Off the Top: Podcast Entries


June 21, 2017

Spines On the Bookshelf

Today listening to the latest Track Changes podcast, Maris Kreizman Wants to Mail You Books there was a statement by Paul Ford of Postlight and many other things at Ftrain commented about how he likes physical book, particularly on his bookshelves as looking at their spines he will “think new thoughts because of the juxtapositioning of the spines”. This was brought up because it is one of the things that ebooks don’t offer.

This remixing and thinking new thoughts by looking at one’s shelves and the book on them is something I have a few conversations about over the last 5 to 10 years of reading digital books and paper books. Each physical book, not only has its own content with it shared and intermingles with one’s own preexisting knowing (or even can supplant prior understanding), but they accrete context interwoven with when and where they were read. They can also accrete understandings and framings that were concurrent thoughts during that reading. A book can really sink in for me when I discuss it with others, to a lesser degree it takes hold when I write about it. So, when I think of a book through the spine I see on the shelf I can often see the people I interacted with around the time I was reading it or discussing it with others.

This visceral sense springs to life when looking at my shelves (less so with the stack not currently shelved for various reasons). But, also the intermixing of the spines and their concurrent and accreted thoughts and understanding that come along with them.

Bookshelves and physical books are a sensorial wonder that ebooks don’t bring along. I can’t feel where in the book I read something - how much of the book’s pages are stacked on the right side, how many on the left, what side of the book a thought or passage may have been on, or where I was when I read it. These ancillary senses are not permitted when I read something as an ebook.

I do read ebooks and I find the ability to have a stack of books in my pocket or thin bookbag something nice. I also deeply appreciate the ability to search in an ebook. The ability to highlight and pull that highlight out easily (this is increasingly difficult with Findings cutting this off and Readmill shutting down). Having digital notes typed out easily in the pages of an ebook and having relatively easy retrieval is also nice (when there is easy access, see above).

What ebooks don’t provide is that sensorial interaction and deeper recall. The other ability that is missing is the ease of flipping through a book to find what is needed and flipping through the pages prior to what is found to be helpful to get context easily. The flipping through prior pages to get the beginning of a framing of an idea or concept is really nice. It echoes the gutting a book I learned in Oxford and is a practice that has stuck with me. I’ve run into a few people who have the same gutting practice and they also haven’t found a way to work ebooks in the same manner.

My preference? Both. They each have their benefit. Paper books have their added sensory enjoyment. But, ebooks have that ease of portability and search, as well as annotation (when it has some permanence).



January 14, 2016

Podcast That Gave Life Back to the Living

A few years ago after my mom passed away, which was 11 months after my dad passed, I was in a deep fog. I was in Stockton, California a lot for about 16 to 18 months taking care of things and wrapping things up (mostly trying to sort out a lot of mysteries of where things were and went - some mysteries remain). On my trips out there I would get out to the Bay Area every few days to see friends, have work focussed meetings, or just get out of town.

On those trips, as well as errands around town (including around DC), I would listen to podcasts. They were great ways to have (sort of one-sided) conversations around things I had interest in, but was lacking someone else with that interest with depth where I could learn things. They also kept me entertained. The big thing was they kept my mind going (it was a slow time on the work front) and not dwelling on loss.

Many of the podcasts I listened to then were on the 5by5 Network. I deeply enjoyed Mac Power Users (and still do) and many other shows there. But, there was one I really enjoyed, which was Back to Work with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.

Back to Work Was a Lifeline Back

I’d met Merlin a few times through special web related things were both were involved in, he is a friend with many friends, and we had the pleasure (at least for me) of meeting for lunch. But, Back to Work laid me out in a wonderful way.

While, I got a lot out of the productivity, life guidance, how to think through things in a manner that will improve things, and other more serious things; what was a huge, no giant, help was the humor. That stretch after losing both parents and being an only child (trying to keep it all together), while being somewhat (okay a lot) numb to things in life because of the loss was tough. There were days where it was tough to do things and get things done that needed to be done, but they mostly did. But, that bright light that deeply helped was Merlin and his humor on Back to Work. This humor and riffs fit how my brain works really well. It also would get me laughing insanely hard to the point of nearly crying. It also nearly caused me to have to pull off the road I was laughing so uncontrollably.

That finding and holding on to my sense of humor, from just being able to laugh, helped me through that deep grief fog. It helped me get the light part of my brain back to life. When things get tough (like last year’s serious health issues) I make light of it and get myself to laugh. During the stretch after my parents died, I had lost that ability to do that for myself. Thanks to Merlin, I got it back and walked out of the grief fog intact (maybe even in better shape than going into it).

Every time I listen to Merlin these days on Back to Work, Dalrymple Report, and Reconcilable Differences I think I need to just say a little thanks for a little unknown gesture that had a big impact, laughter. So, thank you Merlin.



January 1, 2016

What to do with Podcast Favorites

Another thing I’m wanting to sort is podcasts I like, make that one’s I listen to and like. I have a list of podcasts I regularly listen to tucked into the left column in my links: podasts.

But, there are often podcasts I listen to that I really like and would like to easily share out to others. When I run into podcasts episodes that I hear mentioned I will track them down and most often use Huffduffer to grab it and putting into my listening queue that I most often consume in Overcast in the car driving to get my son or going through my morning routine that includes making breakfast and coffee and consuming them while scanning news and the day’s plans.

Last year I found many of the episodes of Exponent with Ben Thompson and James Allworth that I really liked a lot. While Overcast has a nice share component within it, that functionality takes the person clicking to it to Overcast’s web page for the podcast (or to the exact timestamp in the podcast) and to play it. While I like the idea of this, what I’m really wanting is to primarily link to the actual podcast page (hopefully this is something beyond a Soundcloud page, which I find to be really frustrating for this purpose as well).

Potential Zeef Solution

I do use a “podfodder” tag in Pinboard, which I occasionally push things into. But with this I don’t have it easily exposed elsewhere and people aren’t exactly looking for a podfodder tag they don’t know of (well they may do so now, but now isn’t then). I keep thinking I will do something similar I do to the “linkfodder” tag in Pinboard, which I use on things I read I really like (when I remember to tag them).

With “linkfodder” I pull that tag into Zeef, which is a list making and managing site that structures related content well, as a link widget. The Zeef link widget pulls the last 10 from the “linkfodder” list and makes them available in as a JavaScript component, which I embed in the side of this vanderwal.net blog. I could do the same thing for "podfodder’ (in 2 minutes I added the feed to a private page in Zeef and may make it public), but I’m not sure where the widget will be best placed.

Wishing a Solution Were Just Here

About a year ago Matt Haughey wrote about podcasting needs and more directly Matt Haughey has social subscription list wish. I keep hoping somebody would have built this podcasting social subscription list as a tool. It seems like a perfect thing for Huffduffer as a “rate after listening” feature. This seems to be wide open for somebody to do, it may not have great money attached to it, but it would be a great service that has value.



March 28, 2015

Inviewed on Shift Podcast

On Friday I had the pleasure of spending about an hour with two of my favorite people, Euan Semple and Megan Murray on the wonderful podcast, Shift. We covered tagging, taxonomies, meaning, power, and the future that we are all hurtling towards.

I am a big fan of their interviews (as their conversations between them are familiar from past conversations between us) with other. I still have a few to get to.


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