Welcome to the Unicorn Meta Zoo, a brand new podcast by members of the Stack Exchange community team. If you want to avoid spoilers, jump straight to the audio. Listener grooveplex has started a wiki transcript of the episode. Please add to it if you are interested in helping out.


hairboat Juan M Jon Ericson

We're talking about why we're doing a podcast. (I believe this is the traditional podcast pilot topic.) It's not intended to replace Stack Overflow podcast, which is on hiatus. For one thing, our audience is much smaller. If you are reading this post, you are one of the super-engaged users we want to talk with. For another, I pitched this as a quick-to-produce podcast. It takes less than an hour to record and edit.



For recording we use Zencastr which has a free plan that allows up to three participants. Each participant channel is exported to an MP3 file when the recording session ends. In order to merge the three channels into one channel and add the intro/outro, I wrote a script, edit_podcast.rb, to create FFmpeg commands. Juan M wrote and performed our music. Cover art was generated by balpha's excellent Unicornify script. For the moment, we're serving the files from a GitHub repository and you can grab an RSS feed there. It's not terribly useful just yet, but when we have more episodes, they'll be delivered automatically to your podcatcher of choice.

We mentioned that we might invite Jaydles to be a guest. We'd recorded the episode well before Jay left the company. I'd still be interested in having him on the show to find out what he's up to and get his thoughts after being away from the company for a while.

What do you think?

Take a listen and respond in the answers below.

  • 1
    Is that a hand-crafted RSS feed?
    – user1228
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 17:43
  • 3
    @Won't: Sorta. I'm using Dropcaster with a custom template. I'm still playing with the scripts, but I hope to get the whole thing automated by the next episode. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 17:47
  • 17
    Minimal time and effort and a few episodes already lined up are the secrets to a podcast that sticks around for a bit. A few episodes, at least.
    – user1228
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 18:09
  • 77
    I was hoping this (featured) post would include information about what this postcast is actually about, why it exists, and what I should expect if I go on to dedicate the time to listen to it. But to be honest, I'm drawing blanks on all of those.
    – E.P.
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 19:02
  • 2
    @JGreenwell: I suggest listening to the episode, if you want your curiosity sated. ;-) Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 19:10
  • 1
    @PeterMortensen: Here you go! (I did mention it in the question, but it is a bit buried in the text.) Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 20:27
  • 4
    Is the Stack Overflow podcast on hiatus or dead? There hasn't been an episode for over a year.
    – Dónal
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 23:36
  • 1
    Is there any public news about the Stack Overflow podcast? Was there any particular reason it stopped happening? Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 1:19
  • 3
    Yeah, podcasts always seem to expand to take more effort. Just look at the feature request below, after one episode :) Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 4:35
  • 2
    @SteveBennett: Out first feature request: a method for not listening to the podcast. ;-) Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 4:42
  • 4
    For those who have started using the RSS feed, I'm sorry for fiddling with it. Better now than when we have more episodes. Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 20:29
  • 8
    @JonEricson I'm sorry, was this comment meant as a joke? If it was, then my question (which was serious and not a joke) remains unanswered. As it stands, this is a link-only q/a, and an audio link at that: the title asks "why ask another podcast?", and the only answer offered is "please devote twenty minutes of your life, in an audio-friendly environment, to listen to this audio that might or might not answer your question". With all due respect, that's not good enough for the standards SE sets - why should it be different for you?
    – E.P.
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 12:27
  • 4
    Or perhaps your comment assumes that I (and, by extension, the full readership of this thread, i.e. a significant fraction of all of the regular SE public) am intimately familiar with the norms and customs of podcasts? If that's the case, I'd like to suggest that this is a deeply flawed assumption, and that this thread needs to be posed in a way that does not make that assumption.
    – E.P.
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 12:29
  • 7
    Podcast will cover: 1) Things they are fleshing out for the stack exchange sites (not saying they will do them, just bouncing ideas), 2) primarily covers community relationships and ideas, 3) targeted audience is highly involved users on the meta sites or other major parts of the stack exchange, think moderators or active community members. 4) Let the community know they're listening and working towards what they are asking for or talk about. 5) Drive community to be less robotic and more personable. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 11:00
  • 2
    So excited for this, listening now! Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 16:26

2 Answers 2


We've started a Transcription Club for people who want to help transcribe episodes.

