In the month of April, 2007, according to its feedburner stats, Christel’s and my old podcast, diabeticfeed had 2,847 downloads of 34 podcasts. That is a surprise to me – surprise because Christel and I have not made a single podcast in the last year.
My name is aprigliano, and we have podfaded.
Why? What follows is how we started, what we did, and why we stopped.
In the middle of July of 2005, during a slow weekend, Christel and myself were watching an episode of Diggnation on our HDTV that we had hooked to and older Dell desktop computer – this was so we could watch these relatively new things called “video podcasts” while sitting on the couch (I highly recommend hooking computers to TVs to watch video. Usually the chairs are more comfortable in the living room.) At some point Christel and I got into a conversation about how Alex and Kevin sitting on the couch with one camera aimed at them and talking for 45 minutes is much more compelling than and hour of well produced “Attack of the Show” – the then regurgitated version (read:barf) of the old TechTV show “The Screen Savers.” This really does show our geek colors, but if you watched “The Screen Savers” you know what I am talking about.
At some point while the credits were running for “Diggnation” I said “I could make a podcast.” This was not hubris or arrogance, this was just me saying I have the skills necessary to put an audio program together. I have done it before. Eons ago in my early 20’s I worked in radio for 5 years, scraping by, waiting for my next break, begging for work, working crappy hours to put together the next “air-check” tape, to get the next job. And I sucked. Really. I wouldn’t listen to me. But I could produce somebody who did, and somewhere in those 5 years produced a local 1 hour weekly gospel county music from in 1994-95 for a small radio station in Florida.
So, the credits for “Diggnation” have rolled. I yelp, “I could make a podcast.” Then I got to thinking, eventually stating, that, “I have no idea what the content would be.” Christel, who is still the sharpest woman I know (hence the ring and the vow), says, “we could do a show for diabetics.” Christel is a Type 1 who wears an insulin pump and has been a diabetic since the age of 12. These two facts, plus her being smart as a whip and her thirst for understanding as to “the whats,” “the whys,” and “the hows” of living well with diabetes and because she is naturally well spoken, made her an IDEAL person for this podcast.
In the two hours after the “Diggnation” credits rolled we had hashed out the content, the format and the name, “dibeticfeed” (I loved the irony of the name because a diabetic’s diet is where much of the time is spent in controlling the disease.) I then said, “Give me two weeks to hash out all the technical issues of the podcast.” I did not want to spend a dime except on the domain and on a cheap Radio Shack karaoke microphone. Audacity was the free recording software we settled on. Continuing on the cheap kick, I went with blogger.com to post, feedburner.com to create the RSS podcast feed and I used archive.org/ourmedia.org to post the mp3 files. Free, free and free.
The two weeks were up and I was ready. It was then up to Christel to gather the content for the first show. This takes time. This takes a lot of time. This is where we eventually made some strides in streamlining the process bu using an old copy of IBM Via Voice speech to text software (which is surprisingly good, after training) to come up with the scripts for the show and reorient the content faster.
We did out first show on August 1st, 2005. Here it is. Not too bad. We did this 34 more times. No, for lack of a better term, sugar-coating the content. No dumbing it down. We could put together a 15 – 20 minute show in about 5 1/2 hours, though, the first one took about 9 hours, if I recall correctly. We were so excited at the time that the time it took did not make a difference.
The effort was the duplicated another 34 times only stopping for vacations and holidays. As we went along, the work-flow got better. The sound improved with the use of a small Behringer board, a Griffin iMic and better use of of Audacity version 1.2.3’s audio compression tool. Christel was completely comfortable talking into the microphone and sounded completely natural by episode 3. We eventually reduced the time of the work-flow and by about episode 5 or 6 we were a well insulined machine.
It took us a while and by episode 24 we started doing interviews. Kerri Morrone was the first. Again, Christel surprised me with how effortless it was for her to do audio interviews. Derek K. Miller (who also composed all the music on diabeticfeed), Dr. Desmond Schatz and Kassie Palmer soon followed. All were gracious and very interesting. I liked the new dimension the interviews added to the show. We both came to find that doing interviews over Skype was tremendously easier than hashing out content end to end. It was a strange flip in production time too. For Christel, interviews were a wonderful relief from coming up with her own content, but for me, and I did not mind, it could take me an extra two hours per interview to edit for content and yet keep the interview flow interesting and on point. I did enjoy the challenge.
The podcast did change our lives, Christel’s especially. We got to know some great people and some great products. In researching Show #5 on August 29, 2005, Christel was convinced that her Disetronic Insulin pump from 1999 was not allowing her to keep as good as control as she required to maintain proper health. Long story short, she upgraded to a new MiniMed and her blood sugar levels have been maintained pretty much on spot since with only an occasional deviation. The reason for which is finer control over the amount of insulin and a built in intelligence wizard, that surprised us both as to the quantities that it recommended, but more often than not, it was right. Consult your physician, your mileage may vary, yada yada yada.
Why did we stop? I do not have a simple one word explanation. We enjoyed it very much, but it was work. A lot of work. Unlike many podcasts in which you press record and start talking, we could not do this – you don’t just make up diabetes related news off the cuff. Christel’s pre-production time was locked in. And if she was busy for the week and did not have time to hunt down good stories, Sunday, the day we produced each show, became a chore, especially if nothing happened in the diabetic world (“No new cures this week?”) or we did not have an interview lined up.
Also, Christel’s new position was getting in the way. Christel left her old job and became a real estate agent. Though the money is good, the hours are uneven and you have to plan really hard to be in a position where you can block out enough time to put the show together consistently.
One final reason I have to offer, if you are interested, is the old “podcast your passion” or “love what you are talking about.” Even though I am not the individual with diabetes among us, I think I can say this, you do not love diabetes. It is hard to be passionate about a disease. You can be, but it is hard. Beyond the day to day of living with it, the podcast became a constant reminder of the disease. The new pump gave Christel more freedom from worry about her blood sugars because the new pump was so superior. So picking a day to focus on the malfunctioning pancreas got in the way of enjoying the normal day to day at first, then with the new and unpredictable time frames of the new job it became impossible.
We achieved our goal of being a good source of information for diabetics. But looking back, and this hurts, the repeated stories of a potential cures for Type 1 diabetes, be it Capsaicin or Stem Cells or pixie dust, drive up hopes so high that one grows cold over time, because the phrase “A cure in 5 years” that you have been hearing for the last 25 years really wears on you. I do still have hope. I know insulin is not a cure. I realize it is a complex problem. But I still hope, without out the irrational exuberance of getting my, and your, hopes up because of the new cure that will be available in 5 years.