Project Planning

Creating “Letters”

I’ve been thinking about starting up another podcast (I had four of them in back in College) and after setting a personal deadline of the end of January, I finally got it together!

You can learn more about the podcast from visiting the site or listening to the introductory episode, but basically it will have a different topic in each episode and feature opinions, perspectives, and thoughts from other people.

Since all the podcast stuff has its own home online, I’d like to briefly share my process for getting everything set up here:


1. Site & Hosting

This was the easiest step for me, because I already have hosting (thanks Dreamhost!) and a domain name set up. I might buy a unique domain name for the podcast, but that’s a bit premature right now. For the time being I set up a sub-domain (anything prefixing the main domain) as letters.robrogan.com.

If you don’t have any of the above, you’ll want to shop around for some affordable hosting and a domain name. Both of these should be super easy to find with Google and I don’t feel like writing a tutorial. ;)

2. Setting up the CMS

A CMS is yet another tech acronym for Content Management System. You’ll have lots of content—blogs, podcasts, etc.—and you’ll want to manage it. WordPress is by far the easiest to set up in my opinion so I’m using that.

With WordPress, you can quickly get it set up to distribute your podcast with a single plugin. There are a few to choose from but so far I recommend: Seriously Simple Podcast. What a godsend. Literally all I had to do was fill in the title of my show, author, description, and a few other pieces of info and it was good-to-go.

There are a few other details that I put into my WordPress, but you should set it up however you like. I’m trying to find a balance between practical, low-maintenance customization with just a dash of unique design. Using the plugin Easy Google Fonts I changed the typeface to a much softer sans-serif called Nunito. Note: I would not recommend using more than one or two web fonts as each font file increases the loading time for your site.

3. Making the Podcast

Well this point could be all sorts of things, but let’s just say that at some point you’ll have to sit down and record some audio, then edit the track, save it as a reasonably sized *.mp3 and upload it to your blog’s “Media” (if using WordPress).

In my case, I have a USB microphone (even a cheap one is a lot better than the built-in source) and I recorded with Adobe Audition. If you don’t have Adobe then Audacity is 100% free and gets the job done. Podcast editing a pretty big topic that is covered elsewhere better than I could here, so I’m not going to go into detail.

4. Album Art, Finishing Touches

People can agonize for hours—nay, days—trying to create the perfect artwork for their show. Right from the start I told myself that it will never be perfect, and it’s not going to ooze symbolism either. Erring on the side of simplicity, I just typed up the podcast name in a few fonts and colors and went from there.

I ended up using a strong serif font for the base, and then I masked-out most of an ornamented font, retaining just a few interesting characteristics, and overlayed that in a bright color. I think it has an interesting effect, so that’s good enough for me! Lastly, I needed something else to give it a bit of weight and not feel like a word just floating in the middle of a square. In addition to adding the two lines (reminiscent of lined paper), I added a thick border so that the light background didn’t get lost in the mix of a white web design or podcast app.

Letters podcast artwork

5. Now It Really Begins

So, setting up all of this was a bit of a chore, but in reality it’s just the beginning. I think the interesting challenge remains in creating each episode, especially if I require the participation of other people. I hope it turns into something great, but if not, it’s been a fun design and build process.


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Musings

Matter Duplicators

The following is a Forward, written by Neil Gaiman for the book, “Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free” by Cory Doctorow. GoodreadsAmazon


From “Business as Usual, During Alterations,”
by Ralf Williams (Astounding Science Fiction, 1958)
George shook his head slowly. “You’re wrong, John. Not back to where we were. This morning, we had an economy of scarcity. Tonight, we have an economy of abundance. This morning, we had a money economy—it was a money economy, even if credit was important. Tonight, it’s a credit economy, one hundred percent. This morning, you and the lieutenant were selling standardization. Tonight, it’s diversity. The whole framework of our society is flipped upside down.” He frowned uncertainly.
“And yet, you’re right, too. It doesn’t seem to make much difference. It’s still the same old rat race. I don’t understand it.”

I bought a box of SF pulps when I was in my late teens from one of my father’s friends, who kept them in the garage. English editions of Astounding Science Fiction, for the most part. Stories written by authors whose names I barely recognized, despite being a science-fiction reader from about as soon as I could read.

I paid more than I could afford for them.

I suspect that one story paid for all of them, though.

It’s a thought experiment. Until recently I’d forgotten the opening of the story (aliens decide to Mess With Us) but remembered what happened after that.

We’re in a department store. And someone drops off two matter duplicators. They have pans. You put something in pan one, press a button, and its exact duplicate appears in pan two.

We spend a day in the department store as they sell everything they have as cheaply as possible, duplicating things with the matter duplicator, making what they can on each sale, and using checks and credit cards, not cash (you can now perfectly duplicate cash—which obviously is no longer legal tender). Toward the end they stop and take stock of the new world waiting for them, and realize that all the rules have changed, but craftsmen and engineers are more necessary than ever.

They realize that companies won’t be manufacturing millions of identical things, but will need to make hundreds, perhaps thousands, of slightly different things. That their stores will be showrooms for things, and stockrooms will be history. That there will now be fundamental changes in 1950s-style retailing—including, to use a phrase that turned up well after 1958, a long tail.

Being Astounding Science Fiction, the story contains the moral of 95 percent of Astounding Science Fiction stories, which could perhaps be reduced to: people are smart. We’ll cope.

