Mono versus stereo

As people get started in podcasting, the question soon comes up: Mono versus stereo?

For the Movers Mindset podcast, we produce our content as mono, and not because we don’t care about audio quality—rather, because I don’t feel stereo gains me anything. Here’s a bunch of things to consider:

But first, an aside: Newb mistake with voices: Don’t put one voice in one channel, and the other voice in the other channel. This isn’t “stereo”, it’s simply a mistake.

Data file size: Stereo is roughly twice the size as mono. Two channels of data versus one, so double the size. Size directly affects download time, storage size on listeners’ devices, their cellular data usage, and relates to my personal disdain for data-size bloat on the Internet in general; all of which cause me to take that “twice the size” very seriously. If the file is going to be twice as big, I want it to be twice as good—or at least drastically better. Stereo isn’t, and so this alone is enough for me to pick mono.

Monaural listening: Many people only put one ear bud in, and some people only have one ear.

Mostly voices: The Movers Mindset podcast is mostly people talking. In fact, it’s mostly just two people talking… often just one person at a time. That single sound source is picked up by one microphone. The other voice, in one other microphone. So here again, publishing stereo gets me no improvement in the final product.

Music: is usually generated by a collection of instruments and voices and that performance does have a three-dimensional aspect. And that’s why we see music in stereo… but we also see lots of “surround sound” systems that do a much better job than a simple left-right channel setup. Meanwhile, the Movers Mindset podcast doesn’t have any music at all, so this doesn’t even factor into our decision. (We use just simple cords, played on a single guitar, recorded—you guessed it—with a single microphone. So even our “music” is already in mono.)

Immersion: If I wanted to really go all-in, to record what it really sounds like—what would it sound like if I was literally sat there—you need to use binaural recording. This involves using two microphones positioned literally like the human eardrums are. This requires either using expensive microphones that you wear in your ears, or using microphones which are built inside a mannequin head. Because it turns out that the presence of your head and bone conduction all affect how things sound to us.

ɕ

Intentional complications

In search of escalation, McPhee complicated the formula. If the standard profile focuses on one subject, why not, he thought, try to profile two subjects who shared some peripheral connections? That is, go from A to A + B.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2011/11/16/complicate-the-formula-john-mcphees-deliberate-practice-strategy/

Also, a “complication” has an interesting meaning in the world of mechanical clocks.

I complicate things quite often. I clearly see the value in pursuing complexity; it requires increased skill and attention to detail. But—and you saw this coming, right?—every complication is an invitation to dive into a rabbit-hole.

The challenge for me is two-fold. First, to always keep the number of simultaneous rabbit-hole dives restricted. Rabbit-holes seem to multiple, well, like rabbits! One, two, or three at the absolute most, is all I can truly pay deep attention to. This is hard for me to stick to. Second, to learn to exit when the passion has subsided. By definition, (my definition that is,) a rabbit-hole is a non-esssential journey. Each of the journeys improves my life and some number of them are essential, but no one rabbit-hole in particular is essential. I must always remember to exit when I’m no longer interested.

To wit: Recording 60-seconds of practice (in the context of podcasting) every day is supremely useful as it enables exploring complications. There are countless opportunities to explore with each 60-second recording session. I fell madly in lust with the practice. I worked on a few different ideas, and made improvements. …and then the Spring romance subsided, and in a rare instance of following my second self-admonishment above, I walked away from the practice. …after not even two weeks! #winning

ɕ

On podcasting

The short version of this story is simply: I have no idea what I’m doing, both on and off the mic. I’m simply curious. I try things. I make mistakes. I ask questions.

My podcasting journey began with the Movers Mindset project, which grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. Started in 2015, at first it was just a web site that shared others’ writing. But as I travelled, I kept finding myself in cool conversations until one day someone said, “you should have recorded that. I’d listen to that podcast.” Excited, but with no clue how much work it would be, I kicked off the Movers Mindset podcast at the start of 2017. For the first dozen episodes I did far too much of the work myself, until I wised up and started finding a few incredible people to share my new passion.

By this point I was devouring anything I could about interviewing. I smashed through thousands of podcast episodes in the process of wondering, “how does everyone else do it?” Podcasts, books, online courses… Everywhere I turned I found something new to work on in my own journey.

