WebOps (Dec 2005)
Welcome to WebOps, Armchair General’s first website column! My mission: to bring you the best military history and related websites I can find. Every issue of Armchair General holds a wealth of military historical knowledge, all neatly packaged in an easily accessible format. The Internet and World Wide Web also hold vast amounts of like information, but not always so convenient or user-friendly. That’s where I come in, with links that hopefully make finding the military history you’re looking for online as simple as reading our magazine. And I don’t charge you for a subscription!
Podcasting has been on a roll since 2000, but this year it has seen a dramatic increase in popularity around the Internet. The New Oxford American Dictionary only this month named ‘podcasting’ (defined as "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player") its’ 2005 Word of the Year. If you spend any amount of quality time in cyberspace, you are probably familiar with this media wave of the future.
So, what does this bleeding edge technology have to do with our beloved military history? Much like the online world helps to keep the world’s military history fresh and available, podcasting is likewise breathing new life throughout the Web, and military history has begun to taste the fresh air, thanks to an enterprising young man in Seattle, Washington: George Hageman.
I ran across the Hageman story a couple of weeks ago, and instantly knew this was something big. I asked for and received permission to interview Hagemen about his Military History Podcast website, which follows. I’ve seen many, many groovy military history websites this year, and this one became an instant favorite, in large part for the ‘coolness’ factor. So, without any further adieu, may I introduce – George Hageman!
Armchair General: To begin, I want to thank you wholeheartedly for taking the time for this interview. My first question is one that military historians often ask each other: what was it that sparked your interests in military history?
George Hageman: My interest in history was sparked by my 8th grade teacher who was very enthusiastic and made everything seem like it was important. As for my interest in military history, it was sparked by my 9th grade history class (Modern World History 1500-1900). During that class, we spent a lot of time learning about the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, etc. I thought these things were really boring. It made me realize that I like history because of the battles, hence my passion for military history, not regular history. This is why I like ancient history more, because much of what remains from that world is warfare.
ACG: Now, military historians are a fickle bunch. They proudly hold to academia, being highly trained and well-versed, which takes many years of study and guidance. You do not have any military history degrees. Yet, here you are, a teenager still in high school, with more people in more countries listening to your military history podcasts than often read a degreed military historian’s published work. How does that feel to you?
GH: I don’t think that I am exceptional at anything (I am not brilliant, nor do I have an angelic speaking voice). I think I am just popular because I, unlike many older people that come before me, have access to the Internet and podcasting technology. Therefore, I don’t feel like I am "special"; I just have better tools at hand, and I have learned to use them.
ACG: I sift through quite a few military history websites each week, and as far as I know, it just may be your name that gets put into the Big Book of History as being the first person to do a military history podcast. Have you thought of that? And how does that feel?
GH: It would be very rewarding to have my name as the founder of a certain genre. However, I think that podcasting is growing so fast that the podcasting market will flood. Because of this, I may have been the first, but I don’t think that I will be remembered for it. Also, many other history podcasts came before (and served as models for me), so I don’t think that I deserve full credit for founding the genre.
ACG: Would you give us the historical account of when you made the decision to do your podcast, and what you did to get your first podcast published?
GH: I made the decision about 3 months ago just before the new school year started. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough extracurricular activities compared to my friends, so I decided to find something to occupy my time. I then decided to do a military history podcast. I decided military for the reasons mentioned above, history because it is my favorite hobby, and podcast because I felt as though it would be a big industry and it would be nice to get into podcasting before it boomed.
First, I found a free blog service to host my website because I didn’t want to pay to get my own .com (I used blogspot). Then, I recorded my first episode (Dogs of War) on my computer using a $5 microphone. Then, I searched the Internet for a free podcast hosting service, but I couldn’t find any. I eventually settled on libsyn.com which offered what I needed for $5 a month. Now that I had a place to upload my podcast, I immediately went to iTunes and found out that I needed an RSS feed. After some searching, I found out how to get my RSS feed and I immediately submitted for podcast to iTunes for approval. After a few days, my podcast was approved. The hits to my website and the listeners to my feed began to climb.
