Patreon procrastination

I recently set-up a Patreon account for Sleep Tight Stories as a means to allow our fans to support the continued production of the podcast, and future improvements. It hasn’t been publicized yet, and we still have some jiggering to do with the pricing of our tiers.

We set a couple goals:

  • remix all the old episodes so that the sound is more balanced and calm inducing.
  • create more original stories that feature girls in strong leading roles – instead of the prince saving the princess, how about the princess saving the prince.

Though it’s extremely common for creators of all types to ask for support using Patreon, I have resisted, and procrastinated as I didn’t (and still don’t) believe that the amount of money that could be raised would make an appreciable difference in our lives. It might not even pay for the time required to maintain the service. One of the fascinating aspects of our podcasting adventure is time costing all the busy work – the copy’n’pasting, the uploading of files, writing summaries, and etc., all (surprise surprise) takes a great deal of time.

As is my method, I became a customer of all the common platforms that podcasters use to help monetize (shudder, I hate that word) their shows. Many like Supercast are efficient, and built with easing customers through the sales funnel as quickly as possible. Others like Patreon, until recently, are a usability nightmare.

One of the values commonly given to patrons on Patreon is ad-free access to the podcast. Until recently Patreon required your patrons to copy and paste their RSS feed into an app of their choice. I asked 6 people to try and accomplish this task. No one could. Addressing this deficiency, many podcasts write lengthy how to’s about how to access the episodes. My conclusion was Patreon presented yet another app., yet another pain point for our listeners.

And yet here we are. To address this problem Patreon recently partnered with Acast to provide free private feeds for podcasters. This means that patrons no longer need to copy’n’paste, but can conveniently subscribe via their favourite app., except Spotify which doesn’t permit private feeds.

The only issue I have encountered thus far, is that if you want to offer your complete back catalogue to listeners, you need to enter each and every episode manually. Acast has a feed import tool but they only allow you to use it if you are migrating to their service, which judging by my experience with the company to date, wouldn’t be advisable.

Thats over 150 episodes to import manually. Perhaps a task for my son.

As I have reduced my work load slightly, I hope to be able to report more on our successes and failures in our venture. One of my chief complaints about starting a podcast has been the lack of transparency, at least as compared to video or web publishing. We publish some data here already, but hope to share more if possible.


Apple Embeds

This is test of sorts. Apple released the ability to web embed podcast episodes recently, which in my case means I don’t have rely upon Spotify and their funky player, nor Libsyn’s ugly utilitarian version. I’m not convinced of the utility of this beyond marketing purposes, as it’s not available via Podcast app on mobile, where most people are going to be spending their time listening to podcasts.


Sleep Tight Stories on Mainstreet

I had a chat with Matt Rainnie on Mainstreet PEI earlier this week about our recent success with Sleep Tight Stories. This is the first time I have been interviewed on radio since many years ago in Taiwan when I was sharing a sound art project I was involved with. It was done remote over the phone, so lacked the excitement of being in studio, but I am grateful for the opportunity to share some of our story to date.

I have a tendency to not share anything we are working on, no matter the level of success, so this was for me an exercise of sorts, led by Dee Enright of JEBBCA Strategies + Holdings. She has been a great help, because though we share the same work ethic, she approaches the topics we talk about from a completely different perspective. She has strong business acumen and I just like to make things.

Other than Matt Rainnie, no other local media were interested in our story, no doubt “2 people have started a podcast in their kitchen fatigue” has set in. But if we are able to keep the project afloat, we might have something more to share in the not so distant future.


Catriona’s Podcast

5 years ago as part of her grade 6 graduation project Catriona produced a podcast where she introduced and reviewed over 100 books that she was required to read that year. Luckily she likes to read. There were 25 episodes in total and the above audio is of the 9th episode.


Sleep Tight Science Trailer

Sleep Tight Science, our latest podcast venture was launched yesterday. We describe it simply:

Sleep Tight Science is an exciting science facts and stories podcast for the whole family. In each episode we investigate the questions that kids have about anything science related.

It’s a slight departure from our efforts to date, it should be far more collaborative, and I see it as a good next step in our growth before we start trying interviews. I have years of experience doing design interviews but I find the work that journalists do to be the stuff of magic.

