Gobble Gobble

The opinions re the IT Conversations revenue model continue to come into the wiki, as do controbutions to the Tip Jar. Amazing. Thanks to everyone!

Steve Gillmor survived Thanksgiving (I think) and posted his thoughts on this and other podcasting issues on his ZDNet blog. But I wonder if we really can trust someone who both (a) claims to have been there during the ’60s and (b) says he can remember it. (I’ll only claim the former.) While the rest of us are heads-down in the midst of solving day-to-day podcasting problems, I’m glad we have Steve’s perspective of what’s really going on here. Remember, none of this caught him by surprise. He either saw it coming or made it happen–I’m not sure which.

Software Factories with Ward Cunningham and Jack Greenfield

Jon Udell has posted an audio interview on his Infoworld weblog with Ward and Jack:

On Friday I had a talk with two of Microsoft’s patterns & practices leaders: Ward Cunningham and Jack Greenfield. Ward (along with Kent Beck) ignited the patterns movement with a seminal paper at OOPSLA 1987. Jack developed NeXT’s Enterprise Objects Framework (now Apple’s WebObjects), was a chief architect at Rational, and is now a Microsoft architect for enterprise frameworks and tools.

The focus of the discussion was Jack Greenfield’s notion of software factories — a way to accelerate the process of codifying software patterns, and creating the tools and frameworks that enable people to apply those patterns.

Keep up the audio, Jon! I know the developers in the audience will be listenting. You’re da man.

The Tip Jar

The feedback to my wiki essay on the IT Conversations business model has been terrific, and it’s still coming in. More than 35 people have posted carefully considered opinions. I’ve received even more via email, and one thing has become quite clear: Listeners want a way to donate to support the site. Therefore, I’ve ceated a tip jar so that listeners can contribute via PayPal or the Amazon Honor System. Thanks to all who have pushed for this. It’s very flattering and rewarding.

That Business-Model Thing

The one question I’m asked about IT Conversations more than any other is, “What’s your business model?” After 18 months, nearly 300 programs and now with the New Year looming, the time has come to answer that question.

That’s the first paragraph of a two-page essay I just posted on the IT Conversations wiki. I hope you’ll read it and give me your feedback either here (as a comment) or by editing the wiki directly. I think you’ll find it relevant to all podcasters not just IT Conversatinos.

Google Rankings

This is pretty cool. Search Google for one of the recent celebrity interviews on IT Conversations such as Malcolm Gladwell or Thomas Barnett. Are you getting the same results as I am? Do the links to IT Conversations appear in the #2 or #3 positions? Or does this have something to do with the fact that I have Google desktop also running on my machine and Google knows I’m interested in IT Conversations? I’d like to think that Google’s algorithms believe IT Conversations is that important and credible for everyone on the ‘Net, but given how much is written by and about people like Malcolm and Tom, I find that hard to believe. What results do you see?

An IT Conversations Update

(Here’s the MP3 audio version.)

I want to bring you up-to-date on some of what’s happening here at IT Conversations.

One of my goals has been to create 300 programs in the IT Conversations archives by the end of this year, and when I roll out all the shows currently in the production queue, I’ll be at 291. That means I’ve got seven weeks to produce just nine more shows. That should be pretty easy.

Many new listeners are overwhelmed by the size of the archives and don’t know where to start. It’s easy to pick the latest programs from the home page, but there are scores of great — perhaps even better — programs in the vault that newcomers just can’t find.

Oldtimers know I’ve steadily expanded the breadth of programming on the site. Although I still call it IT Conversations, it’s not just IT for IT professionals any more. In addition to my own interviews and The Gillmor Gang, I’ve added Halley Suitt’s Memory Lane, Dave Slusher’s Voices in Your Head (interviews with SciFi writers and more), and Scott Mace’s new series of interviews entitled, Opening Move. And of course conferences ranging from O’Reilly Emerging Tecnology and OSCON to Supernova, Gnomedex, Bloggercon and Pop!Tech.

Because of this breadth, I recognize that not everyone will want listen to every program. That’s okay. The same is true for TV networks or even NPR.

