Archive for March 2008
This is a call for new participants and a reminder to some of the existing ones. An episode is in the making that is to be the first of a four part series of episodes. The topic will be “local eating” and each participant is to try to implement local eating to whatever degree they are able (a dish, a meal, a day, or more). We will be recording on the equinoxes (spring/fall) and summer and winter solstices. While it might not look like it outside here in Canada, the first day of spring is only five days away so we need to get cracking!
Here are some details:
Date of first recording: March 20 (Feel free to fudge the day a little if it is easier to cook on the weekend)
Definition of local: I’ll leave that up to you but be reasonable.
Duration: 5-10 minutes has been par for the course
Format: 160 KBPS mp3 or better. Alternately those who are unable to record audio may provide text submissions – I can find a reader for you.
And then what? If you’re a member of the ning site, join the “Local Eating Four Part Episode” group and post your audio there attached to a forum message. If not, go ahead and join the ning site. Text contributors can email their contributions.
Please RSVP in the comments below (or in the ning group if you prefer) so I can guess at the length of the episode and assess the interest in the idea.
I’ll be joining as long as I can find a source for local food (I’ll be out of town that day).
I just created a new twitter feed for this podcast. I don’t expect it to be a high traffic one but you should see when new episodes are posted as well as when there is a need for a contributor.
Okay, so there is an episode coming up on the future of US/Canadian relations that was started back in mid-December – before all but the very first episodes on here were started. I have one more space for a contributor and then it is *ready* to go. Up to now it has been going Canadian/American/Canadian and it almost seems like an American should end it but frankly, it is time to finish this one. (Parenthetically, perhaps someone who is neither Canadian or American should finish it?). Anyway, if you’re interested, send me an email at the address below:
At the moment I’m feeling a bit of malaise and that might be due to any number of things. Caffeine deficiency (remedying that with a café au lait as we speak – thanks, Sylvain and Moe, for the idea), a lack of sun and physical activity (Did I really expect I would be cycling to work every day here in Quebec City in winter?). And like any good malaise, it is colouring my perception of everything I am involved in from work, to my attempts at learning French, right up to this podcast project. And so, I ask you all, dear readers and listeners, and especially contributors and potential contributors, to bear that in mind as you read the rest of this entry.
The Talking Stick podcast isn’t really going exactly the way I had hoped. Not in terms of the content – the contributions have been spectacular. But more like the lack of content. While there has been a great deal of enthusiasm by some, and no shortage of members in the contibutors’ group, the contributions are not coming in as I had expected. Some episodes have been started and fizzled out (so far), while others spend weeks with each contributor. (Before you contributors start sending me hate mail – I do realize you have lives. This is me saying not “you suck” but “Hmmm – my expectations and reality are not matching. I wonder how to make this different.” which may well result in my changing those expectations because they are unrealistic). I had also hoped to see more people starting their own threads but there have been only a couple of those so far.
I realized as I was thinking about this that much of the issue may well have to do with the fact that there’s a lot of general confusion in the group as to what it is we’re actually doing and how we’re doing it. There are still people who are unclear as to how the process works, what the rules are, and the logistics. And I realized, that aside from a relatively incoherent facebook message to a handful of you, I never really shared my vision for what this would be and how it would work.
So the story goes like this. Back in November I was at Uncommon Grounds, a cool little café in the west end of Toronto where some folks were talking about the environment. I couldn’t help but interject (and people who have met me will be shocked as in groups I am rarely one to talk at all with people I KNOW let alone total strangers. So anyway we got to chatting for a while and one of the people at the table enthusiastically mentioned that he’d love to make a podcast where people just met in the café and talked about a particular subject. The podcast would be edited minimally and posted as-is. By the end of the conversation we were pretty excited – they didn’t have any recording equipment, we had an H4 and the knowhow. I passed on my email address and waited for the podcasting to begin. And you guessed it. Nothing happened. I never heard a thing, didn’t have an address to respond to and so it ended there. Except now here I was with all this excitment about an idea that wasn’t going to even happen. (more crass readers can insert the appropriate metaphor here) And then it occurred to me: I didn’t have to do this with that group of people. I could tap into a group of people who I knew had interesting things to say.
Background bit number two (believe me, there is a point to this). While Sage and I were living at the yurt I became very interested in egalitarian intentional communities. I loved the idea behind the lack of hierarchy and the building of consensus in order to make decisions. In fact, had things played out only slightly differently, the Quirky Nomads podcast would probably be being recorded as we speak in a commune in the Ozarks.
The two ideas combined have brought me to where we are today. I have this idea for a podcast in which everyone participates on equal ground. There is no leader, though some seem to think I am, I really am not fond of that “position” – I’m the guy who edits the podcasts, starts and contributes to episodes just like anyone else. I am also the one who occasionally bugs you if you are late with your audio but really I even hate that part as I understand how life happens and people have their issues to deal with and really don’t need to be bugged about the audio they’re late with. That’s what happens at day jobs and that’s what I’m trying to avoid here. Really, if I could set up an automated reminder to do it for me I’d be eternally grateful as receiving a notification from a computer saying “oops did you forget” conveys nothing unintended emotionally.
