All of the blog entries for Pragmatic.
Recently I wrote about enhancements to TEN shows supporting Podcasting 2.0, and today I’d like to provide an update on the broader eco-system, as it relates to client apps that support these features. I’ve been working hard in the background to add time-synchronised transcripts and updated chapters, but now many more apps are supporting value streaming using Lightning (BitCoin).
Podcasters can now add a Lightning Node address to their podcast feed and listeners that listen in supported client apps can stream Satoshis1 to support their favourite show just by listening. You can adjust the number of Sats/min to whatever the app allows (usually 100/min maximum) down to zero - you don’t have to stream anything if you don’t want to. If there’s a really great moment on the show, you can also “Boost” a one-off support payment any time you like to show your appreciation.
If you don’t like Patreon or PayPal for whatever reason, this is the next best way to support the shows but if you’re not in the BitCoin/Lightning eco-system, how do you get started?
Keep it simple
If you’re in the USA, you have access to Strike but otherwise most countries can access Blue Wallet on iOS or Android, and Breez. Both Blue Wallet and Breez are both non-custodial wallets which means your money stays on your device and not their servers (which is nice) and they both use MoonPay as a service to convert your Fiat into BitCoin/Satoshis.
Once you have Sats in a wallet, you can send them to a Podcasting app and start streaming value to your favourite podcast! If you use Breez, you can even play the podcasts in the same app!
The following is a list of currently available apps that support value streaming, by platform.
Podfriend (on Android)
CHROME or WEB
Podfriend (on iOS)
Thoughts on Sphinx
Sphinx have been trail-blazers in the space and their relay-chat server that connects directly into a Lightning Node (I run my own on my personal node) is transformative, their client apps cover the most platforms too, however to participate in podcast playback and streaming within Sphinx requires joining a Tribe first. To join a Tribe you first need your own Lightning Node, either a physical one or to rent one for a monthly fee2.
This is appealing to some people, but many would prefer to simply stream Sats from their app of choice rather than joining a chat group just to listen to shows and support them. There are Sphinx tribes for Causality and Pragmatic and these will stay however Sphinx carries an additional learning curve that makes it more challenging for newcomers to the Podcast/Lightning space to overcome. Whilst there are big benefits to Sphinx, I believe that most podcast listeners will find alternatives have less learning-curve friction.
If you’re new to BitCoin and you just want to stream Sats then Breez is your easiest option - it’s well integrated and you can top-up your Sats and then stream from the same app. It couldn’t be easier!
If you’ve been around the space for a little longer and want something more podcast-listener focused, with transcript and enhanced chapter support then give PodFriend a try! Any Sats you’ve on-boarded into Breez or BlueWallet are easily transferred to your PodFriend wallet and you’re all set.
I’m using PodFriend now on iOS to listen to value-enabled shows and it’s the most complete value-enabled player currently available. Martin Mouritzen continues to add more features to PodFriend and hopefully it will be ready for a full public (non-TestFlight) release in coming months.
If you want to support the Lightning value system, the team at LN Pay are how PodFriend was able to easily integrate Lightning value streaming into their app. If you’re already a Lightning app and you want to add podcasting support, the Breez team leveraged the Anytime Podcast Player and turned it into an easily embeddable library for other apps to use.
The Podcast-Lightning value space is looking very bright! In the six months since the value block was made available with only Sphinx supporting it, there are now three more clients available with Lightning onboarding becoming easier every time.
Whilst it’s unlikely that major client apps from Apple or Spotify would support this in the long term, my hope is that developers like Marco Arment, a long-time advocate for independent podcasters and podcast listener experience, will some day integrate streaming value support into their amazing client apps, like Overcast.
Until then I’m splitting my time between PodFriend and Overcast based on whether the show is value streaming or not and I don’t mind - because I know I’m supporting the creators and there’s no intermediaries in-between.
In the past few months I’ve been working in the background to integrate as many of the new Podcasting 2.0 tags into The Engineered Network’s active podcast feeds as I can. Not all of the tags in PC2.0 are user-visible features, however there are some that listeners might find pretty handy. For that reason, and to clearly note episodes and shows that support these end-listener features, I’ve added icons to indicate such on both individual episode pages as well as show pages for your convenience.
Some of these enhancements are only realisable during podcast search and discovery, however Chapters, Transcript and Value depend entirely on the podcast player. There’s a list of players and the features they support here.
Two examples that support these features at time of writing are PodFriend (version below currently in TestFlight Beta on iOS):
And Podcast Addict on Android:
Currently value is only supported on the interesting podStation Chrome browser extension (requires an LN Pay account for funds if you want to stream value) and the amazing Sphinx (requires a Node to be rented or bring your own Node, to stream value).
More apps are supporting these features every few weeks and it’s exciting to watch. Always check here for the most up to date list. Hopefully they’re coming to a podcast client near you soon.
Thank you for your ongoing support and as always, thank you for listening.
It’s been 5 years since TEN launched and in that time we’ve had support from both sponsors (advertising) and supporters (via Patreon). Patreon launched with six support tiers, and in mid-2017 a seventh was added along with an Ad-Free feed as a bonus. Two years ago the Patron tiers were tweaked to accomodate the now-defunct Breaker audio service. Today we’re going back to six tiers and for the first time ever, setting a goal. One that years ago I didn’t think would be possible to even consider.
We now have an Ad-Free goal on Patreon. How is this going to work?
If Patronage meets or exceeds this level ($300/month), sponsorship and advertising will be suspended for a minimum one year trial and if sustainable will be extended indefinitely. This would include no network advertising on the website, no advertising in the audio or in the show notes for all future episodes from that point.
The truth is that Patrons come and go, they are always free to do that anytime. Hosting costs and domain expenses go up, not down and good quality audio equipment is periodically required to be upgraded or replaced and every time I’ve checked that’s not getting cheaper either.
That said I’ve chosen the goal carefully with all of that in mind and if I can make it work for 12 months then it should be fine to extend it indefinitely. If this works out down the road, I’m considered re-releasing all episodes as ad-free backwards in time to day one: effectively scrubbing all advertising from TEN retrospectively.
