Tiny Wings

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This is likely going to be a super short post because reasons.  Last night was an interesting shift from my personal status quo because I guest hosted on the For the Lore podcast.  They were recording their yearly E3 multi-episode and for also reasons… @Samodean was forced to miss.  So as a result @ZenBuddhist pinged me over twitter to see if I was willing to join him and @LodurZJ as an alternate.  In the past I have always really enjoyed guesting on other podcasts in part because it lets me see how exactly everyone else is doing this recording thing.  AggroChat as a whole is largely done almost by accident, and it is sometimes nice to see how those who have a clear purpose actually piece together things.  It had also been entirely too long since I had done this sort of thing.  The only gotcha was their normal recording time is about 1 hour sooner than I could realistically get to the screen and settled in for the night.  Thankfully they pushed it back a little bit and I was able to join in.  Hopefully once again I did not make too much of an ass of myself.  I am not exactly sure what their release schedule is, because in truth the only release schedule I know is our own.  However in the near future you should be able to catch me on the first of a two part episode covering E3 2017 on the For the Lore site.

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In other news… Stormblood has officially begun…  or at least the head start for those who pre-purchased the game.  This expansion had some fairly sweeping changes, and when I first logged in it felt like my hotbars were on fire.  Many of the buttons that I had slotted were replaced by a shared pool of role specific abilities.  So that mean’t things like provoke and stun now exist in that shared tree from which I was able to slot 5 abilities in total.  This is ultimately going to lead to some interesting choices because unlike before with cross class abilities…  there were way more than five choices from that pool that I wanted access to.  I have a feeling we are going to be swapping up to attempt to tailor for specific fights.  For example I now seem to have an AOE taunt… which isn’t that important for leveling… but I could absolutely see needing that on specific fights or if you were taking over the add tank on a specific encounter.  For the most part Warrior feels the same with the big change being that we lost the 5 stack resource… that I never can remember the name of and instead get the beast gauge.  This swap has a bunch of positive benefits to the class as a whole.  For example there were many fights where I would need to hold back using Inner Beast for specific mechanics… but this meant there was the opportunity cost of being capped out at 5 stacks of the buff.  Now I have a gauge that goes from 10-100…  or functionally 10 stacks of my resource meaning that even while holding back an Inner Beast I can also keep building up at least one more attack in reserve.  The other amazing quality of life change is I am not sure if this meter actually decays over time…  I have been able to hold onto beast charges for way longer than I could have the equivalent stacks before.

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The negative of the launch so far is that the Duty instance system seems to be toast.  That means there is a point in the main story quest where you simply cannot proceed past.  The folks that habitually skip cut scenes seem to be far worse off because it seems to keep them in a bit of a locked state where they can’t interact with NPCs at all.  As a pretty rabid cut scene watcher… I did not have this problem but I did absolutely hit the wall already.  There are some that are raging against the machine in chat, and others that keep telling them to calm down.  There are of course new Jobs to work on and other things to occupy time until this gets fixed.  I am absolutely certain someone somewhere is having a really bad day and working as hard as they can to remedy this.  In truth we don’t even know if this is a development thing, but could instead be an infrastructure issue with the hosting environment.  Whatever the case…  folks are getting stalled out but that sort of goes hand in hand with the release of anything.  All in all I am happy that my character largely is going to make the transition without massive horrible feeling changes, and that we get to explore a new part of the world.  For the moment I am not bothering to glamour back my helm… and apparently have tiny floppy wings instead of bunny ears.

Friendtime Storything

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Bel Folks Stuff

Once upon a time I recorded a podcast called “Bel Folks Stuff”.  I am extremely talented at giving things super specific names.  The idea was pretty simple, AggroChat in a smaller setting allowing me to branch out and record shows with individual friends.  The central conceit of the show was that it was going to be somewhat of an interview show, where in theory I asked all of the participants the same questions each time.  There were things that worked about the show, and there were things that didn’t really.  It never gained much traction which was a bit of a bummer, but it is extremely to gain momentum when you are only releasing a show each month.  In the grand scheme of things I am still fairly proud of the shows, and every so often someone asks me when exactly I am going to record some more of them.

In truth…  while I want to do something similar, it feels weird to consider just starting up three years later and recording new episodes for the same show.  I cancelled the show in June of 2015, largely because I was going through a bit of a rough patch in my life and something needed to change.  At that point I was publishing Tales of the Aggronaut each morning seven days a week, recording AggroChat each Saturday, writing two weekly columns for MMOGames.com, and trying to squeeze in time to figure out when I can record with someone and get a Bel Folks Stuff episode in each month.  Additionally work was a little insane with me stepping up to more of a managerial role, and then also attempting to raid in two different games at the same time.  The show didn’t have a whole lot of listeners in the grand scheme of things, so it felt like it was the obvious thing to drop.  Ultimately in the long run I wound up cutting back more severely in that I am no longer really associated with MMOGames.com at all… and I have dropped this blog down to a weekday morning only thing.

The show had a good run however of seven episodes where I got to hang out and talk with eight different friends.  There was in fact a bonus episode where I got both Rowan and Scooter together to talk about gaming as a couple.  For those who didn’t even know the show existed…  here is a full list of the episodes that I now keep on the AggroChat.com page.

  1. An Evening With Syl
  2. Rowan and Scooter
  3. An Evening with Alternative Chat
  4. Evening with Petter
  5. Evening with Qelric
  6. A Good Friday with Liore
  7. Late Night With Jaedia

Huge thanks as always to @Gypsy_Syl, @RowanBlaze, @Sctrz, @Petterm, @QelricDK, @HeyItsLiore, and @Jaedia for making the show awesome and interesting to listen to.  The biggest problem that I ran into as a whole with the show is the fact that out of the eight folks I had to schedule time with…  only three were in anything even vaguely close to a drift compatible time zone.  That meant the whole process of finding a time that they were conscious and I could record was a challenge.  Unfortunately that is not really ever going away since a lot of the people I really want to sit down and have a chat with are European.  However trying to juggle that along with everything else on my plate was a bit much.  The problem is that I still have the desire to record something along these lines, but like I said before it felt weird just to start up doing the same thing again.

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For awhile I have been trying to sort out how I wanted to functionally reboot “Bel Folks Stuff” and what changes if any I wanted to make to it.  I got completely hung up on the concept of having a friend on the podcast and having them tell me… and our listeners a story.  One of the constant threads among gamers is that we file away these experiences to recall at a later date as we tell tales to our friends and guildies.  I mean I have spun a yarn about the “Bunny Incident” numerous times in the past, enough that you can just say those words and most of the people I play with know exactly what I am talking about.  As I mulled over the concept a bit more I decided that I didn’t necessarily limit it to gaming stories only.  Sure that solidifies the niche of listeners I had for the show…  but in truth I am just not that super concerned about soliciting a huge number of listeners.  There was a period of time I thought maybe this would be an alternate career path, but after attempting to do the writing for pay thing…  I’ve come to realize how not compatible I am with that idea.

I name things oddly… and that is pretty much a given.  The name “Friendtime Storything” came from a lot of mulling things over and some brainstorming with my friend Neph who is going to ultimately be a victim of this process.  Now I simply need to figure out the list of people that I want to talk to and start scheduling times.  In truth this mornings post is intended to be somewhat of a recruitment vehicle.  What I am wanting to do is hard to explain without understanding what I was trying to do with Bel Folks Stuff in the first place.  Mostly it will be me sitting down with a friend and having a good chat, with as the tag line states…  a thinly veined excuse to make folks tell me a story.  I feel like I need a show like this to pull in the people that I don’t have time to talk with on AggroChat.  Right now we have a fairly fixed and reliable crew on that show with myself, Ashgar, Grace, Kodra, Tamrielo and Thalen.  That has been “the crew” for a few years now and apart from missing an episode here or there, or bringing in some additional folks for a big show…  that mix feels good the way it is.  This show is going to let me snag people and do something different.  The main plan is to release these episodes as sort of bonus material in the already existing AggroChat podcast feed.  In theory I SHOULD have enough free bandwidth on Libsyn to sneak one of these shows in each month.  There are a lot of things I would do differently had I a second chance… and one of them is to quit spawning secondary sites each time I had an idea to do something.

