The People in My Head / Podcast Recommendations 2021 /

According to my go-to podcast app, Pocketcast, since Dec 2018 I’ve listened to 90 days of podcasts. Writing this in Jul 2021, this means I’ve listened to podcasts for nearly 10% of my time in the last 2.5 years ✯.
Clearly I have time to find some new hobbies and perhaps have some suppressed issues, and whilst some may consider the level of my aural appetite too much for their sensitive ear balls, and the manner of my consumption unpalatable, I’ve been enjoying a wide spectrum of voices in my head for a while now, and felt like it was time to invite even more people to the podcast party.

Throughout the numerous lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 I’d been sending recommendations to friends here and there, so I decided to create a list of some of my go-tos. Apparently more than just a few of my pals listen to podacsts, too, with an estimated 15.6 million listeners in the UK in 2020 alone. Blimey. And at the last count (April 2021), some poor person at Apple (so probs not too poor actually) suggested there are over 2 million podcasts on Apple Podcasts alone, totalling nearly 50 million episodes – quadrupling since 2018.

Given this exponential explosion which has seen almost every celebrity and white guy sub-45 you know having a pod of their own (this white guy under 45 included), it’s helpful to have a list of recommendations every so often. Hopefully you’ll find some new gems in here, rather than scrolling endlessly through your feed of next suggested listens… Although I warn you now, there’s no true crime series to be found.


/ Fact finding for your inner-nerd /

Science Vs
This soon became my go-to science podcast, with their pun-fuelled factually-cited debunking-rampages taking on some of the biggest, and smallest myths & mysteries science has to offer. The hosting is impeccable, with Wendy Zuckerman effortlessly floating you through complicated contents whilst curating convos down to exactly what you needed to know, and what you didn’t know you want to know. Their Covid-coverage was so well balanced and felt like a breathe of fresh air in comparison to some ‘news’ that floated around at the time. Weirdly, they produced a special fiction-based episode titled ‘PANDEMIC’ which aired in Oct 2019. I mean… well done production team?!
Gimlethttps://gimletmedia.com/shows/science-vs

99% invisible
Roman Mars’ now iconic, soothing voice takes us on deep dives into all things design-architecture, graphic, culture etc. Don’t think you need to know anything about design, or feel you need to be especially creative to enjoy their episodes. Their human-centered stories about often inanimate objects or design concepts are endlessly fascinating and give you a real appreciation for the world and structures around us. They’ve also produced a beautiful book which I delve into every now and then (thanks MARO studio 😉).
https://99percentinvisible.org/episodes/

No Such Thing As A Fish
It’s a Funny one, which is impressive as on paper what they discuss would endlessly dull if delivered by almost anyone else. This trivia show is created and presented by the team of elves/researchers behind the now legendarily nerdy TV show, QI, now in its ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQR’th series. Their ability to find the funniest, most obscure facts and their natural quick-witted, quick-fire facts makes this one of my go-to weekend or long drive listens, and an ongoing lesson in the art of callbacks. The source of most of my dinner party “Did you know?”s. Unfortunately I don’t get invited to dinner parties so my Mum has to listen to my fave facts chopped up and retold to her on the phone once a week.
https://www.nosuchthingasafish.com

Waveform
Youtube’s tech icon, MKBHD presents Waveform, his first foray into podcasts. Everyone knows he’s the very best tech reviewer around, hands down. Marques brings his calm, insightful takes on the latest happenings tech world over to audio (although there’s now a video version of the pod, naturally). Waveform affords Marques and his great team the time to chat about the latest moves across a wide range of subjects, and their seemingly effortless high production values (across all their content) just reiterates what makes their studio stand out from some of the other needlessly high-octane, click-bait crazed tech producers out there. Video podcasts have been a thing on Youtube, and whilst MKBHD’s Studio’s video version of the pod is great, you lose very little if enjoying it through your podcast app.
MKBHDhttps://twitter.com/WVFRM

IGN UK Podcast
One of my longest running subs brings all the classic nerd-noms with chats on games, films and tv, as well as some enjoyably madcap or IMDB keyword or Metacritic score based quizzes every week. Whilst the generations of hosts have changed many times since the beginning, it’s a credit to the IGN team that they’ve always found a way of subtly adopting the pod to show off the strengths of the rotating team. If you’re into games and broader geek-culture and some absolute mad mail-ins featuring the world’s best sandwiches, stories of drowning and more recently, onsen experiences, this one’s for you.
Fun fact; I once lost a tie-breaker for the ‘worst team’ at a live podcast event for IGN, crowning me the worst team of the worst teams in front of 200 drunk people and losing out on the booby prize. I vowed never to use “Destiny’s Child” as a nerdy team name again.
IGNhttp://feeds.ign.com/ignfeeds/podcasts/uk

Every Little Thing
Life’s most basic questions, answered one by one. In a beautifully simple and satisfying premise, callers call the show’s, leave a message on the answering machine asking one of life’s most basic questions, and then host then takes the called through the answer in the following 20minutes with trustworthy sounding experts giving the listener the answers they need to hear. Perfection. And the source of most of my dinner party “did you know?”s.
Gimlethttps://gimletmedia.com/shows/every-little-thing


/ Cultural /

From comedy to football, tech to food and aliens. Everything is culture, so here’s a list that covers all sorts, away form more most nerdy topics detailed above.