If this works out, then not only will listeners all benefit from ad-free material, but it also means less work when creating the shows themselves. In rough terms, the amount of time spent each year organising sponsorships, writing up ad-reads, recording and editing then following up with sponsors afterward, is about the same as two half-hour long episodes of Causality. There would be a single edit for each episode instead of two (one with Ads, one without) and hence no ads means more time for more content.
Thank you to everyone that is already a Patron for all of your support in making this an actual possibility. You’re all amazing!
For a very long time I’ve been told by my friends and colleagues when I get on to a rant about a topic, it can be “epic” to hear. One of the things that makes me a good engineer is being very detail oriented, such that I thought I might put the two together and this podcast is the result.
Short. Sharp. To the point. Nothing is perfect. Let me tell you why.
This week our shows were part of the launch of Amazon Music Podcasts so now our shows can also be found there. Please note that Podcasts during initial testing are only appearing in the Amazon Music US Store and you do require an Amazon account and be logged in to listen to them via this method.
In addition this week we added a new “Thanks” section episodes of Causality that attributes those people that inspired the coverage of that topic. If you have incidents you want covered on Causality then please get in touch via methods listed on our Contact page, via the Fediverse or via Twitter.
Finally we’ve had special thanks to our Patrons for some time on our individual episode pages, however these have also now been added to the Show Notes for all podcatcher apps so these along with the aforementioned “Thanks” attribution will now appear in all of our podcast feeds moving forward.
None of the shows on TEN collect your personal information for use in any way, nor do we wish to. Some of our sponsors have in the past have used Coupon Codes if listeners have chosen to use them, but that is all. The audio files have been served from LibSyn for many years, a well known and trusted Podcast hosting provider since 2004 that do not track your personal information.
LibSyn supports the use of link prepends, which is a system that allows each audio file to be redirected via a third-party service for different purposes, though typically for additional statistics tracking and reporting. Under GDPR and CCPA regulations, the retention and redistribution of some of this data is prohibited. LibSyn only permits a very short list of GDPR and CCPA compliant trackers as follows:
Libsyn’s prepend system whitelists companies with prepends that have already been vetted to be GDPR and CCPA compliant. If the company is not part of Libsyn’s whitelist, they cannot be used unless they are then vetted. Currently, the whitelisted companies providing prepends include:
The full article this was extracted from can be found at LibSyn’s blog.
Recently the excellent Podcast player Overcast (my app of choice) added a new Privacy and Tracking feature that is intended to highlight when shows are potentially tracking your personal data. If you look at the podcasts from the directory they will have a “Privacy & Tracking” information icon, and on that page a warning with a yellow triangle as follows:
The warning states that Tracking “May follow individual-listener behavior across multiple shows or the web, often to track responses to ads.” There are advertising options for some shows within Chartable, however we have never, currently do not and have no intention of ever utilising these.
Some1 shows on TEN have used Trackable (Chartable’s internal tracking prepend) to provide show and episode statistics beyond those provided by LibSyn. They are not used to track ads or individuals. TEN uses Chartable’s interface to aggregate statistics, reviews and breakdowns from multiple sources that LibSyn statistics alone can not provide.
TEN maintains a Newsletter EMail list and has a Patreon for support from our listeners. Rest assured that any contact details from either service are not shared with any sponsors, advertisers or third-parties. If you have any questions or concerns please get in touch via the Contact form.
Pragmatic and Causality do not use Trackable ↩︎
As a long time podcaster I’ve had feedback many, many times that people listening to my voice find it to be relaxing and perhaps even, help them to fall asleep. Having spent so many years now trying to help people through explaining how things work in Pragmatic, the true causes of disasters and how to prevent them in Causality and musings on all things in Analytical, it’s time to try and help people in a different way.
Rather than hold your attention, educate or inform, “Sleep” is a podcast intended to help you fall asleep. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. The show will never have advertising and every episode will be content read from the most unlikely of sources for your enjoyment. Novels, magazines, anything lying around. It’s all fair game, provided it’s free to use. Feel free to request something!
The show will air periodically starting today and will be be targeted at about 10-15 minutes per episode. Many thanks to Patrons of the network for their continued support and for making this show possible.
So now that’s out of the way…let me talk to you. Just for a few minutes…
UPDATE: The giveaway is now over. Thank you to all that participated!
For the next few weeks we’re running a giveaway for Causality fans. To be eligible all you need to do is share an episode of Causality you like on Twitter with a few words about why you liked that episode so much. In that tweet you’ll need to link to the URL of the episode, use the Hash-Tag #EngNet and @ Mention @Engineered_Net. You can enter as many times as you like.
There are 10 codes available and the code gives you full access to Causality Premium for free for one month, giving you access to all of the ad-free episodes, bonus episodes only available to Premium subscribers as well as Causality Explored and all the bonus content for Causality through the website. Note: This is NOT a Patreon giveaway as there is currently no way to do that
The best Tweet will be chosen from the previous 48 hours, so if you weren’t successful the first time, a re-tweet of your previous tweets is also acceptable. You might be retweeted by the @Engineered_Net account but this has no bearing on whether you’ve won or not.
We’re giving away one code every second day at Midnight GMT. If you win you’ll get a Direct Message on Twitter with your unique code that needs to be redeemed within one week. If your DMs aren’t open, we will @ Mention you to get in touch another way of your choice.
This is the first time we’ve done a giveaway like this so get in while you can!
Good luck :)
In Episode 33 of Causality regarding the 737 Max, first released on the 31st of January, 2020, originally contained an incorrect number of combined fatalities between the two 737 Max crashes, originally reporting 338 when the correct number is 346. The show notes and episode audio have now all been corrected.
The discrepancy was a result of the accidental exclusion of the flight crew from one of the two flights in the total value.
We pride ourselves in attention to detail in the production of Causality and would like to apologise for the error.
If there are any factual errors in any of our episodes please let us know via the contact form. We greatly appreciate true fans of the show that have a similar level of attention to detail that we aspire to achieve consistently, with every episode we produce.
Many thanks to listener Sierra Blazer for bringing this to our attention.
To celebrate the launch of Causality Premium I’m also launching a new Causality embedded Microcast as an exclusive bonus mini-show I’m calling “Causality Explored”. It will only be available to Premium Patrons (and above) and Causality Premium Subscribers.
