Tag Test

I’m just curious about this. Ecto has tags on the side that I use occasionally, but they insert into the bottom of the post as a footer type deal. Now that I’m a version of WordPress with tags built in, is the whole deal hooked together well enough that these will just recognized as WordPress tags? That would be cool but I’m not holding my breath.

New Host Test

If you see this post, that means you are looking at the new host. Things aren’t perfect but it’s getting there. I’m happy to be getting shed of my old hosting box, which was aging and lately needed a reboot EVERY! SINGLE! DAY! Dreamhost is far from perfect but at least it is easy to install and upgrade stuff.

EGC Clambake for March 30, 2008

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for March 30, 2008. I play an audio promo for our Create South conference, and a song by Chris Yale. I talk about the new MacBook that I’m doing the show on, apologize that things aren’t quite the same when I reach for them and about how I feel like at age 40 I still need adult supervision. I talk about screwing up seeing the Siderunners play live and then play a live Siderunners song. I walk down the well worn hallways of discussing the economy and our scary economic times. I play an unreleased track by the amazing Jill Sobule and mention her interesting album funding project.

The audio on this show is not perfect by a long ways, mostly in the levels. This were just weird enough on new versions of the OS and Quicktime that I had a hard time getting everything the same. By next show I hope to have these kinks worked out.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

The Siderunners Live

I’ve gotten a few emails from Nate “Siderunner” Van Allen pointing to the Siderunners website. Although the band is somewhere between on hiatus and defunct, they are releasing MP3s of the live shows they did on their last tour. I don’t know how many times I’ve played them in my show and I’ll definitely be playing some of these as well. Ever since I first heard X and Jason and the Scorchers, I’ve always been in the market for some good cowpunk. Let’s do this thing.

Bad Mood on a Beautiful Day

I’m at lunch down by the beach on an absolutely beautiful day, and yet I’m in a bad mood. I went to a Schlotzky’s despite my instincts because they are all supposed to have wifi and I wanted to get some work done outside of the office today. I came down here, stood in line forever and then when I fired up the laptop found that this Scholtzky’s does not in fact have wifi. I’m attached to some distant signal that comes and goes. I wanted to have time for a beach walk but that’s out now. In fact, I should be headed back to the office right now but I haven’t even gotten my food.

I try not to be a stressed out spazmo hardassed in this life, but if you stand in line at a fast food type place for ten or fifteen minutes, you should have your shit together and be ready to order when you hit the front of the line. Waiting until you are ordering to make decisions with your party of five is a pretty lousy use of time for all of us. You had fifteen minutes to do that!

I’m just in an increasingly foul mood now.

Create South Audio Promo

Here is a downloadable audio promo for the Create South conference. It is Creative Commons licensed Attribution, which is more or less impossible to use without attributing it since the promo is its own attribution. For those of you friendly to our project, if you’d throw this in your own podcasts or even just your podcast feed I would be highly appreciative. If you are subscribed to the podcast feed you should just get it anyway in your podcatcher. Thank you!

*-Camps vs Conferences

Eric Rice rethinks the whole *-Camp thing. His suggestions are goofy and for comedic effect but you know, they aren’t miles away from the thinking behind Create South. From the very first conversation I ever had about it, I knew I wanted it to be more doing things and less talking about doing things. The whole reason it is not “Podcamp Myrtle Beach” is that we want to bring in people beyond the core group of insiders who tend to show up to such things. The idea of having no set agenda before you get there just seems antithetical to getting in the people who most need to learn. This whole conference is our attempt to thread the needle between the boringness of most tech conferences, the energy and chaos of the *-Camps, the “audience is in charge” aspect of the Bloggercons, all with a minimum of dogma and maximum hands on at all points. Do you want to help thread that needle? You can, by showing up my friends.

Twitter Zeitgeist

My Twitter fast continues. I’ve looked at it for less than 15 minutes each for the last two days. As I tweeted yesterday:

I thought that I would miss Twitter like an addict craving a fix. Instead it felt more like having a hypnotist cure a nervous tic overnight.

Garrick van Buren forwarded me a link to this guy’s Twitter skepticism. What’s interesting that his issues and mine seem to be equal and opposite. He thinks people use @replies when they should use more direct messages. I prefer to have everything public unless there is a compelling reason to take it private. He doesn’t like the abandonment of the “What are you doing” conceit, and I think that is the most boring frigging thing ever. If he got his way, I’d abandon Twitter in a heartbeat. The service he describes holds even less value than Twitter currently holds for me.