I am not entirely certain when this process is going to start, but I have a feeling that within the next few weeks an episode should appear.

 

Restless Weekend

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, because at least for me it centered around recording our “Games of the Year” show on AggroChat.  This is generally speaking a huge ordeal given that our show is made up of six very different minded people.  Back during the days when we had four regular hosts it was less of a proceeding but now that we essentially have six people each picking three games a piece… that means we wind up talking about 18 games, which as it turns out divides neatly into two 9 image panels.  The above image is the first of these and serves as the backdrop for our normal show card of sorts, however with the text over it you can’t necessarily make out all of the images involved so I decided to post it here.  You can as always find the show on AggroChat or my method of choice for sheer simplicity of listening…  YouTube.  The reason why this largely dominated my weekend is because we ultimately recorded two podcasts that were both two hours long before I set down to edit them.  Post edits they both clock in around an hour and twenty minutes, which really is shocking given that I did not actually time anything out in an attempt to make them work as relative set pieces.  I guess however if you set out to record nine games per show… the end result comes out fairly evenly.  I did make an attempt to shuffle the deck in such a way as to put the games I thought we would most likely talk the longest about divided evenly among the shows.

So we recorded from 8 pm CST until just after midnight, and then I got up around 7:30 Sunday morning and edited until 12:30…  and as a result every other element of the weekend felt like it was shoved to one side or the other.  Of course all of this madness has a purpose since the double episode is timed perfectly to cover the absence of myself and Ashgar as we go to Pax South.  Now in theory Grace, Kodra, Tam and Thalen could record without me… but that would mean I had the forethought to have the mess that is our show in a state that I could easily hand over the reigns to an understudy.  I have not planned ahead that far, and while I do have a series of Audacity and Photoshop projects to speed up the process…  I am not sure if I could even properly explain what exactly I do each week.  It is my hope however that I managed to not only publish yesterday, but also schedule everything else to publish next Sunday while I am driving home from San Antonio.  Staging a publish to happen without me is always a fraught thing for me… because so rarely does it actually work as intended.  Even if it does… I am literally stressed beyond reason until I see the tweets show up in my timeline from the publish process actually doing its thing appropriately.  In the grand scheme of things however…  it is not the most important thing in the world… but it is important to me.

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As far as gaming went this weekend that was equally scattered.  I patched up Final Fantasy XIV and made it far enough to hit the first instance gate, before ultimately walking away.  Similarly I patched up Wildstar, created a Chua Warrior and played to around level seven before once again walking away like a bored child.  As far as gaming that managed to last for more than an hour…  we had World of Warcraft where I finally hit 35 points on my Protection Artifact and started pushing up Fury instead.  I have gotten back in the habit of logging in each day to do my Emissary quest because now there is also a potential legendary upgrade waiting at the end of the grind.  I started doing my Time Walking dungeons… but only managed to make it through the first one tanking it before once again wandering away.  The game that seemed to stick the hardest was Elder Scrolls Online where I completed a good chunk of Malabal Tor, a zone where I am already completely enthralled by the storyline…  even though it involves largely nothing but elves and their internal politics.  I’ve decided that the Bosmer are what it takes to make me really enjoy Elves.  I am really enjoying the whole lore regarding the Green Lady and the Silvenar, and I guess in truth that was an aspect of the lore that I had either forgotten or ignored in playing other Elder Scrolls games.  I even managed to have a few emotional gut punches last night, when I lost characters that I actually really liked during one quest chain.  In truth all I want to do right now is hide in my blanket cocoon on the couch and play more ESO, but that said I do want to at some point get a Mythic+ in for the week since I have a +5 Maw of Souls key.

Breaking Routine

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, namely when it came to Sunday morning.  Generally speaking I have the process of finishing up an AggroChat episode down to a fairly regimented process.  Saturday night before I crash I try to do what I call the initial edit, which is most of the actual edit work.  Then Sunday morning I write the small bit of copy, and upload and syndicate the podcast to the various sources where it gets put.  However this week was the first week doing all of this on the new machine… and I was not prepared.  For starters we recorded a really long show mostly about the Final Fantasy XIV 3.4 main story quest.  We did not unfortunately ONLY talk about that, and that meant we had almost three hours of recorded audio to process… and didn’t actually finish things up until around midnight my time.  Instead of staying up further, I decided to crash and deal with it in the morning.  Then Sunday it was a carnival of errors, as the version of audacity on my new machine was apparently slightly newer than the version I had been using which means a lot of the filters had different options… or at least were arranged in different ways.  Additionally there was the process of trying to find all of my source files off of the old machine, which is thankfully still accessible over the network.

The worst part of it however was the changes to the Truncate Silence filter…. which is a crutch we lean on heavily for AggroChat.  We are fairly pensive folk, and as a result there are a lot of lengthy pauses in conversation.  With truncate silence that 3 hours of audio becomes 2 hours…  but on my first attempt it maybe clipped a little more than actual silence.  For whatever reason it was clipping the hell out of anytime Kodra talked, giving his speech a record skipping characteristic.  However this is not something I realized until I was just about to upload the files to our host.  Thankfully I caught it in time and was able to redo that portion, lowering the granularity of the filter.  This mean’t what is normally a couple hour process… ate up I think four hours in total.  Admittedly I was piddling around in Guild Wars 2 during much of it, so there were probably moments when I didn’t notice a filter had finished here or there.  The positive however is that every filter applied went massively faster than on the previous AMD FX-6300 based processor.  That was really my hope with the new i7 based system, is that it would be able to chew through rendering tasks far more successfully.  As with any system there is going to be an adjustment and moving in period, and I am hoping that now that I have finished a single podcast on this machine additional ones will be much quicker.

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As far as the weekend itself went, I was all over the place.  I played a significant amount of Destiny, completing a bunch of bounties and discovering the Archon’s Forge… or more so how easy it was to get a pick up group.  Much the same way as the court of Oryx, you seem to be able to just show up and folks will either be doing it… or quickly swarm when they think anyone else is.  I also played a lot of World of Warcraft, completely a few mythic dungeons as well as successfully completing my first Mythic+ keystone.  I’m looking forward to seeing that upgraded loot in the weekly order hall chest.  In addition to that I completed the five time-walking dungeons on both Belghast and Exeter, and on the later I used it as a way to gear him up.  I am now sitting over the 825 cap needed to get into LFR so my hope is tonight I will be able to run the two parts available and potentially get more upgrades that way.  Generally speaking on Belghast the 835 rewards are not super enticing, but I still ran it this week for the purpose of getting some rune stones.  I also need to do a bunch of fishing, as I now have the pattern to turn the 300 versatility food that I spent a chunk of the weekend crafting… into a 375 version.  I am only using this stuff for raiding and mythic+ attempts, as I keep a bank full of Faronar Fizz for other stuff.

