Missing Friends and the Podcast Industry

So Podcast Expo came and went without me. Even if I had gone, it would be over by now and I’d be on my way home. I’m sad that I didn’t go, but not as bummed as you might think. I’ve been sanguine about the whole thing. Wednesday night I realized how insane it would be if I were getting ready to leave. Considering I was at work until 1 AM a week ago Friday and as late as 5:30 PM this Friday was working on getting a release pushed out, it just went the way it had to. I’d like to have gone and had a good time with my friends and given my talk, but even now I’m still pretty tired.

I’ve been looking at photos via the “podcast expo” flickr tags, and I got some IMs from Kreg Steppe last night. Other than that, I really know little about how the thing went. I received a bunch of press release emails prior to the expo from Podango, none of which seemed that exciting to me. As much as I enjoy podcasting as a medium, I’m finding that I care less and less about the “podcast industry.” Odeo sells to some other company no one has heard of and then buys FireAnt. Podango buys the unreleased Gigavox Audio service. In the Fireant and Gigavox case, people I like are making money which I’m in favor of. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t care at all. I can’t remember the last move of any of the new media related companies that mattered to me.

You Suck At Poker

I had a comment left on here that I really had a hard time telling if it was a spam blog or not. I dug around the site and decided not, and while doing that found an article I liked. It is the negatively titled but nonetheless accurate 7 Reasons Why You Suck at Poker. I definitely have a few of these problems. I limp in as small blind too much, I check the flop too much, I fold the big blind too much, and especially late in tournaments I lay down the best hand too often. I know the way to play is to only play hands I’m willing to pursue aggressively but that’s easier said than done. I’m working harder at putting my opponents on a range of hands and trying to discern from betting patterns whether I’m ahead or behind. I do find that just putting out the continuation bet on the flop, especially late and near the bubble, gets everyone to fold to me shockingly often. I never think that will work and am always pleasantly surprised when it does.

Good advice here. If you are interested, check it out.

Most Podcasts are Bad

Let me address an issue touched on in my podcast award post. One of those bits of received wisdom that you hear over and over is that “most new media is bad.” A few specific references I can remember from recent listening was Carol Coletta on Smart City and Jon Udell in his various shows. There’s an irony here, because I just unsubscribed from Smart City for ceasing to interest me and I’m on the fence about Udell.

Let’s examine what people mean when they say “most podcasts are bad.” My interpretation is something like “Who are these people who have the audacity to publish work that doesn’t interest me?” Coming from the science fiction community as I do, I’m well aware of Sturgeon’s Law. Long ago, a person was citing as their reason for disliking science fiction as a genre the fact that “90% of it was crap.” Theodore Sturgeon’s observation was that 90% of everything is crap, therefore that’s not really a causal reason for your opinion. I dislike at least 90% of the podcasts and vlogs I run across, and that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I don’t consider it a bug but a feature. I love that the economics of the field allow so much work to be published. I don’t have to like it all. There are entire cable channels on my TV that I have never watched once because they are devoted to a niche that doesn’t interest me, and I don’t hear people complaining about that.

A number of the shows I listen to are not going to be of broad interest no matter how you slice it. The Ruby on Rails podcast is my favorite example because it is highly useful to me but would be gobbledygook to 98% or more of the potential audience. There was at one point over a dozen active podcasts related to knitting. That number could have gone up or down, but I thought that was interesting. Myself, no matter how well or poorly the show is done I am not going to listen to any of them. I’m sure there are many people that listen despite challenged audio quality or lack of smoothness of delivery if they are really devotees of knitting. This is the part of the field that I like, that people are empowered to publish such content of niche interest and that I have it available for those niches I care about.

Recently on the Henry Rollins program he had Sheppard Fairey of “Andre the Giant has a posse” fame as a guest. (A South Carolina boy to boot!) Sheppard echoed a lot of my sentiments that a populace with the power to create and publish their own work is a better, more democratic society. He was in favor of people grabbing whatever work interests them and doing it like crazy. He too comes out of similar groups I do, including DIY punk, indie comics, skateboarders, zine publishers. I’ve published my own APA, I’ve screen printed my own shirts for my own college radio show, I’ve walked around Little Five Points in Atlanta with a stack of flyers for my projects and a staple gun. Podcasting is the same urge with a different distribution pattern. I’m delighted to be able to publish my work, and even more delighted to be able to listen to that of others. That is how I learn about 99% of the music I care about nowadays, and about 50% of the books and comics I have any interest in. Power to the people. Do your work, and publish it and it doesn’t matter what the sniffy elitists have to say about it. Fuck those guys, they will never care about you or what you do anyway so don’t waste your energy caring about their opinion. If you are pleasing listener #0 or viewer #0 or reader #0, namely yourself, it is a success. Everyone beyond that is gravy.

