throwaway2203 2 months ago

Anyone else get the feeling that the information density of podcasts is just really low? I'd rather follow along a dense narrative than listen to a bunch of people chat with time wasted in pleasantries/jokes/etc.

  • cwkoss 2 months ago

    IMO podcasts without transcriptions shouldn't be allowed on HN. The vast majority of readers aren't going to invest an hour listening to the whole thing, so any discussion is just going to be about the title.

    • jimbob45 2 months ago

      Acclimating to voices heard at 2x speed was the best investment I made during the pandemic.

      • snvzz 2 months ago

        And that's still at least 10x slower than reading a transcript.

    • Zababa 2 months ago

      And it also has accessibility issues. HN is text-based, but the podcast is audio-based. That means some part of the population will be unable to interact with it.

    • musicale 2 months ago

      Transcriptions are the killer app for audio and video.

    • joe-collins 2 months ago

      IMO podcasts without transcriptions shouldn't be allowed, period.

  • saurik 2 months ago

    Since when is "information density" the goal of that format? Imagine trying to complain that the "information density" of The Tonight Show Starring Jim Fallon--or hell: The Howard Stern Show ;P--was "really low". The reason people listen to a bunch of people chatting is because they actively enjoy the personalities and the banter, wanting to get a feel for the people involved, not because they are looking for the fastest way to get to the point.

    • alexpetralia 2 months ago

      I like to think that some conversations are about the transfer of information while others are about the transfer of feeling.

      • throw10920 2 months ago

        Excellent point!

        The failure to understand this distinction would explain some strange conversations I've had with some people...

    • autoexec 2 months ago

      > Imagine trying to complain that the "information density" of The Tonight Show Starring Jim Fallon--or hell: The Howard Stern Show ;P

      those are largely comedy though right? Comedy is too dependent on timing to worry about information density.

      It also depends on why you tuned in. If you start a podcast in order to hear a bunch of people chatting and joking for an hour that's one thing, but when you hit the play button with the goal of learning about something it's more like a lecture that contains 20 minutes of information padded out to an hour.

  • ozbead 2 months ago

    If you are remotely interested in philosophy, Philosophize This! is a great podcast. I listen to it when walking the dog and sometimes I have to rewind a minute or two when I get distracted by something enough to miss a few sentences. It's quite dense but really informative and entertaining.

  • NegativeLatency 2 months ago

    Highly depends on the podcast for me. I don't generally listen to the conversational ones, and usually I listen to podcasts while doing something else like cleaning or working on my house.

    Arms Control Wonk, In Defense of Plants, The Long Now, and The History of English are some of my more favorite information dense podcasts.

    • klondike_klive 2 months ago

      I second The History of English - every one of them, especially the ones around the Great Vowel Shift, is a genuine joy- of-learning experience.

    • kzrdude 2 months ago

      Thanks for the tips (will check them out, don't know how they turn out yet)

  • n8cpdx 2 months ago

    Depends on the podcast but Hidden Brain has always been more on the easy listening/infotainment side of things, rather than something more serious.

    You might like The Economist, which has the entire publication professionally read each week, and you can listen at 2x speed, just like a podcast.

  • jbverschoor 2 months ago

    Yup. Same thing with articles. It's all lazy production.

    This is why people like HN.. You just read the headlines, and see if someone posts a tldr so you don't have to waste your time reading or listening to an hour of unstructured data

    • imiric 2 months ago

      All HN comments should have a tl;dr as well, so that I don't have to waste my time with filler content.

      TikTok has the best format. Just show me content in easily digestible blurbs, and stop wasting my time!

      • personalidea 2 months ago

        All TikToks should have a tl;dr, so I don’t have to waste my time watching those long-ass clips.

        Beeper messages are where it’s at. If you can’t fit the intel on those two lines of screen, I can’t be bothered.

  • e40 2 months ago

    I agree most of them (90+ percent?) are milking one small thing for ad money.

    The exception to the rule: Huberman Labs. He has 2.5 hour pods that are so dense I have to consume them over days.

  • autoexec 2 months ago

    I have this problem with radiolab. A lot of people really love it, but it's so repetitive, filled with pointless filler sounds/music, and takes so long to get to the point that even when I'm very interested in the topic I often rage quit. At least a little banter/joking is new information even when it isn't on topic.

  • belkarx 2 months ago

    Exactly. It's so much more prevalent when reading the transcript - you can see how many words are wasted and how much longer it takes to convey something in that form as opposed to an article, however it has the advantage of not engaging your visual system so ultimately allows you to parallelize.

  • onemoresoop 2 months ago

    There are podcasts and podcasts. Some are information dense, some are chatty. Different purposes for different moods, styles and people. When it comes to technical stuff yes, the transcript makes for an easy visual scan over whether it is even worth listening.

