This week I get the pleasure of asking one of the hosts of the "All of the Above" podcast, 20 Questions. All of the above is a podcast I have guested on where I waxed eloquent about Siri. The main page for the podcast can be found here and, more importantly, the episode featuring me (yes, featuring) can be found here. Other than getting to know Bryan from the podcast and my limited interaction with him via the twitters and email, I do not really know what makes Mr Brush tic. So without further ado... let's get to some questions.
/EDITOR’S NOTE: hey, it’s me, here. This 20 Questions took a long time to complete because things were crazy for both of us for a bit. You can read about those changes whilst reading the 20 Questions/
My first go round in higher education ended up getting me a degree in Geographic Information Systems. I landed on this degree in geography because I realized I really enjoy stories told through place. So, for example, I was born in Oklahoma City, moved to Montgomery, Alabama when I was a toddler, moved into my childhood home on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama when I was a young boy, went off to college in Kent, Ohio at 18, moved to Columbus, Ohio upon graduation from college, and been in the Columbus, Ohio area ever since. That is my geographic story. Question 1: What is your geographic story?
Geographic stories are an amazing concept. Mine is relatively simple and begins in Kettering, Ohio where I only spent a couple years of my childhood before my family moved to the small town of Germantown, Ohio. Germantown and it’s neighboring village of Farmersville, which collectively have about 7,000 people, is where I grew up until I graduated high school. From there I moved to Columbus, Ohio for college. That was a culture shock for me as just the student population of Ohio State University is 12 times the size of my hometown. I have been living in Columbus or one of its suburbs ever since. Outside of all of that I spend as much time traveling wherever I can. On those trips I am quite often joined by Sam Bantner, one of my cohosts on All of the Above.
Wow, that is an extremely Ohio-Centric geographic story... It is rare that I chat with someone who has only lived in one state. So... Question 2: Is there a dream place that you would enjoy living that does not happen to be in Ohio?
My dream place to live always seems to be changing. I sometimes think I would prefer a life of perpetual travel instead of just being anchored down into one specific location. That said, Seattle and the Netherlands have always called out to me. Both have cultures that, while quite different, still seem to match my personality quite well.
That is funny, Seattle and the Netherlands do seem oddly similar while being vastly different.
I admit I have stolen this question from the immeasurable Paul F Tompkins, and it is my "goto" number 3. Question 3: Cake or pie? Which specific kind and why?
Oh, man. This seemingly innocuous question has the potential to turn friends against one another. I never realized how passionate people were about their desserts until I first saw this question proposed to a group. I choose Cake. Pretty much anything that ends in cake is awesome. Cupcakes, cheesecake, carrot cake, yellow cake, etc. I’m fond of just a simple white cake with buttercream icing.
My mom, before becoming a nurse, spent time making cakes professionally. Baking was always one of her favorite ways to relieve stress and as a result I grew up making a lot of cakes with her. Although pie is delicious it doesn’t carry that feeling of nostalgia that I get when eating or baking a cake.
My mom was also a semi-pro cake baker. I often helped her out There was always homemade frosting in the fridge at home and that has saddled me with a horribly active sweet tooth. I have always had a love for cake, but I think my love is actually for frosting.... mmm frosting. Buttercream is delightful.... but my favorite is cream cheese frosting.... so good.
I have often said in these 20 Questions that people who like pie would love a slice of pie, but they rarely, if ever, are they willing to kick a kitten for some pie. People who choose cake, very often will push over toddlers to consume as much cake as possible. Question 4: Why do you think most cake people are overzealous in their love and desire of consuming cake?
Frosting is definitely the best part of a cake. Although my brother strongly disagrees and removes the frosting. I used to sneak spoonfuls of left-over frosting out of the fridge as a kid. That was until my mom caught on and switched the frosting with cold mashed potatoes. My taste buds have never recovered from the shock.
I’m not sure why cake people are so fanatical about their cake. Maybe it’s because pie suggests a more wholesome experience. It’s almost as if it’s the Andy Griffith. Cake on the other hand seems to remind me of the happiness and joy of childhood, which leads to a passionate and nostalgic zeal.