/ Stadio /

The best football podcast around recently got one of the best hosts around; with Ian Wright bringing Wrighty’s House to the Stadio feed.
This podcast has changed how I consume football, football culture and the media circus that surrounds it, but also affirmed my love for in-depth football analysis, narrative, statement victories and angry goals. Musa Okwonga and Ryan Hunn discuss the latest from across Europe, considering the ever-changing, ever-problematic culture that surrounds football. With the addition of Wright, we get a pro’s perspective, and most importantly, Wright gets the space his analysis deserves, away from TV-required short sound bites TV culture currently requires.
I find Stadio’s most enjoyable episodes are their “What If’s” – where they debate what might happen if critical moments in football history went differently, with buttefly-effect impacts. A format since copied by marvel.
The very best football culture podcast, by the very best and most insightful, interesting hosts around.

The Ringerhttps://www.theringer.com/stadio

Reply All
Reply All’s fortnightly take on internet culture/stories/tech related explorations and mysteries is unparalleled in being fun, irreverent, insightful and cutting. Whilst the show has gone through some changes in 2020 as a result of well-documented issues at Gimlet, the back catalogue has some absolute gems and their frequent YES YES NO episodes, where one of the hosts takes the episode to explain a tweet, post or meme to the others is some of the best breakdowns of what makes the internet so special (in every sense).
Gimlethttps://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/episodes

/ Home Cooking /

A short and very sweet journey through food in lockdown, delivered by Samin Nosrat of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat fame, and Hrishikesh Hirway, of Song Explored fame (see below). A beautiful show which helps callers deal with their panic buys of kilos of kippers and tonnes of toms. I listened to this almost exclusively whilst cooking, during lockdowns and it felt like I was having dinner with Samin and Hrishikesh each episode. Which would, I’m sure, be a beautiful thing. It’s full of life and joy and food and I’m hungry.

Hrishikesh Hirway
https://homecooking.show/

Total Reboot
The boys from Finding Drago (see below) review different rebooted and remade films and film series in their usual quippy patter, with lolable moments intertwined with legit film nerdery. It’s indulgent and blasphemously funny. Don’t listen with kids.
SansPants Radio – https://www.sanspantsradio.com/podcasts/total-reboot/

This Paranormal Life
Two mad dudes take us through stories that require zero prior knowledge of anything, but introduce us to an alternative way of questioning whether EVERYTHING IS REAL, PARANORMAL OR JUST PLAIN ALIENS. Rory Powers, who I used to listen to bringing energy to the IGN UK podcast, teams up with fellow Paranormal investigator (and housemate), Kit Grier and together they explore well-known incidents, fables and cover-ups, as well as stories from mad comment boards written back when geocities was how we spouted off about our cousin’s hairdresser’s poltergeist’s past-preacher’s first experience with a crop-circle.
https://www.thisparanormallife.com/

Growing Up With Gal-dem
Gal-dem’s first podcast has a great hook; interviewees bring a piece of writing (diary, text, email, etc) from their past, often their teenage years or childhood, and discuss where they were when this was written, in every sense. Episodes often get stuck into growing up as a person of colour, predominantly in the UK, often from a female-identifying perspective, and span a gamut of topics including creativity, relationships, careers, self-care, structurally racist obstacles and people as well as some handy how-to-make-it-through-life tips. They get some top class guests and the hosts carefully unpick life experiences with often poignant discussions.
Gal-demhttps://gal-dem.com/growing-up-with-gal-dem-podcast/

Song Exploder
Hrishikesh Hirway’s music podcast sees musicians talk through the background, composition and context of one of their most iconic songs. With access to original recordings and stems, often to the surprise of the some the artists, Hirway cleverly edits himself out as the host, leaving just the artists to breka things down for us. Hirway’s Song Exploder is now a great Netflix series, which is also well worth spending time with. I can’t wait for a possible future Jacob Collier episode…
Hrishikesh Hirwayhttps://songexploder.net/episodes


/ Long Form Journalism & Storytelling /

Serial is widely credited as being one of the breakthrough moments for podcasts, but there’s so much more incredible storytelling, journalism and world-building to be enjoyed away from the true-crime rotation.

/ Finding Drago /

A milestone fauxvestigation into the bizzare world of Rocky Fanfic. This is as funny as it is bizarre, and made me fall in love with aussie funny-men, Alexi Toliopolis and Cameron James.

Talking about the story of the show would ruin its unexpected magic. Don’t read about it, just go listen if you like smiling whilst listening to stuff and laughing out loud on public transport.

I’d like to be their best friends, and maybe even their producer (just so I could hang out with them every day and make mad stuff like this). I’d like to make this happen. I also happened to start listening to this in Boca del Drago in Panama, which basically makes me canon in this story.

ABC
https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/finding-drago/



Moonrise
If you’ve never really understood why the USA faced off with USSR in a seemingly madcap race to the moon, and then we just bounced up and down in shuttles and to the ISS in the decades since, then this series will help you get to gripes with the complexity in post WWII politics, policy and technology that caused humanity to go from one of its darkest times, to one of the most unbelievable feats humanity will ever achieve. It doesn’t shy away from the problematic nature of the race, the people who feature in it, but are rarely discussed and gives itself time to assess key events which shaped the last century, with the benefit of hindsight.
Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/podcasts/moonrise-the-origins-of-apollo-11-mission/

The Habitat
An audible big brother, this series explores being isolation with a group of ‘normal’ people who have chosen to be locked into a small space months on end all in the name of science, and Mars. It’s a fascinating insight into what humans do to mentally survive, both physically and socially. If you’ve experienced 2020/21 lockdowns in a shared house, listening this should probably come with a trigger warning.
Gimlethttps://gimletmedia.com/shows/the-habitat

