Episode 23 – Happy Birthday

19 March, 200813 comments

On the first birthday of the podcast, Tom, Mills, and Dan discuss how they produce the podcast and reflect on what they’re doing right, what needs improvement, and what they might do in the coming year—and ask the audience to write in with their own criticisms and suggestions. The news roundup looks at a new campus gossip website, the expulsion of a student for using a Facebook study group, and the significance of iPhones coming to campuses in the fall along with the new iPhone SDK (software development kit). Links for the week include an easy way to collaboratively markup and critique websites, a detailed description of a good web design and development setup, and one journal’s take on Web 2.0.

Links mentioned on the podcast:
Call Recorder
Jeremy Boggs’s Design and Development Setup
First Monday issue on Web 2.0

Runtime: 44:38
Download the .mp3

Categorized under Facebook, gossip, iPhone, podcasting, web 2.0

13 comments to “Episode 23 – Happy Birthday”

  1. Andrea : 20th March, 2008

    I was quite surprised to hear how simple/low cost the production setup for your show is. I have noticed some audio problems from time to time, but considering what you’re working with, you do a great job. If you could find a way to separate your mics onto separate channels so that you could adjust the levels of each person individually that would be nice, since I am sure you have noticed at times one or the other of you is less loud.
    I didn’t know you weren’t in the same room and I think it really works well. When people are in the same room they can take visual cues that someone else wants to jump in, sometimes making them rush the point and interrupting the the flow of thought. I would suggest keeping this structure the same.
    One of the most important things I have learned from this podcast is that when developing digital projects to be sure that it is something that would benefit from being delivered in a digital format, if your research would be better presented as a traditional article or paper there is no reason to force it into a digital form. I think the same rings true when considering a video podcast. I see no advantage to delivering your conversations on video, and I can’t think of any video roll-ins you would use to break up the show. If I had one of your podcasts in video form on my ipod, I would probably put it in my pocket and totally ignore the image of three professors sitting in a sterile poorly-lit room, cheesy campus tv studio, or worse three guys with headsets looking into their webcams, lame-o.
    On the content side, I just love the show, it’s topical, fresh, and insightful. I have learned so much about digital humanites and related news. It is, in a way, comforting to hear the same voices week after week, but I also enjoy guests. Not every show needs a guest, but it is always good to hear another point of view from time to time. I think the length works well, most of my NPR podcasts are about the same length. Sometimes you spend a little bit too much time on the weekly round-up, but it is always fun to hear people excited about a topic. I find picks of the week to be an invaluable resource and have been introduced to so many great projects and sites.
    Happy birthday, and I hope to hear many great podcasts to come.

  2. Lincoln Mullen : 20th March, 2008

    Great podcast, and congratulations on your one year anniversary. I’ve listened regularly since episode 13, I think.

    Here are some responses to your questions in this episode:

    Length. The forty-five minute to one hour length is just about right.

    Guests. I’ve enjoyed hearing your discussions with your guests. I hope you’ll invite some more. But guests aren’t necessary every episode.

    Video. I don’t think that video is necessary. None of your content has to be seen to be understood, and I usually listen while I’m working on something else. It’s probably much easier to make quality sound than quality video.

    Content. I like the format of your show. It would be great if you could focus more on specific examples of new media being used to present history. For example, I listened to the recording of Mills Kelley’s talk about the 1989 project. That talk is a great example of showing how to actually put together a new media project. Perhaps you could talk about the development process behind Zotero, or the Gulag project, or any of the other things you’re working on at CHNM.

    Perhaps you could persuade your colleagues at THAT Podcast to do an episode about the making of Digital Campus. They could cover how to prepare for the discussion, how to record and edit the audio, and how to distribute the finished podcast. That would be helpful for other people who wanted to start a podcast but didn’t have the expertise.

    Thanks for the great podcast!

  3. Derek : 21st March, 2008

    Congratulations on your first year! I’ve been listening for most of it, and I always look forward to a new Digital Campus episode.

    I’ll agree with the previous two comments that there doesn’t seem to be a reason to include video in your podcast. I listen to podcasts almost exclusively during my daily commute (as a way to make that very boring time far more productive!), so I’m only interested in subscribing to audio podcasts.

    I have a question for you guys: You mentioned that some of your listeners skip iTunes (or other similar programs) and listen to your podcast episodes from this web site. What tool do you use to track downloads from your web site?

    Here’s why I ask: I’ve been trying to do just that with my center’s new podcast, in part because one of the people who produces this James Madison University podcast mentioned to me at a conference that many faculty at her school don’t use iTunes to subscribe to podcasts–they just follow links on web pages. However, I’ve found it difficult to find a site statistics tool that can handle the snazzy Flash audio player you use on this web site–the same WordPress plugin we use on our site.

    Have you figured out a way to track people who use your embedded audio player?

    Thanks again for producing this podcast and for giving us this “behind the scenes” look at your process in this episode. It was really useful.

