7 - Creating Cloud With Chris

Posted on Sunday, May 24, 2020
We're going to go in a little bit of a different direction for this episode, and focus on the podcast itself and my podcast journey so far! Not only is this episode topic slightly different, we're running a different format as well! In this episode, I'm joined by my colleague, Fletcher Kelly - who is exploring the idea of setting up his own podcast! Instead of me being the interviewer, I'm the one who ends up in the hot seat and talk about my experience so far of setting up Cloud with Chris! Hopefully this will give you a little bit of an idea of my journey so far, and why I wanted to set the podcast up as well! So, let's go ahead and start the episode…

Show Notes

Hello, and welcome back to Cloud with Chris! You're with me, Chris Reddington - and we'll be talking about all things Cloud! We're going to go in a little bit of a different direction for this episode, and focus on the podcast itself and my podcast journey so far! As you'll know, I'm still early on this journey, so I do appreciate all of your support- Whether that is feedback to keep making the episodes more useful, liking or subscribing across social media or podcast channels, or suggesting topic ideas for future episodes! All of these can be found on the Podcast's website, www.cloudwithchris.com.

Not only is this episode topic slightly different, we're running a different format as well! In this episode, I'm joined by my colleague, Fletcher Kelly - who is exploring the idea of setting up his own podcast! Instead of me being the interviewer , I'm the one who ends up in the hot seat and talk about my experience so far of setting up Cloud with Chris! Hopefully this will give you a little bit of an idea of my journey so far, and why I wanted to set the podcast up as well! So, let's go ahead and start the episode…

Chris: Hi everyone and welcome back to our current episode of Cloud with Chris. Now we're taking a little bit of a different direction with this one. I'm actually joined today by yet another guest. I've told you in previous episodes that we've got plenty of guests lined up. We've got plenty of people coming in, and I'm very delighted to be joined by Fletcher Kelly today. One of the things that Fletcher and I have had a few discussions about in the past is actually getting started on this journey of making a podcast. So, I know it's cloud with Chris - but we're going to be going in a slightly different direction for this one and talking about the actual process of me getting this podcast set up and some of the things that I've been thinking about, and some of those steps I've taken along the way. So Fletcher, how are you doing sir?

Fletcher: Good thanks, Chris. Really good to be on the show and looking forward to getting some of the questions I've always wanted to ask answered, but always been too afraid to ask, so let's see what happens.

Chris: Excellent, yes, let's see what happens. Indeed, I think you know this one is going to be a slightly different. As I say, compared to some of the others. It's not necessarily cloud. There will be sprinklings of cloud throughout because of the way I have actually approached - how I've done my podcast. But yeah, I'm I guess I have the easy job in this. In this session I'm actually taking the back seat while you ask some of your questions and maybe put me in the hot seat for a change. So, it's going to be a different experience for me as well. This is where I hand over my reign and let you take over Fletcher. So what stuff is top of mind, where are you on that journey for everyone listening in right now?

Fletcher: So top of mind for me right now is basically trying to figure out the best use for a podcast for me specifically. I like what you're doing with yours, and that's why I want to chat to you. From my understanding, you're using it as a way to share your knowledge, and that's exactly what I'm trying to do as well. So if you've got any learnings or anything that I could maybe take away from that, because every day we do something interesting. We have customers that challenge us and you spend some time figuring it out. Inevitably, a year later you go “I remember having this problem. I have no idea how I fixed it, but I have fixed it before”. I want to start using a podcast and maybe in combination with the blogging type platform to actually be a knowledge repository. So that I can find a way to leverage the podcast that I can move past that issue in the future. What sort of hints and tips would you have? All that and how have you gone about doing that?

