When Art Bell called
4 min read
Since all parties in this story have moved on I decided that I could tell this story. Like most software developers there are always times you must work at night and weekends whether it is due to a tight schedule, changes to requirements, or personal project work. I always enjoyed listening to Art Bell when I had to work in the later hours. If you don't know who Art Bell is, he started Coast to Coast AM which is a "paranormal" talk radio show in long form interview format (3+ hours). Art Bell had a mix of interviews from hard science to crazy from people like Michio Kaku & Neil DeGrasse Tyson to Big Footer hunters. Art was a great and intelligent interviewer and could take a crappy subject and weave it into a coherent story. It was highly entertaining and a joy to listen to at night while working.
Art Bell retired from Coast to Coast Am, then came of retirement to start a show on Sirius XM to retire again and then re-launched his show under a new name, Midnight in the Desert, as a podcast on Keith Rowland's Dark Matter Digital Network. Since all this occurred Art Bell has passed on (RIP) and Keith has sold the network so none of the parties of this story are involved with me so I figured I could tell this without it being unprofessional.
When Art Bell came back for the final time on his podcast they launched a website but didn't have a podcast player enabled feed to allow their paying members to easily listen to the podcast. You had to log on to the website, manually download the show's mp3 and then you could listen to it. Not a really good process but I get it, they were in a hurry and wanted to get it live.
I decided that I was going to see if the website could be reverse engineered to pull the RSS feed (it was wordpress with an ecommerce package) and then be able to transform that into a podcast feed. In my 20+ career people often ask what they should learn in their free time or build and I think a great answer is invest your time in things you enjoy or that enhance your life because it is never be lost time. As a bonus if you can learn a skill at the same time it helps you land better jobs/etc. So, I'm going to enhance my listening experience by making it easy to consume the podcast and hey I get a chance to get dirty with RSS Feeds and reverse engineer the platform they used. Geeking out that's for sure.
I took about a week and built an app that could do exactly what I wanted. It took the website credentials and built out a podcast feed for my player. After testing it a bit I posted on a forum that was Art Bell centric and many people started using it. After a day or two I get a message on the forum from Art asking if he can call me at something like 2am in the morning to discuss it. Of course I took the call and he wanted to see if he could officially use my feed. This was a labor of love for the most part and I agreed so he set me up with Keith and the rest was history. If you ever listened to Midnight in the Desert with your podcast player, that was because of my app.
This personal project actually led to me meeting other people like Martin Willis and in general it was a fun period in my life being involved with these shows. I appreciate the entire experience.
A few take aways from this experience:
- Working with people that respect your time and expertise is important. Both Keith and Art were professional at all times and great to work with.
- Podcasts feeds were created by the devil. Seriously, don't ever get involved with them, there is no standard and every podcast player treats them differently. I contacted several of the podcast player devs to see if they would work with me and a few did, others not.
- If you help someone out, don't be afraid to ask for a referral - Thank you Keith.
- Don't be afraid to reach out to other people in the same space. Martin is a great guy and I wish we could have met in person when I was visiting his area.
- It is completely okay to say No if you don't want to do something, whether paid or otherwise. It is your time to invest.
And to conclude, if you have a little time, find a personal project that makes your life a little easier and work on it. You never know where it will lead.