My Return to Podcasting: Mack & Cheese

Today I am excited to introduce a new project called Mack & Cheese. It’s a podcast that I’m doing with Graham Hicks, who I’m sure you know from his newspaper days. He’s the “cheese” in our duo, but is it because he’s cheesy or is it because he’s the big cheese? You decide!

His five-times-a-week town-crier style column “Hicks on Six” in the Edmonton Sun and the Edmonton Sun online, was considered Edmonton’s best-read newspaper column.

I approached Graham in the fall with the idea for the podcast and was thrilled when he said he wanted to take part. You can check out the first episode here. We both love talking about current affairs in Edmonton so that’s what you can look forward to on future episodes, though in our intro episode we talk entirely too much about ourselves.

Podcasting in 2004
Me podcasting way back in 2004

For me, this is a return to podcasting. I started podcasting in September 2004 actually. To give you some context, that was just a few months after Facebook initially launched and nearly two years before Twitter existed. My friends and I liked the idea of doing our own radio show, and podcasting gave us a way to do that. We created a site called BlogosphereRadio which was a series of shows that discussed various aspects of blogging. While some of our shows probably sounded like they were created just for our group of friends, some shows attempted to be more professional-sounding. We covered the first ever blog auctions for instance, and we recorded sessions for the Northern Voice conference a couple of years. It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of work!

Podcasting in 2004
My usual setup back in the day

So much work as a matter of fact, that I decided I could build some software to make it easier. That led to Podcast Spot, a hosting service that my business partner Dickson and I launched in September 2006 (you check out some of our features here). We had limited success with the effort, and ultimately decided to shut it down in October 2008. Podcasting had lost some of its lustre by that time, and we felt our service had come to a fork in the road. That was kind of the end of my podcasting career, if you could call it that! I look back now and am pretty happy with what we were able to accomplish (we even built some cool things like a real podcasting robot, pictured below). We were ahead of the curve in some areas, but were inexperienced and up against some stiff competition. I learned an incredible amount through the whole experience.

Finished Side View
The Podbot, which we controlled wirelessly!

While I stopped podcasting and put my effort into other projects, I never did lose my interest in it. I still think podcasting is a particularly interesting method of communication, even if it’s not as “big” as we hoped it would become. Some things are best discussed in a blog post, but I think there are plenty of things that podcasting is appropriate for. I’m looking forward to exploring that further with Mack & Cheese.

Here in Edmonton, there are now some really great podcasts to choose from. I have been completely inspired by what Adam and Scott have done with The Unknown Studio (and we use their studio for our recording…thanks guys!). If you aren’t already a regular listener, you should be! There’s also UserCreatedContent, Jay n’ J, Prairie Belles, and Product People that you should check out.

I think there’s a place for what Graham and I want to do, and I hope that some of you find it interesting enough to listen to. If you do take a listen and have some feedback, I’d love to hear it!

Podcast Spot: What would I have done differently?

podcast spot Last night I presented in the VenturePrize Seminar Series with James Matsuba of IdleTime. The seminars are meant as a primer for this year’s competitors on business plans, building a company, and pitching ideas to investors (and judges). When I attended the seminars back in 2006, I found the most useful part was getting to hear the experiences of other entrepreneurs.

For that reason, I have been more than happy to go back and share my own experiences from the competition and beyond. Last night I talked about the VenturePrize process and making it to the finals, and James talked about his experience last year in the student competition and gave his presentation from the finals too.

As a presenter, I think the most enjoyable part is the question and answer period. Both James and I answered a ton of questions last night, but one stuck with me. After I had explained that we were shutting Podcast Spot down, someone asked what I would have done differently.

I didn’t have to think about it for very long, probably because Dickson and I have talked through this a number of times. There’s a ton of things I might have done differently, but two things in particular:

  1. I would have avoided using the word “podcast” in the name of our service.
  2. I would have focused on sharing audio and video for a specific niche.

I personally have nothing against the word podcast. I don’t think we hitched our wagon to the wrong horse or anything, because the underlying technology is sound and in use by millions of people around the world. The word itself has always been confusing and misleading, however. I’ve written many times that podcasting is just a word, but unfortunately most people don’t see it that way.

I also think it would have been a good idea to target our service to a specific group of people. As a service for anyone and everyone to share audio and video, we were a little too much like a YouTube clone (even though our feature set was quite a bit different). I think we could have executed more effectively with a smaller target customer base.

