Podcasts and Projecting

Ben Brooks has some advice for you tech podcasters out there: up your game to match his expectations or give it up.

He’s tired of listening to you talking like normal people:

The reason I don’t want to listen in is because two friends talking are never on point. Subjects jump, there are insider jokes/back stories that I don’t get…

And he’s offended that you don’t put the work in beforehand:

So here’s my proposal for making podcasts better: if you want me to spend 1–2 hours a week listening to your show, then you better spend at least that much time preparing for each show. Reading your RSS/Twitter feeds doesn’t count as preparation.

Now, thankfully Ben Brooks is talking from experience here. In what now seems to have been an extreme example of method-blogging, Brooks co-hosted a podcast that, for the first 18 months of its run, involved two people talking aimlessly for far longer than necessary about whatever crossed their mind at that given moment.

So when he says that leads to boring shows, he knows what he’s talking about.

Haven’t you people ever heard of This American Life? It’s better than what you do so why are you even bothering to fire up Skype? If you don’t have $750,000 and two years to produce an hour-long show, do us all a favour and stick to making fancy coffee and overpriced t-shirts.

Better that than waste our time, says Brooks:

If any one of these hosts sat down and wrote about the topics they wanted to cover on the podcast, their blog posts would be about 500 words (or less) for each topic. But yeah, go ahead and ramble on for two hours.

Bingo. Some arrogant podcasters seem to harbour the misapprehension that they’re somehow different from bloggers. I’m consistently shocked when I tune into a tech podcast and find the hosts haven’t even bothered to properly script their views on app store ratings or the future of USB connectors. Is it really too much to ask for them to turn their opinions into a three act play or a haiku?

Podcasts aren’t the venue for verbal discussion1. So well done Ben Brooks for once again speaking truth to power. He did it when people said erecting a paywall was madness; he did it when people said leaving Twitter was a petulant gesture; he did it when people claimed a keyboard without any wires was ‘wireless’.

Now he’s broken cover and laid bare the audacity and arrogance of so-called ‘podcasters’ with the temerity to spend their free time producing entertaining and informative discussions that they then distribute for free.

Ben, don’t go back to posting loads about knives and the NSA; the world needs your courageous conflation of two entirely separate mediums and your attention-seeking flouncing now more than ever.2

  1. They’re the place for Squarespace and Hover ads. 

  2. I tuned into a show misleadingly called ‘ATP’ recently and there wasn’t a single mention of tennis. It was all app ratings and TV calibration. Embarrassing. 

Writer Pro and the price trap

I like paying for apps. I’m happy to support developers. But I don’t like overpaying for apps.

If a new app comes to my attention, looks like something I’d use, garners positive reviews and costs a few dollars or less, I’ll buy it. If it’s more expensive than that or if it I’m not sure I really need another ‘best’ weather app1 I’ll look it up on the invaluable AppShopper.

If it’s an app that’s been out for a while AppShopper can tell me if it’s been on sale before. If it has, I’ll likely wait it out for the next cut. If its price has remained static over time then I’m more comfortable buying straight away, pretty confident my stingy side won’t come to regret the purchase any time soon.

Past performance has been a reliable indicator of future activity, saving me a substantial sum over the years.

For example, 1Password is a fantastic app but if you buy it at full price you’re a mug. Same for Yoink or CleanMyMac. You don’t have to wait very long for them to be on sale again.

SuperDuper on the other hand, or Things, have never been offered at a discount as far as I’m aware. And the developers of Ember have made clear their app will never be on sale. So go and buy them today, there’s no point waiting.

There lies the difficult decision for a developer. Offering a price cut entices buyers (including tightwads like me who’ve been waiting for such munificence) at the time, but makes it less likely people will pay the full price. Whether that makes long term business sense is for the individual developer to decide.

Which bring us to Writer Pro. Let’s be clear, this is not a review, it is not a comment on the quality of the app.2: This is a post on pricing and a gentle warning to price-sensitive prospective buyers.

You see, Writer Pro is $20 for each of the Mac and iOS versions. That’s reasonable (for the Mac version at least) but if history is any guide you’d be a fool to pay it.

iA Writer, the predecessor to Writer Pro launched for $18, a price it maintained for less than two months before falling to $10. In the two years since, it had adopted various price points between $5 and $10.

The iOS version of iA Writer launched for $5 before falling to just $0.99. Among numerous price changes it has hit the $0.99 level six times.

I paid $18 for The Mac version3 and every one of its subsequent price drops made me less and less likely to pay full price for any other iA product.

So when Writer Pro is released in a few hours I’ll read all the reviews and I’ll likely covet the software but I won’t be buying. Yet.

  1. I did recently buy Weather Line after watching it for a while, reassured by its price stability. 

  2. The promo video for the app is fantastic. Of course the app won’t make you a better writer (the fact no one claims it will hasn’t prevented the persistence of this strawman argument) but it looks like it will provide useful tools in a beautiful package. 

  3. I’m using it to write this post. 

Mark could see himself that morning, too, rushing out of the house at 10, knowing only that shots had been fired at Sandy Hook and parents would be reunited with their children at the firehouse. Jackie had started driving from Pawling, calling and texting him again and again. “Do you have him?” “DO YOU HAVE HIM YET?” A priest had announced that the principal had been killed, and Mark had wondered: “How will we explain this to Daniel?” Then the same priest had said 20 children were also dead, and there was shrieking and vomiting in the firehouse, and Mark had imagined Daniel running alone in the woods behind the school. He was fast. He had escaped.

Then the governor was in front of them, and he was saying, “No more survivors,” and a state trooper was driving Mark and Jackie home. Mark was sitting in the passenger seat, dazed and quiet and looking over at the state trooper, who had begun to weep.

This Eli Saslow piece was published in June but I only read it today. It’s probably the best thing I’ve read this year.

Deeply moving and yet subtly damning of the political process. It had me in floods of tears and agitated for change.