So, if you say “most podcasts are bad”, you are full of shit because what you mean is that most don’t interest you. Most books in Barnes and Noble don’t interest you, most shows on TV don’t interest you, so simmer down spanky.

Podcast Awards

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of podcasting or new media awards of any kind. If the Emmys and Oscars are horseshit 2/3 of the time, there is zero chance of getting it right in even broader and even more niche content. The day I believe that anyone has actually listened to the 5000 podcasts in a category to come up with the 5 or 10 nominees, that’s the day I’ll make my first tiny step towards acknowledging anything approaching validity – although that still isn’t enough.

Podcasting awards don’t measure “goodness” or “quality” of the show. What they measure is something akin to:

(Size of audience) X (Willingness of audience to do busy work) X (Willingness of hosts to whore for votes)

That’s it. Everything I like about new media is subverted in the whole awards process: the narrowing of fields and pandering for votes and all the foofaraw around them. In fact, when I see someone’s website that has the badge from them winning some award – even if I like the show – my first reaction is “You putz, you got played.” In the end the awards aren’t about you, they are about driving traffic – to the awards.

This is what I think when I see the shortlists for any of these awards given by any group for any reasons. The numbers may vary slightly and surely everyone lumps different shows in the baskets, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my reaction was pretty common. I mentally break the shows into categories and they fall out like this:

  • 10% – Shows I have listened to and think are decent. They may not be the show I’d have voted, but I see them as a credible candidate.
  • 40% – Shows I have never heard of. This is despite trying to stay up on the field and running one of the directories, I still see giant wads of shows in these lists that are completely new to me.
  • 50% – Shows I actually have tried to listen to and bailed after a few minutes because I thought they were complete pieces of shit. Note that this doesn’t mean I think the shows are “bad” in the absolute sense. I mean that they are irrelevant to me or not my bag but if these shows were all I had to listen to, I’d switch back to the wacky zoo crew in the morning.

I don’t care about podcasting awards and I doubt I ever will. The best aspects of the medium defy the whole process, and that people want to work so hard to shoehorn the field into something like that just makes me tired.

The Big Rewrite

A few years ago, Derek Sivers announced a plan to rewrite CD Baby’s web interface in Ruby on Rails, and he had a blog for his progress. That blog went dark a while ago, and recently he announced his plan to abandon that project. His insights are interesting, and I in general would agree with him. As much as I enjoy Ruby on Rails, and for as much as I could not have built and maintained AmigoFish without it, I wouldn’t recommend people rewrite existing systems in RoR without a very good reason, and maybe not ever. It’s fantastic for greenfield development when you can pick everything, but less so when you have to mold it into the shape to fit your legacy systems. When you have a functioning business generating real cash already in that legacy system, you should be very careful farting around with the fundamentals.

Bonus Link: Chad Fowler on why the big rewrite seldom works via Loud Thinking.

Lost Weekend

The weekend got off to a rough start when I ended up staying at work until about 1 AM Friday night. Saturday was a relatively normal day without a lot of extra sleep. We took the dog to the dog park and did our normal kind of Saturday things. By Saturday night I was really worn down. I ended up getting banished to the living room because I was snoring so loudly. My throat was hurting when I moved and when I woke up it was even worse. After walking the dog in the morning, I lay back down on the couch and more or less slept there until about 3 PM. I felt better after all that sleep, but I basically lost an entire day. I’m still sleepy now, good thing it is bedtime. Not the most productive weekend I’ve ever had.

Anniversaries Uncelebrated

The busy summer kept me from even noting a number of anniversaries. Here are a few:

In late July, we hit the 5th anniversary of this blog. It was originally a wag done off the user account I had at Hurricane Electric at evilgeniuscorp.com (a domain I no longer have). I had the account to try to do a project with a comic book tracking and marketplace site. That project is long dead but the blog lives on.

In late August, we hit the 3rd anniversary of my podcast. I celebrated by doing ever fewer shows.

