So, over the last day or so, I've found myself falling for the Podcasting hype.
Yeah, yeah, I know -- I listened to and read Maciej's audioblogging manifesto (and, yes, that's a link to the text version, which kind of helps support the argument therein) but I think the addition of portable digital audio players and RSS feeds with enclosures to the mix changes things.
The whole audioblogging thing has seemed incredibly stupid and annoying to me, since my experience of it so far has mostly consisted of this: I navigate first to a text blog entry, click on a link to an MP3, then stare at the screen as the thing plays. Being a high-bandwidth Info Freako, a feeling of time wasted comes upon me pretty quickly. I can speed read and I want to get through this quickly, but I can't speed listen. I want to throw a bookmark at del.icio.us if I like it, but I can't select any text. Getting a bit bored, I start thinking about how maybe I might want to remix this crap, make a funky beat out of all the utterances of “um”, “ahh”, and “err”.
So, yeah, this sucks. Not picking on any particular audio blogger or post -- because they're almost all like this -- but I want that 4 minutes of my life back.
But the thing is, I'm a news radio junkie. I abandoned listening to music over the air almost seven years ago, so when I'm not listening to MP3 CDRs, my car tuner is almost perpetually locked on NPR. I listen to people jabbering at me at almost all times while I'm driving. And at work, I mix listening to my MP3s with streaming talk, news, and old sci-fi radio stations.
The difference here is that radio doesn't demand much of my attention. I'm usually doing something else while I'm listening, like driving or working. I don't have to navigate to anything, I don't have to provide any feedback or make any decisions--I just have to let it stream into my head. The lower mental demands of audio and a lack of necessary interaction dovetail nicely with multitasking.
So, in come iPodderX and friends. They're feed aggregators specifically built to slurp down audio enclosures and sync them up to audio players like the iPod. The idea is that, when you leave home, you take the digital audio player with you, loaded up with your own personal radio programming. Not having an iPod, I've been queuing these aggregated audio posts up in iTunes at work, and I've been playing around with burning CDRW's for use in my car's in-dash MP3 player. Once I get a headphone adapter for my Treo 600, maybe I'll start listening to them on there.
With this switch of perspective, I think I'm falling for the hype. The key is to get out of the way: aggregate, queue, and play in the background. Yeah, there's going to be a lot of awful crap out there, and lots of dorks eating breakfast and lipsmacking into the microphone as they blab (this is me, shuddering)--but as the number of podcasters expand, we will start to hear some blissful hams showing up with things worth listening to.
I'd like to do something, but I doubt I have the time or insight to produce something worth listening to on a regular basis. Adam Curry suggested doing things like a daily quote, jokes, or skits--short, good things have value. (Pete's encounter with frozen pizza instructions on Rasterweb Audio made me snort a bit.)
The first thing that comes to my mind are these old sci-fi radio broacasts to which I'm addicted. While I have written stories of my own, I wonder how much public-domain or Creative Commons licensed content is out there available? Could be fun to do some readings and a maybe do a little low-budget foley work. Of course, there's the hosting and bandwidth to worry about, though I suppose BitTorrent could help if the aggregators support it (and they should!)
In any case, I think the podcasters are on to something here. I'll be listening.