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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

EscapePod Goes On Vacation

In the car on the way to work, I no longer listen to the radio. Today's radio is asinine, libelious, and insulting to my intelligence. I mostly listen to my MP3 player. My staples are old episodes of Loveline, the Adam Carolla Show, and EscapePod.

Currently, EscapePod is going on hiatus. That's what it is, but not what the publisher calls it. I have a lot of respect for Stephen Eley. He's a competent producer. He consistently provides good content and insightful commentary week after week. He delivers a finished product at a professional level. He manages two other podcasts. And all for free and out of his basement. But lately it seems like he's been falling apart. Stephen keeps projecting his own neuroses on the audience - his lost jobs, his stress level, his depression, the barrage of feedback on everything, the balance between podcasting and a real career.

So his most recent post is not a story, but a notice that they're going on hiatus for the remainder of November. That will translate to three weeks without an EscapePod story (PsuedoPod and PodCastle will still be running). But what does he do? Does he just go on hiatus and that's it? No, he posts a nine paragraph essay on why he's doing it, talking about his grandmother's funeral, the constant state of approaching deadline that each story has, and talking about how he has to "fail" for a few weeks in order to "get on top of the game" again.

Dude, you don't need to tell us your life story. You don't need to spill out like you're on Dr. Phil. You don't need to project your emotions and shortcomings on us. You release this stuff for free. You don't get paid for the work you do. You owe nobody. That's one of the benefits of releasing work for free, you don't need to answer to anyone. Maybe the donors might get upset (which he addresses), but you have no contract to breach. It's okay to take a few weeks off for the holidays. No one expects you to deliver a free high-quality product and dedicate your life to it. That's why we have jobs. That's why they make software you pay for and books you buy.

I know this because in the computer world, there's a lot of free stuff. Free DB managers, free audio editing software, free music, free movies. And I'm not even talking about illegal stuff. But its freeness comes with implications, and one of those is that since you're not working for anyone, and not getting paid for the work you do, you don't have to explain yourself when you don't deliver. The people should be grateful that they're getting what they're getting.

He says he's being honest, but what he's really being is over-sensitive and emotional. I don't know why he feels this obligation to tell us why he's going on hiatus. He owes us nothing. Even the notice is unnecessary. It's appreciated, but unnecessary. I'm used to seeing things just leave off and disappear in the world of the Internet. There's always something else interesting going on in the interim, or if it doesn't come back. If there's a need, it will be filled.
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