For several years I’ve been attending the Art of Retreat events in North America. Originally they were held in New York City, but the latest three were held outside of Seattle. I’ve been recording conversations for Art of Retreat’s own podcast over the years. If you’re interested in what goes on behind the scenes, I tried to unpack some of it over on a topic in the Podcaster Community, Field Recordings at Art of Retreat 2022.
I have a habit of trying to capture interesting photos from airplane windows. Often it’s solar or weather phenomenon, but on this trip out to Seattle I was surprised to see these forest fires. Fortunately, they weren’t very close to where the event was held, but “fire fog” was thing during much of the time I spent in Seattle and all of the time at the event.
A few shots from the location where the event was held…
And one last random shot from a cool, mushroom–infused coffee spot in Seattle, Wundergrond Coffee.
During the Sept 24th weekend, I’ll once again be recording conversations with community leaders and movement enthusiasts at a retreat in the Cascades outside of Seattle. Follow that link If you’re interested in the nuts-and-bolts of what I do in order to create some conversations. Over there, I’ll be posting replies as the project progresses over the next two weeks. I’ll be showing my work—preparation, packing, gear, field recording, and post-production. I’ll try to cover everything from ideation to the final deliverables.
The first piece of context is, what is the event that I’m attending? It’s an immersive gathering celebrating leadership in parkour. We bring remarkable leaders from the global parkour community together for 4 days of learning, sharing, and play.
Terra is laying out the eternal struggle which everyone who takes up podcasting soon discovers: You are beholden to the publication schedule. I mean, sure, you get to set your own schedule, right? …but then you…
Wait, why is that again? You know you can just publish whenever you feel like it. That’s what I do and hundreds of published conversations later across multiple different shows… literally no one ever has asked me when the next episode will be out. Nor why I don’t publish on a schedule. Maybe they’re all just ignoring me, or think I’m a weird podcaster. But know what I definitely am not? …beholden to a schedule.
Instead I can do what I want to do (have great conversations) when I am able to arrange that. And then I publish them. *mic drop*
To me, quality means doing the best you can with what you have to work with. Your environment. Your equipment. Your voice. Your experience. Your level of comfort. All of those things are part of your overall “working with” toolset.
This is something I often struggle with. Terra is writing about podcasting specifically—something I spend a lot of time doing—but I have this problem more generally. It would serve me well to be thinking: Is this the best I can do now, with the tools, knowledge, situation, and skills I have now? If so, terrific! That’s great enough.
there are enough users who understand how it is supposed to work. They expect to be able to listen to any podcast anywhere they want. Most probably don’t understand why they have this ability, about the history and technology design that made it possible, but they understand that they have the ability. And it doesn’t have to be all of them or even most of them, just enough of them, whatever that means. And for right now, at the end of 2021, there are enough. Podcasting has always been and remains an open platform. I can’t say it will be for the future, but so far so good.
I like Winer’s point that the web (websites, web browser, blogs—not asocial media platforms) and podcasting are not dominated by any one large company. He’s pointing out that we’ve two examples of things not centrally controlled—two examples of success (so far, things could always change.) And therefore it’s quite possible that we could build something else, another new media format, which is also free, open, and not centrally controlled.
But I don’t like that Winer has glossed over the fact that podcasting only appears to be open, (in the way that the web is open.) Podcasting appears to be open, and isn’t yet dominated by one large company, because the podcast creators individually go to great lengths to make their shows available everywhere. There are multiple large companies trying to leverage the listeners against the creators. I’ve given up on trying to lead podcasting to be open, the way the web is open; I simply hope that someone else sees what I see and that I live to see podcasting grow to be a first-class, truly open, platform, (the way the web is.)
I spend a lot of time trying to imagine people’s experiences of things I create. Partly that happens as a direct result of my having empathy and being compassionate—once you start, you can’t stop. (“My mission is creating better conversations to spread understanding and compassion.”) Sometimes my efforts pay off big with a blinding flash of clarity.
I’m regularly doing outreach to people who know me well, a little, or often not-at-all. I’m inviting someone to join me, for a recording of a conversation… which I’m going to immediately publish, without editing. It turns out that scares the crap out of most people. (Are your palms sweating just thinking about it?)
Well, I solved that problem a while ago: When we’re chatting, before we start recording, I explain there’s a safety net. They get the option to veto. I explain that after we stop recording, I will ask them if they’re okay with what we recorded. If they’re not happy, it just gets deleted. And I’ll still be happy because the conversation we had becomes that much more special because I got to experience something that no one else will ever hear.
Today it occurred to me that I should explain that even farther up front. Like right up front on the invitation page that I send people to. If your palms were sweating up there, thinking about being recorded, consider this…
Safety net After we stop recording, you decide if I publish it. Seriously. You get a big, safe, veto option. Published or vetoed, I’ll still be glad we had a chance to have a cool conversation.
But this moment cannot come without the days of frustration at the blackboard. “You can’t really blame the storytellers,” Rockmore writes, “It’s not so exciting to read ‘and then she studied some more.’ But this arduous, mundane work is a key part of the process.”
And Niels Bohr said something similar about Painful experience. And I bet your experience agrees. I know mine does.
Nobody sees how much time I spend working on podcasting. Every facet is complicated. I’m regularly noticing new things, picking up interesting skills and ideas from nearby areas of expertise. Structural wisdom from the field of authors. Empathic skills from the field of therapists. New kinds of questions from the field of hosts. New vocal skills from the field of speakers. And teachers and mechanics and on and on.
The eureka moments get the attention but they’re very few and very far between.
What would be a good question to ask? How do I evaluate a potential question, in real time during a conversation, to decide if it’s good? What can I do to make this guest enjoy this conversation? In the same vein: What should I do? And what, if anything, must I do? What does this person really want to talk about? What don’t they want to talk about? And if I figured that out, is the right thing to, to honor their desire to avoid it, or to help them face it? Can I help them more by letting them find their own energy level, or by trying to help them change their energy level? Would calming down enable them to communicate more effectively? Would riling them up help them work through their feelings? Should we explore how they are feeling, or how this event we’re discussing made them feel? Should I be more open, and share more with them? Or would my consuming our time doing that, block them from doing what they need to do, or from saying what they need to say? Should we be having more fun? Should we be more serious? Should we instead do the opposite, (make light of a serious subject, or vice versa,) of that society would normally expect? Should I ask them a deep question? Should I ask a question on the same line-of-thought and take us even deeper? Deeper a third time? Or should I pivot to indicate that I want to follow them, not drive them into a corner?
What’s that? …oh, you thought I was going to be talking about the actual questions one might ask another person. Yeah no that’s another question altogether. :)