Embedded Survey Results

We put out a survey for listeners of our Embedded podcast. The primary goal of the survey was to see if there is something easy that we could do that would make our listeners happier. To that end, I wanted to know more about the demographics, but I didn’t want to be intrusive.[1]

Do you listen to the Embedded podcast?

This was the only required question and got 334 respondents.

I don’t know if 60% of our listeners listen every week. I expect there is some bias here, people who don’t listen every week are less likely to hear about the survey. And people who listen weekly are more likely to be willing to help the show. But still, this is nice.

Why do you listen to the show?

333 respondents. This was a checkbox, respondents could check as many as they wanted.

Interesting guests and useful information won this category with entertaining as a runner up:

  • 86% Interesting guests
  • 86% Useful information
  • 72% Entertaining
  • 67% Practical advice
  • 52% Inspiration to work on personal projects
  • 44% Chris’ pithy jokes
  • 0.6% Forced to by figure of authority

There was an “other” category as well and the responses were interesting.

I really should have put “excellent sound quality” in the main list. There are some podcasts I want to listen to but get so distracted with their noise issues that I can’t follow the discussion. On the other hand, we aren’t going to change our audio setup, it is a given. I’m happy some folks mentioned it; thank you for noticing.

Some other reasons included my cute obsessions, laugh, voice (soothing), and witty commentary. Yay! Go me!

Since Chris was in the main list, he didn’t receive many extra comments, though I gather his occasional rants about a certain compiler company are highly appreciated. And some people mentioned us together and our relationship: “you can never hang out with too many peanut butter and jelly perfect couples.” (Aww!)

There was a group of results that mentioned that it is professionally informative with technical information and real-life experiences. Then there was a group that went from strict technical into more fuzzy areas:

  • “Once you hear someone talk about a thing (SPI etc.) it feels much easier to use it yourself.”
  • “Comfort in people struggling with the same problems as myself.”
  • “So I don't feel so alone as a technologist with a variety of unrelated interests.”

One of the comments made me particularly happy: “Diverse guests. I like the range from hobbyist to professionals, and the inclusion of females.” Thank you for noticing. I do work at that, sometimes with good results, sometimes not.

I got two “Other” comments for this question right coincidentally submitted one right after the other: “Delightfully awkward” and “You guys are very cool”. Guess which one seems more likely to me?

What do you spend most of your workday doing?

332 respondents, this was a single selection with pre-populated choices and an “Other”

It is not a shock that a big portion (25.6%) of our listeners identify as being in the field our show is nominally about. Management (the violet slice) is 5.4%. The Other category filled up a big chunk; it is the rainbow part of the pie. I probably should have put a “Retired” option on, that would have covered a few percent that went to Other.

There is always a balance between getting a big picture view so we know how much leeway we have with doing really technical shows and the fine-grained view of getting to know what you really do. I went for high-level view but then was glad folks wrote in the job in Other.

There were many other interesting jobs, although possibly avalanche forecaster is my favorite. Running a meat department in a grocery store is pretty interesting too. I’m happy the show has broad appeal. I sorta love it when people say they have no idea what we are talking about but listen anyway.

How did you first hear about the show?

330 responses on a write-in box

Wow, about ⅓ of respondents said they heard about our show on The Amp Hour. The overlap makes a lot of sense since we need to find people interested in embedded systems and listening to podcasts. For all that we sometimes joke about being sworn enemies or frenemies, I will always thank Chris Gammell and Dave Jones for having us on (and sometimes talking about our show). I’m so pleased that Chris Gammell has become a friend in real life.

But what about the other ⅔? Twitter, guest social media, and friends/colleagues were popular. There were plenty of people who don’t remember. On the other hand, plenty of people said they were searching for technical podcasts. I’m happy we show up… though I wonder if I could make the show easier to find with searching. Keywords are tough, maybe a few more would be useful.

Do you do non-paid maker/hacker things in your free time?

333 responses, single selection radio with an other option.

  • 75% Yes
  • 17% I want to but no
  • 4% No
  • 4% Other

I do maker things sometimes, but since I run a consulting business those are advertisements. They usually get lower priority than paying work and they get dropped first when I get busy.