I’ve grown weary of the way Twitter leaves a kind of jangly feeling, like having three cups of coffee too many. There is always something coming in and more behind that. I see lots of people saying things like “I’m turning off Twitter for a while, I need to get things done.” Twitter is cute but it’s hard to get things done and pay attention to it. If you don’t pay attention to it constantly, you lose a lot of the power of it. It’s a conundrum and one I am having a hard time finding a reasonable balance with.

And just because I don’t feel like writing a full post to encapsulate this link, I will admit that my Twitter contrarianism could be just as misguided as this Robin Hobb rant about blogging, in which she does her level best to sound like Harlan Ellison on the subject. I’m a little chagrined how much her piece has in common with mine, in that she thinks blogging kills writing and (at least for me) twittering seems to kill my blogging. The only part that resonates with me is the idea that one activity can subtract the urgency and energy to do the other. I’ve decided that I like the value blogging creates for me, which is different than the value of twittering. Each to his or her own.

Google Reader Exploit

I’m listening to Steve Gillmor’s News Gang from March 13th and a large part of what they are talking about is one of Steve’s recent hot button issues. He calls it the “Google Reader Shared Items exploit”. Basically, when you use Google Reader and you share items, they can be seen by your “friends” in a list of “your friends shared items.” Steve has a problem with the very loose methodology Google uses to determine who is a friend, which is inferred algorithmically and not anything you can do explicitly. He and Mary Hodder seem to be worked up about it and Chris Saad doesn’t think it is a big deal. I’m with you, Chris Saad. I sure don’t understand the problem when you take an item from your feed and mark it “Shared” that it gets shared with arbitrary people. It seem reasonable to me that doing so shares to a group that might be up to as big as the internet. I mean, I have the dang widget sitting in my sidebar. For those people who have an issue with it, what I wonder is who they think they are sharing with and what they thought would happen when they hit that check box?

This does not mean that I endorse Google data policies broadly. They kind of scare the hell out of me. I spent years of not logging in to Google for any reason because I was worried they would track my searches. Once I started using Reader and staying logged in all day I bought a few shares of stock. My rationale was that if I can’t tame the tiger, maybe I can at least ride it a little.

Update: I’m pretty sure now that Steve Gillmor is wrong about how friends are inferred. I have heard him say that it comes from emailing people but I pulled up the Settings -> Friends page and set it beside my list of GTalk friends and every single person on my Reader friends list was a GTalk buddy. In other words, I think you have to take the explicit action of making them an IM buddy before you see their shared items. That doesn’t change my initial post, in that sharing is sharing and if you don’t want to broadcast your interest in a topic you probably ought not to be sharing it.

More Twitter Skepticism

I’m following the lead of Garrick van Buren and making today a non-Twitter day. Instead I will go back to the mode I used to be in where I made a mix of long blog posts and some short ones. Twitter has definitely eaten the short posts out of my blogging queue.

I forgot to mention it yesterday but another big factor in my turning from Twitter has been this “Color War” nonsense. When I first heard about it, I asked on Twitter “Is this yet another Ze Frank exercise in antagonistic pointlessness for the bored?” and it turns out it is. Apparently it has its origins in some summer camp thing I’ve never heard of. All I know is that getting swatches of the Twittersphere to band into arbitrary groups and start opposing each other has less than zero interest to me.

On top of that, to begin a project called “Color War” just strikes me as distasteful, especially when we’re about to have our first black presidential nominee. There are really only two possibilities here. Either Ze was oblivous to the racial connotations of this name or he knew but didn’t care. Neither option is flattering. As it happens, I once met a man who was a complete cracker white supremacist. He was stockpiling guns in the wake of the Rodney King riots because he was convinced there would be a black uprising and when it happened he wanted to be prepared. I dare say if you’ve heard all this spoken to you in all sincerity by someone with a basement full of AK-47s who is gearing up to potentially kill people of color in large scale, for the rest of your life you will never find the term “Color War” to be that damn funny . To the extent this stupidness waxes on Twitter, my interest wanes.