Chris: Wow. What a great question there. You're really making me think to start off with! Maybe if I talk a bit about my journey… I've tried the whole blogging thing in the past and I've still got my own website. There is a blog on there as well. But if you look at it, you'll probably see it a little bit neglected. It's got content from a couple of years back, and nothing really since. I think one of the things for me was just finding the time to sit down, write that all up and keep regularly posting it. And, you can say the exact same thing about a podcast as well, because you absolutely need to do all of that - and I'm sure we'll cover a bit of that as we go through this discussion here as well. But really, for me, I know that for the past few years I've been focusing on Azure. I've been focusing on cloud, and there are still certain things that for me keep springing up. That was the thing for me that made me realise “Actually, you know what I actually - probably have something valuable to say here”. So, I think one of the things when I was doing a bit of research about getting started with the podcast, how you go and start all of these things off was thinking about what that main topic is that you want to talk about and having that real, relatable thing that you can discuss. For me, that's cloud. One of the other things I did consider doing, another passion area of mine is theatre and musicals, that sort of topic. And it's still something I'm wondering, do I start a separate podcast about, but then I need to think about the hours in the day and all of these kinds of things. But really, what you want to think about first is what is that topic going to be? Because whilst there's plenty of podcasts out there, there's not as many podcasts as there are blogs. I think we've gone through that evolution with blogs where there's just so many blogs out there. How do I know which one that I should go and look at? If you've got a following, you probably have this - you know there's certain people out there, for example like Scott Hanselman and others who blog regularly and have a really good following. So if you've got that, you've got a name out there, brilliant great. Whereas if you don't… Getting started in the blogging space these days is probably a little harder, and there aren't as many podcasts as there are blogs. So if you're trying to get a way of getting your content out there, it's probably not a bad way to go. But, it does mean that you have to be comfortable with talking with during the prep, potentially interviewing people and working with other people there as well. It's not just about solving your own problems and writing the content. They are two different approaches of delivering that content out there, so that's probably one of the main things I would say is figuring out first that topic. Because, then what that does is that gives you the title of your podcast and whatever that would be and what you get to there in terms of the end result. It took a bit of time to get to where I am now. I had some encouragement from one of my previous guests, Abel Wang when I was back in Redmond a few months ago. He and I were chatting and this was an idea at the time. He really gave me the push and encouragement and said “You know, why not? What have you got to lose? Try it out, see what happens”. And, here we are! It took a lot of discussion with other people convincing, Should I buy the microphone? Should I go and start this podcast? What should it be called? And it was really a journey, and I'm still going on it. I'm by no means finished, but that's at least some of the things top of mind when I think about the past couple of months and getting started there. I know it's a bit of a roundabout answer, but hopefully there's something in there that triggers something in your mind there, Fletcher.

Fletcher: That's great. For me, I think the resonating point is absolutely picking a theme and then finding something to be - not opinionated about - but definitely be passionate about. I think really does help.

Chris: Mhm.

Fletcher: You did mention something really interesting, you said you come from a theatre background. So, I'm curious if that has helped you. The one thing that is sort of putting me off a little bit (if I can call it that) is being able to listen to yourself. When you speak, you sound one way and obviously when that gets played back, you go “Who is that stranger talking back to me?". Because what we hear is very different to what we sound like. How have you worked around that? Does it still bug you?

Chris: Mmm. Interesting question. Really interesting question. So let me tackle the first part of what you said first, around the theatre side of things. I've done the whole theatre side of things for a few years now. I started that way back in high school, and started it again over the last couple of years. So whilst it's helped, I'd say there's elements of what we do in our day to day that probably help equally as much as well. I think one of the first things is being willing enough to put yourself out there. The whole idea of listening to yourself back is something I'll come back to in a minute. But, I think the main thing firstly is putting yourself out there. Actually, one of those things when I started this podcast when I released my teaser before I started doing the first episode… I remember waking up this one night and just thinking “What on Earth have you done? Why are you starting doing this? Why are you putting yourself out there like this?". It's actually quite scary. When you think of it as an idea, It's like “Oh yeah, this is fine”. But when you actually do it, then you think “Oh wow, I've got to keep up this rigour of submitting so many episodes over however period of time and releasing all of this content”. But, actually now that I'm 5 or 6 episodes in (by the time we're actually recording this one), it's actually a lot of fun. It's actually something that I really enjoy. Coming back to that point about listening to yourself back. I remember in the first episode I was very very very picky about how I edited the content. Like, if there was a breath here. If there was an Uhm there, if there was just a pause or something that I didn't quite like, I'd be very picky. Now, in reality, all of that takes time to edit post production and that's something where I don't necessarily have the luxury of having all of that time. One of the things that I do as well for this particular podcast, is I transcribe everything that's said, just to make it a bit more accessible. So what you're going to have to think about is what pieces are you willing to compromise on? Because like anything, there's not enough hours in the day to do everything. That would be one of the things that I would say. Now coming back to the main point about hearing yourself back. I don't have as much of a problem with it anymore, actually. I don't know if it's because we are now a few episodes in and I've gotten used to it. But what I would say, and this is one of the tips that I've seen on a load of different podcasts blogs and recommendation sites out there, is when you record an episode - have something that for the next episode you want to improve upon. So try and always be constructive. Try and always keep improving. Don't look at the negatives, but look at what you can keep doing better. Spin it into a positive. So for me I know when I'm doing these, that there's actually certain key phrases that I keep saying. I try to steer away from those and actually it probably makes it better for the day-to-day job as well, during calls that we have with customers. Those kinds of things. That's one of the things that I would say is actually listening to yourself back does seem to get easier. A few years ago as well, I presented at this event that we run in the UK in a previous role called DevBriefing. We had a guy come in to do a bit of coaching with us from a presentation style perspective. One of the things I remember him very clearly saying was never ever ever listen to yourself back and watch yourself back at the same time. Do one, do the other, but not both. Because, if you do both at the same time, it's just two overwhelming to your system. And you start cringing at it. So I think because I've only got the one, it's OK. If I started going down the streaming route and had both, maybe we'd have a different discussion. That's something that I'm still thinking about, but I think it's gotten easier the more that I've done these, is probably the answer I'd say.