/ How to Save a Planet /
Stories, findings and practical guidance on how we can hopefully avoid the worst of the coming climate catastrophe.
It’s US-centric, but no less of an important listen. They cover the intersectionality as broadly as is possible in 45-60 minute episodes, and have started to return to some topics as and where policy, and recent events suggest it’s worth revisiting.
I’ve tried similar UK-based climate pods, such as BBC’s Costing the Earth & What Planet Are We On, as well as XR‘s podcast, but I haven’t found them to be as engaging, and never seem to stick to my playlist as Gimlet’s show does. And when I grow up I basically want to be Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and basically everyone they interview. They highlight so many positive projects, people and real-world solutions it’s impossible to not feel more hopeful as a result of many of the inspiring people the episodes feature. Doing real work whilst I bounce about on the internet, asking people nicely to please make a website 😅|

Gimlet
https://gimletmedia.com/shows/howtosaveaplanet

Have You Heard George’s Podcast?
Blurring the lines between fiction, poetry, music, soundscape and performance, George the Poet’s beautifully crafted pod, now in its third chapter, is a poetic journey through a performer’s psyche. One to focus on and enjoy.
BBChttps://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07915kd/episodes/downloads

Drawn, The Story of Animation
An easy listening, but no less fascinating, history of animation with actors, illustrators and creators of shows, from the perspective of the new golden age of animation.
iHeart Radiohttps://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/drawn-the-story-of-animation/id1376092824


/ Special mentions /

Shows that drop in and out of my up next playlist…

  • Code Switch: Focused on the experiences of people of colour with stories on race and culture from across the US. NPR gonna NPR, and continue to create great, timely and engaging work.
    NPRhttps://www.npr.org/podcasts/510312/codeswitch
  • The Documentary: Stories from around the world, predominantly told first hand by local journalists and locals themselves.
    BBC World Servicehttps://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nq0lx/episodes/downloads
  • Plumbing The Death Star: One of my oldest subscriptions featuring some of the silliest nonsense you’ll ever hear. Unapologetically nerdy and funny, with some of the best-worst roleplaying improv you’ll hear.
    Sanspants Radiohttps://www.sanspantsradio.com/podcasts/plumbing-the-death-star/
  • Big Picture Science: This one fell off the subs a few years back but I kinda miss the accessible deep dives it did into incredible findings, and stories from across science. And I could listen to Seth Shostak for hours. I want to write scripts for him.
    SETIhttps://radio.seti.org/
  • Off Book: I’m obviously going to include my own baby, right? The pod features conversations with a wide range of artists who the YV were working with at the time, from Moonlight and Brother’s Size writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, Fun Home’s writer Alison Bechdel to Artistic Director Kwame-Kwei Armah and previous AD David Lan. I had the very best time producing it and the conversations with these creatives are endlessly fascinating.
    Young Vichttps://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/off-book-a-podcast-by-the-young-vic/id1112201266?mt=2

/ Production Houses /

Shout out to Gimlet for creating 6 of 25 out of this list. They are a huge producer of quality content, although many shows moving to be Spotify exclusives since Spotify’s purchase of Gimlet. They have arguably helped shape the podcastification of everything and everyone.

Founder, Alex Blumberg, even documented their difficult first few years as a startup, and it’s a fascinating, surprisingly transparent insight into starting an internet business in the 2010s; listen to Startup: https://gimletmedia.com/shows/startup
Would love to hear another series of this from the last 18 months or so…

Also, shout out to Radiotopia‘s network; which a number of the above shows are part of. Take a look at their bevvy of shows: https://www.radiotopia.fm/

/ Finding Support /

It’s the obvious way to grow a hobby, grow an audience and turn it into something that covers the costs, turning it into a career. From This Paranomral Life, to Big Picture Science podcasts use Patreon to support them and engage directly with their fans. There’s a whole host of others (pun intended, naturally), and looking into Ko-Fi, Buy Me a Coffee or simply setting up a newsletter and popping a crypto public address on your site is probably a good place to start.
Once you’ve arrived at the tip top of mount pod, you can get out on tour, release a book, or start producing merch. As well as supporting a couple of podcasts through Patreon, I’ve enjoyed of all of these other revenue streams, most recently getting Stadio’s beaut Pride tee. I see it as a great way of saying thanks to them for providing so many hours of free content to enjoy, and supporting the future life of a show and hopefully helping its creators make careers out of their hobbies 🙏

/ In Production /

You can do a lot on your own with a usb mic and a duvet over your head, but if you want to find out how you can utilise these two contraptions to create a podcast yourself you’ll be looking for excellent sound engineering, clever editing and podcast support in general, you’ll be wanting to get in touch with Chaz over at Airglow Audio – https://airglowaudio.com/

✯ Listening Habits ✯

90 days of listening = 2160 hours.
973 days since 1 Dec 2018 = 23,352 hours.

2160/23352 = 0.09

0.09 = 9% of total time since 1 Dec/

Pocketcast has removed 20+ hours of silence (which would likely horrify some editors and producers), I’ve saved 7 days of listening time by having the other half of my subscriptions; unlisted day to day news and other football shows listened to like radio whilst working, and I’ve skipped 16 hours of content, like adverts. Which I feel bad about. But please, let’s try to not have longer ad breaks then we experience on TV 🤪

Central America with the Pixel 3 /


In February 2019 I set out on a trip through Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica armed with a Pixel 3 and a Go Pro Hero 6. In the past I’ve always taken a DSLR or a film camera with me to mess about with and I was a little hesitant to not take something bigger and more trustworthy than a new phone. However, the ability to travel light and have less to worry about on the road was hugely appealing, as well as the fact I’d just invested in ‘the best camera phone on the market’ (citing basically everywhere in Dec 2018) and I wanted to put it through its paces.

