My favourite podcast of all time, Hypercritical, on the 5by5 network concluded this week with its 100th episode. Hosted by Dan Benjamin and John Siracusa the show has been consistently good over the last two years and could have easily continued for more. However Siracusa decided that it was time to end it, feeling that he had exhausted much of what he wanted to discuss.
How it became my favourite podcast was more about the evolution of my tastes as a listener. The initial few episodes I listened to, I found his hyper-pickyness to be annoying. I preferred the chattier, talk-show style of podcast at the time with more back and forth between the hosts. As time went on I became more interested in detailed analysis and much of the talk-show banter began to grate on me. There were other shows with analysis in them but what made Siracusa different was that he was prepared to be wrong and admit simplifications when they were being or had been made. At the same time he wasn’t too afraid to tackle topics that he wasn’t an expert on and the variety of topics was excellent as a result.
Siracusa had no interest in starting or participating in conversation that didn’t relate to either follow-up on previous episodes or the topics he wanted to discuss (almost all of which were tech related). Unlike several other shows on 5by5 at the time, this show was focussed, analytical and there was a respect for the international audience of listeners. The title selections were only ever those Siracusa approved of despite Dan’s best efforts to push his preferences on many occasions. John knew what he wanted and was uninterested in deviating from his intentions.
The key to what made it so good was that Hypercritical was more audience involved that any other podcast I’ve listened to. I’m not talking about hammy “ring-ins” or special guests or that it had a live chat room. John would entertain any and all feedback on the topics he had discussed at any time during any of the podcast episodes on some occasions discussing feedback from episodes as far back as a year prior.
Hypercritical was, in essence, a never-ending conversation between John Siracusa and the rest of us and we helped him and ourselves distill the essence of what was right and wrong about a given topic. There is no doubt in my mind (I’ve never talked with him or even met him) that John learned a great deal about different topics from people all over the world through their feedback. His re-sharing of this feedback made us all the better for listening.
To my knowledge there has been no other podcast quite like it and I fear there may never be again. The opportunity to participate in the show has gone but the episodes remain for posterity. If you haven’t listened then I encourage you to do so. If like me, you’ve listened to every episode (some more than once) and appreciate what it was, then raise your glass and toast with me, Thank you John Siracusa. You are a gentleman and a scholar.
Your next podcast, Ultracritical, awaits you whenever you’re ready.