I will buy that. Pies are quite wholesome.
All of the Above is a podcast where you, and 2 of your friends talk about different subjects by looking at the subject through different lenses. It is a delightful podcast that I have had the pleasure of guesting on. Question 5: What made you decide to do this podcast?
Thank you for the kind words on the show. We loved getting to record an episode with you and hope to do it again sometime.
The idea for the show in some ways started for slightly selfish reasons. From time to time I would find myself having amazing discussions with friends like Sean and Sam about design and technology. I loved every second of those discussions and wanted to have them on a more regular basis. in order to satisfy that hankering I pitched the idea of doing a podcast. Sean came up with the idea for the format and here we are.
As a fun bit of All of the Above trivia we were going to have another good friend, Connor, on the show. Unfortunately his schedule was just too hectic, but he did join us as a guest on episode 8.
Let's be clear here, you were a floundering podcast until episode 12. The guest on episode 12 really turned it around for you and you clearly owe all of your success to that glorious guest appearance. Since that guest righted the ship, that podcast has been just cruising. In all seriousness it is a very interesting concept to look at multiple aspects of a topic from 3 significantly different, but oddly inter-related viewpoints.
You are a consumer of content, Question 6: So what podcasts do you listen to?
I’m not going to make any argument against the idea that episode 12 was a major turning point for the show. I mean, it even led to the creation of the first pieces of fan art for the show.
Answering what podcasts I listen to is always a tough question for me. I just took a look at the list of shows in my Overcast feed there are over 90 shows that I have listened to in some fashion. Some of those are now defunct, while others I only listened to select episodes from. Many of them are technology and Apple focused. As for shows I would say of all of those I actively listen to around 50. Instead of listing all of those off I’ll give you some of my favorite active podcasts:
I have 45 podcasts that I actively listen to, and probably another 45 that I have listened to for multiple episodes at some point in time. I might take a look at the 5 you mentioned. Color me intrigued.
So, podcasting seems to be the democratization of audio content creation. Question 6: What do you think is the appeal of podcasting from a content creator standpoint and then as a content consumer standpoint?
It always gives me a sense of relief when I find another person who engages on some level with as many shows as I do.
This is a particularly tough question. Podcasting, like most forms of media, brings about its own world of personal preferences. So I may not be able to come at this from a universal perspective as to the appeal of podcasting. Instead I can let focus in on some of the reasons that appear evident to me personally and those that I have spoke with. And, fair warning, this answer may get long-winded.
Podcasting is in many ways a very intimate form of media. While I am not necessarily a fan of Andy Warhol, there is an idea presented in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol that I find interesting. Throughout the book there is this idea that telephones may be the most intimate form of communication. There is no opportunity to judge someone by their looks, clothing, posture, location, etc. With the telephone you are only judging one another by their voice and the thoughts that they are communicating to you. Podcasts interestingly take this to another level as the listener cannot interject their voice but can only listen. Sitting and listening to someone else’s thoughts or conversations, without the ability to interrupt, is rather intimate and powerful. It forces you in some ways to consider another person’s perspective and hear the full extent of their argument. This can aid you in not only learning about and considering another person’s perspective, but it can also help you become more aware of how you feel about a topic. Listening to that podcaster speak are you upset and wishing you could debate with them or are you nodding your head enthusiastically in agreement? Recognizing those moments and identifying your personal opinion on a subject you may not have considered before can also be very rewarding. That is one of the major reasons I have become such a fan of podcasts.
Of course there are also utilitarian reasons that make me find podcasts to be appealing. I have a special type of hunger for education and learning. This is probably a side effect of being a millennial and living in the information age. Podcasts allow me to learn a great deal of information even when accomplishing other tasks. And on top of that I can accelerate the speed at which that information is piped directly into my ears. Music is, for the most part, restricted by time. Altering the speed of a song, while sometimes beautiful, is not typically how you are supposed to listen to music. With podcasts on the other hand you can increase the speed of playback and thus get through them at a speed you feel is appropriate. And that is part of why, in spite of my incredible love for music, I often listen to podcasts while working.
