Five years ago my manager introduced me to a podcast (podcast? what's that?) called This Week in Tech. It was the new thing he discovered; his newest thing to be enthused about. At the time, TWiT was only at episode twelve, and was just settling on its name. I enjoyed the casual nature of the tech news/chats and listened to the backlog. I've been listening to it since. Over the years I've been casually listening, and then watching; but not too closely. One day I noticed suddenly that the TWiT show had become the TWiT network, complete with video (internet) broadcasting studio. A studio that viewers could visit.
Visiting seemed like it might be interesting. I had seen a few guests on the live feed, and the idea started to tempt me. Unfortunately I live a continent away, but I still thought it could be a novel experience to sit in the studio while they record a show... if I were ever in Petaluma.
Long-Suffering Spouse wife suggested a vacation in the San Francisco area I thought it would be worth a look to see if we could stop by the TWiT Cottage. The TWiT wiki conveyed simple instructions for visiting, so a few emails later I had our names on the list for This Week in Google (TWiG). We went about our vacation and when Wednesday came we moseyed up to catch our show.
We arrived in Petaluma a bit early; with enough time to pickup a bottle of wine for Leo Laporte and crew, which I'd seen them occasionally drink. (It's customary to bring a gift when visiting someone, no?) We arrived early and had some time to kill with a walk around the block before they were ready for us. It was a gorgeous day in Petaluma.
Before the show the staff received us with a little surprise (apparently the person who knew we were coming wasn't there), but with expert efficiency (as they had done this many times before). They gave us a card to write our names and occupations on to give Leo a head start on us since the introductions would be quick between Security Now (the show before) and TWiG. After a brief waiting we were let into the studio and given our seats, an expected quick intro with Leo and some house rules (whispering is ok, tap the keyboard all you want -- the mics are insensitive). Leo was very friendly and quite graciously accepted the wine, referencing to the employee he handed it to about their next casual Friday. Then suddenly, it seemed, the show was starting.
Watching the show from the corner of the studio was a different experience than from home. It becomes much more obvious the degree to which Leo must multitask when one is sitting in front of him watching his two hands work independently of each other, and sometimes apparently independent of his brain as he manages to do three things at once; not the least of which is keeping up with the conversation of the show.
Since the co-hosts (Jeff Jarvis and Gina Trapani) were remote, only Leo was in the studio. Watching the show then meant a lot of looking at a screen, which was unfortunately very similar to watching from home. Another screen, though, was an advantage. Getting to see Leo's preview monitor allowed us to get a peak at what he was going to do or talk about next -- a bit of behind-the-scenes action.
I tried to keep up with the show, the preview, the co-hosts, the controls under Leo's fingers, and even the TWiT chat, but it was too much. How to the guests do it? (Well, usually, it seems, they pick one.) Before I knew it the show was over and I was trying to decide if it was ok to speak now. We got our customary fez-photos (only one of which came out -- don't be deceived by the bright studio lights, use your flash) and before I knew it we were walking to our car remembering what we forgot to say/ask/photograph.
I said they were efficient. They'd have to be to run an operation on that scale with so few people. They do a great job over there; when casual Friday comes, I hope Leo shares the wine.