Listen Up! A Cornucopia of Podcasts

Back in 2009, I wrote about podcasts and how much I liked them. I felt compelled to because I’d been listening to podcasts for years already and had gained so much from them. Surprisingly, most of the shows I listed back then are still around and several of the remain relevant to me.

Since then, beginning with the wildly popular Serial, the podcast landscape has changed dramatically. The audience has grown easily tenfold, the number of shows has exploded, and the caliber and professionalism has transformed market. Many of the podcasts on my old post were either just recordings of existing radio programs, or produced by enthusiastic amateurs. Now, real money is being made through advertising and/or direct listener support. Now many shows are part of fledgling networks of shows such as Gimlet Media and Panoply.

Additionally, now there are podcasts about podcasts, how to make podcasts, and how to market and make MONEY from podcasts. There are newsletters that review or promote podcasts they have discovered and some podcasts are crossing over to TV and movies!

I have become so enamored of the medium I’ve wanted to start my own and even have made moves in that direction. But I may be spending too much time listening to make one. It’s a lot more work writing, recording and editing a show than just putting in the earbuds and hopping on the elliptical at the gym. Still, the pull is there. I may get it done one day.

The Main Podcasts

Until I do, here’s a list of some of my current favorites if you’re looking for recommendations. These are in no particular order. My actual subscription list is much much longer. So this is just the current highlights. These are the podcasts  for which I eagerly await every episode. I time my workouts and bike rides around them. They make me laugh out loud, cry, and ponder. Often all in the same episode. I rate and review them on iTunes and I support them financially when I can.

Juts a note: I link to the websites of each show rather than to the iTunes source since you may want to use another tool for listening like Stitcher. And the websites often have lots of additional information and resources surrounding the shows.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: Hardcore is right. I recently finished listening to a single, 6 hour episode called The Celtic Holocaust! Well researched deep dives into a section of history, old school style: Just Carlin, talking in to a microphone. No whiz bang production, music, sound effects. But each episode is so well-written and spoken, it’s hard to stop listening.

Very Bad Wizards: Two guys, one a professor of psychology, one a professor of philosophy, take on a variety of gnarly topics of morality, reality, and pop culture. Tamler Sommers (philosophy) and David Pizarro (psychology) make the discussion of these potetnially weighty topics not so heavy. In fact, they are really entertaining.

Waking Up with Sam Harris: Harris is a neuroscientist, philosopher and author. These long, in-depth interviews with writers and thinkers from many disciplines is consistently challenging, stimulating and often spell-binding. I have purchased and read several books after listening to episodes.

Left, Right and Center: An oldie (it was on my original list) but goodie. The show features commentator of various political leanings in discussion about the current news. Through the years of listening, the personnel has changed and the show has expanded from a half hour to an hour. But the consistency has remained.

On the Media: Another long standing favorite, this show gets to the heart of so much of what we are bombarded with in the news and public affairs. Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield are skeptics of much of what is produced by the media and they dig in to stories that illuminate the otherwise dark corners of our shaped reality.

Crime Writers On: Four writers have a fun and fascinating conversation on true crime, fictional crime, crime podcasts and TV shows, criminal justice and aspects of pop culture. I’ve been a fan of crime fiction and true crime stories for years and that’s what drew me to this show. But the conversation, led by Rebecca Lavoie with her boisterous and infectious laugh, touches on so many issues I always come away entertained and informed.

The Gist: Mike Pesca used to be a sports commentator on NPR. That’s how I knew him, anyway. But he broke the bondage of sports to sport his own podcast about, well, whatever Mike wants to talk about. He usually has an opener on a topic in the new, then an interview, then a kind of rant he calls the spiel. 30 minutes, but the guy can talk fast, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Often very funny, and always insightful.

 

Microphone and Headset
Very Bad Wizards
Waking Up: Sam Harris
Left, Right and Center
Crime Writers On
The Gist with Mike Pesca

Special Mentions

I linked to Serial above. The original season was a fantastically told story of a murder and trial that took place in Baltimore. This series really did help change the face of podcasting in its themes, writing, and production values. Season two was good, but not nearly as compelling. It’s unclear if there will be another season and if so, when. But the producers created another true crime podcast called S-Town (actually it’s Shit Town, but for some reason they blushingly use the lame obfuscation in the title). S-Town, takes you into the world of rural, small town America. The storyteller is a producer on This American Life and it’s as much about his own journey as it is the incredible characters he encounters in Shit Town.