One of the challenges in making Causality is getting the technical depth just right. Too high level and I feel like I haven’t done my job well enough. Too deep and I’m concerned that I’ll lose a lot of listeners as they zone-out and wonder: “What on Earth is John talking about?” and “What’s a synchronous motor anyway?” or something similar…
Causality Explored will be a brief (3-8min) ad-free exploration into a specific technical detail relevant to the episode just released. It’s intended for the hard-core fans of the show that are truly interested in the technical depth that I normally wouldn’t go into in the main episode releases. Causality Explored will be best listened to directly following the episode it’s in reference to, but will still stand alone if you’d like to listen independently.
Causality Explored will be released in step with new episodes as they are released starting today, as well as the most recently released three episodes. In time I’ll be adding Causality Explored for key episodes retrospectively with the long term goal of providing it for all past episodes. Causality Explored will not have its own show feed: If you’re already a Premium supporter or above on Patreon, then you’ll get Causality Explored as a bonus in your Premium Audio feed automatically and you don’t have to do a thing! If you’d like some more in-depth Causality then Causality Explored has been made just for you!
I hope you enjoy it.
Thank you for your continued support and as always, thanks for listening.
UPDATE: The App-Login via LibSyn is No Longer Available. The Apps are also no longer updated or maintained. Thanks to those that supported via this pathway.
As Causality has continued to grow in popularity and with a broader appeal to a very diverse range of listeners, the time felt right to try something new. Since its inception the show has been supported by Patrons and Sponsors, with Premium Patrons and above enjoying benefits such as access to Raw Show notes and Ad-Free, Higher Quality audio of each episode.
Today I’m launching a new way to listen to the show and a way to support just Causality independently of Patreon. I’ve teamed up with LibSyn who is a podcast hosting specialist that have hosted my shows audio since 2013. Through them I’m now able to offer a Causality App in the Apple App Store, the Amazon App Market and the Google Play Store. The subscription also ties into episodes on The Engineered Network website.
Why Do This?
In short, I’ve had many people feed back that they would be supporting me if there was an option other than Patreon. Truth is that Patreons “Private Audio RSS URL” isn’t exactly user friendly if you’re not technically inclined or even if you are so inclined an a Patron it can still be difficult to find. In addition many supporters only want me to make Causality and would like an option to support only Causality. Finally Patreon has an awesome tiered system which is great for a lot of people, however the tiers can seem confusing and there are limited ways to offer deals and there’s no mechanism to provide a discount for loyal, long-time supporters.
Here’s how it works: the Apps are all free to download and they will show all of freely available episodes, however if you subscribe to support the show you’ll get the full catalogue of Ad-Free, high quality episodes, as well as the raw notes for each episode and bonus Causality episodes that are published from time to time. Essentially the content will mirror that provided for Premium and above Patrons via Patreon, but solely for Causality.
Subscriptions are available month to month at $3.99, 6-monthly at $9.99 and Annually for $15.99 USD. Annual subscribers will receive a named thank you at the end of the episode released the month they signed up, each year, as an extra perk.
When you’re subscribed and signed in you’ll be able to access that extra content via the Apps and the TEN website directly if you like: it’s up to you.
But wait there’s more…
More New Channels
Recently I’ve reopened the Facebook page by popular request, as well as syndicating to a list of new destinations all with the complete list of episodes including Blogger, YouTube, Deezer, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Causality is now listed in the Podcast Source app on the App Store as well.
Patreon RSS Feed Subscribing In Your Favourite App
If you’re a Patron then log in to Patreon (via the Website) and select “Posts from my creators” and select “The Engineered Network” and on the Overview tab you should see a section on the right hand side “Your Patronage” underneath which is “Audio RSS Link” as below:
In the Patreon mobile app it’s found under: John Chidgey, Overview, and you’ll see Audio Link after scrolling to the bottom of the page.
Copy the link and paste it into your podcatcher app of choice and you’re all set! For those most technically minded, that’s the best way to go as you can use your own podcatcher.
There’s also a how to from Patreon here.
Causality Premium Subscribing Via the Web
…to seeing this…
…and you can play the episodes from the embedded webplayer if you wish.
The apps are all self-contained podcatchers with embedded access to the bonus materials once subscribed via the website. You can find them here:
If you’re already a Premium Patron you’ll continue to get all of the same content you always have for ALL of the shows on TEN as well as the new Causality Explored Microcast as bonus material so if you’re already happy with Patreon, then there’s no need to change anything: the App subscription probably isn’t for you. Just to be really clear: Patreon isn’t going anywhere! It’s still a great way to support the shows.
These additional options just mean that Causality will be available to a wider audience than ever before and should make it even easier for everyone to listen to the show just the way they like to.
When I started Causality in late 2015, I didn’t know what to expect. At first the show had few reviews, little feedback and whilst downloads were okay, I was concerned that perhaps it was too specific a niche in the world of podcasting. With big budget players (NPR, WNYC, BBC and many more) moving into podcasting, I wasn’t sure if the voice of a lone, detail focused engineer, would or could even succeed in this space. I’m up against documentary makers with staffs of researchers, big budgets, people with international popularity fed by television, broadcast radio and cinema (real star power as they say) and people producing that content as their full time job. With Causality everything from research, to script, to recording, editing and publishing is all just one person and I also hold down a full time engineering job on top of that.
So yes, I had my doubts. (At first)
But I wanted to make something different. Something tangible. Something that could actually make a difference.
Within the first six months an acquaintance and Pragmatic semi-regular guest Marco Arment told me he thought that Causality “really works” and encouraged me to keep making it despite my concerns from a somewhat sluggish start. As the years passed with an irregular schedule not helping, the reviews started coming in, downloads gradually increased and listeners became increasingly vocal when episodes were late (a good sign). Some listeners asked me to stop making every other show and just make Causality! After 3 years and 8 months with Episode 30 released Causality reached two milestones.
The first: it out-downloaded Pragmatic that month for the first time ever.
The second: it cracked 100,000 unique downloads (That actually happened at some point following Episode 29). Interestingly, but perhaps not too surprisingly upon reflection, the last 10,000 came following a surge in backlog interest inspired by the recent HBO TV series about Chernobyl. All the episodes related to Nuclear Power Plant incidents had spiked, hence the show isn’t “just past” that milestone, it’s well past it.
