s2e28: Podcasts; Other Things; Hue 

by danhon

0.0 Sitrep

1:58pm in the coworking space after a morning of somewhat frantic email, tracked-changes and documents and conference calls. Sometimes at the same time. Sometimes *two* conference calls at the same time. No, not double-fisting conference calls. That’s gross. No, you just put the other one on hold. No, it’s probably not effective. Yes, I know humans are terrible at multitasking.

Coworking space status: mostly empty, no holiday music, only evidence of holiday decoration in common area is a poinsetta.

1.0 Podcasts

Look, there are a few things that I just want to make clear:

It’s hard for me to listen to podcasts. I don’t know if it’s an ADD thing (yay, I had an adult ADD diagnosis earlier in the year and *let me tell you* that the Adderall is very helpful thank you very much and I get so much more done on it than not on it), but whenever I *try* to listen to a podcast, I invariably start zoning out and whatever’s playing just becomes background noise or conversation like filler in a scene and people could literally just be saying duck duck duck duck for the attention that I’m actually playing.

It’s not even a gradual thing, it feels like a discrete switch or change in mode of consciousness: one moment I’m paying attention to what people are saying and I’ve been following the conversation and the next moment, I’m not. Not at all. *And* it feels like I’ve just had a time-skip because I’ll have finished vacuuming (or not, if you ask my family) or finished cleaning the kitchen and have put everything away (more likely). But I won’t have any idea what the podcast people will have been talking about.

This is frustrating because people keep telling me (and, presumably, *some* of them mustn’t be lying) that a) podcasts are quite good and b) I should listen to them and c) there are quite interesting ideas in them. I mean, someone even tried to record one with *me*. But: I can’t do the concentrating and listening to them. Just doesn’t work. Words go in and they just fall back out in some morass of indistinguishable smeary sounds, some sort of analogue paste of laryngially sculpted air pressure waves that just flop about and don’t *mean* anything.

(Relatedly: I can listen to a song on single track repeat for *hours* for a day, and then for *days* and still have literally no idea what the lyrics are other than say just a three word hook. Shake it off?)

All of this means that I just wish there were more transcripts of podcasts. Note: I am not saying, as I think some people think I’m saying, that there are *no* transcripts of podcasts. Just that:

a) there should be *more* transcripts of podcasts;
b) any increase in the number of transcripts of podcasts is a good thing;
c) especially if that increase in number also correlates with an increase in quality;
d) no, of course podcasts are not *substitutes* for the same pacing and acting and drama and sense of environment that you get with, say, radio drama, but I would still like *some access* rather than *no access* and anyway – parenthetical coming up…

… do you really want me to have to make the accessibility argument? If I can’t hear *for whatever reason* then I can’t use or enjoy a podcast in any reasonable way. Not even if I’m deaf. If I don’t have headphones. If I don’t have somewhere to listen. Whatever. I mean, we subtitle tv programs and films. We even provide written descriptions of fine art. I mean, seriously.

e) and of course providing someone with a screenplay isn’t equivalent to being able to watch the film but at least then you have *some idea* of what the point of the film was and how the subject matter might be treated and what’s important or not important as opposed to, and let me emphasize this again: *no idea at all* (or, not very much of an idea, or as much as you can get from a description).

All of this was precipitated by John Gruber’s The Talk Show podcast (already a podcast that is near some sort of local if not global maxima for sheer privilege) interview with Apple’s Craig Federighi[1] about Apple’s surprisingly (for them) competent (if not downright inspirational) open-sourcing of the Swift language. This podcast episode, 139, is *atypical* because there’s a transcript. Presumably because someone (Apple? Gruber?) decided it was *important* that people who *don’t listen to podcasts* would be able to hear (ha!) what, say, a person whose position and views are important to a certain audience – say, Craig Federighi, and how Apple’s being open and how it’s treating the open sourcing of Swift.

