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People Who Speed-Listen to Podcasts (buzzfeed.com)
197 points by Osiris30 on Nov 20, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 214 comments



> In fact, according to behavioral neuroscientist Stephen Porges, because recordings played at higher speeds are at a higher pitch, they are actually easier to hear.

Uh... that's not how modern speedup works. Here's a brief rundown:

1. break the audio up into very small windows 2. FFT audio in a window from time domain to frequency domain 3. FFT the audio back from frequency to time domain, with an even smaller window (or larger, if you want to slow playback down).

The frequencies resulting are the same, but shorter in duration. Obviously there's some sampling bias that can creep in, but these algorithms are generally pitch-stable.


For anyone interested in a simple implementation of FFT, I found this neat little example which was very grokkable if you speak Java:

https://introcs.cs.princeton.edu/java/97data/FFT.java.html


For those who just want to play around with Fourier transforms, it is worth noting that computers are fast enough nowadays that you can often get away with a slow Fourier transform instead of a fast Fourier transform. The former is O(N^2) as opposed to O(N log N), but is also much easier to understand. To wit, in C, here is a function that takes a pointer to an input array of complex numbers, and output array of complex numbers, and a count of how many numbers are in the input, and does a discrete slow Fourier transform from the input array to the output array:

  #include <math.h>

  typedef struct {
      double r;
      double i;
  } complex;
  
  void fourier(complex * x, complex * y, int np)
  {
      int n, k;
      
      for (k = 0; k < np; ++k)
      {
          y[k].r = y[k].i = 0;
          for (n = 0; n < np; ++n)
          {
              double c = cos(2*M_PI*k*n/np);
              double s = sin(2*M_PI*k*n/np);
              y[k].r += x[n].r * c + x[n].i * s;
              y[k].i += -x[n].r * s + x[n].i * c;
          }
      }
  }
This is a pretty direct implementation of the definition of a discrete Fourier transform as given in equation 1 from the Wikipedia article on DFT [1].

On my iMac (3.4 GHz Intel Core i5), compiled with "cc -Ofast", here are timings:

  size   time/FT   FTs/sec
  ----  ---------  -------
   128    0.24 ms   4167
   256    0.93 ms   1074
   512    3.8 ms     263
  1024   15.5 ms      65
  2048   65.6 ms      15
  4096  243 ms         4
That would plenty fast for many interesting learning projects, like a real time guitar tuner for example.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Discrete_Fourier_...


mpv has --scaletempo=speed=pitch enabled by default. So increasing speed corrects pitch.


I speed listen to podcasts (and audiobooks and speed watch lectures) for an entirely different reason: I am able to maintain attention on the material. I am sure I get less out of it than someone who is able to pay attention at 1x, but I get nothing out of 1x and never got anything but frustration out of lectures in school, so speed listening opened up a whole new world for me.


Lectures isn't just about feeding the information into your brain. Half the battle of learning what the professor has to say is to process the material in your head, to let it bob around in your head a while. I often find that I can get a lot of that work done while still in my seat, as long as I allow those thoughts to bubble up.

In other words, allow creative thoughts about the things the lecturer is saying to form – wander around in idea-space a bit – and think about them, while simultaneously keeping up with the thread of the speech. You'll gain a lot more from your time in the lecture hall, and it'll also be a lot more fun. A lecture shouldn't just be (and doesn't have to be) dry information stuffing.


Genuinely, good for you. I’m glad that works for you. But it’s a strange reply. I’ve described an attention disorder and a method for coping with it and your suggestion is that maybe I shouldn’t have the disorder in the first place. Which I agree with, but it’s not particularly helpful. I suppose that’s not fair. Let me try again: I’d love it if I could mindwander a bit while still paying attention to the lecture, the entire problem is that I cannot do this. That inability is called an attention disorder. If I have time to mindwander at all then I immediately get lost in my thoughts and am unable to pay any attention to the lecture.


Well, it's ambiguous from my perspective, with no more information, whether or not the behaviour was a genuine disorder or just caused by bad habits (akin to causes mentioned in the currently highest voted post[1]). It sounds like it was the former, in which case I'm sorry. I guess I was also not really thinking about it as a reply to you specifically, but rather to the entire audience of readers here on HN who I wanted to give a heads up on, in the context of your comment, that it's possible to experience lectures in more ways than one.

[1] http://nautil.us/issue/52/the-hive/modern-media-is-a-dos-att...


I don't think it's a disorder or a bad habit. People process information at different speeds, if you're out of your comfort zone, that processing will be inefficient.


To be fair, your original comment did not mention a disorder, and a reasonable person could assume a lack of a disorder from the comment alone.


It's true that I did not use the word 'disorder' and I understand that not everyone has given much thought to attention disorders. But being unable to choose where to focus attention or to sustain that focus is what an attention disorder is.


Have you tried mindfulness? I have had the same experience as you have (it sounds like) in that I am able to speed listen more effectively at 2-2.5x than at 1x. Since I've started trying to be more mindful and meditate regularly, the improvement in focus I've experienced is incredible.


I agree that the idea of mindwandering while paying attention is foreign. I think I had a slightly different response than the grandparent, which is to drag the rest of the people in the seats along with me. I am sure there were many people who were bothered by my questions and hand-raising (in 200 person lectures), but sometimes my questions were real questions silently shared by others in the class. I think it isn't uncommon that students treat lectures as very inconvenient 3D video explanations, and many professors are so bored and detached that to veer slightly off course is to disgruntle them significantly. I think of it this way: as the student, paying tuition, your instructor is effectively working for you. If you left, they would not be able to do this part of their job (which some would prefer). If your professor isn't facilitating your task at hand (conveying a holistic understanding of the topic under discussion), then they aren't being effective at what you are paying for them to do, and it might behoove one in such a position to take active corrective action (drag a better explanation of the topic at hand out of the professor). This is all somewhat cavalier as I haven't been in school for a long time, but I feel like it was an approach that helped me, given it is hard for me to multitask as described, and would have helped others whom I have known.


Thank you for bringing this up. Throughout college I have had this issue and one of my favorite things was when a professor would publish the audio recordings of lectures so that I could listen at 1.75x-2.5x and rewind in case I wanted to rethink something. I also really enjoyed that app where you have words changing at the same location at 600 wpm. I tried speed reading a normal book but I would always get way more tired than with this approach. I really wish they had multiple choices for learning instead of the same technique for past 10 000 years which is known not to work for everyone


I like this idea, but I have found it to not work very well in practice. I would constantly get lost in lectures because the interesting new bits would kick off questions in my mind that needed to be resolved before it made sense for me to continue with more information. So I'd sit there exploring the new ideas—which was typically pretty beneficial—but then when I tuned back in I wouldn't know what they were talking about. When I get into that 'exploring mode' it tends to shut everything else out, so the 'simultaneously keeping up with the thread of the speech' isn't very doable, at least in my case.

Books are an intrinsically better format for this since the amount of time required to 'process' the new information will vary a lot from person to person, and you get complete control with books. I can't see any benefit to the lecture format aside from mass consumption—aside from question-asking, which I do think is vital, but it is typically under-used. Books + lots of questions to an expert seems ideal.


I rather replay the interesting section (for complicated stuff even on normal speed) and speed-listen to what I know and what is easily understandable or booring.