Somewhere right about now, we set the record for the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere. That is both for the city and for the house. Our 2000-20003 stint in Atlanta was the previous record holder for house and almost in a dead heat with the Portland OR area for city. In our married lives we’ve lived in 11 places (plus two temporary apartments) in 6 cities in 5 states. There is something immensely pleasurable about going to the same dentist 6 checkups in a row, in having the same doctor and bankers and barristas over time. I’ve had the same yard guy and cashiers here longer than any medical professional of my adult life. It’s a nice change from our nomadic times.

Update: I forgot a big one, the 10th anniversary of graduating from grad school at the University of Louisiana – Lafayette and changing careers into being a software developer. That’s the best career decision I ever made. I was originally an analytical chemist but I find this career much more satisfying.

Plane Leaves Conway, Crashes into Restaurant

Here’s an ugly story about a plane that left my town and then crashed into a restaurant into North Carolina. If there was an upside, it was that it was before the restaurant opened. One person was killed, but during lunch hour it could have been fifty. This story hits a little home because we eat at the other McCall’s location in Goldsboro pretty often. It took me a little bit to realize it was not the location we go to.

More Things I Won’t Be Doing

Last week Alice Cooper was playing at the House of Blues, and I would have liked to have gone, but couldn’t swing it. Tonight George Jones is playing at the Alabama Theater (across the parking lot from the House of Blues, actually.) I’d like to see that one too, but also can’t swing it.

I have no problem seeing both of those shows, and in fact if they were on the same night and Alice started late one could actually attend both and not have to make the drive to North Myrtle Beach twice. Me personally, that sounds like a fun night.

No Me at PNME

Sadly, I had to cancel my attendance at this years Podcast and New Media Expo. I really want to go and give my talk but I just can’t swing it this year. The summer and into the fall has been brutal at the day job and I can’t spare the time or the energy. From Myrtle Beach to Ontario CA is a full day of traveling each way so it takes 5 days out of my schedule to do the 3 of the expo. I hung on thinking things would settle down but they never have and now I am kind of stuck. The thought of giving up one of these hotly contested speaking slots makes me sick to my stomach, but that’s the way life goes. I committed to this in March and everything was go but things have changed since then.

I wanted to go and represent my position in the field, which is ever more the minority. I think the focus on how to wring nickels out of podcasting is blinding people to its true value: bringing the power of media and expression and creation to individuals. I’m planning on going to Converge South the third weekend of October and maybe I can let a little of it out then. I will give some form of my talk as an episode of the podcast coming up soon to at least get my thought process out there into the podosphere. I fear that with this move I have committed professional suicide as a New Media Thought Leader (such as I ever was) but you know, I can live with that too. One thing playing poker these last few years has taught me is an acceptance of and a willingness to get beat now and then. It’s all part of the game.

I will miss all of you. I wish I could see you and hang out. Hoist one for me, jump in the pool naked for me.

Long Pants Day

This is always a melancholy day in the Grand Strand – it’s the first day I felt I needed to wear long pants and closed shoes for weather reasons. Generally for me, around April the sandals and shorts come out and stay out until I just can’t stand to wear them any more. Today is kind of chilly and rainy so I broke out the jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Sigh.

This makes me think of the tip for finding out which clothes in your closet to discard from Peter Walsh (via Merlin Mann). I note that their default duration is to check after six months which clothes you haven’t worn and discard them. That betrays a certain Californian lean, I think. Even here in the beachy area of South Carolina, we have significant weather swings. I think for almost anyone in America, you need to do a full year. Had I started that plan in March, around now I would decide I don’t need any of my sweaters or sweatshirts.

I actually don’t mind the turn from summer to fall and then to winter. I like wearing sweaters and sweatshirts and enjoy it when the weather allows me to break them out. I also like that I get that here, but not for a brutal 5 solid months like we had growing up in Kansas but maybe for a month or two in the dead of winter. Before that is mild fall, after that is mild spring. This seems more pleasant to me.

GMail Spam Filter Gets Too Frisky

I went into my GMail spam box yesterday to look for something, and was a little shocked at how much righteous email was in there. Warning notices from Plesk on a hosted box, two different emails from people I know, as well as every moderation message to date from the Grand Strand Bloggers blog. Good gravy, I found that a shockingly high false positive rate. For those many of you that do use GMail, you might want to consider checking that box every so often to make sure you are not losing stuff you actually want.