The biggest take away from the weekend is that I am actually finding myself legitimately enjoying Guild Wars 2.  Recently it had been a game that I was dipping my toes into for the sake of my friends that were also playing it.  However before the podcast we ran several of the story mode dungeons and they were pretty enjoyable.  Enough so that when I sat down to decide which game I would play during the podcast, I decided to go ahead and stay with Guild Wars 2.  That means that I spent the next three hours roaming aimlessly completing little objectives here and there, and mostly finding my way to the next story mode dungeon.  The post 80/ Heart of Thorns mastery leveling is pretty slow.  In all of that time I only managed to get about half of a mastery level…  and then I ended up wasting a bunch of experience because I didn’t notice I needed to click through and train it.  I am pretty not sure what my purpose in game is, but I am still fairly dead set on the warrior… and more importantly hammer warrior.  That makes me the make shift tank for the group, and I have been using rifle lately as my dps weapon because it allows me to have something that I can hit things with at range.  At some point I want to pick back up where I left off in attempting to level armor smithing, but right now my craft window looks somewhat like madness to me.  All in all I feel like I have come to terms with the game in accepting what it is… and more importantly what it is not.

Half Sleeping

AggroChat 57 – Preparing for Heavensward

Tonight we have Belghast, Ashgar, Tamrielo, Kodra and Thalen and once again we felt like we didn’t have much to talk about.  However once we dug in a little bit I noticed a trend.  Each of us was busy working on this item or that in relationship to Final Fantasy XIV each with our own goals that we have been trying to finish before the expansion.  Ashgar just finished his Nexus weapon after the length grind, and talks about how it compared up against other grinds he has completed.  Kodra talks about working on Turn 9 with two different raid groups and how he hopes we can get through it within the coming weeks.  I talk about my own quest which involves me descending into the dark madness that is crafting and slowly stair stepping each and every crafting class five levels at a time.

In addition to this there is some more Shadowrun talk as we each continue our play throughs.  Kodra goes into yet another dark place by playing some Demon Souls and talks about those experiences.  He and Tam spent a good deal of time this week watching the first season of Sword Art Online and we get into a discussion about that as well.  I talk about my experiences working on the Blackhand encounter in World of Warcraft, and we talk a bit about the lackluster numbers released by NCSoft regarding Wildstar sales.  Yet another night of varied topics here on AggroChat.

Automotive Struggles

It is now officially “weather season” here in Oklahoma and over the last few weeks we have been deluged in rain storms.  In fact we skipped Mother’s Day last weekend due to the fact that there was rampant flooding in the area of the state that our Mothers live in.  This meant this weekend we had to make up for that fact and venture out to see all three mothers.  Friday night we met my folks for dinner and chatted with them for a good while, and then Saturday we ventured to the northern part of the state to see my wife’s mothers.  The only problem with this notion is that there was the constant fear of bad weather hanging over the day.  The national weather service had used the term “life threatening” and “super cell” in relation to the storm that was supposed to be arriving that night.  To make matters more tense we opted to drive my wife’s Pontiac Torrent because it is more comfortable on long trips.  That said it has also been having some issues lately.

There is a point between second and third gear where it “chugs” for lack of a better term, or as my wife calls it “hiccups” while trying to change gears.  This seems to hit most often on inclines but over time it has gotten worse.  While driving north on the turnpike it happened again around 75 mph and this time had a corresponding check engine light.  I pulled over to the side of the turnpike and shut down completely, and upon powering back on everything seemed happy.  We were just outside of town, so we popped off and went to the local GMC dealer.  While the service department was not open, the shop foreman just happened to be working on his mothers car and was able to at least hook up the Torrent to the computer and tell us what was happening.  Turns out that the engine was misfiring and after some research there is a factory recall that we were never notified about.  He promised that our vehicle would not strand us, but instead it would just get horrible gas mileage until we got it taken care of.  Nonetheless with impending weather issues it made the rest of the day feel far more tense than it normally would have.

Half Sleeping

The national weather service originally predicted that a huge batch of Tornados would be hitting the Oklahoma City area around 3pm CST.  The storm however stalled out over the state and by the time we started up the podcast last night it still had not fully hit us.  The problem with a late night storm is that it pretty much destroys any semblance of sleep.  Today I am completely dragging ass because we did not get the “All Clear” until about 4:30 in the morning.  This means it was yet another night of sleeping with the television blaring the weather so that if something went horribly wrong over night we would hopefully hear it.  Sleeping while half paying attention to the television means you don’t actually get much rest.  I have a feeling I will be taking a nap at some point because right now I am struggling to get through my morning blogging routine, let alone do anything more productive.  The good news is that for the most part we made it through the storm unscathed.  The bad news is, that not every suburb in the Tulsa area can say the same thing.

The Broken Arrow area seems to have gotten hit the hardest from last night.  Earlier on the news they showed footage of what like the remains of a trailer part strewn along the country roads.  At that point the reporter was uncertain where exactly the debris was coming from, but there was a lot of it.  My hope is that everyone made it out alive.  It is always surreal to talk about Tornados because they are equal parts commonplace and revered here in Oklahoma.  Everyone knows someone who has been effected by one in the past, but at the same time… when you spend every spring dealing with the warnings it also seems “commonplace”.  For years I used to wonder how the folks on the west coast dealt with Earthquakes, but since we also have those…  I am guessing it is much the same.  When you are used to a natural disaster, it just becomes a bit less scary.  Right now it seems like most of the issues happening today are just massive flooding.  After years of drought, I had almost forgotten what “real” rain was like.  At this point all of the rivers are well over flood stage, but fortunately I don’t live in an area that actually floods.  Expect normal gaming blog posts to resume this week I hope, but today…  was all about the weather.

The Podcasting Bug – Part 3

Putting it Someplace

Today is the final post in my series highlighting some of the decisions that you need to think about when starting a podcast.  In the first post I talked a bit about various formats, casting options and some of the design aspects.  In the second post I dove straight into recording your podcast and editing it.  In this mornings post I plan on handling the least exciting part of the equation…  hosting it somewhere that other people can listen.  If you wanna be a rock superstar and live large…  well you are going to have to dump those shows somewhere reliable and fast.  There are so many options here that it will make your head spin but I am going to try and do what I have done to this point and just talk about a few of the potential paths.

Dedicated Podcast Hosts

When I ventured down this road I noticed that pretty much all of the podcasts I listened to had one thing in common… they all seemed to be hosted by a service company called “Libsyn” so for ease of use that is who I chose to use for AggroChat.  These companies are dedicated to a upload and forget it business model automating a lot of the process to make it easier to integrate with services like iTunes and Stitcher radio.  One of the things you are going to realize quickly is that you have no real idea just how much space you need.  For example the basic Libsyn account is $5 a month for 50 megs of monthly storage.  What that means is that you can upload roughly 30 minutes of new audio each month before incurring additional overage fees.  For a weekly show I knew without a doubt that this was not going to be enough.

When I set up the AggroChat account initially I went with the $15 a month 250 meg of monthly growth account, thinking that surely this was going to enough.  The problem there is that there were a few weeks where I quite literally had to wait until after the monthly reset before uploading that next episode.  Finally I have settled on the $20 a month account for 400 mb of storage.  This gives me some breathing room, and allows our podcasts to fluctuate in length naturally without being extremely concerned about running out of space.  Ultimately what you are going to have to figure out is what works for you.  If you figure 50 meg per 30 minutes of podcast that means you can record at a decent bitrate and hopefully have a bit of wiggle room when it comes to your monthly allowance of space.