With video tutorials I have the same problem. On normal speed I will work ahead, take a wrong turn because I didn't know where the lecture would go or drift off in to something slightly creative and than notice that I missed a section where finally something new was explained. So I have to skip back and find where I started missing something (Something really really annoying with audio material; No thumbnails, no search, no skimming backwards, mostly no identification possible from a single frame or word (the easiest way to find a part again, to which I listened before, is to remember where on my journey I was when I listened to that part and where that was in relation to where I heard what is currently playing)).


I suppose if you don't experience it, it can be hard to relate. For me it's something like a buffer underrun. I get bored and frustrated in between words if they come too slowly.

Another analogy might be trying to ride a bike too slowly. It's very difficult not to wobble extremely and fall off. It takes more effort to ride slowly. My mind can't wander with slow speech because it takes great effort and attention to maintain ideas in active memory long enough to make it through sentences. I am better able to have branching thoughts while keeping up with the thread of speech when the speech is faster.

I frequently drive with audiobooks on and it is usually not possible for me to follow along without a speed boost of at least about 25% or so.


I use headphones with a play/pause button on them so I can pause/rewind from time to time to re-digest things.


This was the main reason I switched back to 1x. I want to listen, not just be blasted with data.


I was studying for a cert and needed to review some material faster so I started doing 1.5x and 1.7x up to 2x. What's amazing is how quickly you adapt. The pauses in speech seem to take FOREVER, even at 2x, and when you slow down to 1.5x it seems positively glacial. But you're right, you need to focus. It leaves a lot less time for letting your mind wander. You don't get anything for free. I sometimes watch NFL condensed games and they cut out all the non-play activity so you can watch a game in 40 mins-- which sounds great, but you realize it's 40 mins of intense focus if you want to follow what's going on.


> The pauses in speech seem to take FOREVER

No kidding. Overcast has a "Smartspeed" feature that cuts out these pauses. The counter on my app says it's saved me 195 hours to date.


I'm at 702 hours. Crazy - that's almost a month of silence I've avoided.


"Silence is the perfectest herald of joy" - William Shakespeare

I may get downvoted as just an old man yelling at clouds, but I wish that people would actually take more time to enjoy silence in its own right.

My own kids seem to like doing everything with a pair of headphones on, or a video playing on their devices constantly, but some of my own moments of pure bliss have been sitting in my garden, sans technology, with a book or just petting my cat and stopping to breathe, listen to the sounds of nature and think about ideas.


> I wish that people would actually take more time to enjoy silence in its own right.

It's pretty hard to enjoy silence in two second chunks.

Someone might use smartspeed to save half an hour, and then use that time to enjoy nature uninterrupted.

I'm not going to downvote you, but you basically are yelling at clouds. The two kinds of 'silence' are completely unrelated.


There is silence which is bad editing or a disorganised podcast, and there is silence which is intentional, after a particular point has been made or idea been voiced.

Even two seconds of silent time is useful to ponder and reflect. When I am not in 'flow' state while working, I will often just look away from the screen to pat my cat or pick up my guitar for a few seconds to noodle unplugged. I find that helps me to step down from frenetic brain activity and let my subconscious stew on things.

To equate it to a musical analogy - sometimes it is the space between the notes. As much as I respect the technical ability of guitarists that can cram 3000 notes per minute in a long shred solo, I cannot listen to that for more than 30 seconds before my brain is screaming for some relief. I would much rather listen to a blues guitarist or saxophonist play a few notes with enough pauses between phrases to fully appreciate them and wait for the next one with anticipation.


There is artistic silence where thoughtful purpose is put to the distance between things, there is autonomous silence where you get to take the opportunity to make space between things, then there's silence that is forced on you.

Some silence just is not enriching. I would rather spend an hour in a forest than waiting at the DMV. I would rather enjoy a cup of coffee than wait 10 minutes for a colleague to arrive on time to a meeting.

There are some things that are worth experiencing in their fullest, and there are some things that are only worth experiencing by skimming through.

Like some books are worth deep study, reading, rereading, analyzing, digging, and getting every ounce of value from them. Others give all they have in a rush.


I will be a relatively young man joining you in yelling at the clouds.

I am in my 20s now but I do agree with you. I enjoy just being with silence around me, especially when reading.


I mostly agree, except it can be almost impossible to find an interruption free environment. Many work in an open office (blech) and live in thin-walled apartments with music-pounding (or just floor stomping) neighbors. The only "silent" time I can get is in the car or late at night when everyone else is asleep. I wish I could find genuine silence. Half of my headphone time is done without anything actually playing. It's to drown out the incessant noise around me.


Yeah, one of the reasons I value silence so much is because I don't get a lot of it during the day. I work in an open office, I use public transport, I go to a swimming pool. At evenings I usually spent some time with my wife. So by the time I have some silence, it is night. If, our neighbours are not being too loud of course.

As a consequence, I really appreciate the quiet moments and nature walks etc.


That’s one of the things I do when editing my YouTube be videos. Cut out all pauses in speech.

I find that when I’m watching/listening something as long as there are no pauses, I don’t need the 2x speed. Particularly because I find speech often difficult to follow at anything more than 1.3x while at 1.3x the pauses are still way too long.

Smartspeed feature has been a godsend.


> That’s one of the things I do when editing my YouTube videos. Cut out all pauses in speech.

This is also a something that NPR has been doing on shows for years - perhaps not 'all' but they certainly do a lot of cleanup.

They also have some training material online, which may be of use to many people doing editing: http://training.npr.org/audio/the-ear-training-guide-for-aud...

The transcript of Pulling Back the Curtain may also be of interest, I think it may have been rebroadcast at some point as well so audio may get turn up.

Edit: http://www.wnyc.org/story/129697-pulling-back-the-curtain/


> The counter on my app says it's saved me 195 hours to date.

You think you saved 195 hours, but in reality you saved far less hours (I'm not saying you didn't save any hours).

Silences serve to aid your brain from getting tired, allowing you to catch up and process the information, or to get in diffused mode of thinking.

If silences were completely useless they wouldn't ever be used. You'd download an audiobook from the official vendor, and it wouldn't contain any silences.


I use the skip silence in the android app Podcast Addict. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bambuna.po...

I certainly don't notice it easily but I have saved several hundred hours according to it.


Is this able to play Audio Books? Or is there an Android app that can skip silence for audio books?


Could you tell me where to find that counter? I've looked everywhere… I for the life of mine can find it. I even tweeted the author. Google, looked at lots of reviews to find a clue… eventually I gave up and figured the counter must have been removed in an update before I got the app.


PocketCasts on Android does the same kind of silence removal. You can find it there in Settings > Stats. I recently wiped my phone but I'm pretty sure it was in the hundreds of hours saved before then.


It's at the bottom of the settings menu - click the little Overcast logo in the top left and scroll down.

(Just went through this exercise to find it last week)


It should be noted that it's in very small / grey font at the very bottom.

Also, holy shit, this has saved me 255 hours, not counting speedups. That's crazy.


Settings (top left icon from main screen) --> scroll allll the way down.

"Smart Speed has saved you an extre __ hours beyond speed adjustments alone."


Same here I can’t find the counter in my app although everyone else seems to have it.


Whoa, that's a lot! Just curious, how many hours of podcasts is that? Do you have that information available?

And with that experience, what are your favorite podcasts?


Is this a premium feature? I also can't find it.


No, but you have have to turn the smart speed feature on for some time before seeing a savings counter appear on the settings page.


I think not—I'm registered, and I can't find it either.


