Dangling your feet
Wednesday, April 13, 2016 by Dave Winer

I've been listening to the West Wing podcast. A new one comes out today. I love the show. It's well done. The two hosts don't indulge in giggly inside jokes, which kills other podcasts (notably the FiveThirtyEight podcast and The Americans, though the last episode of the latter was an exception, lots of interesting stuff). They tell stories about the making of the show, and they know a bit about it because Josh Malina, one of the stars of the show is one of the hosts of the podcast.

Imho a podcast should be a conversation between interesting people, or a narration of one person, and it should not be overly mindful of the audience, but on the other hand should respect their time. I want to hear from people who know stuff I don't, and who tell a good story. Inside jokes are all too common, when I get them, they're not funny, but most of the time I'm shaking my head wondering if they know how useless this chatter is. 

I say this because I want a great podcast from both FiveThirtyEight and The Americans. So wipe the smile off your face, forget about how much you like working for Nate, or how cooool podcasting is, or how cool it is to be a cool actor, and tell me something interesting and/or captivating! 

A little bit of style is okay but really not very much. And the best ones really have not very much in the way of overhead. Examples of well-done podcasts: Planet Money, Whistlestop and of course Fresh Air. Almost always a good listen on all these shows because you learn something. 

Dangling your feet

Back to the West Wing. There was a great episode, I think it's the one they'll review this week, where the President is promoting ideas he knows won't go anywhere. He calls it dangling his feet in the water. He hopes to get a discussion going. Or make a statement. But eventually he realizes it's a cop out. You don't really get anything done by dangling your feet. Better to jump in the water and go swimming.

I thought of that reading this story on Talking Point Memo, where the author says he'll vote for Bernie Sanders in the Maryland primary, but only if he's sure that Sanders will lose. I'm sorry but that's ridiculous. Making a point is not productive. It's not the way our government works. And Bernie's doing the same thing. The laws he wants to pass are not workable. Not that they don't represent important ideas, they do. Let the ideas guide you, but we have a two-party system. The only other choice almost certainly will be a person with equally extreme unworkable ideas in the other extreme, eliminating government in some areas government should be in (imho) and putting government into roles it has no business being in. 

If everyone dangles their feet we have no chance of working things out. And like it or not our form of government requires us to work things out. It requires listening and compromise. You can't have both Ted Cruz's supporters and Bernie Sanders' supporters happy. They're too extreme. We have to meet somewhere in the middle. That's the way it works. Wishing it were otherwise won't make it work that way.

PS: Dangling Your Feet is not this week's episode, it comes later in the first season of the West Wing.