Tuesday March 3, 2015

Welcome to Macintosh

An excellent new podcast from Mark Bramhill about the the past, present, and future of Apple. This is really good, well-produced stuff, and I’m thrilled to be included in the first episode.

Mark emailed me a few months ago (after my now-infamous Podcast Intervention), saying he had an idea for a podcast but he didn’t feel he had the experience (Bramhill is only 19) or connections to make it what it should be. I insisted that his fresh perspective might be exactly what this subject matter needed.

He proved me right.

Wednesday February 25, 2015

Designing for Humans

Wednesday February 18, 2015

Behind the App

Back in November I released a video called Podcast Intervention, where I called upon my friends and colleagues in the tech podcast community to do something new, to push the state of the art forward. When it came out, there was a bit of a kerfuffle. People assumed (incorrectly) that I was attacking Relay.fm’s Myke Hurley specifically, or tech podcasters in general. My position was and is that we’re very smart people, and we could be making more thoughtful things.

A couple days ago, Myke sent me a copy of Behind the App, saying, “This is my response.”

Behind the App is a documentary-style podcast by featuring some thoughtful, edited discussion and a genuine narrative. I think this new approach is going to really put Relay.fm on the map. Reaction has already been deservedly positive, and there’s potential to have a much larger impact.

I’m impressed with the thought and effort Myke has poured into this. It’s neat to think that my spurring may have done some good.

Tuesday February 17, 2015

Better Elevation on Reddit

I’ve created a subreddit for Better Elevation videos and discussion. The YouTube comments have been remarkably civilized, but Reddit is a better venue for thoughtful discussion.

Thursday February 12, 2015

Social Skills

I’m the guest on Social Skills, a new podcast for introverts, talking about how I survived making smalltalk with guests on Unprofessional. Kudos to Scott for going a level beyond podcast, though. The video stuff is a great touch.

Wednesday January 28, 2015


From the folks at Need comes Foremost, a small-batch clothing company.

Foremost will be providing wardrobe for future episodes of Better Elevation, so if you like what I’m wearing, talk to them.

Tuesday January 13, 2015

Inspiration for 2015

Saturday January 10, 2015

• A Brief History of User Interface

Saturday December 27, 2014

The True Meaning of Christmas

Unprofessional Holiday Special 2014

As a special Christmas surprise for Unprofessional fans, we got the band back together for a 2014 Unprofessional Holiday Special. Join me, Lex Friedman, and Jaimee Newberry for an hour or so of laughter and old friends.

Tuesday December 23, 2014

• Gatekeepers

Jason Snell on selling ads:

Being the sole proprietor of a web site means you’re not insulated. By accepting weekly sponsors for this site, I put myself in a position I’ve really never been in before, of having to decide if a sponsor is appropriate for my audience—and turn away business if I feel that it’s not a good fit with what I’m trying to do.

It’s a funny problem to have. My primary job at Standard Broadcast is that of curator — I don’t sell ads so much as I make sure they don’t ruin the shows on which they air. I take that role very seriously, and I have no problem turning away sponsors that don’t fit the spirit of the shows.

I also try to consider context. For Better Elevation — a video show focused on design and interaction — I only work with companies that make physical products. Partially because it makes for better visual content, but mostly because it better fits the spirit of the show: exploration and experimentation. As viewers and listeners we see lots of ads for software and services. Things we can touch and feel are different, and require different levels of thoughtfulness. For Standard’s shows, I consider the audience, what they like, and how sponsors pair up in a given episode.

Ultimately I’d argue that the sort of strong taste and editorial voice required to regularly make content of substance will also serve well in the curation of sponsorship. Whenever you’re letting someone else put their logo on your work, trust your gut. After all, whether you like it or not, ads are still part of your content.

Friday December 19, 2014

Hovercraft to Paris

My friend (and Unprofessional co-host) Jaimee Newberry and I have been planning a new show about life’s challenges, big and small, and what it’s like to approach them as someone whose job it is to think through and craft experiences. The trouble is that we’ve had a hell of a time getting our schedules to line up.

So we decided to make it asynchronous and put it all on video. Inspired by John and Hank Green, we’re sending each other weekly video postcards via our new YouTube channel, called Hovercraft to Paris1. This is an experiment, and all we have right now is the starting point: a conversation between friends. Like the best conversations between friends, it could go anywhere.

My first video to Jaimee:

Her reply:

  1. The show’s name is from a lyric in a Harvey Danger song, Private Helicopter. The song is (in my estimation) about re-connecting with people, and dealing with our own cognitive dissonance about relationships, life, and the perspective of hindsight. []

Sunday December 7, 2014

Maybe You Don't Take an Apprentice

I’m the special guest on The Talk Show this week. We talk about Star Wars, James Bond, kangaroo genitalia, and the importance of diversity in both podcasts and their hosts. Just shy of three hours, and we never managed to talk about computers.

Thursday December 4, 2014

Software for Making Podcasts

Allen Pike and Steamclock were going to make an app for making podcasts. They decided against it:

Sponsored podcasters are the folks who could justify dropping serious money on podcast software, say on the order of $200, so I worked to determine how many pros and semi-pros are out there. The best estimates I could get said there were 500 to 1,000 active sponsored podcasters out there. If you follow the typical startup math of “Imagine! If we only got 1% of the market!” then that would be… 5 customers. I’m confident we could do a lot better than that, but realistically there’s maybe $20-50k to be made in the pro market. Even with the most optimistic market penetration and continued linear growth in podcasting, you wouldn’t make enough to actively improve and maintain a great pro app.

Unfortunately, the math works similarly for the enthusiast market. There are perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 semi-serious amateur podcasters who might consider paying $20 for such an app, perhaps enough to break even building the app initially, but again not enough to sustain such a complex app. Only making $20-50k on some iPhone app is no tragedy if it doesn’t need maintenance, but for a mission-critical pro app with a backend service, it’s just not enough.

Why are professionals and enthusiasts the only options? Why should podcasting software be for professionals, anyway? Why not make something anyone could use, and price it accordingly?

Maybe pricing will always be a problem. Maybe there just aren’t enough different people making podcasts to make it financially sustainable, and the only way we’ll get better tools is if Apple bakes them into Garageband or something.

But I wonder how much money you’d make if you just built and marketed an app that empowered people to record and publish conversations.

Wednesday December 3, 2014

Sponsor: Harry's Winter Winston Set

Harry’s has launched their new Winter Winston set just in time for your favorite winter holiday. The set includes a beautifully-designed razor, three quality blades, and a tube of foaming gel or shave cream. Even if you’re already a Harry’s customer, you can still use code BETTERELEVATIONHOLIDAY at checkout and save $5. Give the gift of beautiful, reasonably-priced shaving.