Category Archives: blog and rss tips

Listening to Podcasts

Back in the day I listened to, created, and participated in podcasts.

Then I took a break for about a decade.

So much has changed and there’s a lot of great stuff out there to listen to. I’m going to try and help you get hooked into (or add to) these audio broadcasts.

So What’s A Podcast?

Let’s just make sure we’re starting from the same corner of the Internet. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines a podcast as:

a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet

So what happens is an audio file is created and stored (usually in a MP3 format) then put online. The thing that separates a one-off audio file from a podcast is that podcasts are a series of audio files that one can subscribe to (more on that soon). The name ‘podcast’ comes from, as best as I can tell, ‘pod’ taken from Apple’s successful iPod (released in 2001 and the first/easiest way to take your audio files on the go) and ‘cast’ from the word ‘broadcast’.

Several podcasts are simply an Internet-ready, downloadable version of a radio program (think separate talk radio programs). Most are created to circumvent the radio waves and go straight to the Internet.

So How Do I Get Podcasts?

I decided that before I get to what podcasts are good and/or available, I’d first talk about how to get them into a podcast delivery device (our tastes may vary!).

I’d wage that 99% of internet-inclined people have a copy of iTunes. It’s a great start because it’s cross-platform and ubiquitous (i.e., available on any computer device you own). If you have iTunes, open up the iTunes store and find the ‘podcast’ menu. From there you can subscribe to whatever you want as a one-stop-shop. iTunes will manage all updates for you (remember that a podcast is a series of updated audio files). This is great because you can stay updated on your computer, iPod, iPhone, etc. and it’s all through one program — iTunes.

If you have devices such as a smart phone or tablet, there are apps for that. Choose wisely — there’s many for iOS (iPhone/iPod/iPad/iWhatever) and Android).

Currently my favorite podcast app is ‘Downcast‘. It allows me to make many customized playlists but it currently doesn’t have anything available outside of iOS (so it only syncs to my iPhone and iPad, not my PC laptop or even the web).

BTW, if you’re putting your podcast episodes on a portable device like an iPhone, iPad, Android, etc, that device has a hole for a headphone input. You can also check in your car to see if you have an auxiliary input hole that matches your headphone plug (3.5mm). If so, get something like this extension from Belkin so you can pipe the audio from your device through your car speakers (I use this every day to listen while driving). For long term, you might consider a charger to keep the battery fresh (see: this USB car charger and charging cable for iPhone 5.

So What Podcasts Are Out There?

No matter what program or app you’re using you should be able to find most, if not all, podcasts available. One reason I recommend starting with iTunes is that their podcast store is probably the largest catalog available. If you’re using an app instead of iTunes, they often provide a list of the top subscribed podcasts as well. Or if you stumble upon a podcast online, you can usually manually add it to your app directly. So go browse and enjoy!

Following are the podcasts I’m currently subscribed to and enjoying (note: although I’m providing links to websites, you can simply search for the titles in your podcast player of choice):

Podcast That Explain or Teach

  • Stuff You Should Know – This is by far my favorite. They tackle a topic, usually in the format of ‘how ___ works’. They are smart and funny so you learn and are entertained at the same time!
  • StarTalk Radio – Hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and it’s all about space and the cosmos.
  • Hello Internet – These hosts are the very knowledgeable and intelligent YouTube personalities CGP Grey and Brady Haran. They talk about (and sometimes debate) everything interesting (and sometimes relevant).
  • NPR: Planet Money Podcsat – “…Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.”
  • Stuff To Blow Your Mind – More learning as you dive deep into a random but interesting topic.
  • Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know – Would you like to uncover conspiracy theories?
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class – Explore important and interesting moments in history that your teacher probably never told you.
  • DecodeDC – Do you care about the politics in Washington, DC? I don’t blame you if you don’t anymore. But would you like to know what’s really going on?
  • BrainStuff – There’s this group of people who work at and they try to explain, well, stuff.
  • A Way With Words – “…language examined through history, culture, and family…about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies.

