An Indie State Of Mind

Marco Arment and John Siracusa recently wrapped up their long-running podcasts, Build & Analyze, and Hypercritical. They have since gone on, in collaboration with Casey Liss, to establish two new podcasts: Neutral, a show about cars, and the Accidental Tech Podcast.

Each of the retired shows was on the popular 5by5 podasting network, while each of the new shows is not. Since John Gruber’s sudden departure last year from 5by5, people are particularly keen to look for elements of drama related to the network. I’m guilty of it, myself. But Occam’s razor applies in situations such as this as well. The simple explanation? People who are satisfied stay where they are, and people who are less satisfied move on.

Marco acknowledged that he has been asked repeatedly why the new shows aren’t on 5by5, and conceded to share his own personal reasoning:

I want to own everything I do professionally unless there’s a very compelling reason not to. Some people feel uneasy having that level of control, but I feel uneasy not having it (to a fault).

There you have it: Marco is an indie, and he is bound to behave like one. Working within the confines, no matter how cushy, of another institution is simply not his style. He was destined to be unsatisfied with the status quo, and leaving to do his own thing no doubt resolved a great deal of tension.

I’m surprised by how consistently people assume that joining a large podcasting network is an end-goal for indie podcasters. My friend Manton Reece and I have been recording Core Intuition for over 4 years, yet when I have guest-hosted Build & Analyze or appeared on other 5by5 shows, a significant number of people write or comment on Twitter that I should “have my own show.” I have my own show, thank you very much. And I’m starting another one.

I worked at Apple for more than 7 years, before branching out on my own to focus exclusively on Red Sweater. I’m grateful that, in contrast to indie podcasting, there is far less bias towards conglomeration in the indie software scene. I’m not constantly nagged about when I’m going to re-join Apple, or Google, or Microsoft, or Twitter. And when I ship a new app, I don’t face a barrage of questioning about which larger company will be distributing it. It’s understood that I build, test, distribute, debug, and market the software by myself. And people respect that.

Like Marco, I derive a great amount of satisfaction from doing things for myself. Also like Marco, it can sometimes be a fault. No doubt I would benefit in many ways from working for a company or from joining a podcasting network. The resources and reach of these institutions could help me build greater things and get them in the hands of more people. On the other hand, they could force me to build things that suck. Folks like us, we with an indie state of mind, tend to face a far simpler choice: be dissatisfied working for somebody else, or gratified by the thrill of trying our own thing.