My guest is the producer of all 100 episodes, Karn Broad. Karn is my creative partner in the show, but if he does his job well, you never think about it. This episode really gives you a sense of the rapport than Karn and I have, and how we work together every week to produce Community Signal. Plus:
- How Karn and I met
- Why I ended the first community management podcast that I hosted
- The process of creating the show each week
Our Podcast is Made Possible By…
If you enjoy our show, please know that it’s only possible with the generous support of our sponsor: Higher Logic.
“If you do your job really well as a sound engineer, you almost become invisible. If that’s the right way to put it. People don’t think about you if you’re getting your job right. Same in live sound engineering. You’ve connected the audience to the live music, they’re not thinking about you at all.” -@WebKarnage
“I don’t think about my job as a sound engineer while I’m playing [music] much because I’ve got to focus on being a player. Otherwise, the job I’m doing isn’t going to be 100%.” -@WebKarnage
“It’s still not a shock if I’ve done six or seven hours of editing work on a podcast, maybe more. That can happen some weeks. It really depends on how it all clicks. Sometimes I can pull things together really quickly. Sometimes the episodes are long and I find the editing tricky. Some people that you think are going to be awkward for me, actually prove to be quite easy. People that tend to leave pauses, you can take the pauses out; with a blink, they are gone.” -@WebKarnage
“One of the things that makes me happy … is that a lot of people we have on are first-timers to a podcast. Out of 100 episodes, we’ve had 98 unique guests. I really want to do a survey but I would hazard a guess that for 30-45% of those people, [Community Signal is] the first podcast they’ve ever been a guest on. I always thought that’s pretty cool. What I’m saying is, we don’t go after influential people. I don’t go after people who have Twitter followers. I just want people who I actually want to talk to.” -@patrickokeefe
About Karn Broad
Amongst a large variety of work, Karn Broad has spent over 20 years in the audio world, and has been involved in web design for over 10 years, making websites for small businesses and working in software support for a web design package called RapidWeaver for Realmac Software. He spent several years as the producer of the SitePoint Podcast, which is where we met and built our working relationship.
His direct experience in community is as a user of several forums and as a moderator for the RapidWeaver user forums.
Currently, in addition to producing Community Signal, Karn works in education with children that have specific learning needs, plays bass (sometimes double-bass, sometimes electric bass) in three different live bands, and teaches both guitar and music production. He likes things busy.
- Sponsor: Higher Logic, the community platform for community managers
- Karn Broad on Twitter
- The first episode of Community Signal
- The Social Element, Higher Logic and Open Social, companies who have sponsored the show
- Tamara Littleton, CEO of The Social Element
- Hunter Montgomery, CMO of Higher Logic
- Mieszko Czyzyk, director and co-founder of Open Social
- RapidWeaver for Realmac, where Karn provides software support
- The SitePoint Podcast, where Karn and Patrick met
- The Podcast Network, where Patrick previously hosted The Community Admin Show
- Brad Williams, Stephan Segraves and Kevin Yank, co-hosts of the SitePoint Podcast
- Karn’s go-to podcasts include Click and the Royal Society
- SitePoint wins Podcast of the Year award from .net magazine
- Trivia: All episodes of Community Signal have been recorded on Skype, except for this one and this one
- Total Recorder, an application Patrick uses to record audio for the show
- Soundtrack Pro and Logic Pro X are software tools that Karn uses to produce Community Signal
- Alex Embry’s episode clocks in at the longest episode of Community Signal
- KarateForums.com, a forum that Patrick has moderated for going on 17 years
- Community Signal bonus clips
- CommunityCo, where Patrick recently started a new role
- GoTranscript, which we use for transcription
[00:00:04] Announcer: You’re listening to Community Signal, the podcast for online community professionals. Sponsored by Higher Logic, the community platform for community managers. Tweet with @communitysignal as you listen. Here’s your host, Patrick O’Keefe.
[00:00:24] Patrick O’Keefe: Happy New Year and welcome to episode number 100 of Community Signal. We are not really going to talk about community management this week, instead, we’re going to discuss the origins of the show and how we make it with my producer, Karn Broad. It can be a grind to produce a show that we’re really proud of every week. It’s easy to get lost in just getting the episodes done, and not really be able to take a step back and look at the whole.
Our first show was on December 7th, 2015. This show will be released on January 1st, 2018. We’ll have had 98 unique guests, everyone from people who started a few years ago and are doing great work, to legends of our profession who helped pave the way. Thank you to everyone who has supported the show by sharing it, saying that it helped you, or offering a kind word. You might think because I’ve managed communities for coming up on 20 years and because I’ve written books and hosted a lot of podcast episodes, and done all these things that one more tweet or one more message from a listener might not mean anything. In reality, it’s what keeps us going.
I don’t create in a vacuum, I create to move this profession forward. Much of my work is in service of that goal, from this podcast, to my own job search, to how I negotiated my contract with my employer, I want to move us forward. When someone tells me that my work creates value for them, that it helps them in their job, that it helped them advance their career, that means everything and it provides a boost to my day because I have ups and downs like everyone else.
Thank you to all of our regular listeners and subscribers. Thank you to our supporters on Patreon including Carol Benovic-Bradley, Dave Gertler, and Serena Snoad. If you like to become a supporter of our show or Patreon, please visit communitysignal.com/innercircle. Thank you to all of our guests who have been so generous and candid with their knowledge and perspectives. Thank you to the companies that have sponsored our program, the Social Element, Higher Logic who is the sponsor of this episode and Open Social. They allow me to pay Karn and the services that we use to make it all happen.
Like any industry, the integrity of the community space is threatened by money. I’ve turned away five figures from sponsors who wanted to change the program, wanted input into it, demanded that we put their CEO on it. As professionals, we need fiercely independent resources who stand for us, not for the companies that serve us and I try to be one of them. I’m grateful that we have had sponsors that understood and encouraged that independence. Thank you to Tamara Littleton at the Social Element, Hunter Montgomery at Higher Logic and Mieszko Czyzyk at Open Social for doing so.
My guest this week is Community Signal’s producer, Karn Broad. Amongst a large variety of work, Karn has spent over 20 years in the audio world and has been involved in web design for over 10 years, making websites for small businesses and working in software support for a web design package called RapidWeaver for Realmac software.
He spent several years as the producer of the SitePoint podcast which is where we met and built our working relationship. His direct experience in community is as a user of several forums and as a moderator for the RapidWeaver user forums. Currently, in addition to producing Community Signal, Karn works in education with children that have specific learning needs, plays bass, sometimes double bass, sometimes electric bass in three different live bands and teaches both guitar and music production. He likes things busy.
We have released more than seven gigabytes of mp3 files, almost 60 hours of audio, and all of it has been produced by my friend Karn Broad. Karn, welcome to the show.
[00:03:47] Karn Broad: Thank you for having me on for this hundredth episode, Patrick. It’s brilliant to be here.
[00:03:53] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, this is really different. We were just talking before we hit record and the last time that we spoke over a phone or Skype was five years or so ago when we ended the last podcast that we did together. We literally never speak to each other over the phone, or over Skype, it’s all through email. I thought that was funny.
[00:04:15] Karn Broad: Yes. I must be much more familiar with the sound of your voice than you are familiar with the sound of mine.
[00:04:20] Patrick O’Keefe: Unfortunately, you have to listen to mine a lot. Sorry about that.
[00:04:24] Karn Broad: No problem.
[00:04:25] Patrick O’Keefe: You’re used to taking the audio that I send you and then making the show. Is this weird to you?
[00:04:32] Karn Broad: I suppose not anymore given how long I’ve been doing it because, obviously, as you say, five years ago we ended several years together on the SitePoint podcast with me as producer there. That was often more separate audio files, I should say, that I was piecing together, cleaning up independently. Again, trying to make them sound like a conversation even if they’d all been recorded in different countries, let alone just different locations.
[00:04:59] Patrick O’Keefe: For those listening, Karn is really my creative partner in this show. I’ve been fortunate to have Karn and to have met him during my SitePoint podcast days which allowed me to build up a unique level of trust where I can simply send him my rough audio cuts and have full faith in his ear and talents to where I simply know he will do a great job. A lot of podcast hosts want that, but don’t have it.
Before we get started, Karn, thank you for all of your work behind the scenes where people really only notice if you mess up and everything that you bring to the show. I really appreciate it.
[00:05:32] Karn Broad: Oh Patrick, I love working with people that are committed as you are to what you do. You are very professional to work with, I find that very easy. You are always careful if anything, to overcommunicate rather than under-communicate which I entirely agree with you is how things can be made to work more consistently and more smoothly. It works beautifully from my end too.
[00:05:55] Patrick O’Keefe: Thank you, Karn. We can move past mutual admiration society. On this episode, we’ll talk mostly about the show but I also want to give people a sense of you. Talk a little bit about your audio production background. Where does it start, how do you get from point a to editing audio for a podcast?
[00:06:11] Karn Broad: My initial foray, if you like, into sound editing was through being a musician. I’ve also got a degree in medical physics so I’m very much the scientist side which obviously lends itself to being an audio engineer, having done hearing acoustics. I got very interested very quickly when I became a guitarist and bass player into the sound side and a lot of equipment. I suppose my first forays into sound were more in the live sound arena.
Then I started doing studio work when I worked in a big music shop. I ended up managing one of the large music shops in the UK, that is in Brighton for about seven years. I was the retail manager and I met a lot of people through there. One of them being a producer who does lots of different styles in music and he got me involved in everything from doing four albums of African music to going with him to America, to Arizona, to record a Native American Indian who’s an incredible musician. All sorts of things, classical, choral work.
I’ve engineered on so many types of music as well as restoring old recordings even, things likes Elvis Presley and other classic early country artists, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, people like this. We did a whole series that were remasters that ended up going to Walmart in Canada. I’ve done all sorts of different sound engineering and then I was a fan of the SitePoint podcast because I was into web design. The producer had also owned a music shop and I had done the website for him, for that music shop. I listened to the SitePoint podcast, enjoyed it, and then suddenly there was a call out from Kevin Yank at the time I believe it was.
[00:08:00] Patrick O’Keefe: Sounds right.
[00:08:00] Karn Broad: About, “We don’t know what’s happened to our podcast producer.” I can’t remember why Carl had to go quiet for a short while, Carl Longnecker, but he’d had to go quiet and so he put a call out and I answered that call and said, “Yes, I’m both audio engineer and fan of the show, let’s get it on.” Then Carl and I started sharing episodes and after a while Carl got too busy and I did all the episodes.
[00:08:28] Patrick O’Keefe: When I tell people that I have a producer who does the show, I often say he does real audio [laughs]. I don’t know why I feel I have to say that, podcasts are real; but it’s like you talk about the studio work, you are talking about making actual music, recording vocals, mastering, mixing, all the things that go into making music and I have always thought it’s cool to have someone with that understanding of audio production working on my podcast. I don’t want to slander people who don’t have that background so they can’t be great podcast producers, but how does that background help you make a better sounding podcast?
