Podcasts – All or Nothin’

Podcasting has been an interesting phenomena to observe. It really did not exist a year ago, and has been riding like a bullet up the technology charts, most recently fueled by inclusion of its features in Apple’s iTunes. It’s all good. I’ve been trying to sample more from a variety of sources, mostly on my idle time of bicycle commuting or running. I’m hard pressed to say if I would really devote the time to them other wise.

The best for my interests has been far the offerings of ITConversations, mainly due to the quality of the productions, but more so, the quality of the personalities I can choose to listen to.

What I do not buy is the “subscription” model because I cannot say I have found a source I would want to listen to most of the content most of the time. I do not do that with radio I listen to, web sites I visit, the few TV shows I watch– I am not a fan of any one channel. I The problem with the podcast “model” is that the content provider is claiming they know what I want to listen to (or assuming I am a rabid fan). Fortunately, there is some interesting tinkering going on that gets around this publisher chooses mentality, where individuals are able to select file sources and rip-mix-cast their own audiocasts.

For the howtos, see “Use Del.icio.us to create customised podcas”t. The approach involves first setting up your own unique del.icio.us tag. As you come across MP3 URLs, either favorites found elsewhere or your own casts, you bookmark them with this delicious tag. Then, you can take that RSS feed provided by del.ico.us for your tagset, and run it through Feedburner which will then feed it with proper RSS enclosures as a genuine podcast. And at a minimum, the URL for your delicious tagset becomes a menu selection for those that just want to pick and choose MP3s rather than subscribe. If you do start tagging the feed URLs this way, do the world a favor and write a brief description in the “extended” field so someone can have an idea what the cast is all about.

As an examnple, see how Jon Udell delicious-izes his podcasts and his shorter sound bite segments. Each of these has its own RSS which could be Feedburned to be a podcast.

So that is about dis-aggregating podcast feeds into new feeds.

The other side of the coin is that one is stuck with the whole MP3 feed, start to finish, cheesy intro music to the one little 45 second bit you need 35 minutes and 20 seconds into a show. You cannot search, or easily scan. And you cannot easily link to that particular segment. Again, guru Jon Udell has shown that technically there is a method for linking to specific segments within an MP3, but this has yet to be exploited developed into a less geek friendly approach.

But its more than just being able to link to specific audio targets. The aspect of a podcast (or really a web hosted mp3) is that it is a one way media transmission, which is like… so 2003, sooooooo Web 1.0.

What would be interesting is if I could not only reference say specific sound targets in a stream, but I could use that to create something new with my own audio inserted annotations. So I could link to segments of say some podcast about Web 2.0 technologies, and rather than being limited to listening start to finish and perhaps remembering things I want to comment on and write up as a blog post– I could pause the playback, bring up my own podcast recorder software that-does-not-exist, press “reference” segment so it includes a bookmark reference to the specific source, and then I can record my own remarks. This would be Web 2.0, this would be a way to build layers of content. This would be interesting.

So be wary of content that comes in a one size for all approach. The mantra for digital content should be tools for disaggregation, mixing, adding, and republishing as something new. It’s not even the Net Generation any more, it is the Tivo generation.

Ask for it. Expect it. C’mon, podcasting is already 11 months old…. ancient….

Update: Thanks to a tip from Tim Lauer, it appears that del.icio.us can do RSS enclosure feeds (and a whole lot more) without needing to run it through Feedburner — see http://blog.del.icio.us/blog/2005/06/casting_the_net.html.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I really enjoyed this post, Alan. I agree that Web 2.0 holds interesting permutations that will make podcasting more useful in many ways.

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