Rethinking Twitter

I was a long time Twitter skeptic and late last fall I joined up and started using it. It seems like many people have such a conversion and then after they begin using the service they go from Saul of Blogging to the apostle Paul of Twitter immediately. My experience is unique in that while I did use it, I never really lost the skepticism. Now, four months on I feel less enamored of the service than I ever have.

I’ll be the first to admit that my blogging has suffered over the same time frame. Whether Twitter is the cause or just correlated I cannot say. It’s hard to discount the time it takes and the engagement and mental energy to keep up with the constant flow of tweets. I had been running in the mode where I’d get IM notification to my GTalk account. This meant a fairly steady stream of micro-interruption most times. If there were interesting points, I could respond almost instantly with my own pithy bit of 140 character wisdom.

Here’s an anology to think about. Is Twitter to blogging what the periodic cannon firings are to avalanches? By keeping me posting small thoughts all day long, I have less urgency to capture those thoughts in longer, more fleshed out blog posts. It eats away at my time, the continual partial attention it requires saps cycles from my brain’s CPU and in the end what do I have?

I’ve been blogging for five and a half years now, and podcasting for three and a half. Over that time period, I feel like I have written and recorded work of which I’m proud. This work is out there and it is mine and all of it is part of my “personal brand.” What I’m struggling with is the lasting value of the energy I’ve dumped into Twitter. Sure, some of my tweets were pretty funny and a few were profound. I couldn’t tell you which, or when or anything about them. As soon as they leave my keyboard they are gone. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just be making really short blog posts with the same thing in them.

I originally dissed the central Twitter conceit of continually answering the question “what are you doing?” That is such a generally boring question for me to be unworthy of actually bothering to reply. Now, however, I’m realizing that perhaps that was where the value always lay for me. Twitter matters to me when I can actually get things done with it, like making lunch plans or drumming up support for Create South. It does help keep me in touch with people, but so do many tools. It’s good for some things, so perhaps the problem is just in me trying to over-broaden it into something it shouldn’t be. Maybe it is of best value in quickly broadcasting ephemeral bits of data and then letting them effectively disappear back into the cyber-froth.

Meanwhile, I’m going to work on shifting my personal media equilibrium. I’ve spent too long gardening the ephemeral and harvesting nothing. I’m not dropping Twitter but I am putting it in a more appropriate place in my media toolkit. Your mileage may vary.

Inbox Nonzero

I spent the early part of this year in email inbox zero state. It was quite nice and helped alleviate some of that free-floating anxiety that GTD exists to quell. However, when I got sick in mid-February it ballooned and I’m back to being behind. I’m trying like a dog to get it back to zero before the end of the weekend. If you mailed me and never heard from me, I’m working on it. Sorry!

I Have a MacBook

Last weekend we went to Raleigh for a long weekend of just getting out of our day to day lives for a bit. While there we ate food and shopped for things we can’t get at home. One of the biggest (in terms of excitement and cash) was a new MacBook for me. I had the green light to get this last year but I opted not to do it at the time. I had recently shifted from using the iBook as my day job machine as a contractor to being an employee with a provided laptop so I didn’t need the upgrade urgently. It turns out that I picked a good year to wait out, because the machine I have now is way better than I’d have gotten for the same price last year.

We bought it on a Saturday but I was strong and did not even open the box until we got home on Monday night. I didn’t opt for extras at the Apple store other than the Firewire cable to do the migration. The first boot up I did, I fired up the Migration Assistant and moved over the whole magilla to the new machine. It took a few hours. I forgot some advice that I had heard on the Mac Geek Gab and neglected to repair permissions on the old iBook first. It gone down to the last few files and just never finished. I let it sit at “one second remaining” for 45 minutes before I gave up and pulled the cable.

Overall, it seemed to work great. I liked just being able to fire up my MacBook with my old account and have more or less everything right there as I left it. I kind of wonder if I wouldn’t do better to create a new user account and then migrate over to it bit by bit at my leisure. Some things are definitely sub-optimal as they are now. One is that when I upgraded from 10.3 to 10.4 it did something that makes every application show up as Whatever.App . It’s kind of annoying to look at and it remains that way in the migrated account. I created a new account just to fiddle with and it doesn’t have that issue. I might log into the new account and move files over as I need them and at some point if it doesn’t feel like I need whatever hasn’t moved, just delete the old account. Having the packrat mentality that I do, though, my default is always to keep all of everything on the off chance I might need it one day. Just deleting a bunch of cruft would be hard for me, but maybe I should do it because of that.