  4. Meg Stewart : 22nd March, 2008

    I listen to Digital Campus at the gym. I love your podcast and think it’s the best one of its kind. If I was reading it as a blog, I would probably make more comments, but it’s a bit difficult to try to remember what it was that I wanted to comment about, get to the computer, find your web site, etc. So thanks for asking for some feedback. Your length is perfect, not too long and not too short. The content hits the mark. I think I prefer just the three of you, but I’ll trust your judgment on guests. Oh, and don’t do MORE podcasts because the anticipation of a fresh podcast is better than getting barraged with un-fresh material and overkill.

    I much prefer podcasts to videocasts. It might be just me, but I take in a podcast while I’m doing something else (like drive or walk the dog or see above) and it works for me.

    I’m an instructional technologist so your content is really relevant to what I do and I consider listening to Digital Campus professional development. Thanks for doing this excellent podcast! I always look forward to it.

  5. Peter Alegi : 22nd March, 2008

    Been a subscriber for 2-3 months and am enjoying your podcast very much.

    As a fellow podcaster (http://afripod.aodl.org/), I was especially interested in your candid self-critique. Since you asked for feedback on this process, here are some of my thoughts:

    Length and Format: 50 mins is a bit long. Consider shortening the initial “News Round-up” segment and doing a little editing of some of the conversations. They sometimes wander a bit. I would like to hear more about digital issues on campuses outside the US. Keep the “Picks of the Week.”

    Guests: I am biased on this issue because my podcast is organized around a featured guest(s) . . . but I think having guests really opens up the possibilities for dialogue, networking, and knowledge-sharing. Given that CallRecorder and Skype have served you exceedingly well so far, there shouldn’t be too many technical problems having on- and off-campus guests on the podcast more regularly.

    Content: As you point out in #23, the focus has gotten sharper with time, thus enhancing the quality of the show. The content you present is outstanding. It’s the reason I come back to your show again and again. Building on what others have said in the postings above, I would be interested in hearing more about how specific projects at CHNM demonstrate the ways in which new media are changing the field of history.

    Overall, the hosting trio has excellent chemistry; the format is solid; and the analytical insights consistently sharp. Thanks for a terrific show and Happy Birthday!

  6. Rick : 24th March, 2008

    I concur with a few of the earlier commenters that the length is just about right, and that I don’t feel any need for video. If you do introduce video, I hope you will maintain an audio-only feed, too.

    I too am surprised at the generally good audio quality you maintain with such cheap gear. There are many podcasters who spend a lot more money but fail to get the sound as good. You’re certainly not the worst culprits, but I think in general when you consider car stereos and low-quality speakers on computers a louder volume is better: people can easily turn the volume down, but they can’t turn it up beyond 10 (or 11 if they have a special amplifier). Perhaps a bit more compression before normalization would be in order? But this certainly isn’t something you should be worrying about too much.

    I think the overall quality of the show owes a lot to Dan’s charm and naturally smooth chairing of proceedings and the general likeability of all three of you, and also to the fact that you seem to be doing things in a way that comes natural to you. The whole chemistry of the show is what, in conjunction with interesting content, has put it into the list of 5 shows that I listen to regularly. I don’t think you should tinker too much. It’s great to have guests on from time to time, but it’s also great to have just the 3 of you talking about the topic(s) that you have chosen for the episode. I certainly hope you keep the Picks of the Week.

    One quick word on substance. In general, you come up with plenty of good ideas between you, but there are certain dangers associated with the fact that in general your ideals are in sync. I’m thinking in particular of the episode where you seemed to accept uncritically the idea that a Google-provided campus email system was superior to one provided in-house. Even if you think that security-related counter-arguments are hogwash, I think you owe it to your listeners to state them clearly before demolishing them. This was one of those occasions where a little list of points to cover, perhaps on a wiki page shared by the three of you, might have been a useful aid.

    A final pedantic note:
    “required” is spelt incorrectly on the field for mail address input on comments.

  7. Brian Kennison : 25th March, 2008


    I listened to the podcast this morning and I’m trying to give you a little feedback.

    – First thing is don’t worry about the sound quality, it’s fine. Remember it’s the content that matters.

    – The format, three sections, is good. Keep it.

    – Guest are usually good. Use them.

    – Video is not important (for me, at this time).

    – I like the technology part but the real take-away are stories about how the technology changed (enhanced) the learning or teaching experience.

    I happen to work in an environment where the uptake is pretty slow. What I need is convincing stories as to how and why these things work and why everyone should care and be willing to make the investment.

    Happy Birthday, and I’ll be listening in the upcoming year.

  8. Ken Pendergrass : 26th March, 2008

    Congratulations on a great podcast. Don’t change your content, format, frequency or length. I would agree with Andrea that at times the volume levels between Dan, Mills and Tom can be quite different, but I think it’s getting better. I would also vote for no videocast, but perhaps an enhanced podcast format with chapters and live URL links would be nice touch. See this link for some ideas: How to make enhanced podcasts. I am looking forward to more great shows.

  9. Chris Coomes : 1st April, 2008

    Happy birthday.
    I’ve found your show really interesting to listen to. It’s a little outside my field but you discuss things in an accessible way that I can understand. The format works well and audio quality is just fine. Please don’t move away from MP3 as I am one of your “listen on the way to work in the car” subscribers.
    Only one suggestion. Perhaps you could break the podcast into chapters. We could then download the whole lot or pick bits we were particularly interested in.
    Thanks again.