In the fall of 2018 I had about 30 interviews published on the podcast. I was getting comfortable travelling by plane, train and automobile, being invited into people’s lives to capture the Movers Mindset interviews. I was invited to the North American Art of Retreat, a Parkour leadership retreat, in the Cascade mountains outside of Seattle. There I did a series of interviews with the event’s presenters and organizers, and handed those recordings off for Art of Retreat to create their own podcast.

When 2019 rolled around, on a whim, I jumped into an Akimbo course called The Podcast Fellowship. I wanted to search for unknown-unknowns, to rethink everything I had done so far, and much about the Movers Mindset podcast changed in this period. To my surprise, I was invited back to be part of a small group of alumni who assist the coaches for the 4th, (and then the 5th,) running of the course. It’s mind-bogglingly inspiring and energizing to hang out daily with hundreds of people who share your passion. I even tried to summarize the fun of it in The Journey.

Meanwhile, the Movers Mindset episode numbers kept climbing and I’ve been branching out to interview more challenging guests; challenging for me as I’m forced to converse and discuss topics I know less and less about, but which none the less intrigue me endlessly. In the fall of 2019, this time with help from some of the Movers Mindset team, I was invited back to Art of Retreat. There, we did a second series of interviews for Art of Retreat’s podcast.

Today (circa 2020) I’ve done over 100 interviews… and I’m certain I still have no idea what I’m doing. We’ve started doing video interviews as part of the Movers Mindset project and I have two other, fun little podcasts where I toss up episodes all by myself. They’re both places for me to experiment on different bits of the podcasting universe without having to commit a lot of my resources or time. One podcast is a daily collection of micro-episodes. You can search for “Little Box of Quotes” wherever you normally listen to podcasts, and the related posts here on my blog are tagged, as you might expect, Little Box of Quotes. The other podcast is a collection of things of dubious veracity. It’s called “Apocryphal” and the posts on my blog are tagged—as you’d expect—Apocryphal.

ɕ

Practice practice practice

Depending on your own personal history, there isn’t necessarily a lot at stake in how you conduct yourself at a cash register. What I’m trying to get at with my idiosyncratic cashier-focused story is this: there’s a vast difference between the habit of getting by, and the habit of getting better, and you may, without realizing it, be free to choose between them.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/02/getting-by-and-getting-better/

I’ve not gone down the exact same rabbit hole as Cain. However, being intentional with my work on the podcast interviews is amazing—it’s the same iterative path of discovery as he’s describing.

I’ve done well over 100 interviews—indoors, outdoors, quiet spaces, noisy spaces, while healthy, while sick-ish, with shy people, with insanely energetic people, during the day, at night, across sunsets with natural light, English-speakers and English-as-second-language speakers, old-ish, young-ish, men, women, couples, teams, while working alone and with an assistant, sleep-deprived and well-rested, with the occasional tech problem, in comfy chairs with tea, in an unpadded folding chair for 12 interviews in a row, well-fed and ravenous, . . .

None of that matters.

The conversations are always amazing. Time after time, once we get into the flow state, it turns out that people are interesting— most of the time surprisingly interesting. The more I work at this, the more I’m coming to believe that the art of communication, and in particular conversation, is the single most important skill for a human to possess.

ɕ

Big changes for 2020

For the past 5 years, I’ve been passionately working on a project called Movers Mindset. I’ve been particular about keeping it separate from “me”—in the sense that I would think, “is this idea something I want to put into Movers Mindset or on my blog?” (It sounds weird, I know—why didn’t you tell me years ago?) This led me to wind up with multiple “outlets”; this blog, public Movers Mindset web site and the Forum. As part of my continued efforts to simplify, we’ve taken down the Movers Mindset public web site.

* We didnt literally turn it off, but it’s just a static page about the project, and it powers the technology to make the podcast work. There’ll be nothing new posted there, and everything that was there will slowly appear in the Forum.

The entire Movers Mindset project grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. The project started late in 2015, under a different name, and it was initially simply a web site that shared others’ writing. The project grew, and in 2017 I started a companion podcast involving a team of people. In 2019 I created the Movers Mindset Forum. I’ve worked extremely hard, but none of this would have been possible without so much help from so many people.

The Movers Mindset Forum

Everything Movers Mindset does, everything we create, all the people who work on the project for fair pay—  Everything is made possible by people who value what we create and support our work by joining the Forum.

If you’re already a Forum member, thank you for your support.

