Why We Had to Cancel Triangulation ☹️

Triangulation album art

It’s time to take stock as the year, and decade, wind to a close. As usual at this time of year we have announced several new shows on TWiT, and, sadly, we decided to say good-bye to an old favorite, Triangulation, a show I started in 2005 with John C. Dvorak and Larry Lessig (those episodes seem lost alas), resumed with Tom Merritt in 2011, and a weekly podcast that in 427 episodes over most of the decade, with a variety of hosts, has brought you interviews with some of the most interesting people in tech and a contemporaneous chronicle of how the world has changed around us. All those episodes will continue to be available at TWiT.tv

But I wanted you to understand why Triangulation was cancelled, and in the process understand why some shows make it and others don’t.

Ad-supported networks, like TWiT, rely on consistent listening. In general, it will take four to seven impressions (listens) before an ad works. On a show that’s listened to every week, an advertiser need only buy four to seven ads to get your attention.

With an interview show like Triangulation, most of the audience only listens to the interviews they’re interested in. Let’s say it’s one in five. That means even though 100,000 people might say they “listen” to Triangulation, any given episode is only going to get 20,000 downloads. An advertiser will have to buy 5x the number of ads to reach the same number of impressions on any given listener. Which makes Triangulation five times more expensive than a show that you listen to every week.

Interview shows are completely viable with subscription models. NPR’s Fresh Air is a fantastic show – the gold standard for interview shows – but it wouldn’t survive on ad-supported network. It does great in a subscription or listener-supported environment because millions of people love it enough to donate, even though they might only listen to a handful of shows a year.

That’s why broadcast media, and podcasts, produce mostly shows that generate consistent weekly listens. It’s why shows like Serial do so well, you have to listen every week. It’s why shows like Triangulation do so poorly. It sad, but it’s true.

Bill Atkinson talks Hypercard, the original Macintosh, and more with Leo
Bill Atkinson talks Hypercard, the original Macintosh, and more with Leo

We’ve never experimented with the subscription model on TWiT. It’s hard to get people to pay for shows they’ve been getting for free. And I worry that our technically sophisticated audience would make a pay-wall porous pretty quickly.

But I wanted you to understand why you hear one kind of programming on ad-supported networks, and another on listener-supported channels. We carried Triangulation for as long as we could, but we ultimately can’t produce shows that lose money. It breaks my heart, but that’s just the way it is.

Farewell, old friend. It’s been a great decade producing some of the shows I’m most proud of. I’ll miss you.

In The Clouds, But Down to Earth

13 November 2019 Dubai, UAE

Dearest friends,

Our journey is done. Leo was so sad getting off the beautiful Silver Spirit, but touring Dubai over the last three days has lifted the gloom. It was pouring rain when we arrived on Monday, but it’s been balmy and clear ever since. We topped off our visit, literally, with a sunset visit to the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa. These pictures are from the open air balcony on the 153rd floor. From here Dubai looked like the Emerald City, but dusted with gold.

Tonight we fly home and on Thursday we’ll come back down to Earth. We’ve missed you all. See you soon!

The Old Prospector

4 November 2019 Gulf of Aden, Red Sea

Here is Lisa’s picture of the Old Prospector in Petra. The stamp is Lisa, doing her daredevil act on the ramparts of King Herod’s fortress in the desert, Masada.

We’re now sailing south on the Red Sea toward the Gulf of Aden. We’ve completed the “Safe Haven” drill in case of pirates. Apparently the Gulf of Aden is somewhat risky, pirate-wise. We’ve taken on additional “security crew” and the ship will sail lights out for the next few days. If the captain calls “Safe Haven” we have to move away from the windows into the corridor. In “the unlikely event the ship is taken by pirates” we’re advised to do what they say. We will.

Meanwhile the band is playing on the pool deck and we’re enjoying smooth seas and warm sunny days.

Love from the edge of civilization.

The Red Queen

2 November 2019 Luxor, Egypt

Greetings from the Valley of the Queens. We spent the day touring the Eternal Homes of the rulers of Egypt’s “New” Kingdom (1500-1000 BC).

