Guide for Guests

updated: March 25, 2023
My original intention was to compose a written Guide on this page, and then do a podcast episode about it.

Instead, I just did the podcast episode. Both this episode, and its transcript, are on this page.

A famous vaudevillian comic, who made it big in post-war Hollywood, reportedly gave this advice to a young protégée: "Get an act".

That is exactly my attitude when it comes to my podcasts. I have to have an act.

Why are listeners going to listen to me?
Who are my listeners?
And, now that I want sponsorship, why would anyone want to sponsor my podcasts?

For this podcast, my Interviews show, I keep thinking of one single word: "substantive".
To have interviews of substance.

Who are my listeners?
PHP developers.

Why are PHP developers listening to this show?
⦿ because they are going to hear interesting stuff that they will not hear elsewhere
⦿ they are going to hear interesting interviews of substance
⦿ the topics are going to be about PHP serverless

Interviews will be packaged in 20 to 25 minute episodes.
Each episode will be single themed, about one topic.
The topic will be technical, about PHP serverless.
I will kick off interviews with a lead question about The Topic.
Instead of a question and answer interview, my guest and I will be conversational. We'll see where we go.
I'll ask follow-up questions.
My guest will do most of the talking.
At the 15 minute mark, we'll start to wrap things up, returning to The Topic.

This means that my guest has to be ok with talking real stuff.

Our interview will have no substance when my guest does not want to talk substantively.

Since my act, so to speak, is doing substantive interviews, having a guest that does not want to give an interview of substance spoils my act.

I will send my guests topics that I want to cover.
I will send my guests questions that I want to ask.
My guests will pre-approve topics and questions.
There will be no surprises.

In my own experience doing interviews, there were guests that, despite pre-approving everything, and despite aggreeing to delve into specific issues, during the interview did not talk substantively.
They played around.
They danced.
They spewed baffle-gab.
They joked.
They interviewed me.
==> Do not be this guest.

My interviews must be substantive.
If substantive is not your cup of tea, just nicely decline my invitation.

I know that there are limits to what a guest can say.
A guest must not disclose corporate confidential information.
A guest may understand the real reason why a technical issue a PHP developer faces when using a service the guest is talking about, but cannot disclose this reason.
I do not want my guests to violate any non-disclosure agreements that they have.
I do not want my guest to say anything that will cause them problems back at their office.

To me, being substantive does not equate to saying things that guests are not at liberty to discuss. This is why I want to know what we can talk about.

I want my guests relaxed and confident that they are not going to be put on the spot. In know that there are limits to what my guests can say.

My interviews are by, and for, PHP developers.
Let's get technical.
Let's get under-the-hood.
Let's go behind-the-scenes.

Topics and questions are not controversial by nature. I am addressing the edge case.

I am airing past grievances from interviews I did, in what seems like half a lifetime ago. At that time, things were pretty casual, and a guest's antics did not really matter [more or less].

Deep down, I do not feel so casual about my Interviews podcast. Back then, I had one show and did all sorts of different things for it. I could take a break from interviewing, or I could keep scheduling interviews. What difference did it make? There was no sponsorship. There was no rigid schedule to worry about. So what if a guest turned out to be a dud? Well, actually, sometimes it did matter that an interview went downhill, because there were a number of interviews that I never published. And these were not once-in-awhile either. The problem seemed to become significant when I got a bit of a following. When people actually wanted to be on my podcast because it would benefit them. That's when the antics started. That's what I remember.

The truth is, now that I have created three separate podcast shows, I would love to revert to doing one show only. But, it's the wrong thing to do, to have one show with multiple formats. Now that I seek sponsorship, and now that I actually care about having people actually listen to my podcasts, I need to keep to one format per show. And I need to structure each show in some way.

My Interviews podcast show has the most potential for garnering an audience. So I think.

I think that my new "PHP Serverless News" podcast has decent potential for drawing a modest audience.

I think that my commentary podcast is going to remain mostly a passion project podcast despite any sponsorship.

So, I am looking at my Interviews podcast differently than what I did half a lifetime ago. I have my own expectations. Interviews go well with the right guests.

And, well, I am my own personality too and not everyone takes to Yours Truly. Furthermore, since we are on the subject, I had a very bad tendency to interview myself in many interviews. My solution to these defects is to try to shut up when interviewing. Once I am done asking my Lead Off question, follow-up questions is more designed to keep me quiet than anything else. Also, follow-up questions means that I have to listen to my guest, so I can respond to what they are saying in real time. Hopefully, I can respond as such, and combine my follow-up with some research so we can go deeper with PHP serverless technologies. That is the plan. We'll see how theory plays out in the real world.

The number one thing that I want to achieve with my Interviews is to have substantive conversations.