Fletcher: OK! So now to bring it back to a bit of cloud, because that's the whole point around this. You mentioned that you transcribe everything.

Chris: Mm.

Fletcher: So, here's a question. Are you doing this manually? Or are you actually using some tools? Because we work for a really cool company and we've got stuff like stream. Does that work? Or is it only for video?

Chris: Yeah, good question. So I haven't tried stream yet actually. But what I actually do at the moment is I record the episodes. I record the episodes using Zencastr (that's what we're using right now). And what I do then is I take the audio, merge those into a single track. And use one of the Microsoft Cognitive services APIs. I use the Speech to Text API and what I do is I log on there, upload the latest recording. I then run a test over it and then it generates a load of transcribed information from the recording into a text file. But the thing that I would say there is, it's literally raw text. There's no capitalization, there's no punctuation. There's none of that in there. So what I then do is I listen back to the episode, and as I'm doing some of the post production, I update the text alongside. But, there are a few Cognitive Services APIs that I haven't tried yet. For example, The Video Indexer APIs and the Batch Transcription APIs. So I'll need to experiment with them and see which one suits my usecase best. I'm sure there's ways I can optimize it. Stream is a really good suggestion actually, one that I should probably try out. But, I know there's other external services out there that do this type of thing. So, still learning, still growing in that space. But that's the current approach, at least that I use.

Fletcher: So then, I guess that brings me to another question. That's obviously part of your workflow. How much of your time actually goes into post production? Because, I see we're a couple minutes in there. Zencastr's quite nice as I can at least see how far in we are (and how nervous I should be getting!). So, so far so good. But how much time do you actually invest post production?

Chris: Mm

Fletcher: Is it double the time, triple the time, half the time? Is there a sort of formula? Because, like you're saying - obviously as you get into it becomes more and more of a hobby. But we all live busy lives. So I'm very curious. Maybe we should do this in six months from now and see how you've changed your workflow. Because that's the one big thing for me. We work long days, we have family, we have friends. I'm amazed you actually get to fit this in. That's very impressive.

Chris: Well, I think number one is - It's definitely a bit easier in the current scenario, given everything that's going on in the world with Covid-19. I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands.

Fletcher: See the good in the bad?

Chris: Exactly, Yes! I will spin it into a positive. It's a really brilliant point and I'd absolutely love to do this again in say 6 or 8 months or whatever. Because, I'm sure there will be plenty that will have changed since we're recording this now. It would be a really interesting exercise to do that again. What I would say then is I don't think there's a formula right now, just because I'm still so much in the early days. It's a little bit like that DevOps idea or agile idea of the cone of uncertainty. What that is for anyone person who doesn't know what that means. The more you iterate over something, the more you do that and the more you predict how long something is going to take. The more accurate your predictions get, the more you do those predictions. So as you go on the first sprint, the first time you estimate that… your estimations are way off. You're completely wrong. Second time, you might be a bit better. Third time you might have got a bit worse again. But as you go on and on and on, you start getting better at those predictions. That's what I find with this actually. The first time that I recorded an episode, like I mentioned - I was so focused on all the little breaths here, the uhms, the too long of a pause. All of those little details, my understanding of the software that I use (I use Audacity to do the post production). My understanding of Audacity at the time wasn't as much as it is right now. So all those little command shortcuts, all of those little tips and tricks to make things sound better. I don't have to go and research each time now. I'm just doing those by hand and by knowledge and by memory. So all of those things are quicker. So, for the episode I recorded recently (the API economy one). I think the total recording length was about 30 minutes roughly. I did a little pre statement, little post statement like I do with all the episodes. So that's a couple of minutes each side. I probably spent a few hours on the post production and that's the editing of it. That's the transcribing. That's getting all of the information from the different guests and putting it onto the website. There's certain things in there that I've also automated to make things a bit easier. Coming from my DevOps background, of course I'm going to try and Automate some of that and save myself some time along the way. But ultimately, I think the main amount of time is the post production and the transcribing. Those are two areas I definitely know that I can bring down. Even tools like Zencastr have some post production capabilities built into some of the higher tiers. Similarly, like we said on the transcribing side, there's probably other services that I can go and look at that might be able to help there. So it's really balancing that whole time versus cost and coming back into requirements of all things there. So that that's probably the answer I'd give you there Fletcher.