571 hours for me


I am convinced that a lot of podcasters take their cues from radio and other forms of broadcast journalism that lack the ability to let the user jump back 15 seconds if they missed something. I have never had a conversation with anyone where they talked as slow as people do on podcasts. Maybe it is some sort of post-production process to slow things down and make it possible for people who are not really paying attention to follow along, but if it were not for the ability to speed things up I would have abandoned most podcasts a long time ago.


Similarly, I've noticed that if I listen at a comfortable pace (1.25x-1.5x) for a while, and then switch back to normal speed, it feels like the speaker is deliberately speaking slowly and hyper-enunciating, like they're talking to a small child or person with learning problems.


>What's amazing is how quickly you adapt.

At some point you'll start to hear what birds and other fast talking animals are saying. I'm not joking. I mean you'll still probably wouldn't understand them.


" so I started doing 1.5x and 1.7x up to 2x. What's amazing is how quickly you adapt..."

Listen to folks using screen readers reading off menus and navigation and such. Those users adapt to stuff going much much faster than 2x!


I onced listened in and got nothing. Found a claims of 300 words per minute [0] and 450 wpm [1], where normal speech is 150 wpm. So, 3x should be achievable with some training.

[0] https://webaim.org/techniques/screenreader/ [1] https://www.vincit.fi/en/blog/software-development-450-words...


I used to use one of those speed reader apps. I found that if I set it at ridiculous speed - 10,000 wpm! - you can still read the words but not really "read" anything i.e. be able to say anything intelligent about what you just "read."

But then I would shift back to 4,000 wpm and suddenly it seemed so easy to keep pace. And the longer you stayed at 10,000 wpm the easier 4,000 became.

I feel our brains are totally up the challenge.


I've listened to a number of fiction audiobooks at 3x. I find it takes a couple of minutes to adapt to a new narrator/speaker at 3x, but it's not really a big thing.

I'm not sure I'd retain much from a technical conversation at 3x -- for me the drop seems to be somewhere between 2x and 3x.


I read a lot and my pace naturally slows down or speeds up depending on the density and difficulty of the material; I'm sure a similar effect must apply to the speeds you need to follow a lecture or podcast at to actually understand it. I can't read a book-length classical epic poem or a dense technical book at the same kind of speed I can comfortably read a Sherlock Holmes book (well, I can, but I won't retain anything).


Screenreaders are very redundant.

It's one thing to listen to a very consistent voice repeating very much familiar material. Another to have novel or complex material thrown at you.

My listening speeds range from 1x to 2x, for the most part. If I'm focused on material, 1.5x is almost always listenable. If I'm highly focused, or the speaker is slow and boring, 2x+. If the material is difficult or the speaker exceedingly good, intelligent, and the material well-prepared, 1x - 1.25x works quite well.


Yeah, I have a few blind friends and the screen readers are just insanely fast. I got to the point where I could understand most of what one said at max speed; granted this was back in the late 90s so the voice tech wasn't what it is today.


Do you mean 60 minutes or are you watching the games at 1.5x?


In NFL games the clock continues to run during non-play time like the offensive line resetting after a completed pass or a run or a sack so if your stripping out that time as well because nothing actually interesting is really happening you can get below the nominal 60 minute of actual play time.


Yeah, this. The condensed games actually include some time where the clock is stopped, too-- eg, the couple seconds leading up to a snap, or whatever. My least favorite part is sometimes they cut out what a penalty was called for and what the impact was.


Got it, thanks. Wow, that is an aggressive approach. IMO watching the players get back in formation, etc. is at least a little bit interesting in part because watching that process helps you predict what is going to happen after the snap.


Same here. At 1x speed all but the most dense of lectures give my mind time to wander, and then I miss a few minutes of material. At 2x speed I find it much easier to stay focused, and can actually spend 30-60 minutes listening to a podcast without getting distracted. The fact that it also saves time is merely a bonus for me.


Exactly, and that same focus and extra time means that you can stop/rewind/replay when you find something you don't know to root out the source of confusion at 1x or 0.5x.

Most lectures at 1x border on unwatchable except for the very best presenters (and then you wonder how much you're learning as opposed to being WOWed.


Reminds me of the way movies can occasionally be a lot more engaging when I somehow missed the beginning: so much less predictable, and events feel more like they are happening because of hidden causality and less because of hidden (or barely obfuscated) plot requirements.


+1 on this. I used to better at listening to "lecture" material at school, but in the last years it seemed to deteriorate. Even in university I noticed myself drifting away in thought, although the material was much more interesting to me than back at school. Same for any kind of webinar. When I did my first online course I switched to 1.5 and was pretty dumbfounded how nice it was to consume at what seemed like the proper speed. But it highly depends on the speaker. If someone speaks fast, 1x is fine - if someone is extremely slow, I'll use 2x.

But I mostly listen to podcasts for entertainment reasons (i.e. people I wanna listen to about topics that interest me) so my desire to speed through is not so high.


When listening to a (non-fiction) audiobook or lecture about a novel topic, do you not find yourself needing time to think? When do you integrate the new information or ideas being presented into your existing framework of understanding?


Same here, the only time I need to slow down is if I am REALLY unfamiliar with the subject matter.

Reviewing data structures? 2x

Ad retargeting in marketing course? 1.5x what wait 1x

And then its back to 2x, I concentrate at listening better


Me too, though I'm worried indulging this tendency is building into bad habits, or traits or somesuch.

For lectures, I tend to speedwatch with stops, replays and skips. In some cases, I am 100% convinced that like you, I'd have never been able to stay tuned. The whole thing has a tendency towards escalation, and the result comes with its own troubles.


Holy crap this might actually help me.


enjoy :)

it really feels good to pump interesting thoughts in at the speed limit of perception and recognition :)


If I don't speed it up, I get bored and start daydreaming. Whether I'm running, lifting, riding the train, cooking, whatever, if I don't amp the speed up I inevitably get bored.


I think the trick is trying to be ahead of the lecturer and guess where it is going, always a step ahead.


I've tried it many times, but I just cannot consume podcasts at anything more than 1x speed. Any more, and I begin to understand how someone on the autism spectrum might feel in a normal social situation.

I too went through a phase of getting addicted to podcasts and subscribing to almost every one that people recommended to me. But then I realised that I simply could not listen to them all within my allotted 'listening time' - which is usually during a 1hr walk in the mornings.

So now I simply don't bother trying to keep up with listening to consecutive episodes, no matter how much I enjoy the podcast. I just go to my list of waiting episodes as I walk out my front gate, and hit 'play'. If it finishes during my walk, I start another random one from the list. If I return home before it finishes, I hit 'stop' and rarely go back to it unless it was particularly informative.

I just treat my podcast list as a virtual sock drawer that I can reach in and grab anything out of without looking. I no longer live with the FOMO anxiety that I might miss a brilliant episode somewhere. I have too many other important things to do in my day.


I don't know if you're actually looking for advise here, but my recommendation is that you start off slow. 1.05x is virtually indistinguishable. Every month or two a rampup of .1x is equally indistinguishable, although there's a plateau somewhere.

I should probably try bumping it up another .1x myself, now that I think about this.


Can confirm. Even in a single session I like to slowly increase the speed. You get used to each one after a few minutes, and eventually you will turn it back to 1x and be shocked by how slow it sounds!


Did exactly that and found 1.2 to 1.25 is best depending on the voice pitch and cadence


I do the next tick above 1x in Overcast -- 1.1x or so.


One of my siblings is quoted in this article, and most people in his life are annoyed both at how much time he spends listening to podcasts (even at hyper-speed) and how much he talks about them.

