Podcasting History… It is Short

The last two days in the car; I have been listening to a podcast from IT Conversations. It was an interview with Doug Kaye the founder of IT Conversations by Michael Geoghegan on the Podcast Academy Channel. Doug talks about the history of podcasting on IT Conversations. If you have listened to podcasts from IT Conversations you will enjoy the interview. But I was thinking about my current predicament of trying to replace a co-host for The Global Geek Podcast and the history of podcasting.

A History Lesson

As mentioned in the interview the first “podcast” was accomplished by Dave Weiner the developer of the RSS format. He demonstrated the concept on his blog on the 11th of January 2001 after defining a new element called an “enclosure“. By the way he did this by “enclosing” a song by Grateful Dead on his blog feed of Scripting News.

For the first two years there were very few users of enclosures in RSS feeds. In September 2003 Weiner gradually released to his feed a series of 25 interviews with bloggers, futurists and political figures. Weiner announced these audio features on his blog as they were released. This threw out the challenge to other aggregator developers to support enclosures. As up until this point most feeds were text only.

In October of 2003 the first BloggerCon provided the platform for a demonstration by Kevin Marks of a script that enabled RSS feeds and pass the enclosures to iTunes for transfer to an iPod. Marks and Adam Curry discuss collaborating. After the conference Curry offers readers of his blog a script called RSStoiPod a script that moved mp3 files from on-line to iTunes, he encouraged developers to further the concept. Initial efforts were based in the command line. The first podcasting client with a user interface was iPodderX (now Transistr). The name change was due to the threat of legal action by Apple and trademark issues, obviously related to the iPod. From here the development of “podcatchers” or aggrregators was fast and mainly resided in the open source community with the show of Juice, CastPodder and PodNova. There are many aggregators now on offer and go from the simple to the highly sophisticated.

In September 2004 the term “Podcasting” was referred to as one possible; out of multiple terms for to listening to audio blogs, as coined by Ben Hammersley:

“…all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio. But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”

In the same month Dannie Gregoire used the term to describe the automatic download and syncrinisation of audio content. The name stuck and entered into common usage. Note the absence of anything related to an iPod? No it had nothing to do with iPods or Apple. In hind sight the association of the iPod with podcasting and podcasts has been detrimental in my opinion. As many people still to this day believe that you need an iPod to listen to podcasts and until I investigated the medium I too thought that the case. Or at least an association.

In September 2004 Adam Curry launched the ipodder-dev mailing list. A huge 100+ message conversation on Slashdot resulted in more attention in the development project. October of 2004 saw detailed “how-to-podcast” articles on-line. Then November 2004 saw the launch of Liberated Syndication, which offered storage, bandwidth and RSS creation tools. LibSyn for short, still provides the service to this day at some of the cheapest prices on the Internet.

As a final point, in February 2005 out rolled the first of the podcasting networks. The first was The Podcast Network, created by Cameron Reilly and Mick Stanic. The Podcast Network was and is the first Commercial Network. PodTech was founded in May 2005. Many others have followed and I think this is only the begining! I have every reason to be proud that The Global Geek Podcast lives at The Podcast Network.

So What has that got to do with Me?

Do you notice the dates in our history review? I use the word history very loosely as we can only say that it refers to past tense regarding podcasting and it’s past. Podcasting is a very new technology! In many respects the technology is still rapidly evolving and very dynamically at that. So being new it offers great challengers to the new user.

I would not say that subscribing and listening to podcasts is easy for the average user. In brief the user has to take the following steps:

  1. Realise what these strange links called RSS are (in addition to not writing it off immediately after seeing a page of RSS!)
  2. Source and install an RSS Aggregator
  3. Figure out how to subscribe to a feed, and realise that it is free.
  4. Know that not all aggregators are built equal (some support enclosures and some do not)
  5. Actually download a podcast using their tricked out aggregator
  6. Find some application to listen to it with or
  7. Figure out how to transfer the mp3 file to a portable mp3 player
  8. Enjoy

Phew! Now that is an effort. In reality most people probably start by right clicking and saving a podcast directly rather than use an aggregator. To try and explain to somebody exactly how to do all of the above is difficult and you generally loose the individual as soon as you mention aggregator. If you keep them that long.

Then I realised today, in light of listening to the interview with Doug Kaye that I can not expect every user that surfs by the Rooster’s Rail to know what podcasting is or what a podcast is. Given that; no wonder I have had bugger all responses to my plea for a new co-host. No wonder they might think that it is hard and intimidating or that they are not cut out for it. Or even that they have any idea what so ever and think I have a screw loose!

I think that the next huge leap in exposure to podcasting will be the simplification of the subscribing, downloading, transferring and listening process. It won’t be long until the manual procedure described above becomes a seamless automated process that the “average” user will be unaware of. Much of this I believe will come about when it is built into something like Windows Media Player. While that might disgust some people, the fact remains that most users use Windows! So it stands to reason. In addition to this factor will be the ever connected Generation Y, podcasts for them will be a thing that they have intergrated into their lives as a part of it rather than something they have to introduce.

