Overcast feedback from a podcast power user

When word came yesterday morning that Marco had released his new iPhone podcast client, Overcast, I downloaded it immediately. I even paid the $5 to unlock all of the features, if only to show my support for him and his work. So far, there’s a lot to like. But, as a podcast listener with over 50 show subscriptions, there are a few things missing that will keep me from using it for all of my podcasts.

Overcast Logo

For background, I first used Instacast on my iPhone then switched to Downcast at the end of 2012. I’ve been overwhelmingly satisfied with it since then.

Let me run through some of Overcast’s features, then dig into the changes I’d like to see that would make this my perfect podcast app.

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Five things I’m excited about right now

1. Swift (and everything else from WWDC 2014)

WWDC 2014

I’m not going to lie — I haven’t been more excited about an Apple keynote in years. It’s as if Apple has spent years quietly laying the groundwork for massive changes, enduring endless criticism from its biggest fans, only to unleash all of the improvements in one, huge event.

You want inter-app communication? They’re called App Extensions (Safari extensions, too).

Widgets? You can put them in the notification bar.

App Store improvements? How about a bunch1.

Want a better keyboard? We made one called QuickType that predicts what word you’ll want next. Oh, don’t like it? Use Swype. Or any other one you want. We don’t care.

Voice and video messages? Got it.

Use iCloud like Dropbox? Ok.

A centralized place for all your health and fitness data? It’s called HealthKit.

How about an easy way to communicate with home automation devices. That’s called HomeKit.

Oh, we almost forgot. We made a brand new, modern programming language. We named it Swift. John Siracusa can now check this one off his list and campaign full-time for a replacement to HFS+.

Some of these things might seem unimpressive to outsiders, but developers haven’t been this excited in years. This is Apple on top of its game, and all Mac and iOS users are going to be reaping the benefits for years to come.

Thankfully, I was able to find the perfect animated GIF to summarize my feelings on the day:

I got to say it was a good day.

2. Strength training

Deadlift

Early last year I wrote about how I had started strength training. I have a follow-up post in my drafts, so I’ll provide more details there, when I manage to get around to finishing it.

I’ll just say this for now. I’m having a blast lifting weights. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and I’m continuing to make (slow) progress.

Here are my current 5-rep maximums on my big lifts:

  • Low-bar Squat: 170lbs
  • Overhead Press: 100lbs
  • Bench Press: 145lbs
  • Deadlift: 245lbs

3. Marketing

Some call it “growth hacking“. I’m not a big fan of the term. But it does capture something important.

Marketing + Development = Growth Hacking

It’s the set of skills involved that make this type of marketing so fascinating to me:

  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimization and marketing
  • Conversion optimization
  • A/B testing
  • Web Analytics

It’s an interesting combination of creativity and science that’s occupied part of my brain since I investigated the Taguchi methods for the purpose of multivariable website testing while working on my masters thesis a decade ago. I don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

4. Web development

Some JavaScript code

There are so many new and exciting things happening in web design and development that it hurts my head thinking about it.

The combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript running in the web browser has evolved into an ecosystem of thousands of tools (almost all open source) that allow us to create websites and web apps unimaginable even a few years ago.

On the server-side, open source application frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Django, Laravel, .NET MVC, and many others, offer developers great foundations to build on. A lot of infrastructure is effectively “free”, allowing developers to build software faster while focusing on solving problems for customers.

Then, when you’re ready to take your thing live, you can deploy it on a nice server for as little as $5 per month. It’s crazy how inexpensive good servers and fast bandwidth are today.

It’s an amazing time to be building stuff for the Web.

5. Podcasts

My Podcast Set I

I knew I had been listening to podcasts for a long time, so I did a search on my blog archive and found a post I wrote about them back in December 2004. A lot has changed since then, and podcasting has since matured and expanded well beyond its geeky origins2.

Today, podcasts are, by far, my top source for news, education, and entertainment. They’re always with me in Downcast on my iPhone3 and I can listen to them anytime — while working, driving in the car, doing dishes, mowing the lawn, or helping the 2 year old fall asleep.

Right now I’m subscribed to over 50 different podcasts, which is crazy when I think about it. Many sit dormant for months or more and occasionally offer me a new episode, while others deliver their weekly episodes at the same day and time without exception. It means I’ve always got something to listen to, whenever or wherever I am.


  1. Including video previews of apps — a nice touch. 

  2. Fun fact: Security Now is by far the oldest show I’m still subscribed to. It debuted on August 18th, 2005, and I haven’t missed a week since. 

  3. Though I’m looking forward to giving Overcast a try when it’s released sometime later this year. 

Tech Stuff I Love: 2010 Edition

I like to periodically take inventory of the hardware, software, and web-based tools I use on a daily basis and share the results. Because if a few of you find something new and useful as a result, it’ll be worth the write-up. Now, onto the list.

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Tab Sweep – August 2009 Edition

I’ve been reading of great articles on the web lately, and I thought I’d share some of the best with you, my dear readers. Enjoy.

  • Totally Wasted – Mother Jones’ epic special report on the War on Drugs. Damning evidence that our country needs a major shift in drug policies.
  • The Great American Bubble Machine – Rolling Stone magazine takes on Goldman Sachs and shows how it turned the U.S. into its own personal pump-and-dump scam to create pure profits for already wealthy individuals. I still get angry just thinking about this one.
  • How American Health Care Killed My Father – If you read only one article on the health care system, read this one. David Goldhill does a deep exploration of the health industry and shows why the current proposals for reform will serve to cement our broken system in place. Please – read this article.
  • Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food – Time magazine’s take on the hidden costs of America’s cheap food is a great introduction to the topic. For further reading, I recommend Food Inc and Michael Pollan’s books.
  • Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle – If you’re a fan of Fiji Water, you might not want to read this one. Because once you find out you’re supporting a military dictatorship, you probably won’t want to buy another bottle. Update: Via the comments, Fiji Water has issued a response to the Mother Jones article I linked to that is worth reading (as are the comments on that page).

Hurry – Get a Free Issue of Wired Magazine

Wired Magazine - Free Issue

Quick. Go to this page and fill out the form. You’ll get a completely free, no obligations copy of the latest Wired magazine. Only 10,000 available, so act fast!

Wired is currently my favorite magazine – even more than Fast Company. I look forward to getting it in the mail each and every month, and really enjoy the varied and unexpected stories. This issue include the cover story on the “future of free“, an interesting piece on the recent Netflix Prize, and a fact-challenging piece on autism, among the regular monthly content.

If you’ve never checked out Wired, now is a great time to take a no-risk peek. If you do, let me know what you think!