I don't have a problem with listening quickly, it's the very long list of podcasts that suggests misguided focus.


Maybe it is his relationships that are dysfunctional, not his interest in podcasts.

When I was involved in online gifted parenting groups, it was common to see smart kids "obsessed" with something that worked well for them. In my family, the dysfunctional behavior was resolved by helping my son find ways to genuinely get his needs met so he wasn't intellectually starving anymore. I also helped him find outlets foir his interests.

The example I always gave him was that there was nothing wrong with liking debate, but go join a debate club instead if picking arguments with your mom every day. He never joined a debate club, but he did learn to find socially acceptable outlets and stopped making me apoplectic.

I will add that gifted kids who were "obsessed" with a particular thing were often twice exceptional. They were gifted and also had some kind of handicap. Their obsession was something that adequately met their intellectual needs after years of starving because it somehow was both sufficiently information dense and delivered the information in a way that worked well for them. Someone who speed listens to podcasts constantly sounds to me like someone seeking a density of information in a format that works for them.


It didn't occur to me that this could devolve into borderline dysfunctional behavior, but it does make sense. I think my first instinct when reading the article was that these folks are lucky to be consuming large amounts of podcast content.


I had the exact opposite reaction; I was wondering how in the world they could be functional with that amount of noise going into their minds. To each his own, of course, but I cannot fathom how they could possibly be consuming that amount of spoken word and still focusing on tasks at hand.


Well, you can't. They're either giving their work or the podcasts short shrift.


Not really a matter of luck...


Yeah... Sounds like hoarding tendencies.


I have a co-worker who does this emphatically. He's the type where everything must be lifehacked to death. I get that it's a great way to speed through content quickly, but I've noticed that he has no way to discern quality anymore. In fact, he will avoid well produced, quality podcasts because they move too quickly and include sound effects and music.

So yeah, I get it. But it seems to encourage the wrong sort of content - long, windy, with no effort made into presentation or editing.


That must be me. I hate long winded, sound effected podcasts. It's just fluff to mask average content.

Compare a16z with Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman (gosh even that name sucks). a16z has no ads, no sound effects, no blabber, but absolutely excellent content. Masters of Scale tho move slowly, keep repeating same things and feels like it's targeting children, way more edited.

Edit: maybe it's just the format that makes it interesting. Google Cloud Podcast, Good Day Sir, Software Engineering Daily - all have conversational format, almost a debate.


I completely agree with the fluff in the sound effects and re-explaining. I used to be able to listen to NPR for hours but after listening to conversational podcasts I can't listen anymore to NPR. It's just too slow and the format bores me.


Must be a difference in taste. If the podcast only consists of back and forth conversation, I check out or look for a transcript (since I can read faster than the fastest speed listener).

An episode of 99% Invisible though... I want to slow down and enjoy like a fine wine.


English not a native tongue, so listening is faster to me. Plus gives eyes a rest. But how does reading transcript different from normal text?

p.s. I do like 99% Invisible, my most recent find.


I do understand why people would want to speed up their podcasts backlogs—I'm currently about 50% in, working my way through >500 hours of 5by5's Back To Work with Merlin Mann. I've tried speeding that up but one thing in particular causes me to stick with 1.1x at max: it's the connection with the hosts. It's just information (both useful and less so) condensed to be hastily consumed but it discards the dedication the hosts have put into it. Playing off of each other. The inside jokes, the subtle differences in tone and timing.

Maybe I'm just not as good in processing such social interactions at a faster pace than real-time. But I love "sharing a laugh" as if it's happening right now. That feeling completely goes away when the audio is sped up.


> I do understand why people would want to speed up their podcasts backlogs—I'm currently about 50% in, working my way through >500 hours of 5by5's Back To Work with Merlin Mann.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and if I had a 500-hour backlog in one, I would conclude that I care about other things more, and either unsubscribe and delete it, or stop downloading episodes by default. I used to auto-download Fresh Air, for example, but when it started backing up, I dialed things back, and now listen to 25-50% of episodes. I also used to listen to The Talk Show, but decided there were other things I would rather do.


Humor is a trick to help making information stick in your head. Not a new trick; advertising uses that trick all the time.

There's no way that with speed listening or reading everything sticks equally as listening or reading a 1.0x speed multiplier. It may feel like you got more done, but in reality you did not. You're essentially fooling yourself, feeling like you accomplished more than you did.

I do the same, but with movies/series. I "watch" them on a second screen without being all the time focused to it. Except if its a really good movie/serie. But if it isn't a good one, why watch it in the first place?


Do you have any reason to believe this besides intuition? Anecdotally you'll find lots of people who say they retain a lot more at 2x speed than 1x, including me. Just look around this thread. Here's one study on this I found with a quick search: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11528-015-0841-2

My own intuition tells me that everyone probably has a maximum (and maybe minimum) speed that they're comfortable with, and there's no reason to assume that a podcast host's preferred speaking rate is the same as an audience member's preferred listening rate.

Speeding up your primary focus is not at all comparable to consuming something as a secondary focus. I agree that "watching" something in the background is terrible for comprehension and retention.


Perhaps I am biased because although my English is quite decent it isn't my native tongue.

I'm not sure if we're discussing the same thing here. I am talking about learning.

Yes, there's also a lot of people who believe speed reading allows them to read quicker. Sure, it might seem that way, but does the information stick? Do you think anecdotal evidence to test if information was learned counts as evidence?

Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski didn't mention your proposed learning method in their Learning How to Learn course [1]. They also debunked speed reading in that course. If your proposed learning method works well, they should incorporate it in their course. However, it seems to go against the principles of chunking and overlearning.

[1] https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn


I can't find a definitive source, but the average adult reading speed seems to be around 300 wpm. Popular podcast Hardcore History hovers around ~175 wpm (https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*_PUpCqAQyCQ-Whf02...), so you'd need to almost double the speed to reach a normal reading pace. So I don't think arguments against speed reading really apply to this.

Of course it all depends on the host. If you find a podcast where the host is already reading at 250 wpm, you'll probably have a hard time catching everything at 2x speed.


Maybe they're catered to the lowest common denominator (the elder).

I've been thinking a bit more about it and I don't remember audio-speedreading being mentioned in the Learning How To Learn course (which I followed, and I hold both teachers in high regard). I think I am biased from the text-speedreading shenanigans.

> Of course it all depends on the host.

Point taken.

My theory is it also depends on the reader. As I grow older, I find it is more difficult to follow things. Sure, my vocabulary still slightly increases but I also think things through more, am more experienced, and eventually I'll end up with Alzheimer's. Hence my suggestion it is catered to the elder. Certainly not for HFAs. (I used to talk very quick as well as child. It was annoying as fuck to everyone, not in the least my parents.)


Reading is not listening though, i'd imagine there's differences in how our brain parses them. This is a very interesting, but exceedingly complex issue.


There's a lot of articles and studies about that, here's a decent one: https://www.thecut.com/2016/08/listening-to-a-book-instead-o...

I think reading and listening are not as different as they seem.


I agree.


A few years back I worked on a website that was very ADA compliant. Part of the development involved testing for different use cases, including users who have low vision. Some of the software for this audience reads through alt and body text at what sounds like 4x or 5x the speed. It was practically unintelligible to my untrained ears, but one colleague who uses screen readers every day had no problem with it.


I never used to do this when I was young, but now that I'm getting older a sense of haste has crept into my life. I speed listen to podcasts, YouTube (non-music videos) and educational videos (such as technology learning modules on Eggheadio, Udemy etc.). It took me some time to adapt to this style of learning, but now, I wouldn't do it any other way. It makes me feel like I'm packing more into my day and as you get older, this is a comforting thing.