Ultimately I’m so grateful that I stuck with it and kept making Causality as it appears that so many people now have been enjoying it and it’s actually making a difference, based on some feedback I’ve received.
Thank you for all of your support, for sharing the show on social media, with your friends and family and as always, thanks so much for listening.
About three years ago I started a solo podcast called Analytical and recently I released its 40th episode. It was intended to be a catch-all for various ideas that didn’t fit into either Pragmatic or Causality. Whilst Patrons of the network have provided the most positive feedback, it hasn’t been as popular in the public space.
Therefore I’ve decided for the time being to put Analytical on hiatus and any new episodes of Analytical will be available for Patrons as they are released. Analytical will not have a regular frequency moving forward.
I’m doing this specifically because I’m making space for a new project that I’ve been working on for several months. I’m not prepared to release details yet, however it’s also to allow me to focus more on Pragmatic, as well as Causality specifically.
With the recent surge in popularity of Causality, I’m trying to focus my time and efforts on the shows that people are enjoying the most.
Thanks so much for listening, and take care.
For those interested in listening live I’m reintroducing the live stream here. Archives will play the entire backlog of shows at random with handy links back to the full episode if you’re part way through you could can grab a download and listen to the rest later. With nearly eight continuous days of audio content you won’t hear the same episode twice for quite a while.
That said the primary purpose of the TEN Radio Station is to stream live shows - look for the bright red icon on the menu that indicates that we’re streaming live!
As before there is an IRC Channel you can join via the embedded client or via your IRC client of choice on irc.freenode.net which will automatically connect you via the webpage. If you’d like to submit questions in the chat room then simply type !q
Live will be reserved primarily for non-solo shows and will also be used for live Q&A sessions. We’ll be kicking off with a series of Q&A sessions over the next few weeks. For Patrons the raw Q&A sessions will be posted as a bonus.
The schedule for upcoming shows is shown at the bottom of the Live page and the time, date and type of show is shown in multiple time zones around the world for your convenience. Announcements for going live will be sent out via the Fediverse @email@example.com and via Twitter @Engineered_Net and there’s a handy count-down timer on the live page too.
Watch for announcements and join in the conversation!
A really quick update on my last update that I’ve also been meaning to get to for a while, I’ve now made the reviews cycle through dynamically so they take up less space on the page, and I’ve also added curated Tweets mentioning the shows on the network. Enjoy!
A quick update I’ve created a sub-reddit for anything and everything about the shows on the network and as posted on Patreon you can get extra flair (if that’s your thing) for all Patron levels. So if you’re into Reddit, please share and comment any time.
A quick update I’ve been meaning to get to for a while, I’m now putting selected iTunes reviews front and center on the site, on the landing page as well as on each podcast page now with embedded iTunes reviews. These are taken word for word from the iTunes store, from countries around the world, written by fans of the shows and I really appreciate people taking the time to write them. In case you haven’t already written a review or left a rating in iTunes the links for you are:
For any (or ALL) of the above, select View in iTunes, then Click to Rate, or better still also Write a Review! If you’re enjoying any of the shows and you a leave a review then maybe someday it’ll show up on the site :)
As always a huge thank you for everyone that takes time from their day to listen to our shows.
Thank you for your ongoing support. I wouldn’t still be podcasting without it.
With the New Year well underway now, I thought it would be a good time to review Patron rewards, and adding more flexibility for supporters of the network. It’s been 18 months since the last tweak to Patreon Tiers and there have been a few tweaks, though the values for each tier have not been changed in any way and no rewards have disappeared either. The following changes current starting January this year:
I’ll be gradually sifting through the backlog of episodes on Patreon and updating the episodes so they show up in the Named Supporter and Enthusiast Audio Feeds so if they don’t show up immediately, please be patient. In addition during the many tweaks of episodes on Patreon, Episode 25 Nostalgia needed to be deleted and re-created, so now it’s showing up out of sequence (apologies).
I also updated the reward tier artwork to something more colourful because, well, why not? Also a minor point: All ad-free “Premium” episodes will now have the Premium gold seal in the top right corner of the show art.
Previously TEN added ad-free, pre-release audio and full back-catalogues of Analytical and Causality, with a recent back-log of Pragmatic. Over the next week this is being extended beyond Patreon thanks to a new partnership between Patreon and Breaker. If you listen to podcasts through Breaker on iOS or their web-player, you’ll now find four more podcasts you can subscribe to:
If you visit any of those URLs you’ll be given a choice: you can subscribe to the podcast monthly if you’re already a Patron of TEN via Patreon, and for non-Patrons they will be directed to Patreon to the support level for that show to sign-up. The tiers work like this:
|Tier / Breaker||Pragmatic||Causality||Analytical||TEN Patron|
Today this allows for something that Patreon doesn’t currently support: individual feeds for each show. However, there is one thing to be aware of with Breaker. With Patreon it’s possible to grab your personal RSS Audio link and import it into ANY podcast player app you might choose. With Breaker this is not an option. You can’t listen to any audio in any app other than Breaker, or via their Web page audio player. For some people this is a deal breaker (not funny?) and hence I’ll maintain the Patreon common audio feed just as it stands today.
One final note about Breaker: the Patreon integration is currently in Beta and whilst it works most of the time, I’ve been testing it for several weeks now and although it seems more stable this week than previously, if there are issues with the login/tier levels there’s little I can do about it at this time. By all means though, give it a try!
Thank you everyone for your continued support and I hope you enjoy the extra rewards and more flexibility in listening to our shows.
(Full version posted here) After a lot of deliberation and consideration it’s time to refine (slightly) where archives are kept on which site. In the past, podcast archives were found on TechDistortion and only current active shows were kept here.
From last week TEN will now be the sole repository for all podcasts, past and present with a new archived section that contains all past episodes of shows long since ended. The hosts and guests list has been extended to include all shows, past and present. With all audio content hopefully more logically grouped by type and audience, anyone visiting will be more likely to find exactly what they’re looking for.
As time passes and server load changes, it’s a good idea to reconsider your strategy for hosting and the type of site you want to maintain. Over several months I’ve been chipping away at a gradual migration from the original Statamic-based site using the Statacast Plug-in that I developed specifically for TEN, to a GoHugo based Static website. The performance improvement in so doing is staggering, with page load times at worst three times faster and at best over ten times faster. I’ve also taken the opportunity to give the site a spit and polish, a nip and tuck if you prefer while I was at it.
