Podcasts good and bad

Do you have a favorite podcast? A podcast that you tried and hated? An idea for a podcast that should exist but doesn't? And, do you know of a rating system for podcasts (and should there be one)? As a thought experiment, I propose a Podcast Quality index, or set of indexes. To start, let me propose a set of criteria to evaluate the negatives of a multi-person podcast involving a primary host and a number of co-hosts or guests.

  • Number of minutes (or percentage of show) before the first interesting thing is said.
  • Number of times the host indulges him or herself in displaying an information-free annoying affectation.
  • Number of self indulgent affectations before the first interesting thing is said.
  • Percent of times a guest or co-host begins to say something, is interrupted by host, and the guest or co-host never gets to make the point.
  • Number of times the host re-indulges in the same "it was funny once" annoying affection during the show, apparently forgetting it had been done before.
  • Number of times the host invalidates an interesting or important comment by a guest in the guest's area of supreme expertise because of a self indulgent annoying affection/absurd belief or fallacy.
  • Number of times the host says something a guest or co-host just said as though the host never heard the guest or co-host say it.
  • Misogyny bonus points: Number of times a male host steps on a female guest or co-host using any of the above moves divided by the number of time a male host similarly steps on a male guest or co-host.

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Yeah, Chris Mooney writes a decent book, but he is a horrible podcaster. D J Grothe is a master at the trade.

Great lists all. I am STILL disappointed with the replacement of Chris Mooney for DJ Grothe. I dislike listening to Robert Price, don't like his voice or style. Desiree Schell, is GREAT though. Love the podcast.

I'm a podcast nut, it gives me something to listen to in the lab when waiting for stuff to run. My faves right now are Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, Stuff You Should Know, The Bugle, and various NPR shows like Car Talk and Diane Rehm. I haven't noticed a lot of your negatives in the shows I listen to, but I have a small list of my own: 1. Normalize your goddamn audio! Few things I hate more about a podcast than when one host is barely audible and the other one blows my ears out. Especially since I'm usually listening in a car or on headphones, and the range of tolerable sound is lower. 2. Excessive editing, looping or anything is annoying. I really love the topics on Radiolab, but the amount of "creative" shit they throw in there is obnoxious. Last time I noticed it, they had looped an interviewee saying "Hello?" for about 45 seconds while they introduced him over the loop. 3. This is mainly for NPR shows, but if you have commercials/breaks for station ID, don't make me listen to a random 90 seconds of elevator music, just edit out the break! Saves server space, and I don't have to fast forward. 4. I get it podcast hosts, you're on Twitter, Facebook, and all other manner of social media. Ask me to "like" you on FB every single podcast, and I soon won't like you even in real life. Exception: it's ok if you do all that administrative shit at the end of the show, when I know I can stop listening and won't miss anything afterwards. 5. This is an isolated one, but anyone who listens to Savage Love might remember the episode where he was eating cookies the whole time. I'm not easily grossed out, but amplified chewing noises are beyond disgusting.

By Rob Monkey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2010 #permalink

Another shout out to the 'Skeptic's Guide', and another condemnation of Chris Mooney as "host" of 'POI'. At least DJ still has 'For Good Reason', though new episodes have been pretty sporadic lately.

I like Massimo's 'Rationally Speaking' a lot. 'Monster Talk' has fun content, but they really need to normalize their audio better. A lot of other podcast have too much studio banter, and I just can't take it. In real life, nobody speaks in complete sentences, but once you're on the air, you really need to be concise.

I don't listen to all that many podcasts, but I've got Universe Today (Fraser Cain and Pamela Gay) 'casts back to some time in 2006. It's been interesting to listen while podcasting skills are honed over that period of time (none of the shortcomings listed above).

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and they are all different. And so, I like them for different reasons. I think SGU is educational, especially when they discuss science stories. Steve and Bob Novella are adept at explaining comprehensive topics to laypeople, such as myself. The interviews are pretty solid, and the trivia segment at the end is pretty good.

I think I prefer podcasts with one of two hosts that get interesting guests, and during the course of the interview ask all the relevant questions with good follow-ups, and if it's someone who's been interviewed many times before - don't ask them questions that have been asked many times before (i.e. Don't ask Dawkins if "religion had an evolutionary advantage"). I'm not a fan of excess banter and tangential conversations.

Specific podcasts? This could be a long comment rant, so I'll try to be brief.

1) Skepticality - Swoopy is a great interviewer, but sometimes the guests aren't all that interesting. But she gets the most out of them. The Tim Farley bit about skeptic history is a great short segment that's packed with great information.

2) Skeptically Speaking - Des is also a great interviewer, great at getting listener questions into the program. The two segments help break the monotony a bit.

3) MonsterTalk - Interesting guests, good questions - but inconsistency of audio, and early episodes are sort of plagued with trivial banter (not so much anymore) make it an acquired taste. However, it's become my "drop everything/must-listen to" podcast when it's posted. That and SGU are the only podcasts that do that for me.

4) For Good Reason / Point of Inquiry - Both are decent, good interviews and guests. Groethe is solid. I like Bob Price (but understand he's not everyone's cup of tea). Mooney and Stollznow are good when they have interesting guests.

5) Aaron's World - this 5-6 minute podcast hosted by a 7-8 yr old gives me hope in the next generation. Factually Speaking is also a great podcast that works in 15 minute-size episodes.

6) Scientific American, Nature, Science Weekly - panel shows with news stories. Science Weekly also has good humor, but sometimes the stories are a bit un-interesting. Nature has great interviews with scientists about articles - but can be a bit over my head.

7) Books and Ideas / Brain Science Podcast / Meet the Scientist - Definitely an acquired taste, but the great interviews and emphasis on important points helps make this palatable. Sometimes a bit over my head (especially MtS).

8) Rationally Speaking - I enjoy the conversation and learning about the philosophy of science. My only request would be to dump the "Picks" segment and just have more time for discussion/interview.

9) Religious/Freethinking Podcasts; The Bible Geek (an acquired taste, but good knowledge on New Testament Scholarships), Reasonable Doubts (good interviews/conversation), Conversations from Pale Blue Dot (great interviews - but often over my head)

10) Political; Declaring Indpendance with Ed Brayton and Fareed Zakaria - both are filled with good interviews. DI has some humor/levity, Zakaria has interesting perspectives on world politics.

I don't know if our show qualifies as a podcast, being a live radio show that is available as a podcast. In fact, since the show is on Sunday mornings, most people listen to it via podcast.

That being said, I like to structure the show so that the host, usually me but often Scott Lohman, remember that people are listening to the guest present his or her topic. Hosts aren't the stars, the guests are. So, we try to come up with interesting questions that lead the conversation but don't dominate. We aren't the experts, the guests are.

So, be sure to include Atheists Talk. We try to avoid the pitfalls you note.

By Mike Haubrich (not verified) on 22 Dec 2010 #permalink

I was a guest on a radio show once, a Christian talk show host who was "happy" that an atheist show is on the same station as his. He welcomed us, and asked August Berkshire and me to join him for a 15 minute segment. He talked for about 13 minutes about how he thinks that it is cool that there are atheists, how he is cool with us, yada, yada, yada, and I ended up getting to say very little. It was frustrating for me, probably self-satisfying for the host. And big of him to give an atheist some talk time.

By Mike Haubrich (not verified) on 22 Dec 2010 #permalink

Two of the best Atheist/Apologetics Debunking 'casts are The Atheist Experience and Reasonable Doubts. Skepticality is also a excellent. Their 'cast wherein they interviewed the writer of a book debunking the myths surrounding the Columbine shooters should be the standard for good podcasting.