[00:09:04] Karn Broad: Certainly my experience in the restoration side of things can help with regards to improving the actual noise level, tonal balance, various other things particularly if we get the audio from a guest who you are recording purely via Skype or…
[00:09:24] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes. Which is always the case.
[00:09:27] Karn Broad: Yes. I used to get very different sounding audio from the different people at SitePoint because they each not just had different voices but different microphones and different environments, so you are trying to balance that up a little bit. Your microphone will be slightly brighter than Louis or you would tweak and change the EQ and stuff to make it sound like people who are in a consistent environment as you can, trying to make you sound like somebody else but you are trying to compensate to some degree to make things sound coherent, I think, is the best word I can use in that sense. You’re really trying to even things out so the listener doesn’t even think about how it was recorded, where it was recorded. They’re just there is a room thinking there are two people talking to each other, and they’re not really thinking about the thousand miles between them or whatever else it is. It’s just a conversation that they’re listening to. If you do your job really well as a sound engineer, you almost become invisible. If that’s the right way to put it. People don’t think about you if you’re getting your job right. Same in live sound engineering. You’ve connected the audience to the live music, they’re not thinking about you at all.
[00:10:43] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, that’s a good way to put it. Like I mentioned at the start, no one notices the work you do unless something sounds wrong. If the podcast sounds great, it sounds great. I think there are people out there who say, “Well, this show must be well produced.” But for the most part it’s people noticing, just like you say a live show, like if the mic doesn’t sound right or the mic’s not loud enough people say, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with that?” Otherwise, they don’t really focus on that at all. It’s strictly on their performance.
[00:11:08] Karn Broad: Yes, definitely. It’s very easy when you’ve been inside production for a long time to start picking things out even when you almost don’t really want to, you actually just want to sit and enjoy something but your brain goes, “Oh, they forgot this.” Or, “Oh, they’ve done that there.” It can have a negative effect on your ability to enjoy certain things when you hear– I even do it with TV programs. I’m like, “Oh look, they’ve done that there.”
[00:11:35] Patrick O’Keefe: [laughs]
[00:11:35] Karn Broad: My family are like, “What?” And I’ll rewind it. My son’s quite interested because he, not being a musician like me, he’s more into the acting side of things and he’s looking to go either into filmmaking or acting. He’s quite interested in the TV side of things from that perspective, but not so much from the musical perspective. The music is still very strong in my life, I’m in three live bands. I work in a school and I also am helping to run the band for, they’re doing a production of We Will Rock You. Written by Ben Elton and we’re using Queen’s music.
It’s quite a fun show but it’s quite a thing for a secondary school to take on. They’re even doing it in one of the local theaters with a full band in the pit, the whole lot. It’s going to be quite interesting to see how that comes out, but the head of music is like, “Ah, I’ve got you now. Brilliant, you can do this.” “Okay, well, no problem.”
[00:12:33] Patrick O’Keefe: Speaking of enjoying things, you said you found the SitePoint Podcast and that’s how we met because you listened to it, right? You enjoyed it. Do you still listen to and enjoy podcasts, or has it just become a job for you having work on the show?
[00:12:45] Karn Broad: There are a few that I listen to. I don’t listen to many in the web-world other than Erwin. I quite enjoy the detail that you get from the different guests, whether it’s maybe looking at the technical side and the software side of things, or going really completely what feels like the opposite direction where you’re talking about charities, dealing with people who’ve lost people or who are possibly going to lose people, and about that side of online community.
Most of the podcasts I do listen to are things like science podcasts, there’s a few on music occasionally, but it is mostly things that are to do with either technology or science. BBC’s Click occasionally, something from the Royal Society, which is also a lot of science type stuff. I go for things like that, but not too many podcast. Usually, I’ve got so much music to do. I’m listening to something. I’m probably listening to a piece of music that I’ve got to work on.
[00:13:50] Patrick O’Keefe: Let’s take a pause on this episode to talk about our excellent sponsor, Higher Logic.
Higher Logic is the community platform for community managers with over 25 million engaged users in more than 200,000 communities. Organizations worldwide use Higher Logic to bring like-minded people together by giving their community a home where they can meet, share ideas and stay connected. The platform’s granular permissions and powerful tools, including automated workflows and consolidated email digests, empower users to create their own interest-based communities, schedule and manage events, and participate in volunteer and mentoring programs. Tap into the power your community can generate for you. Higher Logic, all together.
I want to go back a little further, even further than us meeting, kind of into the history of the show.
I’ve realized today that 2018 will be 20 years that I’ve been involved in community starting moderating in September of 1998 for another community, so that’s how I did it. That’s 20 years if you want to go way back, but the real start of podcasting in community was back in 2005. Before we met, I hosted the Community Admin Show, which was a podcast much like this one, that was hosted on the podcast network. Oddly enough, it was also with the company that was based in Australia like SitePoint was, the Podcast Network, Cameron Reilly, was based in Australia.
It ran for 26 or so episodes. Just like this show, it was based largely on experiences and stories and people talking about the things they have dealt with themselves. Specific circumstances that we’ve made anonymous by removing personally identifiable information and then we discuss them. There was someone who thought that we were talking about them and they complained to The Podcast Network. The Podcast Network made the choice, despite my disagreement, to edit that episode of the show after it had already been out and then we rerelease it.
It was literally like, this person came in, they posted some spam for a forum that was related to ours and then we banned them. That was the story. It wasn’t like somebody…You would have to be that person to think it was you, no one’s going to pick it up. There was no issue, but, I ended the show shortly thereafter because if a band member can complain that we’re supposedly talking about them and have content remove from the show then we really have no show [laughs]. A lot of the stuff we talk about is about managing communities, so I stopped.