Beyond that I’ve also now been able to finally add the previously (briefly) mentioned transcriptions for all episodes. The truth was that when I originally deployed that a few months ago, the load sky-rocketted and was the ultimate trigger for the site migration away from Statamic to a truly Static site. I’ll be back focussing on content again now (there’s only one of me and only so much spare time in my day!).
Thanks as always for your patience and your support of all of the shows.
(Originally published 20th June, 2018) As real-time processing power improves and server-side software can search audio for specific words or phrases on demand or build a catalogue in the background for text search of audio files en-masse, like google does now for text and to some extent also for photos, transcriptions of podcast audio will become obsolete. That said, such a reality isn’t within our grasp just yet, with the best audio transcription software not much better than Siri, Alexa or Google Home assistants. Inspired by the ever-creative “underscore” David Smith and his podcast search side project (his words), and seeing the utility in text-driven audio search, I decided it was time to do something similar at TEN.
Like David, I’m happy with approximation. Of course I could spend countless hours manually transcribing hundreds upon hundreds of hours of audio, or I could rely on transcription software to handle this for me and give its best effort. It isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to pick out keywords and phrases to allow you to hone in on roughly when and in what episodes certain topics were discussed. Unlike David, I didn’t use a series of scripts into a web service backend to do the heavy lifting, instead I relied on a commercial off the shelf tool that I’d forgotten I still have a copy of from a previous life: Dragon Dictate. The interesting thing I found about the software was that the older Windows version (v13) was the only one that was stable and compatible enough with all of the MP3/AAC files and formats I’ve used over the past 5 years. Attempts to use the Mac version of Dragon failed miserably, with it crashing constantly and refusing to transcribe episodes for reasons unexplained. To accomplish this Dragon v13 was run up in a Windows 7 VM and set to auto-transcribe. The entire backcatalogue of TEN shows took nearly a week of constant background processing to complete, but the results are in.
As of today the rough-transcripts can be downloaded as text files if you like, from a link at the bottom of each podcast episode page, and under the Search option for the website it should pick up which episode mentions which words via DuckDuckGo. I’ve only rolled out Pragmatic episodes for the moment but the others will follow in coming weeks. As for motivation, I’ve had several listeners ask for this feature for quite some time, but to be honest this solution is just as much about me. Having recorded and published hundreds of hours of audio it’s become clear to me that my memory is sometimes at variance with the facts of my previous recordings and when I’m covering a topic I want to firstly make sure I haven’t covered it previously, and if I have, to be sure I’m not repeating myself or I can at least refer to it correctly.
Hopefully it’s a useful feature. Enjoy!
Developing as a podcaster, incrementally over the past five years has been marked by different recording setups as I’ve expanded my knowledge and developed a better ear for sound. Whilst I’m never going to achieve the levels of audio proficiency that audio technicians working in broadcast have, I can at least do the best with what I have available. From an audio hardware perspective I’ve essentially had four main setups in the past five years.
Mk1 (January 2012 -> July 2012)
iPhone Headset ($29): Used for recording The Exastential Podcast. It was a good place to start but the audio quality was, quite frankly, terrible.
Mk2 (November 2013 -> September 2014)
Generic Fabric Pop Filter, Generic Shock Mount, ATR-2100 USB Microphone ($79) from Amazon, Generic Boom Arm (About $150 total): Used from the beginning of Pragmatic on Fiatlux, and continued to be used through the indie transition for the show. The audio quality was acceptable but via USB it introduced a reasonable amount of background hiss which was annoying. For a brief period the Onyx Blackjack was used instead via the ATR-2100’s XLR input however the ATR was retired shortly thereafter.
Mk3 (October 2014 -> September 2015)
Stainless Steel Pop Filter, Onyx Blackjack USB Interface ($149) from Amazon, Heil PR-40 ($327) from Amazon, PRSM Shock Mount ($105) from Amazon About ($600 total): With sponsorship funding from Pragmatic I consider this to be my first semi-professional set of equipment. The Heil PR-40 is an impressive microphone and the stainless steel pop filter surpassed the fabric one. I also switched from a boom mount to a desk mount at some time during this period, but was mainly because my boom arm was cheap and kept sagging under the weight of the Heil and its shock mount. In time, I’ve come to prefer a desk mount as it works better for me. The biggest complaint with the PR-40 was that although it had a beautiful sound, the Onyx input gain was fully cranked in order to get a decent volume out of the microphone. The gain hungry microphone was left wanting for more gain and whilst the amount of audible hiss was further reduced compared to the ATR2100 via USB, it was still very noticeable.
Mk3A (October 2015 -> November 2017)
Added DBX-286 Pre-processor ($199) from Amazon: With launch sponsor funding I added one of Dan Benjamins highly recommended audio pre-processors: the DBX-286. (It’s worthy of note that it was AT THAT TIME, however since he has moved onto a more advanced Apollo interface) It’s an excellent amplifier that finally allowed me to extract the gain I needed from the Heil, however upon tweaking the De-esser, and various other settings endlessly, I could hear enough audio artefacts from the pre-processor that after a year or so, I turned off the pre-processing features and used it for additional gain, but shortly thereafter I stopped using it entirely. Interestingly last year Dan sold all of his. Theory seems to be that if you capture a clean signal, software post-processing gives you the opportunity to tweak the result any time you like, however by modifying the source audio you’ve affected the final recorded audio permanently, leaving you fewer options to tweak it if there was an issue with the settings.
Mk3B (November 2017)
I heard the beginnings of an issue with my Onyx Blackjack. The USB Interface was about four years old and the input potentiometers were becoming very noisy. It’s a common issue with analogue potentiometers, even those that are sealed. With use, the wiper that contacts the resistive strip on the dial inside the potentiometer develops a thin layer of dust, grit and oil that causes pops and hisses in the recorded audio. With sealed pots you can’t spray them with a contact cleaner, so there’s no option but to replace them.
