More Less Facebook

I used to be a podcaster.

Lately I’ve been less and less enthralled by Facebook, and I didn’t think that was going to happen, having crossed into “meh” territory months ago:

Surely the midterm election cycle was a part of it, but I’m less and less impressed with the lack of interaction, the lack of attention, and what really seems to be a megaphone platform to shout viewpoints, vitriol, and advertising. Nothing new here, just re-stating the obvious.

Radio huh?

Back in the early 21st century, I took part in an annual education program called Leadership Sunnyvale and eventually even joined the Board of Directors for the organization. It was a great program and was extremely educational, such that I honestly believe anyone who has any interest at all in how their city (or any city) operates should seek out such programs in your city or one nearby. There was always a little bit of foreshadowing as well, that people attending the class week-over-week would eventually get into local politics in some way, though the year I attended we actually had a nice mix of local business folks and some generally interesting characters.

One of those characters and I ended up forming a little experimental venture that we called Radio Sunnyvale. It turned out that Sunnyvale, for as large and storied a city as it was (larger in population than any two other cities on the peninsula, at the time, except of course for San Francisco and San Jose if that could be called a peninsula city…), it had no local media, depending entirely on the San Jose Mercury News and a tiny local called The Sunnyvale Sun, the latter published as part of a set of local newspapers by Dan Pulcrano, whom I would eventually meet with for some interesting discussions that ultimately didn’t get very far.

With so many people in such an interesting place (so near some center of Silicon Valley, whether that was San Jose, Menlo Park, San Francisco… a short drive or train ride to any of them), that there was no radio, tv, or newspaper media to interact with its residents was just weird to us, and so our little podcast effort was born.

We got off to an interesting start, creating our first show that was essentially this other person, Kevin, and myself chatting about various interesting city-related bits, some from our class learnings, other items from the news, other items from just living there. As it should be, originating from within to address items of interest to ourselves and our neighbors. We weren’t exactly exploding, but we began to get an odd listener or two.

A funny thing happened. A city council election process was in progress, and there were 3 or 4 seats up for vote, and 2 candidates for each of the seats. Each person had positions, opinions, stories, some history, and even some personality, and none of it was landing anywhere. The Sunnyvale Sun was on it as much as the one reporter they had on such things was able, but that person at the time lived in another city and was not nearly so invested in the process, much less the people. After getting to know some of the government types, through the Leadership class and through hanging around more and more with this crazy podcast idea, we had just enough credibility so that we could try something creative, and it worked.

At some point I ran into the head of the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce and I asked her what she thought of hosting sit-down interviews with each of the city council candidates. Nobody else was doing this, and while we had no practical interest in a live debate (that was a bit beyond our capabilities at the time), we could certainly have each candidate in for some chat. She said yes, and the Chamber sponsored and hosted all of our interviews, which took place on the same day for about 30 minutes each, with questions they did not get ahead of time and answers off the cuff, completely un-edited.

Imagine that. These candidates were all willing to take that chance on a couple of locals with some microphones and questions they would hear for the first time right there on the spot, without any preparation or room to wiggle. They all did it, and we posted all of the episodes at the same time to provide as fair and equitable a platform for all as we could. It was pretty cool.

Everybody Has One

Today, everybody has a podcast, or a YouTube channel, or both, and if you don’t have at least one of those you’re almost certainly publishing stories or short videos or even long, portrait-orientation videos on your favorite social media platform, and if you aren’t already then you will soon enough. Why? Because everybody has something to say and as visual creatures we want to see what you’re doing, seeing, eating, watching, or thinking, and if it’s none of those, we want to see what you are wearing (or what you are not). Pictures and videos are easy with our pocket computers and however many camera sensors they can fit on either side of that glass rectangle, and so the Instagram Model and its variations are ubiquitous.

The really interesting people, though, are making real videos, with actual preparation, production value, and content. The creation and publication of audio and video programs of substance is now a thing and while it might easily be dismissed as “alt media” it is legion and in many cases it is better than anything anyone is doing on the much more highly-funded “mainstream media.” Sure, it’s great to be able to pay for sets and high-end hardware and travel and whatnot, and gravitas enough to bring in world leaders for their 7-minute segments is still a big deal, but real people can do it as well, and it begins with conversation about real topics and ideas with other people who have real opinions, which are likely different and maybe even inflammatory. Who would know without a chat?

I’m not saying I’ve got anything on some of the big players out there, creating really substantive content all over the spectrum (and I don’t mean the left-right political spectrum, though that’s a part of it). I do have ideas, though, and I know a few people who also have ideas, so why not have a chat and see what happens?

Write-only from someone who is just not that into you

I’m not sure which is more disappointing, the junk and hype that is shared on social media, or the write-only commentary from those who want to chime in and step on others, without reading what anyone else has to say. How many times have you commented on someone’s postings wherever they might be, only to see someone post something that shows quite clearly their lack of attention to any other comments posted. You probably have no idea what I’m talking about, because you don’t read comments, either! Not a dig, you’re in the substantial majority.

YouTube comments are no better, and in fact they are usually magnets for some truly awful ad hominem in place of real thought or even constructive criticism. The upside, though, is that those comments can be safely ignored when people with something to say are actually willing to do so, in an interactive forum, without a time limit. It is this format that I seek to explore, whether on YouTube or with the easier-to-produce audio podcast. I’ve certainly done the latter, and I’ve just began to dabble in the former. By “dabble” I mean, I’m fiddling with hardware I have on hand to make sure I can actually create live, streaming show content and at the same time trying to think of interesting things to say in a live stream… so far I’m making progress on the tech and a bit behind on the “interestingness” factor. Well get there.

On that note, I shall link here for the moment, my personal YouTube channel. I still own my own name as a domain, and while I make use of the about.me service to maintain a free personal identity page (with links to Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and most recently, YouTube), but a part of this exercise comes down to owning one’s own brand, and since I’m simultaneously sprinting to some launch finish line with my mobile platform project (which will also benefit from some global multi-media engagement), it all fits together nicely to keep me busy in the evenings, or as some colleagues from [East] Germany were known to have said in serious German accents: “We work 24 hours in the day, and then we work at night.”

Remember, a work in progress… including the icon, the title, the content, and so on.