Not listened to it yet, so burn me if that was mentioned during it (and/or I missed something), but are you planning on releasing a transcript as well?

I can see it being useful for a couple situations:

  • deaf/hard-of-hearing people who can't listen to it, obviously;
  • non-native speakers who might want to check whether they heard right, or feed the text to an online translator or something;
  • people who might not have the time to listen or prefer reading (as mentioned in comments);
  • searching for a quote, something that was mentioned, with more ease than randomly skipping through 20+ minutes of sound (also mentioned in comments)

I'm not familiar with podcasts and I get they're mostly audio, but basically I think it would improve accessibility.

  • 85
    There is a third important use case for a transcript: native speakers who can read about a million times faster than they can listen, and therefore want to optimize their time allocation. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 19:09
  • 9
    I don't have any plans to transcribe episodes unless I can find a free service that does a decent job. The original Stack Overflow podcast had a community edited transcript wiki, which is a great idea if people care enough to do that for us. I think we ought to wait to see if this thing is at all useful before committing to that, however. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 19:09
  • 16
    @CodyGray: Also handy for skimming/searching if you want to refer to something you remember having heard. Really the only objection I have is that it might not we worth doing if the podcast experiment flops. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 19:14
  • 7
    I started to work on a transcript. I want to mostly get to the meat of the discussion (so to speak), and left out a lot of "ums" and "ahs" because of it. It's far from done, but I might put up a GitHub repo (or something like that) tomorrow (at the earliest).
    – grooveplex
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 22:27
  • 4
    I should add, it's a lot of work for one person to take on, and maybe it's better left to the hosts, since they have the show notes and everything ;) But I’ll put online what I already have
    – grooveplex
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 22:30
  • 6
    @grooveplex: Thanks for getting the ball rolling! Maybe it would be easier to put it in a wiki so more people can contribute? If you like, I could post the start of your transcript on the show's GitHub page (which is currently empty). Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 23:06
  • 4
    Agreed. I will also mention that something that's a LOT less work than a full transcript, is a timestamped index, i.e. a little "table of contents" for the podcast. With links every 2-4 minutes or thereabouts.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 2:20
  • meta.stackexchange.com/questions/12835/… Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 7:47
  • The Changelog publish their transcripts on GitHub and get community updates in the form of pull requests where there are problems. I haven't looked at this in more detail; I guess their first draft is probably created by human staff.
    – tripleee
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 9:57
  • 5
    @JonEricson (and everyone else) I created a first draft of the first couple of minutes here: github.com/unicorn-meta-zoo/unicorn-meta-zoo.github.io/wiki/…
    – grooveplex
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 12:27
  • 4
    @grooveplex and Jenayah: I've decided to start a Transcription Club so that volunteers can help create transcripts. If it works as intended, we'll have a transcript ready for when new episodes are released. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 16:53
  • @JonEricson. Might it be worth while reaching out to reddit.com/r/deaf/comments/cf0vil/….
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 13:27

Since a bunch of people have indicated their desire for a transcript, I'm going to assume many readers are not interested in listening to the audio-only podcast. That's probably a good instinct. As I said in a comment:

It's a traditional first episode. So you can safely ignore it until we get to episode 7 and you find the show interesting.

Assuming volunteers continue filling in the wiki transcript (which was a pleasant surprise!) folks who don't want to listen can eventually get the answer to the question in the title. (Well, to the extent we answered it in the conversation.) But thinking about it, I probably should write up an answer that reflects my considered thinking.