Mackie used unbranded and practically unlabelled pots, and their schematics weren’t very helpful. Podcasting was put on hold for nearly two months whilst I identified workable spare parts and went about attempting to fix the Onyx. I had to re-record several episodes of Analytical in early 2018 as a result, and spent a lot of time disassembling, resoldering the Channel 1 potentiometer and reassembling the Onyx so that I could do that, however the incident stepped up my plans to replace the Onyx with a better USB Interface. A more recent model with the same amplifiers as the USB Pre2 that Marco Arment adores.
Mk4 (Mar 2018–>Present)
SoundDevices Mix Pre3 USB Interface ($850) from Amazon, Shure BETA 87A ($249) from Amazon, Sound dampening material/enclosure, Primeacoustic Audio Shield ($99) from Amazon (About $1,300 total): Saving up from many months of Patron support, I’ve finally taken the plunge on my newest equipment. The Shure BETA 87A is a wonderful microphone, and because it’s designed to be handheld, it doesn’t require a shockmount nor does it require a pop-filter or windshield for my use case. I’ve used it on the repaired Onyx and it sounds much more balanced and is a more honest representation of my voice (more treble content than the Heil). Additionally because it’s a condensor it doesn’t require huge amounts of gain and the audio is considerably cleaner with most of the background hiss that’s typical with Dynamic microphones, has effectively disappeared. The Pre3 is a forward-thinking purchase. It’s the successor to the MixPre-D and shares a lot of the same technology as the USB Pre2 except that it’s more portable, offering local mixing and recording as well as USB Interface recording (simultaneously) from a multitude of power sources. It’s rugged so can be used portably as well as for podcasting in a home studio and can handle 3 XLR inputs.
The Pre3 will allow me to start doing field recording and interviews without an iPad/Mac nearby, self powered and the ability to record three people at once locally. I still have the ATR and the Heil and the Pre3 will drive them very well opening up range of additional recordings I’ve been unable to do until now. I’ll post more on that in the future. Beyond this, paired with a DSLR for video, high quality audio recordings in the field will be possible shortly with an additional shotgun microphone.
Sound treating my house has always been a point of contention. The room I have to use is what (in this house at least) we call a Study, however as the floor plan identifies it as a dining room it was built without a door and one may not be added for reasons that those in long term relationships will probably understand. The walls could not be modified and needed to be sound-treated in such a way that the components could be kept safe from the family pets. (Removable double-sided taped panels are therefore not an option thank to a cat that loves to shred soundproofing material) In addition, making the setup portable would allow additional flexibility in the future. The Auralex Audio Shield wraps behind and to the sides of the microphone eliminating the reflections from the computer monitors and the walls. In addition a series of photography backdrop stands with a blanket material and a thick rug underfoot for sound absorption do a reasonable job of attenuating background nuisance sounds. In effect I’ve built a custom sound booth and the audio quality is surprisingly good.
Episode 85 of Pragmatic was the first to use the new setup in its entirety and having now edited that and a few others I can say that difference this has made is significant. Even with a modest amount of gain the Shure and Pre3 deliver quiet, clear undistorted audio. As a test of just how clean the audio was, I amplified and normalised a Pre3 recording in post-production without any perceptible increase in background hiss. That would have been impossible with the Heil/Blackjack combination as the pops and hiss sound level became very noticeable.
The new equipment provides a great deal of flexibility, with tested combinations including solo microphone local recording, DSLR connected audio/video, Skype/Facetime/Mumble PC/Mac independent and Integrated recording, and 3-person local recording both PC/Mac independent and Integrated. This will make field recording a breeze and the improved recording quality allows more professional recording opportunities, reduces editing time and ultimately will be better for your ears.
In the past few weeks the site has been streamlined with some major speed improvements. In addition with the recently updated Font Awesome v5 all of the sites iconography has been updated and extended. The backend RSS feeds for iTunes have also been updated to add the new Apple iTunes descriptor tags for those podcatchers that support them. In addition we’ve added our shows to Google Play and we’re now also in Stitcher with more to come to make it easier to listen however and wherever you are.
For content upcoming, Pragmatic ended its Elon Musk arc recently and is shaping up to be an interesting year with several guests now lined up. For the increasingly popular Analytical we’ll be covering an even mixture of topics between practical and philosophical topics this year. Finally for Causality this year we’ll be covering Columbia, Bhopal and Deepwater Horizon just to name a few. Causality in particular continues to grow in popularity and is set to overtake Pragmatic in the future if trends continue, so if you’ve haven’t given it a chance, you should definately give it a listen.
All support through Patreon is always very much appreciated and it remains the best way to support the shows and the network. However remember that beyond Patreon there are still other ways you can help if you’re enjoying our work at TEN.
For any (or ALL) of the above, select View in iTunes, then Click to Rate, or better still also Write a Review! The ratings help and the reviews really help!
If you listen in Overcast then “star” the episode as you’re listening to help others find what you’re listening to, or better yet, share the episode on Twitter or Facebook!
Finally, a huge thank you for everyone that takes time from their day to listen to our shows. Time and precious and the fact that you take time to listen means a great deal.
Thank you for your ongoing support and listenership.
The Engineered Network shows are predominantly recorded using AudioShare, post-produced using Ferrite and published using Transmit for iOS on an iPad Pro. On the 10th of July, 2017 now that the final key MP3 patent had expired on the 9th of April, 2017 Ferrite was updated to include MP3 encoding as well as chapter markers in both formats. Following this, all episodes previously post-produced using Ferrite had their original audio pulled from the archives, and re-encoded in an MP3 format.
All episodes of Analytical as well as the most recent 8 episodes of both Pragmatic and Causality have also been upgraded to high bitrate VBR MP3 format. This will improve the overall final quality as well as fix any compatibility issues between different podcast playback devices that don’t support the M4A format.
As of now, all TEN shows are in the MP3 format and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
A few months ago I added a new Patron-only feature of offering Ad-Free, prereleased versions of all podcasts I produce. The feedback has been quite positive as many fans of the show want to listen to the shows without advertising and self-promotion so I’m doubling-down with that moving forward.
As of today I’ve now added the entire back-catalogue of Analytical and Causality in Ad-Free format for Major Enthusiasts and above on Patreon. I’m working on doing the same for Pragmatic in the future. In some cases I’ve just clipped out any advertising or promotional content but in quite a few places I’ve also tweaked the audio, closed some gaps and the final exports are often a higher quality bitrate than the publicly released versions.