Flash forward to 2008. I’ve been a member of SitePoint forums at that time for eight years, and a member of the staff for more than seven. Brad Williams’ a friend and previous guest on Community Signal, started a thread in the staff section, asking if anyone was interested in doing a podcast. Another friend of mine, Stephan Segraves, said he was interested. Then I jumped in and then Kevin Yank, who you mentioned earlier, joined us after we recorded the pilot. He joined us for episode one. Then, I had forgotten how you got involved but you explained that earlier.
There was a call out, because I know Carl Longnecker, who I’m friends with on Facebook too, I think, was the original producer. Then you both alternated. That lasted for the shows entire run or more? You took over at some point, right?
[00:16:49] Karn Broad: Yes. I was doing all of them because Carl got busy, I can’t remember what it was with. Carl got very busy at one point and asked would I mind taking them, I said, “Yes, it’s fine for me at the moment.”
[00:16:59] Patrick O’Keefe: That was the first podcast you had produced, right?
[00:17:02] Karn Broad: Yes. A lot of audio experience before that but podcast-wise, yes, that was the first one that I’d actually produced.
[00:17:09] Patrick O’Keefe: Is producing a podcast easier then in the past? It seems like it would be. It’s not like there’s more things going on. I guess in some ways, there’s less that’s in your control. When you’re in a studio, you can control a lot of things and that makes it easier in some ways and harder than others. Is it easier or harder to do a podcast?
[00:17:25] Karn Broad: That’s a tricky question because some of the things are tricky where if I was in there, I would have said, “Oh, can you re-say that or re-do that for me, please?” Because I would know that’s going to be a nightmare to edit, and somebody who’s doing it wouldn’t know that. Sometimes I do get some very tricky parts to edit where you’re realizing that they multi said little bits of sentence here and there, and you can’t just take two little bits out and it becomes a coherent sentence. You’ve got to do quite a lot of tricky chopping to suddenly make something that sounds like they said in one go.
When some people will restart the sentence, um’s and oh’s aren’t too difficult to take out but when people repeat parts of sentences and parts of phrases and overlap, then you can end up with one sentence having 10 edits in it or 12 edits in it.
[00:18:22] Patrick O’Keefe: Are you listening to me right now, thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m going to have to work hard on that bit.” [laughs]
[00:18:29] Karn Broad: No. I’m busy listening to what we need to do now. I’ve got to be focused on this and not on that. I’m used to doing that from being a player. I don’t think about my job as a sound engineer while I’m playing too much because I’ve got to focus on being a player. Otherwise, the job I’m doing isn’t going to be 100%. It’s not going to be on the money. I’m not really thinking about it from that sense. There are a few interesting things I’ve noticed. I think one little thing that you may not have noticed occasionally is you tend to pick up very subtlety on people’s speech patterns, and put subtle hints of them into your own. It’s a form of making people comfortable. I think it’s one of the things that actually makes you work so well as a host but it’s quite interesting, it’s like, “Yes, Patrick wouldn’t normally do that but he’s doing it because they do it a lot more.”
[00:19:23] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s really interesting. I never even thought of that. It’s so interesting hearing you mention that. I guess it may be something I might do subconsciously.
[00:19:29] Karn Broad: Yes. I think it’s something you’ve learned from the real world about how to make people feel comfortable and how to make people feel at home, and you’re merely doing the same thing when you’re recording a podcast. That’s quite interesting. Again, it’s one of those things that I don’t think I would pick up on if I hadn’t done this for quite some time with one person as well. I don’t think if I was editing different interviewers and interviewees week in, week out, there’s no way you pick that sort of thing up. I don’t think that everybody does it. It wasn’t something that was normal to all the guys in the SitePoint podcast that were hosts. It more typically would be done by yourself and Kevin Yank than the others. There we are. I’ve no idea why but there it is.
[00:20:18] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s really interesting.
[00:20:19] Karn Broad: Kevin is the one person out of all of you guys that’s why I point that out, that I actually met because he came to England because we won an award- [crosstalk]
[00:20:29] Patrick O’Keefe:: We did.
[00:20:28] Karn Broad: We picked it up. That was quite fun. It was a good evening.
[00:20:33] Patrick O’Keefe:: That was awesome. One day I’ll get to Australia and if they still have it in the office, at SitePoint, because there’s still a SitePoint office. I got to go and just pick it up and look at it myself. We won that .NET magazine award for Podcast of the Year. Whenever that was, years ago.
[00:20:47] Karn Broad: Yes, I can’t remember which year off the top of my head at all. I’d have to do some serious digging. I have all the emails still because I like that. That’s me. I have emails from back in the ’90s still. [laughs]
[00:21:00] Patrick O’Keefe:: Yes, I know. I have my emails too that came up. I’m going to mention an email that I sent to you. A little bit…I’m the same way.
In 2012, we stopped the SitePoint podcast. Long story but we wanted SitePoint to start selling ads for the show and to give us a sut or at least pay us for what they would pay for an article and they didn’t want to, so we drew that to a close.
For years, I had wanted to do another podcast about community management. Even before the SitePoint podcast started. In between the time that I stopped doing the first show and when the SitePoint podcast ended, I had released my first book. I had released the second book and I had been pretty active speaking at conferences and events about the subject and writing about the subject.
