Podcasts should remain independent

Jeff Perry reacted to a post that Anchor wrote a couple of days ago:

I pay $12 a month on Simplecast for both Getting Caught Up and A Slab of Glass. I do it happily because I know that I am supporting developers with my money for hosting, a website, technical support, and download statistics that they share with me on how my shows are doing. I don’t have to hope and pray that Anchor makes their money with ads in order to keep my content alive.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that video podcasts used to be a thing, but nowadays everybody just uses YouTube to maintain an online video presence. Sure, it looks attractive first, but when you use a service for everything end-to-end, you automatically lock yourself into it.

Luckily, we don’t have a YouTube-like monopoly in podcasting. I produce one podcast at the moment (sorry, it’s Hungarian), and the best thing about it is that we have a lot of hosting choices. Our listeners are not bonded to the same company that does the hosting. Everything is based on open standards and there are plenty of ways to start making a new podcast.

My podcast is hosted on a Digital Ocean VPS using the same server that hosts this blog. The site is built using Jekyll (you can find it’s source on GitHub, although it’s not well documented), new episodes are posted using Workflow. Everybody can adapt its source, change the design, set up a server and start making podcasts. It’s not as nice as dedicated podcast hosting services, but I like that it’s independent and very cheap to maintain. People are always afraid of doing stuff on their own, but to be honest I kinda like messing around with it. I learn new stuff.

Anchor is an interesting service and they’re building nice apps, but to be honest, I don’t want them to succeed. Maybe they really care about podcasting, but we’ve seen what happens with a medium that gets controlled by one company and podcasting currently dominated by nobody. Apple has a directory of podcasts, but it’s just a directory, it’s not the same as hosting and running them. iOS (and Android) made possible to choose whatever podcast client you want to use. Usually, the bigger ones integrate some kind of server-side directory or use iTunes, but they’re already making possible for people to find shows and subscribe to them very easily.

If you want to get into making podcasts quickly then you can choose a service like Simplecast or Firebase, pay a monthly fee and have your content hosted there. It’s a simple and straightforward deal.

We shouldn’t walk into the same trap as we’ve already done with YouTube and Medium. Those “free” services always want to “disrupt” a medium with some innovative way of making money, but at the end, we’re back to an ads based user tracking business, with monopolies and lock-ins. A couple of guys can get popular enough on those platforms to earn the big money, but the rest of us always have to follow business rules that a company makes for everybody.

Leaving Facebook is easy, you just have to leave your laziness behind too

Sarah Jeong writing on The Verge:

I tried leaving Facebook. I couldn’t […] Facebook is an emotional labor machine, and if you want to leave it, you’re going to have to start doing a lot of work

When I read a post like this, I get angry and sad at the same time: it’s so easy now to reach people, but we still use our tools wrong. It looks like we have the same old problem that we had with every new technology getting popular. We just have to learn to use them. What makes Facebook different is that it’s also a tool for others to hijack our attention and they try to do everything they can to keep us addicted to it.

I’m not comfortable with that. This’s one of the many reasons why I left Facebook. If you think about it for a second, Facebook is no more than just a bunch of tools made for people to

  1. communicate with each other,
  2. maintain their egos by posting stuff about themselves,
  3. keep up with other egos,
  4. collect behavioral data that fuel tools that tricking others into a financial transaction (ads), political decision or other stuff that benefits them.

Nothing is new on this list, but we haven’t dealt with something like this before at this scale. Facebook tries to make the first three as easy to use and addictive as possible—although the internet has a lot of tools already for communicating and publishing— combining them into one is what makes collecting data and influence people this efficient.

I don’t like the idea of collecting data about my behavior and habits to carefully model a profile of me to sell crap or use it as a tool to get me addicted to something.

Existing tools can replace a lot of Facebook functionality (and they already do). You can easily leave Facebook, you just have to leave your laziness behind too. Replace your posts with a blog. There are email and text/IM services to communicate with people (although I still use Facebook Messenger without a Facebook account, I proactively ask people to switch over to iMessage if they can). You can use IM groups to organize a party or let people know about things.

But following people on a feed means you don’t really pay that much attention. We used to follow topics or news, following people around was called stalking. Now we know everything about each other thanks to addictive stalking. Meanwhile, something seriously fucked up: we have hundreds of “friends”, but according to statistics, we feel alone more than ever. That’s because we got lazy to invest a bit more energy to have more meaningful relationships with our friends. We follow them, but we don’t interact that much anymore. You must have been in a situation where you met somebody again after a while, but you didn’t enjoy it, because you had already know whats up with him/her. You were sitting there staring each other.

That’s happened because of batching. Facebook lets you see your friends prefiltered ideas and life moments in a nicely formatted feed. It makes keeping up with information convenient, but there is a problem: while batching works great when you want to be efficient, deepening relationships and friendships isn’t about convenience and efficiency. It’s about experience and time invested in each other. Facebook removes the intimacy of the moment when you “connect” with somebody. It makes it convenient but also isolating. It’s not surprising that people feel themselves alone on Facebook, it’s because they’re isolated.

Do you want to know what’s up with your friends? Message them, call them, meet them, then ask about their life, have a conversation. Invest time in your friendships. I know it takes way more energy and you can’t keep up with that many people, but who cares when it’s way more satisfying than following a bunch of curated profiles.