Burning Man

Here’s how disconnected I am from the Burning Man community. Until I heard the people on Puzzling Evidence talk about attending this year, I didn’t know it had already happened. I vaguely thought it happened in spring, but I didn’t really know. Apparently I don’t read any blogs from anyone that went or even discussed it. I know a lot of our geek friends love it, but I just couldn’t care less about the whole thing. The only interesting part of it is the DIY building aspect, but I’d rather spend the day at Maker Faire than a week in the desert at BM.

I think in the 2004 election cycle, someone pointed out that having Burning Man in the fall could have been a right wing plot to make sure that the energy of lots of crazy progressives was siphoned off into ultimately non-productive channels that have no effect on the political process. I don’t think it is, that’s a better plot than the right wing can pull off.

RIP, Robert Jordan

On Sunday, Jim Rigney aka Robert Jordan passed away. He’d been ill for some time so it is not unexpected but it is nonetheless sad news. I’m not a reader of his, but I did meet him and find him a very pleasant and kind man.

I interviewed him for Reality Break back in 1994. At the time, the fifth Wheel of Time book was out. I read the first several hundred pages of it and still had no idea what was going on. I found a grad student at Georgia Tech who was a big fan and gave me a summary of the series (this was in the days before there were web pages with all that information.) The interview got off to a rocky start when I couldn’t find his hotel room and I knew he thought I was an idiot (because I heard him say it through the door as I walked up.) Nonetheless, when we got it rolling it all worked out, my general ignorance of his work did not show through and he gave me some very interesting insights into his work. When it was done we said goodbye, a week or two later I aired the interview and that was that.

About a month after that, I got a very nice handwritten note from him, thanking me for my time and the very interesting interview. I did hundreds of these interviews, he was arguably the most famous person I ever talked to, and yet he was the only person that every wrote me a thank you note for interviewing him. He was a true southern gentleman all the way through, tough when he needed to be but kind when he thought he should be. He was an asset to coastal South Carolina and the sf/fantasy community, and he will be missed greatly.

Gator Eats Man’s Arm

Here’s an ugly story from my part of the country: An alligator bit off a man’s arm in Moncks Corner. In order to reattach it, they cut open the gator and retrieved it from his belly. Good lord. It’s kind of amazing that it could be retrieved and put back on the guy.

This is why I never had any compunction about eating gator when I lived in Louisiana. I found it quite tasty and I knew that if it had the slightest chance, the gator would be eating me instead.

Blogstipation

For much of the last two months, I’ve been so busy that blogging has been something that has been deferred or intermittent. This weekend that is not the case but I found that I had so much stuff I wanted to write and talk about and even discuss in podcasts that it kind of froze me. I ended up doing none of it.

The pattern I most like for myself is to post a few times a day, shorter bits and links to interesting things I’ve ran across on the web. A few times a week I like to write up a longer essay style post and maybe once a week or so I like to have a big long essay on some subject that is interesting me. I don’t believe that I’ve come anywhere close to that the entirety of this summer.

It’s certainly not for lack of subjects. My list of things I want to post about is getting ever longer, my starred items in Google Reader (which is how I signify I want to come back to it) has had 100 items added in the last month and must be over 500 total by now. If anything, that’s kind of the problem. I need to pick a thing or two and just go for it. This is the kind of stuff I preach, not getting bogged down by life, so I need to practice it myself.

Early Morning People

Walking the dog at 6:45 AM I saw a surprising number of my neighbors up and about. Some were puttering in their kitchens, which is hard to miss when they are standing in the window with the lights on when it is dark out. Others were out in their yards or walking around or getting in their cars. Don’t these people want to sleep in? If it weren’t for the dog, I’d have been asleep. I tried to get him to go back to bed with no success. Left to my own devices I would probably stay up until 3 or 4 AM every day and sleep until noon. Here’s to one day achieving that.

Yowza

Been quiet on the blog front. To get some insight into my recent life, today is Friday morning but for the first hour I was awake I thought it was Wednesday. It feels like I was just granted a special weekend now. It’s all about expectation management, I suppose.

In what tiny bit of spare time I’ve had in the evenings, I’ve been doing a little work on AmigoFish. I recount some of that at the AmigoFish blog. I’ve been experimenting with Project Wonderful ads on there since they finally (like after 6 months) set me up as a seller. We’ll see how that goes.