So, this is great. I get to read (and skim-read, too! I read super fast! There’s many other people like me!) a Gruber podcast and I get to find out about Apple’s attitude to open-source-the behaviour as opposed to open-source-the-released-the-tarball.

But this doesn’t always happen. And hey, who sponsors that episode of The Talk Show? Squarespace. Because I don’t even listen to podcasts and I know Squarespace sponsors podcasts. You know who else is starting to sponsor things and has lots of money to throw around[2]? Slack. You know what I’d quip on the internet?

“Man I wish someone would sponsor transcripts of podcasts the way Squarespace sponsors podcasts COUGH @SlackHQ”[3]

This doesn’t mean that I think:

a) sponsors should be responsible for picking up the costs of transcription, just that if someone needs to pay costs of good transcription then hey, maybe a sponsor might be willing to do that
b) this is a fantastic opportunity to insert text advertising all over the place, it’s just that all the existing “content” (ugh) inside podcasts is LOCKED AWAY right now *despite* there being a bunch of papers about deep learning and real-time speech transcription but hey, we’re too busy looking for dogs in things or making photographs of one thing look like paintings of the same thing
c) volunteers should go and transcribe everyone’s podcasts (*but* remember principle number something: more transcripts is generally better than fewer, or zero, transcripts) or should feel a moral obligation to – no, they don’t

I mean, really, if we’re all so god-damned impressed that podcasts are growing as a creative medium (which, yay!), it would be *additively awesome*, not *exclusionarily awesome* if they were also accessible in other media. Like ones that we can read.

Sure, there are the ancillary parts that you can take or leave. If a commercial entity *were* to sponsor transcripts of podcasts, I’d imagine/expect that they’d do so in a way where the podcaster retained copyright and the sponsor were merely paying to produce the transcript in the first place and to be acknowledged as the source of funding for the transcript, pretty much nothing more. Without even having to think about it, that’s a sheer tonne of *good quality backlinks* and *now referencerable and hyperlinkable content* that didn’t exist before. But OH NO we think it’s super cool if we put a shit-tonne of information dense content on the internet in binary blobs with no great way (well, it’s not like I’m going to say *no way at all*) to address individual concepts inside of that blob using the hyperlink.

Also, thanks to @bluishorange I learned about auditory processing disorder[4] which was super exciting and revelatory to me until I got to the bit about “oh right, there’s some similarity with ADHD” for which I had a prior relevant revelation.

[1] The Talk Show ✪, Ep. 139: Transcript of Craig Federighi and John Gruber
[2] Slack hits 2M daily users, sets up $80M app developer fund (I mean, seriously, that story is on USA TODAY.)
[3] Dan Hon is typing on Twitter: “Man I wish someone would sponsor transcripts of podcasts the way Squarespace sponsors podcasts COUGH @SlackHQ”
[4] Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder in Children | APD – Understood

2.0 Other Things Catching My Attention

– in conversation with a good friend, the difference between cities as strange attractors and cities as lagrangian points. All of this, obviously (he says, sounding for all the world like a mansplainer, sigh) with the privileged position of being the kind of person who relatively easily* jets off to another city for a bit, for work or whatever.

* for certain values of relatively easily

– the recognition of the type of job or career that I’ve been (accidentally? on purpose? been strange-attracted-to?) heading down for the last ten years or so where it’s increasingly likely that I won’t know *what city I’ll be in next week* or even, that the probability that I don’t know *what city I’ll be in the next day* is for many days higher than zero. I don’t know if that’s a kind of career thing or more of a “this is what the material of the world looks like now and if we expect our information and bits and bytes to move around with ease, then so must the people who understand and manipulate them”

– in other words, despite the network and despite moving the bits and bytes around arbitrarily, people follow bytes

– how fucked is London, really? Again, via conversation, and asking for a friend. Asking Londoners. Is it really a bit like that movie where the alien species comes in and destroys everyone? Is the natural state of London Pandora from Avatar and the banking and financial industry is the Resource Development Agency coming in and mining pure, er, Financial Product from the very bedrock and soul of the city, displacing the peaceful noble savage natives who are at one with the villages?

