Why I Built HyperCatcher

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Hi! I’m David and I built the podcast app HyperCatcher. There’s no team of developers, no investors, no interns, no social media marketing team, no quality assurance team… you can probably already tell that’s the case.

Since there are so many podcast apps to choose from already, then you might wonder why I decided to build yet another podcast app?

The short answer is probably not surprising. I love podcasts and the podcast apps I was using were lacking some features I thought could improve the experience.

Now if you have time, let me give you the long answer 😀

My Podcasting Journey

I joined the Navy directly out of High School in 2003. That was two years after the iPod was introduced and 4 years before the iPhone would be released. At that point in my life though I was still still a compact disc man. But that didn’t stop me from listening to my favorite radio shows from home no matter where I was.

My favorite radio show was Love Line with Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew. As a teenager it was the perfect mix of sex, music, information and Adam Carolla trolling everyone from Dr. Drew to the callers, to the music artists that would sometimes join them in studio (and occasionally take them hostage).

These shows were hours long, but when they were extremely compressed they would easily fit on a good old CDRW. They sounded awful, but I loved listening to those old episodes over and over again. Even as early as 2005 there were websites where you could download archived classic Love Line episodes from the 1990s.

Those Love Line CDs followed me during my training in the Navy from California, to Florida, to Maine and finally to Hawaii. I’d listen to old episodes in the car, on long runs (60 second anti-skip protection was a life saver) or as I went to sleep at night.

There was… a mix up with my paperwork so after I ended training in Jacksonville Florida I ended up staying on for at least 3 months after all my other classmates. I’d been trained as an Air Warfare Systems Operator, but training flights out of Jacksonville didn’t require any type of Air Warfare. They simply required an observer… that was me. While I waited for my order to come through to my final duty station, I was stuck in the “bounce pattern” for months sitting in the back of the plane (P-3C Orion – since retired) with not much to do.

My job was to observe air traffic and engine starts and stops in the rear of the plane as US Navy pilots were put through the paces during training. Mostly we flew in a tight circular pattern and repeatedly took off, landed and then quickly took off (or bounced) again. The back of the plane is easily the worst place to experience the bounce pattern, in terms of centrifugal force, turbulence and engine exhaust, so despite my belief that I had a pretty well developed iron stomach from my years of thermal surfing in gliders, I still found myself losing my lunch / breakfast pretty regularly.

Boredom eventually became a problem. Even if I could have stomached taking my eyes off of the horizon long enough to have enjoyed a few chapters in whatever book I was reading at the time, it would have negated my whole reason for being there as a safety observer. My job was to stare at the horizon and raise the alarm if air traffic was not announced by the tower or in the case of a mechanical failure with the plane.

Once again, my trusty CD player with hours of radio entertainment was a great option. Sports ear buds were nowhere near as comfortable as they are today, but they were the perfect thing to slip into one ear under my large over ear aviation radio headset. With the volume adjusted just right I could easily hear intercom, radio traffic and Adam Carolla’s nasally voice as he berated another caller.

The iPod Mini

There was a time when I couldn’t imagine being without my portable CD Player and a case full of my favorite CDs. I don’t need to tell you why I made the switch to the iPod shortly after it became affordable in Mini form because you probably made a similar decision at one point. However, one big advantage to the iPod for me, in addition to music, was that I could load multi-hour long radio shows into it if I set the compression just right.

Now my laptop became the hub of my music and radio world. I could download old Love Line episodes to my laptop during the day (large audio files used to be very slow to download) and swap out the new episodes with the old ones on my iPod when I got home. Obviously this was an all “manual” process, but it was so much better than burning a new CD every time I wanted to listen to a new Love Line episode!

Little did I know, years before this, Adam Curry already had a working Apple Script that automated the whole process and was functionally the first Podcast app.

Having a small device that I could fit into the pocket of my flight suit that contained a few music albums and a few radio shows was a game change.

When I deployed to Iraq during the surge of 2007 and shortly after again for a full deployment, having radio from home to listen to was priceless. I was years past my early days of training and a full fledged Air Warfare Systems Operator with my own Combat Air Crew, so listening to the iPod during flights was pretty much not an option anymore. However, I glimpsed during those days something that I would look for in podcasts for the rest of my life.

Being part of a crew deployed to an active war zone brings everyone closer than most people can imagine. I shared a room with at least one other enlisted member of the crew during the entire deployment. We woke up and showered at the same time. We went to the gym together. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with the crew every day. In addition to that we’d spend 8 – 12 hours in the air working together during a mission. Then we’d wake up in the morning (or that night) and do it all over again.

