Podcasting Concerns (first of a series) – PodcastAwards

I really appreciate the late-night instant messaging conversations with my friend Matt, especially when they turn into enlightening discussions. Tonight we had an excellent discussion on the current state of affair in Podcasts, the second conversation of it’s kind in less than a month. It was a pretty random conversation, but I felt it would be helpful to reflect on a few of the points that were brought up.

Matt and I started getting into Podcasts around the same time, the beginning of 2006. Throughout this time we’ve both been enthusiastic listeners, both subscribing to about 30 podcasts each and doing a decent job of keeping up-to-date. We both prefer the anonymity of simply listening (I’ve submitted audio comments twice before, and both of us have sent rare emails in feedback). Both being tech enthusiasts, we’re extremely excited about this new broadcast medium. However, 7 months later we find ourselves growing frustrated with the increasing gap between the Podcasters and their current/potential listeners.

Our conversations have been quite complex and detailed, which forces me to break down our thoughts into different sections. In the interests of time and screen-space, I will break down our analysis of this issue into a few different postings over the next few days. Also please note that these postings reflect my opinions and may not necessarily be shared by Matt. Hopefully when Matt survives his summer sessions he’ll be able to offer his thoughts on these matters.

Latest Example: the current Podcast Awards: the nomination process and the final ballot. A few weeks ago, the web site solicited nominations from their users in the form of individual submissions. Like many, Matt and I participated in the nomination process and were eager to see the final ballot. After seeing the finalists unveiled, we were both definitely disappointed with the nominees – not because our favorites weren’t nominated – but by some of the glaring omissions and inconsistencies on the ballot. A good representation of this is the Technology / Science Category, where some big-name tech podcasts, namely This Week in Tech (statistically-speaking, one of the most popular Podcasts on the Internet). Furthermore, the nominations don’t do a good job of sync’ing up with the rankings of some of the larger Podcast directories: Podcast Alley (#X) and iTunes (#Y):

  • Absolute Science (#10), (#39 in Science)
  • Diggnation (#9), (#3)
  • Mike Tech Show (#4), (Not listed)
  • Security Now (#19), (#16)
  • The Naked Scientist (#12), (#17)

I recognize that 50% of the nomination process was handled by a quantitative nominations, and I am not advocating that PodCastAwards simply take the top 5 listed in a category and place it on a ballot – but I think evidence confirms that there is no way to accurately gauge a Podcast’s popularity.

I struggle with the inconsistency of the Podcasts nominated. When I wear my tin-foil hat, part of me believes there was a deliberate disregard for the larger "corporate" podcasts, shows sponsored by bigger media outlets. After removing my hat, I am concerned that PodcastAwards didn’t create avenues to recognize shows that are not actively participating in the nomination process. I listened to many of the "finalist" casts before and during the nomination process, and many of them were appealing to their subscribers to nominate their show. It’s great to see the active participation rewarded, but does that invalidate the Podcast (and especially their audience) that didn’t hear about the awards? I have a lot of appreciation for the efforts of PodCastAwards, and I don’t suggest that this exercise is invalid. However, if the awards want to live up to their slogan of "The People’s Choice", further tweaks to the nomination process are needed. Right now I think the more appropriate term for these awards are the "Independent Podcaster Awards".

This leads me to my struggle between Listeners and Podcasters, and the advocacy the Podcasters (including those running the awards) need to meet listeners where they are and not where they’d like them to be. iTunes is a big reason why Podcasting has grown immensely – maybe there’s opportunity to incorporate the iTunes ranking into the nomination process. There needs to be some way to engage the casual listener to participate, even if in a detached capacity. I’ve found that Podcasters are really good at "preaching to the choir", but are still challenged by evangelizing outside the comforts of their subscription-base.

Getting into Cycling… Priceless!

Well it’s been almost two months since I took the leap and made my new bike purchase. Since then I’ve put at least 100 miles on the bike, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’m not to the point where I can ride to work regularly, but I am looking for more excuses to leave my car at home and bike to more places.

With gas prices going up the way they are (and don’t I feel that pain with an SUV), it’s comforting to know that every 15 miles I ride I’m saving a tank of gas. $3 isn’t much, but it’s not bad for enjoying the summer weather and getting healthy while doing it. I have this notion that some day I’ll pay back the money I invested into my bike with saved gas money.

Two months later, I’m realizing that I have a long way to go. When I laid down over $400 for my new bike little did I realize that it was only going to be the beginning of my bike expenses. I knew that I was going to need some basic safety equipment, but as time goes on I find myself "needing" more accessories with my bike. Luckily I’ve had some great people who have gifted me bike accessories, but I’ve shelled out some fat cash for my bike right now.

The story starts off simple: I get my bike, and I obviously need a bike helmet for safety. I also need to protect my bike, with a lock. I also would like to maintain my bike, so I’d better get a bike tool as well. I also need to keep hydrated while I’m riding, so I need a water bottle (and Bethany got me a wonderful camel back to cover my needs). As time goes on, and the more distance I bike, the more accessories I find that I "need’.