– the GLP-1 hormone[1] and the associated GLP-1 agonist, for reasons for which you can probably work out amongst yourselves if you read between the lines, or if you’ve been paying any attention at all over the last nearly-two-years, will be quite obvious. I might have more to say about this later, other than “holy crap it looks like it’s a miracle that bodies, in general, actually work” given the amount of crap that can go wrong with them which I suspect is closer to the average case than we think.

[1] Glucagon-like peptide-1 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[2] Glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

– spending a lot of time watching these old (but not that old!) biomedical animations[1] of things like DNA replication and misquoting Douglas Adams by saying “Life is really, really complicated. I mean, you might think figuring out how to present on a projector with sound with the right input and not mirroring your display is hard, but that’s just peanuts to life”[2] and yes, I know DNA and Douglas Adams and oh gosh I miss him so.

[1] WEHI.TV | Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
[2] Space – Wikiquote

3.0 Hue

Ok this whole Philips Hue light thing is *hilarious* because it only took about 48 hours from the relative perspective of my lightcone/news-stream (ie first appearance in a browser window of news that third-party lights were being shut out to back-pedal[1] from Philips). This whole idea of basic functionality that’s been a pretty big boon in terms of “meeting user need” of being able to do things in the dark and drastically transform the potential for human output and productivity and simply doing it is whatever that humans want to do that was delivered by the concept of “electric lighting” is now being fucked with because it’s now feasible and cheap enough for us to give them IP addresses. I mean, great. Yay. IP addresses. Everything should have one. OK. But now some lights won’t talk to other lights because they’re the wrong kind of light and yeah, I know we kind of have this problem already but at least they present themselves at install-time instead of at run-time. Anyway, some snarky translations from Philip’s FAQ on the thing that they did wrong that they’re sorry for but not really sorry for:

Q. Why have you reversed your strategy?

Can you not just say “Why did you change your mind?” The only kind of people who’re allowed to reverse their strategy are people who’re playing Risk and they’ve suddenly realised that they’re about to embark on a land war in Asia.

We underestimated the impact

“Underestimated the impact” might mean “we thought no-one would notice and that we’d get away with it”.

Or that “apparently, we didn’t realise that it’s still possible for a small number of people to gain disproportionate attention precisely because they’re the kind of people who play with this sort of thing as early adopters and we *completely forgot* that probably the kind of people who’re using Hue right now are early adopters”

this would have upon the small number of our customers

to be fair, it’s perfectly possible that Hue only has a small number of customers

who currently use uncertified lights

“uncertified lights” should be banned from the English language because really, these are lights and yes, I know we’ve got safety standards and things for lights but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

 from other brands in the Philips Hue system.

stop trying to make the word “brand” a word that normal people use because they don’t use it that way and they also don’t really brand things any more and also really a Philips Hue system no one is going to do that stop talking like that, I don’t talk to you about my integrated kitchen meal preparation system, but if I did, I’d be worried that you’d hire me

We have decided to continue to enable our customers

we’re going to let you

who wish to integrate these uncertified products

if you want to use lightbulbs that we didn’t make, that we won’t make any money from, other than the fact that you’ve already given us money once.

within their Philips Hue system.

Just stop.

[1] Friends of Hue program – Update | Philips Hue API

2:44pm, 2,355 words in about 46 minutes. Send me notes, let’s just pretend it’s the old times, and that hiatus/writer’s strike was a bad dream you and me baby, we’re gonna be great together.

PS. If you want to see me continue to help transform government (Transform!) then California is having its second vendor forum about delivering a new Child Welfare Service using agile, iterative delivery this Friday, December 18 at 2pm PST at this horrifying LYNC link oh my god[1]

[1] https://meet.lync.com/osicagov/tyu/9HBZ7YRD ok it wasn’t that horrifying I’ll really go now

Best,

Dan