Driverless Crocodile Podcast Special #1: Useful things with Victoria Patience

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This special episode is a tribute to Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder’s Cool Tools. Apologies for the variable sound-quality of this podcast – see Doing to See for more information.

Victoria Patience is a Spanish-to-English translator and author’s editor who helps Latin American intergovernmental organisations, non-profits and academics reach English-speaking audiences.

Victoria lives on the outskirts of Buenos Aires with her husband, two children, two cats, three dogs, and a flock of chickens whose numbers have been dwindling since dog number three arrived. When not searching texts for stray commas or searching the floor for stray Lego, she might be found cooking or vegetable gardening with a podcast in the background.

Show notes below.

Tool 1: Hori-Hori knife

AU$ 42 from forestrytools.com.au

Wikpedia says: “The word “Hori” (ホリ) means “to dig” in Japanese and “hori-hori” is the onomatopoeia for a digging sound. The tool itself is commonly referred to as a レジャーナイフ, “leisure knife” or a 山菜ナイフ, “Sansai(=Mountain-vegetable)knife” in Japan.”

Tool 2: Wallet App by Budgetbakers

US$ 40ish / year

Tool 3: Aeropress

UKP 30 from amazon.co.uk – Image from aeropress.com

Tool 4: Aaptive workout app and JBL Endurance Sprint Bluetooth headphones

aaptive screenshot
UKP 40ish (amazon)

Doing to see

My sister and I just recorded a special episode for Driverlesscroc Podcast(‘Useful Things’), learnt a lot doing it, including:

  • That recording both ends of a skype call is a viable way to work over distance
  • The importance of triple-checking your mics after I made a schoolboy error and plugged my mic into a headphone jack. I could see that I was recording something, but it turned out to be my laptop’s built-in mic rather than my lapel mic, resulting in a voice-track that sounds like it was recorded in a bucket
  • That Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder do a really good job of keeping their Cool Tools show tight – we were trying hard to stay focused but easily racked up 40 minutes.
  • That Audacity projects are big (we hit a couple of gigabytes for all the uncompressed audio and project files).
  • That (I think) Audacity doesn’t play well with syncing to the cloud – some of the source-files for my project file somehow got corrupted and I almost lost it all – fortunately I’d made an almost-finished .wav of the whole thing so it was saveable.
  • That ‘ship the work’ sometimes means ‘finish the project’ – get it done, learn from it, move on. This project doesn’t exactly have a ‘client’, and its main audience is us – so we can say ‘not quite good enough – but finished’ with a clear conscience. I’ll post it to the podcast for completeness, and as a reference for anyone interested in the journey.

The idea that doing helps you see – that experience counts for a lot – is pretty obvious in lots of areas of life. You can’t understand being on stage, or driving a car, or playing in a sporting contest, until you’ve done them.

But we tend to forget how true this is for almost everything, and how context-specific our experience tends to be. By doing, we see.

Machine. Ecosystem. (5) – Duncan Green on systems thinking and development

A ‘system’ is an interconnected set of elements coherently organized in a way that achieves something. It is more than the sum of its parts: a body is more than an aggregate of individual cells; a university is not merely an agglomeration of individual students, professors, and buildings; an ecosystem is not just a set of individual plants and animals.

A defining property of human systems is complexity; because of the sheer number of relationships and feedback loops among their many elements, they cannot be reduced to simple chains of cause and effect. Think of a crowd on a city street, or a flock of starlings wheeling in the sky at dusk. Even with supercomputers, it is impossible to predict the movement of any given person or starling, but there is order; amazingly few collisions occur even on the most crowded streets.

In complex systems, change results from the interplay of many diverse or apparently unrelated factors. Those of us engaged in seeking change need to identify which elements are important and understand how they interact.

Unfortunately, the way we commonly think about change projects onto the future the neat narratives we draw from the past. Many of the mental models we use are linear plans – ‘if A, then B’ – with profound consequences in terms of failures, frustration, and missed opportunities [when the plan is thrown out by unexpected consequences within the plan, or by things that were never in it]. As Mike Tyson memorably said, ‘everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.’

Let me illustrate with a metaphor. Baking a cake is a linear, ‘simple’ system. All I need to do is find a recipe, buy the ingredients, make sure the oven is working…

Baking a cake is also a fairly accurate metaphor for the approach of many governments, aid agencies, and activist organisations. They decide on a goal (the cake), pick a well-established method (the recipe), find some partners and allies (the ingredients), and off they go.