You know, one reason we have makers on the show is that I’m sort of surprised by them. Seriously, you are going to do in your free time what I come home to get away from?

Thus, I’m a little surprised so many people are doing things outside work. Is that a function of the industry or our audience? Do you feel pressured to work all day for someone else and then work all night trying to keep up? Or do you do it because you enjoy it?

I worry a bit about burnout and I suspect it is a valid worry given a few responses: “I could never admit it to my colleagues but I don't even want to” and “I pretend to”.

I think I’m pleased that so many people tinker (or make or hack or engineer in your own time). If you are having fun and learning stuff, good on you.

But it is also ok with me, as a potential colleague and manager, if you use your time off to recharge however you do it: read books, garden, play with your kids, hike, play video games, watch football, play football, whatever works for you. It is more important to me that you don’t burn out and leave tech in overwhelmed frustration.

So, if the show is inspiration for your projects, awesome, thank you. But if we are adding to the pressure, we don’t intend to.

Do you know about these?

Ok, so apparently, I haven’t done a great job saying that Svec’s ESE 101 and Andrei’s Embedded Wednesday are on the Embedded.fm blog (what you are reading right now). They make up ⅔ of the blog. Also, most people who might want to know about the Patreon, do know about it: good.

What are your preferred ways to hear about new episodes?

327 responses, multiple checkbox options.

81% of respondent use a podcast app, another 10% a newsreader, both using RSS. (RSS for the win!) Next most popular is Twitter (20%) then the newsletter (11%). With only a few Facebook requests (6 for 1.8%), I will put it on the “things to do when I get bored” list. I’m a little surprised by the people who stop by the website, makes me wonder if we should do more with the site itself.

What other podcasts do you listen to?

286 write-in responses

I really like learning what other people are listening to. However, this needs its own post so I’m skipping the responses. Sorry.

Who do you want on the show?

I listed several categories of guests and then had radio boxes for each category that suggested that type of guest be on less often, the same, or more often.

This question ended up being super useful to me so I’m very sad that Google Forms ate my pretty formatting. Here is an example of both the utility and the dysfunction:

Anyway, I get the idea that you want more practicing engineers. To me, this means normal folk, talking about doing their job. Of course, their job should be interesting and they should be enthusiastic.

This question’s results in boring text:

  • Makers: about the same, maybe more often
  • Practicing engineers: more often
  • Professors and teachers: same or more
  • Startup founders and entrepreneurs: same, slightly less
  • Other random people (accountants, philanthropist, etc): less
  • Ham radio enthusiasts: same, slightly less
  • Product people: slightly less
  • Just Chris and Elecia: about the same (wide margin)

Guests are tough… I have a whole bunch of stuff I try to balance: topic, guest diversity, role, technology, depth of detail, novelty (i.e. were they on The Amp Hour last week). Then there is the person: Are they excited? Will they answer questions in more than one syllable? Will they agree to be on the show?

In the end, I choose guests based on who I want to have a conversation with. The times I have decided to put up with a guest being strange because it is good for the show or for some reason other than I want to talk to them, it has generally turned out badly.

On the other hand, I’m interested in lots of things so this helps me look in different directions.

Is there something we should cover?

174 write-in responses

Lots of interesting topics and guest suggestions. You know, you can always suggest guests by hitting the contact link. If you know them, even better. If you are the person you are suggesting, that’s good too (it is ok to be direct).

Also, I see a few requests for intros or back-to-basics reviews. I suspect these would be deep dives into a specific topic (interrupts, SPI, schedulers). We did one on bootloaders a long time back, and no one commented so I figured it was boring (and maybe confusing without drawings). But yeah, maybe Andrei or Svec would join us every couple months for a basics topic.

I’ll keep reading these and thinking about them, adding the suggested guests to my list.

Have you ever rated Embedded podcast on iTunes?

333 responses, radio box with other

Ok, this was a sneaky attempt to get you to rate the show on iTunes. And many of you fell for it. Thank you. And, yes, iTunes is a pain so if you just tell someone else you like the show, that is awesome too.

