Chris Hannah


Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman on the Rich Roll Podcast #

I came across an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast the other day, with the guest Dr. Andrew Huberman, who is a neuroscientist and associate professor at Stanford University. I had seen some clips of him on social media, mainly do’s/don’ts on certain behaviours, and how activities can affect your brain, etc.

When I saw the video, I thought I’d give it a watch, since I’ve found other Rich Roll episodes to be pretty interesting. Well, I was right, I found it to be a fascinating interview. One full of lots of intriguing little tidbits, and things I didn’t know before, or at least not fully understood.

I’d encourage you to watch the interview, I also decided to write about three things that I took from the video that I found to be interesting.

Change Your Brain: Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman | Rich Roll Podcast

Dopamine can be a tool for motivation

We tend to think that dopamine is a chemical that is released whenever something big happens, and that it’s a kind of pleasure/reward response. While that is true, dopamine is also a chemical that rewards behaviour so that we are encouraged to repeat it.

The lack of dopamine can also cause you to quit an activity or behaviour. Which is why mentally celebrating small milestones is very beneficial. As this makes your brain release small hits of dopamine, which then in turn pushes back your desire to quit, and reassures you that you are on the right path.

He also touched on the reliance of external dopamine triggers, and how that they can negatively affect you when they disappear. And when you perform an action that you have become accustomed to receive external gratification for, and therefore triggering a dopamine release, if that does not happen, then your likeliness to quit increases. As that behaviour does not trigger the same reward as it used to, so your brain will treat it as it has a lower value. This behaviour somewhat ties into addiction, which he explained in the latter parts of the video.

Mental Focus Follows Visual Focus

Our eyes are part of our central nervous system, and can be seen as being part of the brain. One chemical that is apparently key to visual focus, is adrenaline, as it causes your pupils to dilate, and allows you to focus better on one thing visually. Your body releases adrenaline as a response to stress, so you can better deal with the situation at hand.

He also said that this level of focus after a release of adrenaline is most likely what some people nowadays are referring to when they mention some kind of “flow state”. And once you are in this state, it will trigger your brain into cognitive focus.

On the other hand, when you are in a non-stressed state, your brain allows for a more panoramic view, which in turn allows for more awareness of your surroundings.

Time perception is also apparently linked to our level of focus on our physical space, with the more focused we are, resulting in a perception that more things are happening in a shorter period of time. And conversely, when your focus is more dilated, it appears as if you have more time, and everything is spaced apart.

I found it interesting that he said this was not the same as time itself going faster or slower, just the rate of which things happen appears to change.

How to Decompress

One thing that maybe most of us are slightly aware of is that taking breaks can allow for decompression, and help recover our energy levels. But it’s also important what we do on those breaks that matter.

I’m sure a lot of us are aware of context-switching, and how it can take time to adjust our mind to different contexts. This is also relevant when taking a break too, as if you want to decompress, switching to another activity where you’re in a focussed state will only make it harder to refocus back on your main activity.

Instead, it’s better to take regular breaks where you are not partaking in any activity that requires any substantial focus, and instead by having a more panoramic view of your surroundings.

Then, just as I mentioned above, your mental focus will follow your visual focus, and your body will be more able to recover energy.

It also means that you require less energy to refocus your mind when going back to what you were doing.

There’s a ton more that I found interesting in the episode, but I didn’t think anyone wanted to read a book. But if what I took from it is at all appealing to you, then I’d recommend starting with this episode first, but to also have a look at the rest of the podcast.

My Experience Using Castro as My Primary Podcast App #

For quite a few years now, I’ve been using Overcast as my podcast app of choice. It’s a great app, and it’s praised by basically anyone that uses it. However, I had never really used an alternative. So I wasn’t sure if I really was using the best app that was on offer.

After doing a bit of research, and hearing about it in the past, I decided on Castro. It’s the app that I’ve seen the most talked about online, second to only Overcast.

As I mentioned on my journal entries on April 8th and 9th, one of the best features of Castro, in my opinion, is the focus that’s put into queuing episodes. And in particular, the idea of triaging new episodes, so that you can have a more refined queue. This helped me a lot, as I was getting to a place where I had so many episodes build up in my list, that I didn’t know what to listen to next. And in some cases, there were episodes that I knew that I would never get around to listen to, but I just didn’t want to remove them.

