Since LAS Year

Costco, Nampa Idaho. A man with a red shirt is walking out. I’m walking in. Emblazoned on the front of the shirt is a familiar looking circle with a penguin on the inside. The shirt is one of the many pieces of Jupiter Broadcasting swag produced for the Linux Action Show over the course of its run.

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That run spanned 11 years and ended a year ago today. The final episode “For the LAS Time” aired on May 8th 2017 and the show marked the end of a significant achievement in Linux Podcasting.

The show was started in 2006 by two friends who loved Linux. While topics varied, it primarily explored those related to Linux and experimented with continuing the legacy of the Computer Chronicles (which would often air on the JupiterBroadcasting.com‘s live stream between shows). Chris Fisher maintained the show after the original co-host moved on to other things in 2012. Each co-host since has added a perspective and wisdom to the program. Matt Hartley, Allan Jude, and Noah Cheliah spent years complimenting Chris’ hosting style. The back catalogue of episodes truly does serve as an archive of Linux’s evolution.

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Chris @LFNW 2018 Photo Courtesy of Brent Gervais

At the time the show was going off the air numerous articles appeared (some by former hosts) commenting on the great run of the program and expressing the concern for a future without such a prominent voice.  For fans, an unofficial rehab site helps them with their withdrawal symptoms.  The network still covers much of the same material, but instead of putting it all into one show it’s split up among several of the network’s programs. Linux Unplugged is a great weekly conversation. Linux Action News provides the quick 30 minute happenings in a highly professional format. User Error and other shows allow additional voices and perspectives to get quality air time. The network’s shows now resemble a better breadth and depth of the community that makes Linux and FOSS so powerful.

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Angela Fisher

One voice that seemed to be missing as the show was closing was that of Angela Fisher the co-owner of the JupiterBroadcasting network. As the person behind the scenes Angela was privy to the draft of the show when it was just a concept, all the way until producing the last bit of swag that I spotted in Costco for the show’s conclusion. In preparation for this blog post I reached out to Angela and asked her a few questions about her perspective of the show’s history and impact.

Do you remember when Chris proposed the idea of starting the show and could you share your reaction/thoughts on the conversation?

We already had the Casta Blasta show going and I recall Chris mentioning that his buddy John had a friend that runs Linux. He was going to meet the friend to see if he wants to do a show focused on Linux. Chris was having constant battles getting the bank he worked for to switch over to Linux and this seemed like a good step for being on top of troubleshooting ideas & solutions from like-minded Linux people.

Did you ever think you’d make a living from podcasting?

It started as a hobby. Chris and I are both the type of people that enjoy sharing our expertise and experience. Podcasting compliments our natural ability to be knowledgeable in an area and share that at the same time. I’m not sure we ever suspected we could make a living from it but as we tried out different shows we figured out there was potential.

When GoDaddy contacted us for sponsorship of Linux Action Show that is when things got real. We had to form a company to comply with making income but it wasn’t the launching point of making a living— not even close.

When did you get to the point where you realized you could make a living from podcasting?

We’ve had our ups and downs. We tried to make a living solely from podcasting back in 2011 but it wasn’t time yet. Chris did contract work on the side and I ended up getting a day job at the end of 2012 because we had depleted our savings and were hitting a rough patch. Things began to turn around at that point. I had our new logo created and did some overwhelmingly successful shirt campaigns that funded the big move into the studio in April 2013. From then on we have been able to sustain a living as well as pay our hosts and production staff for their contributions.

What is your most challenging memory of the show?

The day our son was born was the day Chris converted our third bay garage into a studio with a green screen. It was so cool to have a dedicated place to record but it brought along other complications such as video editing, clothing choices couldn’t include green, the house furnace couldn’t be on, and the kids had to be quiet/not stomp during shows, also… spiders.

Other:

I would just like to say that Jupiter Broadcasting wouldn’t be what it is without the help and support of our listeners, hosts, and sponsors. We are always looking to improve and pride ourselves in providing quality shows, content, and entertainment.

LAS required the sort of production schedule that required a lot of hard work and good teamwork.  Chris knew that phase of his team was coming to a close when he recorded a few prescient moments and posted them on his vlog months later.  When you close the phase on work like that it’s hard to gain perspective at the time the phase is closing.

Since it’s been a year I asked Chris to share a bit about the show’s challenges and his favorite moments:

What was Angela’s reaction when you proposed the idea of doing the show?

I think she trusted my sense of the situation. Behind the scenes there had been discussion about improvements we could make, changes, etc. The discussion around LAS started had ways to change the format.

