Paul Nicholson, Web Developer and Podcaster

My name is Paul Nicholson and I’m a web developer living on the Isle of Man. I built my first website in 1997 for a golf magazine that I was working for at the time, and things just grew from there. Back in those days, it was all about static sites put together on early versions of Dreamweaver or CoffeeCup HTML editor, with a little bit of manual coding thrown in. Since then, I’ve always stayed on top of web technologies and progressed into my current role.

I moved to the Isle of Man in 2000. For 50 weeks of the year, the island is the quietest, most tranquil place you could imagine. Then, for those other 2 weeks, you wouldn’t believe the change. All of a sudden, the island is full of motorbikes and the population suddenly gets a lot bigger while the TT is on! There’s a saying in the Manx Language: “Traa dy Liooar”, which means “time enough”. That’s how life is lived over here – no need to stress.

Outside of my job, I love podcasting. I’ve been listening to podcasts since about 2005 when they first appeared on the iTunes store; I thought that it was an interesting medium with limitless prospects. My podcast listening is pretty varied – my go-to show every week is called No Such Thing As A Fish, which is made by the team behind QI (better known as the QI elves). It is a comedy show centred around various bizarre facts that they’ve found in their research for the TV show. Another show that I listen to regularly is The Rock And Roll Geek Show – this one is hosted by a musician from San Francisco (Michael Butler) and is all about rock & metal music, with reviews, interviews, and lots of stories from his time touring with a few notable bands from the 90s and 2000s.

I am currently the host, editor, and producer of 3Legs4Wheels, a weekly Formula 1 Podcast. This podcast started out as a forum for fans of motor racing to have somewhere to talk about it. The Isle of Man is the home of motorcycle road racing, but there’s not a huge 4-wheeled-racing community over here. One Saturday morning, after watching the first Formula E race, I registered the domain name with a plan to put a chat forum up for people to share stories, thoughts and opinions on F1 and other racing series. This had been going for about 5 months with absolutely zero interest when a couple of us that it might be a laugh to do a podcast before the start of the 2015 F1 season. This was when a lot of changes in the sport were starting to come through, and it all took off from there.

With F1, there’s a lot to talk about. Between March and November, there’s either a race that’s just happened or a race taking place the following weekend. The teams develop their cars during the season, so there are always technological advances to discuss. We’ve done special shows with some experts from within Formula 1 – Sean Kelly, better known as Virtual Stat Man, is a regular guest on the show. He gives a huge insight into the tactics used by the teams over the course of the weekend (I don’t think there’s a fact about F1 from the 1950s onwards that he doesn’t know!). Craig Scarborough is also another regular guest of ours – he provides great technical insight on the design and workings of the cars, especially pointing out things like the effect a seemingly minute change on the front wing will make to the airflow into the engine!

Usually, we get around 20,000 listeners each week. Some weeks we can double that, depending on if there was a notable race the weekend before or if we’ve got a guest on.

In addition to being the host/anchor of the show, I also handle the mixing (to make sure the voices all sound like they’re at the same volume), I run the website for the show, I upload the audio files, and I write some of the content. I also book the guests and handle most of the social media. Finally, I take care of our Crowdfunding activities on Patreon – this is where we get the show’s income from, all provided by monthly donations from our listeners.

Regarding the equipment for the podcast, it helps that 4 of the 5 of us on the show are musicians. We started with a couple of vocal mics (Sure PG58s) plugged into a small mixer and recorded the show on a copy of Audacity. Things have progressed since then thanks to Crowdfunding from our listeners, and we have upgraded to professional radio studio-standard hardware and software.

Regarding F1 drivers we’ve spoken to, we got to interview George Russell and Lando Norris in 2018, as they were both setting out on their Formula 2 campaigns. They had been signed to junior driver programs by Mercedes and McLaren respectively – we didn’t know at the time that we’d be seeing both of them lining up on the Formula One grid within a year of talking to them! We’ve also been lucky that we were invited to the launch of the 2018 Mercedes car at Silverstone, and we got to take part in the press conferences for Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Although the major broadcasters/publications got to ask the questions, we still count that as a kind of interview! We do some work with another show called UK Car Talk, and they got us an exclusive interview with Robert Kubica at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year. But we’re always on the lookout to interview more drivers!

Being shown around the Mercedes factory in Brackley by their head of media relations was a particular high point for 3Legs4Wheels. We got to see nearly every aspect that goes into the manufacturing and running of an F1 car – from the design department (where the initial concepts are drawn up) to their new “mission control” centre that the team use on race weekend, where 50 engineers are in constant contact with the team at the circuit. Another amazing experience with Mercedes was at the 2018 launch when they revealed the car itself – I was stood on the camera gantry that had been set up and noticed that I had Sky TV on one side of me and ESPN on the other, and it occurred to me that I’d be getting the same shots as 2 of the biggest broadcasters!

We’re hoping that in 2020, we can get press access to the British Grand Prix (if it happens) and hopefully a European race as well. I’d love to be able to do this podcast full-time – however, as we’ve decided that we aren’t taking advertising for the time being and will instead rely on donations from listeners (https://patreon.com/3legs4wheels), then this is more of a pipe dream than a reality. But never say never!

There are quite a few similarities between podcasting and my current occupation. With writing code and talking about F1, you’ve got to be 100% accurate – F1 fans tend to be the most passionate about technology and facts; if you give out any slightly incorrect information, then they’ll let you know about it! Also, as I’ve built and managed the 3Legs4Wheels site (with some help from WordPress), part of running the podcast is exactly the same as my job!

My advice to anyone looking to take up podcasting is to just do it! You can start one up for a minimal investment – a Blue Yeti microphone only costs about £100/€110, and there’s a large number of companies offering dedicated podcast hosting starting around £5 a month. Your show can also connect you with some great people. But above all, it’s fun to do!

There’s always more than tech – you’ve got to have a passion that takes you away from work. This show is a release for me, as working in technology can become very pressured. This couple of hours a week spent with friends talking about something that we’ve all got in common is a way to unwind and decompress. There’s 5 of us that take part in the show; 2 of us work in IT, and 3 of us don’t – it gives us the chance to talk about different things for a change. The world of technology can become all-encompassing, so it’s always good to get away from it!

 

To see some more of 3Legs4Wheels, be sure to check their website and Patreon page:

https://3legs4wheels.com/

https://www.patreon.com/3legs4wheels

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