Community Managers, you see, spend significant time in text. We write meta posts, type stuff in chat, edit documents to communicate with other teams in the company and so on and so forth. But we also have meetings via Google Hangouts grumble, grumple Meet. Some of our meetings are irrelevant to the community (HR policies and that sort of thing), but we spend a lot of time talking about the communities we are tasked with managing. While most of those conversations still aren't interesting outside of our team, I sometimes wish we could record our conversation so that we could share our thoughts with you, the engaged users of our sites.

I also admire the early Stack Overflow podcasts for being just the raw conversation between Jeff and Joel as they worked out what the site would become.

I love writing. Stack Exchange is a network built almost entirely on the written word, which is what attracts me to be a part of it. Writing is thought crystalized or, perhaps, fossilized ideas. But it's not a perfect tool. As Socrates said:

I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.

There's a deep irony that we only know what he said because Plato wrote it down.

At any rate, I spend a lot of time thinking about how my writings will be understood by various readers. It's an invaluable practice that makes my writing more clear and more accessible. While users can (and do!) ask me about my writing, I know that my words get quoted out of context or are misinterpreted in ways I can't correct. In short, I understand Socrates' protective attitude toward words.

I can't have a conversation with each individual user of the sites, even if y'all wanted that. Publishing a dialog between me and my colleagues gets me a good way there. (In the future, if this goes well, I want to interview users, which would be even closer.) Instead of worrying about exact wording, I can let my tone of voice and the flow of conversation help communicate more effectively and efficiently. The spoken word carries a different load than the written word.

If that sounds good, I encourage you to listen to the episodes as they come out. (We've been on a every-third-week recording schedule, so that's probably the rate I'll put them out.) If you can't or don't want to listen, I don't think you'll be missing anything really important. For the foreseeable future any news we discuss will be weeks or months old anyway. Also we focus on big-picture philosophy-of-community topics that'll be just as useful in the future as they are now. (Which means they might continue to be pointless, of course. ;-)

The recordings are raw and edited only by my script. We spend a couple of minutes deciding who will host the episode and thinking of broad questions to keep the conversation going. Then we record for 25 minutes or so and that's it. The goal is to keep the podcast project fun and not-time-consuming. But that doesn't mean we haven't prepared. In many ways, the podcast distills untold hours of conversation that we've had amongst ourselves into a format we are pleased to share with you, our communities.

  • 2
    I listened to the podcast and sometimes listened to the SO ones, or at least parts. Keeping them short helps with that; yours was 20 minutes or so, which is easier to find time for than the hour-long ones that some do. (Yeah, if I invested some effort I could presumably develop a workflow that lets me listen to them while commuting, but I haven't yet -- not generally a podcast listener.) Anyway, hearing the actual conversation is great! Love it! And when I want to go back and find that thing you said that was particularly interesting or funny, audio is terrible for that -- so text too helps. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 23:27
  • 2
    But that doesn't mean I think you need to provide a transcript; if these become too much work you'll stop doing them, and that would be a shame. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 23:28
  • 3
    @MonicaCellio: I don't mind (too much) if other people create a transcript. I've done a tiny bit of transcribing and I'd much rather just write from scratch. Fortunately people who find time to listen seem to be enjoying the podcast so far. So we'll keep doing them. We purposely limited ourselves to roughly 20 minutes since the conventional wisdom is that's about as long a typical commute. (For what it's worth, I listen to podcasts at 1.5X speed and don't commute anymore.) Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 23:55
  • 4
    I am one of those who asked about a transcript (ty to everyone for writing that up) because I have some difficulty hearing everything that is said (I use transcripts like a CC while listening when I miss something in the audio). So without them it would be difficult to listen to but I do want to point out that I do enjoy actually hearing the voices and how things are said not just what is being said - as someone who works in nlp - context is hard with text. Passion and fun and etc: don't always show up but you can hear it even if you have to read a word or two while listening along :) Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 2:12

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