The conversations and banter that crew of ~10 people had over the intercom was some of the some of the most interesting and entertaining I’ve had in my whole life. There was no such thing as a filter, even in the days of what we considered to be a new PC era for the Navy, once we were in the air, no topic was out of bounds and FCC regulations did not apply. Even though those were some of the hardest days of my life, to this day, I couldn’t have got through even a quarter of a deployment without that crew. Talking with them and listening to their stories about life while we completed various tasks around the country is something I’ll never forget. Good podcasts re-capture a little bit of that magic for me.

After the Navy

I left the Navy to go to College in the Bay Area in February of 2009. Later that year I found one of the first podcasts that re-captured a spark of the joy that I felt listening to honest conversations with my crew when I first ran across the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Obviously Joe Rogan had a very different life experience than most of the colleagues from the Navy, but the honest, broad ranging and hilarious conversations between Joe and Brian Redban were something I’d never heard on the radio before. That’s because radio gatekeepers like the FCC no longer had any jurisdiction to control what was said. This wasn’t radio transmitted over government airwaves, this was podcasting!

Using My First Podcast App

I was a little late to adopting the iPhone because it seemed like an expensive luxury when I already had an iPod and (flip) phone… why would I need both together? When I finally caved and bought an iPhone the Apple Podcast app was the killer app for me. Having a single app where I could search for new podcasts, download the podcasts directly to my phone and listen to them too… that was complete magic! However, even in the early days of podcasting I started to take note of a few things I would like to improve on. The Joe Rogan Experience is a great example and definitely one of my inspirations for building the HyperCatcher podcast app.

The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast

In the early days (first few years) of the JRE Podcast, as I mentioned before, the whole podcast was just a conversation between friends. Mostly a conversation between Brian and Joe, but increasingly it included some of Joes friends that would stop by the house and get ambushed into doing a live podcast. During the course of conversation sometimes a reference to a song, movie or youtube clip would naturally come up. Joe would mention a song (for example) and Brian would go look up the song and play it during the podcast. Probably my favorite example of this is the episode where Joe breaks down the R Kelly song “Real Talk” . You should watch the clip yourself to understand entirely, but basically Joe breaks down every line of a very serious R Kelly song in an absolutely hilarious way while the song is playing. This caused me to immediately go to the iTunes store and buy the song at the time and to this days it’s the only R Kelly music I own… or have every listened to on purpose.

Unfortunately, this type of conversation is not allowed on Joe’s show any more because the show makes so much money that they could be very easily sued for copyright infringement or (until the recent move to Spotify) have their clip pulled off of Youtube or demonetized. Having a conversation about a song on a podcast is not nearly as entertaining if you can’t listen along.

Finding an R Kelly song that’s being discussed on a podcast isn’t that tall an order, but when you combine that with the Joe Rogan’s ability to machine gun topics at guests, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the articles, books, songs, movies and websites discussed during a normal JRE podcast. The more JRE I listened to in the car while driving, the more I came to hate hearing Joe say “I’ll put a link in the show notes”, because I knew I’d never remember to go back and find that link.

That was one of the initial seeds for the idea for HyperCatcher. I wanted to build a podcast app that would allow you to insert show notes directly into the podcast at just the right time. And it worked, check it out!

Podcast Chapters

JRE # 1465 With Tim Pool

The best thing is that ANY podcast can take advantage of this HyperCatcher feature. If you’re interested in updating your podcast with interactive show notes (called Chapters) like you see above, then check out this blog post: https://hypercatcher.com/2020/10/how-to-enhance-your-podcast-with-chapters/

Newsletters are Podcasts

While the connection isn’t immediately apparent, Email Newsletters are just podcasts that are written down and emailed to you once a week. There are more and more well known journalists leaving their established publications and creating their own weekly newsletter, Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias just to name a few. While not all of these authors have podcasts, you can read or listen to any of their newsletters directly in the HyperCatcher App.

Glenn Greenwald’s Newsletter Via The HyperCatcher App

Wrap Up

That’s the story so far! I’m really enjoying working on HyperCatcher in my off-time from my day job and I plan to continue working and improving on the app long term, so I hope you stay tuned to some of the new and exciting features I have planned to include soon. In a time of censorship and increasing gatekeeping, it’s more important than ever to have ways of directly connecting with the people who’s ideas and content you value. I hope that HyperCatcher can be a tool you can use to stay in touch with those creators and great content for a long time to come, thanks for reading!

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