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Friday, April 29, 2016

Twitter Moments is more powerful than you think

In Twitter moments right now, there is a story about an indy game developer making a soccer game on a whim, not ever having learned the rules of soccer.
I'm posting this here because I think it's a great example of really enjoyable content that is fundamentally social which is really hard to get surfaced by content creators.
I don't really care about Cruz picking fiorina; using your curation technology to tell me that story is like filming a theatrical play and putting it on TV in the 1950s. It's not really natively living in the new medium.
Whereas a social story like this soccer story is sort of like what BuzzFeed does so well, only it makes even more sense to just have the story be composed of actual tweets rather than be a single document assembled by a Buzzfeed journalist.
We're still stuck in the mentality of 1950s TV, translated to the mobile internet era. From where we are, Twitter Moments is the closest thing we have to something that fundamentally understands the medium natively, like the Mary Tyler Moore show.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When a robot takes your job

Several friends of mine, seeing technological advances around the corner, are predicting the permanent obsolescence of large parts of the workforce.
One such technology is autonomous trucks. I understand how these will be bad news for truck drivers.
But I think they're underestimating the adaptability of retail politics and special interest bribery. Think about all the law firm office jobs staffed by lightly educated people, thanks largely to the legal-political complex. Think of the bases and trillion dollar military employment that politicians dare not touch. Think of the prison industrial complex that pays to keep sentences lengthy and arbitrary.
Our political system is pretty good at finding the profits made from technological and productivity advances, hoovering it up, and delivering it into protected industries who can organize money and machines to keep the politicians who do their bidding in power. It takes a few years for that system to get around to responding to acute needs, but it muddles through.
High unemployment is just another input to the machine... the machine knows how to set up some obscure new regulation, establish a consultancy that has a pipeline to "expediting" the regulatory filings, staff it with representatives' kids and cousins and untrained people who swear loyalty to the local party boss, and accept campaign donation kickbacks from it.
The bigger worry is about the accumulating deadweight loss to our growth and to our souls of doing things this way. This keeps the working class and middle class alive, but only with subsistence wages, forever stretched thin and made to work on deadening, pointless bullshit, or working independently in a scramble for what's left after the lion's share has been sucked up by the rent-seekers.
In a sense, we are increasingly having the worst parts of both socialism and capitalism.
We have, from socialism, the absence of responsibility for your treatment of others, the distrust of the rules, and the disincentive to build businesses and hire; Venezuela is an example of the widespread social damage this direction can cause.
And we have, from capitalism, the disregard for suffering, the celebration of the powerful, purchasing of anything up to and including dignity as a commodity, the crushing of humanity under the uncaring boot of the profit motive.
So I think more Trumps and prisons and escapist fantasy (religious and not) and senseless violence are in our future, but I believe (and hope!) is that the widespread unemployment of the trainable unskilled isn't.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

All you need to start a podcast

I've been experimenting with podcasting lately. It took me a while to identify good equipment, software, and services to start with. This is what I consider a reasonable minimum necessary to be able to produce a podcast by interviewing people remotely and in person.

Altogether, you can set up a reasonable, versatile podcast operation for about $300.

Advice/guidance: The Podcast Method A good podcast about starting podcasting; don't get overwhelmed by their encyclopedic equipment guide. Best single piece of advice: always, always test your recording setup before you start an interview.

Microphone: Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone ($60)
It's bizarre that this mic isn't recommended more for podcasting. No, you don't need a Blue Yeti. The ATR2100 is reasonably priced and its sound is very focused on what's nearby, so you can use it anywhere, even a normal office room next to a highway. It can connect using USB or XLR, so you don't have to bother with that decision at all! Only drawback is that it won't pick up ambient noise, so you really can't use it at all for capturing the feel of an event; and you need to keep a reasonably consistent distance from the mic, since your voice will become quiet even a foot away. Accessories to add to the ATR2100:

Portable recorder: Sony ICD-UX533BLK Digital Voice Recorder ($90)
First of all, you totally don't need this at first. It's only useful for making spur of the moment recordings, and recordings where you travel to someone else and interview them.

I think the sound is only OK, but The Wirecutter thinks it's the best among all the recorders it tested. I love being able to charge via USB. I don't love that you really can't hold it while recording -- your hand makes noise that it picks up from the case. You might consider one The Wirecutter didn't try, Amazon's top seller, the Zoom H1 ($100).

Call recording: Ecamm Call Recorder ($30)
For recording Skype calls. Just works.

Editing software: Audacity (free!)
Audacity isn't fancy, but it works, it's straightforward to use, it's cross platform, it's versatile, it's powerful, and there's a huge number of tutorials people have made for it. The only flaw I've experienced is that speed-shifting doesn't work well, but that's not something most people will want to use anyway.

Theme music: UniqueSound (license: $500) or (license: $40)
Obviously, the ideal is to commission custom music, which you can do through UniqueSound or by reaching out to composers whose work you like. Podcast producers are usually happy to tell you who composed their music; expect to pay around $3000 for a 3-minute piece composed in consultation with you.

But if you want to start quickly, try one of these reasonable off-the-shelf options.

Distribution: libsyn ($5/mo to start)
Provides episode hosting and analytics, and generates your podcast RSS feed. You'll still have to apply to iTunes and Stitcher manually in order to get listed there, but libsyn gets you pretty much everywhere else.

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