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Apple Watch: Boys of Tech - part 2

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In the one of my previous Apple Watch blogs I talked about how podcasts work, how you can get them and then went into detail on Edwin Herman's long-running, Wellington produced Boys of Tech series. Here, Edwin tells more about how he does what he does, and comes up with some forecasts on where tech is heading (which kinda gets me off the hook).

"Typically, a 30-minute Boys of Tech show will take about 45 minutes to record, including the sound check at the beginning. Editing takes about three times longer than the audio (so a 30 minute show would take about 1.5 hours to edit). The editing I do is for brevity and flow. I take out 'ums', 'aahs', false starts, background noises, unexpected interruptions and so on. I try not to remove all of them, otherwise the resulting conversation might sound too polished, but there are times when there's quite a lot of those sorts of things and it makes it much smoother to listen to when the majority of those are taken out.

So one 30-minute episode would take about two-and-a-half hours to produce, all up.

"One time we did a whole show, only to find at the end that only my audio was captured, and not that of the other panelists. We had to re-record the whole thing! It's never as good the second time around. It sounded very rehearsed, no matter how hard we tried to make it sound spontaneous. Actually, this happened on two separate episodes.

"A few shows I haven't been able to organise any panelists (or the one I had lined up cancelled last minute). In those cases I did the show on my own. I would rather have an episode with no panelists than no episode at all. However, I kept those episodes short, and I altered my speaking style so that it didn't sound too much like a boring monologue. A good example of how this is done well is on talkback radio: if you've ever listened to talkback when there aren't many callers phoning in, you might have noticed the host delivers their monologue in a way that doesn't sound too monotonous. Long pauses, and thought-provoking questions for the audience are key.

"Although it's a little old now, Episode 106 stands out because the whole thing was just a lot of fun and the conversation played out well. There was a lot of humour throughout, the panelists all engaged in banter well and played off each other, and it's probably the episode with the best bloopers at the end (including when we spontaneously decided to call Buckingham Palace live on the show to ask them what kind of mobile phone the Queen has).

"Episode 222 was memorable for a different reason. It was recorded back in July, not long after the Cook Straight earthquake that shook Wellington, and understandably many Wellingtonians were still a little on edge. During the recording, a sizeable aftershock occurred. This happens about eight minutes into the episode and you can tell because of the sudden brief silence as our conversation is interrupted by the shaking.

"We've had some great guests on the show, and a good example of how well the guests perform is Episode 239 where the .nz Domain Name Commissioner Debbie Monahan joins us around 15 minutes into the episode."

Edwin says it was relatively straightforward getting Boys of Tech into the iTunes directory.
"I followed the guidelines in this article and all seemed to go smoothly."

Of course, Edwin has a day job, too. He's a Business Analyst at Victoria University of Wellington: "I keep my day job separate from the podcast. On the show I deliberately avoid mentioning where I work. The closest the two have mixed is on Episode 203 when I interviewed Chris Cherry, the Victoria University postgraduate student whose smartphone was stolen from the university campus by a university security guard employee. I only told Chris after the interview that I actually work at the university.

I asked Edwin to tell us more about some of the guests we mentioned last episode: "Kate Carruthers is reasonably well-known in the internet industry in Australia. She appeared as a guest on episode 67 when she get embroiled in a dispute with Rosie Cross over the trademark 'geekgirl'. An article sums it up reasonably well.)
"Kim Farrar is an ex-colleague of mine (and not related to David Farrar). Her background is IT project management. Kim is the newest Boys of Tech panelist.

"Marko Calasan was the youngest ever Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) at age nine. His story was all over the news at the time.

"So we invited him to join us on the show. We cleared it with his mother, of course. He did really well considering English is (noticeably) not his first language. I see there's even a Wikipedia page on him now.

"As a general rule, the topics we cover on the show are technology news stories that have broken within that past seven days. We sometimes extend invitations to people who are featured or mentioned in those news stories. They are not necessarily celebrities or industry figures (though some of them are; for example Debbie Monahan who I mentioned earlier), but they are all over the technology news wires at the time. As a result we've had some great guests who were "hot topics" at the time. Here are some examples:

"Bruce Simpson is the guy from Tokoroa who made world headlines after creating a proof-of-concept cruise missile in his back yard. He's also the author of Aardvark tech blog.

"Matt Stewart made headlines after deciding to publish his book entirely on Twitter, 140 characters at a time after being unable to secure a deal with a publisher."

Other guests have included Cameron Slater, the very well known and contentious blogger in New Zealand who runs WhaleOil; the Wellingtonian Jake Briggs who reported to police that his house was in the process of being burgled while he was at work watching footage of the thieves in his house through the web cam he had set up; Cameron Collie, the guy who Google threatened to sue over the name 'Groggle'; the Australian lecturer Stephen Hughes who discovered that not a single dictionary he came across had the correct definition for how a siphon works because of his work the Oxford English Dictionary and other dictionaries started correcting the erroneous definitions; New Zealander David Frampton who developed Chopper and Chopper 2 for Mac OS/iOS, which was Number 1 on the iTunes sales charts; Ben Krasnow who built a scanning electron microscope in his garage; Aseem Mishra, the 17 year old who was awarded Young Engineer of Great Britain for his 'drum pants'; Martin Reisch who made headlines after entering the US by showing a scan of his passport on his iPad; Ivan Sentch who made it into the news for 3D printing a replica Aston Martin DB4; the lead developer for the Coast browser made by Opera Software for iOS, Huib Keinhout; and James Howells who made headlines recently after inadvertently throwing out an old hard drive some years go, only to remember that they contained a stash of bitcoins which would have been worth millions of dollars today.

A couple of guests have ended up becoming semi-regular panelists.

I asked Edwin if he had been surprised at the directions technology has taken.

"Back when Apple introduced the iPad, I couldn't see a market for it. It seemed to be like an answer waiting for a problem. But I was wrong (and so were other analysts who thought the same thing). The whole tablet market makes so much sense now, but I couldn't see it at the time.

"Another surprise for me is the big turnaround that Microsoft has done. I can see why it was needed, but I'm still surprised that they went ahead. I didn't think they'd do it. The turnaround I'm talking about is Microsoft become more modern, more OS-agnostic and more aware that people don't live in a Microsoft bubble (or perhaps, rephrased, they realise they can't force people to live in a Microsoft bubble). We've seen, for example, Internet Explorer become almost totally standards-based (that was unthinkable back in the days of Version 6). A lot of online products and services are more OS agnostic and work fine on Macs and iPads (some examples - Outlook Web Access, Sharepoint, Hotmail/Outlook.com/whatever it's called this month), online services moving away from Flash and Silverlight (is that dead yet?!) and more towards HTML5 like the rest of the world. It's what I call 'the new Microsoft'. You and I remember the old Microsoft: this big, corporate giant that was slow to change, never hip, and with an air of arrogance. But these days Microsoft is not too far off the Googles, the Apples and the Facebooks of the world."

But "I'm surprised also by the lack of progress in battery technology. We have all these great devices now that a few years ago did not exist or were only just coming onto the market (smart phones, smart watches, electric cars) and they're being held up by our archaic battery technology. There have been a lot of interesting events and developments, but nothing jumps to mind as a standout event."

What about the New Zealand tech industry - are we punching our weight, or above our weight, or failing?

"Difficult to say, but I think we're on par with the rest of the world. This is not a cop-out answer, it's where I think we really are. There have been some great Kiwi achievements, and every so often you read about a Kiwi success story, but the question is: are we punching above our weight? I'm not sure that we are. I don't think we're jumping ahead in leaps and bounds. However, we're definitely not trailing, so that's a good thing."

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