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podcheck people

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Thanks to Scott Fletcher of PodCheck Review for the “shout out” yesterday, though I should warn folks that this site may not be quite what he led you to expect. Recently it’s primarily been my Blog site, where I get to spout off about anything that gets my limited attention. I’m on holiday (a.k.a. vacation) from my day job at the moment, which explains the recent flurry of activity.

I have a stereography page that documents my initial experiments, but I haven’t done much photography of that type recently. I migrated to a “real” camera a year ago, a Pentax *ist DS digital SLR, and though I have a Loreo 3D lens for it, I’m not happy with the quality of the results so far. I need to spend more time with it, and that means setting up lighting etc. indoors, since here in Ireland the outdoor light is poor in winter, what little of it there is. (You don’t realize how poor it gets until you see how a camera’s metering struggles to find a usable exposure!)

PodCheck Review is well worth listening to, for an alternative viewpoint on the world of Podcasting, from someone who has not (yet?) “drunk the Kool-Aid”, as it were. By that I mean the pursuit of the goal of doing Podcasting for a living, as many would like to do. In my view the numbers don’t stack up: I think there is a serious misapprehension of the size of the market. You can’t really compare it to radio, not unless you want it to be radio – that is, full of commercials, yet not a good investment for advertisers… who really listens to commercials on radio any more?

Even Adam Curry, the main driver of podcast commercialization today, gets this – he is fond of saying that without passion about a subject of interest, podcasts just don’t catch the ear. My question then is: how can you commercialize something that depends on the way someone feels? Could you sign a contract that specifies what you will deliver and when you will deliver it, if there will be times when you don’t have passion for your subject?

I used to write for a living, a decade ago: I took a computer testing job, initially writing comparative test reports to be handed off to a “real” writer, but then doing the actual writing, once people noticed I had a knack for it. This was the job I referred to yesterday, the one that nearly drove me mad, and made me resign for my health’s sake. I don’t have access to any of the work I did back then, and while I think I did wonders under pressure, I would not want to put my name to work that I was not enthusiastic about.

If you’ve tried listening to Podcasts and found yourself doing a Queen Victoria impression -“We Are Not Amused” – I can recommend PodCheck Review. Not only is it entertaining, it gets additional credit for avoiding all the things that threatened to turn me off: a) Scott has a great voice, well-recorded and produced, b) it doesn’t go on too long and outstay its welcome, c): it has a good mix of fact and opinion. Most important is d): – that is, it’s clear that Scott is Passionate about Podcasting!

Written by brian t

December 14, 2005 at 6:49 pm

Posted in photography, podcasting

ear wax

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Things hitting my ears this week include:

  • Digital Flotsam, which has immediately gone to the top of my Podcast list. As with nearly all Podcasts, the shows can be downloaded in the normal way too, a Podcast client like iPodder just automates the process of getting the latest.
  • NWA’s Straight Outta Compton album, edited by ni9e to include only the swearwords, a total of three minutes of un-bowdlerized ear-cleansing opprobrium. The most incredible part of this compilation has to be the fact that only eight of thirteen tracks have been subjected to the ECO (Explicit Content Only) treatment – the remaining five tracks presumably not carryin; no cussin’!
  • American Copywriter: a regular Podcast in which two advertising executives dissect trends in marketing and media, often flying off on hilarious tangents for no apparent reason. Great in a “hey, I’m not crazy” sense, since the excesses wrought by their Industry gets them just as worked up as those of us on the receiving end.
  • a 1:1 mixture of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 6% hydrogen peroxide: my home-brewed version of some commercial ear drops I used a few years ago. I looked at the ingredients, asked “I paid £6 for this?”, and did my own the next time. Works better than the original, with the peroxide reacting with the wax, heating and foaming the oil, pushing it into every corner. Painless as long as you don’t have any cuts or scrapes inside your ear, I suspect – and why would you, unless you had been trying to tighten the screws holding your tiny brain in place?

Written by brian t

April 21, 2005 at 10:37 am

Posted in music, podcasting

buzzwords-a-go-go

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Or: how my experience of information, including this site, has been influenced by recent trends in web interaction. I’ve been using buzzwords without a proper explanation what they do, so here goes:

RSS
If you follow the “rss” link in the right-hand sidebar of this page, you will be presented with a page full of hairy XML code. This is not designed to be read directly by humans like you (assuming), but if you insert the link to that XML into a program called an RSS Aggregator, it is converted into a readable “feed”. There are various RSS Aggregators out there, including some web-based ones, so you don’t have to install software on your computer if that’s a problem: see the following blogspace page for some background and lists of readers.

The advantages of this approach are many, but the main one to me is attention conservation: if I change something on this page (like this new blog entry), or another feed changes, it is flagged as new, so you can read it in your Aggregator. Until that happens you don’t need to visit the site hosting the feed to check for updates. So, when I do this with multiple feeds – and I have dozens set up in FeedReader myself – I have access to updated information from many website sources, as it arrives, neatly categorized.

Depending on how you use RSS, you may find you prefer a “full text” feed, like this site provides: I let WordPress include the full text of each Blog entry. This works well if you read content offline, as I sometimes do on the iPaq (a process I’m currently re-examining). Other sites assume you have an internet connection available as you read, so they include only a headline, perhaps a short summary, and a link to a live site where you can read the rest. This is a choice made by the website owner, you have no control over it, but I find it affects what I read, or not. I always want a full-text feed – why not, for the little extra bandwidth involved?

Podcasting
For the last couple of months I’ve been enjoying Podcasts from various sources: but what is a Podcast? It is simply an audio file created by someone, and made available for download, usually in MP3 format.

What’s new about that? Hasn’t that been done for years? Yes, but what is new is the delivery mechanism: it piggybacks on to a RSS feed, as described above, with all the same advantages. It means that, if you want it, the MP3 file will be automatically downloaded and saved to your local disk, using an “enclosure” extension to the RSS standard.

Note that none of this actually requires an Apple iPod: Podcasting’s current popularity can be attributed to the success of the iPod, but it’s not required. I listen to Podcasts on my iPaq when commuting, and on my laptop at home, as I would with any MP3 file. iPods apparently have a mechanism by which MP3s dropped in a specified directory are automatically copied to the iPod: I just include the Podcast MP3s in the data I back up to take to and from work, and the iPaq reads them straight from the card. My PC Podcast client of choice is iPodder v2, which also comes in a Mac version, and the main Podcast directory is iPodder.org. That site also has a an explanation of the process: “what is podcasting?”.

The latest Podcasts are logged at audio.weblogs.com, but a nice place to start is with Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code, a semi-professional Podcast by a former radio DJ and MTV VJ, who produces an almost-daily show that comes close to radio, but with a more human side – bloopers, hardware problems, swearwords, his daughter wandering in and out – great fun. Because of the time-sensitive nature of RSS and Podcasting – new Podcasts are brought to your attention like RSS feed entries – there is a motivation for Podcasters to produce fresh new content regularly – which is part of the fun.

Since Podcasting uses RSS, why do we have separate RSS Aggregators and Podcast clients? Simplicity, probably: I tried out Egress for the iPaq, which did both at the same time, so we know it’s possible. I can see more such convergence coming in the future.

Next time I will talk a little about Tagging: a subject I am barely getting my head around. I know how it works, but the why is still a little unclear at this point. Later.

Written by brian t

March 21, 2005 at 4:44 pm