Over the next few weeks, I figured out how to monitor my subscriber numbers and how to monitor my website’s visits. Also, due to the help of another veteran podcaster, I was able to submit my podcast to the various podcast directories. He also gave me some podcasting tips (like how to make a pop filter) and promoting tips (getting a newspaper article).
ACG: Please describe from start to finish how you go about publishing a podcast. How do you choose a topic? What resources do you use? How much time do you put into each project? Do you have anyone to help you?
GH: I choose my topic based on whatever my current personal interest are (essentially the kinds of things that I would tell my friends after I say, "hey, want to know something cool?"). I do have a poll on my website, but in the end, I am the ultimate decision-maker. I use Encyclopaedia Britannica, Microsoft Encarta 2003, World Book, and various books that I get from the library/own. One of the most useful books is Extreme War (Military History Bookclub) compiled by Terrence Poulos. It is basically a Guinness Book of World Records for war.
The research stage usually takes about 1 – 1.5 hours. The recording stage usually takes 20 minutes. The publishing stage usually takes 15 minutes. I do not get any outside help.
ACG: What have you learned about military history since you started your podcast that you did not know before?
GH: I have learned a lot about different subjects and their various tidbits. However, the most worthwhile things that I have learned include: military history philosophy that fans have sent in, and the fact that it has put all of history into perspective for me. I have learned that humans have been recording for a long time, and that everything is connected.
ACG: Do you have a goal you want to achieve with your military history podcast?
GH: My main goal is probably not as you would have thought (i.e., to teach others about history, although this is a secondary goal). My main goal, in fact, is to keep my podcast oriented around quality rather than quantity. In other words, I don’t want to ever have to resort to just a boring recap of just another battle. I want it to always be innovative–something that makes the listener tell their friends "I was listening to this podcast the other day, and I learned that…".
ACG: Do you have a favorite military history subject, era, or war?
GH: My favorite military history eras are the ancient world (up to the fall of Rome) and the 20th century world. I have not learned much about 500AD-1500AD, so I don’t have an opinion on this time period. I don’t like 1500-1900 (too much philosophy and such).
ACG: I’m sure your life is not all podcasting and military history. Are you a wargamer? Do you play any computer / console games? What are your favorites?
GH: I do enjoy military-oriented computer games, but not military-oriented board games (they are too confusing). My favorites include: Battlefield 2, Rise of Nations, Counter Strike Source, Ghost Recon 2, Rome: Total War.
ACG: What else do you like to do?
GH: I am in a band (purely recreational, not for money). Other than that, military history is my only serious hobby. This is one of the reasons I started the podcast because I wasn’t doing anything else.
ACG: How could people subscribe to your podcasts?
GH: People can subscribe to my podcast in two ways: directories or iTunes. The various major directories I am listened on are odeo.com, podcastalley.com, and podcastpickle.com. Just go to one of those sites, type in Military History Podcast, and you should find me. If you do it via iTunes (which most people do), just go to the Music Store, type in military history, and click on the subscribe button. Its all very easy to do.
ACG: I understand that Armchair General magazine has recently started to sponsor your podcasts? Explain a bit of how this came about, and what it will do and mean to your work?
GH: Eric Weider, after seeing my article, emailed me asking if he could be my sponsor. I said yes and was ecstatic to actually have a sponsor that pays me money. I am assuming that it will only do good things for my work because 1. I don’t have to "taint" my podcast with lots of advertisements, so it is still driven by history, 2. I will feel less embarrased and more encouraged to do the podcast because people like it, and because it is an official commitment (although Eric has been very lenient on everything and I thank him for that).
Special message from Eric Weider!:
Armchair General is sponsoring George’s Military History Podcasts because I am really impressed with what this industrious teenager has done. His podcasts are very good quality and may help introduce more young people to history and I just wanted to encourage him to keep up the great work more than anything else! I can’t tell you what the future holds for our relationship… So we’ll just take a small step for now and see where it leads!
Stay Alert, Stay Alive!
Jim H. Moreno
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