Most shows in this genre feature people with peppy high pitched voices and are really exciting. Some are just really great. It will be fun to see how our approach resonates with listeners as we improve over time.

The podcast is currently waiting for the podcast/app world’s Saint Peter before it will start propagating through your favorite podcast app.


Booth Finished

We have finished, bar finding a way to affix a panel to the door, our latest changes to the podcast booth. I should say, Sheryl finished, as my ability to put anything together is hampered by my absolute lack of patience.

Tomorrow we will take some time before we record to check if the booth has as dead and dry a sound we were hoping for.


New Vocal Booth

Helped along by Covid-19 isolation and an aging brain, I can’t remember exactly when we last invested in our podcasting pod. But months past we created a sound isolation booth comprised of Rockwool boards, wrapped in black sheets to keep the fibres out of our lungs. We use our storage room for this purpose but the rules of bootstrapping suggested we first start small, and so the first implementation was simply a covering around a cheap IKEA desk. This worked remarkably well and helped to create as dead an environment as possible, without going to the other extreme which would be investing in a whisper room. Not capturing the sound of the room is important to us, and if you listened to any podcasts of late, those that due to Covid are now recording remote, suffer from the sounds of kitchen tiles. With the exception of Ira Glass who I believe records in his clothes closet.

We still live in an apartment building (thanks COVID) and so it’s difficult to be completely noiseless. We are at the mercy of our upstairs neighbours and various electrical feedback loops, but thanks to or current set-up our biggest problem has been eliminating annoying mouth noises that most commonly occur due to various hydration issues.

We could have stayed with this set-up for the foreseeable future but for the fact that the ideal mic placement on the desk made recording uncomfortable. Proper vocal technique requires the free flow of air from the bottom of your abdomen through your vocal chords and out your mouth. I was always hunched over and Sheryl found our set-up limiting.

This weekend we decided to sound proof the whole room and despite a lack of planning it looks like it might work out.


Freddie Lim on Taiwan’s Covid Response

Freddy Lim, vocalist of the metal band Chthonic and a member of parliament in Taiwan, discusses with Emily Y. Wu amongst many things, the success of Taiwan’s Covid-19 response and some of the challenges it poses to personal freedom. Metalhead Politics (政治重金屬), is a joint production of Ghost Island Media (鬼島之音) and the Taiwanese heavy metal band CHTHONIC (閃靈).


Patti Larsen: Cat City

Our last Sleep Tight Stories episode featured a chapter from a story by Island author Patti Larsen called, Cat City. It’s wonderful to bring her work to a new audience. It’s a great story, sure to spur the imagination of kids of all ages, myself included. Sheryl and I are her latest fans.

In my short conversations with her I also learned a great deal about the mental model of, or how publishers and authors differ in their approach to book promotion, and more.

One of the benefits of being on the Island is that people here tend to be friendly and approachable, which can lead to all kinds of interesting conversations, and sometimes collaboration.

To purchase her book please visit: https://books2read.com/CatCity or your favourite bookstore.


Stepping into the Covid-19 Waters

We have avoided anything but the most cursory mention of the pandemic on our podcast. One reason was I wanted to be sure that if we did give it some attention that what we said was accurate. Parents have enough problems understanding guidance from health care professionals to have us add confusion at sleep time.

The other reason being that despite this being a health issue, with little leadership at the national level and a seemingly general distrust of health care professionals (not to mention people protesting for their inability to get a haircut), it’s yet another entirely politically charged topic in the US, where a large percentage of our audience lies.

But when Vince mentioned that his partner wrote a book entitled, The CoronaVillain vs The Stay at Home Kid, I thought this was a great way to kick-off our renewed focus on locally authored stories while providing a way for kids to gain some understanding of the issues. They described the books as follows:

The evil CoronaVillain is using the world’s concerts and parties and hugs and kisses against them! Someone needs to buy some time so that the Council of WHO can finish their secret weapon. This sounds like a job for The Stay at Home Kid and his gang. When the world needs heroes, you can count on them.

This fun book is a great way to help kids understand some of the concepts influencing their daily lives: disease, social distancing, hand washing, and the World Health Organization.

If parents are finding it challenging talking to kids about what’s happening in the world, this book provides a great foundation and some laughs along the way.

My sound treatment of the story was perhaps a bit on the scary side, but we decided to go ahead with it as is, and though we want to provide a safe experience for all, hoped that parents could decide whether it was too intense for their kids.

