Still thinking

I’m still rolling around this podcast idea. I need something with enough of a hook to it that people would be interested in hearing it, and maybe even contributing to a Kickstarter – something more than “John rambles on in a stream of consciousness” – but something that would give me the freedom to cover a lot of topics. I don’t want to do anything locally-oriented that would conflict with my day job. I feel like there’s some hook to it, and if I can just figure out what it is, I could put together a pilot episode and maybe put it on Kickstarter.

more podcast thoughts

I’m still thinking about the podcast idea I discussed over the weekend.

By way of research, I just got through listening to about half of a podcast episode by Josh Robert Thompson, a talented comedian best known as the voice of robot skeleton “Geoff Peterson” on the Craig Ferguson show. It was, in some ways, an amazing piece of work — he dropped his regular podcast format and co-host for a week and recorded a stream of consciousness completely by himself in the middle of a sleepless night. It was a high-wire act.

But on the other hand, it was, well, kind of arrogant and unlikable. Thompson went off on a rant responding to negative Internet commenters. I know how frustrating people like that can be, but in this case I’m not one of the naysayers to whom he was referring and so it wasn’t particularly interesting or useful for me to hear him ramble on and on about how he doesn’t care what anyone else, except the producers and the host, thinks of his performance on the “Late Late Show.” This was one of those cases where, even when I agreed with the content of what he was saying, his tone in saying it was scolding and defensive. He had this condescending little chuckle after some sentences that just got under my skin.

This is *not* how I would want my podcast to sound.

Next project

Excuse me a minute – I’ll get right back to writing this blog post as soon as I study my lines ….

…oh, right. The play closed last night. My schedule has suddenly opened up considerably.

So, what’s next? This is November, and there have been many years lately when I’ve done National Novel Writing Month. Today is only the third, and I could probably start today and make up the lost ground. But I’m just not inspired for NaNoWriMo this year. I don’t have a good jumping-off point, and I don’t have the fire in the belly for it.

What I’ve been thinking about is what I was thinking about around this time two years ago: a podcast. I even went so far as to record a pilot episode back then, featuring my old friend from college Peter Smith. But nothing ever came of it. I also, just as another way of having fun with audio, read the public domain “Gift of the Magi” and posted it online last year as an audio Christmas card. I even used the open source audio editing software Audacity to combine different takes and take out some of the excess “uh”s and “um”s.

The pilot episode I did with Peter was for an interview podcast on faith issues. I figured that if I could ever get something launched, that might be more marketable. But what I really want to do is something a little more rambling, a little more wide-ranging, something fun.

I just don’t know exactly what it is.

Because there are some special costs associated with podcasting – such as hosting of large audio files and bandwidth – I think I have to come up with something interesting and unique enough that I could maybe do a Kickstarter or something like that to raise money.

I’m going to give it some thought.

Another podcast update

Well, I’ve finally got a name for the podcast – which I’m not going to tell you yet. I’ve even got theme music, thanks to a site called JewelBeat which sells royalty-free music at very inexpensive prices.

I’m trying to get in touch with a friend of mine who’d agreed months ago to be a guest on the podcast to see if I can line up an interview with him for my pilot episode.

On the downside, I was taking a second look at the prices at the site I planned to use for my hosting today, and comparing them to estimated file sizes, and got some bad news. The site offers unlimited bandwidth (which is good) but regulates your usage by only allowing you to upload a limited amount of content each month, depending on which plan you’ve chosen.

Because (except for my jazzy theme music) my podcast will just be people talking, I’ll be able to use a low bit rate, for the highest level of compression. Podcasts that play a lot of music need to use a higher bit rate in order to ensure better sound quality.

My vision up to this point was for a half-hour weekly podcast. And I’d hoped that the podcast would be relaxed enough that, unlike a radio show, we could be flexible enough to run longer or shorter depending on the discussion. But a half-hour a week, at the highest level of compression, would put me over the limit for the cheapest hosting plan.

So my options are for a shorter podcast – 20 minutes a week, 25 at most – or a less-frequent podcast (a bad idea in terms of encouraging regular listeners) – or going up to the next level of  hosting, which is more than I think I’ll be able to raise in tip jar contributions.

But I won’t have to make a decision until I’m ready to start on a regular weekly basis. Maybe the pilot episode will help me make this call. Maybe 20 minutes will seem like plenty, and I’ll decide to go that route for the time being. Or maybe I’ll decide to just wait for a while.