I wonder if it's an age thing (seems counter to my intuition) or more of a zeitgeist, sign of the times type of thing. The world (especially the digital/knowledge world) is faster these days.


I believe the need for constant stimulation reflects today's world, while the desire to focus on productive subjects tends to come with maturity (not age).

Personally, I think we're over-indexing on knowledge acquisition while underemphasizing taking action.


I'm "young" and I love 2x on youtube and such, not to get "more" but it actually gives me more time to reflect on the content. If I can listen at a pace I'm comfortable, usually when the video ends I can spend that extra time or so thinking about the concepts presented, not just moving on. The fact that it helps both of us to achieve different ends is pretty interesting.


I'm steadily in the Overcast 1.7x+ camp. The audio processing is nothing short of phenomenal (if a drain on battery on my iPhone 6), and over time, I've adjusted to the point where the speed seems natural and I can spare enough CPU cycles to steer me through my commute.

Other commenters' points that it is also a sort of focus enhancer also ring true to me--I have arrived at the office with nearly 100% retention of what a specific recording was about, especially since I tend to listen to technical podcasts like TWIML[1] (which focuses on stuff I do at work), and I get nothing but value from being able to listen to two podcasts during my one-hour commutes.

Softer stuff like Merlin Mann, Gruber, etc. I will either navigate with the chapter guide or making liberal use of the skip buttons. I seldom (if ever) listen to any kind of podcast at normal speed, except for some language courses.

Even then, I tend to slow down only for languages like Mandarin or Hebrew (which I'm less acquainted with). Spanish, French, etc. (which I know from childhood) tend to be drawn out enough that I can even speed up a little :)

[1]: https://twimlai.com/


Not just podcasts, I also do this with YouTube when someone talks really slow or if it's an instructional video I just want to get the information out of.

Having hotkeys ">" and "<" also help control the speed when needed.


Yeah instructional videos are awesome on 1.25 (or 1.5 if the English is good). And you can still slow down and even pause if something is harder to understand. I wish this would've been possible already when I went to school. How many hours could've been saved...


I just have couple of bookmarklets:

javascript:document.getElementsByTagName(%22video%22)%5B0%5D.playbackRate=2.5

Interestingly some browser start to clip audio at certain speeds. Also, heavy accents become difficult to listen at higher speeds.

p.s. comma and dot (got me confused with ><) on youtube skips video frame by frame.


I find 1.5x to be OK, but 2x always ends up sounding too choppy and abrupt.

It is clear that the playback software shifts the pitch downward so it matches the 1x pitch, but there's still some "artifacts" that show up when you go beyond 1.5x.

Is there a precise word for this kind of distortion? besides "choppy"?

Also, I wonder how far you could get in time compression by merely removing spaces between words without actually compressing the words?


Overcast does it exactly that, it has both automatic silence-shortening and the most un-choppy 2x I’ve heard.


If you go into the settings screen of overcast and scroll to the bottom it’ll actually tell you how much time you have saved by just shortening silences. The number can be both awesome and a little terrifying. (161 hours for me)


I wonder how far you could get in time compression by merely removing spaces between words without actually compressing the words?

That is interesting, but a good speaker uses spacing to better convey their message. In order for it to work, it would have to somehow take into account rhythm. Perhaps just cutting longer spaces instead of spaces between words. Maybe even starting with the creator, or users tagging unnecessary bits such as coughing, or reaching for a drink.


It's also the case that often there aren't spaces between words. One of the surprising things when you first start doing audio analysis is that the pauses between words that you perceive aren't actually there in reality -- which makes them a lot more difficult to 'remove' algorithmically.


+1 -- this is part of why learning foreign languages can be so difficult. There aren't really pauses between words. Your brain has to learn to figure out word boundaries. Check out this waveform for the phrase "on our website": https://swphonetics.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/speecheonour...


I remember clearly the ~week I was finally able to "lex" syllables out of spoken Chinese. I went from feeling like I was trying to catch butterflies out of the air with my bare hands, to feeling like the whargarbl dog.


> a good speaker

And here's the thing I realised earlier - most interesting podcasts have usually two speakers, discussing something. Not much room for rehearsal and/or retakes I guess.


I believe it literally is choppy. Chipmunk voice happens when you compress the waveform, I believe the way they avoid that is NOT by compressing it and then somehow shifting the pitch, but instead by sampling less of the waveform. So I believe 2x is literally playing only half of the audio. I hope to be corrected if I am mistaken.


> Also, I wonder how far you could get in time compression by merely removing spaces between words without actually compressing the words?

Some audio time-stretching libraries do exactly that, reducing the amount of samples in silent periods compared to samples of non-silent audio.


Tangential to your point, but if you look at a waveform of normal speech, it's very hard to see individual words. It's really one continuous sound that our brain preprocesses into seperate, discrete words. If you've ever felt like people speaking languages you don't understand never stop for breath, you're getting a picture of what English would also sound like without preprocessing.


It depends a lot on the software. Try antennapod on android or windows media player on windows.

It's a really difficult problem and actually all the on-the-fly things don't do it really well (at some speed vocals blur in to consonants and consonants get clipped. good software that has no simple FIFO algo can do it much better (conserving consonants etc.).



As for your final point, it's an optional feature but the Pocket Casts app records exactly that, alongside the amount of time spent listening and the time spent listening to speed-adjusted podcasts.


> Also, I wonder how far you could get in time compression by merely removing spaces between words without actually compressing the words?

This is Overcast's USP.


I speed up only to 1.25X or not at all. I find there is a sweet spot between listening faster and actually taking in what is being said. I used to do 2x but found myself forgetting the contents rather than remembering like I normally would.


I used to listen to x1.2-1.4, I don't do this anymore. I just mark them all read and listen to what I really am interested in. I do have more then... well around 80+...

Anyhow, I wanted to share an anecdote, I am listening to 'Note to Self' and host is sharing her feelings and concerns and fears... And I am thinking, this lady is so nervous and jumpy and her friends too. So next time when I was opening an app, I am thinking, do I really want to listen to this nervous lady telling me about how to handle social media... then it dawns me that she just sounds nervous because I've been listening on 1.4x and everyone will sound nervous if they talk about their feeling on speed.

So there...


> Take 34-year-old Jason Strickland, who works for a land surveyor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He listens to around eight hours of podcasts at work every day, and listened at normal speed until he came upon the Movies by Minutes series of podcasts, which analyzes iconic movies minute by minute. (In other words, every episode is devoted to one minute of a movie.) When he found it, the hosts had already completed the original Star Wars trilogy, which was 378 episodes, plus a few special episodes, so he started downloading 50 episodes at a time and listening at 2x speed. "It took about a month per movie to get caught up," he said, explaining that he would listen to whatever podcasts were on his current listening list in the morning, and then power through the Movies by Minutes episodes in the afternoons. "Once I was current, I would then go find another show to download and get caught up, repeating this for all the shows."

Unless I'm doing something mostly physical or mindless I can't listen to a podcast and work at all.


