Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Caroline Crampton

Caroline Crampton

Writer, podcaster

Posted in mac, podcaster, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Caroline Crampton. I'm a writer and podcaster. I work on a whole variety of stuff: I write the daily podcast recommendation newsletter The Listener; my first book, The Way to the Sea, was published by Granta in 2019; I'm a weekly contributor to the Hot Pod newsletter about the podcast industry; and I make the Shedunnit podcast about classic murder mysteries.

I've been freelance and working full time from my home in north west England since 2017. Before that I was a magazine editor and staff writer in London. Until December 2018, I co-hosted the SRSLY podcast and alongside that ran occasional pop culture trivia nights.

What hardware do you use?

Everything happens on my 13" MacBook Pro, which I bought in 2014 in a big rush right before my younger sister graduated from university and lost her educational discount at the Apple store. It's tiny and starting to slow down now, but I've done an awful lot with it and I'm wary of updating to something new because I'm scared no other computer will ever suit me as well.

One downside of still using a computer that is now six years old is the lack of hard drive space, especially if you work with a lot of big audio files like I do. External hard drives are very important to me, therefore, and I use Samsung SSD ones because I've found they're the most stable and least likely to bork when I accidentally bump them.

The last thing I did before staying in my house full time because of coronavirus was attend a physical therapy appointment I'd made because of some awful shoulder pain I'd been experiencing. The therapist was able to tell I was a writer immediately and without asking just by observing my terrible posture, and told me I needed to flip my laptop up by 45 degrees to stop myself hunching over it while writing. I therefore bought a Moft computer stand and it has, no exaggeration, changed everything - I'm already hunching way less and the pain is basically gone.

During winter, the days are pretty short where I live and it gets dark before 4pm for what feels like many months. I have a Lumie SAD light that puts out a very bright light that is supposed to help fight off seasonal depression if you use it for 30 minutes a day. I don't really know if this works or if it's an elaborate placebo, but I used it regularly this last winter and I felt like it helped.

I do a very stripped down version of bullet journalling in an attempt to keep myself organised. It's essentially a constantly evolving daily to do list with break out pages with more detail for bigger projects. I write all of this in a soft cover Moleskine dotted journal - right now I have a green one but I have in the past enjoyed using the black, turquoise and red versions. I write with a Lamy Safari fountain pen, the red one with the fine nib. I love fountain pens and own several, but that's the one I use every day without fail. Of course, it smudges, so I also always have a lot of blotting paper to hand. I'm brand agnostic on that.

I have really strong feelings about headphones and believe that there is a specific pair that is right for each task I do. For editing audio, I use these over ear Superlux 669 ones. I hate wearing them because they squeeze my head really hard, but they give the barest and truest representation of what I'm mixing that I've been able to find for a reasonable price. For field recording, I use these cheap foldable Sony ones, which pack up really small and are very light.

For listening to podcasts around the house or when travelling, I have the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones. Given that I have to listen to dozens of episodes a week to write The Listener, I felt like comfort and quality was worth investing in here. And then for running and dog walking I have these Soundpeats wireless earbuds, which connect easily every time and are cheap enough that I don't get upset if I lose one. I also have some very old wired iPod headphones and cheap KitSound Bluetooth over ear ones for checking what an edit sounds like on lower quality gear.

At home I record with a Shure SM7B microphone into a Zoom H6 recorder via a standard XLR cable. I don't know anything about cables and couldn't tell you what brand mine are. Out and about, I use a Beyerdynamic M58 microphone to record, which sadly isn't being made any more so I have a perpetual eBay alert on this model and sometimes buy beaten up old ones because I'm paranoid my good one will break one day and I'll need multiple backups.

And what software?

I write in iA Writer or Google Docs and use Scrivener for organising big projects, like books or scripts. The Listener newsletter runs on Ghost, so I use that CMS every day, and my personal newsletter is on that platform too. I also use Freedom to stop myself watching YouTube when I should be working. It mostly works.

I edit audio in Adobe Audition. I don't really know why - I'm sure there are better DAWs out there - but I'm used to it now and can't be bothered to start from scratch in a new programme. I use the Izotype RX plugins for audio restoration. This little app called Forecast (from the same team as the podcast app Overcast) is great for adding metadata to mp3s quickly after exporting a final cut of a podcast episode.

For recording remotely, which I'm doing a lot of right now, I use a combination of Cleanfeed, the Ecamm Skype recorder and Audio Hijack. Nothing ever works perfectly 100 per cent of the time.

Even though Hot Pod only has a core team of two, we use Slack to stay in touch and it's really helpful to have a completely searchable record of all our discussions.

I trade off between Google Drive, Dropbox and WeTransfer for keeping files in the cloud, depending on who I'm working with and how much space we need.

I split my podcast listening between two apps: AntennaPod for work and Pocket Casts for fun. I use Listen Notes to add episodes I want to try out for The Listener to custom RSS feeds that I've run through the former. I also use the NewsBlur RSS reader to keep tabs on shows I like but haven't yet found the right episode to recommend in the newsletter. This all probably sounds very complicated and excessive, but since I'm choosing 15 episodes a week to write about and I want them mostly to be stuff you won't be able to find yourself via the usual apps or articles, there's a lot of podcasts that I need to discover, store and then resurface when the time is right to include them.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty happy with my hardware/software situation, but I'd love to have my own office one day. I never had one when I worked as an editor - I think it's been years since midranking magazine journalists in London have merited their own walls and a door - and where we live now doesn't have enough rooms to give one over entirely to my dreams of floor to ceiling bookshelves and a huge desk by a window. But one day, I'll upgrade from my current tiny desk in a walk-in wardrobe, I hope.

Uses This is supported by ZSA, makers of the Moonlander, ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ keyboards. They also publish an awesome newsletter.