Out of the Blue, episode #1: The Snail That Wouldn’t Die July 21, 2015 11:53 AM   Subscribe

In 1846, a dead snail was glued to a specimen card in the British Museum. In 1850, somebody realized that the snail…wasn’t so dead after all, kicking off a curious story of molluskular stoicism that charmed the mid 19th C. science-and-nature circuit. But what went on in the ensuing 150 years? Site user "nicebookrack" wanted to know, and posted question to Ask MetaFilter asking, well, whatever happened to the snail that wouldn’t die?


The answers she got put her on the path to reaching the Natural History Museum’s Jon Ablett, Curator of Mollusca, who was able to help her put together the missing details, all of which she collated into a fantastic post on MetaFilter.

In this episode, I talk with nicebookrack about the snail’s story, how it caught her attention in the first place via Project Gutenberg, and her experiences putting the whole thing together.

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posted by cortex to Out of the Blue at 11:53 AM (87 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

So, this is exciting: this is the debut episode of a new podcast we're going to be putting out in addition to (very much not in lieu of) the existing monthly "Best of the Web" MetaFilter podcast. Because of the nature of our podcasting workflow on the server side, and because this has all come together so quickly, the simplest thing to do is have the podcast episode post itself double as the introduction, so I'll talk about it right here.

I've put together this episode, and the idea behind it, because I'd like to let more people get a chance to hear about some really interesting stuff that goes on here. I really enjoy the freeform chatter and goofiness of our long monthly podcast, but it's generally a lot of inside baseball; it's much more a show for folks who have a really established relationship with this place than it is something that makes much sense for someone new to MetaFilter. And there's a lot of great stuff that happens on and around MetaFilter that it'd be fun to share with a wider audience.

And so: Out of the Blue. It's short (this debut episode is about 12 minutes total, and that includes an extra minute of MeFi introduction), it's tightly edited, and it focuses on a single story start-to-finish. In terms of format, it's pretty obviously inspired by some of the other short-form podcasts out there (not least MeFi's Own Alex Goldman's and PJ Vogt's show Reply All (and TLDR before that).

I expect to put out an episode every month, though if we find there's the material, esources, logistical breathing room, and interest, it's possible it'll be more often than that.

This is all a bit experimental still, so we're still getting some of the podcast page and feed stuff set up and ironed out and we'll probably be tweaking lots of stuff as we go. Feedback and brainstorms are, as always, totally welcome.

And I want to say thanks again to nicebookrack for participating in this first episode when it was still just a half an idea and glint in my eye; the snail story was the perfect nudge to get me over the hump from "maybe we should" to "we really, really should" on this idea, and it was wonderful talking to her about it. Also a tip of the hat to Devil's Rancher, who pie-in-the-sky'd the general idea in Metatalk a week and a half ago and got me really thinking about it despite my first-blush reservations.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:53 AM on July 21, 2015 [33 favorites]


I was THIS close to flagging this whole thing as a duplicate post.
posted by yhbc at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I like it!
posted by michaelh at 12:03 PM on July 21, 2015


(Also, we're repurposing some code from the other podcast workflow and bootstrapping this whole thing all at once, so apologizes if things move around or flicker in and out of existence for the next little bit.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:03 PM on July 21, 2015


If you are taking suggestions for upcoming topics, I think it would be really interesting to talk to Jess Zimmerman about the emotional labor thread her article inspired and how that concept relates to the work involved in moderating a website like MeFi.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:07 PM on July 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


This is a fantastic idea. Fantastic.
posted by Jofus at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is a great idea that, honestly, I can't believe hasn't been done before now that you're doing it, and man, do I LOVE the title.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it would be really interesting to talk to Jess Zimmerman about the emotional labor thread her article inspired

Absolutely, yeah! I've got that and a few other things from pretty recently I'd like to contact folks about, along with a pretty solid list of older stuff it'd be neat to do a short episode summing up and checking back in on.

and man, do I LOVE the title.

Well, it just sort of came to me, uh, out of, y'know.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:20 PM on July 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is great! I love to see new stuff happening at MetaFilter. Also liking the twitter account.

Nice. .🐌👍
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:21 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if you want to follow the twitter account for the podcast, its @MefiOOTB. Will have episode announcements, natch, and probably the occasional additional tweet depending on what's going on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:23 PM on July 21, 2015


Also: with the advent of a second podcast, we're giving podcast.metafilter.com a little bit of attention for the first time in a long while; we've added nav to both the new show and the original Best of the Web show's individual indexes, plus wee synopses of each show in the sidebar, with the latest episodes of each merged on the front page of the Podcast subsite.

