Like other radio shows, one of the things Neil did during the show was play sound drops. Last year I created a free soundboard on the site Soundboard.com using some of the recovered drops. The site was fine, but it was a pain in ass to sort tracks. You had to drag each track by hand inside a small window. Not a problem if you have 10 tracks, but as the soundboard grew to over 150 drops, it became cumbersome. It could take 10 minutes to upload a single drop and drag it into alphabetical order.
Frustrated, I reached out to Soundboard.com and offered my suggestion to provide an option or setting that would sort tracks alphabetically. They ignored my request. I waited a month or two and reached out again repeating my request. They ignored me again. Why post your email address if you don’t want your users to contact you? Plus I consider my feedback valuable that would make their product better for all users. But I was ignored.
We live in great times. There is so much free information on the Internet to help us accomplish tasks. In the past being unsatisfied with a product or service was not a call to action. Today it is.
I finally had enough with Soundboard.com, so I decided to code my own. In one weekend, I taught myself just enough PHP, HTML5 and JQuery to not only create a worthy replacement, but a soundboard that is superior to theirs. I did get some help from my pal Joe Crawford on the JQuery. Thanks Joe!
My Simple Soundboard beats Soundboard.com in 4 ways.
Loads way faster. Their page takes 5 seconds to load. Mine under 1 second.
Tablet and Mobile friendly. Their soundboard isn’t.
Sorts alphabetically automatically. No more dragging individual track into order!
You can play multiple drops simultaneously. Not theirs.
One of the web projects I am involved with is the tribute site to radio legend Neil Rogers. You may not have heard of him, because he broadcasted from Miami and was never syndicated. People in the industry knew who he was and greatly respected him. Howard Stern wanted him for his Sirius channel and Phil Hendrie recently said this about Neil:
The best I ever worked with. And the greatest goddamned talent I ever heard.
You can read more about Neil on his Wikipedia page. Even though he often talked about politics or sports (mostly hockey), his show wasn’t like talk radio of today. He was an authentic stream-of-conscious broadcaster. He was funny. He was angry. He was real. Not every show was great, but when he was on, he was brilliant.
Neil Rogers broadcasted in Miami from 1976 to 2009 and died in late 2010.
Becoming A Fan of Neil
When I moved to the DC Metro area in 1998, I had an office job where I could not get a radio signal. We also couldn’t stream audio. So when I was home I searched the internet for shows to download that I could burn onto a CD and take to work with me. I recalled someone in Tampa telling me about this show in Miami that I would enjoy.
That was the Neil Rogers Show.
From his website, I was able to download shows from the archive. Even though I never lived in Miami, I became hooked. I loved his rants about local politics. He had a way of making boring topics entertaining. I listened to the show until late 2000. The show was becoming increasing focused on national politics, which I found less entertaining than what initially drew me to the show. So I stopped listening.
Classic Neil rant
Building an Online Presence
In 2011, I was poking around on the internet and learned that Neil had died. I found a The Neil Rogers Facebook group, which included a number of fans along with people who worked with Neil. I joined the group. Then I shared with the group that I still had one of those burned CDs I took with me to the office back in 1999. I had 60 full shows.
I sat up an account with a free file sharing service and soon others were downloading these shows. The Facebook group soon began discussing where we might get more audio. Neil had his own website called NeilRogers.com, which was ran by a man named Eric Harold out of Orlando. I guessed that if anyone had old shows, it would be him. He ran the site at least going back to 1997 and based off my assessment of his technical skills, he most definitely would have saved backup copies of all the Neil Rogers shows from the digital era (1997-2009).
Just when I was about to reach out to Eric, I discovered he had recently died. Young man too. I believe he was in his 40s. Eric was a one man operation. At this point I realized it was just a matter of time before the NeilRogers.com site went dark. Servers need human intervention and they also need someone to pay the electric bill. Using a download program I was able to grab all the audio from the site, which were the bits he played. A few months later the site went dark. There was no backup name on the domain registration. No one knew anyone associated with Eric. To this day the data on that server or any backups remain lost.
While all this was going down, I created a quick one page website using Google Sites. It pointed to the Facebook group and where others could download the few shows we had recovered. Using archive.org, I was able to recover a few more hundred shows by pulling up snapshots of the official site from years ago. Then others started coming forth with saved shows. The archive was growing.
In April 2012, YouTube notified me that my uploads would no longer be restricted to 15 minutes. I could now upload unlimited length shows. This seemed too good to be true, so I tested it with some full length Neil shows and it worked. Soon all the MP3s that had been recovered for download were uploaded to YouTube. Neil fans found the shows and joined the Facebook group. This connected us with others that had more audio to share and the project grew.
Google is a weird beast. For reasons I’ll never understand, they never indexed the Google Sites page, so I created the NeilRogers.org site. Over time, I got a Twitter, Google+, Flickr and Pinterest account for the site. The audio continued to come in and working closely with a man named John in Florida, who is skilled in working with tapes, the archive now holds over 1,700 Neil Rogers shows going back as far as 1987. Along the way, a few hundred other shows from other South Florida hosts were discovered and uploaded.