  • theGnuMe 2 months ago

    Nope. I find good podcasts to be at the right level. Hidden brain for the most part hits that. To me, information density isn't as important as to how it is communicated. I actually like some interviewer interviewee panels because they draw out connections that you may not get in an information dense dump. Some of these podcasts episodes (like this one) though are interviews about the book the interviewee wrote, so the density you are looking for is likely in the book.

    If you like information dense podcasts you'd like Huberman's podcast as he just lays everything out there.

  • dbcurtis 2 months ago

    Depends on the podcast. Well-produced ones are tightly edited, and the moderator keeps the conversation tight. That takes some work (and budget) to do. I find I mainly listen to big-budget podcasts, not on purpose, but because I won’t put up with low information density and all that is left after that are podcasts with the budget and production values to keep it tight.

  • Eddy_Viscosity2 2 months ago

    It is low. I prefer the video essay style although many of those are also full of fluff, but many aren't. If I watch podcast material, its almost always clips cut out and posted by someone with more time and patience than myself - thank you unknown hero who cuts out the good stuff.

  • molsongolden 2 months ago

    David Perell’s North Star Podcast is almost nonstop info. He asks great questions, sort of rapid-fire, while still keeping a pleasant and engaging flow. Try his Tyler Cowen interview if you haven’t listened yet.

    No new episodes this year so I’m not sure if he plans to continue but the few I’ve heard have been great. Hoping the rest of the archive is similar.

  • Simon_O_Rourke 2 months ago

    Well said, most podcasts I listen to these days I skip about five to seven minutes in to dispense with the chat and get to meat of the issue.

  • lukas099 2 months ago

    If podcasts were information-dense, they'd be useless (for me) because it would be way to easy to miss important points.

    • User23 2 months ago

      How are they useful to you? Do you just like having the sound of someone’s voice in the background? That can be nice when driving, but if I’m really looking to learn I personally expect that I’ll have to pay full attention.

  • throwaway98797 2 months ago

    most podcasts select for those that can fill the air

    so succinctness is not selected for

    note that many of the mid tier youtubers are so verbose that even 2x isn’t good enough

jonmc12 2 months ago

I think no one has posted the main thesis of this discussion. It's not just about "asking them", it's about the NYU psychologist's research that has systematically found no evidence for all counterfactuals other than asking a person about their internal state.

Knowing how to ask someone what they are thinking/feeling is a key skillset of anyone building a product for someone else. Its nuanced enough that books like "The Mom Test" break this down for entrepreneurs to implement tactically. On the other hand, West's research also suggests that one can comfortably underweight their own instincts laden with ego-centric and culture-centric biases. Further, you can also comfortably underweight the observations of your colleagues who might assert empathic abilities.

Perhaps the most interesting segment of this podcast was the story of how the author and her tenured colleague were able to dismiss their own intuitions about a acrimonious rivalry with one another and evaluate their relationship scientifically through hundreds of questions from their own research. They went from disliking one another to getting married.

leobg 2 months ago

Wish there was a service where I can plug in the URL of this podcast to get a Whisper transcript, separated into paragraphs, and with headlines for skimming. So I can decide whether or not to invest an hour of my time to actually listen to the whole thing.

  • karmakaze 2 months ago

    There's already clues there as to what sort of angle this might be approached from. The speakers book "Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them, by Tessa West, 2022." as well as their work and other cited research is listed on the page.

    I just started listening, there were segments with the first being 15m. I would say that they're a collection of anecdata stories on the subject. I napped for a segment in the middle, dreaming about visiting a treehouse office, and was awake again for the end. I didn't find any big answers but also don't mind having passed the time.

    • pvinis 2 months ago

      I'd rather get your takes on episodes as a paid service over the idea of the parent :p

      • baxtr 2 months ago

        So you'd pay someone to listen to Podcasts and send you a summary?

        • EarlKing 2 months ago

          But what would we call it? Slashpod? Poddot? Either way, you'd be continuing the proud tradition of not reading the summary.

    • jbotz 2 months ago

      The "meat" of the thing was right in the middle, so you may have missed it... it's simply that according to her research the best way of figuring out what someone is thinking or feeling is to ask them. Doh.

      • swader999 2 months ago

        Thanks, this is one of those times where it would have been more useful to read the comments first.

        On a positive note, the voices were both soothing enough that I did get a short refreshing nap out of it.

        • leobg 2 months ago

          I wonder how many podcasts are actually being abused as sleeping aid.

  • adinisom 2 months ago

    Transcribed using 'base' model:

    • Etheryte 2 months ago

      I'm surprised by how good the result is, what tool did you use for this?

      • mkaic 2 months ago

        Judging from OP's comment, they used OpenAI's Whisper speech-to-text transcription model, which was recently released open-source:

        • Etheryte 2 months ago

          Ah okay, thank you, I was not aware of this and so I didn't know what to search for. Thanks a lot for the help, much appreciated.

          • mkaic 2 months ago

            No problem! It's getting harder and harder to keep up with all the stuff getting released in the AI world these days.

    • leobg 2 months ago

      Wow. Thank you!