The picture on the reverse is of Nefertari, favorite of Pharaoh Ramesses II. Hers is the best preserved of all the tombs and is considered a masterpiece. The wall paintings were so vivid it felt like they had been done yesterday. We were very lucky to have seen it because access is limited to protect the images.

The stamp is of us floating in the Dead Sea.

Modern Nabataeans

1 November 2019 Gulf of Aqaba

Dear friends,

Petra is something. A 2000 year-old city carved into the sandstone of the Jordan Rift Valley. The ancient Nabataeans who built it are a bit of a mystery but their descendants are still living among the ruins, as the family portrait on the reverse shows. On the stamp, Lisa is riding a camel in front of the best known building, the Treasury.

We’re having a wonderful time on this amazing trip. Tomorrow we visit the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt and the Valley of the Kings.

We miss you all. The fires in Sonoma are headline news even on the other side of the world. We’re glad you’re all safe and sound! Thanks for holding down the fort while we’re away!

Peace in the Middle East

29 October 2019 Ashdod, Israel

Dear friends,

We’re about to leave Israel after a whirlwind three days. We visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem (in the PLO controlled West Bank), Masada, and the Dead Sea. We couldn’t stop giggling in the Dead Sea because we were so buoyant that our legs kept popping up.

The picture on the reverse is of the harvest in the Garden of Gethsemane – the place, tradition has it, that Jesus prayed on the night before his crucifixion. The stamp is the scribe at Masada.

Love to you all!

Silly Walks in Athens

23 October 2019

Hi folks!

We’ve arrived in Athens (Greece not Georgia). The flights were easy – SFO to Munich, quick layover, then Munich to Athens. We were met by Alexander who gave us a heavily accented tour on our way to our British Colonial-era hotel. We’re overlooking the Syntagma Square with a view of the Acropolis. Arrived just in time to see the silly walk changing of the guards at the Parliament Building (over).

Love to all!

How I Twitter

As you may know I deactivated my half-million follower/bot twitter account last August. I don’t miss it at all except as a newsfeed.

Twitter practically killed RSS readers by providing a firehose of instantaneously “curated” news. With all its flaws, that firehose is useful for a variety of reasons. If there’s a story breaking right now, it’s likely breaking on Twitter, even before it breaks elsewhere. It’s also a pretty good gauge of what attracting the attention of the hive mind at any given minute. For someone in my business, those are fairly useful signals.

So I’m left with the problem of how best to use Twitter without getting mired in the muck of the world’s most famous swamp. Here’s how I do it.

While I have deactivated my personal account @leolaporte, I’ve maintained an impersonal account, @links_for_twit. That account follows journalists. Period. I can lurk there any time. I don’t want to be a leech, though, so I also use Zapier to automatically post all the links I save for use on the shows.

That workflow (which should work just as well on IFTTT) goes:

When I see a story I think we should cover, I click a special bookmark in my browser which sends it, and any selected text from the story, to Pinboard. On mobile I can share to Pinboard for the same effect. (On iOS I use Pushpin to add that share sheet, on Android I use the Pindroid app.)

Links I post to Pinboard go two places:

  • A Google Sheet shared with Karsten, my producer, that he can use to build show rundowns.
  • The @links_for_twit Twitter feed.

I tag each story on Pinboard with the show I would like to use it in but those tags don’t go to Twitter. I also sometimes edit the notes, which do go to Twitter, for more coherence or to highlight a salient point.

So that’s how I feed stuff to Twitter. But more important to me is how I read Twitter.

My secret weapon is Iain Dodsworth’s  Tweetdeck (acquired by Twitter itself in 2011 – please don’t kill it Jack). Tweetdeck’s column layout and real-time streaming let me follow breaking news in real time. Also it’s ad-free; I hate the confusion caused by “promoted tweets” in my legitimate stream. But most importantly, I can use the Tweetdeck column settings to turn off retweets and I never look at @replies or DMs.