It only made sense but the time didn’t line up until 2015, despite wanting to be independent because of the story I just told, they basically edited the show despite me not wanting them to. I wanted independence when I started my next show. Despite that, I talked with someone that I respect about– I don’t think I’ve ever told you this. I talked to someone that I respect about launching a podcast as part of their growing network and their platform because they do have a substantial platform and were building out a podcast network.
It became clear that I would own 0% of it. Exactly 0%, and no more no less. When I figured that out I had flashbacks, and I decided not to do that. If I was going to do an independent show where I owned it, I knew that I wanted it to be polished and I knew that I wanted it to sound amazing. You and I hadn’t really spoken much since the SitePoint podcast ended. My handful of emails and Facebook posts, but, when I wanted to start the show I knew I had to have a producer and I only emailed one person. I emailed you on September 28th of 2015. What were your thoughts when I emailed you? Were you excited to just do a show again together, or what were you thinking about?
[00:22:53] Karn Broad: I was pleased. I missed the SitePoint podcasts. In a few ways, it’s nice to be thinking about online things because they are a massive part of everybody’s lives and I’d felt much more involved with it. Things had started to shift with my work. I had been doing a lot of support work for a software company that does software to build websites. I was working for Realmac Software here in Brighton in the UK. They do a Macintosh application called RapidWeaver. I was support for that. I was involved not just in the forum side of things. I’d been involved there for years before and we’ll touch on that I’m sure later. That was coming to a close and I’m like, “Yes, I’d still want to be involved in this area. Isn’t something I want to be disconnected from.” I particularly for some reason enjoyed the involvement with yourself and Kevin Yank, for whatever reason. I just felt that…
[00:23:54] Patrick O’Keefe:: I like that comment. For some reason. I don’t know why, but I just enjoyed it.
[00:24:00] Karn Broad: Yes. I felt like you two were the two guys that would work the way it would work in my head. That’s the best way I can describe it.
[00:24:08] Patrick O’Keefe:: Okay.
[00:24:09] Karn Broad: I really liked the other guys and Louis’ laugh was brilliant, is one of the things that did make us all laugh at the SitePoint podcast. He was fantastic. I just get a sense of certain people have a way of working and you and Kevin, I always felt had a similar way of working and it was a way that made sense to me. I liked when you did the live SitePoint podcast. It was you that did them, and you were very sleek and you were very good at making something happen.
That when you’re trying to do those things live, there more tricky to get right. You have to get your head right, you have to get that right and you were always on the case with it. When you asked me I was like, “Yes, that’s a guy I know I can work with, I felt good about that.” I was very flattered and proud that you’d ask me. Pleased that you’d ask me, and thought, “Yes, that’s something I want to be involved with.” Again, I feel that you want to make products of a certain quality. As you know, I’m Mr. Fussy, I might try and be perfect all the time, I might let things slip occasionally. You catch things and I catch things as we go through.
[00:25:21] Patrick O’Keefe: We have a pretty good record.
[00:25:23] Karn Broad: Yes, we are both trying to keep things to a consistently high standard that we don’t really have to tell each other about. If that makes sense.
[00:25:33] Patrick O’Keefe: It does make sense.
[00:25:34] Karn Broad: We know and we follow the same brief in that sense. That’s why I was keen to be involved when you said you wanted to do it. I thought, “Yes, that’ll be the sort of product I want to have my name slapped on.”
[00:25:47] Patrick O’Keefe: I was just as happy when you said yes. I only had to email one person, too. Karn was the first person I went to. I knew he was the one that I had the deepest sense of trust in. The SitePoint podcast, we say that but also just to give people a sense of the numbers of that. I think it ended around 180 something. Karn produced, by that point, more than half of those episodes of 180. You are looking at 90 plus, probably a hundred plus episodes at the end of the day, that Karn produced and I was on a substantial number of those, probably 60% to 80%. There were some interview shows I didn’t do. We had that built up rapport over a period of probably three years of Karn having worked on that show. That was just the person I wanted. Like I said, I sent one email, I got one producer and it all worked out. Let me flip this around. I know you like working on this show and everything. What’s the most challenging part of producing Community Signal? From your perspective, from the work you have to do. If there is something that I could change or something that we could change,
What is the thing that, I don’t know, doesn’t keep you up at night? What’s the challenging thing that you would point out?
[00:26:50] Karn Broad: I suppose it’s down to myself in some degrees. I want everybody to sound as good as they can possibly sound. I’m so used being a musician where if there’s a slight error, you take it out. I’m probably removing things that most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at, but I’m still taking them out. I’m making it sound like everybody says everything just the once whether they’ve repeated it a bit or not or anything. Some people’s speech patterns are harder to fit to my crazy goal that other people speech patterns. I’m not going to sit here and criticize them. They’re fantastically intelligent people talking about things. Their job is not to worry about my job.
[00:27:40] Patrick O’Keefe: That’s a positive outlook.
[00:27:41] Karn Broad: I don’t expect them to be worrying about my job, but sometimes I have to, if you like, flatten or reset the editing file every now and again and the software that I use because the number of edits just gets out of hand, in terms of quantity and everything. I’m going to have to look for a new piece of software soon because it was last updated in 2009, and is actually holding up for me updating the operating system on my Mac. I’ve not found anything that gives me the same flexibility. It means that, if I do change, I’m probably going to have to change the whole way I do the editing. I’m not looking forward to that. That is something that’s got a lot slicker over time.
It’s still not a shock if I’ve done six or seven of hours, editing work on a podcast, maybe more. That can happen some weeks. It really depends on how it all clicks. Sometimes I can pull things together really quickly. Sometimes the episodes are long and I find the editing tricky. Some people that you think are going to be awkward for me, actually prove to be quite easy. People that tend to leave pauses, you can take the pauses out, with a blink, they are gone.
