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BitTorrent Goes Legit With Its First Original Web Series →

December 03, 2014 |

Michelle Castillo, Adweek:

Next fall, BitTorrent will distribute its first original Web series, Children of the Machine. The series is helmed by Marco Weber (producer of Igby Goes Down and The Thirteenth Floor) and takes place in the year 2031, in a futuristic society where androids take over and force humans to band together to survive. And, if you’re interested, the only place to get it is to download it via a BitTorrent Bundle, a service that allows artists to release content directly to consumers.

“This is a science fiction show catered to the typical tech-savvy, male-dominated audience,” Weber said. “We’re not trying to launch a romantic comedy, so the concept of this show moved us toward BitTorrent.”

Translation: “Robots, guns, and boobs”. Robots with boobs?


The pilot and an ad-supported version of Children of the Machine will be made available for free download, but those who want to skip ads can pay $4.95 for the eight-episode season or $9.95 for bonus content.

Good luck with that.

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The Right To Be Heard →

December 03, 2014 |

Richard J. Anderson makes an excellent point:

Freedom of speech is not, and has never been the same as freedom to be heard. Censorship is an organized effort of a governing body to silence something they don’t like, and it can be done by a government or a corporation alike. Individuals choosing who they do not wish to hear, and collaboratively tuning them out is within their rights by any legal framework. If Twitter, or any other service, were bound to force users to see replies from any Tom, Dick, or Harassing Harry on their service, it would be akin to Fox News having the legal right to pre-empt you watching CNN on your TV. (And that analogy works if you flip the networks around.)

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Volkswagen’s New 300 MPG Car Is Not Allowed In America Because It’s Too Efficient →

December 02, 2014 |

The Mind Unleashed:

If the XL1 was equipped with an 18 gallon fuel tank, and you did all highway driving, you could fill it up with an oil change and when the next change was due you could change the oil and keep driving without filling up for and additional 2,400 miles. But it comes with a much smaller fuel tank, because if it could go that long on a single tank chances are the fuel would foul before it got used. The tank is only 2.6 gallons to prevent fuel age related problems from happening. So fill ups are cheap.

That’s impressive. But why wouldn’t such an efficient car be allowed on American roads?

The answer is obvious. Simply for the sake of raking in huge profits from $4 a gallon gas, getting guzzled at 10X the rate it should be, the corporations have via campaign contributions and other types of pay outs succeeded in getting the FED to legislate the best cars off the road for irrelevant trumped up reasons. The XL1 will not meet American emission standards NOT because it is not clean enough, it will not meet them simply because inefficient parts that are mandated by the EPA are not part of the XL1′s power train.


Via The Loop.

UPDATE: Apparently, the conspiracy claims implied in this article may not be entirely reliable. Here’s the flip side of the story:

First of all, it’s not true that the XL1 has “been denied a tour of America because it is too efficient for the American public to be made widely aware of.” Existing safety and traffic regulations do limit where the current XL1 models can be legally driven in public roads in the U.S., but Volkswagen has taken at least three of the vehicles on tour around the U.S., and the staff of Jalopnik drove one around Manhattan at the end of 2013.

Second, the primary reason the XL1 won’t be seen in the U.S. anytime soon is that Volkswagen is only producing 200 units for retail sale (not 2,000 as claimed above), all of them to be sold in Europe via some sort of selection (i.e., lottery) process.

Frankly, I’m not entirely convinced of either version, but it’s only fair to present both sides of the argument. That said, a healthy dose of skepticism is always a good habit to maintain and as ever, it’s your duty as a reader to make up your mind in light of the facts.

Thanks to Mark Bylok for the heads up!

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Typeset in the Future: The Typography of ‘Alien’ →

December 02, 2014 |

Whoa. This is so painstakingly detailed it makes my head hurt:

At this point, you might be thinking: “Wait – why are we talking about units of measurement? Why should I, Joe or Jane Blog-Reader, care about a typographic anomaly in the measurement units of a space-based computer?”

You really should know the answer to that by now. Typography is always important.

You just know this is going to end badly.

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A great app for recording podcasts →

December 02, 2014 |

Allen Pike, on why such an app doesn’t exist yet, and is not likely to exist anytime soon:

The next step, the final step before going all in on building this, was for me to figure out how to make it sustainable in such a niche market. I just had to do the “napkin math” to show that if we built the app, we could maintain it at a level we could be proud of. This step has proved problematic.

