I’m Dan Beeston and my cohost is Greg Wah. We met almost 20 years ago doing improvised theatre which turned out to be a surprisingly useful skill. Smart Enough to Know Better is a celebration of science in a fun and, more importantly, accessible way. Our listeners tend to be the sort of smarty pants' who like to unwrap ideas.
In 2010, Greg and I had a good-natured argument at a party about evolution. The other party goers had a really good time watching and I was inspired to pursue a new podcast idea. Initially we just wanted a platform to make jokes and science seemed to be a good starting point. As we continued we realised just how valuable it was to make heady concepts easy to digest. It feels like we’re doing good for humanity, and that’s a satisfaction that outlines the novelty of heading our own voices. We were discussing format ideas in March of that year and our first episode was recorded and released at the beginning of June.
We currently release one episode every month. We’ve released two a month in the past but when Greg moved away to a new job, we had to dial back the amount of work a bit. It takes 2-4 hours of research and prep for each of us, then 20 hours to record, and finally 3-4 hours for me to edit out all the ‘ums' and ‘ahs’ and upload it. I generally set aside a Saturday morning each month to prepare and then Greg and I will organise a couple of hours generally on the weekend to record. Editing is broken up into two or three parts on weeknights. Neither of us have kids so we can generally find time to set aside. Once the initial outlay was made we tend to only have to spend around $100 a year on it. That’s cheaper than most hobbies.
We got sponsorship for one of our live show to help us pay for the venue hire costs. We occasionally sell t-shirts to help offset our hosting fees and have picked up a couple of paid shows at a local festival. Ultimately this is a hobby project, wealth creation takes a backseat. Greg became an astronomer after starting the podcast. The skills he accrued looked great on a resume and he’s now worked at two major science institutions.
We’ve also now got an enormous amount of knowledge at our finger tips about all sorts of science trivia.
Greg skypes in from the other side of the country. I run that and my Shure PGA58 output to a XENYX 1002 mixer. That outputs into both a linux laptop running audacity and the Zoom5 as a backup. If there is any background noise I use audacity to remove it then load it up in Twistedwave on the mac. I use Controllermate to set up macros that allows me to do discrete edits with cross fade with a single click and drag. The edited file is then dropped into garageband 6 to put the intro and end music on and enter the metadata including the podcast logo image (Later versions of Garageband removed the podcast options). I then select ‘send podcast to iTunes’. I’ve set my import settings to Custom -> 48kbps (mono) 22.050 kHz. I select my imported files and choose ‘Convert -> to mp3’. I tried a lot of different methods to find the file quality / file size balance right. iTunes turned out to be the best one. The file is then uploaded to my server. I’ve written custom php code to extract the metadata from the file so once it’s online I only have add the show notes before setting it live.
Greg is usually in charge of the interviews. It’s as simple as seeing something interesting online and sending them an email. Most scientists as not famous enough for this to be a common occurrence and they generally leap at the chance.
Greg subscribes to a lot of science articles on the web. I tend to notice things in the world around me and ask myself ‘How does that work?’ I sit down on a Saturday morning and read as much as I can about it and see what inspires me. We don’t tell each other what we’re bringing to the podcast so we can engage with it for the first time.
If possible we interview our guests face to face. The XENYX 1002 has a wealth of inputs so I stick a mic in front of each person. This has become harder so Skype is the go to for remote conversation.
We tried some Facebook ads back in the day when that meant something. Initially most of our audience came from fans of our interviewees. (Big shout out to John Birmingham for his help at this point). We also got a huge bump when we were mentioned on ‘No Such Thing as a Fish’. We are also making more of an effort to post useful stuff on social media.
Set a schedule and keep to it. If you need to change your schedule, keep to that schedule. Nothing will bring down a podcast faster than not knowing exactly when the next episode is supposed to be up.
Smart Enough to Know Better can be found at smartenough.org
Our Twitter account is @SE2KB
Facebook is SE2KB
You can contact me [email protected]
I run a web design business civicnet.com.au