Do you have a favorite episode?

186 write-in responses

Sometimes after recording, I think “well, at least it was better than the cat episode.” I feel like I didn’t do a good job with the guest, wasn’t awake enough, or prepared for all the wrong topics. I’m sure that people will hate it (and me for wasting their time). Sigh.

But then one of you says it is a favorite. How can that be? It is always a mystery. It makes me like the episodes better, knowing someone found them useful. I mean, sure, there is Jack Ganssle, Bunnie Huang and robot arms (two now!). Those are easy to love. But someone cared about this episode that I thought was a whiff? Makes me think I should go back and listen to it, maybe I did ok.

Oh, I’m sorry, did you want to know the results of this question? I think it needs another post or we’ll be here all day.

What could we do better?

173 write-in responses

When you write “cat interviews” I’m not sure if you want more of them, the comments seem split. On the other hand, “I can't handle full cat episodes (sorry, cat) but a little meow now and then would be great!” is pretty clear. Not gonna happen but clear. (Once she starts talking, she continues for as long as you talk near her. It makes teleconferences “fun”.)

I like the suggestion that include a note we “may not to listen to me in case I ruin the show for your core audience” ... I think we’ve shown we don’t have a single audience. And I like that.

Transcript! We still don’t have that. I don’t know if we will do it soon. On the other hand, our YouTube channel does closed captioning so if you want to be able to read along, there is that.

Trips to Europe, Australia, and Asia: tempting but not likely for the short term. But we do try to remember you are there, both to find guests that are outside of the US and to remember things like not all schools end in .edu. Feel free to contact us if we forget.

Trips to other places and “Record some episodes in major cities w/ live audiences (a la Prairie Home Companion)”: we are homebodies. The best thing about doing a podcast in your home studio is that you don’t have to talk to many people face to face (introverts!) and you don’t have to go anywhere. That said, we have some travel plans so we’ll see if we can record elsewhere. Though I think you have an exaggerated view of our audience size if you think we can pull in enough people for a studio audience in a random location.

Follow up interviews: yes, good idea! Students: huh, ok!

“Sometimes the conversation feels a little scripted early on in the interview.” That’s because they are. Some guests wing their introduction but up until lightning round, it is all pretty scripted.

“More blog posts. I'm really enjoying ES101, I bought an MSP430. More stuff like that would be great.” (Thank you for bugging Svec for me. I heard what he’s planning and it sounds great but he lets little things like family vacations and full-time job slow him down. And I don’t blame him. But he has a plan so it isn’t over.)

“Please, use HTTPS for the embedded.fm website. You can use free "Let's Encrypt" (https://letsencrypt.org) certificates.” Huh, I don’t know if we can. We are in Squarespace’s sandbox. But I will consider it. Or maybe Chris will.

There were a few comments wanting more free software and open source guests and more discussion of open source tools. Guests: probably the same or more often. Tools? Well, I tend to talk about what I use, especially things I like. And let’s just say that I ditched Eclipse last month in favor of VSCode after a misunderstanding in Ubuntu caused me to lose a week of work. I truly want to like FOSS; I love the theory. But… I want to build robots and devices and things. I do not at all enjoy coddling my tools. Wait a minute, this is going to turn into a rant. I should save it for the show. So let me just say “noted” and move on.

There were many more, some of which I’ll try to do, some I won’t, and many which encouraged us to ignore other feedback and keep doing what we are doing.

Thank You

Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey. This really helps.

I have some action items (in random order):

  • Write a post on other podcasts Embedded.fm listeners listen to.
  • Write a post on the favorite Embedded.fm episodes.
  • Is there a way to make the show easier to find with a search? Keywords?
  • Do more with the site for casual stop ins.
  • Add the suggested guests to my suggested guest list, invite past guests back on, find a few students.
  • Consider a regular back-to-basics show.
  • HTTPS and encryption

[1] I highly resent surveys that want my home address, work address, and all varieties of phone numbers only to ask my favorite color.