Last time we visited this part of the world in 2009 we didn’t have a smartphone but did have an entry level Sony DSLR. Every week or two we’d settle into our local internet cafe, pop the Compact Flash card into my usb card reader and upload as many photos to Picasa/Flickr as my hour would allow me, whilst firing off emails with a few shots attached to emails to vaguely interested friend and family back home. Travelling in 2019, armed with a usb charger and Instagram is a bit of a different prospect.

Cities

We started our trip in Bogota, exploring this vast and busy city on predominantly on foot. If you are headed out onto the streets of Bogota, do be wary of post-downpour puddles and large vehicles. I learnt the hard way. The scale and vibrancy of city life was a huge part of our trip and capturing some of that to share with family and friends via WhatsApp when we were on the move was really important. Whilst the Pixel doesn’t have a wide angle lens on the main camera, we were in spots where it excelled in getting a lot of detail. A wider view on the view of Bogota or in the market for instance is something that other smartphones or a DSLR with the right lens wouldn’t have had a problem with, but the family still got a real sense of where we were. In bright environments the Pixel does really well, picking out lots of detail. Unsurprisingly, the HDR or Night Sight modes used when there’s a little less natural light also gets you through most situations. The times I found the exposure or colour to be off were usually when it was really overcast and you’d lose the clouds to a white blanket and it’d often throw the colour off a little. I quickly got used to processing the photos in Google’s Snapseed app, to offset these and edit these to match my mood at the time. It’s fair to say my photos got moodier the closer I got to coming home 😘

Landscapes

Exploring new and different landscapes was one of the reasons for taking this trip and we were not disappointed. Colombia’s natural beauty was unlike anything we’d seen before and it was great to see such a variety from the Cocora valley and coffee farms near Salento, to the man made lake near Guatape and it’s stunning beaches in the north. The Pixel did great with the mix of landscapes and often I felt shots needed very little processing, more often than not correcting for exposure given it was often so bright, or to address colour but often that’s down to my taste rather than it being necessary. I learnt to trust that the Pixel would pick out a huge amount of detail in landscapes (just look at the waterfall image below) – a really incredible amount given the size of the lens.

Portraits & Front Facing Camera

I’d not had a phone with a portrait mode before and given I normally travel with a DSLR and a 50mm 1.4 lens, it was something I’m most sceptical about on smartphones. And to be fair I’m still pretty sceptical but given my experience with the Pixel’s portrait mode, but it’s pretty unfair to compare a phone’s software performance against a DSLR lens. The shots are nice enough but the choice in what the Pixel decided to blur was often a little confusing but if there’s enough space behind the subject and it’s a fairly plain background it normally produces a nice enough image. Often it just felt a little too stark between focus and the blurred effect – something you can play with in the built in blur effect (in the built in camera editing software, not Snapseed). The front facing portrait mode was really impressive, just as much as the back camera with very little difference between the two when it was well lit. Given the wider angle of the front facing lens too you can create some fun effects with the slight distortion and warping too. 

Night Sight

One of the most talked about features on the Pixel and as someone who often works in dark performance spaces, Night Sight was bit of a draw, although most of the work I’d do would involve movement – so not ideal for a longer exposure. I often used Night Sight in lower light situations; under a canopy or a lot of times outside of direct sunlight and always enjoyed the results.

Throughout the trip I predominantly edited on the go with Google’s Snapseed, often getting a bit more out of a photo and changing the image to suit the look I was going for. I had been used to editing with VSCO for quite a few years but there was more to play with in Snapseed given it has been optimised to make the most of Google’s camera and I preferred the results more often than not.

In hindsight there were very few times when I wished I had a DSLR to hand instead of the Pixel 3. Most of those times occurred when I wanted to get a wide angle shot of a landscape or location or play around with some long exposures. I had my Go Pro to capture a few timelapse videos and other video clips as the Pixel’s video mode feels a good way behind what I’d been used to with an iPhone’s always impressive video quality, even in comparison to my previous iPhone 7. 

What most impressed me is what this camera can do with a single lens whilst most other competitors have multi-lens setups. More proof building on what iPhones have done so well for so long, knowing that the camera software is just as important as the hardware. The added security of knowing my photos were being backed up to google photos at full res (a free offer when I originally purchased the Pixel) was a real benefit. As long as I continued to find wifi strong enough to allow me to upload them. One. Photo. At. A. Time. Again, easier than the worry of losing an SD card on a local bus 🙈

Whilst it was liberating to just have a phone to hand for most moments I missed having the comfortable chunk of a camera attached to me and the lack of adaptability and experimentation to play with give the small amount of toying with settings you can do in stock camera apps. 

Given the capabilities of the incredible phones we’re all likely to have in the future I’m much less likely to carry a stand alone camera with me on a trip, unless I plan to add to my licensed photography on PicFair. It’s safe to say I won’t be using a phone camera for professional performance work any time soon though.

The Future Space Ports of Earth /

Bobak Ferdowski’s recent quote on wired.co.uk about democratising space presents many interesting questions. In the next 10–15 years we might be faced with the decision of buying a new car or going to space. Realistically it’ll be in the form of a sub-orbital flight but Ferdowski goes on to say he believes is ‘possible nowadays’ to even (potentially) visit a space hotel.

‘Maybe in ten to 15 years, it’s a decision between do I buy a new car, or do I go to space?’

Bobak Ferdowski, wired.co.uk

Whilst there is clearly a few steps to take before you can book a room at an orbital dwellings on airbnb, this is possibly not that far away. Consider the original turn around time from Kennedy announcing, ‘hey guys, let’s go to the moon’, to landing on the moon 8 years later from next to nothing. Now consider how much private money there is in the worldwide commercial space industry and the speed it can move at in comparison to government projects (outside of the military).

