Radio Open Source is one of my favourite shows available by podcast. They talk about anything, in depth, ranging from arts to politics, boxing, and countless other wonderful subjects. They are in some financial trouble, and need your help.
I’ve always been a big fan of Jon Udell’s stuff – he writes not just about tech things that interest me, but he’s also got a great sense that web technology ought to be good for society as well. Jon was one of the first “famous” people I contacted when I started LibriVox, and he’s been a fan, and written about the project a number of times. So I was really happy when he asked me to join him on his IT Conversations podcast, Jon Udell’s Interviews With Innovators (you might need to register to see that page). This was a long (47 mins) and great interview, really getting into the meat and bones of how and why LibriVox works, but also touching on much other interesting stuff as well.
Here’s the page.
Listen here: mp3 link.
In other exciting news, Jon whipped up a script (tweaked and built on by the ever-effective Chris), that allows you to add a LibriVox book directly to iTunes. Here’s how Kri describes the new addition to the site:
Thanks to Jon Udell and our resident catalog development guru tis (Chris Goringe) we have a new feature that has been added to all catalog pages. Check out the most recent Short Poetry Collection to see an example of the following…
1. A “Subscribe in iTunes” link. If you regularly use iTunes for podcasts, or would like to, this link will be very helpful to you. Just click on the link, and allow it to launch the external application (iTunes) if it asks
2. An RSS feed for the 64kbps files. What’s the point of this? For some this makes it easier to download all of the 64kbps MP3 files at once. For example, if you listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher, use this link to download them all more easily.
I did a podcast interview with Jon Udell about LibriVox, for ITConversations (I’ll let you know when it’s available). Was a great talk, and part of our discussions were about the still-significant barriers to accessing good audio on the net. There is great stuff out there, but for many not-so-net-savvy people there exist many problems with knowing about audio, finding it, choosing it, downloading it, getting it into a media player (and then getting it into a portable media device).
all of these processes are harder than they should be still (collectik is an effort to solve some of them), and I’d wager that the main audience for audio (especially the LibriVox, public interest, public radio type) is not as tech savvy as most net video watchers. Yet this is an important market – in part because of the value of the information available this way. This is a new sphere for public discourse, and should be made as simple as possible.
With LibriVox we often get people wondering how to get the mp3s they have downloaded into their ipod. A simple task for most of you, but not obvious to many people who would like to listen to LibriVox books. There’s an easy solution to this problem: generate an xml file of our catalog pages, that will be read as a podcast feed by iTunes, and allow for the one-click iTunes “subscription” to that book.
So Jon whipped up a python script that can do the job, eg. click on this:
iTunes will open, & you’ll get subscribed to this book – you may have to “get” all the files to download them. This eliminates some complication for people.
We’ll have to figure out how to integrate this – ideally the script could work in tandem with a wordpress plugin, that would work in our catalog page template. So that each page would generate the right link.
Evan did something similar a while back, with his PodPager… but the tool seems to be disabled.
I have been touring the net of late looking at podcast sites, and I have a few suggestions (some of this is relevant for bloggers too). I’m not talking about what you do in audio, but what your site looks like. Chances are I’ll come to your site before I hear your stuff, so what you do on your website is as important as what you do in audio. Here goes:
- about. please, put an “about” section on your page. If I land on your page and I don’t know what it’s about, I’m gonna leave. Gimme a sentence at least: “music and talk,” “sports and politics”… just tell me where I am.
- flash player. one of the most interesting things I learned at Podcamp, was that by far the majority of website visitors will press a “listen-now” button, rather than downloading, or subscribing (RSS or iTunes). Here is a great free plugin player if you are using wordpress: podpress
- feeds. this drives me nuts. make subscribing to your podcast obvious and easy. put those subscription icons right at the top of the page where I can see them. See here for a good description of podcast icons… and here is where you get your nice orange RSS icons.