Starting with an import of my subscription from Overcast via the export/import OPML files in both apps, the Inbox in Castro was filled up with the most recent episodes of all my subscriptions. From there I started assigning each episode to either the top/bottom of the queue, or removing it from the list. This resulted in a pretty small queue, I think it was around 6 episodes, and my list would usually be around 20 in Overcast.

As new episodes continually appeared in the Inbox, I found it rather easy to sort through them, and pick out the episodes I wanted to listen to. It seems strange, but this feature alone made me listen to many more podcasts. It removed some of the unnecessary choice, so I could always find something I wanted to listen to. Because of the queuing, and the fact that you prioritise episodes in the queue when triaging the Inbox, it’s always ready whenever you just want to jump in a quickly listen to something. Or maybe in the morning, when you haven’t quite woken up yet, but you still want something for the commute.

I did think I would miss the two great enhancements that Overcast offers, Voice Boost and Smart Speed. However, Castro have their own versions, Enhance Voices and Trim Silence. I didn’t notice any difference in this regard. So either, they both work with a similar level of quality, or I just don’t notice the feature on either apps. Either way, it’s not an issue for me.

One thing I did notice about playback though, was when resuming an episode, I really missed Overcast’s “Smart Resume”. It’s really handy when you pause in the middle of a word, because Overcast will rewind slightly to the gap before the word. It sounds like a minuscule feature, but you soon get used to it.

Something else that caused me a bit of friction when I first started using Castro, was the way you found the show notes of an episode. In Castro, you swipe left → right and “activate” the Info button, which launches the show notes above the current context. However, I was really used to the interface in Overcast, where you swiped right → left to view the show notes, and then once more to view the chapters (if the episode had them). These are nothing major, and are mostly caused by muscle memory.

After using Castro as my podcast app for a while, I was in a situation where I wanted to listen to a podcast on my iPad. And that is when I discovered the lack of Castro! So after all the benefits I found with the queuing feature, the nice refreshing interface, and also a few pain-points, I literally couldn’t use the app anymore. I kept using the Castro app on my phone for a few days, but I had to stop, because managing two podcast apps would be crazy.

In conclusion, I would like to state that I really like Castro. And while there are a few things that I was used to in Overcast, that caused friction when using Castro, the overall experience was great. I just can’t use an app on iOS that isn’t universal anymore. I’ve gone back to Overcast for now, and I’m going to try and take small things I’ve learned from triaging episodes in Castro, so I can better handle my podcast list. But I’m always going to be hoping for the day when Castro comes to the iPad.

Why You Should Never Pay For Podcast Hosting #

Nir Zicherman, co-founder and CTO of Anchor:

Back in the day, you would have had to pay to host video online. But you would never do that today (thanks to services like YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch, and plenty of other free video hosting platforms). Back in the day, you would have had to pay to store your photos online. But that outdated business model has virtually disappeared thanks to platforms like Google Photos, Instagram, Imgur, and others. At Anchor, we believe the notion of charging creators to host their content online is antiquated and unfair. And above all else, it serves as a barrier that prevents the podcasting ecosystem from growing and becoming more diverse, because it limits it to only those voices who can afford to pay.

I must admit, the headline caused me to instantly question the article. But it completely turned me around. Anchor seem to be doing some great things in podcasting, and it’s very interesting to see the platform constantly growing.

AppStories is Here! #

There’s been a load of hints about something new coming to the MacStories family for a while, and it’s finally been announced. It’s called AppStories!

AppStories is a new podcast by Federico Viticci and John Voorhees, which focusses on apps, notable updates, and also the stories behind them.

I actually listened to the first episode a day early, due to me doing a bit of preemptive searching on Overcast, and actually finding out the secret project before it was announced!

From the first episode, I can tell that it’s going to be a podcast for me. With Connected currently being my absolute must-listen show, AppStories is going to be joining it. I’m super interested in apps, as you can probably see by my writing here, and also from the fact that I am also an app developer.