Fletcher: OK, so obviously you've got a website. I would definitely like to have a longer discussion around that, so maybe we can do that on another episode. Especially with the CI/CD, and like you were saying - automate a lot of the potential uploads of the audio files, maybe do some type of quality checking, maybe something like markdown so it's a little bit easier to actually do the pages.

Chris: Sure.

Fletcher: We know for a fact, that in the team you often get mocked around one specific thing when you switch on your video. You know where this is going.

Chris: I know where this is going!

Fletcher: Here's the $1,000,000 question (and I hope it didn't cost that!). But, that particular investment that you made into the microphone. Would you have done it any differently like for someone like me, that's looking at starting out. Would you have gone cheaper, more expensive? Are you happy? You understand? What sort of guidance would you give for that?

Chris: Sure, sure - absolutely - and I think brilliant question, because I'm going through the same process in my mind at the minute. I'm thinking of not just doing podcasting, but doing streaming as well. So with streaming, there's of course the same question, but with a webcam. So, I'm doing the exact same kind of thought process, but for streaming instead. I think what it comes down to is how serious are you about starting that. Is it just something that you want to try out, experiment and see if it works? Or is it something where you're fully dedicated, you're fully behind the idea and you think - “Right, this is definitely going to happen. This is definitely what I'm going to do”. So, for me - I knew that the podcast thing was definitely going to happen. My track record of blogs - you know, maybe I should have been a bit more cautious. But actually the podcasting definitely was going to happen. So for me, I've got a blue Yeti USB microphone. I bought it whilst I was traveling, so I think it cost me around $100 or maybe $120. Something like that, and it was cheaper than what it was back here. For me it was just a no brainer. I'm going to invest in it. That looks like a decent microphone actually for the price, in terms of the sound that I get back, in some of the functionality it gives me. That looks great. But, if I wasn't as committed to the idea and I wasn't sure - I can understand why people would go for some alternates microphones for example. So I think the important thing is setting yourself a budget, because there's so many different options out there. Of course, set yourself a budget, figure out how much you really want to go and spend and then just start researching. That's exactly what I did. There's plenty of websites out there about setting up your first podcast, how you look at different microphones. Even podcasts about setting up your first podcast and streams about setting up the first podcast. So that is what I would recommend - is - do that bit of research up front. I started off by buying a Blue Yeti USB mic, and it's absolutely perfect. The version that I bought though, it stands on its own. So, rather than having one of the boom arm stands that I've got right now (which I invested in a bit later). It didn't come with that. It's just thinking about that whole setup and how you want that to go and look. So for me, one of the things that I read for example (and I know this because I'm a singer, and I know about posture and the importance of that with voice and all these things). If you're leaning over to speak into a microphone, it makes your voice sound different. So that's the reason why I have this arm stand that I've got here for the microphone, because I can sit up well, I can have a good posture. It means that my voice will sound natural. It won't sound strained or pulled in some way. So, thinking about that set up (and even not just the microphone, but the accessories that come with that as well is important). What I would say, just bringing it back full circle. I mentioned that I'm looking into cameras and webcams for streaming. I'm really struggling on that one actually, because I don't know how much I want to go and put into that. I don't know how serious I am about that one. This is a new exercise, a new idea, a new thought. I've been looking at logitech webcams. At the minute there are none anywhere - again - because of COVID-19, and demand from working from home has meant everything's disappeared. But I've seen people who have mirrorless digital, SLRs, for example, and use those for streaming. Fair play, the quality looks immense. The quality looks amazing. I have an SLR. It's probably about 10, 10+ years old, maybe 15 years old. But, I don't know if I could justify that amount of money into it right now. So I think it's one of those things… testing the waters, maybe start lower and invest bigger as you get more committed to the idea. That's kind of what I'm thinking with the streaming side of things. So starting with something like a logitech webcam, and then going a bit bigger later if I decide to really commit to their idea.

