This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at abulsme@abulsme.com are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.

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Secret Project Done: Wiki of the Day podcasts

I just finished a secret project! It is THREE brand new podcasts I am officially launching as of right now. I hope you will check them out!

These are quite a bit different than Curmudgeon’s Corner, the podcast I have done with Ivan Bou since 2007 where we talk about current events each week. That podcast will continue as always. (If you aren’t already listening to that, you should of course check it out too!)

Instead, these are short quick hit podcasts. Little bursts of knowledge to enlighten your day. Just a few minutes long each. Often shorter than 2 minutes long in fact. The podcasts consist of the summaries of Wikipedia articles. Each of the three choose which articles to highlight in a bit different way. Because it is just the summaries, not the whole articles, they are quick digestible chunks of information.

I of course don’t have the time or consistency to create three podcast episodes every day, even 2 minute podcasts. So the trick here is that these are fully automated podcasts. There will be new episodes every day, even if I am super busy and swamped with other things. Now that things are all set up, they will (hopefully) just run on auto-pilot unless I decide I need or want to change something.

The idea for these had been percolating in my head for a couple months, and a little over two weeks ago I pulled the trigger and started working on it an hour here and an hour there as I had time. Basically, the daily topics are chosen from Wikipedia APIs or RSS feeds, I pull the content from Wikipedia using another API, then I generate the actual audio for the podcast using Amazon Polly and assemble the Podcast RSS feeds. I also set up a website… wikioftheday.com… that dynamically shows the most recent episodes of each Podcast, gives easy access to old episodes, and has a detail page for each episode with the text of the episode script. I did most of this with PHP since I’m pretty familiar with that, with a few Unix shell bits where that was more convenient.

It was fun to do, and I hope at least a few people will find the actual podcasts interesting too. Go to wikioftheday.com and you can check them all out and listen to a few of the episodes that have been produced so far. There are just a handful so far, but there will be new ones every day!

They are indeed read by computerized voices… a bunch of different ones episode to episode for variety… but that technology has come a long way in the last few years, and they are actually pretty decent to listen to.

I’ve started to submit the three podcasts to the directories for this sort of thing, but it will take awhile for them to start actually showing up when you search for them in your podcast player of choice. So for the moment if you want to subscribe, you’ll have to tell your podcast player app to subscribe manually using the link to the feeds. Below are descriptions of the three podcast along with the feed links. Please subscribe! And listen!

For each of the three, I exclude articles with no summaries or really short summaries. I exclude “articles” that are just lists, disambiguation pages (which John Smith did you want to know about?), and other pages of that type. I also have each of the three podcasts set to not repeat the same article within 100 days, even if it comes up again in the source feed. Stuff like that.

Anyway, please check them out, and subscribe if you enjoy them! And let me know what you think of them! :-)

Oh… and tell your friends about them too!

I appreciate it!

Upgraded Podcasting Setup

IMG_7951

In honor of Curmudgeon’s Corner (the current events podcast Ivan and I do) hitting 100 downloads in a week for the first time a few weeks ago, I upgraded my podcasting setup. I’d gotten a new microphone back in February, and gotten the pop filter for Father’s Day, but I have now added a studio arm and shock mount. Works better than having the microphone on a stand on the desk for multiple reasons. The setup is starting to look almost professional. :-)

Of course, in real life 100 downloads a week is still tiny tiny. But a year ago a normal week was 20-30 downloads, and two years ago normal was only 10-15 downloads. So hitting 100 was a nice milestone for us. It is good to be growing, even if we are still small!

Is Curmudgeon’s Corner getting longer?

In addition to swearing on Curmudgeon’s Corner, Iván and I apparently just like to run our mouths. In her comments on our March 12th show my mother also asked “Why are you doing shows near 2 hours in length now?”.  Well, to quickly answer the question in the title, yes, our shows have been getting longer.  Here are some graphs.

First, since we just completed our 400th show, here is a breakdown of the length distribution of the show, split up 100 shows at a time, grouped into 10 minute wide intervals:

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 07.20.46746

There is a lot of interesting stuff here if you look into it.

Our first 100 episodes were a bimodal distribution. We did a bunch of “short” shows, between 10 and 50 minutes, and then we did a bunch over an hour, mostly just over an hour long. Basically, when we first started, we targeted shorter shows, perhaps averaging 30 minutes, then we decided to make the jump to an hour. Between the two modes, we averaged 51 minutes per show (rounding to the nearest minute).