It’s when you get this repeating thing. You don’t notice it when somebody is speaking like that to you. You don’t really notice it, to be honest with you because they are making sense. They are being coherent to you, but me being me, I’m still looking for that last 1% of getting everything right. It’s why you wanted to employ me and it’s also my Achilles heel at the same time.
[00:29:28] Patrick O’Keefe: As someone who has a really strong attention to detail, I sympathize with you. I have two thoughts, number one, that’s why I love you, your attention to detail. Number two, I don’t pay you enough for six or seven hours. Hopefully, one day I can [laughs]. To spend six or seven hours on it, I don’t pay enough for that so I definitely understand. I think the attention to detail comes out in the finished product. I appreciate it. That’s actually good segue to what I wanted to talk about. Sort of the, how the sausage gets made, for the show, because we pass it off. It starts on my end, I pass it off to you. You go away and work for a while on your end and then when you’re finished it gets passed back to me. I’ll start on my end of it. The workflow for this show has pretty much been the same since we launched it. I’m currently working on ways of making that more efficient and making it stronger editorially but right now, it’s the same as it was day one in December of 2015.
The first part of it is that I am regularly emailing people to book guests for the show. The tricky thing about doing that and this is really what makes the show fun for me, and I think also what makes it good is that I only speak to people I want to speak to. That might sound funny when I first say it but what I really mean is that I know a lot of people in this industry, including some very prominent ones. Anyone who’s got a big audience in the community space, I know them, I’ve talked to them for the most part. There are some people I just don’t want to talk to. [laughs] I just don’t want to talk to them. I’m not interested in having them on the show. I don’t think the conversation will be interesting. I don’t want to spotlight them, whatever it is. We don’t have an open call for guests. I don’t have people emailing me, I don’t have a form in the website, it’s not just that you have the title community manager and you can get on. We’re not looking for influential people.
One of the things that makes me happy, and I don’t know this affects editing actually but it probably isn’t good but it’s probably not that big a deal is that a lot of people we have on are first-timers to podcast, a lot. Out of a hundred episodes, we’ve had I think it was 98 unique guests because we’ve had a couple of repeat guests. I really want to do a survey but I would hazard a guess that 30-45% of those people we’re the first podcast they’ve ever been a guest on. I always thought that’s pretty cool. What I’m saying is, we don’t go after influential people. I don’t go after people who have Twitter followers. I just want people who I actually want to talk to. When someone agrees, we have a page on the website with background information on the show and details on the process and most importantly a questionnaire that I asked them to fill out. The questionnaire is really my attempt to get into their brain a little bit, and learn about the things they are perhaps not talking about in public.
The quality of our program is really impacted by the depth of the questionnaire responses. It kills me when people phone that in. I have had people who I had invited and then decided not to have on because they just sent me two words in the questionnaire; But with the questionnaire in hand, especially a good one, I take that and I combine it with my own research into the guest work and their background and current events and build out the basis, the bones of that episode of the show. Of course, a lot of it is impromptu, a lot of it just comes naturally out of conversion but I flesh out the structure of the show ahead of time. Then I book a time with that guest, we record on Skype. Trivia, all episodes of the show have been recorded on Skype except for one. The recent episode with Priscilla McClay was recorded on Google Hangout. I know the audio wasn’t as good as usual there, was it?
[00:32:45] Karn Broad: Yes, Google Hangout obviously tends to scores the audio a bit harder because I think their main thing is expecting lots of strings of audio, if I’m right, rather than anticipating most of the things being one-to-one.
[00:33:01] Patrick O’Keefe: That was actually a first. That was the first time at Google Hangout but thankfully the program we used to record, Total Recorder on Windows, is really good. Whatever you use, it swaps in so we don’t use a Skype-specific recorder. We used to. I used to use Panel up for a long time with the show and the Skype’s specific recorders, no matter what recorder you’re using, I don’t know, I never had a great experience with them so Total Recorder it’s just a solid program in my experience.
For a long time, I recorded the whole show with the guest, including the introduction and the ending; but more recently I have recorded those, and a fresh sponsor read in a separate audio clip and I export those clips as Wave files and upload them to Dropbox which we use for all of our files and also some collaboration. Then I sent the email at Karn and as I’ve said, I trust Karn to make it sound great and to make determinations on certain aspects of the show and the content that’s included and what gets cut; but in this email I’ll sometimes have specific notes or portions I would like to have removed, or problems I had, or just general observations. I send that email to you. What happens after that Karn?
[00:34:02] Karn Broad: My first thing is to take those separate bits that you’ve done in terms of the intro/outro and the sponsor’s ad and put those into the same file. I do that, I use Soundtrack Pro which is part of Final Cut Studio from years ago. I put it into that and I then look at de-noising everything, trying to get rid of the noise from the background of both your recording and from the channel that has come through Skype from the guest.
The reason I really want to de-noise it is because I like to use several passes sort of compression because I want the sound at the end to be very consistent in volume. When people are driving alone in a car, listening to it on public transport something like that, to catch every word. They do not have to blow their head off with the volume. They can be sure that the volume of the voices is going to be pretty consistent.
Problem with compression, the compressor effect is designed to keep the volume more consistent obviously given what I’ve just said, but it also brings up any quiet noise and it negates…that can supposedly, that’s supposed to turn it down or turn it off when it gets below a level but that becomes quite crude and very noticeable. If I de-noise it using Soundtrack Pro and then start working with it, I will de-noise it first, I’ll get some adjustment in volume levels of each part, soundtrack.
