Search results

Sailboats and Cruise Ships, or, How My Work Podcast Was Dwarfed by a Mega Work Podcast

by Tom Johnson on May 20, 2009
categories: technical-writing

A couple of months ago, I wanted to start a podcast at my work, and so I interviewed someone who has been in our IT department for 28 years about the evolution of the department over the years.

The podcast took about a month to get approved, and the week before it was posted, as I was tracking down the person who controlled our iTunes feed and Feedburner, I found that another department, Digital Media, was in the process of launching a full-scale dedicated radio station with 24/7 programming and more than a dozen new shows, with new episodes published weekly, also downloadable as podcasts. allows you to listen to a live stream of programming online or, if you have an HD Radio in certain cities, you can listen in your car. All the shows also have feeds in iTunes, so they double as podcasts on your iPod.

The podcasts at target a Mormon audience, but you may find the Everything Creative show interesting. Some of the other podcasts include informal conversations with leaders, stories related at conferences, a history of hymns, scripture stories, and other topics. The focus on conversations and stories is right on target.

Seeing this full-scale podcasting effort (I hope they haven't underestimated the work necessary to keep this going), made me rethink my work podcast. There's no longer a need, because it is being fully filled elsewhere, through another department.

A few years ago, as I was transitioning from a startup to a large company and feeling a little frustrated by the bureaucracy of approval required for nearly everything, an older colleague explained this metaphor. She told me small companies are like sailboats, nimble, quick and able to turn sharply, without much notice. Large companies, on the other hand, are like cruise ships. Massive and heavy -- it takes them half a mile just to turn around. But while slow, they can also do incredibly powerful things.

I apply this metaphor to the podcasts. My little work podcast, which strangely seems the product of an IT startup, even though it is part of the same organization, is buried in the shadows of's gigantic all-consuming 24/7 radio station/media outlet/podcast deluge.

While on the topic of podcasts, the other day Gordon McLean of One Man Writes asked listeners what their favorite podcasts are. Here's what I listen to regularly on my iPod right now: IT Author, Wordpress weekly, Boagworld, The WordPress Podcast, This American Life, InDesign Secrets, Brain Sparks, NPR Technology Podcast, This Week in Tech, and Grammar Girl.

My favorite podcast of the week is the IT Author interview of Geoffrey Pullum, an English professor who debunks many assertions in Strunk and White's Elements of Style and Fowler's Modern English Usage. I learned some interesting things about grammar from the interview. First, the that versus which rule, using "that" for restrictive clauses and "which" for non-restrictive clauses, appears to be an invention by Fowler in the early part of the twentieth century.

And Strunk and White's enforcement of singular verbs with certain pronouns (for example, "None of us has an umbrella" rather than "None of us have an umbrella") also seems to be a rule invention, not in keeping with the accepted grammar of his day.

I consider myself fortunate to live in a time when so much information is available and consumable for free.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the tech comm, be sure to subscribe to email updates below. You can also learn more about me or contact me. Finally, note that the opinions I express on my blog are my own points of view, not that of my employer.