Fletcher: Well, on that point I've got one of the logitech webcams and it seems pretty decent. It's not a high-end top of the range one, but it does do the job. That's actually quite a nice segue into another topic. The one thing that I'm a little bit concerned about in terms of a podcast is it's a limited media. What I mean by that is people can't see you. They can't see your expressions and this happens to me all the time. For example, when I'm trying to have this deep networking discussion with the customer, you inevitably end up going “OK, I need to whiteboard this. I need to see it”. So what I was thinking about doing is potentially supplementing a podcast with a screen recording software or something like that. So if you're talking about - to your point pointer with earlier - DevOps with your website. Yu can talk about it and you can understand it. But if you tell me “OK, I'm going to look at a release pipeline. Then I'm going to have this piece of script running and that piece of script running”. Hearing it you go “Yes, yes, that's great, I fully understand”. But then when I want to go do it, I'm like “Wait a minute when Chris was speaking about it. It made perfect sense. Now when I'm doing it… Uhmmmm. Where's that button? Where did he click? What was he talking about?” So that's something I was thinking about doing. Maybe before you go and take the plunge to buying a webcam, you could maybe do that. Record something where it's not you physically, but you're talking and recording something and see how that works for you, maybe?

Chris: That's a great suggestion. There's actually something quite subtle that you also hinted at in there as well, which I really want to pull out. It's the reason why I transcribe the episodes actually, and that is Accessibility. One of the things, of course with podcasts, is that if you're hard of hearing, then this is not an accessible format for you. So, having something like the streaming service or a streaming approach is actually quite inclusive. You have the video content, you can see the facial expressions and whatnot as well. But, you could have subtitles over the top of that. So I completely agree with you. I think there's a nice stepping stone approach between the two. That may be something I could experiment with embedding, when we get into those more practical sessions - maybe some screengrabs or gifs or those kind of things into some of the transcriptions as well. So, nice idea. Certainly a nice idea. Awesome. Fletcher, I think we've had some really good discussion there about some of my initial thoughts around how I got started with Cloud with Chris. Now I know we said it's a cloud focused podcast and we might hit cloud at some point, maybe not so much in this one. I guess we mentioned Cognitive Services at one point. But, I think certainly in the future we can have another discussion. Maybe a Part 2, taking a look at how I've approached - for example - some of the website side of things, actually getting set up on some of the channels and whatnot as well, that I can go and publish this podcast through. So, I would definitely love to chat further with you again Fletcher on this and invite you back to talk more. So, Fletcher - Thank you so much for coming on and putting me in the hot seat for a change! It has certainly a different experience for me, so thank you for coming.

Fletcher: Thank you for having me, it been a pleasure!

There we go, something a little different to listen into on Cloud with Chris for this episode! If you'd like to hear a little bit more of what goes on behind the scenes, or about the journey that I'm on setting the podcast up, please let me know - as we can run more episodes like this in the future!

I already have plans to dive a little bit deeper into the echnical side of how I got things going with Cloud with Chris. These range from how I host the website and the podcast audio, all the way through to my development process for the website itself and talking through how I integrate external services like Calendly and Office Forms into my workflow. Like many these days, time is a valuable asset. I look for opportunities to continue optimising, and potentially automating some of these tasks - to make my time on Cloud with Chris more effective.

So those will be some additional topics to look forward to in the future. In the meantime, I hope that you're keeping safe and well - and thank you once again for tuning in. Until next time, good bye.

Guests

Fletcher Kelly

Fletcher Kelly

Fletcher is a senior engineer within the FastTrack for Azure team. He is a passionate cloud advocate and pretty much loves everything around the cloud and all of its supporting technologies. Looking to share his experiences with a larger community as well as learn from the community. You can’t take and not give back. He has many other passions apart from cloud and technology, these include scuba, motorbikes, home automation and travelling with his amazing and very patient wife.

Hosts

Chris Reddington

Chris Reddington

Welsh Tech Geek, Cloud Advocate, Musical Theatre Enthusiast and Improving Improviser!

Chris is currently a Senior Engineer on Microsoft's FastTrack for Azure team.