Two months later, here is a list of all the accessories I have:

  1. Helmet
  2. Bike Lock
  3. Bike Tool – (Looks like a big allen wrench that contains all the common tools to maintain you bike)
  4. Camelback Water & Backpack
  5. Bike Computer (Reads speed, distance, time, etc)
  6. Light (Front & Rear)
  7. Storage Rack
  8. Basket for storage rack
  9. Hand-pump
  10. Hitch Bike Rack for my car

BikeRack-1
My latest accessory – the hitch rack.

As you can see, the list has really added up. Looking at this list, I can rationalize everything on there. I also have a wish list of things I’d like to get, which includes:

  1. Bike Gloves
  2. Spare tube(s)
  3. Rear-view mirror
  4. A Bell
  5. A bike shirt (very bright, possibly neon for dusk/night riding)

I know there’s more on my wishlist, but I’ll stop here for now. Combining both of these lists this seems like too many accessories, especially considering that I have to carry most of these items. If I were to do it all over again, I would probably end up buying the same number of accessories, but I would prioritize them in a different order:

  1. Helmet – Safety first
  2. Bike Lock – You need to protect your investment
  3. Lights (Front & Rear) – In Fort Collins (and I’d imagine in most places), it’s illegal to be out at dusk with no lights. This is also a big safety issue as well
  4. Water Bottle / Camelback – Need to keep your fluids up.
  5. Hand Pump (if you spring a leak you can at least try to make it back home)
  6. Spare tube – with the detachable wheels it’s easy to make an emergency repair
  7. Rear-View Mirror – This is especially important for highway riding. Right now I hate looking over my shoulder and taking my eyes off the road.

At this point I can divide this first tier and mark them as the "bare necessities of biking". The rest of the items, while important to me, aren’t dire to my health, safety and functionality of riding. This is how my second tier would be prioritized:

  1. Storage Rack
  2. Storage Basket (If you’re looking to do any kind of shopping, office-commuting or simply would like to carry anything, these two items a must)
  3. Bike Tool – This would normally be great to have. It’s a great compact tool, but luckily I haven’t found any situations where it’d be extremely important to have this while riding.
  4. Bike Computer – It’s important to be able to brag about your distance and know your Mph.
  5. A bike shirt – While this is a safety item, it’s only important for night-commuters or hard-core bikers.
  6. Bell – this is one of the neatest things, but I can still yell at people to get out of the way
  7. Bike Gloves – I have great handlebars and don’t see a need for them. That may change when it gets cold.
  8. Hitch Bike Rack for Car – This is only needed if you’re looking to transport more than 2 bikes and you don’t want to take the wheels off. Although now that I have it, I use it frequently.

The more I bike, the more I realize that it’s a pricey activity. The nice thing about biking, is that you can start with the bare minimum, go with what you afford, and add items where appropriate. I’ve gotten so many accessories, I feel like I can do a Mastercard commercial.

Being able to leave the car at home… PRICELESS.

ESPN.com – NFL – QB Cutler agrees to six-year deal with Broncos

First-round draft choice Jay Cutler, regarded as the Denver Broncos’ quarterback of the future, on Thursday evening reached agreement on a six-year contract. The contract has a maximum value of about $48 million, counting escalators and incentives, and includes $11 million in bonuses.

Always good news to see our first round pick in camp on time. It’s funny that the ESPN story about this stated that he played poorly in spring mini-camps. I actually heard the opposite, that the Broncos think this guy is the real deal.

read more | digg story

Drumming Free-Agent Woes

Well it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been an active "free agent" for drumming, looking for bands. Unfortunately things aren’t getting any easier. I’ve spent a lot of time in the musician section on Craigslist, responding to ads and replying to people who wrote me on my ad. Sadly nothing has really come to fruition. I definitely had a lot of prospects, but at this point they’re all pretty much prospects. I jammed with a few bands already, and they didn’t really seem to fit – and the ones that I really want to jam with have a hard time scheduling something with me.

Being that I’m anxious just to play drums and get back into the scene, I’ve been willing to make some concessions in my search. I’ve been a little more patient in the communication process, been accommodating to their schedules, and ultimately agreed to make a commute if I find something that really fits.

I’m willing to make concessions in order to find the right group, but I’m not willing to deal with the massive egos that some of these groups have. A few days ago I responded to a posting for an Ad called "Drummer Needed for Indie Rock Band". In the email I wrote:

I came across your ad on Craiglist this evening, and was very drawn that what you guys posted!

My name is Jeromey and I’m an experienced, well-rounded drummer. I’m in my mid-20’s and have played drums for over 13 years. I have extensive experience in many different genres which include: jazz, funk, ska, hip-hop, classic rock, modern rock, hard/heavy rock, and Christian/church music.

Three of my greatest strengths are my ability to tastefully blend with other musicians, build a foundation and hold a solid beat on the drums, and have absolute control over my dynamics – I can play quiet and not overpower! My influences include Stewart Copeland, Carter Beauford, Zoro and Danny Carey. I love all types of music!