2x speed often gives you better than 50% content retention. speed consumers are doing their own version of manual audio search, by unconsciously skipping over non-information and slowing down or repeating perceived relevant noise (or just toggling on/off focused attention).

a more aggressive version of this is actually skipping 15-20 minute chunks of audio at a time and trying to pick up contextual clues about the preceding chunks to verify if they are worth listening. the greedy approach often pays off here if you are just looking for one or two specific portions in a giant pile of noise. you might end up doing 10 skips and listening to 8-15 minutes of 90 minutes of content.

information addiction leads to a sensation of impending doom. the knowledge you would like to access and understand is spreading like a dark cloud and your global-time is counting down.

my solution was to read the ~15 core books and retain their surface sensation. the rest is now processing and categorizing "new" information, pattern matching categories and bias detection to remove false positives.


I'm an Overcast user who cranks it up to 3x+ speeds, minimizing silences and voice boosts. The experience is enhanced when you have earbuds (or some type of noise-cancelling). I also find that when I do it during an athletic activity like biking, I somehow can listen to more things probably because I'm doing something rote.

The real key to all this though is when someone finally creates this for online articles or books - sure, I could download a version, format change in calibre and then have it read to me via Voice Dream, but I need a better voice than the technical voices nowadays. I would definitely pay for this.

Lastly, this also occurs in other media for me - pretty much any movie before 1990 can be watched at 1.5X on VLC. Similarly, every YouTube clip is set to 2X usually as well. It may sound exhausting, but you just get used to it after a while.


Related: I speed-watch all non-music videos at least at 1.25x or 1.5x, sometimes 2x.

I wonder how many people select tech videos based on length? Surely YouTube / Vimeo etc. has studied this? I wish there was a search option that let me filter content based on length.


Youtube sort of has a filter available - Short (under 4 mins) or Long (Over 20 mins)


It's a product of the inherently cut-price / amateur nature of the medium.

Give me a well scripted well produced drama, comedy stand-up routine or documentary and I want to listen to it at 1x.

Everything else is information sparse ad-libbing off of semi-improvised material re-hashed from books and articles then strung together with conversational back scratching. Or the one dimensional drone of someone reading from a book/script.

Is slow-core a thing yet? Audially ram-packed soundscapes lovingly crafted over months of careful layering of complementary edits that rewards the patient and attentive listener with hours of meat-speed re-listening. Sounds a bit hipster tho.


I agree. The podcasts I enjoy the most are produced by radios (CBC, NPR, BBC) because there's not much fluff, inside jokes and rambling from the hosts. The audio is good, the content is good and well presented by the hosts. Sometimes there's sound effects or music, but it's not a problem.

But stuff from Twit.tv is simply unbearable to me.


I watch/listen at 1.25x-1.5x for some Vlogs and Youtube videos because the pacing is just too slow. A lot of Youtubers and Podcasters just drone on and on, or speak at a very slow pace, that I just lose interest. When pacing is done right, its actually fun to watch/listen to, and there is always something interesting, and I find it enjoyable to watch at 1x. The scene/topic/point/illustrations switch quickly to the next one, and the story moves forward without wasting precious time. One example of good pacing is Casey Neistat's vlog. Unfortunately, most Youtubers just don't.


Veteran podcast hosts speak relatively slowly, so that it allows for the widest range of listening speed comfort levels amongst their listeners. People can then use their podcast player to customize how fast they like to listen. This is an easy way to tell apart the experienced and inexperienced podcasts.


One thing you notice after speed-listening is how slow humans speak in real life


The ironic thing (for me) is that I actually tend to speak too fast in real life. People are always asking me to slow down or repeat myself. I have to force myself to talk slowly.

Yet, I cannot listen to podcasts on anything more than 1x speed. Must be a processing issue somewhere in my brain that causes this disconnect...


I'm fairly convinced that audio books are deliberately read slower than normal speech to cater for the widest possible audience. I don't think people new to audio books are put off by it being slower than necessary, but if you found it too fast to follow you would give up fairly quickly. So by recording at a slow speed that caters for something like 90% of listeners you retain the maximum number of listeners.

This is basically a long winded way of saying that I think audio book makers expect the average person to bump the speed up a little.

[I listen to audio books on Audible at around 2x speed.]


I could see doing that for academic material, but when I listen to fantasy/scifi (which I do most of the time), I enjoy the voice acting too much to speed it up. In some cases it makes the books a lot better than they were written.


Can you give examples of audiobooks that have great voice acting?


Sure: https://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/The-Blade-Itself-A...

The voice actor, Steven Pacey, is so amazing I've considered listening to other books he's narrated solely due to his performance. I haven't quite gone that far yet, though :) However, I do recommend this book/series -- if you like fantasy.


Victor Bevine is like enjoying a drink near a camp fire. This guy could read a book about the worst moments in my life and I'd still enjoy it.


I listen to tons of podcasts at faster speeds, but rarely beyond 2x. It really does feel like people are talking so slowly sometimes. I often do it so I don't get bored, wander off in my mind, and miss a huge part of the podcast. I still wander off, but it's far less and it helps getting through the backlog.

I make sure to keep the list to a minimum though. Sounds like these guys are listening to way too much.


I listen to podcasts and audiobooks at 1.5x. When I hear them now at regular speed, the hosts voices sound strange to me. Even more strange is when I listen to my friends' podcasts at 1.5x when I know their voice in normal speed. I would like to try 1.75x, but none of the common podcast or audiobook apps have that fine grained adjustment. 2x is too fast for me.


I've found PocketCasts (on Android, not sure of iOS) to be my favorite app. It allows 0.1x resolution. It won't get you 1.75, but 1.7 or 1.8 will be nearly identical.


I listen to books and articles via text to speech application for over 3 years. Currently i am able to listen comfortably at 3.6x speed. I don't know how to test comprehension through. My friend says i might be able to think faster than other people, because of superhuman listening powers i now posess. Don't know how to test that either.


I have made a browser extension that helps me put every webpage I read through TTS. I also get current word highlight on text and automatic page scroll. It helps me focus twice as good, I can't even stand reading without TTS support any more.

Unfortunately I can only stand one voice - "Alex" from OSX, at about 1.3x ... 1.5x speed. Other voices I find irritating. I'm following the new WaveNet TTS voices with great expectations, but they don't seem to come near my laptop.

WaveNet: https://deepmind.com/blog/wavenet-generative-model-raw-audio...


Mind sharing what application you‘re using?

Is there something open source that works great?


I use voice aloud reader for android. It is has awful ux but allows up to 4x speed.


Isn't it a bit strange that what some these people are listening to is not particularly educational, but is rather entertainment? Speed listening a show which deconstructs movies frame by frame, that's kind of silly. For what reason? Definitely not for the entertainment value. (Or not completely.) FOMO, perhaps. A need to be able to keep up with the conversation at work and with friends, possibly. I'm just curious what's going on in the backs of these peoples minds, because it seems incredibly irrational. I'll admit that even I have had periods in my life when I have done this. Some flavour of addiction and a habit of getting things in a very short time-span is definitely part of it. But I'm not even sure I am fully aware of all the pieces of the psychological puzzle which would explain it.


Speed listening seems like a win win but it's not if you are trying to learn. One of the rules of learning is that you must pay attention to what you are learning something that's hard to do with speed listening. If you just want to be entertained then I can see its benefits.


Perhaps think of listening as a direct equivalent to reading.

People who focus enough will read a book at the right speed their brain can best process the information. But that speed is not the same for everyone, some people will go through a book twice as fast as others while extracting the same amont of learnings, and we won’t tell them they read at the wrong speed.

If it’s true for books, why would it be different for audio contents ?

There’s really no special rule that makes 1x playback a golden speed, especialy considering some podcaster speak faster in person than when they record for instance. Or the otherway round, podcats like ATP have the silences auto-trimmed to some extent making it denser than when they record.