We get lots of critical feedback from our listeners, I read it all, and make changes where we can. But this one comment from a listener is indicative of what I had hoped to avoid:

We loved these stories until recently when I put on the Corona vs the stay at home kid … why are you supporting and even mentioning the corrupt and incompetent World Health Organization in a children’s bedtime story?

I’m not sure how to respond to that, so I think I won’t respond at all.

Listen to The CoronaVillain vs The Stay at Home Kid on Overcast.

Since then we have also released, with permission from Nosy Crow Ltd., Coronavirus: A Book For Children 🦠.


Navigating for pay services

The problem Sheryl and I are mulling over today is the difference between having our free podcast, be used by for pay services, vs. the already established platforms, which in essence charge too. What’s the difference between Spotify, where most of our audience resides, and a young start-up offering a curated podcast listening experience?

Sleep Tight Stories is still a simple thing, without the elaborate production values and serialized story telling of say, The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian, but it’s taking an ever increasing amount of our time to produce. Our ongoing effort to reach out to independent authors is an effort worth doing, but many most publishers consider partial readings as theft, not a marketing opportunity, or a chance to reach a new audience. This takes time. A lot of time.

When you publish something via unprotected feed, there is little we can do stop anyone from pulling that feed into their service. In fact up until now we have been actively encouraging them to do so (being included in JioSaavn’s service required a visit to a lawyer to review contracts).

I’m inclined to think that it’s great to be included. But Sheryl’s reflex response was no. It’s her voice after all.

We have a few hours to decide before politeness requires I respond to their email.


Best Podcasts for Sleep

Tuck, who bill themselves as the most comprehensive source in sleep, recently published their annual list of the Best Podcasts for Sleep. We are happy to be a part of their list.

I think I used Tuck to help come to a decision on what mattress I should buy (perhaps one of the most complex purchase decisions possible) when I first arrived here in Stratford. A decision I have since come to regret, though that had nothing to do with the information they provided.

Sleep Tight Stories was selected for Best Bedtime Stories, while Sleep Tight Relax for Best Podcast for Relaxing Sounds.

It’s a small win, but we take our victories where we can.


Atlantic Podcast Summit

Last Friday found me on the road at 4:30am for an early morning arrival in Halifax to attend the Atlantic Podcast Summit.

I came away with a number of salient points and particularly enjoyed the talks given by Kristen Meinzer and Dila Velazquez, who is content and audience developer at Curiouscast. Primarily I came away with some renewed enthusiasm for the medium, so many at the conference treat podcasting not as platform for ad dollars, but something to be enjoyed and shared. Much like the web used to be.

The location inside the Cineplex on Spring Garden road was interesting. It certainly had comfortable seats, but the audio was poor and the interaction difficult. They could stand to learn from Peter’s Crafting {:} a Life – much of the value obtained from conferences would seem to be from the interaction with those attending, comfortable seats are of a secondary concern.

Lunch was not provided so since there was little opportunity beforehand to meet interesting strangers, people in their pre-formed cliques went about there own way. It’s a pity, as a catered lunch is a great opportunity to force people to bump into each other. Those collisions provide for all kinds of opportunity for learning. Lunch was cheap, cheaper than what can be found near my haunts in Charlottetown.

It was a short trip as I managed to somehow guide the car into our lot in Stratford sometime after 8pm. I was kept awake with bad coffee and the miracle of actually listening to a 3hr podcast with a conversation centred around hunting bear with bow and arrow.


East of the Sun and West of the Moon


We just released this past week our 60th podcast episode, entitled “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” We have come a long way since our first episode that Sheryl recorded with a cheap plastic mic while she was still in Hsinchu last year. It’s a fun challenge to produce stories under the constraints that we are under; Sheryl records live and I take as little time as possible to add all the supporting production.

We just invested in some audio equipment and have turned a storage area into a recording room, so we are excited to be continuing with this project, and new podcasts in the new year.

Sleep Tight Stories brings you new and captivating bedtime (or anytime) stories every week and is suitable for kids of all ages.

You can find us on:
Google Podcasts: https://buff.ly/2Hldx1v
Apple Podcasts: https://buff.ly/2V8u6Xv
Spotify: https://buff.ly/2r8YLGu
Web: https://buff.ly/2Mx7mM8

You can also search for “Sleep Tight Stories” wherever good podcasts are listed.