Hotel chains are already looking into this financially exciting future, as mentioned by Seth Shostak in the Are To Space We Return episode of Big Picture Science where they admit the real reason to get behind hotels in space is sex. People will want a romantic get-away to orbit for sex with the ultimate view. Sex sells on Earth and the rules will be no different in space apparently as PornHub’s crowdfunded ‘space sex tape’ will attest to. For just $3.4m they hope to create the first weightless sex experience for two out of this world adult actors.

So, we’ve now established the fact that Sunday afternoon space trips are coming soon. But how are you going to get there? A rocket or sub-orbital space plane, sure. But where will you need to travel to to check in to your speedy-boarding in preparation for your explosion-propelled projectile above the exosphere?

Inspired by the imminent shortening of the shortlist of possible UK Spaceports we’ve had a look at mapping as many possible spaceports around the world which current exist in some form (ie. current rocket launch sites), along with a few possible spots mooted to become a space port location of the future.

Earth’s Space Ports.

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There we go. Fascinating stuff right?

Well yeah, maps are inherently great. But when you start considering the ‘democratisation of space’ it’s not going to be very diverse if only a couple of billion people have a ‘local’ spaceport, with southern hemisphere essentially has none. Space is unsurprisingly going to follow almost every industry before it, it’ll be a rich, likely predominantly white, industry.

When we look at how few countries currently (in 2015) have launch-ready facilities or will imminently have designated space ports the opportunities become even narrower.

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And with the US, Russia and China the only countries to likely hit 5 spaceports when reviewing how many ports there are per country, it’s clear to see where the soon to be booming industry is focused.

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And perhaps most interestingly, here’s the number of space ports per country broken down by their proportion of world population.

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This chart is clearly not accurate considering the realities of how complex the make up of orbiting populations would be but it sure is interesting. This shows us the split of nationalities of future space farers based on the proportion of ports in different world locations. For instance, USA makes up ~37% of the population due to the fact they have ~37% of the world’s current space ports. The huge number of variables include the fact that not everyone who lives in a country is necessarily legally considered a citizen, people can obviously travel internationally and that over time ports will be built in different locations. I told you it wasn’t accurate didn’t I?!

Of course this is far from the most scientific analysis of the world’s space ports, but it’s an interesting glance at the state of current infrastructure.

This is important when you consider how small a percentage of the world’s population would be within a realistic journey to their nearest space port. The current space ‘powers’, USA, China, India, Japan and Europe, may feature very heavily on the map now as a result of the last few decades of progress but as technology becomes cheaper and more reliable, private enterprise in new countries will help new transport hubs emerge. And none of this takes into account the spending power, or really, the size up the population per country that could realistically afford this form of exclusive travel, when it does become affordably beyond the 1%.

Sure, it is likely that commercial space flight will be in a similar state to that of commercial flight where, for the first few decades, it will be prohibitively expensive for ‘normal’ people to fly and a whole generation may possibly be priced out of the experience but the fact it is happening around them will be exciting and more importantly inspiring for a new generation of space entrepreneurs and engineers. Looking at where the gaps are in current infrastructure suggests where the innovation in commercial spaceflight may come about as a result of the frustration of being priced out of the old guard’s grip. This will allow new populations to boldly go where few have gone before in their own little pocket rockets, even if it is just for a romantic night away.

Keeping morale high through the medium of GIFs since 1987. Digital + arts geek.

Print Journalism is dead. Long live Print Journalism /

I’m warning you now, this post is almost certainly going to finish on an almost entirely hypocritical point of view. Here we go.

I love print journalism.

I love the texture of a quality magazine. The gloss and shine of a brand new front cover. I’m pretty sure I love the postman who delivers my subscriptions every month. He’s like a British David Cross.

This is, however, coming from someone who studied Digital Journalism. Someone who studied the craft of producing content for backlit screens, for desktop, laptop and handheld devices which light your living rooms and warm your duvet.

Whilst there’s a certain level of disciplined to get through a handful of magazines for those blessed with such a short att…. there’s nothing quiet like a Sunday spent catching up on in depth reporting from the edges of human exploration, technological innovation, sporting achievement and current affairs reportage.

I’ll be sharing an insight into my current magazine subscriptions and where I’m looking to fill some gaps.

Wired

My original subscription and the magazine that started my monthly consumption of quality magazines. It’s second to none when analysing the most recent trends, testing new gadgets, and features incredible stories. It’s become a little business heavy for my liking, with a lot of talk of investments in the European start up scene and VCs, which I find interesting, but to a point. The art design is still great and I love the interactive extras you get on both iPad and iPhone. I just wish it worked on my Nexus 7.

National Geographic

If a magazine could come with a scent, National Geographic would be laced with rich Mahogany. The classic Christmas gift for anyone with an interest in the natural world, anthropology, history and culture or simply those of us who love incredible photography. It’s iconic design, shape and articles are still beautiful. Its only downsides for me is that it is not edited for a European audience at all and a subscription doesn’t include a digital copies which means it gets beaten up a bit on my commute each month making it a little less gratifying when reading it at the weekend.

Delayed Gratification

DG’s tagline is ‘The last word on breaking news’, and it’s worth waiting for. Upon receiving my first issue (the third issue) I received a lovely handwritten note on the back of a postcard written by the editor thanking me for my subscription. From this point on I loved this magazine and everything it stood for. The mix of short features and extensive reportage along with a chronological timeline of the biggest news stories to happen every quarter  lead you form page to page. With almost every story there are new facts to be read since you first heard of them a few months prior and you feel all the more informed as a result. It’s perfect for those of us who glimpse at the top stories everyday but never get round to reading the paper or the full story.

