How I Make Podcasts

My cohosts on both shows and I are often asked about our podcasting rigs. To be honest, there’s not a lot of magic behind what we do, other than really giving a crap. Much like a good photographer, a good podcaster isn’t defined by their equipment. Doubly so once you’ve reached something nicer than a phone’s camera, or a phone’s earbud microphone.

I’m not trying to justify any of this as the right nor best approach. I’m not saying that for your voice either of these microphones makes sense. I’m simply answering the question “What do you use?”.

Home Rig

Home Hardware

Beginning with ATP #92, I am now using the following, which Marco recommended to me:

I also continue to use a couple items from my original setup:

Mobile Hardware

For nearly the first two years of my podcasting career, I used a different setup at home. This has now been demoted to my mobile rig, in the rare occasion when I want to record while traveling.

If you’re just getting into podcasting, I can’t recommend the Rode Booming Kit enough to get you started at home. You’ll sound professional without (completely) breaking the bank.

An alternative, which John uses and the Wirecutter recommends, is the Shure PG42-USB. It’s basically the same money as the Rode Podcaster, but it comes with a shock mount, pop filter, and desk stand.

For me, this is my mobile setup:

Software

The software I use isn’t that exciting. As many others do, I wish there was something purpose-built for podcasting, but there isn’t yet.

  • Skype to actually call each other
  • Piezo to record my end of the call directly off the mic
  • Skype Call Recorder to record both ends of the call, usually for redundancy

Additionally, I’ll also have open while recording:

When doing my side of the edit (more on this below), I simply use QuickTime Player and TextEdit to take notes.

Workflow

Generally speaking, for ATP, the workflow is as follows:

Wednesday Night: We record the show

Thursday: Marco merges the tracks and does a rough edit. This includes cutting out crosstalk. Sometimes cutting cross-talk means muting one of us. Sometimes it means spacing out what we say so instead of being simultaneous, we’re now taking turns, thanks to the magic of editing.

Marco will also insert sound effects for swear words, as well as occasionally add some editing flair all his own. He will cut whole segments that are uninteresting or not worth including in the released episode. Finally, he adds the theme song and picks out pre- and post-show clips, and adds them in the appropriate places.

Friday Morning: I listen to the show, at 1x, and take note of any edit points I think he should consider. This is usually background noise like someone sipping a drink, or dropping something. Very occasionally, I’ll ask him to edit for content, on behalf of any one of us.

While I’m doing the edit, I also write a draft of the show notes in Markdown using Squarespace‘s editor. We really do host ATP’s site on Squarespace. If you’d like to try it out, you may find that offer code ATP will save you 10%.

Friday Afternoon: I send my edits to Marco, who makes final changes. He’ll upload the file to Libsyn, make any changes to the show notes, and then post the episode.


For Analog(ue), we follow the same general workflow. We record on Thursdays, I listen to the copy of the show from Call Recorder, and then get edits to Myke by Sunday morning. He’ll then splice together the pieces and post the show by Sunday evening. Myke also tends to handle curating the show notes, as he’s impossibly fast at getting links together while we’re talking.

Advertising

  • ATP’s ad sales are handled by The Standard.
    • We manage what spots are bought, paid, available, and who is owed what using a custom and proprietary piece of software that Marco wrote.
  • Analog(ue)’s ad sales are handled by the Relay team and in small part by The Midroll.

Where’s the Magic?

Like I said above, nothing here is really magical. The magic for both shows is giving a crap.

Many of my podcasting friends think we’re nuts to insist on going through the episode and trying to cut out cross-talk, odd background noises, et cetera. They may be right — it may not be worth all the extra time and effort. I admire the fact that, in many cases, they can post their shows within a couple hours of airing. They give a crap about timeliness.

To us, though, we see it differently. We don’t give (as much of) a crap about timeliness. We’d rather have something that sounds the way we want it to. So, we take the time to do what amounts to three edits: one to splice things together, one to mark any garbage points, and one to clean up the garbage. I can honestly say that I think ATP and Analog(ue) sound the best among their peers. You may never be able to tell the difference, and that’s okay with me.

Each side has its advantages; it’s up to you to decide what you think is best for you and your show.


Everything is Relative

I debated all day whether to write this post.

I wasn’t sure if I had an angle, or if it is appropriate to call attention to something so sad.

Yet, here I am.


When Erin and I were going through our issues, it often seemed like we had it worse than everyone else. If you listen, you can hear that come through in the post. Nevertheless, we often reminded each other — even as we were on the verge of giving up — that we are very lucky. We’re lucky to have a roof over our heads, food on our plates, a great group of friends, and wonderful families.

