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Digital Story Podcast Feed (and a free iTunes RSS Maker tool)

I am working on getting over my podcast malady.

For the past few years, two of our faculty that teach a semester-long class in digital storytelling have provided the same experience in compressed form for faculty as a 40 hour “Bringing Digital Storytelling to the Classroom LearnShop”. I started hovering in the August 2004 session and made a lot of appeals for getting permission to share the final stories on our web site, in both streaming QuickTime and Windows media formats.

Back when I got an iPod video, I quickly converted the movies to iPod movie format (using QuickTime Pro) but lagged behind in getting a podcast feed set up. Not a big deal, since it only gets updated about once a year, but it does provide an easy way to access the stories at will. The final story examples now also have a download link for the iPod movie version (*.m4v) of every story.

But now we have a working iTunes encrusted RSS feed:

I started by reading up on the “Apple – iTunes – Podcasts – Technical Specification”, but wanted to avoid the pitfalls and hijinks of manual XML editing. So I cranked up a little bit of PHP code to make a script that can create an iTunes tagged RSS feed from a template (well 2 templates). I enter the needed data for the feed items in an Excel spreadsheet, and the contents are then copy/pasted to a text data file, The main PHP script loads some variables that define the information used in the <channel> section.

A useful piece of my code is an often used piece of PHP code used to create a string of content form a template file- an associative array and name of the template file as passed to the function, and it returns the string with values inserted guided by placeholders marked with %%somevariable%%, so the value of my php array $stuff[‘somevariable’] is inserted in place of the marked tag.

Then the data file is read in as an array marked by newline characters separating records. Each line is a tab delimited set of data, which is then parsed into an array with all the information needed for one item. It spits out the content as a local file “podcast.xml”.

The code is now available at:

I tried to make it fairly general, but no guarantees, mileage will vary, etc. I’ve been using it successfully on 2 or 3 sites.

But enough tech stuff, sit back and enjoy the stories, there are some powerful stories to watch, in whatever format you choose.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at 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 haven’t checked out all the technical stuff yet (or at least those parts I’m competent to check out), but I did go look at “The Power of Belief” and was mighty impressed. Digital storytelling continues to speak to my heart–and to all my English prof. and film training as well. Lovely when heart and head both get a workout.

    I wish there were a way to comment on the movies–perhaps there is and I haven’t found it yet.

    Also, I could get the WMV file to play (it launched Real on my computer, but I’m assuming that’s a local configuration issue), but the Quicktime link opened a new browser window, counted down, then gave me a 404 error.

    Thanks for blogging on this project, and on the iTunes encrustation, and helping to bring us all farther along in thinking about delivering these jewels of humanity. To “live the life that lives inside me”: words to live by for sure.

  2. Gardner-

    Our streaming platform is not exactly rock solid. Quicktime comes from an Apple XServe in my office and I think our network/security people are blocking access, it will change in a week or two when the box goes upstairs. You should be able to download even the iPod version (they are the same dimensions). The WMVs come from one of our college’s Helix server, as a favor to my office.

    I most strongly suggest (my favorites) “Salvation Mountain”, “Grandma Chuppa”, and “What Are You?”

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