When my friends who were musicians first started complaining sadly about people stealing their music on Napster, back in the 1990s, I told them about the story of the duplicator machines. (I could not remember the name of the story or the author. It was not until I agreed to write this foreword that I asked a friend, via email, and found myself, a Google later, re-reading it for the first time in decades.)

It seemed to me that copying music was not stealing. It was something else. It was the duplicator machine story: you were pressing a button and an object appeared in the pan. Which meant, I suspected, that music-as-object (CD, vinyl, cassette tape) was going to lose value, and that other things—mostly things that could not be reproduced, things like live shows and personal contact—would increase in value.

I remembered what Charles Dickens did, a hundred and fifty years before, when copyright laws meant that his copyrights were worth nothing in the U.S.: he was widely read, but he was not making any money from it. So he took the piracy as advertising, and toured the U.S. in theaters, reading from his books. He made money, and he saw America.

So I started doing Evenings with Neil Gaiman as fund-raisers for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and learning how to do that—how to make an evening interesting for an audience, with just me and a stage and things I’d written, partly because it seemed to me that one day it might not be as easy to make money from selling stories in the traditional way, but that business might still continue more or less as usual, during the alterations, if there were other things I could do.

And so as the nature of music-selling changed utterly and fundamentally, I just stood and watched and nodded. Now the nature of book publishing is changing, and the only people who claim to know what the landscape of publishing will look like a decade from now are either fools or deluding themselves. Some people think the sky is falling, and I do not entirely blame them.

I never worried that the world was ending, because as a teen I’d read a thought experiment in an SF pulp published two years before I was born. It stretched my head.

I know that the view is going to be very different in the future, that authors are going to get their money from different places. I am certain that not all authors can be Charles Dickens, and that many of us became authors in order to avoid getting up on stages in the first place, and that it’s not a solution for everybody or even for most of us.

Fortunately, Cory Doctorow has written this book. It’s filled with wisdom and with thought experiments and with things that will mess with your mind. Once, while we were arguing, Cory came up with an analogy that explained the world we were heading into in terms of mammals and dandelions, and I’ve never seen anything quite the same way since.

Mammals, he said, and I paraphrase here and do not put it as well as Cory did, invest a great deal of time and energy in their young, in the pregnancy, in raising them. Dandelions just let their seeds go to the wind, and do not mourn the seeds that do not make it. Until now, creating intellectual content for payment has been a mammalian idea. Now it’s time for creators to accept that we are becoming dandelions.

The world is not ending. Not if, as Astounding Science Fiction used to suggest, humans are bright enough to think our way out of the problems we think ourselves into.

I suspect that the next generation to come along will puzzle over our agonies, much as I puzzled over the death of the Victorian music halls as a child, and much as I felt sorry for the performers who had needed only thirteen minutes of material in their whole life, and who did their thirteen minutes in town after town until the day that television came along and killed it all.

In the meanwhile, it’s business as usual, during alterations.


Another excerpt: NPR.org
GoodreadsAmazon

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Musings

And now for a completely subjective selection of interesting tweets in the last week

This is a bit ironic, because it goes against my personal goal of writing and sharing more of my self and I’ve head such disdain for the overly recycled web lately. One fun thing about having my own website is that I have the option to not care at all – winkyface.

Either way, I hope you enjoyed the next 5 seconds of scrolling!

Twitter Thursday

Quote

Other cities: Istanbul, London, Chicago, Tokyo, San Francisco.

Musings

On Being: The Last Quiet Places

silence

Gordon Hempton says that silence is an endangered species. He’s an acoustic ecologist — a collector of sound all over the world. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth as Gordon Hempton knows it is a “solar-powered jukebox.” Quiet is a “think tank of the soul.” We take in the world through his ears.

Listen: Stream/Download (opens pop-up)
Unedited Interview: Gordon Hempton
Read: Transcript

Excerpt –

Mr. Hempton: Well, when you really listen, when you really keep your mind open and listening to another person — and by the way, I highly recommend that if a person wants to increase their ability to understand another person that they start out listening to nature because you’re totally uninvested in the outcome of nature. You can just take it all in, all the expressions. And isn’t it wonderful that, when a bird sings, that we do hear it as music? The bird doesn’t sing for our benefit. So there’s a lot of joy in that listening, and when we become better listeners to nature, we also become better listeners to each other so that, when another person is speaking with you, you don’t have to search for what you want them to say. You can, you know, dare to risk what they really are trying to say and, you know, ask them too: Is this really what you’re saying? And feel your own emotional response as they talk about risky subjects like how it is being a parent in the world that it is today.

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Musings

Link Drop (5)

Web Design +

— Use Font Icons (not images)
The Era of Symbol Fonts
IcoMoon
We Love Icon Fonts
CSS-Tricks: The Big List of Flat Icons & Icon Fonts
– Web Fonts
FontSquirrel – Free fonts! All kinds
TypeCast
Google Web Fonts
Adobe Typekit

Art +

Taylor McCormick FlickrTaylor McCormick, Photographer
Catrina Dulay data-recalc-dims=Catrina Dulay, Graphic Designer
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Brooklyn Soap CompanyBrooklyn Soap Team, Illustration*
brklynsoap

*The rest of their site is nice too.

Might Be Cool I’m Not Sure +

ListGeeks
Google Street View World – Crazy street view images
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