The only issue I’ve had at the executable level was with NeoOffice. Their builds aren’t universal binary and for some reason Rosetta had issues with it so I had to delete the migrated one and download an Intel specific build and it works great. I installed a trial of VMWare Fusion which also works great. I installed Windows XP into that partition and after it did the endless and painful cycle of upgrades I took a snapshot of the VM to return to if I need to. I also installed the Bodog Poker client and tried it out in Unity mode. It worked well, and now I can play poker from the Mac laptop on sites that only have Windows clients. It’s madness, but it is my kind of madness! I may create another VM and install Ubuntu just for fun.

This is the first computer we’ve bought in 4 years, and that’s the shortest upgrade cycle ever for us. Typically we use them for 6-10 years. The Windows box that syncs my Zen and Zune is one I got for a job in 2000 and have had ever since. I’m never tempted by new hardware to run out and buy it. I go from the other direction and use the old stuff until it gets to the point of preventing me from achieving what I want to do, either by being slow or lacking capabilities. In the case of the iBook, it got to the point where I wanted to do things that needed a much bigger hard drive and an Intel processor so I finally relented. I’m glad I got it and also that I waited this long, because this a great machine and a great value.

The Death of Online Video

Ninja boy Kent Nichols posted another of his periodic attention getting link bait articles (mission accomplished, sir) titled “Is Online Video Dead?” I think the first “podcasting is dead” article I saw was in April of 2005 and they’ve been coming ever since. This whole line of thinking used to depress me but now it invigorates me. If all the people like Kent’s friend will not get into online video because “it’s too late and there is no money in it” then I feel great. That means the field is once again unattractive to carpet-bagging gold-rushers looking to sweep in, make a fortune as quickly and cynically as possible, and then sweep back out. We don’t need those people. We’ve never needed those people. That those people don’t want our medium anymore is great news for everyone.

The whole rationale behind CreateSouth is the exact opposite line of thinking. It is fun to create and be creative and even more fun when someone else experiences your work and talks to you about it. Is there any money in it? Who cares! There’s no real money in radio at the individual DJ level, why would it be any different for podcasters? I’ve always thought the salutary effects of having a culture with many versed in media literacy and media creation are enormous. A populace empowered to create and publish their own thing whenever they feel like it is a better populace. That is democracy in action, and is much more valuable than a few bucks per podcast.

Get out there, do your thing. Some of you will have success at the Ask a Ninja level. Almost everyone else won’t. Big deal, it’s the same way with novels and screenplays and bands. You should do it because you love it first, make the most of it you can but with realistic expectations. If you take no pleasure in the creation of it, you are certain to fail.

Goodbye, new media get-rich-quickers! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. It was bad to know you and no one will miss you.


The day job has been highly busy and the rest of life more so lately. We took a few days and went to Raleigh and just hung out, ate at restaurants we don’t have here and shopped at stores we don’t have here. I walked out with a new black MacBook. I’ve upgraded the laptop that I bought in 2004, which is actually the shortest computer upgrade cycle I’ve ever had.

In the evenings and weekends I’m also working hard on the Create South conference. We have some sponsors but we can always use more. If you’d like to sponsor our conference let me know, I’ll send you a sponsor card and hook you up. We’ve got a keynote speaker, some presentations lined up and a hands-on workshop for getting people into podcasting. Now we’re looking at getting an internet connection at the Train Depot because if we don’t have it we can’t have this exceedingly cool presentation. I’ve got to make some calls to cell phone joints today to see if we can borrow some equipment for that day. That’s the good and bad thing about organizing something like this – we don’t actually know what we are doing in the larger sense, but we make it happen anyway. That’s an amazing feeling.

