The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

The podcast-listener’s dilemma

Thursday, June 17, 2010, 13:15
Section: Arts & Entertainment,Geek

I’ve been thinking about podcasts a lot recently.

For one thing, Peter and I are talking about bringing back the Hesperia Star podcast, which ended in 2005, before most people even knew what a podcast was.

For another, I looked at my “Top 100” smart playlist in iTunes, which tracks the 100 songs I’ve listened to the most in the current calendar year, and I noticed that, other than about 28 songs or so, I’ve rarely listened to the same song more than once this year. I realized that’s because I’m now up to more than six hours of podcasts a day on my iPod/iPhone, and some days, more than 10.

I think podcasts are great, and provide the sort of democratization of broadcast media that HTML pages first provided for print media years before. Just like anyone can now write a newsletter or newspaper (even if they’re called blogs) and have it posted online, there are much fewer barriers to entry to someone who’s always wanted to be a broadcaster.

Naturally, the best podcasts are by the pros — NPR and affiliate station KCRW pretty much school everyone in the podcasting world, and even podcasting maven Leo Laporte got his start in radio — but there are also plenty of good ones, especially music shows, created by fans-turned-podcasting pros.

But there are a lot of fan or amateur podcasts that I’d love to listen to, but can’t, because they’re so, so long. I keep running into this with World of Warcraft podcasts, but, looking through iTunes, the problem seems to transcend all genres.

Far be it from me to dampen the enthusiasm of amateur podcasters, but I’d listen to a lot more podcasts if I didn’t have to commit an hour (or even up to two hours) to listening to a rambling, unfocused podcast (sometimes with all of the technical snafus left in), instead of several tighter podcasts instead.

I intend to practice what I preach: If we do revive the Hesperia Star podcast, I’ll be pushing to make it either a 15 or 30-minute production, with dedicated amounts of time for various categories of discussion. All it will take is a stopwatch and a merciless hand on the editing controls in Garage Band.

Douglas Adams on the Internet and technology

Thursday, April 1, 2010, 14:17
Section: Geek

This is a fascinating piece from 1999 on the Internet — hilariously viewed as a fad by one BBC journalist, and I knew others at that same time who felt the same — and technology, by my hero, the late, great Douglas Adams.

Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.

His final comments, about what will be coming next (from the standpoint of 1999) were incredibly prescient.

Wired preps an iPad edition

Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 14:56
Section: Geek,Journalism

I’m not sure if this is practical for everyone — I’m curious how much more time this adds to the layout guys’ workload — but it’ll certainly be interesting to see a rich media version of a “print” product. Hopefully I’ll be able to borrow an iPad and check it out later this year.

My iPhone apps, February 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010, 11:07
Section: Geek

Main screen of my iPhonePeter just got an iPhone — which is especially good for him, since he’s a Mac guy, and the calendar and contacts will automatically sync up with the Apple applications on his home computer — and I figured it might be worth listing what apps I’m currently using on my iPhone. Note that these aren’t all in alphabetical order, because I’m going screen by screen (I use three screens) and some of the apps are in there as ways to distract James.

* Facebook – Free, and arguably better than the actual Web client
* Pennies – Low-cost (I don’t remember the exact cost), and a not terribly detailed budgeting tool. My only gripe with it is that it’s based around a monthly budget and automatically resets the money available on the first of each month.
* Stylebook – The AP Stylebook, on my phone. It’s not super-fast on the iPhone 3G (to put it mildly) and it costs real money, but it’s extremely useful for a working journalist.
* Tipulator – For the lazy people like me, who don’t want to engage their brains when splitting complicated checks. Great graphical user interface. Low cost.
* Twitterific – An ad-supported Twitter client that can handle multiple accounts. So I can switch between my personal account and the Hesperia Star’s account at will.
* Wikipanion – A very nice Wikipedia client (and much easier than reading it via the Safari Web browser). The free one, which I use, doesn’t save data for offline viewing, so the paid one is probably a better choice for iPod Touch users.


As if there weren’t enough issues facing the newspaper industry …

Tuesday, January 5, 2010, 10:47
Section: Arts & Entertainment,Geek,Journalism

You also have to watch out for supervillains destroying your building. Ironically, the newspaper bailout that Electro was apparently so mad about apparently stands little chance of happening in real life. (I couldn’t even find any news references to it after September 2009, which doesn’t exactly suggest it’s still chugging along on Capitol Hill.)

Although J. Jonah Jameson’s newsroom was supposed to be a scary environment for Peter Parker, even as a kid, I realized that the Daily Bugle was a heck of a lot more realistic than the bland Daily Planet that Clark Kent worked at. Jameson and much of the rest of the staff are pretty recognizable newsroom staples, to the extent that I suspect a lot more people with actual knowledge of newsrooms have written stories relating to the Bugle than ever have dealt with the Planet.

Of course, this is comics, after all, where Superman can die, Batman can get his spine snapped, get better, and then later die, and eventually, it all works out. So the Bugle will be back in some form, eventually. Hopefully not as a TV station, which some fans seem to think is a more realistic choice — the issues of Amazing Spider-Man leading up to the Bugle’s destruction in December talked about the state of the newspaper industry repeatedly — when broadcast news is also facing its own substantial challenges. The folks at Marvel Comics’ House of Ideas will probably have to come up with a novel solution all their own on how to revitalize the Daily Bugle — and, frankly, the newspaper industry could use the help in that regard.


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Veritas odit moras.