Podcast update

I’ve been saying all year, actually since late in 2010, that I want to start an interview podcast on faith issues some time in 2011. I haven’t gotten there yet. But I am looking at perhaps producing a pilot episode some time soon. I could use this to raise awareness of the upcoming podcast (and perhaps connect it to a PayPal or Amazon tip jar, to raise money for the hosting provider I want to use), but it would also be a great thing to have in my portfolio, to show my abilities in new media.

One problem, and this seems like a silly thing, is that I still haven’t come up with just the right name – unique, easy to spell and remember, and descriptive of what this podcast is all about. The podcast will, I hope, feature intelligent, open-minded conversation on what it means to be a Christian in a seemingly post-Christian world. Every time I come up with a name I really like, I Google it and find some existing media brand or product that might potentially cause confusion.

Hopefully, I’ll come up with something soon. Meanwhile, I’ve found some software for recording Skype calls that seems like a good solution for conducting my interviews.

By the way, I used the term “podcast” above for clarity, but I’m thinking I may follow Leo Laporte’s lead and refer to the project as a “netcast.” Leo, who struggles with getting non-tech types turned on to what’s available in online programming, thinks “podcasting” is out-of-date and misleading, since some technophobes seem to think a podcast can only be listened to on an iPod.

A chili conundrum

Is chili a type of soup, or does it stand on its own as a unique product? Only one man has the wisdom to decide … Judge John Hodgman.

Literary editor-turned-humorist John Hodgman (the Daily Show’s “resident expert,” and the PC in those old “I’m a Mac…” “… and I’m a PC” ads) had been doing “Judge John Hodgman” as an occasional segment on the “Jordan, Jesse, Go!” podcast, but now it’s been spun off into its own separate show.

Podcast update

Well, I’m still researching the idea of a podcast. I think it’s doable, although to do it right there would be a few modest expenses, such as podcast hosting, a dedicated domain name just for the podcast, and software for recording Skype calls. That probably means I have to wait until some time after the holidays.

I’m thinking of something that would involve interviews on various faith-related issues, including (but by no means limited to) the intersection between faith and popular culture. I’ve come up with some ideas of my own, and Donna Brock was kind enough to make a few suggestions as a comment on my original post. I’m thinking these interviews would be about a half-hour in length, although the nice thing about a podcast as opposed to a radio program is that the length can be flexible. I might also contribute a few thoughts of my own, especially if an interview turns out to be shorter than anticipated.

I would start out with just an audio podcast, although if it is successful, I could easily use Skype and webcams to produce a low-tech video version.

I need a good title, one that would lend itself to a good domain name.

If this eventually comes together, I’ll need a lot of help getting the word out at first. There’s no point in doing a podcast if no one is going to listen. Smile

I was joking

A couple of people took my post about podcasting a little more seriously than I intended it.

I was listening to Jesse Thorn’s “Jordan, Jesse, Go!” podcast at MaximumFun.org. I had previously heard Thorn’s interview series “The Sound of Young America,” which is both a podcast and, in some areas, a public radio program. I was unfamiliar with “Jordan, Jesse, Go!”, in which Thorn and co-host Jordan Morris, plus a guest, can ramble on at length, without worrying about the radio time slot (or, apparently, about a censor).

Of course, I’ve long been a fan of Leo Laporte and his podcasts at This Week In Tech.

I was just playfully saying that it would be fun to have podcasting as a job. I don’t have a good idea for a podcast at present, nor do I have the tech to do a professional-sounding podcast right now.

I grew up in radio, as many of you know; I worked at WHAL-AM starting at the age of 15, and I worked in radio for a year after college.

Some years back, I hosted a regular Wednesday night talk show on WZNG-AM (the successor to WHAL-AM). I enjoyed it, and would probably have kept doing it, but it became a burden to book guests — it seemed as if I was always coming down to the wire — and the owners of the station said they’d start paying me once they sold all four sponsor positions in the show, and it didn’t look like that was going to happen. I didn’t mind doing the show for free, and I didn’t mind having trouble booking guests, but I minded the two of them together.

I think I would enjoy doing a podcast at some point — but I’d have to have a focus for it, and a way of talking to guests, and some idea that anyone would actually listen to the thing. I’m not Leo Laporte, who has a wealth of tech information and can carry a show by himself — only he doesn’t have to, at least not on “This Week In Tech,” because he has so many contacts in the tech industry whom he can bring on as panelists.