting as the prototype for some of it. Mexican locations and religious imagery, a sense of despair and disolution, moments of joy interrupted by extreme violence. I thought Warren Oates gave a terrific performance. From the documentary, several people said that everyone on the set knew that Oates was basically playing an impression of Peckinpah himself, that is except for Peckinpah. I found it highly satisfying.

I also found that it and Kill Bill V2 made a great double feature. There are a lot of tropes in common, including having the protagonist buried alive in Mexican/Texan cemetaries and digging their ways out, the violent revenge plot, and the general dirty, gritty sense of tension. I’d have to say that I found Part 2 a much more satisfying movie, and I loved Part 1. Much like anyone my age, I grew up watching Kung Fu Theater on USA networks and delighting in the cheeziness of it all. It was enough to get me to love Part 1, but I really was emotionally involved in Part 2. The complex feelings of love and hate that the Bride has for Bill drive this movie, and the whole thing would fall down if you couldn’t empathize with them. I could, completely. I bought in entirely that you could fall under Bill’s spell, and I also bought in that he would need killing. This is an order of magnitude better than the next best performance I’ve seen from David Carradine. He’s one lucky bastard that Tarantino cast him in this film.

All the performances in this movie were great. Michael Madsen also turned in a superb performance, unusually low-key for him. I’d seen references to his character as being hard to swallow, his conversion for badass hired killer to pushed-around schmuck. I completely believed that he considered taking abuse from people as part of his penance for an act he regretted and wanted forgiveness for. It is telling that he is the only villain in the whole film (both parts) not killed by the Bride. Although there was certainly action here, I was much more entranced by the slow unfolding of the character drama. This part was much more of the Sergio Leone feel that I had been wanting from Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

All in all, I really enjoyed both of these movies. I found the juxtaposition of watching both in a short period to also be highly satisfying.

Few Songs Short of a Playlist

On Cult of Mac I’ve been following this story of the people camping out to get into the newly opening London Apple store. I’m a big Apple fan – I’ve never paid money for any other brand of computer – and yet I wouldn’t wait 90 seconds to get into an Apple store, much less 36 hours. Apparently, the dude at the front of the line (for some odd reason, it’s all Americans up there) had people putting joke signs next to him as he slept. While I kind of empathize with their enthusiasm for the company, I do agree that they are kind of nuts. Here’s a great quote from a message board about them:

“They’re queuing for a day and a half to get into a shop. It’s just a bloody shop. maybe a very nice shop, but still a shop. It’ll be there next week. They may be harmless, but they’re a couple of songs short of a playlist, that’s for sure.”

I remember a George Carlin bit that had a bunch of alternative terms for “tetched in the head”, of which my favorite was “a few Senators short of a quorum.” “A few songs short of a playlist” might take that spot.

Podcast Microphone

People keep asking about my microphone that I use for podcasts. Let me post it here once for everyone (including Roland Tanglao, who says no one is telling him what mike to use). I use a modest Radio Shack mike, 33-3004 is the number. It costs $40, and you can see if they are in stock in your area. I’ve had it for nearly 10 years and it continues to work like a champ without incident.

I also run that through my cheap Radio Shack mixer to do the role of a pre-amp. The signal straight from this mike isn’t strong enough for the iMic input. This is a unidirectional mike, which is imporant because you don’t want it picking up all the room noise, just you. Make sure it is oriented so that all the noisy computers and crap are behind it, and it will help a lot. Be sure and spring for the extra $2.99 to buy the foam windscreen, aka “clown nose”, to put over the wire mesh. It makes a world of difference for a negligible amount of money.

Update: Roland asks the follow-on question, what mixer am I using? I’m using the Radio Shack SSM-60, SKU 32-1214. Looks like they don’t carry that anymore because searching on that item number brings up user manuals but no way to buy it. The closest equivalent I see is this thing. You could maybe use a mike pre-amp but the advantage of buying the cheap mixer is that if you get another mike or external source you want to pipe in, you can do that all in hardware with the mixer. The downside is the lack of portability. I’ve been happy with all my cheap microphones and my cheap mixer for a very long time.