CreateSouth, New Media Conference in Myrtle Beach April 19th

OK kids, registration for the CreateSouth conference is open for business! The conference is April 19th from 9 to 5 PM in downtown Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. All attendees are invited, whether you live and breath new media or are interested but slightly frightened by it. If you are a professional journalist or a politician or a pastor or a musician and want to learn how to make new media work in your career, this is for you. If you have wanted to blog or podcast or videoblog but aren’t sure where to start, this is for you. The goal of this conference is to get the newbies and the wizards together in the same room, talking and hanging out and sharing meals. Our focus is hands on demonstration and we are assembling the program right now to reflect that. The idea of the conference is that if there is some project you want to do but haven’t tackled because the learning curve is too high, you should walk out of the conference knowing where to start and maybe with an email address or three of people that can help you if you get into trouble.

Everyone is welcome that wants to travel to Myrtle Beach in April, but our primary geographic target is the southeast. If you live in the Carolinas or Georgia or Tennessee and are interested, tell your friends, carpool and share a room, come and have a big time with us. We picked April because it is the part of the year when hotels are still considered “out of season” and thus cheaper but the weather has a strong probability of being beautiful. You can bring your whole family. Those who are interested can attend the conference and for those who aren’t, the beach is two blocks away from the site. There is more miniature golf than you can shake a tiny putter at, water parks and movie theaters and all kind of attractions within a few miles of the conference.

We really need a push from the blogosphere to get the word out. Please link to the CreateSouth website, talk it up, tell your friends, suggest programming items you’d like to experience and volunteer to present ones that you know. This is a grassroots conference organized by the Grand Strand blogging community so there is no large organization behind it, just a few individuals who want to make this happen. My unofficial description is that “the Grand Strand Bloggers are throwing themselves a party and seeing who dances.” Come dance with us, friends.

Dave Stevens, R.I.P.

Sadly, artist and writer Dave Stevens died of leukemia yesterday. Here is Mark Evanier’s obituary of him. I’ve been a fan of the late Mr. Stevens since reading the Rocketeer stories in Pacific comics in the early 80’s. His art has always been fantastic, whether in comic book form or his exquisite paintings. He was the opposite of prolific, a perfectionistic who took a very long time with his work and produced very slowly. I kind of wish he had slightly lower standards but had put out twice or ten times as much as he did. Still, I’m grateful for every bit of it.

This photo is of me with Dave at the 1994 Dragon*Con. I had just finished interviewing him and I thought he was a great guy and very fun to talk with. I only wish I could have had dozens of conversations with him. It’s sad to lose him at all, and especially at the age of 52. He will be missed.

I Need Help Testing Comments

I’ve heard from several people that ordinary use of the comments has been triggering the Bad Behavior plugin, usually with an error that the “user agent has changed since the page was downloaded.” The only thing that has changed recently has been turning on the WP-Cache plugin for the whole site. I’ve upgraded the cache and Bad Behavior plugins. If you are reading this, could you just please try to leave me a test comment on this post and email me if you have problems. Thanks.

Public Radio Fails Me

This blog post has been percolating for a very long time and now I finally am getting to it. As it turns out, it is more timely than I would have expected considering last night’s forum at MPR in Minneapolis (or at least it was last night two weeks ago when I first started writing this post. It has taken days to get this down.) In the interim, Jeff Jarvis has posted on the ouster of NPR’s CEO.

First, let me provide a little background on myself and public broadcasting. Growing up in Kansas I got a great value from public broadcasting. If it wasn’t for it in the days before cable, I never would have seen Monty Python, the Prisoner, Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, I Claudius, All Creatures Great and Small, Fawlty Towers, The Good Neighbors and any number of other programs that I loved and love greatly. Public radio didn’t affect me as much until I moved to Georgia and got access to the programming that we couldn’t receive in rural western Kansas. It didn’t take long to get addicted to Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion. Not long after I graduated college I began contributing to public radio and I have been basically my entire adult life. I’ve been a member of Peach State Public Radio, Oregon Public Brodcasting, South Carolina’s ETV. In Louisiana we actually were a member of two stations: our local station KRVS in Lafayette and also WRKF in Baton Rouge because we listened to the local Cajun programming as well as Prairie Home Companion on WRKF. KRVS was also the flagship station of my syndicated radio show, so they have a place of honor in this list. My independently produced program was on the satellite for two years and when I met public radio people at conferences they were almost universally warm and wonderful people. They treated this kid in his twenties doing a science fiction talk show from Louisiana as a one man operation as their peer, which was a great kindness and much appreciated by me.