  10. Fritz : 4th April, 2008

    Hi, I like your podcast and have probably listened to about every other one. Keep up the good work.

    Audio volume: I’ve had no problem (I tend to listen to you while playing video games with sound off) so I can adjust volume of speakers easily. But, you might want to try ReplayGain which gives an decent baseline for audio tracks–and you can use the information from ReplayGain to adjust things in Audacity.

    Length: It has always seemed good

    Video: No. It would ruin your simple setup and add nothing.

    Guests: If they have some special expertise that would be good. But, when you have a guest they should be doing most of the talking. But, if it’s just adding a fourth person for the show it will get more cumbersome having so many people.

    Topics: I think you do a good job–I really like the links you provide since I my aggregator for podcasts is Google Reader and not iTunes so your blog posts are one click away. I’m always up for copyright discussion–how the prevalence of music piracy is changing people’s opinions about copyright law and how that affects their views of tight fisted Academic Journal copyright control. (Especially in relation to some of the new online journals you’ve linked to). It’s as related to scholarship as JuicyCampus 🙂

    Keep up the good work.

  11. Brad Weikel : 11th April, 2008

    To reiterate what others have said: adding video just doesn’t make sense for your podcast, and has plenty of drawbacks. Stick to audio.

    For my purposes, 45 minutes is a bit too long — I subscribe to almost 30 podcasts, so I’m completely dependent on the blue (“New”) bullet on both my iPod and in iTunes to tell me what to listen to… so if I don’t finish a long episode on the first try, chances are I won’t get back to it later. I’d actually prefer that you break up each episode into two separate segments, but I’m probably in the minority.

    Oh, and I love the suggestion above by Lincoln, to collaborate with THAT Podcast to do a video about how you produce Digital Campus.

    Keep up the great work!

  12. Derek : 14th April, 2008

    I had another thought listening to the latest episode (#24) when you hoped aloud that future episodes would generate as many comments as this one (#23). I listen to your podcast in the car while commuting, and I suspect others do, too. There’s another podcast I follow that has a voicemail phone line, and I’ll often call and leave a voicemail with a comment as I listen to that podcast. Have you considered adding something like that?

  13. Brett Barney : 19th April, 2008

    Dan, Mills, and Tom,

    I’m a little late commenting–I only started listening to your podcast two weeks ago, and I wanted to go through the episodes in order, so I just finished off #23. It’s been great couple of weeks and I’m not sure how I’ll fill the commute when I get caught up.

    I won’t bother to duplicate the ideas that others have already expressed; instead I’ll spend a bit of time trying to articulate ideas that haven’t come up yet. While I too am much more likely to listen than to watch a podcast, the question of whether your listeners would want to see you reminded me of one issue that I’ve found myself wondering about fairly often over the episodes: discrimination. That is, one value of video is that I can pretty easily tell who’s talking. Usually, I think, regular listeners to a radio show or whatever pretty quickly get attuned to the voices of the participants, especially if the number of participants is low (and I think three is certainly a manageable number). To my ear, though, some voices are just similar enough that even though I hear them a lot I have trouble distinguishing them. And for whatever reason, Tom and Mills sound enough alike that I’m often not sure who’s talking. Usually it’s not all that burning a question, but it’s occasionally important to tracing the nuances of a discussion.

    There’s probably not that much you can do to address that issue (short of Mills or Tom deciding to adopt a distinctive accent–British upper-class ones seem to succeed well in the US). But it is something I hope you can keep in mind as you talk to guests. It’s not always easy to address there, either, but radio offers models for strategies, I think.

    On the subject of guests: I really value the guest segments of your shows. As others commenters have pointed out, one of the strengths of your podcast is that you all are people worth listening to; the key to good guest segments, I think, is that they should also be people worth listening to. So much is happening in the field that I often bemoan the fact that I don’t have gobs of opportunities to hear all of the really smart people in digital humanities talking about whatever it is they specialize in or what they think about some recent development or whatever. I’m inspired by smart people talking about interesting things, and more smart people is always to the good. I realize that getting guest segments into a podcast is always going to require some more effort, so I appreciate when you’ve gone to the trouble to do it.

    What I think is a minority opinion: I generally prefer less planned and focused discussions. You mentioned that there’s a tendency for you to chat as though you were in the hall or something. To my mind, that’s the most valuable kind of conversation to overhear–I think there are fewer chances to eavesdrop on conversations among interesting and smart people than to be addressed by interesting and smart people.

    Finally, on a closely related note, I think that one big strength of your podcast is that it enacts the model of scholarship that you profess. Just last night I was waxing enthusiastic about your podcast to a colleague of mine here at CDRH, and it occurred to me that one thing I value about it is that it’s a demonstration of how it’s possible to do scholarship on the web in a forum in which one isn’t always worried about being “right” or protecting one’s reputation. It seems paradoxical but it’s true, I think, that the warts-and-all approach is often the best way to garner respect. Of course, it’s crucial that you aren’t mostly warts . . .

    Happy birthday and thanks for the stimulating conversation.

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