Thus far I’ve only answered one half of your question, which is the potential appeal to consumers. Those that are producing podcasts could have a myriad of reasons for doing so. Sometimes these are ideological reasons, sometimes they are entertainment reasons, and sometimes they are a combination of both. Let’s consider the amazing podcast Rocket on the Relay.FM network. It is hosted by three incredibly intelligent women who are all in some way concerned with how women’s voices are often unheard in technology. They are able to simultaneously spread their voice and thoughts on technology and culture while simultaneously having a great time and enjoying conversation with one another.
Then some other podcasters treat their shows as a way to help assemble their thoughts and arguments. John Gruber has often mentioned that his podcast, The Talk Show, has been a powerful platform to throw out ideas and see where they go before writing about them on his website Daring Fireball. And finally, you have some podcasters who are happy to produce their shows because they are powerful learning moments for themselves. I know each week I find myself learning something when I am preparing for an episode of All of the Above and/or when we are actually recording. So perhaps the appeal of creating podcasts is simply the diverse number of ways in which it can affect us and our listeners.
I hope that long, rambling, thought didn’t just bore all of your readers to sleep.
If my readers have not been run off by my prattling on about nonsense, I am positive that your cogent argument about the merits of creating and consuming podcasts will feed their intellectual pursuits in ways that, frankly, I cannot hope to scratch. I think we are seeing podcasts as a new democratization of content creation. Blogs were the first step. Good blogs garnered a good readership... so to with podcasts. Even though there are thousands upon thousands of podcasts out there waiting to be consumed, the good ones will accrete an audience and become desired content.
So, with so many podcasts that you actively listen to, your podcast listing has to be rather eclectic. I can only imagine the scope of interests that you have within the hours of content you regularly consume. Question 7: Is there a topic of interest to you that does not have a podcast associated with it? If not, what podcast caters to your most esoteric of your interests that you actually listen to?
The more I review the list of shows I am regularly engaged with the more I feel the audiences they appeal to are rather large. None of them seem to specialized outside of the show Philosophize This! That podcast does a wonderful job at looking at the history and evolution of philosophy. But most of them, even ones which claim to have a specific focus, often branch out.
What I would love to see are some shows devoted to World Literatures and Translation Studies. Nothing I have seen out there seems to hit those subjects very well, if at all. Of course, with there being hundreds of thousands of podcasts, I sometimes wonder if there are shows that discuss these ideas and I just cannot find them. Additionally, my field of instructional design is barely discussed, and the shows on it are not of the greatest caliber. That’s part of why I’m so happy when we do solo episodes on All of the Above and I can get more specific with it. I would still love for there to be some high caliber shows devoted to instructional design, educational technologies, and learning theories though.
Well, it looks like you know what the next bit of content you are going to create will be. You just need to find another voice to bounce ideas off of. I'll listen... I find instructional design very fascinating.
You are crazy thoughtful and very deep, even your cake v pie answer was introspective. Let's lighten this up a bit. Question 8: Is there a part of pop culture that you cannot help but consume?
Growing up I was always a fan of my superhero stories from comics to cartoons to movies. That's remained with me to this day. I'm also a fan of Game of Thrones. At least up until the end of this last season. I'm running out of characters to care about. And lastly I will admit my undying love for Anna Kendrick and Pitch Perfect as well as my fondness for Taylor Swift's record 1989.
I read the first 200 pages of A Game of Thrones... and I put the book down because none of the characters were likable. Every single character was terrible, and I just did not care what happened to any of them. That is actually an issue for me at the moment. I actually had a discussion about this with on another 20 Questions I am doing right now. (/EDITOR'S NOTE: See 20 Questions Tuesday: 326 - Cobra Commander/) Most of the really well-made TV right now are incredibly complex stories with very flawed characters who are questionably likable. There are enough unlikable people in the real world, my fantasy worlds need to be populated with at least 1 or 2 characters that are likable and I can root for. I have not listened to 1989 yet, but I hear good things... I am tempted to download it and give it a go.