The follow-up question is, of course, why didn’t we do those two things? That question is much more difficult to answer!

Podcast Spot is shutting down

podcast spot As some of you undoubtedly know by now, Dickson and I recently made the decision to take Podcast Spot offline. We started notifying our users a couple weeks ago, and today made it public on the website. Here’s our message to users:

We regret to inform you that after two years of helping you share your creativity with the world, we have made the decision to cease Podcast Spot operations beginning on November 30th, 2008.

We’d like to reassure you that we’re not just flipping the switch – our plan is to shut the service down in phases. Starting December 1st, 2008 you will no longer be able to upload files to Podcast Spot, but your domain, downloads, and RSS feed will continue to operate through February 2009. During that time we’ll work with you to redirect users to your new site and feed. Beginning March 1st, 2009 Podcast Spot will be taken offline completely.

We are doing our best to ensure that the entire process is handled as smoothly as possible, and in a manner that is professional and courteous. I know if I was one of the podcasters I’d want lots of notice – so that’s what we’ve done by not taking the site down completely until next year.

Recently we’ve been in touch with Libsyn, and they have agreed to help migrate our users to their system (on an opt-in basis). That’ll be a great help for a number of our podcasters, because it means they don’t really have to do anything – we’ll work with Libsyn to make sure everything happens seamlessly. Thanks to Rob and his team for making that happen.

One other thing I should mention is that I’ve taken the Paramagnus Blog offline – it now redirects to the Paramagnus category here. I’ll post about the reasons why and what I have learned some other time, but the gist of it is that we never updated that blog anyway.

We’ve got more details up on the site, and we’ll post further updates there.

The first question we’ve generally been asked after breaking the news is “why?” Obvious question, but difficult to answer. There are lots of reasons which I’m sure I’ll explore over the next while. Dickson and I didn’t make this decision on a whim, we put a lot of thought into what would be best for us and for our users.

Even though we’re confident this is the right decision, I am still finding it hard to swallow. We put a lot of time, sweat, and money into Podcast Spot and we remain incredibly proud of what we’ve built. I know we’ve both learned an enormous amount from the whole experience. Still, I can’t help but be a little sad.

I’m sure I’ll be posting more about this in the future, but for now, I’d just like to say thank you. To our customers, to our friends and family, and to everyone we’ve met along the way, thank you for supporting Podcast Spot.

Happy Birthday Podcast Spot!

Post ImageThe big news today of course is the launch of Halo 3, but it’s also important to me for another reason. It’s kind of hard to believe, but it was on this day a year ago that we launched Podcast Spot. We had no idea what to expect for our first year, but I think we can call it a success. Not a massive success, but a success nonetheless. Here’s what I wrote back in 2006:

That said, it’s just the first step, and there’s still a long way to go. We’re eager and excited to continue improving the podcasting experience, with Podcast Spot and other products too.

I’d say that still holds for today. We’re going to spend some time going through what we’ve learned over the last year, and combined with our ideas and plans, we look forward to making our second year even better.

As I said on the Paramagnus blog, thanks to everyone who has supported us and especially to the podcasters who call Podcast Spot home. It’s still pretty cool to me that people are using something I’ve built.

Read: Paramagnus

Interview with todbits.tv

A couple of weeks ago Tod Maffin was in Edmonton to broadcast and record his video show, todbits.tv. I went down to the Hotel MacDonald to check it out, and it turns out I was the only one in Edmonton who went! What’s the deal with that local tech people?!

Anyway, we couldn’t get the live stream going, so we went outside to record it. Tod talked about his LG Cherry Chocolate phone, then we did a quick interview about Paramagnus and Podcast Spot.

You can watch the 12 minute video here. Thanks Tod!

Read: todbits.tv

The welcome message is up!

Let the podcasting begin! We just uploaded a very quick (under 3 minutes) welcome message to the Northern Voice podcast to introduce ourselves and our plan for recording the conference. Here are the most important links:

I should also point out that you can find specific episodes by browsing our categories and our tags. And you can find feeds for all the formats we convert to here.

Enjoy!