I’m not going to say much more about the show. You’ll either like or you won’t. The important lesson of this story is about how easy important data could be lost without a backup plan. We were able to save a large number of shows from a legendary broadcaster before they were lost forever. From the start I knew I didn’t want to make the same mistake Eric did. Every show is saved to multiple servers. There is a document shared with a core inner group that includes all account and password information.
If anything happens to a member of the core, there is a documented procedure in place. There is almost zero risk that these shows will ever be lost now.
In the past year or so, over 1,000 new members have been added to the Facebook group. Almost 800 have subscribed to the YouTube channel, which had over 2.5 million minutes of audio listened to in 2013. As someone with both web and data mining experience, this has been a highly rewarding project for me. Friends, co-workers and fans of Neil have been highly appreciative of the audio restoration project.
An article about this project appeared on the front page of both the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald last weekend. Although the article was very positive, it was chock full of errors, which is one of the reasons I wrote this post.
If you are a fan of Neil Rogers and would like to share audio to the project, visit NeilRogers.org.
Here were the channels I most listened to on XM Radio and my new substitute.
XM Radio Channel
XMU 43 - Indie Rock
Real Jazz 70
88.5 FM (when NPR isn't on)
Soul Town 60
104.5 FM (partially) and MP3s
Opie & Anthony, Ron & Fez
For the most part, I am pleased with the substitutes. KEXP 90.3 FM is a great station and as a result I listen to more indie rock these days. My biggest shock turned out not to be programming, but sound quality. I miss the higher quality sound of satellite radio. I am strongly considering getting HD Radio. Going from XM to FM is like going from FM to AM.
Note that this post is not an endorsement of XM Radio. They are a bunch of criminals. Read the 40+ comments on Filing Fraud Charges Against XM Radio before you sign up and hand them your credit card number.
I have been a paid subscriber of XM Radio since June 2004. For the most part I am very satisfied with the technology and programming. However, at the end of this month I will not be renewing. Sirius XM messed up. Here are the reasons I will be returning to terrestrial radio (AM/FM) in March.
After XM and Sirius merged, they lowered the sound quality for online listeners and then had the gall to demand a higher monthly fee to get what was previously defined as part of the service. I paid for a 4 year renewal based off the high sound quality of their online offerings. After they lowered the bitrate, the music stations were unlistenable. Basically they went from near CD quality to AM radio quality.
Poor customer relations. Channels were added and dropped and I never once got an email or letter. The only time I ever got an updated channel listing was when there was a bill. On a few occasions, I emailed stations asking what song they played at a certain time. Only once was any of my emails ever returned. Don’t ask your listeners to contact you if you have no intention of responding to them.
The May 2007 suspension of Opie and Anthony for something a deranged homeless man said. The station is marked XL for explict language. That 30 day suspension was uncalled for and showed that XM Radio is a spineless company that cared more about the merger with Sirius than free speech.
Call center in India is unprofessional. I have absolutely no problem with call centers in India. The majority of my experiences have been positive, but not with XM Radio. When I have called XM Radio, it takes forever to connect with someone. Once you get someone on the line, they have music blasting. I was able to overcome the Indian accent, but not with Snoop Dogg playing in the background.
Call center in India deals with sensitive financial information. American laws protect my financial data on American soil. Although India has data protection laws, I do not feel comfortable that I am protected or have recourse if that trust is violated overseas. In other words, I will not be reading a credit card number to anyone that is not in America. Tech support, no problem. Financial transaction, no way.
The most important reason is that XM Radio has fraudulently charged my credit card twice, lied to me and has not apologized or made peace with me. I was forced to cancel my credit card number and file fraud charges on them. The full details are on the post Filing Fraud Charges Against XM Radio.
Seattle has at least three good commercial free radio stations on the FM dial. 88.5 has dance music, 89.5 has jazz when NPR isn’t on and 90.3 has a killer selection of indie music. There may be more good stations, but I haven’t ventured past 90.3.
There you have it Sirius XM. I predict your company will go into bankruptcy. When people like me that have been early supporters and die hard backers of your technology walk away angry – you have problems.
After you go through bankruptcy, fire Mel Karmazin, bring the call centers back to the States and emerge as a new company I might forgive you. Until that happens, you’re dead to me.
Last night I got the opportunity to watch a local live radio talk show. The show is called TBTL. Other than the show I watched last night, I’ve only heard two hours. It is different than the guy hot talk shows that I normally listen to (Opie & Anthony, Ron & Fez and Adam Carolla). The humor is more conversational and subtle. It has been over four years now since I abandoned AM/FM radio in favor of satellite programming. Hearing a local talk show again was a nice experience.
The hour I watched was a segment called Meet The Kates. They took three local Kates from different Seattle neighborhoods and an online Kate listener from LA and ran them through a personality test. They wanted to determine if girls named Kate have the same or unique personalities. I won’t give away the results (show link: April 15, 2009 8 PM- 9PM).
When I saw the great Bob Lassister do an hour of radio, I got to sit in studio. This time I was in a side room with the engineer and news guy. I witnessed how the radio spots were scheduled in real time and I was there when their news guy gave a vocal tips to an intern.