So I have resolved myself to my crusade to expose as many people as I can to a medium that while young is transforming the global media landscape. In Cameron Reilly’s words “…this is something I have to do”.

Welcome to the revolution… For the rest of us that means hardcore brain cell re-programming.

[History of Podcasting Sourced from Wikipedia]

Marketing Our Podcast: A Challenge Issued!

TPN LogoWe are having some trouble at The Global Geek Podcast HQ! We need some kick-arse marketing strategies and quick. No, I am not doing what my brother suggested:

“…Tattoo the URL to your penis, photograph it, then post it on your blog, digg the article.”

While this strategy might spike some interest and probably work; it was not really what I had in mind when I asked him if he had any ideas about exposure! So I am asking the faithful readers of my blog to do a couple of things that will help.

  • If you have not checked out the podcast, head on over to The Global Geek Podcast homepage and at least have a listen to the show, if you like it SUBSCRIBE to the RSS feed.
  • If you like the podcast or you think someone else might then tell them.
  • If you have a blog then why not give us a bit of a plug or put the podcast in your blog roll or links. I can get you a logo or graphic if you want it to look good.
  • We reviewed a site called Folkd in the last podcast it is a great “Digg” type site but very, very good and looks awesome, I have posted our podcast on there so that it can be voted on. If you like the podcast then Register and give it a Folkd! (vote/”digg”).
  • Same for Shoutwire and Newsvine
  • If you have a Digg account then why not Digg the latest episode? (doesn’t look so good if we do it…)
  • Let us know what else we might do to spread the word about the podcast.

I think that we have a reasonable podcast and that our content is good. So now we need exposure. We are trying to do that but we need your help! If you listen to the podcast and reckon other people should as well then tell them, or at least another two people, then tell them to do the same. It is greatly appreciated.

So I also issue a challenge! Read on…

If one person truly blows me away by something that they do to give us some major exposure (that we can see results from – like more downloads), I will personally fund a prize for that person! That’s right I’ll send you clobber. Don’t expect anything too amazing, we are not making money you know, but it will be cool and practical – cause that’s what you do when you don’t have much cash!

And you are on the show (if you want to be) to tell everyone what you did!

If there are any podcasters out there or anyone else for that matter with some great ideas then let me know by dropping me a comment or you can also send us email at The Global Geek Podcast. Thanks everyone I appreciate it and so does The Podcast Network!

The Global Geek Podcast: http://www.globalgeekpodcast.com

RSS Feed: http://globalgeek.thepodcastnetwork.com/feed/

Obligatory Non Conformism

Today, well yesterday Sebastian posted a story on his blog. The post was essentially about Skype spam. Anyway the story got put up on Digg and ended up on the front page. Sebastian has experienced a pretty big jump in traffic on his blog, to say the least. For Sebastian this has been a big confidence boost, there is however, more to the story than that.

If I were him I would be shit scared about what I would write next. To that end I ask this question; does the idea of social networking and peer review put undue pressure on bloggers, authors, writers or anyone that produces any sort of public content, to follow everybody else and produce what people want to hear because they get noticed.

This is such an easy way to respond to "being noticed" or to have something admired by others. Or to have someone of influence say that you have produced something of value. Do I appease these people and everyone else or do I just keep doing what I want to do because that is what I am enjoying doing? Tough questions, for me I think it would be hard. We all look for confirmation, acceptance and respect within the world in which we live, and definitely within our peers and those people that we regard as our "audience".

That caused me to think about how this type of notice generates this kind of pressure and what type of "surfer" is the average "Digger". The only way I can judge that is to think about the way which I look at articles posted on Digg. I look at the catchy title of the article, if it takes my fancy or I think it is news worthy, I click it. I might read the whole thing I might not. I then click the back button (I might Digg it I might not). It might have just be morbid curiosity that caused me to click the story in the first place and not even wanting to Digg it in the first place. Or it might have been the comments on the story that made me have a look. More so the article title may have caused an emotive response in me that made me read it, nothing to do with who wrote it or what it was about or how well it was written.

So is the average Digger a discerning surfer? Maybe some are. Those who are will go back to those sites that are worth a second look. That is the challenge that confronts the Dugg. "I am playing the big leauge here, I will have to write something that will be popular enough so that I keep these readers coming back". So with the pressure that is exerted by the average in-discriminating Digger he or she leaves in their wake a blogger (or whatever) who is feeling the heat somewhat. Therefore, is the average Digg turning our Blogosphere into a tabloid dynasty that has zero content? Does it then become tag city that loses it's way, battling over the meager offerings from the few Digg etal. sites that are out there? I think that this entirely possible due to the peer pressure factor. However, I think that there are those that will stand out once the bubble has burst. That means that we need to learn to write for ourselves, as Sebastian would say we need to "be the ball…".

I do not promote my blog much. For me the whole thing is for enjoyment and because I like it. Occasionally, I get a good story that talks about some new idea or news and I get a few more hits but nothing that special. But I know that more people read my blog today on a day to day basis than did a month ago. For that I am very grateful. I am happy to just blog when I want to, about whatever I want to, when I want to. For me that is enough.

