"Phone Me" by spierzchala@Flickr; used under CC license“The community of podcasting” reminds me of an old-fashioned party line telephone. For those too young to know what that is — and I am just on the cusp, having experienced this technology at my grandparent’s place, never my own — back only a couple of decades ago, it wasn’t feasible to give everyone in a rural area their own phone line. Switching technology wasn’t as advanced as today, and it simply wasn’t worth stringing additional lines or putting up additional boxes or whatever they needed to do to get everyone their own line for customers that lived far enough apart, and didn’t really talk on the phone as much anyway. (No ordering pizza when you are 30km down a winding, possibly unpaved, possibly dirt/mud/rock-strewn roadway..)

Now, for each person to get their calls, they each had their own special ring — one long, two short, that one’s for Martha; two long, that was for the Demerchant farm; three short, that’s for you! This sort of open ringing system meant that, once you got to know the ring, you could see — or rather, hear — who was getting calls.

Since it wasn’t a dedicated line, there was another wrinkle: anyone could pick up the phone and hear and possibly interact in the conversation. The term “party line” probably didn’t refer to the idea that groups of youngin’s could get together and “party” on the line, but I’m sure that it eventually co-opted the term. Imagine: easy conference calling was once an accidental feature more available for rural customers!

Ok, so my (probably inaccurate but hopefully illustrative) history lesson is over.¬†How do I draw the analogy to the podcasting community? I think it has to do with them both being open, rural, evolving, neighbourly and having distinct rings. View full article »