Thursday, January 30, 2014

Audio Gear for Geeks

I spend a lot of time in my day job building up various recordings for videos. Having high-quality sound for videos makes a huge difference with your audience. As a very experienced podcasting pal once told me, “Don’t give them an excuse to turn your stuff off.” He used a word other than “stuff.”

In The Beginning

When I first started out in my evangelism (now developer advocate) role, I used this Logitech H390 headset for my recordings.  It’s a great headset which does a fine job with audio. The quality was completely acceptable. I still use this headset for all my webinars, webexes, online meetings, Skype calls, etc. It’s comfortable and the inline mute/volume switch is awesome. Plus at $28-ish it’s an insanely great value.




Nowadays I’m using the setup below, and it’s getting me awesome results:

Microphone: The Audio Technica AT2020 USB condenser mic. It’s just plain awesome. Carl Franklin gave this a big thumbs up as he used this extensively in his professional sound studio for years. This mic is roughly $100, but it’s an incredible value. I know folks who are using $300 mics for podcasting/video recording and their audio doesn’t sound any better than what I get out of the AT2020.

The best thing about this mic is its utter elimination of echoes in my recording room. My home office is a small room with extremely nasty echoes from the hard plaster walls. With earlier recording devices I’d tried all kinds of workarounds, including (honestly!) recording while hiding under a blanket draped over my workstation. The AT2020 scoffs at echoes in my office and gives me great, clean sound.

Shock Mount: A “spider” mount isolates the mic from the boom. This Samson SP01 mounts on the boom listed below and holds the mic in a cool web. Vibrations can’t pass the web mount. Neat. (Insert trite Gandalf “THOU SHALL NOT PASS!” joke here.)



Boom: You know you want more boom in your life. Get some. A mic boom helps isolate the mic from noises and vibration, and it’s great for swiveling around so I can record while futzing around between different systems and sitting positions. It’s surprising how big a difference this “simple” gadget made. This one’s a Rhode PSA1, and it comes with a couple different mounting options: a clamp for your desk and also a more permanent threaded nut/bolt arrangement if you have a hole available in your table. (Or pull out a drill…)

An additional benefit from the boom: I can swivel the mic down enough to get nice recordings from my acoustic guitar. (No, I am not sharing those! )

Pop Filter: I got one because I see all the cool-looking videos of recording artists and actors in ADR. OK, actually I got this Nady 6”  pop filter because they really do help out with eliminating harsh sounds while you’re talking. I’m not sure how it works; I just know it does.

This clamps on the boom and has a nice flexible arm to position it around. I found the filter arm tends to droop a bit, so I use a small velcro strap to help hold it in place.

Putting It All Together

I tried getting a shot of my setup in the home office, but I couldn’t get anything I was satisfied with. (And I actually even cleaned my desk.) All this stuff goes together quite easily, and the swivel lets me keep the gear out of my way when I’m not recording.

You’ll spend a couple hundred dollars on all the gear above, but it’s really worth it if you want to step up the quality of audio you’re creating.

Monday, January 13, 2014

So Long, CodeMash!


After eight amazing years it’s time for me to step aside from CodeMash and let others bring new vision and energy to CodeMash. As of last Friday I’m no longer the President of the Board. I’ve stepped down, and Brian Prince is taking over.

It’s been eight wonderful years of working with amazing, tiny crew. We started off year zero of CodeMash with something around 220 attendees, speakers, and staff. I used “Almost 300 attendees!” as marketing schtick when trying to pimp the next year.

Oh how we’ve grown!

This year we had 220 family members signed up—the same amount as the first year’s total attendance! KidzMash (something I dreamed up with Jason Gilmore while on a short phone call during one of my long commutes) has grown to the point where they need two rooms and were nearly overflowing during the raffle.


This year there were roughly 2,000 attendees, speakers, and staff in attendance, and Jon Skeet’s morning talk in the main ballroom had more folks than either of our first two conferences!


CodeMash has been an incredible success for many, many reasons:

  • An wonderful venue whose staff are truly partners, and have become part of the CodeMash family
  • A tiny core of five to eight core organizers who are close friends. We succeed by absolute delegation and total responsibility for owing every detail of execution on our ideas.
  • A ruthless focus on keeping to our main ideals: kickass content on a broad range of topics. We constantly deflect neat ideas that don’t align with our mission.
  • Content selection committees that have sifted through hundreds of submissions each year to distill out amazing material. We’ve had between 600 – 800 submissions the last five years and that’s an incredible amount of work and stress to deal with!
  • World-class speakers who donate their time. (CodeMash’s financial model doesn’t enable us to cover travel expenses or stipends. Speakers are losing money while at CodeMash, although I’m proud that unlike many larger conferences we do cover speakers’ hotel nights.)

CodeMash isn’t unique in those things; however. There are larger conferences that have professional full-time staff. They plan and execute their conferences flawlessly with a great lineup of content presented at cool venues. What makes CodeMash truly different?


We’ve been blessed with a core of amazing attendees who bring great passion, true passion unlike the asinine “passion” marketing blabberspeak facile crap, to the conference. Attendees who spend as much time on the couches in the hallways talking in tiny groups as they do in breakout sessions with 120 folks. Attendees who honestly care about productive, not divisive, discussions with geeks who live and breathe in different platforms. Attendees who take what they’ve learned at CodeMash and return to work and life re-energized and willing to try a few new things.

It’s YOU who make CodeMash so great.

Thank you for all you’ve given me. It’s dwarfed what I’ve given.

So long, and thanks for all the fish. Or bacon.

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