LibSyn

LIbSyn honestly seems to be the gold standard for podcast hosting.  The problem is it is rather pricy as compared to say a normal blog web hosting account.  In part this is because they work slightly different.  For starters LibSyn has no concept of maximum monthly transfer.  They are only concerned about how much file growth you are generating each month.  Additionally they host your back log and archive indefinitely, which is extremely nice.  We’ve recorded 56 episodes and all of them are available to listen to on demand, which means they are hosting roughly five gig of audio for us.  The other big thing they provide is really good statistics and analytics about who is listening.  I would highly suggest if you consider them at the very least going with the $15 a month 250 mb plan.

PodBean

In every market there is a “Bargain Provider” and just like that statement usually means… you ultimately get what you pay for.  When you compare I am paying $20 a month for 400 mb worth of monthly growth through Libsyn, it seems like an absolute steal that you can get an $8 a month unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage account through PodBean.  The problem is that they have a fairly abysmal reputation for reliability.  The Better Business Bureau has them listed as an “F”rating, so you are more than likely taking at least some risk.  However if you really cannot afford a better option this is there.  I would love to hear thoughts if any folks out there are actively using this service and liking it.  Most of the complaints I have heard centered around customer service.  Considering the price I looked at it seriously for “Bel Folks Stuff”.

SoundCloud

The service I am the least familiar with to be honest is SoundCloud but from what I can tell a lot of folks are having good luck with it.  In part the way its pricing is structured allows you to ease into using it, and as such get your feet wet before committing to a monthly fee.  The free account allows you to upload 3 hours of audio.  Now this is not per month, but this is 3 hours of audio period.  For $6 a month you can get a total of 6 hours, and then upgrade to unlimited to $15 a month.  When you compare the raw hosting power to my Libsyn account this seems like the clear winner, but for me personally LIbsyn still comes out ahead in the number of things it just takes care of for me.  SoundCloud offers basic RSS support but from what I am tell it is not quite as optimized.  Still this is a really solid option especially if you are considering hosting multiple podcasts off the same account.

Self Hosting Audio

You can at least in theory host your podcast off a traditional blogging account.  The problem being is that when your web host sees the usage of folks constantly downloading MP3s from your site, chances are that they are going to hit you with some sort of bandwidth overage fee.  Because of this what might be a perfectly reasonable and awesome place to host your blog, might be exactly the wrong sort of place to host a podcast.  Libsyn is not terribly flexible when it comes to adding new podcasts without adding additional subscription fees.  So when I started kicking around the notion of “Bel Folks Stuff” I opted to try and host this myself.  For some time I had a cheap unlimited storage and bandwidth hosting account that I used for some development on the side.  As a result I opted to simply host my MP3 files there, and link to them directly from WordPress.

The problem with this is once again you get what you pay for.  While my unlimited host is cheap… and unmetered it is also sluggish at times.  As a result I am telling you about a method that I am contemplating abandoning or at the very least tweaking how I do it.   The host I am using is Arvixe which offers a $4 a month unlimited transfer and unlimited storage account.  Overall it works well enough for my purposes but I have noticed that roughly once a week I have at least one minor outage in service.  These outages are usually less than five minutes according to my wordpress uptime monitors, but they still happen.  Now this could be for any reason including legitimate maintenance… or simply because they have over sold their resources.  In whatever case it is something you should be wary of when looking at any “unlimited” account.  There is almost always a small measure of “snake oil” in those sales pitches.

BluBrry Powerpress

The heart of this process relies upon a WordPress Plugin called BluBrry Powerpress.  In its free form this plug-in takes care of the functionality that Libsyn does with its iTunes optimized RSS feed.  In its paid subscription version it also adds in the robust analytics and statistics.  For “Bel Folks Stuff” I chose to simply use the freebie version.  I manually upload the MP3s to my web host, and then once activated I can link to the media in a traditional wordpress post.  The end result feeds out as a podcastable rss feed, and visually embeds a player on the page.  This works pretty flawlessly, and were I using a different host I would even maybe think this is the preferable way of dealing with a podcast because it gives me the maximum control.  The nice thing about this plugin is that when I chose to create my own custom AggroChat.com wordpress site, I can still use it to cleanly embed media from libsyn into posts.

Advertising The Show

Now that you have your hosting set aside and hopefully your website created to embed your work, now it is time to talk a little bit about getting your show out there.  This is something I honestly do a pretty poor job of myself.  I just happened to stumble into an affiliate network through the close ties I made thanks to the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  The Gaming and Entertainment Network was essentially formed out of NBI in a way, and were it not for that happening my shows would likely still be unaffiliated.  I do a pretty horrible job at the business side of blogging and podcasting, so hopefully someone will come along after writing this guide and tell you all how to actually recuperate your costs.  That is something I have yet to master, because this hobby is absolutely a money sink.  Regardless though you are going to want some listeners and I am going to talk about a few of the avenues I use.

Twitter

Twitter is an absolute no brainer.  Make an account for your show, and syndicate every new show over twitter.  You can get as complicated here as you want or be as generic as you like as well.  Ultimately in a perfect world you want to hashtag in some of the topics you spoke about during the show.  I have yet to really master the art of this without making the advertisement sound anything other than smarmy.   We publish on Sundays, so I tweet out the link early that morning.  Then on Monday I tend to re-tweet it again for anyone who missed the first posting and is looking for something to listen to at work.

iTunes

I do not use iTunes at all, but man it seems like every other person on the planet does.  There is apparently a meta game to getting your podcast placed in iTunes perfectly and there are all manner of guides to timing the launch just right.  Truth be told mine is only up there because my friend Jaedia asked me to put it there.  The act of getting it up there is relatively simple and Apple provides a list of specifications that the podcast needs to follow in order to qualify.  From there you simply have to wait the requisite three or four days before it shows up in the index.  I think for me it happened in about two but depending on backlog of podcasts it has been known to take as long as a week.  Like with anything you can get higher placement if you convince your friends to go into iTunes and vote it up.  I was shocked to find out that apparently our podcast has a five star rating.

Stitcher

The other big player in podcasting directories seems to be Stitcher Radio.  Just like iTunes they have a series of requirements for getting a podcast listed, but have a handy dandy FAQ outlining them.  Essentially it reads your RSS feed and re-syndicates it on their network.  The only problem with this is that it seems to absolutely butcher my podcast.  It sounds like a garbled mess running off their servers, whereas iTunes seems to leave everything as is.  Just like with iTunes someone asked me to list my podcast there because they liked using the stitcher mobile client to listen to podcasts so I did just that.  Really uncertain if I am actually getting any traffic from this but it can’t really hurt.

Go Make a Podcast!

So over the course of these three guides I have done my best to share the small amount of knowledge I have about how podcasting functions. The thing is I am still very much learning as I go because I don’t feel like this is the sort of the thing you can actually “master”.  You might be sitting back and thinking…. god that is a lot of information to take in.  The positive is that I knew absolutely NONE Of these things before I dove head first into recording our first episode of AggroChat.  So my hope is that I can give someone who is on the edge and considering jumping into this world a bit of a head start.  These are the things I wish I knew beforehand, and I have talked about some of the choices I might have made.  Ultimately podcasts are extremely unique beasts, so yours can be whatever you want it to be.  Again if you have any direct questions I am more than happy to answer them, but my hope is that maybe just maybe someone is going to read this mess and get the courage to start.

The Podcasting Bug – Part 2

Making it Happen

Yesterday I talked at length about the design that goes into a podcast.  While sure some people quite literally just start recording without much forethought, the best and most successful podcasts put quite a bit of effort into figuring out just how they want to go about the process of making their vision come to life.  No matter how much prep work goes into the planning, there comes a point where you have to sit down and functionally record your podcast, and there are all manner of issues that arise.  Most of us that go down this path lack the formal training with audio engineering to fall back on, so there is quite a bit of “sink or swim” that happens.  Having gone through some of these decisions myself I thought I would talk about some of the hurdles that comes from the recording and editing of your podcast.

