I used to listen to an unreasonable number of podcasts — usually while commuting from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back each day, a process that involved a lot of walking and a lot of waiting for trains. But the pandemic changed all that. I’ve been working from home since March, and my daily commute is currently only as long as it takes for Slack to load. Yet I am still subscribed to 44 podcasts, and I have 29 episodes in my queue. When am I supposed to find time to listen to all of them?
There’s a new tool that can answer that for me, and if you are similarly preoccupied with podcasts (and there’s a good chance you are), it will help you cram more of them into your head holes too. The Podcast Calculator is hosted by Omni Calculator, a site designed to help people make sense of the world using one of more than a thousand bespoke calculation tools. This one — developed by physicist Steven Wooding, mathematics PhD candidate Maciej Kowalski and Omni’s Farhan Khan — is designed to help you “kill your dead time” by identifying and quantifying the times of the day when you aren’t doing anything too mentally taxing and thus could potentially be listening to a podcast at the same time.
Steven Wooding seems like the ideal guy to ask about how to listen to more podcasts. In an email, he told us he’s been a fan of the medium for over a decade and has listened to them for a cumulative total of around 259 days, according to his own estimate. (His first podcast ever was This Week in Tech, and his all-time favourite is The Infinite Monkey Cage from the BBC.) Wooding listens to podcasts while “walking, driving, doing the washing up [and] mowing the lawn,” he said. “I even sometimes listen to podcasts that are designed to send you to sleep.”
If, while scrolling through Netflix’s latest offerings during another in a countless series of evenings in, you felt like you’d already watched every worthwhile film in existence, well, you’d be wrong, but you’d also kinda be right. I can safely say that you will never truly run out of good...Read more
“Recently my teammates built an Audiobooks Calculator [that works along] similar lines,” Wooding said. “I instantly thought it would be so much cooler if we replaced books with podcasts about anything under the sun. Audiobooks are of course a longer audio format, [and finding time to listen to] something shorter and more educational and inspirational might just be something people need [in 2020].”
And that’s where The Podcast Calculator can help. If you’ve got a big backlog of episodes to listen to, it will help you work through them by identifying not only those times of day when you might be able to listen, but also help you assess how mentally engaged you are during your periods of “dead time.” You can then figure out how long it will take you to consume an episode (or batch of episodes) and choose the best one for a given activity.
Using a fairly simple set of menus and fields, you’ll note your average time spent travelling or doing chores, log the average length of an episode of the show(s) you listen to, and note how much you need to concentrate while you listen — meaning, essentially, how often you might need to skip back to cover something you missed. The calculator will then tell you how much dead time you could be filling with podcasts, and how many episodes you’ll be able to listen to in an average week, month or year.
For years I’ve been meaning to work through my substantial backlog of episodes of Hello From the Magic Tavern, a supremely silly Dungeons & Dragons-themed improv comedy podcast. I have roughly 160 episodes to get through, and episodes tend to run 50 minutes to an hour. If I assume I have one hour of “dead time” a day during which I am doing chores and I assume I can mostly concentrate on my listening while doing them, The Podcast Calculator tells me I can finish my binge listen in 7-1/2 months.
Because I am truly evil (or so people like to tell me on the internet), I often listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed or faster, and, of course, new episodes will also continue to be released every week, but the calculator doesn’t include those additional variables. Still, if you want more podcasts in your life, now you can easily figure out how many will fit.