What you, Angela and your hosts have done has required hard work. From your perspective which part of the show was the hardest?

Definitely the prep. LAS was really three shows in one, and it took the work. The picks, the news, and the main segment could all be podcasts of their own. So each week Noah and I would put about 10 hours in each. Some weeks, like a live event, would be considerably more hours.

Looking back at it though, a lot of the prep was fun stuff. Reading about cool projects, building a test of something to demo on the show, chatting with cool guests. It was just a matter of finding the time to do it all to our standards.

When you started, did you ever think you’d make a living from podcasting?

Oh heck no, I just wanted to tell people how cool Linux was, and the problems it was solving. LAS was born out of my need to share the cool stuff I was building, and the problems I was solving at work.

When did you get to the point where you realized you could make a living from podcasting?

I realized I HAD to go full time, because it demanded more than full time attention from me. And the only way I was going to get anywhere and do it in a way I was proud of, required that I could focus fully on the shows.

What is your favorite memory of the show?

Having a reason to travel got me out, and then learning that the best part was hanging out with the audience at the locations we’d visit. It took me a couple of years to really internalize that, but now it’s by far my favorite thing about the job.

What is your most challenging memory of the show?

The Internet gives a platform to everyone. And some folks are specialists at pushing emotional buttons, and driving self-serving narratives. At times LAS had found itself being followed by some that tried to build their brand off of tearing down ours. When you’re very passionate about something it can be really challenging to give something your all, rearrange your family life, make certain sacrifices every single week, just to watch people on the Internet try to cut it down for their own gain. But watching even a small handful of people fall for it, is disheartening.

It’s been a year, what do you think the show’s legacy has been in the last year? What do you think the show’s legacy will be in the next five years?

We just wrapped up Linux Fest Northwest, and I literally had hundreds of people tell me how much they loved LAS, and miss it still today. I take that as a good sign that we ended the show before it was too late. And usually they follow up with how much they are enjoying Linux Action News and Ask Noah.

Behind the scenes I’ve never been more proud of the work we do now. This last year represented a lot of changes behind the scenes too. Seeing the amount of research, care, and community involvement that is going into our shows now I feel like our next 10 years is going to fly by.

Anything else you’d like to add:

In the last year we’ve invested a ton into audio quality, new editors, and fancy features like chapter markers, new show pages, and much more. After LAS it took me a while to find me feet again. Ending the show had a bigger impact on my life than I expected. But after I emerged from the LAS fog I’ve doubled down on quality and focus. I think all of the shows on the network have gotten better this last year as a result.

……

Thinking about things I am personally proud of for LAS…

We grew that show from 15k or so when we first started causally doing the show. To later on with Matt, then Allan, and then Noah into 120k downloads a month.

I suspect there might not ever be a single Linux podcast that big again, or at least for a very long time.

Lots of new shows are cropped up, weekly news shows, new podcasts, new YouTube series all sorta post LAS. Which has been kinda neat to watch.

I have my own reasons to appreciate the show.  While deployed to Afghanistan I downloaded JB shows at 15kbps and would use them as my way of escaping.  That’s been my strongest connection with the show.

Every fan I’ve ever met has a strong connection to the show.  It’s something that helps us build our personal and professional networks that help us be more productive, or just brighten our day.  The random guy I met in Nampa, ID (Nampa is a really small town) had his own connection to the program and while our reasons for feeling connected to the show are different, it gave us something in common that allowed us to create an instant friendship.

If Chris numbers are right at the end of the show’s run there were about 30,000 fans a week that had their own connections to the content he was creating and the way he presented it.  It’s not often you get a host of a show who remembers that numbers are people.  Chris and Angela run their network with a passion for the people behind the numbers.

I’ll have to admit I’m a bit jealous.  People have had to listen to me because I pay them.  In contrast, people pay Chris to listen to him–there’s a big difference there.

Chris’ popularity prediction is likely correct as well.  Numbers like those aren’t just going to happen overnight.  I don’t think anything else is going to come close for some time to come.  When it does, the Linux Podcasting ecosystem might be mature enough to give out annual awards.  When (not if) that happens I imagine that one of the annual awards will be “The Voice of Linux.”  Depending on where his shows are at that year Chris Fisher might not be the first awardee, but he and Angela should take credit for creating the ecosystem that allowed the award to exist in the first place.

Chris, Angela, and all the folks at JB, you built something that added value using the exact medium that is so often associated with tearing others down.  When you built LAS, you helped build relationships that last.

Thank you.

Brent Gervais
Fan Event at LFNW 2018 Sponsored by System76 Photos by Brent Gervais

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