So, I have interviewed some hosts from some massively popular niche podcasts. These people either have large-broad based or smaller extremely involved audiences. One of the questions I have enjoyed asking those people has been about the disparity between the amount of intimacy between themselves and their audiences. The audiences know significantly more about the podcasters than the podcasters could possibly know about them. Since you are the host of a relatively young podcast that has not yet hit that type of notoriety... Question 9: When "All of the Above" and your forthcoming "instructional design" podcast (which I have named "Can I See Your ID Please" in my head) hit it big, how do you think you will deal with the disparity of those levels of intimacy? Basically, what do you think about the disparity between how much audience members know about podcasters and how audiences often think of the podcasters as "friends" even though they have never had an interpersonal dialog with those hosts? Did that make any sense?
This is a question that they actually try and tackle at a few points on the aforementioned Analog(u)e. Podcasts are interesting in that fans of a podcast are often much more passionate than fans of most other mediums. Certainly you have your devoted fans in all means of communication, but podcasts seem to draw a unique form of ardor. This is probably due in part to the fact that on a podcast our personalities and opinions are presented in all their glory. And if you’re willing to hear my thoughts piped directly into your ears each week than that’s a huge honor and privilege for me. However, as you have pointed out it is quite one-sided in that I don’t get to hear the audiences response unless they reach out. If the show grows to a size where we get an endless supply of responses than we may not be able to keep up.
I’m not entirely sure if there is a best strategy for how to handle that. I adore the fact that we have as many listeners as we do and am humbled that they believe the thoughts we present on the show are worth showing up for each week. If that many people showed up in person each week just to hear me talk I would be completely overwhelmed. So as our show continues to grow I only hope that Sean, Sam and I will show that same level of respect back to our audience. We may never get to know them as intimately as they know us due to the nature of the medium. In spite of that we will still respect and appreciate that they take the time to listen. Most importantly we will keep looking for ways to get to know our audience. That could be through discussions by email, twitter, or any other method of communication. Sean is always testing new platforms to see how they work and if they could be beneficial.
We also take feedback very seriously. At the end of each episode we direct people to get in touch by going to www.alloftheabove.audio/contact and that is not just for kicks and giggles. When I talk with the guys about the show we frequently question if there is something we could be doing better. Even the very format of the show gets questioned regularly. We consider any feedback we have received in those discussions. I think listening to and honestly considering feedback is one of the best ways to show respect. Maintaining that perspective on feedback is something I feel will be critical as the show grows. We may not get to know the audience in the way they know us, but we will listen to their feedback in the same way we would if they were our friends.
After having written all of that I’m still not sure I’m even close to fully displaying my thoughts on that disparity. The TL;DR is that I find it incredibly humbling, but I also feel it is important to find ways to close the gap. A gap may always exist, but I respect the audience too much to not try and make it a little bit smaller.
I think it is valuable to take into account constructive criticism, it s too bad most internet comments devolve into non-constructive epithets.
Question 10: Fill in the blanks: I find that I am mostly _____. Others find that I am mostly ______.
This took me a bit of time but I got a few responses. So I find that I am mostly calm. Others find that I am mostly chill and articulate.
If I were asked the second portion about you, I would add "insightful." It is very telling that your answer of "calm" matches very well with others's answers of "chill."
So, in a 20 Questions I did with the French podcaster, Patrick Beja, we stumbled upon this profound and simple question that I try to shoe-horn into every 20 Questions now. Question 11: Are you happy?
I come with a family history of mental illness and many of my own personal challenges with mental health, so this remains one of the most difficult questions to answer. Am I happy? At the moment I would be more inclined to say yes. But this question always sends me through a series of mental tangents in which I question what exactly we mean by happiness. Kierkegaard is oft quoted as saying, “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair” (I cannot recall if or where this was written, but it is most likely in The Sickness Unto Death). That is an incredibly painful perspective to take on happiness, but one I have been able to relate to at times.
