Inside TMO’s Background Mode Podcast – A Story

The Mac Observer’s Background Mode Podcast was born at our summer camp retreat in June of 2015 at Breckenridge, CO. Dave Hamilton (MGG), Bryan Chaffin (ACM) and Jeff Gamet (TDO) all had ongoing, successful podcasts, and it was proposed that I join in the fun. (And profits.)

TMO's summer camp, Breckenridge, CO, 2015
TMO’s summer camp, Breckenridge, CO, 2015

I was initially reluctant, not sure that I had the talent required.

Perhaps it was my ongoing fun on TDO with Jeff Gamet. Perhaps it was TDO’s glorious Wednesdays with Kelly Guimont that inspired me. Perhaps the team’s perception that I had the storyteller instinct combined with a good technical background. Most certainly, there was faith in my talent that I did not previously recognize.


Dave Hamilton, who has been the mind behind the technology we use, convinced me that there are stories to tell in the Apple community and that I should host that story telling process. After I agreed to do the show, I proposed some geeky names for the show, but Dave’s better notion was a brilliant computer pun: Background Mode (BGM).

John M. podcasting
John M. podcasting

Jeff Gamet would become my mentor. The production process of one of our podcasts is not hard, but it is a detailed, exacting process. Fom the time I start editing the .flac audio file created by the stellar Audio Hijack app on my Mac Pro until the podcast goes live on TMO is about 90 minutes. I could take shortcuts, but much historical and admin data would be lost. In any case, the process is enjoyable to me.

After putting the apps in place and selecting the right microphone (RODE Podcaster), I started the podcasts in October, 2015 with people I knew well and was comfortable with. Jeff Gamet, Alykhan Jetha, John Chaffee, John Uppendahl, Naomi Pearce, Andrew Stone and, of course, the amazing Kelly Guimont.

I was off and running.


By and by, it became clear that the process of identifying and scheduling guests would be a major challenge. Both in time spent, judgment about who I wanted on the show and who the listeners would appreciate. That process entails getting to know quite a bit about the prospective guest. Preparation is crucial.

Some guests, who would be cool to have, might have a very small internet profile, and I must do some research. (Along with an oh-so polite prying request for a bio.) Other’s like university professors, have extensive bio pages and a detailed C.V.

One of the joys of the Background Mode podcast is reaching out to people I’ve long admired and be taken aback by their gracious acceptance to appear as a guest.

One of the unexpected things about this podcast is where it has taken me. What started as ostensibly Apple-centric has evolved into a much wider swath through the technical and business landscape: astrophysicists, business people, musicians, and journalists.  I didn’t see that coming.

Every guest has been charming and has had a great story to tell. I am reluctant to name favorites, but sometimes I’m just in awe that famous, talented people have taken the time to be on the podcast with me. It’s truly a joy, breathtaking, to meet all these heros of our technical lives. A partial list of previous guests can be found in this introductory article. “An Update on TMO’s Background Mode Podcast.” This body of work, the people who have joned me, have made Background Mode what it is.

I owe a debt to the TMO team for their confidence and mentoring. I also owe giant thanks to the amazing CEOs, executives, developers, artists, podcasters, authors, journalists and scientists and researchers who have joined me in the last 224 shows.

I’m looking forward to many more, and I hope you’ll continue to join me on this amazing adventure.

2 thoughts on “Inside TMO’s Background Mode Podcast – A Story

  • John:

    Congratulations on a very successful podcast, and kudos to those at TMO who encouraged you to ‘make it so’.

    This has become one of my favourite weekly podcasts, both for the variety of the guests and the range of topics featured, but also because of the relaxed and friendly manner of your interviews, which are natural and unforced.

    Looking forward to more.

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