This November, I was sad to hear that my all-time favourite podcast, Hypercritical, would be ending at episode #100. In the last week or so, I’ve read (and heard) many tributes from other fans of the podcast, and with the last episode fresh in my mind, I wanted to say a few words myself.
Co-hosted by John Siracusa and Dan Benjamin, Hypercritical bills itself as
A weekly talk show ruminating on exactly what is wrong in the world of Apple and related technologies and businesses. Nothing is so perfect that it can’t be complained about.
I think that’s a very clinical definition, which doesn’t really explain what made it such a good podcast. Each show was the result of hours of meticulous work on John’s part, careful research before each topic. The result was thoughtful, well-reasoned criticism and insight. Even if you didn’t agree with what John had to say, you knew he’d put thought into what he was saying. Between Dan and John, there was always a great conversation about the topic of the day. Dan was the perfect co-host: he knew exactly when to sit back and let John just talk, but also when to jump in with a question.
I was a fairly late convert to the podcast. It took several tries for it to stick, but once it did, I was hooked, and I quickly listened to the entire back catalogue. Sadly, I can’t remember exactly which was the first episode I listened to. Unfortunately the schedule meant I could never listen live (a disadvantage of living in Britain and GMT), so I missed out on that experience. For the final episode, having cleared my timetable to listen live, my health conspired against me, and I spent the podcast trying to sleep off a winter bug. Alas.
I did get to submit one piece of Follow Up to the show (Episode #75), which remains a personal high point. I missed having my name mispronounced on the air, because there’s not much margin for error with me, but it was still great.
I enjoyed almost all of the episodes, even if they weren’t topics I had a specific interest in. Some personal highlights:
- #15: The Bridges of Siracusa County – a discussion of high-level programming languages, which was the first thing that motivated me to think about languages for their technical merits, rather than just ”what I know” and “what I don’t know”.
- #32: The Next Big Move – talking about Apple after Steve Jobs’ retirement, and also #37: A Story of Triumph, after his death. Both remarkably considerate and interesting episodes that give a lot of food for thought.
- #56: Belts and Suspenders – John would often take an episode or two to do some detailed discussion of a topic that was a particular interest to him, be it game controllers, Mac OS X or toaster ovens. This is my favourite of that class of episodes, about file systems. Although I don’t know anything about file systems, John gave a great explanation of what they are and why they’re important, and got me thinking about the topic in a new way.
Looking through the episode list, I could probably find at least half a dozen more that I really enjoyed, so I’ll stop there. I only want to talk about one more episode. The final episode was something I didn’t see coming, but it was entirely appropriate. Appropriately titled Metacritical, it turned John’s critical eye inward on the podcast itself, and discussed a handful of the many flaws and problems. I won’t discuss what he said (spoilers!), but it was a fitting end to the show.
Hypercritical is my favourite podcast, and will probably remain so for a long time. It’s helped me to think in new ways, in a manner nicely summed up by David Smith in The Hypercritical Way. I turn a more critical and thoughtful eye to the things around me, and I’m fairly sure it helps me make better decisions about what I do. I’ve had great fun being a listener, and I’ll miss it when next Friday rolls around.
Dan, John, thanks for a great run. It’s been fantastic.