But I’m getting off the subject. I’m writing this because I am stuck. I have some ideas and I am not really sure how to turn them into reality because I am running into a number of roadblocks. While in my work life (and even in my non-work life as Sage will attest) I am the one who figures out stuff like this, I am at a loss. Any assistance you can give will help tremendously.
Problem number one: Participation, or lack thereof. At the moment I have 34 contributors in the group (and would love more) but as yet have 4 episodes underway. I had originally hoped to have an addition to each episode once per week or two at the most but some are really languishing for weeks with one episode having been started in mid-December. If we got back on track and people were punctual with contributions we’d have about a month before we’re tapped dry. Really to make a weekly podcast (is this even attainable here?) someone needs to start a new thread every week. I can’t do this myself, and really I don’t want to. I like the fact that different participants give a different flavour to the episodes. So the take-away question here is: How do we start and keep content flowing?
Problem number two: There seems to be lack of clarity in the “rules”. Probably this is due largely to the fact that I haven’t clearly defined them and at the beginning that was intentional. I don’t really want to stifle creativity. If I say “No episodes over 20 min” or “please talk for 3-5 minutes per subject” I think I would lose a lot. Like it or not, most of us were educated in schools where an authority figure dictated how we were to create and some of us continue to work in environs where our creativity is assigned to us on sometimes a daily basis. I feel like maybe I’ve tossed a bunch of art supplies a room and said “Here are some great supplies. Everyone work together and make something really cool.” But maybe I need to say “Here are some cool art supplies. Make something on a 9 x 12 canvas that describes how you feel right this minute.” While avoiding going so far as “Here is a piece of paper and some crayons. Everyone draw a picture of Montreal.” Take away question here is: Is the lack of “rules and an authority figure preventing people from participating? If so, do we need rules, then?
Problem number three: Technology is being a royal pain in the ass. Everyone is really social-networked out. Finding a platform for everyone to work and participate in has been a process and I’ve already changed it once. Facebook worked great at first but provided no facility for uploading content, no good means for letting people know when discussion threads were being responded to, and a platform that for privacy reasons many potential contributors were opposed to joining. Ning was a good solution but has been of limited use probably because for many contributors on facebook, they aren’t checking ning all the time. Question here: Are we using the right platform for our collaboration?
Problem number four: Uploading and passing the stick. I think if ning is the right platform and starts being used this might be solved by the file attachment thing and simply notifying others that it is their turn. Question: Anyone have any good ideas for handling transferring files?
Final Problem (I’ve ranted enough): More of a question. Is the format working for you? Does the “one person starts” followed by another who passes it on to someone they choose and so forth working in your opinion? There are some who are concerned that it might result in some exclusion of others, and in some cases it might lead to certain people being chosen over others. Question: Is there another method (free for all: “I just recorded this – eveyrone respond who has an opinion, for example) that would work better in your opinion?
So I’ve just ranted at you for about an hour (by my clock) about what I think isn’t working. However, the reason I am writing this at all is that I am frustrated because the content that has come out has been so good, I don’t want to see the whole group of us podfade. I mean really – 34 people folks! There must be 3-5 of you inspired enough at any one time to make an episode happen in the course of 4-6 weeks, yes?
So let me close with what is my vision for this since I realize I never actually shared it with anyone:
In my life I am a problem solver and an enabler. In many cases (both at work and at home) I come up with ideas and then other people either help me develop them or develop them themselves without me involved. I want to see this become the same sort of thing. I want to see this become a community run egalitarian podcast that follows the whim of the masses. In an ideal world, much of the stick passing (hell, even the editing would be automated or even taken on in a rotating basis. Perhaps the person who comes up with the idea shepherds it through the process, edits it and posts it (I can certainly add folks to this wordpress site easily enough!). People with or without podcasting experience could contribute either by PC submission, telephone, or text – the point is that they’re heard. I dream of seeing this project develop a life of its own. There has been no shortage of folks who are really enthused about the idea but the question is, how do we get from great idea to regular content?
Today we’re doing something a little different with today’s contributors bringing their favourite music for a potluck.
Todd Tyrtle of Quirky Outtakes brought Josh Woodward’s Incoherent
Katherine Matthews of Purl Diving brought Kou Chou Ching and Civil Revolt Part 1
Sylvain Grand’Maison of Le Quebec en Baladodiffusion brought Amplifico
Ted Riecken of Island Podcasting brought us Young Galaxy with Swing your Heartache
Theme music was by Josh Woodward
Feel free to leave an audio comment or make your own contribution at 206-202-3235.