people from podcamptoronto

by Hugh

I was at podcamp in Toronto last weekend (check out the archive of videos of the presentations), and ran into a number of people doing great things. From the start I was excited by podcasting not because of the obvious things it would do, but the things that aren’t so obvious. The obvious thing is to create an army of radio hosts who imitate other radio hosts. The non-obvious things are happening and more and more is going to be rolling out in the coming years. Such an exciting time if you think that communicating ideas is an important thing for humans to do. So, here are a few people who were at the unconference whose projects impressed me:

  • Sonya Buyting: Sonya is the Sassy Scientist, a science journalist and newly-minted podcaster she’s worked as a broadcaster for Discovery Channel among other things. I personally like my science podcasting dry and academic, or at least in the sober public radio mode. Sonya’s stuff is a lot more bouncy (music + science = sassy) … so I think her market is not so much stuffy 32-year-old grouches like me, but a younger audience. Which is laudable, considering the questionable state of science education, and declining interest among the young in that stuff that happens to allow us to live the way we do. In any case this is a sharp and professionally-produced podcast, and you’ve got to hand it to her: the first episode includes an interview with Sir Richard Branson, playboy billionaire owner of Virgin Airlines and recently announced climate-philantropist; and, even better, an interview with Seth Lloyd, writer of the best book I’ve read so far in 2007, Programming the Universe. Sonya is not a Montrealer. But she IS from New Brunswick, which gets her some extra points.
  • Casey McKinnon & Rudy Jahchan: Galacticast is one of the most-watched vidcasts, certainly the top in Canada. Their take on making it in mainstream was pretty great: basically, bring it on, but we’re keeping all the rights to our stuff. That represents such a huge shift in the way broadcasting is going – and why music cos, and mainstream broadcasters are worried. Because the mainstream disseminators have less and less of a role to play: distribution channels aren’t limited anymore, so broadcasters and music companies haven’t figured out what they’ll be good for when art and media can sell itself. In the mean time, people like Rudy and Casey are out on the edge figuring out how this will work. Rudy and Casey are Montrealers.
  • Julien Smith: Julian is a good friend and I see him pretty regularly, and I’ve probably posted about him a fair bit here. But still: I am always impressed by how well he understands the back-end of the net and how net-relationships are changing the way we do things. I understand all these things, but he lives them in a way that I don’t. He’s the longest-running and most popular podcaster in Canada, not by accident. It’s been interesting, too, to listen to his stuff evolve over the past year or so, and get more heavy, but still stay raw, and somehow fun. It’s an odd and compelling mix. He bares his soul online as a matter of course, which has some interesting by-products. He’s also got this other fantastic project that he’s nudging along to success, Listen to Your Kids. It hasn’t quite picked up yet with the kids, but it will. It’s just too cool an idea, and the sort of thing that makes me smile about podcasting. Julien is a Montrealer.
  • jim milles: jim runs the really great UB Law Podcast, that “features conversations with University at Buffalo Law School faculty and other prominent scholars on cutting-edge research and important ideas in law and society.” This is such an obvious use of podcasting, and every university should have something similar. UC Berkeley, and many other universities, podcast course lectures, but that format doesn’t quite work for the general public (I’ve tried a number of lectures and though I’ve liked them, they don’t quite grab me). Better to do as Jim has done, get scholars to talk about their areas of expertise, in a conversational format, and record it. A perfect way to get this knowledge outside the walled world of academia, and to the rest of us. Jim is not a Montrealer.
  • Matt Forsythe: Matt is an artist who works at the National Film Board, on a number of things including the almost-excellent CitizenShift. He’s also involved with the Schwartz movie, (check the fantastic trailer on Youtube). We had a long talk about digital media and analog institutions like the NFB. There seems to be such resistance to freeing all this content that sits collecting dust in the basement, watched by no one. It’s very puzzling to me that makers of media — especially non-commercial, publicly-funded media makers – are not clamouring to get all their media out to the wold in digital format. Any worries they might have had about bandwidth etc in the old days has been killed by all the vid services out there: blip.tv, googlevideo, youtube, not to mention the non-commercial options like Internet Archive and iBiblio. Yet all the wonderful wonderful work done by the NFB is inaccessible to me because so little of it is online. How great would it be for everyone – NFB included – if everything they made was available online. Matt is a Montrealer.
  • mitch joel: I kept hearing about Mitch from different directions, and we kept missing each other at events. He works for digital marketing/branding company Twist Image, but it was funny, the thing that won me over was when he told me he worked for fifteen years writing music columns for Hour. I guess I have a natural mistrust for the corporate world, but when I hear that someone has put so much energy into something like writing music for a small community paper, it puts me at ease. Anyway, Mitch gave what was the slickest and most impressive presentation(.mov) I saw at podcamp. maybe I say that because the topic – more or less, branding you – is something i have been scratching my head over for the past month or so. I have been circling around doing so many things, and I need to start thinking about focusing my professional life better, and sorting out just what the hell I am going to do when I grow up. Mitch is a Montrealer.

I’m going to toss LibriVox into the ring, and suggest there is some hot stuff happening in Montreal.

But the million-dollar question I had coming out of podcamp was: how do I monetize my grouchiness?

(for those counting: 2 women, 5 men.)