Production Quality: Coda

This afternoon, I left the house for the first time in a while and drove to the coffee shop. On the way, I tried to listen to All Things Considered on the radio. Within one minute, I got sick of it and instead listened to the Ruby Conf Wrapup episode of the Ruby on Rails podcast. The sound quality of it was dicey, but listenable. That’s right, I turned off a well-produced show in favor of one with shitty production values. Why would I do this? Because I was more interested in hearing these two guys talk about their views of Ruby Conf and the politics of programming language extension and “fanboy” impulses at meeting famous figures in the open source community. I’m newly interested in Ruby and Rails, and I was captivated. There are not 1 in 10,000 Americans who would find this interesting, but I am one.

Production quality isn’t unimportant, but it’s not a make or break. Once you cross the threshold of barely listenable, captivating content of interest to you is all that matters. I just disagree with Stephen Hill so deeply that it makes my bones ache. This isn’t some kind of academic argument or thought experiment, this is how I live my life. I vote with my ears every single day and I’ve been turning off public radio, for all its slickness and production values, because it is physically incapable of being as relevant to me as the playlist on my iPod Shuffle.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

4 thoughts on “Production Quality: Coda”

  1. I kind of sit between both views. I don’t listen to any podcasts that are routinely skyped because the generally poor audio quality just does my head in. It’s OK for 10 minutes or so with genuinely interesting people, but any more often and I turn off.

    On the otherhand, overproduction bothers me almost as much – the silly sound effects for no reason, use of 3 or 4 different jingles and suchlike. This is why I don’t listen to the “Whacky Tom & Dick in the morning” type of radio shows or podcasts.

    My biggest gripe with podcasting is when a podcaster starts a show & then spends the first 5 minutes playing with levels and compression settings. I don’t want to listen to that – it has zero content value and just says that the podcaster thinks his audience will listen to anything and that their time is less important than his (AC are you listening?……No?…..figured not).

    I guess that these opinions have shaped my own podcast – I have been aiming for a Slacker Astronomy style. Lots of factual information and some opinion, delivered quickly – which pretty much necessitates it being fairly heavily scripted. I do listen to other types of show but for my chosen subject I don’t think the other styles work.

  2. mike dunn says:

    wtf – i have no idea how i managed to munge that comment – feel free to delete it dave 🙁

    here is what i wanted to say – for me its an issue of what i’m in the mood for – and for the longer drives (~3hr) i do monthly and during the winter i usually setup a playlist specific for the drive that’s made up of shows i know i like and then i have a second playlist for new shows i’ve discovered or had recommended that i want to try out – a long drive is great for that – skip forward if not interested…

    now my car has a traditional radio which i never chose and sirius where some of the channels are fine for the “in the mood for” situations – they have some great very focused channels for this – techno, jazz, comedy, npr, regional and national news, weather & traffic, etc – but the one channel that doesn’t really fit for me is the sirius stars one, which is where the podshow is housed – it’s not a playlist, it’s an aggregation of tons of sound bytes and certain “selected” podcasts – some of which i do like, but all of those shows end up being ones i’ve already listened to by the time they hit the podshow – thus zero value for me, though i’m sure folks new to podcasting must get something out of it…

    as for production quality – of course better is preferred, but to dave’s point – if the shows content is worthy some degradation can be forgiven…

  3. I consider listening to NPR a daily test of my ability to resist mental torture, which is the only reason I listen. I figure, I can get through 10 minutes of NPR – especially if I can get through 10 minutes of NPR’s Iraq coverage – I can handle anything.

  4. Ken Kennedy says:

    “I just disagree with Stephen Hill so deeply that it makes my bones ache.”

    That was so well spoken, I pounded my desk, Dave! I’m one step away from standing up and crying “huzzah”!!

    In case it’s not 100% clear, I agree with you. *grin* I’m sure Stephen Hill is trying hard to grok this wave, but he is so far…missing it. Badly. For me, content relevance trumps the holy living bejeezus out of production quality.

    I do still listen to radio occasionally…but not because it sounds nice. It’s b/c I want to listen to something that’s on the radio. I listen mostly (like 80+%) to podcasting now…but I don’t listen to anything and everything that someone decides to drop into an RSS feed. It’s about what interests me. I never miss an EGC, I stopped listened to DSC around the beginning of ’05, and I have heard a total of about 30 seconds of Dawn and Drew. OTOH, I’ve been enjoying the relatively new “Meet The Press” podcasts for my Sunday run; I’ve always been a fan of the Sunday press shows, and being able to listen at my leisure is great stuff!

    Combining what interests me with when I want it to interest me is an unbeatable combination.

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