Unfortunately, it looks like the potential audience for an advanced, high-quality podcast recording app is not large enough to make it sustainable to develop — and more importantly, to maintain.

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America's Malls →

December 02, 2014 |

Chris Wild, Mashable:

In 1989, Michael Galinsky, then a 20-year-old student, took a month to traverse the U.S. Everywhere he went, he documented the same place: the shopping mall. The results are now an archive of a vanished world, simultaneously familiar and foreign, trivial and full of meaning.

Aah, the eighties and their fashion. Gotta love’em.

Being European though, the whole concept of spending my time at the mall feels extremely alien to me. I’ve seen it on American TV shows and movies, but I’ve never quite been able to get it.

To me, malls are like the dentist’s office: you don’t go there unless it’s absolutely necessary and even then, you only stay for as little time as humanly possible.

Does that make me weird?

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The Newsprint Enters Year Two →

December 02, 2014 |

Josh Ginter celebrates The Newsprint’s first birthday:

I just want more. I want more control. I want more speed. I want more simplicity. I want more focus. I want to embed videos. I want real link posts. I want beautiful typography. All of these things were more properly served by a change.

So here we are. A brand new design for The Newsprint.

Whoa. Massive congratulations on a great accomplishment, and a fantastic job. The new design is gorgeous; I’m sure he’s over the moon with it, and with good reason. Having gone through the same process a few months ago — only hacking through all the tedious bits myself — I’m intimately aware of the effort such a redesign takes, as well as the advantages it will bring in terms of increased performance, decreased costs and overall “pride of ownership”.

But beyond all these technicalities, the reason The Newsprint is one of my favorite websites will always be its excellent content. Josh has worked his ass off day in, day out for the past year, and it shows. He’s one of the few people out there that are creating the Internet we all want to read.

The Newsprint is a labor of love. I’m so happy that Josh is doubling down on the site, and we’re all better off for it.

He probably doesn’t know this, but he’s been — and continues to be — a huge inspiration for me, personally and professionally. He’s living proof that what we’re trying to do here is important. That showing up, having something to say — and being brave enough to say it — matters. It may not always translate into more pageviews or RSS subscribers, but it’s always, always worth it.

It’s a lesson I keep reminding myself of day after day, when the insecurities kick in. I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m glad to see he is too.

Happy birthday, Josh. Here’s to another great year, and to many more after that.

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The ultimate guide to podcasting guides

December 01, 2014

It’s no secret that over the past few years, podcasting as a medium has been steadily on the rise. It used to be that podcasts were seen as a unprofessional creative outlet mostly populated by geeks. Now, even the mainstream press is talking about them, in no small part thanks to the overwhelming popularity of the new Serial podcast. It would seem the entire world agrees: podcasting is the new black.

Of course, the Internet can rarely stay in agreement for long, so over this past weekend, several of my favorite tech podcasters got into a bit of an argument on Twitter over which gear recommendations are more appropriate and helpful for people who are looking to start their first podcast. This prompted some of them to share their podcasting setups and give some advice on their respective sites. Which is totally cool, except sometimes it can feel like there are more podcasting guides out there than actual podcasts.

But fear not, my young podcasting apprentice, because I’ve got you covered. Allow me to walk you through what these excellent hosts had to say in each of their guides.

Podcasting guides galore

The incomparable Jason Snell, one of the first ones to jump into the fray, urged people to avoid being intimidated by podcasting:

So start with the equipment you’ve got. You could literally do a podcast by talking into your iPhone and posting it. (I don’t recommend it, but you could do it.) Every Apple laptop comes with a built-in microphone. Again, I don’t recommend you use that microphone, but you could. You could use the EarPods that come with your iPhone—and I’d recommend them over that laptop microphone any day. Add an external microphone when you get the chance. Learn how to use GarageBand or Audacity to edit your podcast—both of them are free.

Beyond that, here’s a tiny bit about hardware.

His position strikes me as eminently reasonable. There will always be time to upgrade some or all of your equipment down the road, but you must allow yourself the opportunity to simply get started.

