On the Short Life of the Sound Bites Podcast

On Sunday October 2nd I launched a new Podcast: Sound Bites (follow link for episode list). These are short audio stories from my surroundings.

The format is entirely different to my current podcast Breadcrumbs. Each episode is only 30-60 seconds in length and contains no narration.

October Daily

This is my project for the second month of my Daily Challenge. As with my last challenge, I wanted to dive into something I'm interested in but know little about with the goal of learning something on multiple levels.

Where in September the goal was to learn basic perspective drawing techniques and explore the possibility of sketching in my iPad Pro, this month I'm learning the basics of sound design and improving my recording and editing skills.

With these dailies it has never been the goal to put out perfekt work. That's impossible to do in a day for something I've never done before. Rather they tell the honest story of someone who's learning by doing – and often by failing as well.

We are wowed by those who are world class at something, but often forget they've put in their 10,000 hours. What I'm doing here is the story seldom told – showing what may be the first 10-15 of those hours.

A Premature End

This month I didn't make it to those 15 hours. I have discontinued my daily prematurely, ending on episode 20.

A good friend of mine once said:

Principles are great until they work against you.

Now that probably shouldn't be the motto to live your life by, but it helps me question the things I hold on to. The primary reason for giving up on my daily is that my current workload has been starting to affect my health.

I was tempted see Sound Bites through till the end of the month on principle alone, but that would be working against me. October has never been my best month healthwise and the twofold responsibility of work (I still have a day job) and studies (Masters started in September) taxed me further.

I never understood the people who compensate for stress and poor sleep by taking medication. However, last week I found myself downing a pill when I woke up with a headache after a poor nights rest. That gave me pause.

The most important checklist in my life kicked in and I have been sleeping much better since. I had been driven by my to do list and have given myself permission to just let some things go for now (fixing up this website being one of them).

What I learnt

Another one of the things to go is Sound Bites. Looking back there is a good and bad side to this choice of daily.

Pro:

  • it's fun hearing everyday sounds augmented
  • gives a new awareness of surroundings
  • cutting a short audio-story together is fun (provided the material is good)
  • it really is a great way to learn about recoding, sound design, and editing

Con:

  • requires two steps: recoding & editing
  • it isn't a contained task (eg. simply 10min)
  • it affects the rest of the day (taking recorder)
  • lacks obvious daily improvements/skills learnt
  • dosen't really go far enough to teach sound design (never got to music)

The cons list is in stark contrast to the September Daily of drawing every day. There I had a single task that was contained by a rough 10 minute time limit and I could see my skills improve quickly. Sound Bites was not only more work but also less rewarding.

Taking it slower this past week has already reaped great rewards and given me a clarity over some big decision coming up. I'm going to take the rest of the month off from dailies and will be back in November.

On Why I Switched to WordPress

My website looks a little different today. I'm no longer using Squarespace and have switched to a self hosted WordPress site. I haven't yet ironed out all the kinks, but am already happy to have made the move.

I got Squarespace exactly a year ago so my subscription was up for renewal. Squarespace was great for the purposes it served, but I needed to move on.

When Squarespace is not the best fit

Last November I got my iPad Pro with the goal of doing everything with it, ideally being able to retire my 2011 Mac Book Pro. That didn't go so well as the Squarespace backend does not currently support mobile devices.

Additionally, there isn't a good way to publish more complex posts quickly. I have been transfering all post and pictures to my Mac and publish from there. However, the need to reduce my publishing time was a main take away from my 30 Day Challenge of publishing every day.

I really enjoy using my iPad though. All the more now that I am working with it every day as I have recently started a Masters in Industrial Design (more on that at another time).

Unlike my iPad, I don't enjoy working on my Mac anymore. This lead to a post free 222 Days and is one of the main reasons the Podcasts Universe hasn't been updated. Ok, I can't just blame the setup, but when starting something new it is paramount to have a low resistance workflow.

Don't get me wrong, Squarespace is a great service and I still recommend it highly. It's just not for me. Like the highly competent candidate that just isn't a fit for the company.

Who is Squarespace for?

Squarespace's great strength is offering exactly that no-friction process, which you need to get your blog or homepage off the ground. I created Muffin.Works in about three hours. And what's more, it's hard to make an ugly Squarespace website.

Squarespace is great if:

  • you need a website right now
  • you have non-tech people editing it
  • you want low maintenance
  • you want a professional-look (without the work)
  • you need something affordable
  • you only need it temporarily (for events like weddings etc)

Squarespace is not great if:

  • you work from mobile devices
  • you want your files on your own servers
  • you need more granular control
  • you want to automate the publishing process
  • you need a fast load time

What I've done

I am now hosting MuffinWorks on a virtual private server through Linode. Yes, that's diving right into the deep end. With the click of a button I can now actually turn off the "computer" that's hosting my website. It took about eight hours over two days (coming from minimal hosting and no VPS experience) but now I have all the options.

I've already got ideas about what I can do controlling the backend, like improving the feedback buttons and resurrecting the podcast universe map. And simply being on WordPress means I can edit my website from my iPad and publish from within Ulysses (OMG – so good).

Thanks Squarespace

Kudos to Squarespace for offering an export feature (specifically for WordPress). That made the switch a million times easier and will earn them many more a recommendation from me. Goes to show they don't see themselves as competitors to WordPress, which they aren't.

Squarespace's business model is to remove all barriers in going from idea to creation – especially those of inability. You still have to learn WordPress, but you don't have to learn Squarespace. But in doing that they make a lot of decisions for you. Where WordPress is the DSLR, Squarespace is the camera app.

Those Kinks

Thanks for reading and your interest in what I do on MuffinWorks. If you spot anything broken or weird here please let me know on twitter and I'll iron it out (not by email, forwarding is currently broken).