Fireside 2.1 ( Hobby Horse Blog Sun, 03 Jun 2018 19:00:00 -0700 Hobby Horse Blog en-us New show art! Sun, 03 Jun 2018 19:00:00 -0700 7499d056-b2d4-4da8-bb3f-6858fc0edab5 A new logo for the cover art. new-cover

My former coworker Pavel Macek gifted me something really special in the new cover art for the show. I wanted something more professional, more hand-done, and something with softer colors. Pavel delivered with an actual scan of his own handwriting done in crayons scanned over a seahorse. I love that curveball, it's something vaguely horse like but a little off-kilter, much like the hobbies and side projects people have.

Predictable patterns Sat, 12 May 2018 19:00:00 -0700 74f7f293-3dfd-478b-8399-2d0c13764939 On finding a groove. disneyland-map

I've learned a lot over the past month and a half of this project and especially now that I've completed 8 interviews (a couple are set to go out the next 2 weeks) I think it's time to take stock. I knew it would take time to work the bugs out and get my sea legs, and I think in the last two interviews I've done (one is unaired) I finally hit on a pretty good format that gives the listener a consistent framework and predictable pattern for how these episodes will go. The best interviews so far have gone like this:

  • Do an intro with the guest live, and let them fill in any blanks and make any clarifications. No more pre-recorded canned intros (but don't forget to introduce myself, which I've done a few times).
  • Frame their current work and career for the listener. Give them at least five to ten minutes to talk about their main work so anyone unfamiliar would be compelled to understand their job and their outlook.
  • Let them plug their latest thing! I underestimated how much people are willing to waste an hour with me if they know they can pitch their new thing in it. So far, I've only used it for helping friends with their books and conferences, but I imagine I could get famous people to talk about their side gigs if they were there to promote a movie or book or TV show.
  • After about 10 minutes of background on their current gig and any new thing they want to share, transition to talking about their side thing.
  • Ideally, on the last question, try and tie their side thing to their career somehow (it's only worked out perfectly once with Jessie on Disney & her conference).

I realize in listening back to all the episodes, I've quickly learned how to give guests more room to talk and I'm not interrupting them as much as I used to, but I'm also thinking of witty comebacks on these re-listens I didn't think of at the time of the interview. In trying to be a better interviewer and giving each guest time and space, I feel like I'm not quite holding my entertainment end up of the bargain. In a way, if you imagine my show like a Conan O'Brien show, I need to be both Conan and Andy Richter, and while I think I'm getting better at being a better (but maybe boring) host, I hope in future shows I can interject more wacky sidekick when it makes sense.

I hope that refining the format is helpful for listeners. It definitely helps me as a host as it takes some pressure off to keep everything organized and on track all the time. Instead, I have a template and I know what blanks need to be filled and I can watch the clock to know when to make transitions. Endings and conclusions are always going to be tough, but I am hoping those get easier with time too. I think these episodes are improving and I'm hoping the framework is the big reason.

A week off, rebound coming Fri, 27 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0700 0806d857-357b-43d1-9e73-158665057c29 An update on the first break and what's to come. After a couple weeks of travel and work trips and a class at Stanford, I've finally gotten back into the groove and will be releasing more episodes soon. I've been stacking up short interviews and come this Monday I'll have four new episodes in the can ready for final edits and publishing. Lots of good guests coming up soon talking about all sorts of things, and I can't wait to get them back out on a weekly schedule, so stay tuned for something to drop this weekend.

Lessons from week 2 Thu, 12 Apr 2018 15:00:00 -0700 43309a81-8768-4596-a4f6-5793b93cda80 Continued lessons from the podcast WeBLOG

My big takeaways this week are:

  • Being incredibly familiar with a guest means I tend to talk over or interrupt them a lot because we have a long-standing connection. I'm going to have to remind myself to step away slightly to let them answer things even if it means moving on and missing a question
  • I should probably have a list of questions. I've completed four interviews so far and most of them I was just winging it, but I'm realizing good questions thought up days before are vital to getting more of a story. Ideally in the moment, you can tweak your next question if something comes up, but it's good to have them as a fallback.
  • My eventual target is 20-30min for interviews, but even when they're scheduled as such we tend to naturally go for an hour. I'm going to have to think of shortcuts to get through introductions faster and get through questions and into deeper questions more quickly. I don't necessarily want to have a 45min long podcast, that's asking a lot from an audience.
  • After every interview, I'm kicking myself for not asking at least one or two questions that come to mind right after we end. I think that's a good sign that I've still got a ways to go but I hope it's not a long-term problem.
  • A couple of the upcoming interviews have a visual component, where we're describing a video or a photo or objects, and I'm going to have to figure out how to accommodate those kinds of stories. Put lots of images in the show notes? Should I try chapter marker images in Forcast? I need to figure it out.
  • I hate it when my podcast app goes dark at the tail end of the week. No one releases podcasts on weekends, even though I tend to do a lot of driving and churning through podcasts on weekends, so I'm going to try and stick to releasing new episodes on weekends so there's something new for people then.
Lessons from the first week Mon, 02 Apr 2018 13:00:00 -0700 d1be5600-aa46-48b4-9481-a36b42c84046 Summary of lessons learned in the first few days of the podcast First episode down, another recording in the can (will be edited and posted this week) and so far I feel like there is lots of room for improvement while the show gets its legs.

In my mind, there were some problems on the Kottke interview:

  • I started with a 5min monologue when people just wanted to hear Jason. If I ever talk before an interview in the future, I'll try and keep it to 30-60sec max.
  • We didn't do a solid intro, so the interview also started with me talking for another couple minutes before Jason got to speak (I cut a quick welcome part)
  • We got a little too bogged down in details about the game in the middle. Unless you've played the game, and even then played it to the higher 40th-50th levels, there's probably 5-10min that don't make sense.
  • The bit about anxiety was the goldmine, and future interviews should focus on why people do their other projects instead of just about the other projects.

I've recorded the second episode, but I hadn't edited the first yet and I think it'll take a few more interviews before I hit a stride on how to structure the interviews to get subjects to talk about their feelings about their work more than the work itself.

I'm also working on how to describe the "boundaries" of the podcast, maybe some quick rules on considering future interview subjects:

  • "hobby horse" is maybe a little patronizing if someone's side thing is politically or civically important, hopefully, it becomes clear it's kind of a silly title not meant to judge subjects
  • describing subject matter as someone's "obsession" is too limited, and kind of induces judgment and can have negative connotations. I prefer to think of things as hobbies, side projects, passions, collections, and things people are deeply interested in, and those don't necessarily need to be at the level of "obsession"
  • Interview subject matter should never be othering a person. Don't interview people about their race or children or illness as the sole focus.
  • Most of the ~25 people I have on a list of future episodes are doing things I like and enjoy, but a handful are doing things I openly dislike (mostly personal preferences). I need to figure out ways to structure an interview that isn't completely "convince me why I should like the things you like" and more letting them talk about what and why they like something.
  • I'm going to have to find a balance between "tell me about the thing you do" and "tell me why you do the thing you do" that'll probably stress more of the latter.