Another perspective is that happiness is simply a state of satisfaction or contentedness. When defined that way happiness seems like a much easier thing to obtain than the artists and poets of the world would suggest.
But, I will avoid writing a treatise on happiness as that is best left to philosophers, psychologists, and poets. To answer your question, I think I am happy. And I’m okay with not knowing for sure. Although, since we started this series of questions, we have decided to take a hiatus on All of the Above. So that’s got me a bit bummed out.
Happiness is sometimes a fleeting gossamer fog that is just outside of our grasp, but others can be seen obscured by the fog... The interesting thing about fog though is that it always seems like the fog is out of reach, but, in truth, it is completely enveloping you. I think happiness is like that... it is always around you, but you have to change your perspective to recognize it.
I am a bit bummed that "All of the Above" has called it a day, but it is understandable. The interesting thing about this interview format is that many parts of life can happen between Question 20 and Question 1. I have had someone find out they were going to have a baby, I have had someone get a new job, I have had someone have to deal with a family crisis on a separate continent.
Question 12: What is one change in your current existence that you would like to see in place by the time we get to Question 20?
Assuming we will get around to question 20 by the end of the year, I am hoping to have found a more healthy schedule for my life. Over the past two years I have been working on my Master’s degree, working full time, and tackling a variety of projects. This has left me with a sometimes chaotic and exhausting schedule. In turn I’ve not been able to do quite as much of other activities that I love or get the exercise that I need. I’d like to change that so I am more regularly exercising and getting back to doing some of the things that fill my soul with joy.
We will get around to 20. I always do.
So, here we are at Question 13. Only 7 left after this one. That's manageable, right?
Question 13: Do you have any superstitions or rituals that get you through the day, week, month, or year?
I’ve been trying to think about what I would call a superstition or a ritual rather than just a habit. I have some compulsive tendencies such as the fact that I will almost never step on a metal object on the ground. I wouldn’t necessarily call that a superstition or a ritual, though. It is more of a psychological peculiarity. I do try to spend some time in silence everyday as a form of prayer and reflection. This mostly stems from the fact that I identify with the quaker faith, and am rather fond of the idea of unprogrammed worship. See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers#Unprogrammed_worship. That time of silence can be incredibly balancing and can keep me going through some of the toughest times.
I think silence as a form of prayer and reflection would fall under the category of ritual. I do not have any ritualistic things in my life right now, and I feel that I am the worse for it. When I turned away from religious things (for various reasons of which I will not go into today) there definitely was a void in my activities that has not quite been filled since that time. I think meditation is in my future, I just need to figure out how I am willing to do it.
So, since we started this process your All of the Above podcast has come to a resting place. It has gone kaput. Question 14: Do you see yourself jumping into a different podcast that did not involve the coordination of 3 busy schedules?
I definitely see myself jumping into an other podcast, but it may wait until I am wrapped up with my Master’s program (and possibly that PhD I may pursue). Some ideas I have may have me running solo, or if I work with a cohost it might be more of a fortnightly event. I have a pretty big love for podcasting so there will always be an itch to put something together.
I think you are definitely cut out to be doing podcasts. You can allow space within a podcast that allow ideas to breath, but you also are not afraid to fill the space if you need to. Those are good qualities to have for a podcaster.
Also, "fortnightly" is an awesome word, and deserves comment. Well done, good sir. There are a myriad of delightful words out there that are not in daily use anymore. Question 15: What is another word that you think needs to be reinvigorated in daily vernacular?
I view your comments on my ability to keep a show moving as a big compliment. Thank you. Hopefully I can continue to improve those with another show in the future.
Fortnightly is definitely a word that needs more attention. I used to keep a journal that I just filled with words that I was fond of, which is something I need to get back to doing. Some of my favorites are not even english, such as saudade, cafuné, wabi-sabi, and the untranslatable Russian word, Тоска. As for an English word that I would like to see jolted with some new energy, I’d have to say "defenestration." Table flipping has taken over as a way to communicate frustration, thanks to emoji like this one: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻. But the idea of throwing something out of a window in frustration is begging for a revival.