If you do join the forum, you instantly gain access to everything. I hope you will consider supporting our work. To learn more, see  Welcome! Join the Movers Mindset Forum .

A note about “access to everything”: I’ve a tremendous amount of stuff to repost into the Forum. I’ll be chipping away at it, but it will take months as I work through it. If there’s something in particular you’re looking for, let me know.

Podcast

The Movers Mindset podcast is available wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Just search for movers mindset and you should be set. You can also find a listing of the podcast episodes in the Movers Mindset Forum. See the topics tagged “podcast “.

The public topics for each episode have only the show summary. Forum members can see the members-only Podcasts category where everything else is actually posted.

Thank you!

I hope you find my blog, the Forum, or the podcast interesting. Please consider sharing if you do.

ɕ

Prompts and it’s not a test

When you’re in a job interview, a podcast interview, a sales call, a meeting… if we take the approach that this is a test and there’s a right answer, we’re not actually engaging and moving things forward.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2018/08/ignore-the-questions/

In an interview, if a guest slips into this-is-a-test mode, things get awkward. If I ask, “what’s something people get wrong about you,” the guest will think I’m looking for dirt, and that I want something they’d not want to share. Or worse, they wonder if I already know something, and suspect I want to drag that skeleton from their closet.

But the sort of interviews I’m interested in creating are ones where those involved are working together to create something interesting and respectful of the subject. So it’s important to create the environment where the guest naturally treats questions as prompts. It turns out that this is easy to do.

If I honestly want the good sort of interview, then my actions follow automatically. I share things about myself and doing so invites the other person to share. I take things seriously which conveys that I value the interaction and what I’m hearing. I express my interest directly by asking interesting questions; questions which show the other person I’m generally curious. Overall, I demonstrate that I’m listening because I’m interested rather than because I want to do something with what I’m about to hear.

I’m listening to comprehend; not listening to respond nor refute.

ɕ

Someone has to be the first guinea pig

(Part 4 of 4 in series, The interviews from my perspective)

The story behind episode one is challenging. How much do we want to know? How much do we want to share about the birth of the podcast? That all plays into Episode One. I picked Adam as the first guest because I wanted a guinea pig. I had bought a Zoom recorder and some microphones and cables. There’s a guy who did our audio editing for the first two years, and I had sent him some test audio files just to verify that when I press “Record” it does what we think it does.

I had been training with Adam for years, so I approached him and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about starting a podcast. You want to sit down and have a conversation?” In hindsight, I now realize it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually say, “Okay, I’ll sit down with microphones,” but he was totally up for it. I said, “I need a guinea pig. I’m going to screw it up, and I want you to just be game for a radical F-up.” And, sure enough, now I realize the zeroth rule of podcasting is always press “Record” and then double-check that you’ve actually pressed “Record.” These days we actually have a system, because sometimes it still happens. The person who sits in and listens actually takes notes and uses the time codes from the recorder. So you have to actually look at the recorder, and if the timer isn’t running, we know that I haven’t pressed “Record.”

So, of course, when I sat down to record the podcase with Adam, we started right into it. I had looked at my watch and noted the time when we started, but 13 minutes into it I looked at the recorder and realized the recorder wasn’t recording. I said, “Hey, Adam, remember when I asked if you’d be a guinea pig because I’m going to mess it up? I messed it up. We’re not recording.” So then I pressed “Record” and we started over.

In hindsight, I’m really glad I fell on the sword on the first episode, because it taught me to be humble about when I screw up in a recording. If we’ve gone down the wrong path or I ask a dumb question, I immediately own up to it, like, “Whoa, we screwed this up,” or “You know what, that fire engine went by and screwed up your answer.” It taught me a lesson right out of the gate about being humble about the physical craft part of podcasting, because we really only get one chance. If the take that we get isn’t the greatest … It’s our responsibility to present the guest in their best light, and if there’s something wrong with the take, we need to own up to that. So that was the technical side of the first episode.

Tracy was helping at the time and doing some guest research. We had done a bunch of research on Adam and I had even written out some questions. Looking back now, I realized that writing out all your questions is the right thing to do, although I don’t do it now. But what I should’ve then done is crumpled up the list and thrown it away and gone into the interview with nothing between me and the guest. I had a piece of paper—actually, I think I had my computer. I realize now that, yes, you want to think of the questions, but then you also want to just try and forget them.