For example, I’m working on a stereo file but I can compress the left or the right side independently. I can process each side independent. That’s what makes that a great thing for me because I then just chop a little section out that I want. It chops it out of one, two, three or four channels immediately, all exactly the same so everything is staying in sync. Everything else I use they become separate tracks so you have to process them all the same, in which case you’re increasing your workload significantly. That’s why I’m worried about dropping Soundtrack Pro. Why I’m staying where I am at the moment, it makes that process easy for me.
I then go through, try and take out any strange things. You get lip smacks, that sort of thing. I’m going to have to leave that one in. I’ve got to be careful there, haven’t I? I’m going to go and take that out if I’m not careful. I think you have little pauses, a lot of things people do, and I take out to try and make them sound very convincing, very quick and not just that it gives people all the information in a smaller time span. It’s making the most efficient use of our listeners time. Even if people are considering something, I probably won’t leave the um’s and uh’s in, I probably won’t leave a long pause in. It might sound alright but again everyone seems to be quite busy these days. If I can get exactly the same content and very crisply into significantly less time, I’m going to do it. It’s not a surprise if I’m taking out one minute of every five in a podcast on average. I mean, you know how much time comes out because you know the length of audio you give me and how much comes back.
[00:37:28] Patrick O’Keefe: Right. I think that fits within because when I went back to the email when I emailed you the first time, I said I was thinking 20 to 30 minutes. That morphed into 30 and 40 as we did it but that’s where we really like to be, that 30 to 40 minutes sweet spot. I just pulled it up because I have a full history of the show, obviously, all the files, all the original files. Out of the first 99 episodes, only 16 are longer than 40 minutes. I have a feeling this one will fall just under as well once we’re probably in the 35-minute range, once we’re done. We’ve hit that 30 to 40 window or at least max 40, all but 16 times.
Those 16, 5 of them were 45 minutes or less. Our longest show ever was 53 minutes and 30 seconds, which was the show with my friend Alex Embry, the SWAT team commander outside Chicago, who was a moderator on the community that I managed, KarateForums.com. We really only had a few really long episodes. We’ve had a handful of ones that were under 30 but I’ve never found that to be a problem. A lot of podcasts look at half hour or 16 minutes, I don’t feel we need to go to an hour. I feel like an hour is such a long time.
[00:38:33] Karn Broad: Yes. I would say that’s pretty good. It is quite a long time on a very specific subject. It’s not like some of the podcasts will go through a series of news or might have five or six very different topics in an hour. That’s going to be a very different type of thing. You’re not talking on one quite focused area for an hour. I do remember the episode with the SWAT team commander but there wasn’t anything you’d want to take out of that episode.
We talked, why I say talked, we emailed about that but the content was so good it had to stay in. What he said was so interesting and related so clearly between experiences he has in the wider world and the online world and how the two mirror each other in certain ways.
[00:39:25] Patrick O’Keefe: For sure, it was. You’re cutting down the episodes, you’re getting them down timewise. You’re making sure they’re value-packed, we want to hit people with a lot of information in a short a time as we can. What next?
[00:39:34] Karn Broad: Then once I’ve got the basic sound, I then duplicate the file and then take out the other side. What I mean by that is I separate effectively you into one file and the guest into another. I then treat them again independently, particularly things like de-esser because when you use a lot of compression and Skype uses a huge amount of compression and limiting any software anyway, then you quite often get a lot of sibilances. A lot of [frequency sound] noises that you then have to try and control and that’s what de-esser does, it’s a compressor that is sensitive to those frequencies and squashes those frequencies. You’re treating things like that.
Then, I’ve got two independent mono files. I then have several presets in Logic Pro X which I drop those two files in. They have intro to both the music and the recorded intros and the outro. I know where to put the file in, I know what bar number it should start on, so I just drop it in. There’s a channel there with presets for you, channel in there with presets for the guest. You will have noticed if you listen to enough of the shows that Patrick is panned slightly to one side and the guest slightly to the other, to make it easy if they happen to have a back and forth overlaps for you to pick them out.
[00:41:00] Patrick O’Keefe: It’s funny you mention that because I wonder if a lot of people hearing that now will say, “Oh, I didn’t notice that.”
[00:41:05] Karn Broad: It’s subtle, but I know, again, from my medical physics background that it makes a massive difference if you had to pick two independent sounds sources out. If they’re not stereoscopically in the same place, your brain can separate them significantly better and is one of the things we learned back in the hearing and everything that we did back then so I use that again to my benefit to separate out the left and right side.
It’s not dramatic, it’s not hard pan because I think that’s quite hard wearing to listen to particularly on headphones. Whereas, if it’s panned slightly one side and slightly the other. You’ll notice a lot of very good radio stations do exactly the same thing. They’ll have their host on one side and the guest will be slightly panned to the other. It’s a fairly normal thing to do and there are reasons for it, as we’ve just said.
This then puts everything into place. I then just move the outro to line up with where the end of the interview ends up and then do a flow and, if you like, pass out of that. Interestingly, occasionally, we get an odd one where…because I’ll listen to it in the software and I’ll usually listen to it in the file afterwards. Sometimes, the things that I use to listen do a really subtle fade in, sometimes not in others so I’ll miss a funny noise at the beginning, you’ve caught a couple of times. I have had to change the presets to avoid that a little bit as well.