To each their speed.


I get this works for people on certain types of podcasts, but surely with well-produced podcasts (e.g. Heavyweight, Love & Radio, Reply All, S-Town...) the pauses and pacing is a meaningful artistic choice, one that a 2x speed just rushes through like an impatient child.


Is it only me or does anyone also feel like focusing on podcast "speed-listening" is waay easier than reading an article ?

no distractions, no ads, no external links == no million tabs open, ->> you cannot easily scroll and tldr stuff <<-


use pocket (and on android: ivona tts :) )


I don't do podcasts, but sometimes I'll do video tutorials, and the best sites (Microsoft University, Lynda.com, etc) have both transcripts and the option to listen at double speed. I always take advantage of both options. Hearing and reading the material simultaneously helps it stick in my mind better, and listening at double speed effectively cuts in half the time it takes to complete the course, which makes me feel SO much better about spending another couple hours in front of the computer at night, instead of going outside to play.


Discovering the YouTube speed options setting rocked my world. I found it difficult to watch many videos - especially instructional - because the speakers were just such slow talkers. I come from the Eastern Canadian province of Newfoundland where many speak our own unique fast and abbreviated English dialect - especially in tiny rural areas like where I live. Listening to "mainland" North Americans speaking English is painfully slow. Now I can set them to 1.25-1.5X and be close to the speed that I'm used to in conversation.


I find that audio quality plays a huge role in playback speed tolerance.

I can enjoyably listen at 2x for some people, but others I cannot go beyond 1.5x and I've been listening to audio at 1.5x or 2x for a long time.

It's much less about their pace too. It's overall line quality and how clear they enunciate words.

For my own recordings I try hard to make them feel good at 2x (even tho I naturally speak fast and manually edit out pauses). About 10% of the people who take my developer courses listen at 1.5x or 2x and have enjoyed the clear audio experience.


Absolutely agree. A few podcasts I listen to that I would consider very high production quality I can easily do 2x and some of the more casual content ones I have pushed to 3x. However, some of the fringe, sounding like they are recorded on a phone become difficult to understand even at 1.5x.


I speed-listen to lectures, usually 2x. It not only allows me to eat more information within a limited time frame but also keeps me much more focused than listening to them at a normal speed.


There's a blind guy in my office building and I sometimes hear his iPhone doing voiceover in the hallway. If I didn't know better I'd have a hard time believing there are even words in it.


I find that if I listen to podcasts at faster speeds I can get them but it requires I pay more attention to them. However, I am usually listening to a podcast and doing something else at the same time (like posting on hackernews). I find that the moderate pace of podcasts means I can drift my attention back and forth between the visual stimuli and auditory stimuli more easily.

(maybe I could learn to do it with podcasts playing more quickly but I don't think I listen to enough podcasts to do that)


I have to speed-listen, not to drift off when things are too slow. Podcasts, unlike good movies, often lack details to focus on when the plot is slow.

Any good android and windows player recommendations? I can recommend:

windows: windows media player (surprisingly good, once you found the playback speed menu)

android: antennapod (sadly you can only cycle through speeds one way, which is really annoying). But it has the benefit of supporting chapters, subscriptions, auto-downloading and removing files etc.


I subscribe to a few dozen podcasts with AntennaPod... didn't even consider speeding up playback. Going to try 1.1x this week. I do like retaining information and I usually like to think about what my podcasters are talking about (Like Stuff You Should Know / Radiolab) so I can't see myself speeding it up that much.

I just never even realized this was a thing, and that that 1.0X next to the playback buttons actually did something...


I’ve tried this before and have mixed feelings about it.

1. Speed-listening certainly increases the number of words I hear, but does it actually increase the amount of ideas I absorb?

2. To what degree does speed-listening impact my ability to engage fully in normal-speed human conversations?

(Also, do some podcast producers speed up their recordings and edit out silences before publishing? For example, I suspect a16z does this with their podcasts.)


I certainly edit out those silences from my podcast.

Often when I'm listening back, those pauses are just too long, especially when you're the only one talking.

In regards to speed-listening, I just don't think it's a good idea. If you're rushing through anything (or at least feeling rushed), more often than not, you're not truly enjoying it.


If you haven't tried it yet, have a go at playing back videos you watch at 1.1x. Over the space of a 50 minute TV show or more, saving 10% of your time is pretty useful.

I don't think I've run into anything where I have been distracted by 1.1x, besides theme songs to shows I am familiar with which obviously don't sound like what you expect. It's basically unnoticeable.


I speed listened to the Stanford iOS course. Some lecturers just talk too slowly, pause too often or speak with low information density.


On the rare occasion that I can just sit and listen I'll use anywhere from 1.7x-2.2x. More commonly when I'm driving I rarely got above 1.2x. I just can't retain anything if I go faster while driving.

I hadn't heard of the silence skipping feature but just checked and my player of choice (Podcast Addict) has it. Just turned it on so I'll see how that goes.


1.3x on a new podcast is about my limit. But the more I listen to a specific podcast and the more I get used to the hosts voices the faster I can speed it up. E.g. I've listened to ATP for a couple years now and I'm up to 2.3-2.5x now. I can barely hit 3x and still comprehend, but I really have to strain to understand, which is a bad idea since I mostly listen while driving.

When I first started listening to podcasts in general and played around with the multiplier even 2x sounded like completely incomprehensible gibberish to me. The strangeness of super speed becomes apparent again when it starts autoplaying when someone else can hear. Their confused look is kinda funny though haha.


How badly is your driving skill effected when you listen to a podcast? I won't listen to audio books in the car because it takes concentration away from what I should be doing (safely operating a mechanical killing machine at 70mph)


I can't speak for camiller, but I'd say it improves my driving. It engages a totally different part of the brain, and listening to spoken audio stops my mind from wandering and daydreaming by chatting to itself. For similar reasons, I listen to audio books while going to sleep (obviously, the physical and visual stimuli while driving ensure I don't fall asleep then ;-)).


I've listened to audio books in my car for years now, and the worst thing that happens is that I'll fail to listen to the audio for a while if anything important happens while driving.

It has never, ever happened the other way.


Pretty much what petercooper and wccrawford said. There are times when I have to roll back 30 seconds, but I've never caused an accident or failed to react to some other drivers poor skills. That said, everyone is different, do what works for you, even if that is abstaining!


This is very surprising, as I often end up constantly rewinding and re-listening. Most of the time my mind wanders off to contemplate the repercussions of what I am listening to and sometimes I just want to take time to process. Is this normal or am I too slow? Are people binge listening to really lightweight podcasts or is it something else!


I recently changed my Pocket Casts settings to trim silence and play at 1.8x for most of my subscriptions. The only exceptions are shows that do a lot of audio production like Reply All, RadioLab and The Adventure Zone. I've even found myself adjusting to the faster speed on comedic podcasts, which has been the most surprising to me.


This sounds great! I have 680 GB of podcasts recorded at 128 kbps which equates to 1.35 years of constant listening. I could definitely listen at a higher speed while doing housework, gardening or washing the dishes. I'd be concerned about doing it while driving, though, as that requires (for me, at least) a lot of concentration.


It depends on the podcast.. something like twit, Joe Rogan, motley fool, stuff you should know, Jocko podcast I listen to at 2x since some of those are 2-3 hours and I don't lose anything at that speed(At least I believe I don't). Hardcore history I do at 1x... everything else is at 1.5


Some podcasts provide transcripts, I find them much faster to read then to listen to. Also being selective at what podcasts and episodes you listen to helps. Speed reading selective long reads (previously saved with DevonThink or Pocket) or speed listening to them in the dark is what I do.