I stuck to the script with Adam and it worked out well. Adam is very good at talking and finding a thread, but I really wasn’t helping him very much by providing him with a conversation. That’s one of the things that I realize now is really important for guests, especially some guests who are a little more reticent to talk—not just to have the recording equipment and be able to create the physical space, but to create a conversation between myself and the guest where the guest is interested in continuing to talk.

With Adam, I served him these individual questions tennis-style and then asked a follow-up question or made a comment while he was answering. I pretty much just let him run on his train of thought and then I would present him with the next question. The episode is interesting though. The material is good; it still holds up three years later. But I can hear that it’s just me serving him simple questions. I love listening to it occasionally, because it reminds me of how the way that I craft the story that the narrative in each episode is vastly different, which is just a result of me listening to other people’s podcasts and listening to how people structure them, how the craft works, taking courses, and things like that. So that’s a bit of the technical and a little bit of in front of the mic.

There is a moment in that episode pretty early on where I mention an essay that Adam wrote. I don’t know how we found it, but we had come across this essay on the internet that was actually from Adam’s entrance application for college. I said, “Elsewhere you’ve written about … ” and named a couple of things that were in the essay, and it really made him do a double-take. He said something like, “Wow, you really, really dug at me. I kind of wrote that satirically. I don’t know how you ever found that. I need to go look at my social media to see where I had that online that I had forgotten about.” It was a fun moment where I had caught him off guard and at the time I thought, “Oh, that was interesting.” It took me a while to learn this lesson, but, looking back, I realized that just because I have information that’s interesting or even something a little bit controversial about a guest doesn’t mean I actually want to use that.

I’ve found that it can be hard sometimes if I know too much. You can’t forget something, it’s always going to be in the coloring of your questions. But if I know too much and I say, “Hey, I know about this,” that can really change the tone of the conversation. It can be too big of a gun to bring into the conversation. A lot of times it’s more fun to just know all these things about the guest and then to ask them a leading question to give them the opportunity to bring it up if they want. And then if they choose not to, the conversation just flows where they want.

Sometimes I feel more like I’m trying to create rapids in a river and then see how they whitewater raft down what I’ve created. It’s more like creating opportunities. “Hey, I have a couple of these obstacles and we’d like to roll them into the path. You want to go over this one or do you want to go over that one? Or you can go through the open field.” It took me a long time – maybe 50 interviews – to really figure out what I need to bring in, in terms of knowledge about the guest. 

Sometimes there are things that the audience needs to know about because they’re just so awesome and the guest is just going to be too humble and, I’m like, “I’m sorry we have to talk about this because it’s awesome.” But a lot of the time, the things I know about the guests don’t really need to be brought in. It’s just background that helps me color what we’re talking about. So that first interview really went amazingly well considering how I just leapt into it like, “What could possibly go wrong?” There’s a lot that can go wrong, but it really, really well.

I would say the greatest lesson I learned was having nothing between me and the guest. It took me a while to really learn the lesson to literally not put things between me and the guests because I continued doing that for several episodes, but that was the only interview where I showed up with a script or list of questions. I had an idea about how the whole interview should go and that, in my opinion, does not work. It certainly doesn’t work for the way that I do interviews and the way the podcast works.

You can totally think about how you want it to go, but don’t bring that plan to the actual interview. Don’t attempt to lead the guest to a particular place that you have in mind. That was the takeaway. I didn’t learn it immediately after Episode One, but that lesson is there in that first episode. I would say it’s probably in the first six episodes, because there’s some things that changed with seven – it became a lot more nimble at seven and beyond. I think that’s the biggest takeaway: Don’t go in with a preconceived idea of where the conversation is going to go.

ɕ


These posts contain my thoughts and lessons learned from the behind the scenes of the interviews. These are the stories from before the interview, or after, the other people in the room you don’t hear, the places we visit, or just the vibe. You can also find them in the Movers Mindset community tagged with behind-the-scenes. If you’d like to listen to the interviews, check out Movers Mindset’s episode directory.

WebSub or PubSubHubbub

I recently found James Cridland’s article, A Podcast Industry Guide to WebSub, or PubSubHubbub. It’s a good unpack of how the RSS-is-a-pull-service impediment to scaling is solved by creating aggregators that support pushing RSS update notifications.

…how does your podcast player notice that daily podcast is out, without polling the podcast’s RSS feed every minute?

I’ve added a link to Cridland’s article to my Deep Dive About Podcast Feeds.

ɕ