I have a preset for the show, one for each sponsor. I have one for no sponsor, and I also have one for those shorter bits that we deliver for the wonderful people that support us on Patreon that we deliver to them the bonus clips as a separate one for that where we just have a very short intro and outro bit of music just to, I suppose, put our little signature into it. I just felt that the idea was worth putting your way when we talked about doing the bonus clips because I felt it then made them sound like they were part of the show, and yet a listener decided, “Yes, what works for me too. Let’s do it.’’ I suppose, it’s an audio logo, isn’t it? It’s for all of a better description.
[00:43:20] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, it brings people back to the show, right?
[00:43:23] Karn Broad: Yes. Then those files once they’re out, we’ve got a mix out that’s in wave and we’ve got one that’s in MP3 format and those get uploaded to Dropbox. Sometimes, if we’ve got a transcription service that you want me to go straight to is I will put it to there first in MP3 before I upload to Dropbox. There’s a couple of them actually worked really well taking new audio file from Dropbox but actually one of them was a problem with that, I’ve got notes as to which one it is. It’s just not popping into my head.
I think it might be TranscriptionPanda that I go straight to, if we’re going to use them whereas some of the others I’ll upload to Dropbox and then paste the Dropbox link in, and they’ll take it faster that way.
[00:44:11] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, then it’s back to me. The ideal way that we’ve done it is that Karn uploads it directly to their transcription service so they can get going on it as soon as possible but recently I’ve been thinking about how that process works, so in those cases he’s now uploading it to Dropbox and then sends me an email. Normally, the transcription thing goes up, it gets submitted and I get an email, and that’s my cue. That’s my great cue. The episode is done, it’s ready to go and Karn sent it off.
Then, that’s the cue. To number one, pay Karn for his work. Number two, is to wait for the transcript and then when the transcript comes in, what I usually try to do is to build the episode around that. If I have the time and since I took this job at CommunityCo it’s been more of a challenge. Ideally, I take the transcript, I proof it because we have sponsors but no one’s making a lot of money here, and so all of it so far really is going back into the show.
We have a transcription service that we use right now, goTranscript.com is the one that we using for what you pay for the budget, they do a very good job but that still leaves a lot of different little typos and words they don’t understand, so it needs to be read, proofed. We add links to it, and we use that to build the related links section of our posts on our website. I also pull quotes out of there, as well. Then when that post is already, I take the mp3 file and Karn has already tagged it partially. I finish the rest of the tagging and the things that I had to write like naming the episode, brief description of the episode, etcetera.
I also create images for a cover and for quotes that we then share on Twitter and Instagram to promote the show, then I schedule it all to publish and then we do it all again [laughs]. That’s the process, almost every week.
[00:45:47] Karn Broad: Yes, we’ve had occasions where we’ve managed to produce two in a week, and other times where there just hasn’t been the time where you could line your time and the guest’s time up. Which with busy people is, I know from my perspective, when I’ve had to get certain work done or I’ve had to do certain work and try to fit it in and how tricky it can be. Trying to do this every week, it must be tricky for you particularly now as you’ve got this fantastic job that you’ve got to try and fit everything in alongside that. It must make the timing more tricky.
[00:46:22] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes. I don’t want to be overdramatic because as I was telling my girlfriend Kara, who, that adds part of it too because she’s in Los Angeles and I’m on East Coast. I’m flying back on forth quite a bit but like I told her it’s basically like a prison by own making, [laughs] it’s a prison now. It’s all these great things I get to do. I have her, I have my family that I’m close to that lives on East coast. I have this job that I really like. I have this podcast that I love. I have a community that I manage, and I also want to try to balance that out and get sleep and exercise and things.
It’s all good, it’s all positive [laughs] it’s nothing to complain about. It’s just the matter of finding the time because it kills me and it has in the past. It just kills me when we take a week off. Especially when you have sponsors, it’s tough. I hate sending that email that says, “Hey, we’re going to take this week off.” Even though it’s totally normal and natural, and I hate doing it to listeners as well where it’s like, we have this weekly show. Podcasts now, and I’m sure you probably notice this. That podcasting, I would say, of couple of years ago, steadily growing. It had a big cultural moment especially with the podcast Serial but a lot of podcasts are season based, where they do it for a certain number of weeks and then that’s it and they come back the next season. A lot still operate on a weekly by weekly schedule but we’re still trying to do it on a weekly basis as much as possible. That’s not to say it will always be that way, but I don’t know, it’s what we’ve done so far.
[00:47:42] Karn Broad: Getting to a hundred episodes in probably little over two years shows you how few weeks we have taken off in that time.
[00:47:50] Patrick O’Keefe: Yes, that’s a good point. We probably have to do the math on that but it’s probably eight weeks off in two years, 8-10, probably somewhere in there. That’s our process, that’s how we make this show. That’s the history of this show. Karn, thank you so much for coming on this show. It’s been fun to talk with you about…I guess the stuff that we do all the time but don’t really necessarily stop to think and talk about ourselves as much. Thank you for sharing all that with us, I really appreciate it.
[00:48:17] Karn Broad: It’s been really nice to talk to you, Patrick. It’s one thing working with you but it’s great to actually have a chat. We’ll have to do this more regularly even if it’s not a show.
[00:48:27] Patrick O’Keefe: We’ve been talking with Karn Broad, producer of Community Signal. You can follow him on Twitter @WebKarnage. That’s karnage with a K. For the transcript from this episode plus highlights and links that we mentioned, please visit communitysignal.com. Community Signal, yes, even this episode, is produced by Karn Broad. Thank you for all your support during our first 100.
If you have any thoughts on this episode that you’d like to share, please leave me a comment, send me an email or a tweet. If you enjoy the show, we would be so grateful if you spread the word and supported Community Signal on Patreon.