Hi Phi Nation: Another philosophy based podcast but here, ideas are explored through real life stories and interviews. Host Barry Lam has a knack for pulling out thoughtful questions and themes and pointing us to further reading and exploring. There have only been 10 episodes their blog promises a new season sometime, “late fall”.

The Daily: A relatively new podcast from the New York Times, the Daily (it’s really not daily, only on weekdays) focuses on one or two main stories from the paper, and then a short summary of other important news. All about 30 minutes.

Origin Stories: New to my list of must listens, this show produced by the Leakey Foundation is, as their site describes: “…about what it means to be human and the science behind what we know about ourselves and our origins.”  If you like science and how it can help us inform who we are, this is worth your time.

I could go on. And on, and on. As I say, my list is rather long. But enough about ME. I would love to hear you opinions on these or any other show or podcast resources. Feel free to comment.

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The Perils and Joys of Twitter

TwitterI’m an early adopter of Twitter and I really liked it when I started. Then I sort of just forgot about it for a couple years. I can’t really explain my neglect. I think I just got distracted by exploring all the other tools that developed, including, the Facebook monster.

Recently I have gone back to Twitter,  started to get involved again, and am remembering why I was originally drawn to this particular social media platform. From the beginning, Twitter’s structure has made it challenging to understand for the casual user. The open API adds another level of complexity with lots of third party apps building on top of Twitter adding functionality.

Th ability to direct Tweets at other users by including their handles, the hashtag (#) system allowing for Tweets to be discovered by others and categorizing content creates the possibility for a great amount of interaction between people of all types, not just your “friends” on Facebook.

The same features that can make Twitter feel like a worldwide open discussion also allow for trolls a bots to shadow that world. These things can make Twitter seem like a mean and frightening place. Many well-intentioned people have been driven off Twitter by its dark side. So, if you decide to play in that schoolyard you may need to arm your heart agains the bullies.

The complexity, the seeming chaos, the potiential threats, virtual and real life that can emerge, are all reasons that are probably why Twitter’s user numbers continue to struggle compared the anodyne but seemingly magnetic Facebook. But if you can wrap your arms and mind around all that, it can be a fascinating, exciting and fun place. This time around, I can’t seem to stay away for long. A day off Twitter and I fall victim to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). My fingers begin to twitch.

Still, I think of myself as a novice. Features have been added since I first started years ago. The third-party tools have changed. New strategies and techniques that I had never heard of have evolved. I barely have enough time to stumble around in the platform, let alone make a concerted effort to study the techniques for effect particiapation.

One of my stumbles forward was when I made the following post after listening to a podcast about free speech. Shortly after finishing the episode I saw a related news story and tweeted the participants in the podcast about that story.

This post caught the eye of many people. It was retweeted many times, “liked” (thes heart icon) by hundreds and a conversation with many, many people (the cartoon talk bubble icon) involved for about two weeks. Given the average life span on a Twitter news feed is about 20 minutes, this was astounding, at least for me.

It’s difficult to say what triggered this reaction. Probably, it was a perfect combination of the topic (free speech is a hot topic on Twitter), including the two Twitter handles of the people involved in the podcast and the news item about Richard Dawkins having his talk at U.C. Berkeley cancelled.

I’ve yet to recreate the success of this Tweet. I don’t consciously set out to do so. But it is in the back of my mind as I fumble my way. Since I do use the platform to also talk about my business, perhaps it’s time to learn, to make an effort to be more systematic, strategic and effective. If you’re on Twitter (and I encourage you to be), please follow me and see how I do. I will follow you back. Promise!

Roadside Assistance

Roadside Assistance

Travelling can be fun. It can also be fraught with trouble and misshaps, especially when you depend on technology to keep your life and work moving while on the road.

My work is all on line. So communication and work tools (phone, iPad, laptop) are essential. Two days into this road trip to Colorado I dropped my iPhone on a cement slab while trying to take a picture of a Clive Bundy supporter’s pickup at a rest stop in Nevada.

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The screen was shattered. While the phone still worked, I knew it could easily deteriorate with dust or water getting in through the cracks. So, using my phone I made an appt. at an Apple store outside Salt Lake City. It got resolved ($280 later) and we were back on the road pretty much on schedule.

Today, I did an OS update on my MacBook Pro. I downloaded the update through the App Store and set the thing to reboot while I went out for a run. When I returned, the thing wouldn’t boot. So, it’s back to another Apple Store this afternooon.