Marco Arment is way more into high-end audio equipment than most podcasters out there, but even he had very encouraging things to say about the need for expensive gear:

Arguing whether gear matters and whether you should spend money on it is a misguided and toxic diversion that’s missing the real discussion we should be having:

Making your podcast easy to listen to is worth some effort.

Just as blogs need sensible fonts, colors, layouts, and spacing to be comfortably readable, podcasts need to be listenable. And you can’t make easily listenable podcasts without at least basic equipment and production.

Unlike Marco, though, Marcus De Paula warned about the shortcomings of cheap USB microphones:

One of the most popular affordable and decent USB mics is the Blue Yeti. This mic is marketed and believed to be the best podcasting mic for the money. And for $99 or less, it is… fine. It works. But it does have quite a few negative tradeoffs you should weigh against the positives of low price and “plug-and-play” of a single device with a single cable.

A week earlier, Casey Liss had also given a very detailed look at his admittedly high-end setup. He probably spent more than most podcasters do, but he was quick to point out that high-end gear is not what makes a great podcast:

Like I said above, nothing here is really magical. The magic for both shows is giving a crap.

Furthermore, he backed it up on Saturday with a crystal-clear qualification:

Don’t let the quality snobs — including me! — get you down. Use whatever you can, even your earbuds, if you have to. The point is what you’re saying, not how it sounds.

Stephen Hackett also joined the conversation, pointing out that, while he does believe that having quality gear matters, there are other factors that matter more:

A million factors go into making a show successful. Audio quality takes the front seat because it’s perhaps the easiest to throw money at, but your content, show notes, release consistency, co-host chemistry, branding, website, social presence, iTunes ratings and cultivating relationships with fans all play an important role.

The common thread? Working hard, often without direct reward.

Several of these articles reference Dan Benjamin’s take in one way or another. Dan is certainly one of the most experienced and respected podcasters I know of, and he definitely knows what makes a good show. He took the trouble to set up The Podcast Method, an excellent website with his hardware and software recommendations for podcasters of all levels of experience.

Regarding people who are just starting out, Dan had this to say:

I want everybody to podcast! And the lower the barrier of entry into the medium, the better. Fortunately, all you really need to get started is a mic and some headphones. That’s good, because most new podcasters out there are hesitant, unable, or unwilling to drop a lot of cash on gear. I was too!

Frequently, though, beginning podcasters may also have less than ideal recording conditions – noisy rooms, kids and pets running around, neighbors blaring music, lack of acoustic insulation, while still learning good mic technique. Combine that with a poor microphone, and you have a recipe for a less than ideal recording.

The Podcast Method also features some great tips on professional audio recording and editing, handling multiple callers in Skype, and even live streaming. It’s a pretty comprehensive guide full of really good stuff.

Finally, Dave Wiskus thinks it’s time for a podcasting intervention. With technology empowering everyone to make podcasts, most shows are starting to sound exactly the same:

Two or more white males talking to microphones for two or more hours sharing their unscripted thoughts about their phones and their computers. Sponsored by Squarespace.

He has a point. There’s too much focus on technology and hardware, but in the end what makes a great podcast will always be the content. What sets your podcast apart from the rest? What do you have to say that no one else can? Before spending hours of research and a small fortune on your next microphone, make sure you’re willing to put as much time and effort on what you’re actually going to say with it.

The bottom line

It’s pretty clear by now that podcasting is here to stay, and it’s attracting more and more listeners — and sponsors — every day. It really is a fantastic way to explore certain topics and ideas, and it creates a much stronger connection between the hosts and the audience.

I love listening to all these guys every week, and I’m thankful to them for being generous enough to not only make great shows, but also help others do the same. Together, they’re pushing podcasting forward as a respected medium, and that’s awesome for everyone.

Starting a podcast of my own is something I’ve been considering for some time, but I won’t do it unless I’m positive I have something unique to add to the conversation. If there’s one thing I’m sure of it’s that I won’t be adding to the noise, not if I can help it. There’s too much of that already.

Still, I confess the idea excites me. My father owns a radio station and has worked as a professional broadcaster for over 30 years, so I guess you could say it runs in the family. It may never come to fruition — or it may happen sooner than you think — but at least now I know how to get started. Which, as you know, is often the hardest thing to do.

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