One Weird Trick: Call and Response

The previous "One Weird Trick" entry was really popular, so I will continue doing these until they get utterly boring and non-useful. That might actually happen this week, so...

We value listener interaction at Duckfeed. Watch Out for Fireballs! and Bonfireside Chat have whole episodes dedicated to reading your thoughts, and a third of The Level is given to our "Multiplayer" segment. We do this for a few reasons, but the most important is that we recognize that our shows are only as strong as the community that follows them.

Keeping track of all of the responses, thoughts, and letters we get is a non-trivial task. I know that other podcasts rely on their email inbox as the mail bag, but I have absolutely no trust in using and email inbox as a system for anything (except in very minor ways). I'll tell you how I manage it all in this new installment of "One Weird Trick".

 Our good friend the Contact box.

Our good friend the Contact box.

I funnel all of our listener comments and input through the Contact form at the website because it reliably delivers your messages to two places: my Duckfeed.tv email address and a massive Google Docs spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is there for backup, in case something gets really, really lost in an inbox.

Gmail filters then go to work, marking everything as "BSC Response", "WOFF Response", etc... so I can spot each show's correspondence at a glance.

 Color helps your eyes.

Color helps your eyes.

My primary email client on desktop is a great app called MailPlane which turns the Gmail web interface into a native Mac app that has all of the trappings (Applescript, extensions, plugins). Also, it's the best way I've found to be logged in to multiple Gmail accounts at once.

I've installed the Evernote plugin for Mailplane, so when I come across a piece of listener mail during my inbox sweeps, I press the EverNote Elephant and it gets whisked away to a special notebook called "_INBOX".

 The Evernote inbox.

The Evernote inbox.

I've also set up an Evernote contact so if I'm away from MailPlane, I can forward any message to this notebook from Mailbox or Mail.app or whatever.

Listener responses on Facebook are grab-nabbed with an OS X Service and sent directly to the "_INBOX" notebook.

 Seriously, Services, man.

Seriously, Services, man.

From there, I can file your messages away into special notebooks for particular shows (like a "Gabriel Knight II" notebook for that episode of WOFF!, or "Shaded Woods" for Bonfireside Chat). There are also special notebooks, like "WOFF Followup" or "BSC Followup" where miscellaneous things go. There's also a "BSC Graveyard", which is where late responses to Bonfireside Chat episodes go, to be read later if the need comes up. I hold on to everything!

When it's time to gather up responses for the show, I can go to the proper notebooks, copy your responses, and edit them to be read for broadcast (which is totally a thing I do, mostly to make it easier to read on the air... sorry folks). They end up in a Markdown file that is put up on our outline page, and then they get read aloud from there.

There's one special case that I will outline: Problem Reports. I'm in charge of the operations of the network, but I can't see everything. It's often up to the listeners to spot things that are wrong and bring them to my attention, and I want to act on them as soon as possible. So I've set up a rule in If This, Then That that scans for the "Problem Report" label in my Duckfeed Gmail account, then sends me an iOS Push Notification.

 If This Then That is an amazing services that everyone should use.

If This Then That is an amazing services that everyone should use.

There are people out there who would look at this and say "Get over it, nerd. You don't need a system for this stuff." That would be true if we were only doing one show, or if the volume of emails was lower. As it stands, this is the most reliable and scalable way I know of to handle the "problem" of listener participation. I'm pretty proud of it, because it helps me make sure your thoughts are read and heard, and it helps keep the community strong.

Let me know if you like these, and I will continue to do them.

  • Kole