Podcasting On The Cheap: Number 8 Bailing Wire Not Include

The kiwis have a great expression about being able to fix anything with some number 8 bailing wire, sort of the down under flavor of duct tape. I just spent about 90 minutes cobbling together what I hope to be a framework for supporting audio content across a number of our content sites.

I’ve yet to join the merry gang of Podcasting Is The Greatest Thing Since ________, but I do so a value of adding more audio content to our site, capturing events, meetings, interviews etc. This will be a hasty and haphazard explanation of what I did, cause I really want to get home and have some dinner 😉

First of all, I will be capturing the audio on the cheap, plopping down a new iRiver iFP 799 MP3 recorded (1 Gb model with external line and input ports). It’s a love hate relationship -I love being able to record like 40 hours of audio on this thing the size of maybe a role of quarters, and I love the audio quality. I hate, despise the user interface on the thing. I cannot even remember the simplest things- each button has about 5 different functions. Someone could do a thesis on how crappy the human interface is.

I used it at our September 2 meeting of our Ocotillo Online Learning Group at the request of colleague Holly Beene. Holly was our first presenter, and in Frijolero – Inspiration and development of podcasting inspired Grant Project in Intercultural Communications, she was sharing her idea for having students do some audio production of what she calls “Digital audio postcards”:

My goal is to put a human face on culture. I will explore the learning potential of students’ first hearing and reflecting on a variety of authentic stories in digital “audio postcards.” Students will then construct personal knowledge through identifying, composing, and recording a brief original story. The research question is: will personal stories constructed in capsulized audio correlate to students’ ability to develop supporting detail for assignments and to retain course concepts?

The project evolved in the confluence of narrative tradition, my personal love of audiobooks, experimentation with digital storytelling, and a random drive-time report from Youth Radio in May 2004 – a four-minute Border Story from Tijuana presenting a point of view sure to surprise and engage many students. It did. If the instructional use of audio, a medium students are clearly attuned to, can be used effectively as a simple storytelling device without the time commitments and technological challenges of multimedia, then the project could easily be extended to other courses and disciplines.

She asked me to bring the iRiver to show the audience what she is considering using for recording. I thought to myself, let’s go one demo better, and record her session to attach to the meeting notes. So I got a 31 minute recording without too much trouble… so I thought we ought to be doing this for presentations at future meetings. And then I thought of a few other projects where we had recorded things like student panel discussions and session presenters… and I saw a web of audio and podcasts somehow tied together.

I first considered using the desktop podcast desktop creator Feeder (Mac OSX) which did a decent job, even handled the uploads and had template options for the various podcast formats. I was seeking something that would not only render the feeds, but do somethings to allow my to add some summary/descriptive data for a set fo feeds.

So I rolled up my sleeves, pulled out my decrepit version of MovableType 2.661 and created a mini site that would not be for creating a blog, but for creating a series of content files I could use site wide via PHP includes. The use of the MT Enclosures plug-in allows my feeds to add the RSS enclosure tags for any linked MP3 in the blog entry file.

My individual templates include

* about.inc: a general chunk of HTML to explain “what is a podcast” and add some links to reference site. This can go on a summary page that explains a project’s podcasting content… on the OLG example, the 2nd 3rd paragraph and the bulleted reference list are from this file.
* content file and RSS feed for all reference podcasts we will collect. This will go to a future overall MCLI podcasting page yet to be created.

I use categories to associate entries with different project sites, so there are 3 category templates:
* a detailed listing include file- includes the title, web reference URL, description, and date for an item that includes an MP3 audio. This provides to info in the box for the on the OLG podcast listing. Since the updates will be not very frequent, this is much faster that running it through an RSS parser. The one tricky thing in my template is I am putting the URL for the site it references in the MT keywords field, and I need to make sure the MP3 is references as a link in the post body. The stubby template looks like:

* a short listing used for site navigation sidebars. This is just a simple list with links to podcast content, and is used to populate say the smal left side bar listing on the OLG main page. This is even a shorter template:

* and a category RSS feed, to be the published URL for the podcast, e.g.:

With these pieces in place, I just need to use MovableType to publish an entry, and associate it with a category, and it will create the RSS feeds and the little content nibblets I can use across my web sites.

I have this in mind since our double events happening Friday we are grabbing a good chunk of the presenters as audio.

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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. Your feedback is invited! I’m hoping to do something like what you describe above.

    There will be multiple presentations in 3 different rooms and I’d like to podcast the event. What I’m considering is giving each presenter a digital audio recorder and then letting them speak into it like a microphone. The next best plan is to just put someone at the front of the room and let them record it that way. You can see I’ve really thought this through, right?

    I’m also going to ask the presenters to read this statement or something similar:

    “This is [YOUR NAME] and I grant [organization name] unlimited rights to re-distribute my presentation(s) entitled [name of presentation(s)] as recorded on this [date]. I understand that the podcast will be edited to improve sound quality, and remove items as judged unsuitable by [organization name].”

    What do you think? I’m doing this for a technology coordinators’ Special Interest Group Fall 2005 meeting.

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions,

    Miguel Guhlin

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