Half a lifetime ago, sometimes it was enough to focus on The Personality. To learn about the person I am interviewing. Especially if I was interviewing a celebrity. It's ok to talk about the weather, the challenges of big time differences when interviewing, the state of our favourite sports teams, what schools a guest attended, reminiscences about first jobs, and things of that nature. But, well, I am pretty sure that this sort of thing is not going to cut it. And, personally, I am really not interested in doing these kinds of interviews.

It would be great to interview celebrities. But, to me, it does not matter who you are. What matters is that we talk substantively.

This is going to sound weird, but if there are passages in our interview that go downhill, I am probably going to want to scrap our entire interview.

By downhill, I mean:
⦿ that a person's character was called into question
⦿ a corporation's inadequacies were enumerated passionately
⦿ politics was introduced into the conversation.

The conversation ceased to be substantive.
The conversation opened me up to liability.
The conversation made my interview feel less welcoming to future potential guests.

You know, downhill.

I want to record my interviews as if they are being broadcast live.
I want to publish my interviews as-is.
Ideally, I do not want to do any editing.
The most editing that I want to do is to delete long silent pauses, where nothing is said.
And, I want to adjust sound levels.
But, that's it for editing.

If I start editing my podcasts, I risk changing the meaning of what my guests are saying with my editing.

I want my guests to be confident that what they say, and how they say it, will be published exactly as they did it when we recorded the interview.

The problem is not the obvious egregious passages. The problem is the stuff that is not really obvious, because I take a heavy hand to passages that I think open me up to liability.

It can be hard to explain to a guest why I chopped up an interview so much that it sounds disjointed. If I compensated for such editing by adding in my own newly recorded verbiage after-the-fact, then it would be a different thing than what we recorded.

I reserve the right to all final edits. Including the right not to publish the interview.

However, I would rather not do any editing.
I want to publish our interview as-is.
Not even editing out the long silent pauses.
And, of course, I would rather publish my interviews.

Something that I have done in the past was ask my guest if it was ok that I excise a passage.

Sometimes I did so while recording, and then delete that entire sequence during editing.

Sometimes I caught something while editing, and emailed my guest permission to edit it out.

Sometimes I asked my guest to preview my final audio production file to make sure they are ok with everything, perhaps pointing out a passage in particular.

In general, it is better for me to scrap an entire interviews, then to edit an interview.

I avoid disputes that I am manipulating interviews during editing for my own nefarious purposes.

What happened in days gone by, guests treated our recordings as being live, because I was apt to publish our interview as-is, with very little, or no, editing. It really did make for a better interview.

I have no recollection of a guest getting angry at me because they thought I was manipulating the interview during editing.
Nor getting angry at me because I chopped something out.
To the best of my knowledge, word did not get around that people should avoid doing interviews with me.

I want to enjoy people not getting angry at me whilst doing my new Interviews podcast.

Of all the things to worry about, would you believe that at the top of my list is swearing.

Not because I am personally offended, because, really, I don't give a shit about swearing on my podcasts.

However, in my experience doing podcasts, interviews or just commentary, swearing is like potato chips: you can't have just one.

Diminishing returns hits hard with swearing.

At some point, and that point comes much sooner than later, swearing loses all meaning. It converys nothing. All our listeners hear is the swearing. Even the word "shit". It does not take long to sound like this scene in the movie: "The King's Speech":

Which leads to an over-arching problem with audio podcasts.
Video podcasts are trending, and YouTube just released new podcasting features.
But, well, I am doing just audio podcasts.

Which means that your body language is not going to be seen.

Your body language conveys a lot of meaning to what you say.
Your facial expressions.
Your body's movement.
Your hand gestures.

These are important non-verbal signals to people about what you mean.

With the benefit of body language, colloquialism/turns of phrases/popular culture references/swear words have meaning.

Wording that in and of itself is vague, conveys meaning nonetheless because non-verbal body language compensates with specific meaning that vague wording lacks.

What happens when people cannot see your body language? All our listeners have to go on is what you say and how you say it. There is no other way to convey meaning.

That we are doing a substantive interview is not a help either. Being vague is the opposite of being substantive.

We need to be precise. This is easier said than done. But let's try.

Be precise.
Steer clear of terminology.
Steer clear of baffle-gab.

Talk plain English.

Other points, in no particular order...

⦿ I will interview one person at a time. Guests will enjoy my undivided attention
⦿ I do not do controversies, real or manufactured
⦿ I do not do "shock jock"
⦿ I do not criticize, nor denigrade, people or companies
⦿ when critiquing technologies, I am specific, if I critique at all
⦿ I want to sleep well at night. Which means not worrying about getting sued. Or getting cease-and-desist orders
⦿ it is preferable that guests use an external microphone
⦿ dogs bark. Horns honk. Sirens blare. There are children about. No worries. We'll keep recording nonetheless
⦿ generally, I do not do transcripts