The Blizzard

The newest of the bunch and my first digital only subscription. You can’t go wrong with the quality of writers The Blizzard boasts with some of the biggest names who also occasionally feature on the best football podcasts.

Here’s some suggestions based on previous courtships I’ve had with other magazines.

For Science Geeks: New Scientist

The subscription I failed to keep up with. The most recent goings in within the scientific community delivered weekly to my door just became all too much. Whilst fascinating, there was just too much jargon for me to trawl through. I found myself selecting fewer and few stories to read, slowly judging each issue on it’s cover story and artwork and eventually leaving them to pile up. I still have 21 unopened issues.

For film lovers: Little White Lies

I’ve only had two experiences with Little White Lies but enjoyed both of them. Magazines are one of few mediums that work when when all of its content is themed around a single subject and when that subject is superheroes I’m all over it. The first issue I bought was The Man of Steel issue from May 2013 and it was great. Beautifully crafted and I loved the words. The only reason I don’t subscribe is my lack of knowledge of cult and arthouse films. It would be perfect for film buffs and is still accessible for those looking to broaden their knowledge

WANTED: A Boutique Gaming Magazine

There’s a distinct gap in my collection for a magazine that reflects one of my favourite pastimes – gaming.

Growing up, I loved reading Gamesmaster every month. It reflected the crazy mash-up of games I played and I still remember to oh-so-funny captions to the official screenshots. I dabbled with the Official Playstation, Nintendo and Xbox magazines but preferred more subjective cross-platform publications, even at a young age. Since breaking adolescence I’ve tried the big two; Edge and Games TM. Whilst I have a preference for Edge’s layout I have no loyalty to one or the other and occasionally buy them based on the cover story, normally whilst waiting for a delayed train from a busy Smiths where someone tries to up-sell about 2 kilos of Galaxy bars. I normally cave. If I could have the IGN UK podcast in magazine form I’d be happy but alas I fear it doesn’t exist and when it comes to games I feel I want their website to reflect their magazine and both leave me feeling a little empty.

As leading UK authorities on the games industry, I want their websites to reflect to reflect the excitement and innovation both triple A and indie games bring millions but they are distinctly lacking. Neither are anywhere near even experimenting with the fullscreen digital storytelling experience that The Verge, Polygon and The New York Times and playing with and it worries me these organisations are not thinking digital first given their industry.
[EDIT: Rock Paper Shotgun was found shortly after this – I am ashamed, it is brilliant]

And here-in lies my hypocrisy. I started off talking about my love of beautiful print magazines and I’ve ended up shaking my head in response to the lack of digital innovation from a magazine’s online presence.

The reality of smaller, boutique magazines being able to manage both online and offline publications is unlikely an Delayed Gratification have built their entire niche by not needing to compete with the instantaneous nature of news journalism online. There is however, something to be said for the digital crafting, or retelling if you will, of a story which originated in print. Few stories would not lend themselves to full screen images, interactive media, soundbites and the occasional winking of a cheeky gif starting a new paragraph. The written content can be almost exactly the same, but by adding a new value to it online, even if it’s weeks behind the original posting, the readers will re-experience the story and perhaps take some different from it.

This digital and print journalism Utopia is perhaps unobtainable, certainly with the way some organisations are set up with their print and online teams distinctly segmented, but I believe in a future where print and digital journalism offers something different and unique, perhaps for different audiences. One is for the commute and the tablet, instantly accessible and excitingly interactive and innovative. The other is wiser, more indulgent, charming and svelt.

By offering both and bundling print and digital, you encourage your reader to engage with you in two distinct ways, one complimenting the other, if the reader is so inclined to sample both. I for one, a rambling ‘digital journalist’ with a penchant for inked type faces, will enjoy both when they are offered to me separately. But I will become your digital and physical advocate if you get them both right.

Print Journalism is dead. Long live Print Journalism.

Finding space an audience /

15 years ago we started building the International Space Station.

Over 13 continuous years of human occupation it has had more than 200 people aboard, nearly 90 residents as well as numerous ants, spiders, worms, jellyfish and rodents. It has witnessed over 82,000 sunrises and sunsets and has documented everything from volcanic eruptions and super storms to 9/11.

There is a strong argued to say that it is our most impressive engineering feat ever. However, most people can probably only name one person to have been aboard, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Why is this?

To some people, Space is the antithesis of interesting; the technology is incomprehensibly irrelevant and the money spent on it vulgar when you look at the extreme poverty millions of people continue to live in across the world today.

Whilst governments look to encourage private industry to invest as they cut their own spending, what has been missing until recently is what every good story needs – great characters.

  The first media-shifting character needs little introduction

Commander Chris Hadfield.

Bowie, blogs and Instagram, need I say any more? The human side of astonautical life in space was a joy to follow as Hadfield shared his personal experience of living in space with the world through Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube.

For nearly 6 months and with the help of his son back in Canada, Hadfield made space interesting to the public, mostly through social media. The “most social media savvy astronaut ever to leave Earth” according to Forbes, his frequent updates received press attention unlike any other astronaut had received since the Apollo missions and by the time he released the first music video ever shot in space he was well on his way to becoming a household name.

Every space agency will hopefully be following suit in encouraging more astronauts to connect with the social media audience.

The second is Felix Baurmanger, the man who fell from space[/was pushed by Red Bull].

Felix’s achievement was truly amazing and the bravery he showed was extraordinary. His hunger to pioneer is inspirational and his determination to see the project through was best encapsulated in this documentary. This is what should be shown in secondary schools to inspire science and exploration.

The third character is of course, NASA’s tweeting Mars explorer, Curiosity.

