The Rapidian

Deep Fried Bytes rounding out second year of podcasts

Woodruff (in green) and Elder (in navy) snagging interviews at Microsoft's 2009 Professional Developers Conference.

Woodruff (in green) and Elder (in navy) snagging interviews at Microsoft's 2009 Professional Developers Conference. /betsyweber on Flickr

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Growing up around Grand Rapids, Chris Woodruff would head to a local Mexican restaurant whenever he had a hankering for his deep-fried food of choice: ice cream.

Now a technology consultant with RCM Technologies, Woodruff collaborates with Mississippi-based Keith Elder on "Deep Fried Bytes," a semi-biweekly podcast on software development, gadgetry and general geek fare. Their missive: To cover anything that takes batteries or plugs into a wall.

"I had started my own podcast called Cloudsocket. Keith was doing a podcast internally at Quicken Loans [his employer] that he wanted to take externally," Woodruff said. "He came to me and said let's do something together."

Elder and Woodruff use Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, Zune Marketplace, and word of mouth to push their podcast. They have over 2,000 subscribers. Most are from the U.S. with clusters in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, but they also have followings in East Asia and the U.K.

"It just blows my mind that I live here in Grand Rapids and people all around the world [listen in]," Woodruff said. "We have a lot of people that listen to us from countries where English isn't even a very popular language."

Elder and Woodruff produce Deep Fried Bytes on top of maintaining full-time jobs and families. In the two years since Woodruff and Elder began collaborating, they have turned out 42 shows and interviewed 54 guests. As consultants whom Microsoft has deemed "Most Valuable Professionals" (MVP), the podcast tends to gravitate toward Microsoft products and issues. Past guests have included the head information architect for Digg and representatives from Microsoft divisions such as Silverlight.

Announcer Elly May opens the show with suggested fried food pairings. She introduces the guests before Elder and Woodruff's interview segment. Music peppers the podcast, and the interviewers bookend the show by asking guests to name their favorite fried food. Each episode lasts between 45-60 minutes.

"We always tell people to imagine we're sitting on the back patio and having a beer or iced tea and we're just sitting around chitchatting," Woody said. "Most of the time, we already know the people, we know they have a great story, we just want to bring that story out."

Elder telecommutes from Mississippi, so the pair cobbles together segments over the Internet, from scheduling to post-production. Each episode takes 10-12 hours to assemble.

"It's surprising. Episodes we think are going to do well are average and then episodes we just put out there and go, 'oh this will be okay,' do really well," Woodruff said.

Since their first podcast in May 2008, Elder and Woodruff have figured out how to improve audio quality, streamline the production process and now get pitched podcast themes. They have learned that keeping a consistent schedule results in more listeners and are aiming high: 10,000 subscribers by 2011.

"The funniest thing is you go someplace and you start talking and someone looks at you kind of strange, and they go, 'I know your voice,'" Woodruff said. "You've never met them but they know your voice, and you go 'Oh. I'm from Deep Fried Bytes.' It's just funny; it's very humbling to have that experience."

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It's always sweet to see a local effort have such a wide-reaching audience.