The second and third 100 shows were a more typical near “normal” distribution.  The second hundred we averaged 53 minutes per show. The third hundred we averaged 63 minutes per show.

In the fourth hundred, shows under an hour became extremely rare (only 4% of shows). Our distribution was moving toward longer shows, and thus we had a longer tail to the right, including two shows that were actually over two hours long. Our average jumped to 80 minutes. A full 25% of our shows were over 90 minutes long.

You can also see the trend toward longer shows in a chart showing show lengths vs episode number, along with a 10 episode moving average:

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 07.21.10911

You can sort of see that although there has been tons of variability for our whole run, we started out averaging around 30 minutes per show, then we decided we could go longer, jumped up to averaging a bit more than an hour through episode 100 or so. We then started cutting back, getting down to just over 40 minutes per show on average right before episode 150. Then ever since we’ve slowly been getting longer and longer. We just stopped bothering to shut up, and just keep talking until we don’t have much left to say.

As we’ve thought about it, Iván and I agree that while under an hour sometimes seems a bit cramped now, over 90 minutes is really getting too long, unless perhaps there is a LOT of very interesting news that week…  which there usually isn’t… and maybe not even then.

So we are going to be working on tightening things back up again. Maybe not all the way back to averaging 60 minute shows, but probably cutting back quite a bit on the number of shows that end up stretching over 90 minutes.

Of course, this is all subject to feedback from our listeners. What length would you prefer? 30 minutes? 60? 90? Or are you one of those folks who really like 2 or 3 hour podcasts? There are many of those out there of course. I don’t think Iván and I will make podcasts of that length a habit though. :-)

All Swearing Curmudgeon’s Corner Supercut (Sorry Mom)

CCCover20141121-SwearingIván and I have a good time each week doing our Curmudgeon’s Corner podcast on current events. But last week we got a comment from a listener (OK, it was my mom) saying we just plain swore too much and it detracted from the show.

Of course, I had to check this out with numbers. Our March 12th show was 102 minutes long (plus a few seconds). In that time by my count Iván swore 99 times, and I swore 33 times. That gave us a total of 132 times, or on average once every 46.5 seconds.

Of course, that’s if you listen to the whole show. As part of our March 20th show where we respond to my mom’s comments (and give some additional stats), I compiled a “supercut” of JUST the swearing from the episode she was reacting to. In this version, the March 12th show is reduced to JUST the bits with swearing. You get all 132 instances, compressed into 7:38, or an average of once every 3.5 seconds… for almost eight minutes.

Now, if you are offended by such things, don’t hit play. But we actually found this rather amusing, and on the podcast I promised to make this also available independently from the podcast itself. Here it is:

As amusing as this was to listen to once or twice, Iván and I actually agree that our use of “bad language” was excessive in that episode. Quite a bit so. And that is not necessarily out of the norm for the episodes we have done in the past.

We are going to try to clean it up a little bit in future shows. We sometimes don’t even notice we are doing it, but it seems like putting in a bit of effort here is probably worth it. We’d like to get a few more regular listeners, and we know from previous comments from other folks that my mother is not the only one turned off by this kind of language.

We won’t try to avoid it entirely… it is a normal part of how normal people talk, especially when they get emotional about what they are talking about. But, yes, averaging more than once a minute is a bit too much. Maybe we can get it down to one every five minutes. Or maybe even ten?

Tune in to find out.  :-)

Edited 11:57 UTC to add a link.

Edited 2017-04-15 17:09 UTC to fix audio player, which had stopped working at some point.

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Party Like It’s 2007

In the latest Curmudgeon’s Corner Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • NSA Scandal
  • Snowden / More NSA Scandal
  • WWDC 2013
  • Retro Show

Recorded on 11 Jun 2013

Length this week – 1:49:36

 1-Click Subscribe in iTunes Download MP3 File
 View Podcast in iTunes  View Raw XML Feed

Ending Streak

For the last several weeks I’ve gotten the podcast out on Monday.  Today it is time for work and I didn’t manage to get all the pieces stuck together yet.  So it will be later in the week again…  at least Tuesday, perhaps later.  Oh well!  Streaks only last so long you know…