This is the last of my three blogs about my Clwstwr-funded seed project ‘SMART Podcasts’. It has been an eventful month.
First things first. Black Lives Matter. Recent events, protests and debate have made me think, learn and grow. I want things to improve, starting with me, then my company, my industry, my country and beyond. Bwlb currently only has one person working for it (me). I’m hoping I will have the chance to grow the business, create jobs, create a team and create a company ethos. I want to make the right choices. Bwlb has signed up to the Equality In Audio Pact.
In the context of my Research & Development project, here are 5 things I’ve learnt this month:
ONE - Candescent Cardiff
Ok, I may have searched “positive words beginning with C”. One definition of candescent is “illuminating or reflecting light”. I moved to Wales 3 years ago now and I can’t say enough good things about this country and its capital city, Cardiff. As a place to work and live, it’s brilliant. The fact that a scheme like Clwstwr even exists, giving freelancers and micro-businesses the chance and resources to innovate, is impressive enough. The extra level of good stuff comes from the people involved. During this whole process I have had the chance to meet, collaborate with and learn from a huge variety of people in Cardiff, Wales and beyond. Without fail they have been positive, forward-thinking, encouraging, knowledgeable and fun. I’ve worked in the media industry for nearly 20 years now, most of that time living in London. I’ve never felt in a better environment to succeed than right here right now, in Cardiff in 2020. The people I have worked with during this project have either illuminated me with knowledge or inspiration, or reflected back encouragement and support. So, there you go, candescent, my new favourite word to describe my much-loved home city of Cardiff.
Photo by Ryan Everett on Unsplash
TWO - Deadlines need re-branding
Deadline is such a horrible word. It makes me think of essays being due in, time running out, panic and impending doom should a project not be completed and handed in by a certain time. The ‘line’ part feels immovable and inflexible and ‘dead’ is obviously not very cheerful. We need to come up with something better because a deadline can be a positive as I was reminded of this month.
As part of my project I wanted to deliver some kind of prototype of an accordion podcast (one that could expand and contract to the listener’s available time). Now I am not a coder or a developer, so I was struggling to take the crucial leap from the concept in my head to a bit of tech that did what I wanted. The nominal mid-June deadline for the end of this Clwstwr funded project made me take action. I asked for help from my project mentors and got it. Gavin Johnson from Clwstwr suggested I speak to Matt Brealey, a talented young web developer, and after an illuminating chat, I commissioned him to make one of my pilots. The BBC’s Robin Moore suggested I talk to Ian Forrester in BBC R&D and he kindly put me in touch with a great young coder called Rebecca Saw. After another illuminating chat I commissioned her to make the other one of my pilots (there are two pilots because they each demonstrate a different key part of accordion functionality). Things got going because of the deadline.
Due to Rebecca and Matt's quick and quality work, I had two working prototypes in place on Friday June 12th. To have gone from not knowing what to do next, to having two working prototypes, in a matter of a few weeks, was exhilarating. I’ve never used that word to describe a deadline before. I decided to make a quick podcast with Matt and Rebecca, to capture the energy of that "It works!" moment with both of them. If you want to find out more about the prototypes and what they are capable of, just get in touch with me by clicking on the 'Contact' link at the top of this page.
THREE - I’ll take done over perfect
I’m a recovering perfectionist. It’s not an attribute I like. Perfectionism stops me finishing stuff and I have found that saying “it’s done”, then having another go and improving is healthier and more satisfying. Even during this project - which, if you haven’t worked out yet, is some of the most enjoyable work I’ve ever done - there have been moments where my thought has been to stop for a bit and come back later. The excuse I’m making in my head is that it’s not perfect so I’d be better off returning when I can make it perfect. But that time rarely comes, because we’re all busy and the world moves on, and the procrastination is worse than imperfection. So I am really trying to become even more of a finisher now. I’ll take done over perfect. The result is I’m progressing, iterating, learning and improving, faster.
FOUR - Talking is the new writing
In my first meeting with my Clwstwr Producer Gavin, we talked about reporting my findings via a series of podcasts. I think I was trying to sneakily sidle out of writing a long report (turns out I have to do a bit of that too, which serves me right) but podcasting my project has been a fantastic experience. Instead of writing about a breakthrough I had in a conversation, I can just play the audio. Lockdown has helped. It’s now totally OK to do a zoom meeting and record it (with permission of course, but people seem fine with it), which gives you decent enough audio and a useful record of the conversation detail. Putting the podcasts together has combined a few of the lessons above (particularly the positive power of deadlines and done over perfect) and I am far likelier to listen back to my podcast episodes than re-read a long report. So, how about podcast dissertations? Podcast sales reports? Podcast policy documents? More new avenues for Bwlb to expand in to.
Photo by Sunyu Kim on Unsplash
FIVE - Something’s brewing
Something really is brewing. In my living room. Next to my desk, a plastic bucket (fermentation vessel, to give its proper name) containing 11.5 litres of American Pale Ale is "conditioning". I found an old book in a box I would have thrown away but fortunately my wiser wife did not. Turns out it is a key home brewing textbook and, given it is lockdown, plus my new found love of research and development, I’ve had a go. I have an agonising wait of a week until I can bottle it, then another two weeks until I can try it. Another agonising wait is the few weeks until I find out if my application for the next level of Clwstwr funding has been successful. This would enable me to move towards proper prototypes of Accordion, perhaps at a push even a product to go to market with. Of course I hope my application is successful, but even if it isn't, I think what is brewing in me and my company Bwlb, as a result of this seed project, is a passion for innovation in the audio sphere. Thanks to the rise of podcasting it is such an exciting place to be, and thanks to my Clwstwr experience, I think I’ve found a place, a niche and a future for my little company.
Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash