Podcast transcript: Jonathan Mosen’s remarks to the webinar on the future of Mosen at Large
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Jonathan Mosen’s remarks to the webinar on the future of the Mosen at Large podcast, delivered on Sunday9 April
I truly appreciate so many of you taking some of your valuable time to be here today, and for your support of the Mosen at Large podcast, whether you listened to episode 1 all the way back on 24 August 2019, or you discovered it along the way.
These last few years have been full of changing technology, social upheaval, and of course a global pandemic through which Mosen at large provided companionship and updates from the blind community around the world.
In 1999, I started Blind Line, the world’s first global call-in show exclusively for the blind community. You might think the novelty will have worn off by now, but I still celebrate that blind people with a vast array of experiences and perspectives can get together to discuss the things that affect us. So often in mainstream media, our issues as blind people are ignored, and when they’re covered at all, blindness is often misrepresented. So I believe strong blindness media is important, and I’ve tried to do what little bit I can to make it a reality.
I’ve made various contributions in this regard over the years. In 2019, when I moved to a job outside the blindness field in New Zealand, I thought those days were, for the time being at least, behind me. I was determined to try and maintain a work/life balance and had to choose between bringing back my Blind Side Podcast, which had many thousands of listeners each week, and keeping my live Mosen Explosion radio show. Since I’d been doing a form of the Mosen Explosion for 20 years, that’s what I chose. But I kept getting emails from people asking me if I would be returning to podcasts. That’s when I thought of a compromise. We did a little bit of talk on the Mosen Explosion. What if I extracted the talky bits from the live radio show, and put them out as a podcast? It would be a way for me to maintain some connection with the global blind community of which I’ve been a part for so long. So I decided to call it Mosen at Large to reflect that this would be a fairly informal, possibly infrequent podcast. I bought a jingle package from JAM which was a lot of fun to choose and have them create. And I published the first episode in August 2019. In that first episode, I deliberately set expectations very low.
A new name to reflect what the podcast has become
One of my favourite lines, which I probably have quoted far too often over the years, is from John Lennon “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Mosen at Large really took off. It wasn’t long until we were getting, by blind community standards, very large numbers. As a result, the talk content on the Mosen Explosion dramatically increased, making those who liked the musical emphasis of the original show grumpy. In the end I accepted the inevitable, moved the Mosen Explosion to a week day voice tracked format, and Mosen at Large occupied the three hour Saturday slot on Mushroom FM formerly occupied by the Mosen Explosion, filling it easily.
I like to think I can get a lot done, but eventually, packaging the show both for a three hour presentation on Mushroom FM and then as a podcast was way too much work given everything else I have to do, so we went podcast only in 2021. I cannot tell you how truly grateful I am that listener numbers have continued to increase.
Mosen at Large is now not the podcast I started back in 2019. Back then, I had no intention of doing time-consuming things like interviews, which if you’re going to do them well take ages to research and edit. Similarly, product demos take a long time to produce, and so does reading the many listener contributions we get. I do my best to get these things recorded and edited before work, after work and in weekends. But it’s a big job, and it’s possible that if things stay as they are, I may burn out. At this point, you may be thinking that I’m about to say that the workload is too high and I’m discontinuing the podcast. Yes, the workload is very high, but I am not discontinuing the podcast. I have, however, rethought it and am making some changes that will be good for me, and I believe give you a better podcast. These changes reflect what the podcast has become, and I’m asking for your help to make its ongoing production sustainable. I have been thinking about some of these things for a very long time. I knew myself well enough to know that when the time was right, it would all start to fall into place. And over the last few months, it has. What I’m announcing today is the culmination of months of thought, planning and hard work.
First, the podcast will no longer be known as Mosen at Large. Changing a popular brand is a big undertaking, but it is the right thing to do. When I started Mosen at large, it was about me keeping in touch. What we’ve built together over these last few years though is a community, where many people contribute opinions, tips and the occasional demo. Keeping my name in the title of the podcast does not give credit to the community we’ve become. I knew that when the right name popped into my head, it would be time to start making these moves. One morning some months ago, I woke up with the name in my head. The name resonated with me so strongly, that I felt sure I must have heard it before, that someone else must have grabbed it. So I opened up Google and typed the name in quotes, which limits the search results to a specific phrase. To my astonishment and absolute delight, Google returned 0 results, and it’s very rare to search Google and get 0 results back. It was at that point that I began seriously working on this project. So today I’d like to introduce you to the new name and brand for the podcast.
We’ve covered a lot of technology on the podcast, but what has distinguished us from many other podcasts is that it is not an exclusively technology-focussed podcast. We’ve covered many other issues too, including employment, parenting, relationships, language issues, literacy, literature and philosophy. So what’s the common thread that unites all these topics. I believe it’s that we all want to live the best life possible with blindness and low vision. Depending on religious or spiritual beliefs, views will vary about whether this is the only life we have, but hopefully we can all agree that we definitely have this life, so we should make the best of it. And that’s why, as of today, the podcast formerly known as Mosen at Large is called Living Blindfully. It’s a powerful title that speaks to what this podcast is all about. Enjoying a full life as someone who is blind or low vision. Living Blindfully discusses not just tips and tricks to help us live that full life, it also tackles head-on the barriers to doing so, whether they be attitudinal, accessibility, or legislative. I am confident that while retaining our wonderful existing community, Living Blindfully will expand it. If you’re familiar with my work over the years, you’ll know the kind of thing you’re likely to hear if you tune into a podcast called Mosen at Large. But Living Blindfully speaks for itself, and I hope will encourage even more people to join us and broaden the range of perspectives we have to share. It’s a positive message, but it’s also a realistic message.
Our new logo
Living Blindfully has a new logo. The words are written in black. Living is written in uppercase in a simple computer font. Blindfully is written in a friendly, hand-written font with a pale blue drop shadow. Fully is underlined for emphasis. I want to thank our graphics designer, Nadia Jenner, for working with me on the logo concepts and for providing such helpful description. She could have a secondary career as an audio describer.
At some point in the not too distant future, you’ll find that logo on a range of new Living Blindfully merchandise, so you can show your support for the podcast while also ending up with some useful clothing and household items.
Contributing to Living Blindfully
From now on, to contribute to Living Blindfully, you can send an email to Opinion at LivingBlindfully dot Com. As before, you can attach an audio clip, or write the email down. We are using the same phone number as before.
Living Blindfully is not a new podcast. It is the same podcast you listen to now with substantial improvements. We’re not therefore starting the episode number at 1 again, and you won’t need to change your podcast client. In most cases, the name of the podcast in your podcast client is going to change by itself without you having to do anything. Old Mosen at Large episodes will continue to be available in the podcast feed and via our brand new website.
LivingBlindfully.com and some of its features
I want to spend some time showing off the website, because it’s been purpose-built for this podcast and assists you to get to the information you want with maximum efficiency. Mosen at Large was available as part of my personal website at Mosen.org. It was a good solution for a personal podcast. It increasingly became an inadequate solution as the podcast became a repository of information you may want to refer to long after a podcast episode was published. Because I haven’t needed to rush this rebranding project, we’ve tried several ways of approaching the website development. We experimented with what it would be like using a content management system designed specifically for podcasters. But I’m a finicky, particular kind of guy and those solutions, while simple to use, didn’t provide me with the degree of customisation I was happy with. In the end, we scrapped the first version of the Living Blindfully site that was based on one of these tools and built it from the ground up using WordPress. The credit for most of this work goes to my daughter, Heidi Taylor, whose voice will be very familiar to many of you here today. I thank her for her patience and considerable effort, and for not throwing her hands up in absolute horror when I trashed the first version of this site and started all over again.
You can find the new website at LivingBlindfully.com. In introducing you to the website, there are a few features I’d like to highlight.
First, there is our online player for episodes, from which you can download the episode as an MP3 file. The player I’ve chosen isn’t quite as friendly as I would like, but it is useable. We’re using this particular player for one important reason. The podcast will continue to be segmented by chapters. Episodes are long, but if you use a podcast player that supports chapter marks, you can easily skip between sections of the show that interest you. Some podcast players even let you build up a playlist of just the chapters you want to hear. Chapter marks aren’t supported universally, particularly in Windows and on proprietary blindness players, and I want to bring the benefits of chapters to a wider audience. Now, the time stamp of each item in the show notes is clickable. Put your virtual cursor or otherwise focus on the time stamp, activate it for example by pressing Enter, and you’ll jump right to that point in the episode.
Next, we’ve built up a wealth of useful information on the podcast over the last nearly four years, but it hasn’t been easy to find something that you know we talked about at some point, but you don’t remember when. We’ve addressed this problem with a search engine that is built right into the Living Blindfully website. The edit box is on every page. Type your search term, press Enter, and you’ll get the most relevant results first. For example, if your search query appears in an episode title, you’ll see the episodes first, but we also search show notes and transcripts.