We'll keep iterating on that as needed, but we wanted to get the basic structure in place and have a dedicated landing page for the new show in particular since part of the idea is to make it (figuratively and, well, literally) accessible to more casual readers and folks wholly unfamiliar with the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:27 PM on July 21, 2015


I think it should always be about snails that rise from the dead.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:30 PM on July 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't think you could get more than two or three hundred episodes out of that topic, poffin boffin.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:36 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Its obvious counterpart, "Into the Black", will never happen.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:47 PM on July 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks, cortex, this was fun! Here's my shoutout to Distributed Proofreaders and the quiz in which I first met the snail.

(Is that my voice? Is that MY voice?)
posted by nicebookrack at 12:53 PM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, what a great idea!
posted by Greg Nog at 1:12 PM on July 21, 2015




I think it should always be about snails that rise from the dead.

Well, ResurrectionCast Episode 2 could always be about the Mountain Stone Weta and its awesome hemolymph!
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:20 PM on July 21, 2015


This is nice!
posted by billiebee at 1:28 PM on July 21, 2015


I am so delighted to see this snail story leave its slime trail all over the various MetaFilter subsites and I think a strong case could be made for recognizing Mollusca as the official heraldic phylum of MetaFilter
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:32 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ooh, can this be the snail in particular?
posted by moonmilk at 1:45 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I like OOTB better than I like the regular podcast... does that say anything about me as a person?
(I loved this)
posted by one4themoment at 1:48 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is so great. Not only do I love short-form podcasts (99% Invisible being the king of), but I am really loving the way you've presented, edited, and voiced this! So awesome.
posted by Miko at 1:57 PM on July 21, 2015


This is super fabulous! Yay yay yay!

Also, on the topic of highlighting great things on MetaFilter, I want to say that I have been really enjoying the recent resurgence of the sidebar/Best Of blog within the past week-ish. It looks like it's mostly taz making those posts, so thank you, taz!
posted by ocherdraco at 2:03 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yep, she's been great, LM's been pretty active in pointing stuff out too, and we've been sort of generally brainstorming as a team how to improve the process of making that basically a daily thing, both in looking more actively for stuff to mention and in workshopping framing for some of the stuff that's a little bit trickier but worth putting out there anyway (e.g. the epic Emotional Labor post, which we'll feature soon).
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:05 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


taz is post-maker extraordinaire, all praise to taz for sidebar posts!
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:06 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


...and of course all praise to cortex for putting this podcast together, which I'm stoked about. It sounds so good. Thank you to nicebookrack for being such a great guest too!
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:07 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Delightful! Thank you so much!
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:08 PM on July 21, 2015


This podcast is exactly one medium dog walk long which is perfect.
posted by griphus at 2:23 PM on July 21, 2015


I'll open a transcript once my laptop starts cooperating.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:43 PM on July 21, 2015


I love this idea very much. Yay!!!

(I can't listen to the actual podcast until I leave work in exactly two minutes. I will listen to it at home while I am making the strawberry basil martini that I have seriously earned today.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:00 PM on July 21, 2015


It fits a large dog walk too.
posted by michaelh at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I noticed the sidebar has really improved just in the last week or so and tweeted about this site improvement on my Flagged as Fantastic (@Mefite_) account. taz, LobsterMitten, and anyone else who has been writing the sidebar: *well done*, it's exciting to see the good stuff recognized, and has turned a valuable piece of real estate into a place I'm checking way more frequently.

Very stoked about this new series, would love to hear the voices of other mefites in upcoming podcasts. I understand it's experimental but hope it works out, it's a nice alternative to the mega-podcast every month, which is quite a commitment of time to listen to (and to create, I imagine).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:36 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think in the interest of Equal Time, you will need to occasionally change up your pronunciation of MeFi in the closing credits, cortex.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:09 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


This podcast is exactly one medium dog walk long which is perfect.

Where's the one that's as long as a norfolk terrier?
posted by mudpuppie at 4:13 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think a strong case could be made for recognizing Mollusca as the official heraldic phylum of MetaFilter

Ooh, can this be the snail in particular?


