Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Arrival of Podcasting 

I had the good fortune to work for Adam Curry in the mid-90's. Aside from being a genuinely nice guy, Adam has several times now been prescient when comes to predicting the next cultural wave. Currently, Adam's working on figuring out how to take his idea of iPodder to the next level, e.g., make a business out of it.

iPodder is an open source application that allows you to find audio files on the Internet, download them to your computer and then load them onto your MP3 player. The player of choice, of course, being an iPod. Lots of folks have leapt at this concept from two different and interdependent directions: software and content.

Software developers have gone out and started creating various versions of iPodder that include improvements on the original iPodder code. Content creators have begun recording audio files - "podcasts" and begun posting them for iPodder software users to download.

The evolution of podcast content will likely mirror the evolution of blog content, which is to say that to begin with we have lots of podcast content which is not "professionally produced". Right now, it's anybody with a microphone and a server posting podcasts for others to listen to. Of course, some of the folks (Adam himself being a shining example) have radio production backgrounds and their podcasts sound professional. But thus far, it's pretty touch and go as to the quality.

But that's part of the joy of the Internet, isn't it? Anyone can publish anything. And what floats my boat may very well not float yours. (I often marvel watching HBO's Real Sex series: where did the "pony play" people find each other before the Internet? How sad that there were "horse people" desiring riders and sad riders desperate for trusty steeds to ride, but neither party had a way of finding others to share their kinks!)

If you're interested in watching this emerging content (and if you're reading a blog to begin with, you might want to experience this new mutation), all you need is an MP3 player. Then you simply need to choose a freeware application to grab the 'casts you want to hear. Personally, I'm using Doppler and like the way it works. It's very simple to use. But you can choose from a number of free apps that the open source community is working on, all based on Adam's original iPodder app. Just go to iPodder.org and pick whichever strikes your fancy.

Your next task is to pick a few 'casts to subscribe to. My recommendation if you're somewhat on the geeky edge is to start with Adam's show The Daily Source Code. He is proactively scanning all of the new podcasts and tends to preview a few each show in between doing his own thing. That way you can ease into the new medium. Plus, Adam is having so much fun doing his show that it's a pretty positive vibe to start with. But if you want, you can select from the hundreds of podcasts in the iPodder.org directory or one of the many other online directories like Podcasting.net.

Your next question may be, "When would I listen to a podcast?" From my own experience, I have two places that work well for me: my daily commute to work on the subway and the gym.

I've been thinking a lot about an issue that Adam recently challenged the "godcasters" (religious podcasters) with: "Whose god is responsible for the tsunami?" That's going to take some time to pull together, so I'll save that for next week. In the meantime check out a podcast and see what you think.
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