Myrtle Beach Blogging

OK, I have been overwhelmed by the response to floating this idea. I was honestly wondering if I would be able to get 20 or 30 people to drive up from Charleston and Columbia in order to make it worth pursuing. I had no idea people would be willing to come from RTP, Nashville, New Jersey, Detroit or Seattle. Yowza. This pretty much says that yes it should and will happen. I’m seeing the same dynamic Ed Cone referred to, where it became obvious very quickly (like, in less then 24 hours) that many more people are willing to show up than I would have dreamed.

I got a suggestion via email that I set up a wiki and let the participants more or less self-organize and set up the programming. That way I can just think about when, where and how it happens. I like that idea. Ed suggests keeping the program general and letting the room find its own way. My only desire is that I’d like to make sure there is room to talk about podcasting and also the southern perspective in blogosphere (if there is or can be one – there’s the first question.) A lot of folks have been saying they are willing to come from near and far, but my hope is that we can take advantage of the southern nature of the venue and many of the participants. I know that the event in Stanford wasn’t about the “Silicon Valley” perspective, but then that’s more or less the defacto default perspective anyway. Here off the beaten track we need to work harder to get noticed.

Thanks, all for the feedback and input. If you are interested in coming, please still leave a comment to that original post. I had no idea I was starting an avalanche when I rolled that snowball but it sure is cool.

Bittorrent Experiment, Iteration 2

OK, a new episode of EGC has been published. This is the second stab at the bittorrent experiment. I’m trying something that should ameliorate the slow times people were seeing. I think it is working, as it’s now 30 minutes after the publish became effective in the RSS, and there have been 40 serves of the file with 32 connected currently. I think last time it took around 45 minutes before the second seed came online because there were so many concurrent copies fighting from the only source in my house, that it worked against the process. There was more of a “soft launch” this time, so let me know what your experience was. Those of you who had terribly slow downloads on the first one, was it better this time?

Audioblog for Nov 17, 2004

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the audioblog for November 17, 2004.

I talk about autumn in Conway SC; play a song by Twin Six; talk about the feedback to my “southern voices” and encouraging people to sound like themselves; I discuss the possibility of the Myrtle Beach blogger shindig;
play a song by the Siderunners; talk about the results of the Bittorrent switch experiment; play a song by Astroslut; mention the improvement of iPodderX; and discuss the new Voices in Your Head episode.

Links mentioned in this episode:

New Voices in your Head

A new episode of Voices In Your Head is up! This one is with SF writer Eileen Gunn. I had seen her around and about in various SF fora for the last decade and had read the online SF magazine she edits, Infinite Matrix but I don’t remember reading that much of her fiction until preparing for this interview. Wow, it knocked me on my ass! I highly highly recommend her short story collection Stable Strategies and Others. Let me know what you think of the interview as well. I’m all ears for feedback on these things.

Egos and Boosts

I ran across a couple of things that made me feel good. The first is my brother discussing the merits of my podcasts. Such is the nature of our relationship that I had to read through all the way to the end to make sure he wasn’t winding me up only to drop the hammer on me somewhere in there. He does make a good point for the new podcasters – right now you have a grace period on the way they sound, but that won’t last forever. Polish those skills now while everyone is still supportive and when this medium explodes you will be well placed to take advantage of it.

Here is the single nicest thing I’ve read about me and Bloggercon. I met Patrick around at Bloggercon and sat near him at the dinner Saturday night and he was a really cool and enthused young man. I find it surreal that I was his #1 pick of a person to meet, at a conference with Adam Curry, Doc Searls, Dave Sifry, Robert Scoble, Steve Gillmor and many other luminaries of the field. Thank you Patrick! I enjoyed meeting you too.