Sometimes, I’ll make a reference to a past episode of the show, for example, if a listener writes in to express concern about an accessibility overlay that’s come to a website they use frequently, I might remind listeners that we comprehensively covered the issue in episode 105. Wouldn’t it be great if, armed with that information, there were an easy way to get to that episode? Now there is, all you have to do is type in the website name, a slash, and the number of the episode. For example, for the episode I just mentioned, you’d go to https://LivingBlindfully.com/105.
Living Blindfully and the Fediverse
As you’ll know if you listened to my Mastodon segment in episode 206, the Fediverse is the name given to a series of federated, or interconnected, servers. The most famous Fediverse technology is mastodon which has gained a phenomenal number of new users thanks to changes at Twitter. One of those users is me, and I want to thank some of our Living Blindfully community who had been trying to persuade me for yonks to give Mastodon a try. They had to put up with my scepticism but were still very welcoming when I eventually made it.
Living Blindfully has its own Mastodon instance, and if you want the experience from Living Blindfully that you got from the Mosen at large Mastodon account, and before that the Mosen at Large Twitter account, you can follow firstname.lastname@example.org. But before you rush off and do that, if you’re following the Mosen at Large Mastodon account already, I will be performing a migration of that account shortly, so hold on and it will all be taken care of.
When you are following email@example.com, you’ll see toots the moment a new episode and transcript are published, as well as items of news, mainly tech news, that I think our community might be interested in. You’ll also see preview posts telling you what’s coming up.
But the Living Blindfully website itself is also part of the Fediverse. This gives you full, granular control over what you receive from the Living Blindfully Podcast. If you follow firstname.lastname@example.org, you get everything. But let’s say you’re only interested in audio episodes, or only interested in transcripts, or you’re not interested in the news stories I share. Let’s say you already get the podcast episodes pushed to your podcast client, so you don’t need those in your mastodon client, but you would like posts about what’s coming up. All this is possible. To follow announcements about upcoming episodes, follow email@example.com. Note that the www in all these addresses is necessary. To receive a toot every time we publish a new audio episode, follow firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, to be notified when a transcript is published, follow email@example.com.
Living Blindfully continues to be elsewhere on the Internet, including Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. You’ll find links to those presences on the Living Blindfully website.
Offloading some of the tasks
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a bit finicky, a bit of a perfectionist, and up until now, I’ve produced the podcast on my own so it meets my standards. I set up my own interviews, do my own research, edit interviews so they flow well, and I proof the transcripts, making as many corrections as I can. I think the podcast has grown sufficiently that it’s time for a different approach, and I have realised some of those things are not the best use of my time. If I could be free of some of these tasks, I could do an even better podcast for you because I’d have more time to do the things that make this podcast unique. Hiring a virtual assistant to do the set-up, getting an audio editor onboard to whip the interviews into shape, having someone else proof the transcriptions, all cost money. While I don’t expect to get rich from this podcast, I can’t afford for it to cost me many hundreds of dollars every time I put out an episode. That’s why I’ve been considering revenue generation options, so I’d have enough money to clear the deck a bit of these tasks. Internet NZ started me on this track when they funded transcripts for some years, and now Pneuma Solutions have become a valued partner and taken over the transcript sponsorship. DeafBlind people are excluded from discourse about our issues, and for that matter public discourse in general, far too often. I am very grateful that we’ve created a community that includes and values them. It is my goal that if at all possible, whenever we use some of this new revenue to have others work on the podcast, that work should be carried out by people who are blind or have low vision. I want to share the work, share the success, and keep it in our community.
I’ve given very careful thought to how to do this in a way that doesn’t exclude anyone, so I’d like to talk you through my thinking process, and what I’ve arrived at. Living Blindfully will seek to raise funds to cover these costs from two sources. First, advertising or sponsorship initiatives, and second, a new premium tier of the podcast called Living Blindfully Plus.
Advertising on Living Blindfully
For some time, I was investigating involving a partner in the selling of advertising spots on the podcast. You’re probably used to these if you’re a podcast listener, where you often hear an ad before the show starts, one or two in the middle of the podcast, and one or two at the end. There was a company interested in taking on Mosen at Large, and I got some way down the track before deciding that it just didn’t feel right. I would like to have more time to do the things for the podcast that will give you high quality content, but I don’t want to sell the soul of the podcast in the process. If I took on a third-party agency to do this, you might get ads for all sorts of things that don’t suit our community or the culture of this podcast. Not many people are going to be happy to hear, for example, adds for motor vehicles before this podcast, and there are other brands I’d have a high level of discomfort with if they appeared on this podcast. So I’ve decided to do it the more labour-intensive way, and work with partners who are specifically interested in engaging with our community. It will take more work, and it will take longer to come up to speed, but it also means that I won’t run an ad on the podcast unless I’m comfortable with the company that wants to advertise. I’ll have no hesitation in saying to a company, “thanks, but no thanks”, if I feel that the company isn’t a good fit for the podcast. If you happen to run a small business, or for that matter a large one, and you’d like to discuss an ad campaign, please get in touch by email, contact at LivingBlindfully.com.