How would I cope with "attention"? I really could not tell you because it is not something that I think will happen. For that reason I am not sure what I would do, say or write. Don't get me wrong I would absolutely love it and enjoy the experience especially the bit where your hits go up by the hundreds every couple of minutes, that would just be cool to watch if nothing else! Yet I would like to think I still had an obligation to blog about what I wanted to and still compelled to report that which had merit, regardless of pressure or the need for acceptance.

It may seem like I am flamming Digg in all this but in reality there are people, blogs, content, news items, videos [add mediums here] that should be aknowledged, admired, respected, and commented on within this community. Due to the very nature of the community and peer review this can not be censored, vetted or moderated and that is the way it should be. But the character of the person is tested to the limit in the wake of being Dugg in a big way. The challenge then is to conform or to be an Obligatory Non-conformist.

Because fireworks are wonderful, but they don't happen every day. True fulfillment comes from the tree that you planted as a seedling that is now big enough to hang a swing from for your children.

Odeo Respond, Download Link Returns!

As posted yesterday it appeared Odeo had decreased it's functionality of the "send me an Odeo message" by not allowing users to download the mp3 of the left message. Well there has been a great response from Odeo with emails and even a blog comment. All is restored in the Odeo universe.

Odeo Download LinkBiz Stone who works for Odeo left a comment on the Rail yesterday that indicated that the omission of the Download link on the web page was a bug and implied that they were unaware of the problem until I had blogged about it. So great I found a bug! The emails that were recieved were also prompt and promised a resolution. The action by Odeo to resolve the issue has been excellent. When I logged onto my inbox this afternoon, the download link is now present and accounted for. Everyone breath a sigh of relief. I am yet to see if the enclosure in the RSS feed from the "inbox" has been fixed as well but I am assuming that it has.

I commend Odeo staff on their excellent response time and the fact that they responded at all. They could have easily just resolved the problem and pretended that it did not happen. Great work Odeo, we still love you 😉 (In a nice blokey type of way…).

In fact I am not really sure how Biz found my humble blog, and if he is reading this then I wouldn't mind knowing. The other thing that I was curious about was if the staffers at Odeo patrol the BlogOsphere looking for tags and posts regarding Odeo, to see what people are saying and suggesting. I know that one suggestion that I made in the past was implemented, so that was cool.

Thanks Odeo keep up the good work.

Odeo Cripples Functionality

Odeo LogoOdeo seem to be updating and improving their services every other day of late. However, it is not every day that you see such a great service actually remove a feature and make it harder for users to utilise their service. They have indeed done so and perhaps in doing so shooting themselves in the foot.

One of the great features that is available to Odeo users is to have an "inbox". If you were to place a button on your website, be it blog or some other site you have enabled your readers to leave you audio comments by clicking the link. They get taken to a page that has a recording interface, which is simple and easy to use and the result is great audio. You as the user of Odeo get that recorded audio in your inbox once it is sent to you. You are notified of this by an email.

Another great feature is that you can subscribe to an RSS feed of your own inbox! So this is a great way to receive feedback on anything. Including podcasts. Seb and I saw it as a great way to get feedback for Global Geek Podcast, so we set up an account. The advantage of getting audio as feedback is that you could go to your inbox once you were notified and click the new Odeo comment that was left for you. You can listen to it. But the biggest feature was that you could click a "download as MP3" button and download the audio comment and insert it into a podcast! The result was excellent and we loved it.

The ability to download the MP3 has been removed from the play window! So what the hell is Odeo thinking in removing this key functionality. It means that it is impossible to download the audio from the page to your local machine. Rather it makes it a pain in the butt to do it.

I found that there is a work-around but it is messy: Open Audacity, set the source to "stereo mix" get ready to hit record… Open the Odeo message that you want to record. Flip back to Audacity and hit record, nip over to the Odeo page and click play. Go back and hit stop on the recording when it has finished. As I said messy. In addition the audio that you end up with is less than ideal and requires a bit of editing.

I am utterly dismayed as to why Odeo have removed this from their site. The only thing that I can think of is that they want users to listen to audio, only from them and not from another source. Perhaps they were not aware that the service was being utilized in this way and they have done it ignorantly, I just don't know. Sebastian has suggested that perhaps they are beginning to think about implementing a pay service and this has something to do with it. But since when has any site reduced their services as opposed to offering more. We are not the only podcast doing this. I can honestly say that if this situation remains as it is; the blogging and podcasting community could deliver some negative press, big time.

Global Geek Podcast has mentioned Odeo on every show that we have done. Not only that there is a link on the Global Geek Podcast website to Odeo, there is a link to Odeo on Rooster's Rail, Seb's Random Thoughts and we have plugged them for their service and functionality since utilizing their service. It is not like we have not given back to Odeo. This I feel is the thanks that we get.

Global Geek Podcast have sent off an email to Odeo in regards to this issue and we await a response, I will let you know what we get back from them when and if we do.

Update: Please check out the Follow-up Story