The 6-wheeled Martian rover has lived up to its name and its daily updates of life on the red planet has been a social networking phenomenon. Curiosity has allowed NASA to reach a new generation of space geeks on a much more personal level.

As we continue to let our robotic minions do the dirty work over the next decade or so, sharing what is discovered and the robot’s stories is key to getting the public to understand what they’re funding – and if this is coming from a robot that can share both mind boggling red vistas and selfies alike, well that’s all the more interesting.

When the time comes for humans to explore the void beyond Earth’s orbit once again, we will look to the characters we can empathise with, aspire to become and wish for their safe return.

NASA, ESA and Russia, along with China and India and whoever else joins in the fun will need to make sure the public feels part of astronaut’s experiences and get to know the people in the suits before, during and after the missions until their names are etched into the public consciousness along with Gagarin, Aldrin, Armstrong, Columbus and Cook before them.

Who’s reading who, where and when /

Photo looking along a dining table in a traditional looking dining room A newspaper is laid open at the head of the table. Light from a window which is just out of shot, lights up small paintings of countryside views hung on the earth red walls.

This is one of my favourite things on the Internet right now; bitly’s Real-Time Media Map.

A live media map of US allows us to see what media outlets are most popular in which states, in real time. (Or at least the organisations and people that share stories and sources via bitly link.)

It’s so interesting to see the most popular outlets change throughout the day, NY Times on East Coast, USA today in mid-west and LA Times on West coast as each state wakes up, and USA Today continues to dominate throughout the day. The evenings seem to hold much more variety.

The online only space seems the most diverse with Huffington Post being one of the most widespread whilst The Onion and Buzzfeed provide light relief to the masses. TechCrunch is the most popular in CA and WA (apple and Microsoft employees then) and Maryland and Virginia both hold Politico in high regard.

From a British perspective it’s surprising to see both the guardian and BBC to be amongst most popular too. All the ex-pats keeping up with the motherland perhaps?

Can only hope that the developers at bitly have time and resources to build a global version soon, or at least the ability filter by continent. The possibility to see the global reach of news organisations really would lift the lid on analytics we rarely get to see.

Would love to see some little quirks appear too. Sydney Herald most popular in Argentina or Al Jazeera in Iceland!

Read more about the Media Map on bitly’s blog.

Humanity’s Last Hope /

Our lives are currently in the hands of amateurs.

Or at least that’s one way to look at it. With the US Shutdown causing NASA to close its doors (at least publicly – a skeleton staff of 600 remain to look after the ISS and similar projects) our skies are no longer being watched by the professionals boasting satellites in their armoury.

Instead, our impending (statistically improbable) doom brought about by giant rocks meandering through space must be averted by Peter and Mary, aged 62, who are in a word, amateurs.

Amateur astronomers such as Peter and Mary (perhaps who are now some of the most important fictional astronomers in non-existence) are suddenly crucial to the survival of the human race.

Without people like Peter and Mary, and the normally keen eyes of NASA and their robot sensors, spending their time scanning our skies, we don’t know how close we all are to being obliterated by a rogue planetoid causing mischief amongst the inner planets. 

Reality check. Amateur astronomers are unlikely to have the gear needed to scan the skies for disaster movie fodder, however our astronomers and scientists are suddenly playing a crucial role in maintaining systems, satellite tracking and even weather reporting. They are proving how crucial the private sector and educational institutes are in this sector when a government renders itself so impotent to defend their own people (yes I’m well aware that Bruce Willis could be hired by the Space X to blow the shit out of a mighty meteor, especially since his selling out to do Sky ads).

Whilst I admit the chance of all humanity being rendered a mere fraction of a bug-splatter on the giant windscreen of time, coincidentally occurring during a US Gov shutdown is unlikely, it’s important to address how much we (and the US people who actually fund the organisation) depend on NASA and what we  before it [most likely] becomes a research body as opposed to its all action 1960s incarnation. 

As a human race have learnt an incredible, almost incomprehensible amount about ourselves and our planet thanks to the hard work of the square glassed faces at NASA. Whilst noisy young upstarts will slowly pick up the grunt work where the behemoth left off with the Shuttle program, it’s clear there is no national or international space program or even private sector equivalent to carry on it’s incredible legacy. 

Is this a problem you may ask? Do we really need all this space exploration and funding? Whilst we probably won’t see heavenly annihilation in our lifetimes, at least smaller strikes are perhaps more likely than we thought accordingly to latest meteor research and these are the kinds of things we can learn more about, both through government agencies and privately funded research.

In short, we need to make sure our skies are monitored, if only to keep our communications satellites free from space debris and our astronauts safe from political squabbling to make sure they can boldly keep on spinning round our little blue planet at 7.71 km/s.

A new Space Race /

We are at the dawn of a new, privatised, Space Age.

Companies such as Space X and Virgin Galactic have the potential to create a huge boom in public interest in space again and for the first time, make space accessible to the general public (if you have $250k lying around that is). 

Looking at how positively people have reacted to the Mars Rover missions (and the Rovers themselves) as NASA has become ever more personable and media friendly through social media, space is becoming interesting again and piquing people’s Curiosity once more.

Future technologies such as the James Webb Telescope, due to be launched in 2018, will partner nicely with the growing general interest in finding exoplanets like Earth and the public will look at the space industry in a new light as new technologies open our eyes to fascinating aspects of space we haven’t seen since Hubble first went online.

image

The prominence of Sci-Fi and ‘geek’ culture has also helped generate more interest in new technologies as it has become part of everyday rather than fantasy. The public could start asking what happened to ‘the World of Tomorrow’ and how can we get it back on track. With the help of privatised companies and world-wide crowd sourced based funding for projects through KickStarter and Indiegogo we could see the public not just take an interest in a new Space Age, but they could fund it and help shape the future of human space exploration by doing so.