They will appear on the RSS Audio Feed embedded in Patreon for each person. Due to the nature of Patreons current podcast RSS format, there’s no way to split the episodes by Podcast, nor is there a way to back-date an audio-post entry. Ad-Free back-catalogues are therefore being released in bulk groups so they will appear in sequence in your podcast player of choice. In cases where a recent episode was early-released it will be removed and republished so it shows up in the correct sequence.
If or when Patreon improves their podcast handling I’ll refine it further at that time, but for now this should work and it’s far easier than Authenticated feeds that won’t work with some popular podcast players.
Thank you everyone for your continued support and I hope you enjoy these refined re-releases of past episodes.
The network is continuing along with some wonderful Patrons supporting it and I’ve been thinking about ways that I can give people that want to support the shows more options to choose from. I haven’t done anything with the segregation of Tiers since the network began in late 2015 so I think it’s time to refine it a bit more.
To address the recognition aspects, there is now a level for those that want a named thank you on the network home page. Beyond the existing audio bonus episodes (available for all Patrons) I’ve added another new option for those that have been asking for it. There is now an option for ad-free episodes and there are two dimensions to this:
Because of the way Patreon audio feeds work with tiering, it’s not sensible to have two sets of episodes, one with ads but pre-released, and one without, show up in the same feed across multiple tiers. For this reason I’ve separated out this ad-free option and will no longer be offering early releases of the public episodes (with ads). Hopefully that makes sense.
The truth is that early-releasing podcast episodes that are identical to their public released audio is somewhat odd given that podcasting is effectively popular because its nature is time-shifted and most people choose to listen at their convenience. I suspect mainly because of this fact, time-shifting alone was not very appealing and based on downloads and feedback, very few patrons found early-release (on its own) to be very compelling. Hence the change to an ad-free option instead.
There have been several episodes recently that were sponsor-advertising free, so when I say ad-free in those cases, I intend to strip out all self-promotion as well. If you’re a Patron listening to the ad-free version, you already know where to find the network Patreon, and what the other shows are, so I don’t need to tell you about all of that! Episodes will just…start…with brief introductions and they’ll end…quickly. Tighter. Focused. More inline with the original intent.
There’s one more thing.
I’ve been asked to cover some very interesting topics over the years, but one thing I’ve also been asked for every now and then is to produce a behind the scenes or a making of the show, video documentary of sorts. Whilst I remain somewhat skeptical that it would be very interesting I put myself in your hands. If you’d like that, let me know. Now you can. The concept is that every month there is at least one person interested in that I’ll release a video segment exclusively for those supporters. If there’s enough interest I’ll cover:
It will be released in 1080p if there’s any interest, and if not, that’s totally fine.
Causality recently had its first 3,000 downloads episode and continues to gain popularity. I’ve just kicked off a multi-episode arc that looks at my own wheelhouse: Control System Engineering root causes for major disasters. At the end of the arc there will be a special episode that brings it all together. And there’s lots more to come with Causality.
Analytical continues to be my place for ideas that don’t fit elsewhere and it’s a quick and fun show to make so I’m going to keep making it. I’ve had some great feedback about certain episodes and it’s good to be able to dig into more philosophical and management of people related issues. Lots more still to come.
Pragmatic remains the most popular show on the network and I’ll be bringing on more guest hosts in coming months. I have plans for some episodes on Tesla, Elon Musk’s ventures and a long-awaited revisit to the battery problem where we’ll dive into the changing landscape of offline storage and ask the question: has the battery problem been solved? So much great stuff in the pipeline for the show. It’s far from done.
Finally I’d like to wrap by once again thanking the supporters of the network, as well as the listeners, for your continued support. I will keep making more episodes as long as I am able and backed by such great people.
Thanks and take care, John Chidgey
At 14 episodes over as many months and with 2016 drawing to a close I wanted to take a few moments to walk through why and what I do to make this podcast. Throughout my career I’ve come across so many things that went wrong on different scales, some with lethal consequences but most, thankfully not. For the greater world there is no shortage of mistakes and incidents that I’ve taken a personal interest in during my life. As an engineer when I read about a cruise ship sinking, bridges collapsing, and nuclear reactors surviving a Tsunami (or not) I can’t help but think - what could have been done differently?
I approach every episode of Causality wearing my professional hat as best I can. If there’s anything I’m not convinced by, I’ll dig further until I’m satisfied. I’ve read a lot of inquiry findings and investigation reports and am aware of the biases that often creep in and affect the words on the page, the over-dramatisation of documentaries and the twisting of the facts to get the desired finding. Facts don’t lie if you dig deep enough.
Unsatisfied with the English translated section of the Amagasaki “accident” report I spent hours digging through the Japanese version of the sections relating to mental state of the driver bouncing between different translation tools to try and understand whether the driver had been getting enough sleep. Unable to locate a single definition source of information about Flint Michigan I went over dozens of articles on what lead up to the incident and dug through some textbooks on corrosion control techniques to understand what actually happened to the water supply. Unhappy with the popular documentary on BP Texas, I went through the multi-hundred page report and the Chemical Safety Board depiction of the event and stripped out the details that made the most sense as the root causes. That’s just three examples that come to mind.
This level of research, comprehension and effort takes time and that’s why it can take up to 30 hours of preparation and 5 hours of recording, editing and post-production to create a single episode of Causality. This is why there is typically one a month.
Causality has been a chance for me to connect my online and offline worlds in a positive way. I like to think that engineers listen to the show and can learn something from the conclusions drawn in each one. Even if they don’t, I personally have learned a huge amount from researching and questioning the official stories and in trying to comprehend what went wrong, I’ve ended up picking up some things to be wary of myself in my own career. It’s my hope that this can be a different way for people to learn about fault finding, root cause analysis and understanding that incidents can be prevented and that nothing is truly an “accident”.
I will put whatever spare time I can into making every episode as good as I possibly can and whilst this is far from my full time job I try to treat it as if it were. I couldn’t make this show without the support of listeners and especially Patrons of the show via Patreon. Thank you all for your support, your encouragement and your feedback.
