Session summaries from Podcamp Boston 3

Here are some session summaries from Podcamp Boston 3. Obviously, much of the action at a Podcamp takes place outside of formal sessions, or in sessions that are interactive and thus hard or impossible to summarize adequately. But I attended several good presentations that are worth summarizing, both for those who were at Podcamp Boston 3 but attended another session, or for those who couldn’t make it at all.

Sessions summarized below: “How People and Organizations Make Decisions” (applying cognitive psychology) — “What To Watch on the Web” — “Success Tips for Quality Video Interviews Through Social Media” — “Solo Podcasting.”

Other posts on single sessions: “Cinematic Storytelling Techniques” — “What Is Seesmic?” — New Media in the Classroom

Dave Weinecke‘s presentation titled “How People and Organizations Make Decisions” proved to be fascinating. He used a model for personal and organizational change based on “lay epistemology,” a psychological model developed by Arie Kuglanski. According to Dave, lay epistemology boils down to something like this:

  1. We never have total access to all relevant information
  2. We’re never fully certain of things
  3. That’s life
  4. We make constructs that way
  5. And once we have a construct about life, we don’t like to change or abandon it

The result of this is that there are three oppositional forces in lay epistemology: the need for certainty, the need for closure, and the need for consistency. The need for consistency, what you believe about the world, is probably the hardest thing to overcome; but repetition, being “on brand” in marketing terms, can help meet the need for consistency. And when the needs for certainty, closure, and consistency don’t align, this causes stress; or to put it another way, when we try to change people, this can cause stress.

In a presentation titled “What To Watch on the Web,” Joshua Cohen talked about episodic Web-based shows, and he showed examples of some of the best episodic online video available today.

Cohen traced Web-based shows back to a 1995 online soap opera called “The Spot” first appeared. However, “The Spot” was far ahead of its time, and after it died in 1997, nothing similar appeared until eight or nine years later. Cohen emphasized that Web-based shows are not just television transferred to the Web. Web-based shows should use the inherent qualities of the Web by getting viewers involved, e.g., by interacting with characters through email, blogs, etc. The writers of some Web-based episodic shows follow reader ideas and feedback as they produce later episodes.

Cohen showed an episode of Rocketboom as an example of a Web-based news show. Started in 2005, Rocketboom came out of a community of video producers in New York City who had been doing community access television, but moved to the Web. Rocketboom inspired many other Web-based news shows, including Moblogic, originally independently produced but now owned by CBS. Moblogic is noteworthy for its many reader comments.

Turning to fiction, Cohen showed an early episode of God, Inc., which began showing online in 2006. By today’s standards, the production values of God, Inc. are low, and the acting is weak, but in its day it was a groundbreaking online show which inspired others to create episodic Web-based fictional series. Cohen showed one of these later fictional shows, the independently-produced ichannel, in which the protagonist finds that he is constantly being watched by Webcams. ichannel incorporated ideas in reader comments on earlier episodes into later episodes.

Cohen showed an episode of Jake and Amir to represent episodic comedy shows. Jake and Amir has just the two main characters talking with one another, and while any episode can be appreciated on its own, Cohen said that as familiarity with the two characters builds over time, the humor deepens. In addition, there several long-running gags.

One trend that Cohen mentioned is that major motion picture studios and major television networks are getting involved in producing online episodic video shows, and sometimes they manage to produce shows that actually make use of the interactive nature of Web-based video. Another trend that Cohen noted is that two years ago, online video producers could get away with low production values, using an aesthetic borrowed from videoblogging, but now online video tends to have much higher production values.

Cohen does his own online show, interviewing online content prodcuers, at

In “Success Tips for Quality Video Interviews Through Social Media,” Larry Lawfer gave several useful tips for videographers:

  • Be professional, even when interviewing someone you know.
  • Set goals for your podcast or videoblog, asking: What do I hope to accomplish? How will I reach my goals?
  • Getting good sound for the video should be your first priority.
  • For people in business, doing an online interview can lead to future business contacts.

Lawfer also pointed out some interesting facts and trends:

  • The growth of online video far exceeds the growth of other online media.
  • The trend in online video is towards HD video, even though this creates huge files.
  • Quality is becoming increasingly important: “there’s going to be a huge vetting-out process [soon] where people will stop watching stuff that’s poor quality.”
  • Today, the minimal standard for the audio tracks of online video is 16 bit 48 kHz sound.

Greg Demetrick, in “Solo Podcasting,” offered some good ideas to independent podcasters.

In his own 5 Questions podcast, Demetrick’s idea was to “move the feedback loop.” Instead of producing a podcast and then waiting for listener feedback, Demetrick solicited input from listeners first, and them produced a podcast around that listener input.

When he starts a new podcast, Demetrick spends a good deal of time on the development process before producing any content, perhaps two to three months. He suggested that when you have an idea for new podcasts that you “bounce the idea off other people,” asking them, “What would drive you to download this podcast every week?”

On his own 5 Questions podcast, Demetrick said he spent more time on pre-production than on production, being careful to have a well-crafted script. “If you’re doing a solo podcast,” he said, “having a much more structured podcast will definitely make it easier and faster to get it done.”

Demetrick warned that once you produce your first podcast, you haven’t yet finished: you still have to promote it. “You can either kill yourself” when it comes to promotion, Demetrick said, “or you can get your audience to help out.” He said that Facebook is one promotional tool that can help your audience promote your podcast: “If you do a show, it takes about five seconds to create a [Facebook] group,” which can help promote your show.

Cultivating your audience is particularly important, and he said that a personal response to every email message received is very important. The end result of cultivating the audience of the 5 Questions podcast was that, even though the podcast had a relatively small audience, there was a very low churn rate.

Demetrick touched on several technical issues. He advocates multi-track recording, where the intro, outro, etc., can be stored in one track, while each new episode’s content is recorded in another track; multi-track recording can thus speed up production. He uses GarageBand as his software of choice, although he also recommends Audacity. For distribution, he recommends Libsyn, which can cost as little as five dollars per month. When it comes to microphones, he likes the Shure SM43 as a good all-around mic.