Category: Software How-To
What It Is
Well, nothing to do with Software, that’s for sure; not sure what that’s about. Dan Benjamin and Merlin Mann discuss issues related to work and careers. Sprinkled in are humorous stories from their experiences and occasionally very in-depth discussion of Batman and/or X-Men comics.
5by5 is a podcast network created by Dan Benjamin and we’ll be talking about some of his other podcasts later. This one, like most of the 5by5 podcasts, comes out once a week; this one’s day is Tuesday. Episodes run approximately an hour and fifteen minutes, give or take a few minutes now and then. You can listen live and chat with other live listeners at 3PM Eastern on the 5by5 website (I’ve never done this). It’s basically just a conversation, no special effects or anything. Though it does have the most rocking theme of any podcast I’ve ever heard; stick around: it comes at the END of the show. Complete archives, all the way back to episode one from 2010 can be accessed at the show’s website or on iTunes.
What About It
This show is an acquired taste, I think. The show is peppered with in-jokes from previous episodes and, for a show about advancing in your career, it’s very silly. I’ve definitely acquired the taste; it took about two episodes to get me hooked on the off-beat, often wacky sensibility. The show is incredibly rambling, which may annoy some people. They’ll often take over half an hour talking about things not even remotely related to the show’s nominal subject; things like Batman comics or the X-Men or how Dan Benjamin’s kid has a weird obsession with Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. Decide for yourself whether this adds to the shows wackadoodle charm or just annoyingly detracts from its purpose. I’m on the “wackadoodle charm” side. Once the show gets to career stuff, it’s often quite insightful, even if it still isn’t very focused. The episode nominally revolves around a career based topic, but the conversation here is as rambling as it is elsewhere, so they’ll often cover a lot of different topics. The topics range from everything from dealing with a hostile work environment to how to be a good supervisor; they’re often applicable in life outside work, as in how to overcome feeling like a failure or finding a way to have an open mind. Always entertaining, often insightful, it’s a likable, affable show that makes something as generally boring as career tips entertaining and funny.
You find Career Tools both incredibly helpful and intolerably boring.
Avoid Like the Plague If
Your marker for a good podcast involves getting straight to the point.
Best Entry Point
There’s only one choice here. It’s Episode 85 from September of 2012. The title of the episode is Schroedinger’s Soap Dispenser. Early on the episode, Merlin brings up his disgust at having to use public restrooms. Things quickly spin out of control and for something like the next forty-five minutes, Merlin and Dan kick around strategies for getting through the public restroom experience with a minimum of surface contact. At least two entirely different procedures are posited for getting in and out without touching a single surface. The title of course refers to one of the many quandaries they face in trying to create procedures: how do you know if there’s actually soap in the soap dispenser? The episode supposedly generated a lot of e-mails from listeners urging the two men to, er, seek psychiatric help with their phobias. In the following episode, the hosts avowed that they were, in fact, mostly joking, doing a sort of comedic improv with each other. That’s probably partly true, but the techniques were too detailed to not have some basis in reality. Probably the real situation is a mixture of both: germphobes riffing on being germphobes in a way only real germphobes could. Regardless, it’s a hilarious episode that, frankly, I think ascends to the level of art. Check that one out immediately.
3 1/2 stars.
Next time, my journey through award-winning/award-nominated podcasts takes me, a straight guy, into the realm of gay podcasting. This should be fun.