All that preface is to point out that I’ve had almost 20 years of support for public radio. I’ve been a listener and someone who ponies up cash for that time. When I say that public radio no longer meets my needs, it is not a casual comment by a disinterested party, it is a cry of despair for someone who has been on the team for his whole adult life and feels the team has let him down. Note too that I’m talking about the NPR(tm) brand, not that of the affiliate stations or their programming. In many cases, I think the locally produced programming is of higher value than the nationally syndicated shows. [Update: For those who want to pick nits, I’m not being careful about distinguishing NPR from PRI from APM. They all have the same problems and same failings. The guy who felt he was really zinging me by pointing out that Prairie Home Companion was APM not NPR truly missed the point by a mile and a half.]

Jarvis was posting in terms of business and political maneuvering, but I’m speaking as a listener and constituent. I think modern day NPR is just dismal. It sucks and no longer matters to me. I’m not talking about one or two programs that aren’t as useful to me as they used to be, I’m talking about the whole slate top to bottom. I’m not 100% sure if NPR has changed anything or if after three and a half years of listening to podcasts all day every day I have developed a taste for the natural voice and a disdain for the artificiality of the NPR voice.

In the early days of podcasting, I was compared favorably to Ira Glass and This American Life a number of times and I always considered it a compliment. Back in 1997 when I first heard the program I was still doing my radio show and I was absolutely blown away by TAL. My first inclination after I picked up my jaw was to figure out what they were doing that was so powerful and try to figure out how to steal that for my program. It felt like powerful human stories with a natural voice and I just loved it. It was fresh and interesting and completely unlike anything on NPR. In fact, it wasn’t on NPR because NPR passed on it, which is why it is syndicated by PRI.

Fast forward a decade. I have a TAL confessions to make. I have only been able to finish two episodes since 2004. [Update: I tried to listen today at 3 PM while in the car, shut it off in disinterest.] I don’t listen regularly and those occasions when I do run across it, I always turn it off in disgust because I find it unlistenable. Even the contributors like Sarah Vowell that I really like seem to be turning in lackluster stuff, painting by the TAL numbers. I can’t stand to listen to Ira Glass’s voice. When I see him on Letterman I just want to slap those hipster glasses and that smug shit-eating grin off of his face. I can’t imagine ever watching the television program on Showtime without shooting my television Elvis style. There was a time when This American Life was the best thing on the radio, now it is not the worst but it is the most disappointing. Add to that the bogusness of how they dealt with the early days of podcasting when they first put up MP3s and Jon Udell rigged up a homebrew RSS feed. They not only made him take it down, but made him take down his mentions of the takedown. That is pure distilled bullshit and whatever lingering goodwill they might have had with me dissipated that day. Even worse than TAL are the knockoffs like The Next Big Thing. Oy vey.

I used to love Prairie Home Companion and now when I listen, it sounds like a sad shell of its former self. I didn’t even care about seeing the film but I did because I love Altman’s work. The elegiac feel of that movie was spot on. The show itself has died some time ago, but like a zombie the animated corpse continues to lurch forward. Like many of these long running NPR programs the formula itself is so well worn that people can do it in their sleep. Thus, they do. I used to enjoy Whadya Know and now it is must skip listening. The list, sadly, goes on and on.

I can’t listen to any of the NPR news programs. They used to, in the early days, provided long form, in-depth coverage of issues because they didn’t have many reporters and couldn’t get out to every press conferences. They adapted to that weakness by focusing their energy on fewer stories but covering them well. I long for those days. Now, when they have reporters all over the place they have become sound bite bogus journalism just like that of every other form of broadcast news, audio or visual. When they do longer form bits, they are almost always at the intersection of the uninteresting and the irrelevant. I remember the day when I was listening to All Things Considered and they did a long exploration of the front porch in America. This is no joke, that is what they aired on the program. It was the opposite of a driveway moment, it was an instant finger to the off button.

I tried to listen to Christopher Lydon’s Open Source program. I know his heart was in the right place and his reverence for new media borders on the scary, but I thought the program was far less than the sum of its parts. Even though they worked like crazy to bring in bloggers, to integrate the new media aspects, to take user questions and calls and program suggestions, I never thought it worked. There was too much NPR style DNA in this chimera, which made it stillborn to me. I found Lydon hard to listen to. The make or break show to me was when he had Sonny Rollins on, a guy I love. When he couldn’t make a show that spoke to me out of interviewing Rollins, there was no reason to stick around.