Hopefully this new podcast can lead me to more of the great apps, that are constantly being released on Apple platforms. And I can also see it being beneficial from a developer perspective, as AppStories will also be featuring interviews with developers, which for me sounds amazing! It’s not often I get to hear how other developers work, so that’s one segment I’m looking forward to.

However, if you’re still thinking that this big announcement was a new podcast, you’re only half correct. Because the podcast also has it’s own website, that has been custom built to allow for the best podcast experience. Which is evident when you see the custom audio player, that can also be embedded rather easily. I have embedded the first podcast below, so if it’s enabled on your browser, you’ll be able to see it.

I’ve also been told that, in true MacStories fashion, the website has it’s own API, and therefore there is a lot of automation happening. Which isn’t really a surprise!

You can find more information about the AppStories podcast, the first episode, and also links to subscribe on the many podcast apps, directly on the AppStories website. And in usual fashion, Federico has written an introduction article, “Introducing AppStories“, which details how the idea has finally come to fruition. It’s been around for a lot longer than you may think!

AppStories will be a weekly show, lasting around 30 mins each, and will be published on Mondays, starting on the 24th April. Except of course this first episode, which was released as part of MacStories 8th birthday celebrations! 🎉

Castro 2 #

It has just been announced that Castro, a podcast app for iOS will receive a very hefty overhaul in the form of Castro 2.

With the official launch being on the 15th August (my birthday), they have released a trailer video which shows how Castro 2 will work.

When I first heard about another podcast app coming, I was initially hesitant to even check it out, because how good Overcast has been to me.

But after watching the video myself, and also checking out the more in-depth article they have on their blog “Castro 2.0: The Servers”, I’m really impressed with the work that has gone into Castro. It also doesn’t just copy the standard conventions of listening to podcasts, especially with the idea of having a general inbox for new episodes, and then a queue for ones you want to listen to.

Even Marco Arment, the creator of Overcast praised Castro:

Competition is matching a feature checklist. Innovation is defining the roadmap. @supertopsquid, true innovators: – @marcoarment

If it was just another podcast app, I probably wouldn’t care too much about it, but I’m definitely looking forward to playing with Castro.

It could well become my next favourite podcast app.

Relay FM Launch New Show “Free Agents” #

Relay FM have launched another great show, where Jason Snell and David Sparks talk about how they became independent.

From the Relay FM blog:

Last year at WWDC, I had tea with Myke, Jason Snell and David Sparks.

At the time, I was on the fence about leaving my job to work on Relay FM full-time. It made sense on paper, but I was nervous about taking my fate into my own hands.

All three of them were already independent, and were very open about the challenges and rewards that working for yourself brings. (I think they’ll admit there was a little peer pressure going on to, but that’s beside the point.)

Today, Jason and David are launching a new fortnightly podcast named Free Agents. It’s all about work, and while they are both self-employed, the topics on Free Agents are applicable to all sorts of people. – Relay FM Extras

I’m a big fan of both what Jason and David do for their blogs, Six Colors, and MacSparky. So I’m really looking forward to hear everything they have to say about going independent, and any tips they have for the rest of us!

Anyway, the first episode is titled "The Temptation of Yes", where they discuss the problems when saying Yes too much, and also how to narrow your scope when it comes to work.

You can find more about Free Agents, and the first episode on Relay FM. There’s also links to follow them on Twitter, and also on your favourite podcast app.

John and Nilay on The Talk Show #

Nilay Patel was the special guest on John Gruber’s The Talk Show podcast this week, and it’s by far my most favourite episode, ever.

Special guest Nilay Patel joins the show. Topics include The Verge and Recode (and the state of the media industry at large), what’s going on with the lack of updates to professional Mac hardware, and, of course, Apple’s purported removal of the headphone jack on the upcoming new iPhones. – The Talk Show

I always thought John and Nilay were way different people, probably because of the big difference between Daring Fireball and The Verge. But they killed it this episode.

There was loads of cool discussion on Apple and what could be going on regarding the upcoming announcements, talk on the headphone debacle, and also some other nerd stuff.

I always thought of The Talk Show as the really long podcast, that I only enjoy around 60% of the time. But this was amazing.

If you haven’t ever listed to The Talk Show, then I’d recommend starting with this episode – "Ep. 160 FRESH OUT OF PRISON"