The Proper Care and Feeding of a Phoenix, with Gabe Weatherhead and Erik Hess

Erik Hess and Gabe Weatherhead co-host Technical Difficulties, a podcast thats redefined how I think about the medium.

The show is described as:

...a weekly podcast exploring the often perplexing and broken world of technology, design, and related disciplines, hosted by Gabe Weatherhead and Erik Hess. Rising from the ashes of their previous show Generational, it will likely prove as perplexing and broken as the topics they discuss.

Podcasts are like boats, and an armada of shows have set out to explore the world of technology. But most of them stick to coastal waters like a two man skiff. They're leaky, at the mercy of the winds, and not exactly much to look at.

But Technical Difficulties is more like a Greek Trireme. Its seaworthy, intimidating, and organized. The first time I laid eyes on the show's site, I cursed. My little boats couldn't stand up to this. Who were these guys? What were they doing with this big warship? Who the hell do they think they ARE?!?

Well, it turns out, Gabe, Erik and Potatowire are true craftsmen. Willing to share, eager to learn, and surprisingly humble. They built one of these triremes, and they're willing to share the blueprints with other shipbuilders.

Many of of us build a little boat, catch some fish, and then start scheming of ways to improve our nets and lines. Some of us just build more little boats.

These guys went the other way. They built a little boat. Caught some fish. And then they burned that first boat on the shore. Then they built a new, bigger, better boat. And that does perplex me a little bit. Their dedication to craft, rather than commerce, is rare.

They're certainly deserving of praise for what they've built, but thats not really the point of this episode.

Oh Hai! 

Oh Hai! 

Its more like this:

Imagine you're a citizen of some importance in a little Mediterranean city-state. Your boats are important to you. For commerce and defense. And all of a sudden, theres a big, tar-black warship sitting in the bay. Its not flying a flag. Its just sitting there.

What are you going to do?

Episode Links:

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A Toe In The Living Room with Josh Centers

Josh Centers is the managing editor of TidBITS and the author of the just-published Take Control of Apple TV. He stopped by to talk about making the most of Apple's mysterious hockey puck.

The Apple TV may be the smallest component of a home entertainment system, but its size is in stark contrast to the vast quantity of content that it can bring to life through your television.

Show Notes:

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Podcasts Have A Serious Reach Problem with Zac Cichy

Zac Cichy returns to round out the first season of PTS. We discuss a number of topics: quitting Red Bull after some serious health issues, the long-awaited launch of Whole & Part, podcast transcription and theories about the future of wearables. 

A transcript of part of the discussion about podcast transcription. How meta:

[50:55]
Ben: They're competing with apps. They're competing for three minutes of someones time and you're putting something out there thats an hour.

Zac: Yeah.

Ben: To get them in the door. To me thats whats interesting and what the big problem seems to be - getting your foot in the door so someone will give you any, any of their time at all before you ask for hours of it. And its, its tough.

But what you're doing that I really like are these transcriptions.

Zac: Yeah, the idea sort of came about because I had this crazy idea of creating full blown transcriptions of The Menu Bar every week. And we may do that, we may not. Its a lot of work. Any time you do transcriptions you have to figure it'll take 3, 4, 5 times the amount of time as it takes you to listen to the episode. And a lot of shows we they tend to be over an an hour long.

You're talking about sitting down for 4 to 5 hours just to do a transcription. At least to do it well. You could probably blow through it a lot quicker but there would be a lot of errors.

Ben: And its hard to automate.

Zac: Its nearly impossible from what I can tell. One trick that you could do, is if its a podcast, say its me and Andrew. If we have Dragon Dictate on our computers and Dragon has gotten to know our voices. Then, then you can kind of automate it. But the problem is you can't just take random audio from just anybody where something like Dragon hasn't gotten to know you.

You can't just take that throw it in and expect to get good results. 

Ben: I tried that. I played around with that, with automating some slicing up in Logic.

Zac: Yes.

Ben: I didn't have Dragon, so I tried just using Dictation and it was awful and I figured out that would be the problem. And theres another problem that you still need to check it. Thats still where it takes time anyway. And you're still going to have the ums and ahs. 

Zac: Right. So I mean there's been a few times where you and I've kinda  talked over each other a little bit, and you have to make a decision if you're doing a transcription whether you're going to leave it in or leave it out and splice it up in some other way. And thats a thing that with a computer, no matter what, we're not there yet. We don't have AI that can parse that stuff.

Yeah, it becomes pretty much necessary to just do it the old fashioned way. Go through and play, rewind, play rewind, play rewind.

Ben: But thats just it, thinking about the limitations and the focus. Thats whats interesting to me, I think I mentioned this in the post I wrote the other day is I think it what you're doing may be better than putting the whole thing up. I would rather you take the time to think about whats really good and you can present a thing, or three things that can be a lead in.

Zac: Sure, um, yeah, the problem is in an ideal world, where is everything as I want it to be - what would be great is to have an app that had a full transcription of every single episode and a perfect timestamp of everything. Kindle audiobooks actually do this now, it tracks along with speech. 

And it works very well, in fact I need to look into that its very clever.

But yeah I mean in an ideal world thats how podcasts would be. Because... podcasts have a serious reach problem. Nobody has any good data on this. Nobody knows how much podcasts have grown over the past few years. I suspect that its grown but nobody knows really how much. 

Who's really getting into them? It seems to me its still geeks and nerds for the most part that still get into it. Maybe we're attracting even more geeks and nerds. But as far as everybody else podcasts still aren't even a blip on most peoples radar. 

So yeah, transcription is definitely one thing that I think could help with that. So thats what I've been doing. Any time I'm listening to a show and theres one bit that I think is particularly good, like with The Prompt there was a part where Federico rants a little bit about Google and I thought that was just a really good chunk and I decided "OK, I'm just gonna go through and timecode this and transcribe it."

Its a different kind of way to do a like a link blog I think. Its a different kind of content I don't think people have really seen before. And yeah it provide value to - I have a lot of followers on Twitter who say they just don't listen to podcasts. Maybe they don't have time, but  they do feel like they're missing out on things.

And really its no one takes the time to sit there and transcribe this stuff. And really, with good reason, its takes time. Its not easy.

Creativity Is A Traumatic Experience with Andrew J Clark

Andrew J Clark is a man of many talents. He's a film editor, an animator, a motion designer, a podcaster and recently a programmer.  You may know him from The Menu Bar Podcast, which he produces and cohosts with Zac Cichy.

At the time of this interview he had just wrapped up The Andrew J Cast, a surprisingly personal and introspective daily podcast. We recorded on New Years Eve 2013  so the conversation naturally gravitated to a discussion of endings and beginnings. 

Show Notes

What's Next? with Andrew Baker

Friend of the show Andrew Baker returns for a discussion about the changing nature of education, some thinking about technological generations and tribalism, and how platforms mean different things to different people.

Show Notes

  • Seeing What's Next - Horace Dediu's fantastic illustration of the way different technologies have been adopted over the past hundred or so years.
  • The Critical Path 102 - Episode of TCP to go along with the above post. 
  • Andrew's Website - Andrew's excellent website. He's got some new projects in the works but until those are live you should find his stuff here. Check it out!