- itunes & rss. also drives me nuts. not everyone uses itunes. so please, give me the option to subscribe in iTunes, but also give me the plain vanilla RSS feed. don’t let apple own your distribution. the RSS format is open for a reason, and that apple has closed it off in the iTunes-only feed format should jab you in your freedom-loving heart. Give me both.
- rss icon. the organge RSS icon is for one thing: a link to your RSS feed. It is NOT for:
a) a link to mp3 files
b) a link to an iTunes store feed
c) anything other than an RSS feed
- no flash. if you have a flash site, kill it. or at least set up a nice CMS site in parallel – wordpress or something – and make it clear how to get there away from your stupid flash site.
Dammit. I don’t even have a phone.
I can’t get it into my sidebar for some reason. But, in any case, here I am:
God help me now.
(PS thank you Mitch; and can I make a suggestion for a killer business?: digital rehab centres, to cure people of addiction to digital information).
(PPS: Mitch is doing a new podcast with Harper Collins, about business books, called: Foreward Thinking; which makes two people I know doing podcasts for Harper Collins, the other is Cathi Bond, who does interviews with fiction writers at the Prosecast.)
First, Ira Glass, the force behind This American Life, is, to me, something like a proto podcaster. That NPR radio show is just what I imagined podcasting would become, a collection of the stories of the world told in the voices of real people. And that was before I had ever heard This American Life (though I had heard Wiretap, done by Jonathan Goldstein, who worked with Ira on TAL). Here are some videos, that any artist interested in story, should absorb.
Next, Freebase.com, which is “an open, shared data-base of the world’s knowledge.” I have not looked yet, but seems interesting.
Sylvain has launched the Montreal Tech Entrepreneur $100 Challenge. He’s calling on Montreall tech entrepreneurs to donate $100 to the Atwater Digital Literacy Project (name change coming, I think):
The Atwater Digital Literacy Project, a project of the Atwater Library, gets kids and community groups using creative web technologies (blogging, audio, video, digital photos) to find new ways to talk about things important to them, and to help them build their communities.
If you are interested, you can find out how to donate here. $100 would be great. $10 would be great too. You can also help out in outher ways.
I’m on the board at the Atwater Library, and I’ve been pushing for this digital project for a couple of years (Sylvain was around in the early days).
We should make this a quarterly thing: 4 times a year get the Montreal Tech community to ralley around a particular cause and try to raise some money for something.
I was at podcamp in Toronto last weekend (check out the archive of videos of the presentations), and ran into a number of people doing great things. From the start I was excited by podcasting not because of the obvious things it would do, but the things that aren’t so obvious. The obvious thing is to create an army of radio hosts who imitate other radio hosts. The non-obvious things are happening and more and more is going to be rolling out in the coming years. Such an exciting time if you think that communicating ideas is an important thing for humans to do. So, here are a few people who were at the unconference whose projects impressed me:
- Sonya Buyting: Sonya is the Sassy Scientist, a science journalist and newly-minted podcaster she’s worked as a broadcaster for Discovery Channel among other things. I personally like my science podcasting dry and academic, or at least in the sober public radio mode. Sonya’s stuff is a lot more bouncy (music + science = sassy) … so I think her market is not so much stuffy 32-year-old grouches like me, but a younger audience. Which is laudable, considering the questionable state of science education, and declining interest among the young in that stuff that happens to allow us to live the way we do. In any case this is a sharp and professionally-produced podcast, and you’ve got to hand it to her: the first episode includes an interview with Sir Richard Branson, playboy billionaire owner of Virgin Airlines and recently announced climate-philantropist; and, even better, an interview with Seth Lloyd, writer of the best book I’ve read so far in 2007, Programming the Universe. Sonya is not a Montrealer. But she IS from New Brunswick, which gets her some extra points.