I imagine that there is not much call for the use of "defenestration" now that we have indoor plumbing. I think that one might be more difficult to reintroduce to the everyday vernacular. The word "whilst" is the one I want to see used more often.
Question 16: Was there a question you were expecting from me that I have not asked? If so, what is it?
I’m wondering if we have different definitions of defenestration. I am referring to the act of throwing something or someone out of the window. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defenestration
I’m not sure there are any questions I expected that you have not asked. I have also recently started trying to approach life in a manner that could be called "Ex Tempore."
This is pure speculation from my noggin. I think the word "defenestration," being as highly specific as it is, has to date back to a very specific usage of the word. The only timeframe that I can think of where there was a preponderance of things being thrown out of windows on the regular would be the middle ages when people basically threw their waste out of their window. Most often this was the pitching of refuse into the streets. I would imagine that the "Defenestration of Prague" happened as a play on the term defenestration that was commonly associated with the liberation of refuse out of the window thus calling the seven city officials the equivalent of human refuse sent out of the window. Again, this is purely my supposition.
Being present is always a laudable goal. I would say through this conversation that I would definitely consider this to be a very present conversation. Even though this has taken some time to happen, I think it has been very present and enjoyable.
I know this is a bizarre question, but Question 17: when you close your eyes, what image pops in your head?
This is an interesting suggestion on the etymology of defenestration. We should contact the Allusionist Podcast to see if we can get a good history of the word.
At the moment I am, to the surprise of no one, currently listening to a podcast. And I happen to have a bit of synesthesia that brings about visual flickers of color when I hear spoken words. Thus when I close my eyes it is just a flurry of colors since I am listening to a show at 2X speed. But before I closed my eyes the first image that popped into my head upon reading that question was of Chicago’s skyline.
I am currently binge listening to "The British History Podcast" so my initial imagery that comes to mind is all about Celts with wild hair covered in Woad hurling curses at the Roman 7th. I lead an exciting life.
It is time time to turn the tables... Question 18: Do you have any questions for me?
That is quite the scene to imagine. I will have to get around to listening to that show.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
The best advice I have ever been given is from my Mother-in-Law: "Don't let the fuckers get you down." It is most definitely words to live by. Fuckers want to bring you down, but we should not let them.
Question 19: What are you taking from these 20 Questions that you did not bring with you?
A better understanding of myself out of this. The choice of questions somebody picks can tell you a lot about them (so I’ve also developed a better understanding of you), and trying to answer those questions can, of course, tell you a lot about yourself. As Heraclitus pointed out, the world, including ourselves, are in a constant state of flux. Answering questions, even ones you have answered before, can help you understand just who you are today and where you’ve been.
Anytime I can help with overall understanding of oneself, I consider it a win.
Question 20: What's next? Be as concrete or as vague as you would like. Be as short-term or as long-term as you would like. Be as philosophical or grounded as you would like.
My very short answer to the final question is below:
Bryan is such a great guy. These 20 Questions are quite possibly one of my favorite due to the high level of introspection he brings to the table. His answers made me think about myself in ways I have not introspected since I was in therapy on the regular.
Fall season premires are starting up again
So all is well in the TV landscape
I need to draw more
I now have an About.me page
Also an online UXD Portfolio
UXD jobs here I come
The wife is going to be doing some webinars on how to make meetings effective
She is the awesomest... awesomiest... most awesome
My arm finally is not bothering me when I sleep
and I actually rode my bike for a bit this weekend
I have also been running on th treadmill
Running on the treadmill and watching bad action movies
The Dwayne Johnson Hercules movie wasn't half bad
Wasn't half good
I would say a 1/4, 1/3 good and 5/12 meh
That adds up to one right?
Heuristically that measures "meh"
Have a great week everyone