  • ephbit 2 months ago

    You can search here:

    Didn't find Hidden Brain through a quick search, maybe it's there and I didn't have enough patience.

    I'd love to know if there are other services similar to .. anyone know any?

    It adds so much value to a podcast to be able to search for words/text and read instead of just listening.

    Also, if you want to add your own thoughts to something that was said, with a transcription you can simply make a PDF and attach an annotation or highlight sentences.

    If like me, you like to listen to podcasts and take notes and add your own thoughts, and if you have found some handy tools for that or come up with your custom convenient workflows, I'd really like to know.

    • leobg 2 months ago

      Thanks for the recommendation. Didn't know that service.

      Why are you asking for similar services? What's something that you feel is missing on this one? If you could change it or add functionality, what would you change or add?

      • ephbit 2 months ago

        They only have a selection of all podcasts.

        I once used their trial tool, to transcribe some episode. The functionality is good, but it is commercial. I wouldn't use it often enough to justify signing up.

        So if there were some similar tool where I don't have to sign up to some paid service just to transcribe one episode here or there, that'd be neat.

        Read of Whisper in the comments. I like that it doesn't appear to require some API keys to use their model. But I'd rather not install yet another Python package that likely comes with a whole bunch of new dependencies.

  • serpix 2 months ago

    the answer is "You ask them". Saved you one hour.

    • cbfrench 2 months ago

      slaps forehead

      Why didn’t I think of that before?

  • badcc 2 months ago

    Better yet.. podcast -> Whisper -> text summarization model... sounds like it'd be fun to hack together

    • m463 2 months ago

          $ curl | grep -A10 'tldr' 
          jderick 4 hours ago | prev | next [–]
          "So you're saying the best way of figuring out what's inside someone else's mind is to ask them?"
          "That's right."
    • leobg 2 months ago

      If you do, please post!

  • jjtheblunt 2 months ago

    what's a Whisper transcript? (looking, enticed)

    • leobg 2 months ago

      Transcript created by OpenAI's new "Whisper" language model.

belkarx 2 months ago

Better answer to the title question:

Some researchers got together and devised questions that get to the vulnerable parts of a person's life, giving you that connection rather efficiently (conversation while following the questions, allowing for tangents, has taken me 1-2 hours on average).

itsmemattchung 2 months ago

Have had to learn this the hard way — with friends and family— and reprogram myself to:

never assume what's going on inside of someone else's head.

badcppdev 2 months ago

"So often, we think we know what other people are thinking. ".

Do people really think that they know what other people are thinking?

  • mattw2121 2 months ago

    Yes, absolutely. I am in constant contact with people that are two ends of the spectrum. They either align malicious intent to every one else's actions or they are blissfully unaware of malicious intent at all. These are both examples of people thinking they know what someone else is thinking.

    • Kiboneu 2 months ago

      Sounds like you think you know what they are thinking (about thinking that they know what each other is thinking).

  • Viliam1234 2 months ago

    Some of them do. And if it turns out that you were actually not thinking what they thought you were thinking -- it's your fault!

  • kayodelycaon 2 months ago

    Oh yes. When I was a kid, my dad did this to me constantly.

    I’m neurodivergent and he was completely wrong most of the time. I did not have an ideal childhood.

abhayhegde 2 months ago

It was too long to go through the podcast.

When it comes to getting to know a person, there is no shortcut than spending time with them, asking them questions, putting yourself with them in various circumstances. One of the best ways to tap into someone's personality is to go for a trip with them.

davesque 2 months ago

I don't think this is reliable. I've only met a handful of people in my own life who are able to actually report their state of mind without mixing in judgements about why they feel a certain way. In other words, people who can resist the influence of their emotions long enough to describe them.

Most people I've met are always indicating in various ways the degree to which they are at the mercy of their own feelings.

jderick 2 months ago


"So you're saying the best way of figuring out what's inside someone else's mind is to ask them?"

"That's right."

  • biomcgary 2 months ago

    People think things that range from typical to highly atypical. The more typical your thought patterns, the higher the probability that others can infer your thinking. This leads to more successful social interactions because people will infer your thinking incorrectly less often.

    This is one significant reason why the neurodivergent (e.g., autism spectrum) often have social interaction issues. Highly intelligent people also have out of the box thinking that is hard to predict, but they often have increased capacity to infer the thinking of others and adjust accordingly (if they want).

    • aidenn0 2 months ago

      > People think things that range from typical to highly atypical. The more typical your thought patterns, the higher the probability that others can infer your thinking. This leads to more successful social interactions because people will infer your thinking incorrectly less often.

      I do think this is true, but as I've gotten older I have come to the conclusion that the two most typical people in the world would still fail to infer each other's thinking because typical thinking misattributes motivation in others to an almost absurd degree.

prottog 2 months ago

"Live with a man 40 years. Share his house, his meals. Speak on every subject. Then tie him up, and hold him over the volcano's edge. And on that day, you will finally meet the man."