The trouble is that real life rarely bakes like a cake. Engaging in a complex system is more like raising a child. What fate would await your new baby if you decided to go linear and design a project plan setting out activities, assumptions, outputs, and outcomes for the next twenty years and then blindly followed it?

Deng Xiaoping said, “We will cross the river by feeling the stones under our feet, one by one.”

Duncan Green – How Change Happens (amazon)

Vision. Positioning. Execution. (1)

You see the traffic, approach the road, pause at the kerb, lean forward just as someone passes to get some forward motion, then step into the space between cars.
Or you press the button and wait for the light.

You see a public holiday on the calendar, decide that you want to go away, decide where and who with, then you book, pack, and go.

You see a teammate with the ball and an opposing player moving to tackle. You move into position for a pass – changing course slightly once the ball is in the air – catch it, and run into space.

You see your child growing up and glimpse what they need now and will need in future. You make changes to free up time. You learn new things to share with them. You spend the time, play, talk, teach, give them things they need.

You see a need for a product or service, know that you can make it, start working, gathering resources, building relationships with suppliers and buyers, making it, sharing it with the people it’s for.

You see a glass on the edge of a table and someone gesturing enthusiastically. You move the glass, continue the conversation.

You see someone in need, move closer to find out what’s going on, do what you can to help.

Vision. Positioning. Execution.

The donut: getting going [guest post]

New initiatives can be a challenge can’t they?

Plotting the course.

Anticipating problems.

Obsessing over details.

Wondering how we’ll deal with XYZ scenarios in 6 months’ time.

I recently read this:

When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different when you get there. Just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get going.

Chip and Dan Heath – Switch (amazon)

They’re right of course.

We need to paint a picture of the future –  to know where we are going; to be inspired.

And we need to start well – perhaps a small pilot, with trusted people, with clear parameters.

But the middle? Just like when I bit into my donut today – you’ll find out what’s in the middle when you get there.**

**Today it was custard. Jam is my favourite.

On making stuff: that Steve Jobs quote

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

Steve Jobs

In their hands

Make something people can use.

Put it in their hands.

See what happens.

If they’re eager to pay – attention, time, money – you’re onto something.

Watch them. Listen to them. Tweak it. Make more of it. See what they think.

If they tell their friends – and if their friends tell their friends – then you’ve got it.

What change do you seek in the world? Who are the people you seek to serve?

You’ve got it when they’ve got it.

You’ll know you’ve got it when you meet someone for the first time, and the thing you made is already in their hands.

Conservatism and the status quo

Edmund Burke and Friedrich Hayek make good arguments for leaning towards conservatism (small c).

For all its problems, the relatively stable equilibrium we live in is a blessing. It depends on a lot of intertwingled factors. It wasn’t planned or made: it evolved and accrued.

The faster the world changes, the more valuable stable touchstones of culture, family, relationship become.

Which parts are of the social structure are held up by the piece you’re pulling away at? Is it a keystone?

Who else depends on the type of person you’re disrupting? Are they a keystone species?

Look before you leap.

** Russ Roberts‘ Econtalk is a great place to go to hear a well-intentioned person working from this point of view.

121 minutes to your first podcast episode

This is a different type of post – more of a howto or a ‘what I tried’, in the spirit of moving fast and getting something done. So here goes.

Start the clock.

Write the title: XX minutes to your first podcast (we’ll fill a time in the title when we put the full-stop at the end).

The Rules

Make a really short podcast, edit it, and distribute it to a global audience (hosted on this website, hopefully registered on itunes, stitcher and wherever it needs to be in order for me to listen to it on Podcast Republic) in as short a time as possible – ideally less than an hour.

Inventory

Fair’s fair – time for full disclosure. I’ve done a bit of recording audio on my phone before and been thinking about this for a while. My equipment consists of:

  • My Android phone – Motorola G4plus
  • A Boya BY-M1 mic
  • Voice recorder by Splend Apps – I’ve tried a few and found this to be the best functionality (records straight to .mp3, is easy to use, gives you what you need without requiring payment).

Steps

  1. Write the script
  2. Record the podcast
  3. Edit the thing
  4. Find out how to distribute it

Write the script

Intro music:

I love the first few bars of Everlong by Foo Fighters. As with my wonderful header image, I will consider myself an enormous success if the copyright holders ever ask me to change it, which I will gladly do.