The NPR voice is smug and stilted and has that elitist, know-it-all air. I can’t stand listening anymore. Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Day to Day, Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation: it doesn’t matter. None of them speak to me in any relevant way, seldom on any subject of interest and never in a voice that isn’t arch and superior. That’s the part that really loses me. I get the sense of superiority from this programming, that they are on a mission to tell me what they think I need to know, at the same time as their relevance to me decreases drastically.

That gets us to the relationship of NPR and their supporters/audience/donors. It has always been a weird relationship because they talk such populist talk about how “we’re all in it together” and “we can’t do it without you.” At the same time, I feel like they have continually pulled away from listening to or even caring about the input from the listeners or the listeners themselves. They need our money but after they get it, they need us to shut up and listen. Even when they say the opposite, their actions betray themselves. Read the live blog from that MPR forum for an example of this dynamic in action. I don’t doubt that the MPR people feel they were doing the right thing but were so disconnected from what it is to interact with their constituents that they can’t even do it without slumming and condescending.

Jeff Jarvis’ post about the internal issues of the NPR leaders touches on something I’ve been discussing since the beginning of the podcast era. When NPR itself podcasts programs, it is a huge channel conflict. They are competing against the local affiliates who, by the way, are the real customer. They are the ones who pay the checks when they pop for $100K/year or whatever it is to broadcast Prairie Home Companion. I always thought the better way to deal with new media was for NPR to have zero podcast feeds themselves. Instead, they should have granted a podcast license to any affiliate who paid the broadcast fees, ie that they could podcast anything they had the right to broadcast. Instead of having a single podcast of Fresh Air, there could be hundreds of them, each branded with a “support our station” message. You could get your podcasts from your local station, or from some distant station with a better feed, or whatever and you could pop a few bucks to whomever. NPR, of course, would never consider that because it is an organization that needs to control. Now they have this centralized service that has even sucked in local programming that gets affiliated. Ultimately, I think that what is likely to happen is that the affiliates lose their patience with the NPR hegemony, drop syndicated programming and go back to creating more local programming. That’s what makes KRVS such a special station, the many hours per week of locally produced Cajun and Zydeco programming. When I lived there, I was much more interested in that than one more hour of some centrally produced music programming. Really, I wish South Carolina produced more programming. I’d rather hear local and regional interviews at 7 PM than Fresh Air.

I think this is indicative of the mindset that I’ve been talking about all along. They want us to be on their side, but they are not on our side. They are not even on their affiliate’s side. They have long since lost their scrappy and scruffy charm and now have more aspirations toward being Clear Channel than the BBC. They talk populist and act elitist. They consider their programming the crown jewels of radio but it has dropped in quality below the threshold of listenability.

Here is the full list of any NPR or NPR type programming in my podcatcher:

  • Garrison Keillor’s Writers’ Almanac
  • KCRW’s Le Show
  • KCRW’s The Treatment
  • WGBH Morning Stories with my friend Tony Kahn

That’s it. There are a few other radio programs in my list, several Subgenius and WREK programs, but no other NPR/PRI/APM programs. There used to be something like 15 in that list, and I’ve pared it down to those four. If Sound and Spirit had a podcast feed, I’d subscribe to it but they don’t.

If NPR can lose me in the new media world, who else can they lose? What value do they add? How can they reclaim their soul? I’ll never forget the session where I heard Tony Kahn, himself a veteran of decades of public radio, give the advice to young broadcasters not to go into radio but to create their own programming on their own channels that they themselves control. That, my friends, says it all. This game is not over, but it’s down to 2 seconds and only a half court shot will send this to overtime. NPR needs to step up fast or they will be stepped over.

Update: People in the comments think they can be clever by putting this back on me. “You stop liking it and you think public radio has changed?” I kind of thought the whole point of my piece was that public radio hasn’t changed, but the world around it has. In a world where we have true interactivity in many ways, the folksy faux interactivity of NPR doesn’t cut it. “Send us money, we’ll tell you what you need to hear and oh, here’s a tote bag.” Of course I have changed out from under it. That’s why public radio doesn’t meet my needs anymore and why listening to these programs I once loved are now like walking barefoot on broken glass.