Sleep Tight Stories Podcast

We launched a new podcast called Sleep Tight Stories back in October and have been releasing weekly episodes since. It hasn’t been widely shared, even amongst friends, primarily due to my issues with promoting myself and the projects I am involved with – which I discussed in another previous post.

We describe Sleep Tight Stories as: “Sleep Tight Stories brings you new and captivating bedtime stories every week. The stories range from retellings of fairy tales, folk stories, classic Canadian works, and original stories written by guest authors. Each episode is usually less than 20 minutes long and suitable for kids of all ages.”

This is largely an effort of my wife and I, but we were lucky to enjoy the talents of an American voice over artist, who I had hired for another project, for a few of the episodes. I’ve produced other podcasts in the past, most recently I helped my daughter create a 20 episode podcast about books called 志大才書 for a school project, but this is the first visible efforts of some recent collaborations between Sheryl and myself.

While podcasts like ours are no replacement for parent and child story time, they can play a great part in a child’s bedtime routine, and can help children develop early literacy skills, like the ability to listen to and understand words. It’s a great way to get kids focused and prepared for sleep too.

As this is a timeboxed effort we hope that the quality will improve over time. In the interim we appreciate any positive or negative feedback – sharing positive comments on iTunes is greatly appreciated. Subscribing, if the podcast is of interest, even more so.

Sleep Tight Stories on Apple Podcasts and Google Play


Design thinking as illustrated at a Taiwan hair salon


Updated to address my own and others criticisms. It’s shorter, lighter, and hopefully improved. I am learning here so I do appreciate the comments – even the tough ones.
In this podcast I babble on about “Friendy’s” restaurant and how design thinking is not so apparent among designers in Taiwan. To illustrate my point about designers I talk about getting my haircut at a “high end hair salon” near where I live.
Podcasting seems to bring out the worst in people – babbling on and babbling on. I need to work on that. Listening to my podcast (I thought there might be some weird editing errors) I kept yelling – hurry up and get to the point.
Listen to: Problems with Design thinking as illustrated at a Taiwan hair salon – Podcast 3 (16min, 15 meg 10min, 7 meg.)
My Odeo Channel (odeo/647d0a301a218729)


Problems with iTunes Podcast submission


It seems on my inaugural podcast I may have spoke to soon about submitting my podcast to the iTunes podcast directory. It isn’t possible. Here’s why.
You need to be able to purchase music from the iTunes store in order to be able to list your podcast in their directory. That includes registering an account and submitting a valid credit card with a billing address from a country that has the “honour” of having an iTunes Music Store. I am a Canadian citizen living in Asia but have a permanent address in Canada. As I have been living abroad for 8 years all my credit cards originate from Taiwan and as such I can not list my podcast – though I do have a .mac account. It’s a bit of a bizarre twist I think. I want to list content on their site which could potentially bring them customers but they want me to buy something first.
This is Apple?
I’m a bit sleepy and unanimated today (up late playing) so this Podcast might have the unwanted effect of causing you too to want to sleep (might be a common effect of this Podcast).
Listen to: Problems with iTunes Podcast submission – Podcast 2 (4.52min, 3.35 meg)
My Odeo Channel (odeo/647d0a301a218729)


Inaugural Podcast


Though I undoubtedly have the worlds worst “radio voice” I have produced my first podcast. This may be as close as I get to the career as a radio announcer that my father always wanted me to have. Hopefully listening to it will be far less pain for you than it is me – I hate my voice.
Listen to the result of this initial experiment. It is a huge file! As some will know I have a thing for quality sounding audio but I’m afraid I will soon get into money trouble hosting 20 meg MP3 files.
This is far from a polished program – it’s relatively unedited and with a pretty bare bones set-up. I plan on having a regular weekly podcast with some of my colleagues and friends here in Taiwan. There are allot of cool and smart people here. Topics could be pretty wide – living in Taiwan, art, design, and tech. being the broad categories. We’ll just define and refine as we go along. I should be listed on the ITunes Podcast directory and Odeo soon or if you like you can subscribe to the rss feed which I updated to include enclosures.
Listen to: Inaugural Podcast (15min, 23 meg)