Intro script:

Welcome to Driverless Crocodile, a podcast about making change happen, and building the future.  I’m Stu Patience, and this is episode 0.

Episode 0 script:

I’m making this inaugural Driverless Crocodile podcast to celebrate 100 blog posts about building the future. I’m hoping to run an occasional podcast series as part of the blog featuring conversations with non-profit leaders and others working to make change happen and build a better future. My particular focus is on community development and education in Indonesia, but I’ll interview anyone interesting, so please get in touch if you have a suggestion.

I’m interested in sharing the most useful knowledge and tools for building effective organisations and making things happen. By tools I mean ideas, values, practices, skills and qualities, processes and digital technologies – all things that we add to ourselves to extend our ability to change the world around us.

Paused the clock at 21 minutes 20s to grab a snack.

This is episode 0, so it’s just an introduction, and I’m on a bit of a tight deadline – read the companion post at driverlesscrocodile.com – which may or may not be linked to in the shownotes – to find out more.

And that’s the end of Episode 0 – thanks for listening and see you next time.

Driverless Crocodile – out.

Record the Podcast

Right. I’m upstairs in my office, and it’s 32 degrees centigrade and a bit sweaty. I’m going to turn my phone onto aeroplane mode (to avoid interruptions and beeps while recording), shut the door and turn my fan off now before I record the introduction and episode 0, hopefully in one take each – because it’s going to get hot with the door closed, but also because my phone’s battery is down to 11%.

Done! I was wondering all the way through how silly I’m going to sound, but I’ll worry about improving things next time.

The fan is back on, the door is open, and I’m up to 36 minutes and 49 seconds.

Edit the thing

Find free editing software online

Quick search… audacity looks best. I’ve used it before I think, but it don’t have it on this computer.

And.. Audacity is installed. While it was installed I listened to my recording. It’s okay… I sound a little more American than I probably should (sorry parents!) – I blame the Americans on the podcasts I listen to.

And I’ve shared the files I recorded to myself on googledrive.

So with audacity open in a parallel window, I’m ready to start…

Lost a minute waiting for files to sync…

Editing Episode 0 with Audacity

Hmm, trying to import the files and there’s a problem with the libraries for .mp3 files.

I followed the instructions in audacity, went to the download page, downloaded LAME for audacity, ran a quick virus check and installed them. And it’s worked. Intro is imported.

… but audacity doesn’t like the file.

This is taking too long. Switching to editing program number two on the list – Ocenaudio. Thanks TechRadar!

Trying again with Ocenaudio

It’s taking a while to download so I’m looking at making an RSS feed from wordpress while I wait. Looks a bit technical. Ah, found something that looks a bit easier here.

Editing with Ocenaudio

Here we go again…

The files worked straight away, but the editor wasn’t working for me – I was hoping to see both audio tracks and be able to drag and drop as on my old version of Sony Vegas, and couldn’t quickly work out how to do it.

Back to Audacity

I looked a little more carefully realised that I had only downloaded the export library, and downloaded FFmpeg libray by going to edit -> preferences, then clicking the download button for FFmpeg, downloading a zipfile, extracting it, then using the locate button to find the library in the folder I extracted the files to. It worked!

More problems

My intro works, but Audacity doesn’t like my episode, despite it playing as an .mp3 in my normal music player.

Okay, it looks like there’s a problem with the file – not sure what.

Going to try and get this thing done with the theme music and introduction.

Impatient Patience

Wow, neither of those were working. I’ve switched over to my old video editing software, Sony Vegas 10.1.

It might be because I’ve used it before but it just… works.

I now have an edited podcast episode in .mp3 format. A bit rough, but… ready.

Getting it online

Back to that wordpress howto… which wasn’t that helpful.

Found Powerpress by Blubrry and installed the plugin

Activated and started filling in the information… There’s more to do here than I expected.

And stopped for the night, at 2 hours, 1 minute.

The episode is recorded, and I could post it here – but I want to get the RSS distribution up and running tomorrow, so will sit on it for now.

Footnote

Phew. 2 hours. My timing was way over ambitious. There are tweaks to make to the episode, but overall I’m pretty happy with how it sounds, considering it’s a one-take wonder!

Trajectory

When you’re on a long journey, a small change in direction can make all the difference, for better or worse.

It doesn’t look like much now – a few degrees one way or the other – but you’ll end up in a different country.

Do it now.

Small steps, every day, in a better direction.