Recording the Podcast

The hardest part of the equation quite literally is how exactly you are going to record.  If you can get all of the people you are needing to record in the same room it is a relatively easy situation of setting up a bunch of USB microphone inputs and having them all get recorded by a single piece of software.  The problem being most podcasters have no physical contact with their co-hosts meaning that we are somehow going to have to make this whole thing work over the internet.  When dealing with the internet you have all the standard problems of latency and network stability.  Today I am going to cover some of the methods of recording remotely that I have seen or heard working very well.

The Skype Standard Method

Skype has managed become the gold standard as far as internet telecommunications software goes.  While this started off as a relative rogue horse with the acquisition by Microsoft it has become absolutely ubiquitous.  The problem being…  it was not designed to record audio with.  In fact Skype has no default method for recording either side of the conversation, and I would assume this is by design to keep away from any potential legal hurdles.  The other negative is that excellent sound recording software like Audacity was not designed to work with something like Skype.  As such you have to figure out how precisely you are going to make this work.  Essentially the first hurdle you have to decide is if you are going to try and record individual speaker tracks or if you are going to record the resulting mixed audio.

Single Audio Tracks

Recording individual audio tracks is without a doubt the “purest” method of recording a podcast.  This means each person is recorded separately and then can be mixed at a later date to create the final merged product.  This means you can do all manner of post processing on audio levels, clearing up jitter and pops without effecting the integrity of other tracks.  The problem is…  isolating each speaker.  There is software that will supposedly help you with this method but more than likely you are going to need to do a significant amount of research and testing to get it working correctly.  The most tried and true method that I know of for this is the “everyone records themselves” method.  Meaning that essentially each participant launches their audio recorder of choice and at the end of the show passes off their audio track for editing in later.  There are a number of issues with this concept, not the least of which is that uncompressed waveform audio is way the hell too large to email.  Secondly editing in multiple tracks is a mind numbingly boring process.  If you record an hour long show expect to spend one hour per participant plus another hour or two on miscellaneous issues while trying to merge all this audio together by hand.

Merged Audio Tracks

The far more common method is that you simply “get everything right” before you start recording and record one merged audio track that represents the basis of your podcast episode.  Generally speaking this involves getting a test call going first, and then setting up again to record the “real call” that will be the final product.  Of note… my experience with Skype comes from co-hosting on other podcasts, and I chose not to go with this method myself.  Some of my advice may not be absolutely accurate so before you set down this path do some legwork and research it yourself.  The idea is that you start a Skype call and then have a third party software “catch” the audio and record it.  Since this has become the default way of doing podcasts for many people you can imagine there are a lot of options out there for recording.  Here is some of the software I have heard decent things about.

Voice Server Method

The method that I never really hear anyone talking about that has worked very well for me personally is recording off of a voice server.  Both Teamspeak and Mumble offer the ability to record client side audio of what is actually being said on the voice server.  Both servers we have used had their positives and negatives.  The key negative of mumble is that all of the audio is recorded in a mono format, making the sound a bit hollow.  The positive there however is that you could choose to record each participant to their own audio file allowing you to merge them together manual later.  Teamspeak offers stereo output but merges all speakers into the same audio stream.  Ultimately you have some of the same issues that arise with Skype in that you need to make sure that all of your speakers are as “clean” as possible before you actually record.  Since we record on the voice server that we quite literally hang out on every single night, then this portion was pretty simple for us.  There are a few things you really need to think about before going down this path.

Audio Codecs Supported

The server that we happen to record on supports a large number of audio codecs.  This allowed me to set up a custom server channel and tweak the audio settings until I got a product that I was happy with.  Currently the channel we record in uses the Opus Voice codec with a quality rating of 8, and this is something we had to tweak down a bit until we found a happy place.  In order to maintain that quality of stream you need an uninterrupted 7 KB/s transmission but thankfully for the most part all of our participants have really solid internet.

Lock Down Your Channel

If you are going to record on an existing server that is already active, it is important that you have to lock down your channel.  It is extremely easily for some well meaning person to pop into your channel out of curiosity and completely destroy your podcast.  In theory you could get by with just naming your podcast channel something obvious like “Podcast Channel”, but I suggest taking the extra step of password protecting the channel.  This allows me to hand the password out to regular guests and simply drag limited hosts into the channel manually.

Turn Off All Audio Queues

This one is absolutely important.  Sure it is nice to know when someone leaves or joins the server but for the purpose of recording a podcast make sure you turn off all of this stuff.  Someone popping on and off the server will be recorded in your final output stream.

Priority Speaker

This one has bit us in the ass a few times, but if your voice server uses a priority speaker system… make sure that ALL participants in the conversation are artificially elevated to priority speaker status.  How priority speaker works is that it essentially lowers the volume of low priority speakers to make sure that the priority one is heard.  This works great in a raid situation where one person needs to be delivering orders, this does not work well when you are expecting multiple people to be chiming in on a conversation.  I am administrator on our voice server so I cannot turn off priority, so I just elevate everyone else to the same level while in the podcasting channel.

Google Hangouts Method

This is the method I honestly know the least about but I believe this is how Cat Context has been recorded for eons.  You can check out this guide but I will try and cover the basics.  The idea is that you start a Google Hangout On Air inviting all of the members of the show.  This is recorded and afterwards you can export the video in MP4 format.  From there you can take the MP4 and edit in an audio editor like Audacity and extract the audio only portion that then becomes your podcast.  The benefit here is that instead of only having audio you also have video recorded of the hangout that can be uploaded to a service like YouTube allowing you to tap into a completely different audience from the traditional podcaster one.  The negative is that you are putting all of your faith in Google Hangouts and hoping that the service will not have any hitches during the recording.  In my own experience playing games over Hangouts, and having people drop in and out of the call…  this one makes me more than a little edgy.  I just wanted to throw it out there as an option because I know lots of people make this one work, and work extremely well.

Editing The Podcast

No matter how pristine you think your final recording is.. you will ultimately need to edit it somehow.  Ultimately you can easily spend ten times as long editing the podcast as it took to record it.  I personally go for a minimal editing process to safe my own sanity, but I know some folks that can take upwards to a week to get the final edit ready to go.  The more you edit the faster you get, so expect your first few podcasts to take a significant investment of your time as you get used to your tools.  My suggestions will be based on Audacity the extremely flexible open source audio editor.  It works equally well on Windows, Mac and Linux and actually does an amazingly clean job of letting you edit just about anything you could ever want to edit.  To make it even more extensible it supports a number of standard audio plug-in formats.  Like I said above I take a pretty minimalistic approach to editing AggroChat so I am going to focus only on the features that I actually use.

Normalize

image The very first pass I make is to normalize the audio.  This helps to minimize the difference between the loudest volume speakers and the quietest volume speakers.  Now you can completely squash any difference in volume if you really like but you end up with robotic sounding audio.  I have personally found that I like the defaults pretty well.  This is an extremely fast edit so should not take a lot of time, but the final result can be very noticeable.

Noise Reduction

image This pass is primarily for if someone I am recording with has a significant amount of white noise or audio “hum” when they record.  For the majority of the time recording Aggrochat this was actually “me” that I was having to edit.  This pass is a little trickier because of the way this tool works.  Ultimately you need to highlight an area of the recording where the noise you want to extract is evident and use it as a sample using “Get Noise Profile”.  From there you run the complimentary command of “Reduce” to essentially cycle through your audio and filter out that noise.  It does a fairly good job but the more noise you filter, the lower the overall fidelity of your recording gets.  This really needs a fine touch because if you filter too much you end up with washboard sounding audio as a result.

