Recorded on March 3rd, 2016
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend with some podcasts recently. People are running their shows through some plug-in – maybe the Truncate Silence tool in something like Audacity – to automatically remove silence longer than a preset duration from their audio. This saves a minute or a few over the course of the episode, and can shorten what could otherwise be awkward gaps, while also reducing the amount of data required for a listener to download a file. But in most cases where Truncate Silence is used, interviewers and interviewees end up virtually breathlessly dovetailing each others’ thoughts, and the people speaking sound like they forgot to breathe, even when they’re speaking by themselves for a long period. The result is a stunted sound collage where there should be a story, a conversation, two or more people in an exchange, growing an hour older with each other and hurtling toward oblivion at the same rate.
One of the great things about listening to a well-crafted podcast1 is that you go along on the mental journey with the host. Sometimes they’re working out a thought in front of your ears, and you both get to meander with each other until the point is crystallized. But everything is disrupted when you tamper with the pacing, even if you think you won’t notice it. That’s why I don’t believe in playing podcasts at anything but 1.0x speed, and though I’m a fan of Marco, I don’t use the Smart Speed setting in his wonderful Overcast app. I thought Smart Speed was going to be a killer feature, but for me, it didn’t last more than a week. Being part of a species that happened to evolve keen spoken language skills, I regularly heard the chopped up silences and always wondered what time nuances were left out. I have the same problem when I listen to compressed audio, wondering what I’m missing vs. FLAC.
My long-term goal is not to get through the maximum number of podcast episodes in my life. It’s to enjoy the ones I do take the time for more deeply, and to learn the best lessons I can. Leave the pauses in!
Recorded on February 25th, 2016
WNYC’s excellent Note to Self podcast recently interviewed a journalist who submitted himself to a personal white-hat pen-test. There are surprising and scary ways people can get to your stuff (or shut you down entirely) if they really want to. Little Snitch is starting to look like a better idea than ever:
Spoiler: This episode will make you want to put a PIN on your phone provider account. It’ll possibly make you want to download a security program like Little Snitch. At very least, it will probably make you want to cover up the camera on your computer.