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 10.32.27 AM
My Tweetdeck setup – add columns as needed

Retweets, @ replies to my account, and DMs are the biggest part of the suckage on Twitter. Since I’m following quality feeds the stream is fairly pure as long as I keep those main sources of pollution out. This makes it most like a real-time RSS feed. I don’t engage in conversations on Twitter – that’s almost always a recipe for disaster – and I avoid the outrage engine fueled by retweets.

Tweetdeck allows me to add columns as needed. I use this to follow breaking stories via a #hashtag or other people’s curated lists, like Robert Scoble’s Tech Journalists list, in separate columns. Adding lists, yours or others, as separate columns is one of the best features of Tweetdeck. In fact, lists are a critical feature in making Twitter useful. It’s a shame more people don’t know about them.

Two other features in Tweetdeck make it irreplaceable. I can schedule tweets for later release — I don’t use this much but it’s great to have — and custom link shortening. I use a free bit.ly account to shorten links with the domain leo.ist. Tweetdeck converts my links automatically.

I worry that Tweetdeck will at some point follow the third-party clients down the tubes. Twitter seems hell-bent on getting everyone to use twitter.com or the official apps. But, Jack, I’d gladly pay $5 a month for the features of Tweetdeck. That’s got to be more than you’d make showing me ads. Please consider that before you kill this little gem.

So, how do you Twitter?

So Long and thanks for all the fish…

The New Screen Savers on hiatus

I was so excited when we launched The New Screen Savers” three-and-a-half years ago. Since then it’s been one of my favorite shows in our line-up and a great way for us to showcase products and ideas that don’t fit any of our other shows. But doing justice to that mission makes it the most complicated and expensive show on TWiT. We’ve been trying to do a network television show on a podcaster’s budget.

As you know, TWiT is a bootstrapped operation. We have never taken investments; we can only spend as much as we make. And if a show, however much we love it, can’t pay for itself, we just can’t afford to do it. Unfortunately, “The New Screen Savers” just hasn’t developed a big enough audience to pay for itself. So, as much as it breaks my heart to do this, we’re going to end its run December 29, 2018.

Part of what made The New Screen Savers” special is the many former TechTVers joined me as co-hosts including Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose, Megan Morrone, Martin Sargent, Robert Heron, Roger Chang, Sarah Lane, and of course, Kate Botello. TWiT regulars like Jason Howell, Jason Snell, Jason Calacanis, Ron Richards, Iain Thomson, Fr. Robert Ballecer, SJ, and others have stepped in as co-hosts as well. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

We thought it fitting that Patrick and I host the last live episode together on December 22. The Best of 2018 show will post on December 29, 2018. The entire back-catalog of episodes are available to watch anytime at twit.tv/nss.

But wait, there’s more.

Know How
Iyaz Aktar started Know How…” in 2012 to highlight a variety of how-tos and DIYs. Since then, hosts Iyaz, Fr. Robert Ballecer, Megan Morrone and Florence Ion, Jason Howell, Sam Machkovech, and I have shown you everything from building computers, drones, soldering, Raspberry Pi projects, LEDs, smart devices, and gaming. We’re also ending its run this month but we’ll move some of the content into a new show coming in early 2019. The last episode published on December 20, 2018. You can see all “Know Now…” shows anytime at twit.tv/kh.

This Week in Law

After talking with Denise Howell, we all agreed that “This Week in Law” will also end in early 2019. Denise and her panel of legal minds covered the wide spectrum of topics related to law and tech, including Intellectual Property, privacy, copyright, regulation, and the ever-expanding segment of animal selfies. The last episode will be January 11, 2019 at 3p Pacific. As sad as this news is, I’m thrilled to say Denise’s brilliant legal mind and entertaining style will take on a larger role on the network going forward with regular appearances on “This Week in Tech” and “Triangulation.” All of the TWiL shows will remain available at twit.tv/twil.

I know you share my sadness at losing these three shows. We don’t cancel shows lightly, but we also understand it’s part of the process in keeping TWiT fresh and vital. And every ending brings a new beginning. We’re working on a new show we’ll unveil early next year. More about that later.

We all work every day to fulfill our mission to bring you the best tech programming on the Internet. As always, I thank you for your continued support. TWiT wouldn’t exist without you.