My first attempt to make it easier to find what you like and ignore the rest was to create separate RSS feeds (podcasts, if you will) for each series. So instead of subscribing to *everything* from IT Conversations — as many as five or six new programs each week — you can just subscribe to your favorite series like The Gillmor Gang or topics like software development or security. If you don’t already know about those options, look for the RSS icons on the main web page for each series listed in the left-side nav bar of any page on the web site such as for The Importance of Law and IT.

The next thing I implemented was a Netflix-style queue so that you can look through the archives or new programs, select what you want to hear, then add them to your Personal Program Queue. Once shows are in your queue, they’ll also appear in your personal RSS feed. It works pretty well, but it requires that you come back to the web site and manually add new shows to the queue. Sort of a pain in the ass, particularly if you just want a podcast.

So I’m working on a new variation of this scheme: personally configurable podcasts. The idea is that as a registered member you’ll have your own RSS feeds, similar to those for your Personal Program Queue, but you’ll be able to tell IT Conversations what should and should not be automatically added to your Podcast. For example, you could tell the system to always add new editions of The Gillmor Gang, but never add my interviews. I’m even experimenting with algorithms such as “Add any program that is related to software development, has been reviewed by at least ten people, and has an average rating of 3 or higher.” You’ll also be able to exclude from your Podcast any programs that you’ve already heard and/or rated yourself.

If you have any suggestions for how you’d like to be able to configure your own IT Conversations podcast, please send them to me at doug@itconversations.com. Of course, comments and suggestions on any other topic are welcome as well.

On a personal note, I’m going to be taking two weeks off. I’m having a bit of surgery on Friday — nothing too serious — but the recovery is supposedly gnarly, so I’ve queued up two weeks’ worth of programs that will launch automatically between now and December 1st. They include the rest of the presentations from Bloggercon III and more of the terrific sessions from Pop!Tech 2004.

And don’t forget the latest edition of Dave Slusher’s Voices in Your Head that we published today, and a new Gillmor Gang on Thursday of this week.

Most of all, thanks for listening to IT Conversations.

Take It to the PUC

Mark Frauenfelder’s experience with GTC and his plan to file a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission reminded me of an issue I just resolved that way with SBC. I’ve long had ISDN lines here in the IT Conversations studio for interviews, feeds to/from radio stations, etc., and I recently decided to switch my voice lines to ISDN, too. The reason is that I’m 25,000′ from the central office and the audio quality on my analog lines was awful. Can’t get DSL here for the same reason, but that’s another story. I asked SBC to quote me the costs to make the change including my Message Center services. It sounded good, so I made the change.

But when I got the first bill I noticed I was charged $22.50/mo for voicemail versus the previous $7.95. I went through the usual process of calling, asking, and complaining and finally got to a supervisor who was extremely rude and did nothing other than a CYA act, trying to put me “on the record” for understanding this and that.

I went to the California PUC commission web site and filed an “Informal Complaint” complaint using the on-line forms. That was on 9/24/04. On 10/13/04 I received a written acknowledgement from the PUC — more than I expected. But last week I got a call from a real manager at SBC — a guy who (a) knew what he was talking about, and (b) was polite and sincere. He had a copy of my complaint in front of him, ant it was clear he had researched the tariffs and other issues. Ultimately, he couldn’t give me voicemail on ISDN for $7.95, but he truly did go out of his way to offer me options and adjustments. In the end, it was his attitude and the fact that he took the complaint seriously that led to my satisfaction.

The lesson learned: If you feel you’ve been wronged, don’t hesitate to file a PUC complaint. It seems to work.

It Ain’t Radio

As Dave Slusher describes in his latest podcast, what’s appropriate to promote a podcast is sometimes quite the opposite of what works for radio. In the days of his radio program, Dave would promote the hell out of his shows in advance. It was an event. It played once, and the whole idea was to get the buzz machine going in advance to build a crescendo of listenership. The value of show immediately died after airing.

Podcasting is just the opposite. The life of a podcast builds after it’s published. In the case of IT Conversations (not really a podcast), that life can last for years. The buzz comes not from pre-event hype, but from post-publication blogging and whuffie.

And as Dave also mentioned, there’s another reason not to pre-announce a podcast: As we learned, things can go wrong. 🙂