Read: Welcome Message

Podcasting Northern Voice 2007

Post ImageI am leaving bright and early tomorrow morning for Vancouver – Megan, Dickson, Sharon and I are heading to Northern Voice 2007. It’s a conference I look forward to every year. I’m especially excited about this year because we have volunteered to record all of the sessions! Here’s what I sent to Darren:

We’re hosting at http://northernvoice.podcastspot.com, which is all decked out in the new Northern Voice theme. Currently we’re planning to record all of Saturday’s sessions in audio, and as much as of Moosecamp as we can. We’ve also got a couple video cameras to record some sessions and “roaming” footage. There’s four of us, so we should be able to get it all.

We’re probably not the only ones who will be recording stuff however – the people who attend Northern Voice are a creative bunch, so there will likely be lots of microphones and video cameras floating around. Bottom line: whether you can attend or not, you’ll be able to listen in.

We’re also offering a special Northern Voice promotion at Podcast Spot. If you enter the discount code NV2007 when you sign up, we’ll give you an extra 100 MB of upload quota for free! It’s just another way we’re celebrating our favorite Canadian tech conference.

If you have any feedback on our Northern Voice podcast, I’d love to hear from you. As Megan knows, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so I’ll be doing my best to make sure everything sounds and looks good. We should have our first “introduction” episode up sometime tomorrow.

Read: The Podcast

Podcast Spot on Neo-Fight.tv

Post ImageRecently I recorded an interview with Ben Freedman and Tiffany Young about Podcast Spot, and it was published today on their podcast. They produce the Neo-Fight.tv show, which they say is the tech show for the not so geeky. The neat thing about this interview is that it was recorded using Skype!

You can watch the video at Neo-Fight.tv, or at Podcast Spot.

Overall I am pretty happy with the interview, aside from one little blooper. The quality is surprisingly good considering it was done over Skype too. We don’t get into the details too much, but I think the interview provides a good introduction to our service. Thanks to Ben and Tiffany for having me on the show.

Ben posted this episode to Digg, so if you want to help us out, digg it 🙂

Read: Neo-Fight.tv

MasterMaq's Podcast: The Sickness Episode

Post ImageI wouldn’t call it “episode 1” or anything, but here’s a quick little episode I recorded tonight for my podcast, powered of course by Podcast Spot. Basically I talk a little about the cold I picked up at the Expo, the drug I am using to get rid of it (Cold-FX), the outbreak at Lister Hall on the UofA campus, and my favorite, Purell.

Downloads, show notes, and much more can be found on the episode page.

For those of you interested in such things, I used the following to record this episode: Samson C03 microphone, Behringer Eurorack UB802 (connected to Audigy sound card), and Adobe Audition.

Read: The Sickness Episode

2006 Portable Media Expo Recap

Now that I am back in Edmonton and feeling a little better, time for a bit of a recap. Dickson has posted his closing thoughts on the expo as well. It’s hard to compare last year’s event with this year’s. In some ways, there seemed to be more people this year, such as on Friday, but Saturday told a different story. One thing is for sure – there were far less “I’ve never heard of podcasting” people in attendance this year.

  • I have to agree with Dickson, the weather in Ontario was really hot. It mattered less on Saturday when I had a bad case of the chills, but still.
  • I am amazed that I met people who were happy to “do it on their own” when it came to podcast hosting. Perhaps this is because podcasting is so new? Heck, I don’t even host my own photo gallery anymore. Why not? Because Flickr does it better than I ever could. I offload all the work to them. That’s what we are trying to do with Podcast Spot too. You as the podcaster can focus on creating great content, because we take care of the rest.
  • Speaking of pictures, you can see the ones I took here.
  • I think we’re going to have to do something more interesting with the booth next year. Our “low-key, low-information-on-the-wall” style worked to an extent, but I think we can do better.
  • We need to do a better job explaining how we charge. We charge based on upload, which is the amount of stuff you send to our servers in any given month. This is in contrast to charging by storage, which is the amount of stuff you have put on the servers since you became a customer. If we charged by storage, you’d eventually hit a limit, after which you wouldn’t be able to add anything new without first removing something old. Fortunately for you, we charge by upload so you never run out of space!
  • I just re-read that, and perhaps it still isn’t clear. I’ll record something soon that should explain it a little better. Visuals always help!
  • Generally speaking, I have the feeling that the Expo is missing something that would take it to the next level. What that something is, I don’t know. I do have a small wish-list though: wireless Internet throughout the convention center, expanded awards (say a “best podcast hosting service”), and more free food/drinks!

Thanks to Tim and the rest of the team at TNC New Media for another great Expo! I’m looking forward to next year already 🙂