Alternatively, this, happier, discreet yet resilient one?
posted by progosk at 4:14 PM on July 21, 2015


Oh man, Rock Steady, you have no idea how much I had thought about avoiding even having to go there. It was basically the very crowded twitter handle namespace that forced my hand into having a "mefi" show up anywhere.

Needless to say I should have iamkimiam on at some point to talk M-set and enregisterment and getting ones doctorate based on goofing around on Metafilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:14 PM on July 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Someone write a snail song for the MeFi hat-trick!
posted by nicebookrack at 4:36 PM on July 21, 2015


Here is a good snail song in the meantime.
posted by moonmilk at 4:43 PM on July 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


❤️🐌🎶🐌❤️
posted by nicebookrack at 4:51 PM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Neato!
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:19 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I shared this on Facebook as a "Got 12 minutes? Here's something neat!" kind of thing. I'm so happy to be able to point to a discrete, interesting story as a low-time-commitment introduction to the site. Thanks!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:25 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Have we discussed the obvious choice of theme song?
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:42 PM on July 21, 2015


(I just love the bass line)

Also, YAY!
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:44 PM on July 21, 2015


This is wonderful, thanks!
posted by wallabear at 7:26 PM on July 21, 2015


This is a great idea and I am all for it. That said, I am a little concerned that there is already a podcast with that name and twenty episodes, so we might want to do some lightning-quick rebranding…
posted by Going To Maine at 7:50 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I noticed the same thing when I went to Overcast to see if they would have it yet. There are actually two podcasts by that name in Overcast.
posted by Miko at 7:51 PM on July 21, 2015


Yeah - one of them is from GeekNation and is actively updated; the other one is an ancient audio diary by "Out of the Blue" that hasn't changed since 2006. Of course, now I want to hear it waaay more than the GeekNation one.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:55 PM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This was delightful, and a lovely addition to the great monthly podcast. Look forward to the next one.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:51 AM on July 22, 2015


The snail 🐌 is now the official mefi emoji me thinks...
posted by pearlybob at 4:58 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Going To Maine: "This is a great idea and I am all for it. That said, I am a little concerned that there is already a podcast with that name and twenty episodes, so we might want to do some lightning-quick rebranding…"

You could call it officially "MetaFilter: Out of the Blue" and unofficially just "Out of the Blue". I think that it would actually be better from the perspective of using this podcast as an outreach tool to have "MetaFilter" in the actual title somewhere.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:23 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


And this coincides so well with the mefi Hanibal obsession. This is Cortex's design!! 🐌🐌🐌
posted by pearlybob at 6:27 AM on July 22, 2015


That said, I am a little concerned that there is already a podcast with that name

I hear you, though my feeling is it's a common enough phrase (aside from just literal use in writing and conversation, it's been used as a title in a lot of other media) that the collision isn't really distressing or surprising. People are generally pretty good about routing around ambiguities on this stuff, especially given that they're usually looking for a thing based on some contextual exposure (that is having more to go on than literally "there is a podcast titled out of the blue about which I will provide you no additional information" by the time the make the decision to go looking).

MetaFilter: Out of the Blue

Yeah, or make sure that our feed has e.g. "Metafilter Stories" or such as a subtitle to aid in that for the folks who somehow end up navigating somewhat blindly to it, or something like that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:28 AM on July 22, 2015


And this coincides so well with the mefi Hanibal obsession.
Whelk is a common name that is applied to various kinds of sea snail
Your story checks out.
posted by zamboni at 7:08 AM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm going to have to step up my posting in order to fulfill my narcissistic need to have my voice broadcast out to the people, huh?
posted by backseatpilot at 8:23 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


WHAT IS THIS GREAT THING YOU JUST DID OMG.
posted by odinsdream at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2015


cortex, I would love to talk Out of the Blue with you! This thesis and the whole danged experience of digging into the pronunciation of MeFi did not at all turn out to be what I thought it would — some of that is great, some of that is regrettable, and some of it just a whole 'nother thing entirely and I haven't quite figured out what. Would be good to share a bit, in non-academic form (oh how far I've strayed from academia now that I've run that gauntlet). :-)

BTW, your podcast is a great idea and is wonderfully executed. Short, focused podcasts are excellent for absorbing little bits of interesting randomness while on a bike errand, commute, etc. Can't wait until the next one!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:38 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was great and I look forward to more.
posted by nubs at 10:15 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is cool, except that going forward, every episode should just be about me.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:42 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Who'd've thunk that one snail, once undead but now longdead, could be fodder for three consecutive major posts on the green, blue and gray.