I am located in Fort Collins, but willing to commute to the Boulder area. If you are interested please write me back!

I felt that I had written a very cordial thoughtful note. However the response I received didn’t share those characteristics:

Hey, all of this sounds good–but do you realize that the commute from Ft. Collins is about an hour each way? That’s a big commitment. Anyway I think the best thing to do would be talk about it, and then try to get you in for an audition. So please give me a call on my cell:

"Do you realize that the commute is an hour each way?" Shoot, when I wrote I was willing to commute in the original email, the distance between Fort Collins and Boulder must have changed. Or maybe I could have forgotten about the distance in the 25 years I’ve lived in Colorado, or the many times I’ve visited my sister – who lives in Boulder! Of course the band guy didn’t know those last two points, but he didn’t need to be so condescending about asking it, as if I thought Boulder was a five minute drive. Didn’t you read my original email when I said I’d be willing to commute?

"That a big commitment" – Oh, what are you – my dad? Well of course it’s a big commitment! Thank you Captain Obvious.

"I think the best thing to do would be to talk about it." Talk about what? How would the conversation go?

"Do you know that you have to drive to Boulder?" – "Yes"
"Do you know Boulder is an hour away?" – "Yes, you mentioned it in your email."
"And you want to drive?" – "Yes."
… – "Ok, thanks for having me call you. This conversation really cleared up a lot."

"… try to get you in for an audition." – For an audition?!? What are you – the London Symphony Orchestra? You posted an ad on Craigslist! People who write "Drummer Needed" on Craigslist don’t audition drummers – they jam with them to see if things fit. This may sound like a terminology issue, but to me the very term "audition" indicates some kind of superiority complex.

I realize I’m nitpicking this message, but if you post an ad, and someone takes the time to write to you a cordial message offering their services, the least you could do is be equally cordial Here is what a cordial response would have been:

Hey, thanks for your response! It’s great to hear that you’re interested, especially since you’re willing to commute an hour each way. Let’s see if we can set up a time to jam with the band and see if things work. Give me a call or shoot me back an email.

Simple, yet respectful: He would have accomplished the same things (implied that this was a big commitment, confirmed the length of the drive, show interest in holding an "audition" to see if things work.) Yet he would have offered the same respect that I gave in my first email.

In talking about this with my friend Matt, we had some fun about how I should respond to the email. We came up with some pretty clever one-liners such as: I’ll take my 15 years of drumming experience to a band that is seriously looking for a drummer, and not just throwing out ideas and seeing if Dave Grohl is looking for a side project; and my favorite – How about you guys come up here and audition for me and I’ll see if you’re right for me. As funny as they were, it wouldn’t properly convey my frustration and more than likely just piss them off. After a little discussion, I decided on a short and stern response:

Maybe you didn’t understand when I explicitly said I was willing to commute in my first email, but I was well aware of the time it takes to get to Boulder and I was aware of the commitment I was offering to make – but since you choose not to take my offer seriously, I won’t take your offer seriously.

Still a pretty strong tone of resentment, but it conveyed my feelings about their response.

So now it’s back to the drawing board in looking for drumming projects. The one good thing that came from this is that I learned about their egos without having to waste my time and gas money to head down to Boulder.

Digg got a Sports section!

Great, as if I didn’t need another reason to waste more time – Digg comes out with a sports section!

One of the ways I like to keep on top of news (primarily in the technology arena) is by going to Digg.  Digg isn’t so much a news site as it is a repository for news, but with the ability for users to rate the stories & content, discuss and essentially "control" the site.  You read a story, and choose whether or not to "Digg" it, increasing it’s popularity. If the story is inaccurate, off-topic or lame, you have the ability tag it as such and with enough tags it’ll get "buried".  You also have the ability to do the same with comments people make with the story.  Sometimes the comments build a mobb-mentality, but for the most part I find them insightful and entertaining.  It’s definitely an interesting way to receive your content.

What Digg really is – is addicting.  I find myself going there multiple times per day, and when I’m not actually on the site I’m always looking at my Digg RSS feeds for the latest.  A few weeks back Digg released Version 3 of their site, which expanded the site beyond technology and to incorporate other categories including: World News & Business, Entertainment, Videos and Science.  It was exciting seeing all of these new categories, but when they were released I saw one glaring omission – Sports!  It would be awesome to have that same Digg functionality for all of the latest sports stories.  I went on my own private, personal crusade of submitting sports stories into the "Celebrity" section of the Entertainment category, but really didn’t have any impact.  So I kept dreaming…

Monday morning I noticed a Digg story about Tiger Woods winning the British Open.  I thought it was pretty interesting, I thought that someone was doing the same thing I was doing and having some more luck.  It was to my astonishment when I looked at the category and saw "Golf".  I did a double-take to the left-hand menu and saw a brand news section!

This is too cool!  I hope that the new section continues to prosper, as well as attract sports fans to Digg.