Truncate Silence

image If you have ever edited audio the thing you notice after the fact is just how many awkward pauses we make as human beings.  Going back and finding these and eliminating them is pure tedium.  I spent weeks doing this manually until it finally dawned on me.. that this should be something that is pretty easy to automate.  After a little research I found the “Truncate Silence” tool and it is going to be your new best friend.  What it does is essentially even out the silence in your track truncating any silences over a set amount and padding any that are under a certain amount.  These are the settings that I go with for AggroChat, for Bel Folks Stuff I move it up to 400 and 600 respectively to allow a little more room for contemplative silence.  Ultimately you will have to figure out what setting “feels” best to you.

Limit Your Futzing

You can literally spend hundreds of hours if you really wanted to obsessing over the wave form audio.  I have stared at ours enough that I can literally tell you which person is speaking at any given moment from the shape of their waveform audio.  Basically the end result is going to need to be something that you can live with, but at the same time does not take over your life as you keep editing and re-editing.  To make my life easier I have created these files that I refer to as the “Canon” file that includes everything a show needs minus a given weeks audio track.  I set these up once and then just paste the new audio into them before saving them out.  You too are going to find little tricks that you can do  to speed up your process.  On a good night I will have the MP3 audio of our podcast ready to post within thirty minutes of finishing recording.  The longer the recording the longer the edits will take, especially as you start doing things like noise removal.  Those take a significant amount of processing time.  Now that you have your audio recorded and ready to go, you are going to need a place to put it.  Tomorrow I am going to cover the hosting of your podcast and some other bookkeeping tasks like publicizing.  My hope is that someone will find this whole process useful and maybe it will spur on a few new Newbie Blogger Initiative podcasts as a result.

The Podcasting Bug – Part 1

Love of Spoken Word

I grew up with I guess what you would call a love of both the written and spoken word.   The moment I got access to my first copying machine, was the moment I first tried to create my own comics and magazines devoted to whatever I happened to be into.  When I got my first word processor I went through a renaissance of sorts in trying to publish information about the games I was playing and distribute it freely among anyone who was willing to take it off my hand.  So when I started blogging significantly later in life it was of no real shock.  I had been “trying” to publish my own content for years, just doing so with limited success.  I would be willing to bet that other bloggers “of a certain age” can tell very similar tales of youthful exuberance.  While I grew up in the MTV generation, my sentiments will more than likely always lay with the era when print media was king.

Another constant in my life however was Radio and Public Television.  I spent most of my childhood watching Nova and Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and when I rode around in my fathers truck it was almost always tuned to the radio station playing Paul Harvey.  When I started choosing my own radio stations to listen to I found the best use of my time to listen to NPR and use that morning lull as my way of catching up on the world.  From there I discovered so many broadcast programs that were more entertainment than education, and I was absolutely hooked.  In many ways podcasting is the extension of this love for the spoken word.  Some bloggers catch the bug, and feel like they have to move into doing something more than just writing.  This happened to me a little bit over a year ago and now I have two different podcasts to show for my obsession.  Many other attempt to maintain three for four different shows devoted to different segments of their experience.  If this is happening to you, I thought I would take a moment this morning to talk about some of the issues I had to deal with when approaching my first show.

Format

One of the first decisions you are going to have to make is what exactly you want your show to be about.  Just like with your blog you have to make a decision as to what you want your format to be.  Single game or single topic blogs and podcasts will be significantly more popular than generalist ones, however in my experience your audience will also be considerably more fickle.  If you listen to a Wildstar podcast religiously for example, and you stop playing Wildstar…  then your reason for listening to that podcast also goes out the window.  If you listen to a more general podcast you ultimately end up listening for the cast of people, and those sorts of listeners tend to be significantly more loyal.  That said all of the biggest podcasts that I know of tend to be devoted to a very specific niche.

For me personally I knew that there was no way in hell I would be turning this into a career so I was not extremely concerned about trying to get the biggest possible audience.  I am interested in a lot of different things, as are my friends… so for me it was a no brainer that we created AggroChat to reflect the conversations we already had on TeamSpeak on a regular basis.  In my experience podcasts tend to fall into four broad groups as far as the actual format goes.  I have listened to great podcasts that fall into each of these categories, and not so great podcasts as well.  Ultimately you have to pick whatever works best for your cast, which leads us to the next point.

Topic Focused

I chose to refer to this as topic focused, but more often than not this tends to mean a “News” show where the hosts cover a series of predetermined topics.  This requires you to keep good show notes and that they get circulated before the actual recording of the show.  Believe it or not we actually started AggroChat trying to follow this format, but quickly realized we were not the “planning” type people.  These tend to be the most “predictable” shows as far as recording time goes, since you have a clear list of goals that you want to accomplish in each show.

Conversational

This is ultimately the format that AggroChat became, because we are bad at having structure.  The idea here is to record a somewhat natural conversation with a group of people.  Topics flow in and out of the discussion and segway naturally.  The problem here is that this only works if the folks you are recording with are very very familiar with each other.  While the first format relies heavily on planning, this format is all about interpersonal chemistry.  I personally love this format, but I am sure there are just as many people who are annoyed by it.  This is not a format you can carry off if you are assembling a group of people that do not regularly spend time together.

Narrative

This is the podcast that tells a story.  There are many different versions of this but probably my two favorites are This American Life and Radio Lab.  This is the format that requires extreme planning but adds a whole new dimension…  that is significant amounts of post production editing.  When it works you have this wonderful audio journey through the story you are trying to tell.  When it doesn’t work, you end up with jarring gaps.  This is one of those formats that I aspire to try some day, but just don’t have the technical ability yet to really make it work.  If you are an audio editing wizard though this might be your natural format, mixing in clips and music to support the tale you are trying to weave.  The folks that can do this one will have my constant and undying respect.

Interview

This format is probably the most straight forward and at the same time extremely flexible.  The concept is simple, in that one or more hosts asks questions from one or more guests.  The challenge is in scheduling a constant flow of new guests to sit down and record with you.  You can put as much planning into this format as you need to, or you can do it completely off the cuff.  When I record “Bel Folks Stuff” for example I ask a few standard questions but the rest is taken from queues in the conversation and I try and go wherever the conversation wants to lead.  When Braxwolf records Beyond Bossfights he seems to have a master plan laid out in exactly what he wants to ask his guest.  Both work and both are completely viable methods, so ultimately you have to figure out which version works best for you.  Chances are you can even make a hybrid approach work a well.  This format relies mostly on the ability of the hosts to “coax” a performance out of their guests.

Casting

There are lots of different styles of podcasts and each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses.  The more people you add into a podcasting cast, the more chaotic the end result.  The fewer people you have, you lose some of the depth of having multiple opinions chime in on topics.  The “Solo” podcast is its own beast that I personally am not a huge fan of.  It always feels like I am being lectured to more than joining in on a conversation.  I am going to talk about a few of the styles that I have experienced and some of the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Solo Podcast

This is the traditional “one man show” to borrow the showbiz term.  You have an idea that you want to run with and you just start recording.  The problem here is that like I said above these shows tend to be extremely unbalanced sounding.  The solo podcast works well if you are telling a story, and going to be referring back to audio or music clips to help flesh out your narrative.  These shows also work amazingly well for five to ten minute “news update” type formats.  Where the format tends to grind on is when dealing with a thirty minute or longer show of just one voice talking.  The positive is you can literally record whenever you want to, and are not limited by other people to make your ideas work.  The negative is…  you have to carry all of the weight on your own shoulders.