One odd thing I found while listening to conversational comedy podcasts at 1.5x was that I found them to be funnier. I believe it's because if the pause before someone says something very clever is short it makes it even more impressive (and funny) that they thought of it.


For audiobooks I tend to start the book off at 1x for the first few hours because it's hard to follow while they are establishing characters and environment when you speed it up. Once I have a feel for those I gradually speed up to 1.4-1.7x (depending on the narrator).


Is there a way on Android/iPhone to both listen to a podcast and music at the same time? Unfortunately, earphone time is limited for me, and too often I choose one over the other at the expense of my learning, no prizes for guessing which...


I usually listen to audibooks at 2x speeds and lectures on at least 1.5x speed. It was hard to get used to first, but after a couple of months of practice, I think, I have good comprehension at these speeds. I wasn't able to increase speed though.


I love 2x playback for videos - I like to catch up on various work internal meeting recordsings etc at double-speed. I wish netflix would add 2x to its shows!

It takes a bit of effort but isn't so hard to get used to. Love it.


The Video Speed Controller Chrome extension (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/video-speed-contro...) allows you to speed up Netflix or any video that uses HTML 5 for playback.


This ^ is worth its weight in gold. The ability to adjust speed in increments of 0.1 is really good. You can watch a lecture at 1.7x 1.8x or if the speaker is slow, then up to 2.3x and more...

On the topic of 2.3x video watching, I've observed that "question periods" after lectures are very difficult to watch at 2x speed. It seems the pace of "lecture speech" is deliberately slower for most prepared speeches, but when it comes to live question-answer periods rates jumps up. Has anyone else noticed this?


I find 2x great for getting more information from non fiction lectures and the like but terrible for movies/novels. You lose a lot of the emotion and it just sounds odd and "chipmunk" like.


I often listen to everything informational (not infotainment) on 1.5 - 2 thw first time. It's harder to scan audio than writing and I don't have all day to find useful stuff.

Sadly many things are video/audio nowadays


Speed aside, I can't imagine listening to any attention-demanding podcast for more than 3 hours. Apart from straight up brain strain it wouldn't result in a lot of knowledge retention.


I remember the first time I heard the intro music to the fivethirtyeight politics podcast at 1x speed. Had a completely different feel from what I had grown accustomed to.



I listen to Udemy courses and YouTube videos at 1.5x to 2x speed, depending on the speed of the talking. You can improve the listening comprehension with practice.


Podcasts aren't just about content. That's part of why they're so great. Speed through an audio book but not a podcast!


I started doing this with youtube science channels, especially after PBS Spacetime changed to that new guy.


I listen to podcasts at 1.70x currently with Annetta, and talk TV shows at 1.3x with xbmc or mxplayer


I watch deep learning course videos at 2-3x depending on the speaker's cadence.


> He listens to around eight hours of podcasts at work every day, and listened at normal speed until he came upon the Movies by Minutes series of podcasts, which analyzes iconic movies minute by minute.

Interesting job that provides enough down time to listen to podcasts at faster than normal speed 8 hours a day.


First thing that comes to mind for me is desk clerk at a u-store-it facility. Lot of those places try to hire students because the student can study most of the time and deal with the occasional customer. You could conceivably have whole days without having to interact with a customer.

I'm sure there are other jobs that are like that.


His job is mentioned in the sentence before this:

> Take 34-year-old Jason Strickland, who works for a land surveyor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He listens to around eight hours of podcasts at work every day ...


Or a profoundly uninteresting job.


Or a job with very high requirements on response time, but very low probability of problems, such as security guard, emergency server technician, night shift at a pharmacy or hotel front desk.


Truck driver?


It seems to me that this is really a matter of condensing low density fluff. I've read 1/2 page papers on computer science that took me days to get through. The problem wasn't my reading speed.


Subject 'density' isn't something that can be just ramped up and down at will. Not everything can be conveyed at the same level of 'density' as those 1/2 page computer science papers you are referencing.

You can think of it like compression in computer science; not every file is equally compressable.


Slow down guys...learn to enjoy life at normal speed, seriously, you don't need to act like you're in the rat race 24/7.


In most podcasts the value is in the information, not the timing. 2x speed is more enjoyable (or maybe a relaxing 1.5x speed if you don't feel like concentrating) because there's less boring waiting involved.


Personally, I find that if I let my mind wander a little bit while listening to programming podcasts, it makes connections to my work all by itself. I worry that if I sped up, I'd miss those. Also, since my listening time is also when I'm doing household chores, I need to be able to relax my attention on the podcast without losing the thread.


Depends on the podcast honestly. If it's a comedy podcast, listening at 2x defeats the point.

Even if it's a purely educational podcast or audiobook, any form of pacing or diction is lost at 2x, which, ironically, makes the story boring as well imo.


My two favorite podcasts are Sawbones and Welcome to Night Vale. I don't, like, personally care if people listen to them at high speed. It doesn't bug me and I don't judge them for it. My personal experience (descriptive, not prescriptive) follows:

Sawbones is an edu-comedy podcast about medical history, and I tried listening to it faster and just didn't enjoy it as much. I really enjoy the comedic timing and interplay between the hosts, and it's already information rich enough that I feel fine listening to it at normal speed is fine.

One of the things I really like about WtNV is the almost menacing, deliberate pacing of the narrator. His speech is so perfectly even, regardless of the content, that it's almost hypnotic. I tried that at 1.25x and it felt off, but again it's a personal preference thing.


Podcasters try to target the length of their episodes to between 30-45mins, never longer than 60. You sometimes get a lot of filler or slower speaking so they can hit the length target. Some podcasters just take an annoying amount of time to ask/answer a question or make a point.

It's not about enjoying life at normal speed, it's about cutting down on the BS.


Well one feature of podcasting is that you don't have a length limitation. Seems like a forced thing to do. That's why I enjoy german podcasts. Often very long 2-5 hours, depending on the format. Speed-listening of course, usually 1.70x to 2x.


> Podcasters try to target the length of their episodes to between 30-45mins, never longer than 60.

That's quite a generalization! I have a number of 90 minute podcasts in my feed right now.


What a coincidence it would be if people's optimal speaking speed, both reading out loud and conversational, was equal to their optimal audio comprehension speed. There could be some evolutionary justification for this to be true, but it would still be remarkable.

I would love to find data on listening comprehension based on audio speed and activity, whether it be lying down, driving, doing chores, walking, or exercising. My intuition is that there are many people that best comprehend the material at around 1.5x-2.0x and comprehension drops precipitously at both ends. My guess is that, as with many mainstream broadcast choices, the canonical broadcaster voice is purposefully slow to cater the widest possible audience, including ESL listeners.


Actually, if you've ever heard a talk by one of HN's more prolific OP's, danluu, it sounds like the guy is talking (in his normal non-speed-up speech) at almost 2x (listen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80LKF2qph6I). I wonder what speed he uses for his podcast listening?


Caught the high functioning autist wink

There's so many examples. Bryan Cantrill also speaks quickly.


Most podcasts tend to take too long anyway. Like lets say ATP for example, great show, but listening at normal speed instead of 2x with silence removal on overcast is honestly the most effective way I know of to get through all my podcasts and books and other things during the week.


we are not all doing it for efficiency




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