Update

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Absorbed by the Borg

Absorbed by the Borg

We Are All Datamovestoday

Already we feel compelled to post so much of what we do on Facebook in order to validate our activities or to prove how active we are or what scrumptious meals we make. We share our photos, our thoughts, our blog posts. We all (well not all are on Facebook [yet] and Facebook users are not equally compulsive [yet], I realize I am using hyperbole, but it’s getting harder to avoid, is it not?), OK, I do this.

And it’s not just what you normally think of as Facebook. The corporation is sucking in other tools that can be used to share your life data. I’m looking at you Instagram. Now comes news that FB has purchased the activity tracker Moves.

UPDATE: Moves just published its new Privacy Policy. As expected, here’s the relevant piece:

  • We may share information, including personally identifying information, with our Affiliates (companies that are part of our corporate groups of companies, including but not limited to Facebook) to help provide, understand, and improve our Services.

“…improve our Services…” can be very broadly interpreted.

We Are All Product

Moves tracks where you go, how fast you go and how long it took you to go there. To the right is an example of my activity for Saturday, April 26, 2014. It graphs that activity to mapping software as well. So, now Facebook knows that much more about me going back to June of last year since the app is in my phone and my phone is with me almost all the time.

While Facebook says it will not integrate Moves, Instagram, WhatsApp and other recently acquire tools into its social graph directly, this doesn’t preclude it from sucking the accumulated data into its vast maw and getting it to line up with all the other stuff I have voluntarily shared. And they can use that data in all sorts of ways to make money. I am the product. We are all the product.

Rage Against the Machine?

I’m really not sure how to think about this. I like Facebook. I love Moves. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of knowledge that Facebook gathers about me. Every time I login somewhere else using Facebook or even just browse the web Facebook is tracking.

And it’s not just Facebook, though it’s arguably the most successful behemoth. The Internet is awash with applications and  companies gathering and sharing my data. It’s huge business.

I could unplug. But since I make my living on the Internet, that’s not very practical. I could use counter measures and tools to protect my privacy, but that in itself could be at least a part-time job. Maybe I worry to much. Maybe, instead, I should relax as we will soon have reached that new Eden that Richard Brautigan wrote about in 1967:

“I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

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How are you handling your data/privacy in this brave new world? Comment! Please…

 

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Net Non-Neutrality

Update: If you’d like to comment on the new FCC proposed policy, the comment period is open.

I Loves Me Some Netflix. But Come ON!

When Netflix signed a deal with Comcast to pay them extra for faster, more consistent content delivery it was understandable from a business point of view. But it was clear that it violated the principle of network neutrality and that consumers were going to pay for it one way or another.Netflix

Sure enough, Netflix just announced it is going to raise rates for new customers, and while existing customers won’t see their rates change for now, as Netflix strikes the same bargains with other service providers it’s bound to happen that all our rates will go up.

FCC: Throwing in the Towel

And guess what, now that the Appeals Court ruled the FCC doesn’t have the authority to enforce Network Neutrality, the FCC has simply decided aw what the heck. Let’s just say we can have multi-tiered service after all.

I think the writing is on the wall. Cable providers are going to continue lose subscribers because of their high cost and bundled packages. People are going to use Netflix, Amazon Prime (which just signed a deal with HBO to stream older content), and Hulu through a Roku or Apple TV device, paying small fees to multiple services in lieu of high fees to a single source.

At least that’s where I’m headed. But then I fear the cable companies will start jacking up Internet service rates. So, we people at the bottom of the food chain will get bit in the ass one way or another.

 

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Rifting on Oculus Rift

Rifting on Oculus Rift

If you haven’t heard of the Oculus Rift, it’s a newly developed 3D virtual reality device that sits on your face like a large pair of goggles. It’s said to be immersive and quite amazing even at this early stage. It garnered a great deal of attention a few months ago, and then, when Facebook bought it for 2 billion dollars, even more press.

Without personally having the Oculus experience it’s hard to know what the excitement is all about. But clearly something is going on. Then I read this article about an elderly woman diagnosed with cancer, and having a wonderful experience just walking through a demo of a Tuscany village.

The story points the way to future possible uses of such technology beyond gaming. And then I got to imagining a care home where instead of a room full of elderly folks staring at Jeopardy on TV, all the old folks are sitting around with Oculus goggles being tended to by robots made in Japan. They are swaying, and oohing and aahing at the worlds they are experiencing. The robots put ice tea in their hands but it’s not used to wash down a fistful of medications.

Gosh, am I imagining my own future? Could be worse, I guess.