Duo/Trio Podcast

I feel like the majority of podcasts fall into this category, where you have a preset group of two to three voices that present topics every single week.  This is the cornerstone of the podcast for a reason, because it works extremely well.  In three voices especially you can get just a wide enough range of opinion to make most topics work, but not have too many competing voices to let a discussion descend into chaos.  The challenge here then becomes scheduling.  Unless you can find a time every single week or whatever your recording schedule happens to be…  it becomes a juggling act trying to get all of the key players in the room at the same time to record a show.  I know many shows that will record multiple episodes in the same weekend and stagger their release to make up for scheduling conflicts.  I know personally we have done this twice with AggroChat and they made for some very long evenings.  Once you get into a routine then more than likely things will stabilize and get significantly easier.  Duo works well but the problem with Duo is when one person is gone… you have a solo podcast.  With a Trio you can limp through with just two people relatively successfully.

Ensemble Podcast

The ensemble cast is the most forgiving when it comes to scheduling conflicts.  It tends to draw on a large list of potential co-hosts and arranging as many of them as you can on a given night.  This is ultimately what AggroChat has turned into over time having had ten different people who have appeared with semi-regular frequency during the course of our time recording it.  Ultimately however in order to make it work you are going to need a large group of friends who are interested in podcasting.  The strength of this format is that you can incorporate new people easily and in a pinch you can record with significantly fewer people than normal.  The problem being that once you get over five people on a podcast it starts to get extremely chaotic.  We do our best to mitigate that problem with our format, but ultimately AggroChat is what it is… a rambling chaotic mess sometimes.  I feel the casting is extremely sustainable as recently Rae expressed interest in stopping the podcast for the time being, and we were able to work in a couple newer voices in her place.

Interview Podcast

This one is a very different beast in that essentially it is a solo podcast… with one additional guest that varies each time you record.  This is the format I chose for my Bel Folks Stuff podcast, and it has its own set of interesting challenges.  The key problem for me has always been scheduling people.  When dealing with a few people on a regular basis you can pick a single time to record that works for everyone.  When you are constantly changing who your “partner” is on a show by show basis you end up having to work with  the new persons schedule.  This has been pure hell for me at times considering a lot of the people I have wanted to talk to are in vastly different time zones.  This has completely destroyed any semblance of a release schedule for me, and as a result I have purposefully kept from submitting the show to TGEN because I never know when I will get time to record one.  I personally find the format gratifying  as a host because it allows me to have interesting long form conversations with “folks” that I care about.  Due to all of the problems I would highly suggest against this being your “primary” podcasting format.

Release Schedule

As with blogging the key to building a reliable audience is through regular and predictable release schedule.  There are people who start their day by reading my blog, because they know it will always be there waiting on them.  Similarly there are a series of podcasts that I start listening to Monday morning as I begin work because I know they will be reliably waiting on me.  As such I have found that the interval is not nearly as important as simply sticking to something.  I personally jumped in the deep end and started immediately with a “weekly” show.  This means every single week like clockwork you have to crank out a show, edit it, and get it posted and publicized.  AggroChat requires less editing than most shows out there, and still without a doubt this dominates my Saturday night and Sunday morning getting things ready for the world.  There are many nights that I go to sleep about 2 am after editing, and then still have to get up the next morning and deal with the publicizing.  This is the last point I am going to talk about today so I thought I would talk about a few of the release schedules that I have seen work.

Weekly

Like I said this one is at times sheer madness.  You are signing yourself up for a radical shift in your lifestyle to incorporate making a podcast into each and every week.  Depending on the type of podcast this can be easier or harder.  For example we use an ensemble cast, and Kodra is more than willing to “host” but I have never really cross trained anyone else on the whole “creation” process.  The positive here is that people LIKE listening to new content every week.  Your audience will grow faster because you are creating more content for them to consume.  We even have some insanely loyal listeners that have gone back through our entire back catalog of new 56 episodes.  Just realize that the weekly show is a massive challenge, and you have to be fairly stubborn to make it work.

Bi-Weekly

I hate the term bi-weekly because it means two things… twice a week or every other week.  In this case I am referring to the every other week schedule that several podcasts use.  This is still a strenuous schedule but gives people an “on” week and an “off” week to recuperate and plan things around.  I have been exceptionally lucky that I have a wife that supports the madness I am involved in, but for a lot of married couples locking away a night every week is going to be a problem, especially once you factor in children.  The bi-weekly schedule tends to be this happy medium making it equal parts flexible and manageable while still churning out enough content to get folks “hooked” on your format quickly.

Monthly

There are a myriad of issues with the monthly format.  For starters you have to be extremely careful when you schedule exactly when you want to record.  Theoretically you need to record with regular interval meaning you would need to release the first week of every month or some similar schedule.  The problem is life often sabotages you, and while it sounds good right now that we will record in three weeks…  there might be a birthday or an anniversary or some other hurdle that gets in the way.  I am horrible at keeping calendars so there is no way I could do a regular monthly show.  I release “Bel Folks Stuff” on a semi-monthly schedule, but I have actually missed an entire month before.  The big problem I see with a monthly show is that in theory you have to always have a great show.  When you do a weekly show, you can recover from having a shit week pretty easily.  When you are only releasing twelve shows a year… they all pretty much have to be golden to keep folks interested.

Recording Your Podcast

When I set down to talk about all of this I quickly realized that I would have to chunk this up over the course of multiple posts.  In this first part I focused on the “design” of your podcast.  In the next part I am going to focus on the nuts and bolts of recording your first episode.  The final part to follow after that will talk about the nuts and bolts of hosting.  My hope is that this inspires folks to go off and create their own podcast, but also inspires them to realize there is a lot of planning that goes into making it work.  As I am drafting the next pieces I would love to know if there are any specific things that you would like me to take a detour through and cover.

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2015

It’s That Time Again!

nbi-blog-logo Well folks it is once again May the First and as such time for us to begin the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  For those that are unfamiliar with this program, I thought I would take a few minutes this morning and talk about what exactly it is and what you can expect from it over the coming month.  May is essentially the month that bloggers set aside to helping create more bloggers.  In order to do what we do we need a thriving community to live in, and this is our version of a neighborhood block party.  I once referred to NBI as the BlizzCon of the gaming blogosphere, because really this is the event I look forward to each year.  It is exciting seeing all of the new faces filtered into our world, and seeing others rededicate themselves to creating more frequent content.  Others of us just enjoy helping folks out to get their start with whatever projects they are wanting to do.

For New Bloggers

If you have ever thought about creating a blog, a podcast, or a youtube channel this event is solely centered around you.  For years we have heard that “blogging” is dead but the fact that I have over five hundred active blogs in my feedly account would disagree.  Each time I go to read through my gaming blogs it is like drinking from a firehose.  I love this and I love the fact that there is so much creativity packed into this community.  However in order to keep this a vibrant and fresh community we keep needing to infuse it with some new blood and new ideas.  One of the most difficult parts about starting any new venture is getting an audience.  It can be frustrating to feel like you are writing into the void, and in part the Newbie Blogger Initiative is here to give you what you need most…  exposure.

During this month the gaming blogosphere turns its eyes to the Newbie Blogger Initiative and by choosing to start a blog during this month we are essentially hand delivering you readers.  Now of course starting the blog is the easy part, creating regular and creative content is the challenge.  Throughout the month veteran bloggers will be giving you tips and tricks that we have to help ease your transition.  This has always been a very blogging centric event, but we want to embrace all gaming content.  There have been quite the number of new podcasts spawned out of this event and the connections with other bloggers, as well as a few folks dipping their toes into video creation.  Essentially the sky is the limit on what you can do, but you have to start someplace and we are here to help.