Living Blindfully Plus
Living Blindfully Plus is a way for you to say in a very tangible way, yes, this podcast is something I value, I want it to keep going, I want to support it, I would miss it if it weren’t around. There are various models used by podcasts to offer a premium tier like this, including making premium content available to those who pay a subscription, and having tiers of support where the more you pay, the more you get. As we’ve discussed many times on the podcast, money is tight in the blind community and there is plenty of need. I don’t know if I can make my plan for Living Blindfully Plus generate enough revenue to achieve its objectives, but I want to give it a try before limiting any content to those who pay. I like to think that if I come up with a fair, innovative way to add value for you without excluding anyone from the content we offer, people will see I’m trying to do the right thing by everyone and might support what I’m trying to do. So here’s my initial model for Living Blindfully Plus.
First, let’s get the big one out of the way. How much does it cost? The answer to that is, whatever you think its worth or whatever you feel able to afford right now. If you can only manage $1 per month, you’ll get the same access as someone who pays $100 a month. Why would someone pay $100 a month when they could get the same as someone paying $1? I doubt we’ll get many, if any, people paying that much, but I believe there’s a lot of appreciation for the community we’ve built here. A community where we share quality information, and where we’ve managed something rare, to discuss complex and at times contentious issues in a climate of mutual respect. We’ve got each other’s backs in this community, and I believe someone who can afford to, might pay a little more on behalf of those who genuinely can’t afford to.
If you can’t or choose not to subscribe to Living Blindfully Plus, at least while I see if this experiment works, you won’t be deprived of any content at all. I would rather not deprive you of useful information just because you might be going through a rough time financially. There will, however, be a 72 hour delay before you get each episode. Living Blindfully Plus members will get the podcast on its usual publication day, it will become available three days later for other listeners. So, when you become a subscriber to Living Blindfully Plus for as little as $1 a month, you’ll get early access to episodes. In the near future if ads become more abundant, you’ll get a special commercial-free version of the episode, but that won’t happen initially. You’ll get special heads up notifications about upcoming episodes and a chance to contribute your questions to people I interview. At some point in the near future, I’ll also experiment with recording some of those interviews while logged into Zoom, so that you can ask questions in person.
I am experimenting with other premium benefits as well, and will have more to say about those as they roll out. But what I hope will be most important is that you’ll be investing in making this podcast even better, by helping me offload a lot of the tasks that someone else can do.
You can subscribe with any major credit card, and sign up for a month, requiring you to renew every time it expires, or you can sign up for a recurring payment which you can cancel any time you want. I hope you’ll give consideration to a recurring payment to show your support, so you can set it and forget it.
When you become a member of Living Blindfully Plus, you get your own personal RSS feed that you copy and paste into your podcast application or blindness player. It’s this special RSS feed that belongs to you that will give you early access to the episodes.
There’s one very important thing to understand. Pricing is in New Zealand dollars, and that’s great news for most of you. For example, 1 New Zealand dollar right now equates to about 62 American cents. So if you make a $10 contribution per month, in the US, it’s only going to cost you $6.20. To do the conversion, just ask your favourite personal assistant to convert 1 New Zealand dollar into whatever your currency is.
To join Living Blindfully Plus, you can subscribe now at https://livingblindfully.com/plus
Living Blindfully is the descriptive, inclusive new name for the podcast that until today was called Mosen at Large. There’s a website with a bunch of attractive new features, like search and getting to the episode you want, as well as getting precisely to where you want to be in each episode. The website is tightly integrated with the Fediverse, and I hope that new sources of revenue will allow me to give you an even better podcast. I look forward to finding out who is the first member of Living Blindfully Plus.
It is a true honour to be presenting this podcast both with, and for you. What I’ve announced today is the culmination of months of careful planning and implementation. What makes all of that worthwhile is the fact that now, you get to experience all we’ve been working on. Thank you for being here, and for all your support.
Continue to live a blindful life, whether it be harnessing success with your four-legged companion, or showing the world that with your cane, you’re able.