The boundary between podcasts and radio shows is blurry. If the BBC release one of their shows online, does it become a podcast? Objectively, yes; if it has an RSS feed of audio files then it is a podcast. But it's not really what I think of when I think of "podcasting". The constraints of Old Media are still there, whereas the main appeal of podcasts (in my view) is the lack of constraints. They can be as long as the creators feel they need to be (ideally letting the content dictate the length), and they can go deeper into topics than any show aimed at a "general" audience could ever dare to go. Conversely, they can be less focused and more rambling and more amateurish than any show on the radio. If someone somewhere finds it interesting or entertaining, then it is a valid podcast.
With that in mind, this week includes two BBC shows that do pass my internal "podcasting duck-test" (If it looks like a podcast and quacks like a podcast, it's probably safe to call it a podcast). And to even things out, the final recommendation is a show that could only exist as a podcast.
Three great podcast episodes I've listened to this week:
Jon Ronson, Grounded with Louis Theroux (58mins, 2020-05-09) Louis Theroux can't make documentaries because of the lockdown, so he's been having conversations with his famous friends instead. In this episode, Louis and fellow documentarian Jon Ronson compare notes on their surprisingly similar careers. Lighthearted and entertaining, this episode's highlight is the surprisingly nuanced discussion of "de-platforming" controversial figures like Alex Jones and David Icke. Find it here.
The fourth astronaut, 13 minutes to the moon (48mins, 2019-06-12) The second season of 13MTTM has just finished. It told the story of Apollo 13, and is a highly-recommended listen. If you've not heard about this podcast before, however, you'll be best-off starting with series 1, which is all about Apollo 11's final 13-minute descent to the surface of the moon. The show focusses on the team behind the missions, and includes remarkable insights into the specifics of every tiny moment in the flight recordings of that historic descent. For nerds like me, this episode about the onboard computer is particularly interesting. 13MTTM has just about the highest production value of any podcast I've heard, no doubt mostly owing to the original score by Hans Zimmer. Find it here.
Kenneth Finnegan, On the metal (65mins, 2020-01-06) As the show's name suggests, this podcast goes deep into the weeds of CoLo servers, ISPs, and computer networking. Kenneth's tale has elements of Forrest Gump in the sheer good luck and fortuitousness of his decisions (but with none of FG's sadness). Regardless of how much you know about the tech in question, hearing how all the pieces fell together makes for a great story. Find it here.
Not a podcast, but...
It feels a bit odd to continue writing about tech and podcasts when the world is on fire. I think it's important to show our support for those in peril in the US, but also to not talk over the voices of people who actually know what they're talking about. Donate if you can #BLM
Stay safe out there (or in there, if you're still locked down). Tom.
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