Metafilter: It's snails, all the way down.
posted by beagle at 11:46 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hopefully, the snail reads this in Mollusc Heaven, and puts up some related work in Projects.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:50 AM on July 22, 2015


Okay, I am not good at tech stuff. Can anyone tell me if there's a way I can get this added to the other podcasts I subscribe to in Pocket Casts? I copied the link from Podcast Feed, but I can't find anywhere to, uh....paste it in Pocket Casts. Help?
posted by triggerfinger at 11:54 AM on July 22, 2015


It looks like you just paste the feed link into the search box in "Discover".
posted by Rock Steady at 12:00 PM on July 22, 2015


Yes, that will work.

However, you should really get it into the iTunes store so it can be Five-starred to the top of the charts. (& if you haven't given the standard MetaFilter Podcast Five Stars - why haven't you?)
posted by Going To Maine at 12:08 PM on July 22, 2015


However, you should really get it into the iTunes store so it can be Five-starred to the top of the charts.

Pending! We submitted it yesterday once the feed existed (silly bit of chicken & egg there because of how we generate podcast feed content based on the actual posts), and have subsequently gotten notice today of feed approval, so it'll show up in the next few hours presumably.

(& if you haven't given the standard MetaFilter Podcast Five Stars - why haven't you?)

This is a funny thing, actually, and we should probably mention that in the next Best Of The Web post, since we like never do that and as a result this 8 year old podcast attached to a great big web community has fewer stars and reviews than a couple of silly what-the-hell side project podcasts I've done in the last couple years.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:11 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you Rock Steady! That worked! I will also subscribe on iTunes from my laptop. (I use Pocket Casts on my phone)
posted by triggerfinger at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2015


a strong case could be made for recognizing Mollusca as the official heraldic phylum of MetaFilter

If you ask me, what this site really needs is snail marginalia. Not just links and discussion, but actual pictures of snails fighting people, instead of all the empty space in the pages.
posted by aubilenon at 12:24 PM on July 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


It would probably be borderline trivial to create a Greasemonkey script that would feature random snail marginalia laid into the site's existing CSS...
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:26 PM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: random snail marginalia
posted by nubs at 3:27 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


[This is good.]
posted by trip and a half at 4:51 PM on July 22, 2015


Great work - this is lots of fun! I love short podcasts, and while I still like 99% Invisible, there was something even more special about its early shorter eps. cortex > shortex!
posted by adrianhon at 1:30 AM on July 23, 2015


The iTunes listing is now live, woo! We've got it listed as "Out of the Blue: Stories from Metafilter", which should help avoid any potential ambiguity for folks searching.

If you're and iTunes user and the rate/review sort, you are certainly welcome to wander over there and give it some love; and for that matter, if you're a listener of the long-time Best of the Web podcast, you can hit that one up as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:54 AM on July 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


VOTE 5-STAR METAFILTER PODCAST.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:55 PM on July 23, 2015


Well done! Hip! hip!...
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 4:45 PM on July 23, 2015


Hooray!
posted by ocherdraco at 4:57 PM on July 23, 2015


Hip! hip!...
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 4:59 PM on July 23, 2015


Really enjoyed this—looking forward to more!
posted by cellar door at 5:32 PM on July 23, 2015


Just subscribed via iTunes--well done!
posted by bookmammal at 6:32 PM on July 23, 2015


I really enjoyed this - I'm not a listener to the main podcast, but this is right up my alley. I'm subscribed on iTunes and looking forward to more!
posted by warble at 9:57 AM on July 24, 2015


Hip! hip!...

...to the blue-skinned beast?
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:06 AM on July 24, 2015


I started the transcript.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:55 PM on July 25, 2015


Hey, this makes for the trifecta, doesn't it, with posts on the green, the blue, and the grey?
posted by Pronoiac at 2:12 PM on July 25, 2015


Hey, this makes for the trifecta, doesn't it, with posts on the green, the blue, and the grey?

I'm surprised no one's written a snail song.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:40 PM on July 25, 2015


I don't think I've ever seen an Ask that looked so much like a great FPP on the Blue.
posted by threeants at 8:54 PM on July 25, 2015


For the occasion, I am creating a whelkstone.
posted by clavdivs at 1:07 PM on July 26, 2015


We wrapped up the transcript! Yay!
posted by Pronoiac at 6:03 PM on August 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nice work!
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:19 AM on August 9, 2015


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