We’re not the only ones that tried to keep the positive attitude in the face of adversity. My friend Stephen and his family have kept perspective even during really tough times:

I know we’re the lucky ones. I’ve seen way too many child-sized coffins over the last five years. Josiah has lost too many friends to [childhood cancer].


Our lives are busy, and I’m not very good at keeping up with old friends. In fact, there are only two friends that I can think of that I’ve held onto from when I was in elementary school. One, my dear friend Brad, I am lucky enough to be able to see every June when I go to San Francisco.

The other is Marco.

I’m not sure if I met Brad or Marco first, but I’ve known them both around the same amount of time. Considerably more than any other friends I have.


Today I read “Lost“, and was really saddened. I knew what was going on with our dear friends Marco and Tiff, but reading Marco’s post still makes me upset.

I admire, however, that they are putting this into the universe. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do. But most of all, I admire this:

We’re extremely fortunate to have one kid already — that’s infinitely more than a lot of people get, and I never forget that. And he’s awesome, which is even luckier.

When you’re in the heat of the moment, your perspective makes you think that your reality is so much worse than everyone else’s. As it turns out, there’s always something to be thankful for.


Heroku ➕ Dropbox = ❤️

For the last few weeks, I’ve been beta testing a new feature from Heroku. The smart folks over at Heroku have enabled Dropbox integration for repositories hosted there.

While that may not make a lot of sense at first, it is in actuality an immensely powerful feature.

Being able to make changes to my repository — no Git client required — means I can make changes to my blog in my Dropbox, and those changes will propagate to Heroku. Furthermore, those changes will be automatically committed to my Git repository, as you’d expect.

This effectively solves my posting-while-mobile problem.

My mobile workflow is as follows:

  1. Open up a text editor that speaks Dropbox and Markdown. For me, that’s Byword.
  2. Add/edit the files that need updating
  3. Make sure those changes are saved to Dropbox
  4. Go to the Heroku Dashboard, find the app in question, and open the Code tab
  5. Add a commit message, and then click/tap Deploy

All told, these steps are the approximate equivalent of performing a git commit and a git push. It will cause your app to deploy itself using the changes you’ve made in Dropbox.

No ugly hacks required. That’s super awesome.

Finally, after I’ve pressed the Deploy button, when I’m back at my main workstation, I simply git pull to synchronize my local git repo with the changes made in Dropbox.

Though to be honest, there isn’t a hugely compelling reason to continue to use Git directly.

Good problem to have.


Net Neutrality is Important

My friend Stephen Hackett wrote a great post about net neutrality a couple days ago. It’s worth a read, as well as a watch of the CGP Grey video embedded within.

This part by Stephen really hit home for me:

Here’s the thing: I’m not special for making my living online. The Internet has allowed countless businesses to blossom, creating an untold number of jobs. These companies provide goods and services for millions of people, and not just in America.

Allowing a handful of the most powerful companies on the planet to control how information flows on the Internet is reckless at best. Considering ISPs spent $42 million from January to July this year on lobbying, reckless may be the wrong word.

Evil may be a better choice.


Appearance: MacStories Weekly

Everybody’s favorite Italian, Federico Viticci, asked me to share my iPhone’s home screen for this week’s edition of his weekly newsletter, MacStories Weekly.

This is the first time I’ve been asked to share my iPhone 6 home screen, so if you’re into that sort of thing, do check it out. As an added bonus, my dear friend _DavidSmith also has his home screen featured today.

Plus, because Federico is Federico, the rest of this week’s newsletter is excellent too. I use nearly all of the apps that he featured; they’re great.


School Installs Shooter Detection System

A school outside Boston has installed “active shooter” technology, which can detect the presence and location of gunfire:

In the live demonstration, the “gunman” entered the school armed with an assault rifle, opening fire with dummy rounds first in the school library then rampaging through hallways and classrooms. But he had only a few minutes to wreak havoc.

Smoke alarm-sized sensors installed in classrooms, hallways and other points throughout the building were activated by the sounds of gunfire, and police officers were immediately able to track his movements and quickly subdue him.

The technology was apparently developed for the military and is sold by the appropriately-named Shooter Detection Systems.

I find it absolutely stupefying that we’ve gotten to this point. However, the real kicker for me was this quote from the local police chief:

“Unfortunately, with school crisis situations, it’s about mitigating loss.”

I’m glad that we’ve gotten to the point that saving our children’s lives is now being described as “mitigating loss”.

