radio open source needs help

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.

interview with jon udell on LibriVox

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.

jon udell’s LibriVox script

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.

Categories: podcasting, web

advice for podcasters (& bloggers)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. rss icon. the organge RSS icon 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
  6. 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.

Categories: podcasting, web

OK, I’m Twittering

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.)

Categories: art, data, media, podcasting

a couple of links

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.
(thanks maurizio)

Next,, which is “an open, shared data-base of the world’s knowledge.” I have not looked yet, but seems interesting.
(via chris)

Montreal Entrepreneur Challenge

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.

people from podcamptoronto

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:

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.)

podcamp toronto was great …

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.