Podcasts That Connect The Dots
These are some of my favorites. They typically start with something kinda random, follow the trail, connect the dots, and end up somewhere very interestingly unexpected

  • 99% Invisible – “…a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world…”
  • Freakanomics Radio – “…the podcast that explores the hidden side of everything…”
  • NPR: Ted Radio Hour Podcast – “…based on talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centered on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections…”
  • Radiolab – “…a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience…”

Podcasts That Are More Personal To Me

  • The Alton Browncast – If you’ve ever cooked and you don’t know Alton Brown then get it together, man!
  • The Nerdist – Warning: NSFW! Comedian/Entertainer Chris Hardwick hosts everyone on this talk-show.
  • TigerNet Talk – I love my Alma Mater (from the Latin ‘alma’ meaning ‘nourishing’ and ‘mater’ meaning ‘mother’). And I love Clemson football!
  • The Walking Dead Cast – I love “The Walking Dead” on AMC and this is the best podcast I’ve found reviewing each episode.
  • Daily Radio Program with Charles Stanley – I remember the first few years when I got serious about my faith and I began listening to a radio station that played various sermons. One always stood out and it was from this preacher from Atlanta. Can’t always go 100% with him because I’ve done my homework and I know where he’s coming from. I’m currently catching up with him because I think he’s right most of the time, theologically speaking. And he motivates me.
  • Star Wars Minute – if you want to uber-geek on Star Wars, here’s your podcast. I’m currently catching up. They watch just one minute of the Star Wars movie and talk about it for 10-15 minutes. Uber-geeks might find new nuggets in here but everyone else will be at least entertained re-living the franchise one minute at a time.

New Facebook Layout

Facebook has a new design layout and although I and others don’t like some of the changes, the more I’ve looked at it the more I’m realizing the new design has great potential to be a great communications application.  I wrote about it on my business blog:New Facebook Layout Has Big Potential | Orangejack LLC.  I’ll even give you my summary (but go read it all for explanations):

What I’m seeing with this new Facebook design is that communication is much faster and easier than before. Interaction is encouraged and is more sensible. Some veterans of Facebook aren’t happy with the new design but I suspect it’s because they aren’t seeing it in this light. It seems Facebook is now catching up to some of the other hot web 2.0 content publishing applications and improving on what they do well:

* Microblogging: Facebook Status Update like Twitter
* Blogging: Facebook Notes
* Bookmarking: Facebook Links like Delicious or Digg
* Photos: Facebook Photos like Flickr
* Discussion Board: Facebook Wall
* Lifestream: Facebook All Posts like FriendFeed

What do you think about the new layout?  And I’m more interested in your thoughts about it for communications, not personal branding and playing with applications (this is the area that many don’t like and I tend to agree).

Calming the Twitter Noise

A while back I discovered a great way to manage the noise on Twitter by using Device Updates on Twitter.

Now that I’m following a few hundred people, I’ve learned to manage the noise even better.  However, Twitter turned off the IM device update service that I’ve relied on.  I know they are going through some growing pains and need to turn off some things, but I think it would be nice to get an ETA on them turning it back on.

Anyway, assuming it’s turned back on, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned about managing the noise of Twitter.  What I had to do was decide to be comfortable with the idea of following a lot of people but only catching some of what they say.  Then I found a way to get my attention when someone I want to not miss writes or when anyone writes to me.

  1. Install and run Twhirl. It’s easy to use and gives you a lot of features for interacting on Twitter.  What I’ve done is often keep it open on the left side of my screen.  When it grabs updates, it flows like a river down the the side of my screen.  If I catch something interesting then great.  If I don’t, it just keeps flowing by.
  2. Use Twitter IM Device Updates. Geeze it bugs that they turned this off.  The main reason is because now that I’m following and engaging with hundreds of people, there are a few that I want to make sure I read.  Some are breaking news, a couple of friends, and my wife.  When the IM is working, my gTalk window pops up just like I got an IM with their twitter update.
  3. Subscribe to Twitter Search.  This is something I’ve just recently started. What I did was do a search for “@orangejack” then subscribe to the RSS of the search results (example).  Now I’m sure to receive in my RSS reader notification if someone writes me directly in Twitter.

