The making of my ultimate personal podcast ecosystem

I have been playing with podcasting for a little while now. I started testing on Micro.Blog. It is a nice little setup; I love it for blogging and syndicated tweets/toots. But their built-in podcasting feature was too basic for what I had in mind. Then I tried one of the podcast hosts, which I found to be restrictive, with little wiggle room. At that point, I went dyi, set up a webserver, wrote my own HTML and CSS, got a CDN, and rolled that way. Which worked fairly well, though it was a lot of work. My podcast No Expectations will continue that way. But I needed something more complete.

I looked at static site generators, WordPress, more podcast hosting platforms, and multiple other little apps and services. As I reflected on all the things I’ve tried, Micro.Blog is my favorite tool, so I needed to go back and revisit it and build an entire podcast ecosystem on it.

It begins with me starting a fresh Micro.Blog account, I didn’t want anything from my past account to muck up what I was trying to do. I wanted to ensure the podcast name, blog title username, and ActivityPub element were aligned and on-brand.

Regarding the look, I already had a working theme I really like. I plan on changing the color scheme, but in general, it’s perfect for what I want to do. I am also very familiar with it and know most of the bits and pieces I need to tweak. Once the color change is done, all I need is a logo which I’m trying to make happen soon.

Next, to lay things out how I want, I need a couple of plugins. First is the ‘Reply by Email’ plugin, and I needed the ‘Custom home page’ plugin. Reply by email gives me the first form of communication with the audience, placing an easy link to send in feedback with the episode name as a subject. I should mention it is there for blog posts and videos also. While the Custom home page plugin does as it says and gives me a landing page when you first visit the website instead of showing you a string of posts. This leads me to categories and pages.

So the main categories and pages I will be having on the site (there may be others in the future) are.

  • Blog - Standard text blog posts like this one.
  • MicroPosts - Short posts with no title, tweets/toots that will be crossposted to Mastodon and Twitter.
  • Podcast - The list of podcast episodes themselves.
  • Videos - I plan on making supplemental videos for some of the audio posts where a visual aid may add value.

This will hopefully make it easy for visitors to find what they need.

Micro.Blog itself creates an RSS feed people can use to subscribe to the site, and they will get all the site’s activity fed to them in whichever reader or tool they choose to use. But I also need something for the podcast episodes themselves. So I use Sovereign Feeds to generate my show feed. This allows me to use all the features of the Podcast 2.0 API. Things like Value 4 Value, Per episode artwork, commenting, chapters, transcripts, and many others exist or are in the works. Thanks to @sod of the MicroBlog community, I was taught where to place this file in my custom theme and have exposed it so I can point the Podcast Index to it. Maybe Apple or Spotify also in the future; the jury is out on that one.

Regarding the files themselves, I have a chunk of block storage at Linode, where they will stay. This allows me to keep the burden off of Micro.Blog and also gives me no limit on filesize and plenty of bandwidth. I should mention all Video and Audio will live there; if anything ends up on Youtube, peertube, or something else, it will always be secondary.

Then there is the social aspect which Micro.Blog and the Podcasting 2.0 spec cover so well with ActivityPub. So everything I mentioned before that happens on the site will crosspost to Mastodon and Twitter. In addition, Micro.blog has ActivityPub built-in and its own address that can be seen on other ActivityPub-enabled networks. This allows me to use the MicroBlog activity pub to link comments from Podcasting 2.0-enabled podcast clients or sites directly to the episodes posted on the site. And the old faithful follow-up is the reply by mail link on every post.

So this is how I see the sequence happening; at the time of writing this, it’s theoretical, but I’m pretty sure it will work, as I said. Either way, this is the workflow I see.

  1. Record the episode, edit, and put it up on Linode.
  2. Create the post, which serves as a place to play the content and will contain the show notes and pertinent links.
  3. Post-it (add this time, the episode is live on the website but won’t be showing up in podcatchers yet)
  4. Create the updated feed.xml at Sovereign Feeds using links from the site, the Linode, and activity pub information.
  5. This is the clunky part; I take the info from the new feed file and past it into the existing one on the site.
  6. I use Podping to notify the Podcast Index the feed has been updated. This will then let clients know it’s available also.

Now that I’ve spit out all this info, it will be time to make it happen. I’ll be doing a short intro episode for the podcast tomorrow to test everything out. The site still is very much under construction as far as aesthetics go and content, but it functions now. After that, I think I will have my ultimate podcast home if it goes as planned.

Cheers!

Amending 6/25/2022

So after the first episode was released I found out things would not work exactly as planned socially. The podcast comments through ActivityPub on Micro.Blog will not work Directly from Micro.Blog does not seem to interact with the Podcasting 2.0 comment tag in the way I imagined. So the episode post needs to crosspost to Mastodon and the conversation that proceeds from there’s comments will crosspost back.

So Mastodon users and Micro.Blog users both can comment still and my process is still the same pretty much, but the social link changes to point directly to my Mastodon instance. This way it will work in apps such as Podfriend and Podverse.

So if you are not a Micro.Blog user, be sure to follow me on Mastodon. Everything new from today on will be posted there.

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