Analytical is a solo podcast where I talk about ideas and concepts I’ve come across over decades of Engineering relating to design, managing people and projects and so on. Essentially anything that doesn’t really fit into my other shows but I still find interesting. I try to be careful, considered and calculated in how I do business in my career. I may not have always succeeded, and I suppose I always felt like if something went well or didn’t go well and I wasn’t sure why, I just hadn’t analysed it enough. Hence the title of the show.
The show will air every fortnight starting next week and will be be targeted at 15 minutes per episode.
Many thanks to Patrons of the network for their continued support and for making this show possible.
Augusto Hertz noted that during the show I said “electric” field when I meant “magnetic” field. When a current passes through a wire it does generate a magnetic field. Nice catch Augusto.
Listener Augusto Hertz pointed out that during the episode I swapped the two terms DFT and FFT. For clarity, the FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) is in fact an efficient algorithm for calculating the DFT (Discrete Fourier Transform). Thanks for the feedback Augusto.
Neutrium, everyones favourite engineering resource now has a podcast! The podcast will be covering many of the topics presented on the site, adding context to the theory and practices of everyday engineering. Bridging the gap between theory and practice the Neutrium podcast will discuss many of the design challenges faced by engineers in their daily work.
I didn’t choose to end Pragmatic at Episode 63 for trivial reasons. Balancing work and family life is hard and previously I wasn’t doing a good enough job. There are a few other reasons that I decided to end the show the first time that I can’t talk about however suffice it to say, I have a plan to keep making the show in a sustainable way.
Pragmatic will now only air once a fortnight. There will be no live show and guests will only appear every second month or so. I’m time limiting episodes to 90 minutes maximum and preparation time for each episode will be no greater than 10 hours per topic.
Follow-up will still be done either privately, via a show blog post (like this one) or via Twitter where appropriate however if the follow-up is too big it may warrant its own episodes as I have done previously on other occasions to reference just two (there were others).
You should also welcome my new co-host Carmen Parisi who also appears on the excellent podcast The Engineering Commons. He is an Electronics Applications Engineer and will be helping with the shows production as well.
I’m also starting a network and putting Pragmatic front and center along with a few other shows that I know you’ll enjoy.
For the hundreds of fans of the show that wrote in begging me to start making it again, you encouraged me to have another crack at it. Without your encouragement this would not be happening.
This time around though, I’m determined to get the balance right. There’s still a lot more to talk about. So let’s get back to it.
I love podcasts and my own shows in the past have been mostly independent. I was briefly a part of a network with one of my shows but there hasn’t really been a network that I felt I fitted in to. As I see it, podcast networks suffer from exactly the same problem as traditional radio networks. Unless your show pitch meets with the approval of the lead(s)/head(s) of the network in question, you’re out of luck. If you’re trying to get your show on a network but it doesn’t quite fit with what they’re looking for then you’re independent or you have no show at all.
Once a network that caters to your niche exists your podcast potentially has a home, but if that network niche doesn’t exist, you’re out of luck. I’ve known many podcasters that modify their show pitch to appeal to a specific network, but is that really what podcasting is about? It’s power to the people, to the individual or to the niche-groups of people. Podcasting can give them a voice.
If you’re into a niche topic, know some others that want to make the same sorts of show that you want to, then what do you do? There’s only one thing for it.
Start A Network
There are a very small number of Engineering focused podcasts out there that aren’t primarily about software development. In fact if you listened to the podcasts out there you might be mistaken for thinking that Software Engineers are the only engineers that exist.
Of course that’s not true. I’m an electrical engineer and I work with control systems, process, chemical, mechanical, civil structural and civil infrastructure engineers and I’ve previously worked with aerospace, environmental and biomedical engineers as well.
The Engineered Network now exists to cater for that niche. If you’re an engineer that has something you want say, has an itch to podcast and thought no one else was interested in what you had to say, The Engineered Network (TEN) can give you the platform you’re looking for to get your content out there.
TEN launches on the 9th of October, 2015 with a short list of three shows:
A podcast about engineering topics, centred mainly around chemical and process engineering design challenges faced by engineers in their daily work. Neutriums goal is to bridge the gap between theory and practice and is hosted by Matthew Kidd and Trevor Walker. More about Neutrium on the show blog
Causality is my (John Chidgey) solo podcast that dives into the details of the cause and effects of disasters, serious incidents and accidents that could have been prevented. Inspired by the response to Episode 11 of Pragmatic, I’ve been fascinated by Cause and Effect for my whole life and am excited to tackle this show. More about that on the show blog.
With such a big fallout from ending the show earlier this year, I couldn’t disappoint the fans of the show. However in order to address the time committment required and to balance show production with my work/family time there are conditions: Pragmatic will now be a fortnightly show and will be strictly limited to 90 minute episodes, no matter the topic. You should also welcome my new co-host Carmen Parisi who also appears on an excellent engineering podcast The Engineering Commons and will be helping out with show production. More about that on the show blog.
Big Things Have Small Beginnings…
The launch of TEN is intentionally small. It’s a short show list and yes I know, I’m in two of them. However there are several other shows in the works that just aren’t quite ready and there will be more details released about them as time progresses.
I’d like to say a special thank you to the Networks Launch sponsors:
Thank you also to the fans of Pragmatic that have encouraged me to make the time to keep podcasting. I hope we can collectively deliver content that you’ll enjoy.
If you’d like to support the shows and the network the best way is to support our wonderful sponsors. Let us know what you like via the feedback forms as we all love getting listener feedback :)
Another avenue we’re exploring is Patreon, and you can visit our Patreon page and donate whatever you feel comfortable with. There’s more on the About page.
If you’re interested in making your own podcast, solo, with a friend, or a group of friends and you’re practicing professional engineers, then please get in touch via the contact form.
Thank you all for taking this next step with me. I’m excited to see how this turns out. :)
Best regards, John Chidgey
Causality is my (John Chidgey) solo podcast that dives into the details of the cause and effects of disasters, serious incidents and accidents that could have been prevented.
I’ve always been fascinated by cause and effect, fault tree analysis, failure prediction and learning from history, and inspired by the response to Episode 11 of Pragmatic I’m excited to tackle this show.
The show will air every fortnight starting next week and will be limited in length to 45 minutes. For longer topics I will be splitting that over two episodes, but I will try to avoid that when I can.
I hope you enjoy Causality.