UPDATED 12 November 2014 4:30 PM: As pointed out to me on Twitter, the “loss” referred to in the quote above is actually time, not lives. Oops. That makes me feel far better about the quote, but no better about the necessity for a shooter detection system.


Euphoria

I promise this blog won’t turn into a shrine to Declan, despite my every desire to do precisely that.

However, this picture I couldn’t resist sharing. Though I need to establish some context first.

Normally when a child is born, the child is placed directly onto the mother’s bosom. Shortly thereafter, the child breastfeeds for the first time, if he or she will be a breastfed baby. When Declan was first born, he was placed on Erin’s chest, but almost immediately, he was taken away to be examined.

Declan’s breathing was clearly labored and he wasn’t wailing like he should have been. Naturally, both Erin and I immediately started freaking out, though I tried to lock it up as best I could. Seeing a little newborn gas mask on Declan, and eventually a tube placed down his trachea to clear the fluid out, was challenging.

Welcome to parenthood.

As it turned out, Declan had inhaled a lot of amniotic fluid during labor. A visit from two NICU nurses, the aforementioned mask and tube, and an hour later, he was breathing better and was placed on Erin’s chest for “skin to skin”.

This picture was taken seconds after Declan was returned to Erin.

If you look closely (or click to enlarge), you can see the tear running down her cheek.

For the rest of my life, I don’t think I’ll be able to look at this picture without crying. It is, and very likely will remain, the best picture I’ve ever taken.


HyperCard and Personal Genesis

A few days ago, /. (yes, I still read /.) linked to a wonderful remembrance of HyperCard. It is a lovely article, that brought back quite a few memories.

Despite being an ardent Apple user today, I wasn’t until 2008.

Before that time, as a child of an IBM‘er, I grew up on ThinkPads. Some of the machines I had as a kid I still remember extremely fondly. The “butterfly“ was a gimmick, but a wonderful one. My T30 was my home server until I got my Synology around a year ago. Erin rocked my T60 until I recently bought her a MacBook Air.

This post isn’t about ThinkPads, though. It’s about HyperCard.

When I was in grade school, it was the time of Oregon Trail on the Apple ][. Moving on to middle school, the Macintosh was the de rigueur computer of the time.

Those Macs came with HyperCard.

As a kid with a keen interest in computers, but who had — at most — written a few lines of BASIC, HyperCard was amazing. I remember being mesmerized by it. As a middle schooler, I was able to write seemingly-complex programs stacks, all because of how easy and logical HyperCard was. The choose your own adventure games I wrote in HyperCard were surprisingly complete and pretty. (Later, I’d repeat the process using new tools with new friends.)

HyperCard was the perfect way to dip your toe into the pool of writing software. From the article:

HyperCard represented perhaps the bravest part of this ‘computing for the people’ philosophy, as it enabled users to go past the pre-built software that came on the machines, and to program and build software of their own.

Not to be pigeonholed into being a tool for amateurs, HyperCard was used in many professional settings. One of the most popular games of all time, Myst, was written in HyperCard.

If I were to pinpoint the genesis of my career as a developer, fumbling about with HyperCard may have been it. Well, that or reading the PC-DOS manual and then making bitchin’ menu systems in batch scripts.

It makes me very sad that either there isn’t a modern equivalent of HyperCard, or if so, it’s so well hidden that no one really knows its name.


Fatherhood Quick Thoughts
👶

Declan is nearly a week old today. Erin and I are surviving and quite enjoying parenthood. By most measures are sleeping way more than can reasonably be expected, but, of course, less than desired.

Some thoughts:

  • My patience has gone through the roof.
  • I’m more comfortable with my baby than I’ve been with anyone else’s. That feeling of confidence started the moment I set eyes on him.
  • Everyone in the world has advice for you; sometimes solicited. Sometimes not.
  • Everyone’s advice — including healthcare professionals’ — tends to conflict in minor or even major ways.
  • I’m taking a lot of pictures. 474 in six days; 80 pictures a day. At this rate, by the time he graduates high school, there will be:
    • Half a million pictures
    • 4.25 terabytes of photos, assuming we never upgrade our camera
  • Resisting spamming Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with baby pictures nonstop is more difficult than I expected.
  • Every new thing Declan does, and every new discovery of something that reminds me of Erin or myself, is a gift worth cherishing. Every day brings more of these gifts.
  • Fatherhood is awesome.

Declan James

Declan James Liss. Born early yesterday morning. He weighed in at 8 pounds, 6 ounces and was 20 inches long.

Finally.

Mom and Declan are doing well.

I’m over the moon. Eventually I’ll be able to look at him without weeping, right?