The final step is getting kids interested in science and space. A whole generation of children grew up in the 60s thinking space was an attainable place to reach within their lifetime. Instead it may be their grandchildren or even great-grandchildren who will be the first civilians realistically able to venture into space. With better science and technology schooling desperately needed in the UK, the Space industry is a chance to reinvigorate both skills and aspirations for young people and help grow an industry already worth £20bn (contributing £9bn to the UK economy).

The fact that the UK government is willing to inject £200m at a time of major cuts shows that it see the sector as a place for future growth, and with private funding the final frontier may be finally explored by the everyman. 

Loading Bar, London /

London has been waiting for a great social gaming space for a while now and Loading Bar’s tentative gaming cafe at Soho’s MADD juice bar may be what we’ve been hoping for.

Whilst it’s not clear whether it currently exists from a quick Google search we tracked it down to 53 Rupert Street in Soho – clearly signposted with a great mural on the window even though there’s not yet any ‘Loading Bar/Cafe’ branding at the moment.

You can order one of a plethora of game world themed cocktails or shooters, Kicked to the Kirby and Earthworm Gin to name but two and head down into the cosy gaming area at the back.

The seating area is a small but comfortable space and home to a coffee-table top arcade machine, SNES, Xbox 360 Elite and Wii U (there wasn’t a PS3 on display, but there may be one).

It was a great place to enjoy a classic Mario Kart battle and Street FIghter II Turbo match-up. Loading Soho has also been a venue for gaming nights and industry socials in the past few weeks and will hopefully continue to grow. 

Whilst it’s currently got a ‘pop-up’ feel (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) it’ll be great when it’s a bit busier and becomes a destination for video game fans.

It’s currently running on “no budget” and has been a labour of love for owner James Dance, who took three years to open its first location in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Dance took to Indiegogo to fund a London space but only raised $15,000 of its $50,000 target. 

We can only hope that people go down and support this great little space in the heart of the London video games industry so it can realise it’s dream of becoming the gaming location in London and maybe expand to a bigger venue. 

More photos of the cafe can be found on That Damn Pixel and you can follow Loading on Twitter and check out their website too for the latest events news.

Whilst finding out more it’s worth looking up EtooLondon, a London based E3 industry event from June 10th – 14th which sounds exciting! Find out more from the website and Twitter

Don’t take that tone with me /

Meet CARROT.

It’s another one of those iOS productivity apps we see all too often, promising to help us improve our daily tasks.

However, not many come with an ‘Or Else’ threat attached to clearing your to do list.

The app’s tone of voice is what sets it apart from the crowd. But how do you get the voice out there when you sit in an overcrowded store which doesn’t lend itself to your ‘personality’? You create app-advocates. [Appvocates? Apdvocates?]

Some app’s go viral through word of mouth and online social sharing, others through advertising. CARROT doesn’t strike me as an app that has millions for marketing itself so it takes a personal approach on Twitter (easier to do with fewer followers of course).

In a world of boring press releases and even worse, lists of update bug fixes, it’s refreshing to read a developer blog that comes across about genuinely caring about developing the app, albeit in a passive-aggressive AI kind of way.

Meet CARROT’s ‘Maker’, Brian Mueller. Mueller, based in Philadelphia, who shed some light on the development of his first iOS app when I first caught up with him.

Where did the inspiration come from? 

I started off just wanting to make a very simple todo list with gamification elements.

Most todo lists are so packed to the gills with features like priorities, multiple lists, due dates, etc, that they’re a chore in themselves to use. I don’t want to have to click through 5 different screens just to add a single task. Getting stuff done is already hard enough – your todo list shouldn’t slow you down even more. So I wanted to create something that was simple, clean, and elegant. Just pull down to add a new item, swipe right to complete it. That’s it.

The other problem is that todo lists are inherently boring. They’re a chore to use. So I wanted to create one that gave you a reason to keep coming back. That’s where the gamification elements come in.

As for the central character for the app, I was originally going to use a snobby corgi named Sir Waffles as the main character. What a mistake that would’ve been! Luckily, doing the animation for Waffles would’ve been too difficult, so I came up with this sadistic AI personality named CARROT instead. She basically wrote herself – and she’s proven very popular.

How long did it take to build the first iteration and then 1.0?

1.0 actually didn’t take all that long to develop – it was live in the App Store just a month after I first started on the project. Of course, I was staying up until at least 3am every night, so that certainly helped speed up development.

What background do you have in development?

I only just started learning how to program a few months ago. So, basically zero background. It’s been a great experience so far, though.

Is there an Android version coming soon?

I hope to get started on an Android version pretty soon. There’s been a lot of demand.

Where do you think CARROT can go in the future

I have big plans for the app in the future. 3.0, which I recently submitted to Apple for review, will include several of the most-requested todo list features: reminders/due dates, recurring tasks, and Siri integration. 4.0, which I’ve already started working on, will include some fun in-app purchases and a significant expansion to CARROT’s storyline. After that version’s done, I’d like to get iCloud sync and an iPad version out there.

 Do you have another project lined up?

  I have a couple ideas for my next app, but I probably won’t be able to start on that for a few months.

Any favourite apps yourself? 

I’m a big reader, so I’m always using the Kindle app, Instapaper, The Magazine, and Mr. Reader for my RSS feeds.

Finally, will the cat survive the server room?

You’ll just have to wait until Chapter 3 to find out!

CARROT has proved to be the one to-do list app I’ve returned to again and again, albeit partly through fear, but most likely because its unique tone of voice truly sets it apart from the rest.

You can find CARROT in the iTunes store.