For Veteran Bloggers

While all of this love is getting thrown around on the new bloggers, it is  really the Veteran bloggers that make up the backbone of this initiative.  We need you, your ideas and your wisdom.  Blogging is rough, and getting up and doing this on a daily basis means we need some tools to be able to lean on.  Each of you started out as a fledgling blogger at one point or another, and many of you got a massive boost by the Newbie Blogger Initiative in the past.  Now is the time for us to step up and help the next generation to become the awesome bloggers of tomorrow.  Many times these new bloggers just need someone to talk to and bounce their ideas off.  I personally am always open to new blogger queries and during the course of this event I will end up trying to make a personal connection with as many of the new folks as I can.

What we need more than anything however is for you to keep making awesome content.  Let the bloggers know what works for you, what you have figured out doesn’t work, and general ideas about how to make a blog successful.  I’ve talked about a lot of topics in the  past, and there are a few of them I end up dusting off almost every year.  More than anything we need you showing that this is an achievable goal, and that given dedication you can succeed.  Each of us has tricks that we use to keep us going, and at the end of the day someone starting this is going to need a big bag of tricks to lean on.  Channel your gifts in whatever direction you feel best be it with writing prompts, tutorials or lessons learned, but whatever they might be we need you to make this work.  There are already folks signed up on the forums waiting for us to find them, so I suggest you sign up as mentor today.

For Wayward Bloggers

Now especially I want to address a special kind of blogger this year that I might not have in the past.  Have you lost your way blogging, and somehow lost the will to put pen to paper and create new content?  While I am generally thought of as this prolific daily blogger, there are some pretty massive lapses in my blogging history.  I recently celebrated my second anniversary of making posts every single day…  but prior to starting that there was a seven month lag in my blog.  It is easy to “fall off the wagon” for lack of a better term.  Life gets in the way and your font of inspiration dries up…  then the longer you wait to make a post the more pressure you put yourself under about making said post.  We are our own worst enemies, and as the months tick you suddenly realize you are no longer really a blogger.

Newbie Blogger Initiative is also the perfect time of the year for you to get active once again.  Sometimes we start down a path that doesn’t end up as sustainable for our interests, and other times life just simply throws us a curve ball.  In any case I urge you to take this month to get back into blogging.  We are here and waiting to help you with whatever you might need to tweak on your blog to make it sustainable.  We are also waiting with a ready audience to consume your brand new and shiny content.  Each year we lose a number of bloggers to life, and I am hoping to help resurrect some of them and get them making content once more.  The Newbie Blogger Initiative is so much more than just a launch pad for new blogs.  It can be the vitalization of our community every single year, giving us a new perspective to carry us through the next year.  If you want to come back to blogging regularly, we are waiting for you.

#NBI2015

Nostaltic Americana

Aggrochat #40 – Hexcells and H1Z1

It feels a little insane to be saying that we recorded episode 40 last night of our podcast.  It just doesn’t seem like we have been running that long, but quite honestly at this point we have outlasted a large number of podcasts so I guess that’s a thing.  We still manage to meet up each week to record a conversation about games… and then manage to like each other enough to do the same thing almost every night throughout the week.  So I guess that in itself is an accomplishment.  Last night was an absolute insane show, that in it’s content but in the fact that we recorded two shows back to back.  So yes we are going to be perpetrating a dirty dirty lie, and releasing the shows a week a part as though it were fresh content.

Next week Kodra was going to be out anyways, and Ash, Rae and myself are going to Pax South and as such won’t have any of our normal recording style equipment.  So the first episode we recorded last night follows the normal format, but the second episode is going to be announcing a new thing we are doing.  However unfortunately I am going to make you all wait until next week to find out what it is.  As far as the show proper yesterday we uncovered a recent addiction to a game called Hex Cells which if I am to believe Tam, Kodra and Rae is this super chill minesweeper like game.  The fact that they mentioned minesweeper pretty much flagged me as not interested at all.  Additionally we talk about the upcoming 2.5 patch in Final Fantasy XIV and finally I talk about my experiences playing H1Z1 in Early Release.  Then I descend into my frustrations about the Early Access model and why if you are taking money for a game… your game is “Release” but you just released a broken game.

In Search of Vitamin D

sewcool Lately the weather here in  the Tulsa area has been absolutely atrocious, not necessarily in precipitation but in the fact that it has rarely gotten above freezing for the last week.  This means that the likelihood of us venturing outside of our house in a major way was next to nil.  Now I have a love / hate relationship with the sun.  I have super sensitive eyes and being out in bright sunlight pretty much gives me an instant headache.  My wife on the other hand LOVES the sun, and during the winter months suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder or “SAD”, so I know so many times I will be pushed out into the bright light for her health and well being.  Yesterday was one of those days because the temperature actually managed to climb up into the 60s.  We juggled a few different ideas for how we would spend the day but finally landed upon “junking”.

kennerbuildingsetOne of the towns nearby has this really historic main street district where almost every building has been carved up into an “Antique Mall”.  For those not familiar with the concept, it is basically where someone renovates a huge old open floor plan, and carves it up into little booths that they then rent out to folks wanting to sell their wares.  Generally speaking they have an all too clever name like the image above,  that is some sort of pun on what they are selling.  The problem is when EVERYONE has a “clever” name it loses much of the desired effect and just becomes a painful cliché.  Mixed in among the dross and “upcycled” furnishings are some interesting relics from the past.  THIS is why I enjoy going junking, because you never know quite what you might find.

I mostly am interested in relics of my own past, namely interesting toys that I can remember and ones that I didn’t even know existed.  Sometimes you find some quirks of branding… for example yesterday I saw an Archie Bunker themed baby doll, and this awesome construction set by Kenner.  Mostly I snapped a photo of it because there is this really awesome twitter thread where they tweet various photos of kenner products.  We spent the entire day roaming around, and the odd thing is at the end of the day we had purchased exactly nothing. Mostly for us at least it is getting out and doing something rather than just sitting at home, and in that we accomplished our mission.

Nostalgic Americana

tallys While roaming around yesterday I got the “hankering” for some traditional American south “comfort food”, and the best place for something like that is Tally’s Cafe.  It is one of those places that has always been there that I can remember and is somewhat of an icon for Tulsa food.  It is seated on Historic Route 66, and gets a lot of traffic from folks traveling the old highway.  What makes Tally’s so interesting to me is the fact that it is this strange nostalgic version of Americana that likely never existed other than in movies like American Graffiti.  The owner Talal Jalil Alame aka “Tally” came to the United States during the 1979 Civil War in Lebanon, and after some time purchased the current restaurant opening on a Friday 13th in 1987.  What makes the restaurant special is two fold.  The decor is this idealized version of the 1950 that could only exist in the mind of someone who grew up watching 1950s movies.  Lots of chrome, neon, and clean tiles give the appearance of this tribute to the mystique of Route 66.

The second aspect of the restaurant is the fact that the food is really good.  Yesterday I had the boneless fried chicken which is precisely what it sounds like.  These three huge pieces of fried chicken, deboned and served with two sides and a dinner roll.  Quite literally two plates of food, for like $8.  Tally could easily get away with charging far more than he does, but in truth he is more than a small part humanitarian.  Each year during Thanksgiving he fixes this massive meal, dinner with all the fixings.  Anyone can walk in off the street and have a meal, and you quite literally pay whatever you can afford.  Honestly when we were not sure what we were doing for thanksgiving, I had seriously considering trying this out and massively overpaying to support the cause.  In any case Tally’s definitely fit that comfort food desire and I ended up taking a good chunk of it home for pre-podcast leftovers.  All in all it was a pretty great day.