- Casey McKinnon & Rudy Jahchan: Galacticast is one of the most-watched vidcasts, certainly the top in Canada. Their take on making it in mainstream was pretty great: basically, bring it on, but we’re keeping all the rights to our stuff. That represents such a huge shift in the way broadcasting is going – and why music cos, and mainstream broadcasters are worried. Because the mainstream disseminators have less and less of a role to play: distribution channels aren’t limited anymore, so broadcasters and music companies haven’t figured out what they’ll be good for when art and media can sell itself. In the mean time, people like Rudy and Casey are out on the edge figuring out how this will work. Rudy and Casey are Montrealers.
- Julien Smith: Julian is a good friend and I see him pretty regularly, and I’ve probably posted about him a fair bit here. But still: I am always impressed by how well he understands the back-end of the net and how net-relationships are changing the way we do things. I understand all these things, but he lives them in a way that I don’t. He’s the longest-running and most popular podcaster in Canada, not by accident. It’s been interesting, too, to listen to his stuff evolve over the past year or so, and get more heavy, but still stay raw, and somehow fun. It’s an odd and compelling mix. He bares his soul online as a matter of course, which has some interesting by-products. He’s also got this other fantastic project that he’s nudging along to success, Listen to Your Kids. It hasn’t quite picked up yet with the kids, but it will. It’s just too cool an idea, and the sort of thing that makes me smile about podcasting. Julien is a Montrealer.
- jim milles: jim runs the really great UB Law Podcast, that “features conversations with University at Buffalo Law School faculty and other prominent scholars on cutting-edge research and important ideas in law and society.” This is such an obvious use of podcasting, and every university should have something similar. UC Berkeley, and many other universities, podcast course lectures, but that format doesn’t quite work for the general public (I’ve tried a number of lectures and though I’ve liked them, they don’t quite grab me). Better to do as Jim has done, get scholars to talk about their areas of expertise, in a conversational format, and record it. A perfect way to get this knowledge outside the walled world of academia, and to the rest of us. Jim is not a Montrealer.
- Matt Forsythe: Matt is an artist who works at the National Film Board, on a number of things including the almost-excellent CitizenShift. He’s also involved with the Schwartz movie, (check the fantastic trailer on Youtube). We had a long talk about digital media and analog institutions like the NFB. There seems to be such resistance to freeing all this content that sits collecting dust in the basement, watched by no one. It’s very puzzling to me that makers of media — especially non-commercial, publicly-funded media makers – are not clamouring to get all their media out to the wold in digital format. Any worries they might have had about bandwidth etc in the old days has been killed by all the vid services out there: blip.tv, googlevideo, youtube, not to mention the non-commercial options like Internet Archive and iBiblio. Yet all the wonderful wonderful work done by the NFB is inaccessible to me because so little of it is online. How great would it be for everyone – NFB included – if everything they made was available online. Matt is a Montrealer.
- mitch joel: I kept hearing about Mitch from different directions, and we kept missing each other at events. He works for digital marketing/branding company Twist Image, but it was funny, the thing that won me over was when he told me he worked for fifteen years writing music columns for Hour. I guess I have a natural mistrust for the corporate world, but when I hear that someone has put so much energy into something like writing music for a small community paper, it puts me at ease. Anyway, Mitch gave what was the slickest and most impressive presentation(.mov) I saw at podcamp. maybe I say that because the topic – more or less, branding you – is something i have been scratching my head over for the past month or so. I have been circling around doing so many things, and I need to start thinking about focusing my professional life better, and sorting out just what the hell I am going to do when I grow up. Mitch is a Montrealer.
I’m going to toss LibriVox into the ring, and suggest there is some hot stuff happening in Montreal.
But the million-dollar question I had coming out of podcamp was: how do I monetize my grouchiness?
(for those counting: 2 women, 5 men.)
…fantastic organization, kudos to the putters-togetherers, and I’ll point out some cool projects shortly.
But please, please, please make this phrase disappear.
(PS, thanks for the ride home Bob).
UPDATE: you can see vids of the event, including some footage of me, here.