23rd September 2014
"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans…" - John Lennon.
It’s been just over four months since taking Pragmatic Indie and 16 more episodes out, each with a different guest-host (okay so two had repeat guests: that’s 14 different guests). As of this week Pragmatic will be returning to two-fixed hosts each week on a regular schedule. I will still have guests on about once every 3-4 weeks however, just not every week.
The reason for doing this is simple: It wasn’t working for me or for the show.
Pragmatic Isn’t An Interview Show
It was never meant to be an interview show from the outset. I was careful to call my guests "guest-hosts" since I brought them on to talk specifically about one subject and not about their life story or lifes work, which is in keeping with the shows original intent. The idea of NOT interviewing a guest seems to be unusual in the tech-podcast space and I got the impression that some of my guests weren’t comfortable not knowing what to expect.
If I was bringing on people as guests I felt pressure to interview them or at the very least focus on them even though the show wasn’t really meant to be about that. I would regularly get complaints from listeners blaming me for each extreme: you don’t let the guest talk enough, or even, you let them talk too much. Each guest also brings their own dynamic which affects the flow and pacing of the episode. Since I’d never talked to my many of my guests previously (outside of Twitter usually) we were still getting to know each other as the show progressed and some weren’t fans of the show and didn’t appreciate the structure up front.
Ultimately this all combined to make the show more difficult than I thought it would be to produce. My friend Myke Hurley had warned me that having guests on was a lot of additional work. He was right. That said, none of these issues were in ANY way my guests fault. Were Pragmatic an interview show like CMD+Space for example, there would be different expectations, a different structure and there would be no problem. But it isn’t.
Scheduling is Hard
I’ll say it - I live in an annoying TimeZone. I know it. You know it. We all get it. It wasn’t clear at first just how hard it was going to be to organise recording times to align with Europe and America but my recording hours as a result were downright insane. When it’s a regular show, same time every week with someone you communicate with regularly it’s much easier to pull off. Otherwise it’s really difficult to keep a regular schedule. I had multiple cancellations, changes of date and host that became very stressful given what I was trying to achieve. I also wanted to do live streaming with a chat room: also impossible with such varying times and random recording days. In effect it was getting very hard keeping the show in any kind of rhythm.
I Can’t Find A Guest-Host!
It’s not what you think. Actually I had NO problem finding people that wanted to come on the show. In fact, of ALL of the people I asked to be on the show, only one said no because they genuinely weren’t interested. Every other person I asked agreed. I was frankly STUNNED at people that I had looked up to for so long, that didn’t know me from a bar of soap that just said "yes". The concept of Episodes 21-37 was to bring on people that had a particular knowledge or passion about the topic I wanted to talk about. The sad truth is that I’m a bit odd and finding people with background/experience/interest in the areas I wanted to talk about was getting harder with every passing week.
That isn’t to say that my guests couldn’t talk about fringe topics but the whole point was for them to actively contribute to the episode. The need to prepare in depth notes was ultimately a pressure that was unfair to ask my guests for or at least, I thought it was (although Joel did an amazing job with his prep for Ep 31). Once I started thinking about who I wanted to talk to on the show and only then, start thinking about what we could talk about I knew the show was no longer Pragmatic and was becoming something else entirely. Maybe someday I’ll do an interview show, or a ‘talk show’ but for now I want to bring the show back closer to its roots.
The guest-host episodes were a chance for me to chat with people I’d admired from afar that I may never meet face to face. To each and every one of them I’m immeasurably greatful for that opportunity - not just the episodes we recorded but for the hours of chat outside the show in some cases that was never aired. Many of them are kindred spirits, people that see the world similarly to me, people that think about things like I do, people that I just don’t meet in real life very often. In the end though, I felt like I was indulging myself by picking the people "I" wanted to talk to and not putting the listeners first. That’s not sustainable and it’s not fair.
I came across Vic originally through Twitter and became a fan of his App Story Podcast. When he came on Episode 1 of Tangential it was clear to me that there was some chemistry during the episode (when Amit and I let him speak!). He’s a self-taught iOS developer, a wonderful guy and is great to talk with.
The idea of getting Vic on as a more permanent co-host for the show began not long after that episode aired but due to my backlog of guests at the time that were already organised plus site work committments on my part, I was unable to bring him on in a regular co-host role until this week, although he’s already appeared on Episode 36 a few weeks ago.
The rest of the show remains unchanged: I’m still doing all the hosting, editing, sponsors etc it’s just that Vic will be a mostly-full-time co-host on the show. As I said previously I will still have guest-hosts on the show from time to time. The recording schedule will be fixed and pre-announced as will the show topics (coming soon). There are a few more features I’ll be adding to the site in coming weeks related to Pragmatic that I’ve been working on in the background.
Finally my thanks as always to the each and every listener of the show: you’re the best! Please let me know your thoughts (both good and bad) as ultimately this is about you and what you’d like to hear in the future.