The system works great (when Twitter works fully).  As a backup I’ve subscribed to some of my friend’s twitter RSS feeds but it’s not very reliable either.  One thing I have discovered is I could subscribe to a search feed (like in step 3) for their name without the ‘@’.  But honestly, I’d rather wait until Twitter turns IM back on.  Or at least let me know when they plan to.

You can follow me on Twitter at

Testing ScribeFire

So it seems there is this cool and nifty Firefox plugin called ScribeFire that allows me to blog faster. So I’m testing it. It was easy to pull in a Flick photo from above, now for a YouTube video below.

Green Tree Frog Jumping

So it seems easy to post from those sites, but haven’t figured out how to post a particular photo or video I want (I had to search for these, not pick a previous one).

So far, not so bad.

My Favorite WordPress Plugins that are not Akismet

It should go without saying that the wp plugin Akismet is a must-have plugin, so I’m skipping it.

And now I’ve just realized I don’t have these installed on all of my blogs.  Gotta do some cleanup soon.

Twitter allows me to be judgmental

Or maybe the right word is discerning?

\\ begin twitter rant

One thing I like about twitter is finding interesting people I’d like to connect with. Since twitter is about communicating within 140 characters, the “about” section for tweeple you see on their homepage is controlled by what they put in their account settings. I’ve provided a screenshot of what my profile looks like on my twitter page.

This is the #1 place for me to decide who I should follow and/or connect with more than anywhere else. Here’s why:

I want to know your real name. I don’t mind that you have a fun/cute/branded twitter name, but seriously, what is your real name? To really connect, let me know who you are (exceptional grace given to services).

I want to know where you call home. I find that very interesting. If I don’t know where in the world you call home, I’m not sure I can really get to know you.

I want to know where you are elsewhere online. Do you have a website you call home? A profile? It’s kind of like having a “more about me” link in the bio. Which brings me to…

I want to know a little about you. Give me your bio in 160 or less. Seriously. Just a snapshot. What are you about? Just tell me something remotely useful.

I want to know your follow-to-following ratio. Do you follow everyone and no one follows you back? Probably a reason and I’m not going to join them. It gives me an idea about who you are and what you’re up to. It helps me understand if you are a listener.

Judgmental you say? Yeah, I know. But that’s the point. We’re going to make a quick decision about connecting with you. You have a second of my time to tell me if I should listen to you. Blow it in your “about” section and I’m out.

Ready to get a good profile? Just go to and don’t miss these three boxes:

Leave’em blank and I’m leave’in you alone.

// end twitter rant

170spoons eNewsletter working

Good news! The eNewsletter for my website is back and working properly again (and this week’s eNewsletter is already up)!

weekly eNewsletter You may find that you would rather receive a weekly email that summarizes the activity of the week. This eNewsletter summary will be delivered over the weekend and will highlight the week’s tips, tools, and tutorials. To sign up, simply provide your email in this form and verify your subscription. You may also be interested in checking the eNewsletter archive.

I implore you in the strongest terms possible to subscribe to 170spoons in one of the several ways provided.

Heh. I always think it’s funny when politicians use that phrase “strongest terms possible”. That’s why I used it. But seriously, check it out if you haven’t already.


Device Updates on Twitter

twitter logoI’m following over 100 tweeple on Twitter. Most are people but some are services. Since there are so many tweets going on all day, the ones from the services tend to get lost in the noise. So I’ve been working out a strategy to isolate a few tweeple to have them pulled out and notify me in real time.

I’m in beta testing and I think it’s working. Here’s how I’m now following Twitter:

1. I use the Firefox extension Twitterfox to keep up with all recent tweets — and I can update from it also. I used to use Twhirl and it was great, but the FF extension is much lighter and one less application to run.

2. I’m now using a feature on Twitter called “Device Update”. It’s an option for a way to follow someone. You can set it up to be SMS or IM. Since I don’t have nor want unlimited text messaging on my mobile, I set me up the Google Talk.

3. I looked through all of my friends I’m following and decided who to turn notifications on or off. Now I am selective as to which ones I want to call for my attention. The ones I follow and turn on the device update are now popping up in a Google Talk IM box immediately.

So who am I following with device updates? Here’s my list:

These services don’t update often, but when they do, I want to make sure they are separated from the noise and don’t get lost.

Are there any you would add to the list?

PS> You can follow me at