Tag Archive: philosophy

The Structure of UP!

Before I dive into article writing, I want to give some indication of what can be expected, what kind of articles can be expected. While I’m setting this out as a plan, there will inevitably be changes along the way. Nonetheless, as one of my former software development managers loved to say: “You always need to start from a plan; it’s the only way you can deviate from it!”.

Typically, articles will fall into 15 categories:

  • “Podcasting Is…”: defining articles, usually looking at particular aspects that seem core to the concept of podcasting. Examples include “aynchronous”, “mobility”, “easy to do”, “easy to consume”, “subscribing”.
  • “Podcasting Is Not…”: defining articles in a negative way, looking at some aspect which people generally confuse with podcasting, but which don’t really fit the concept. Example include “streaming media”, “podcasting live”, “direct download”.
  • “Podcasting Means…”: articles trying to understand the importance of podcasting in a broader sense, trying to suss out what makes it important in both a positive and negative way. Example include “democratizing media”, “cheapening media”.
  • “Podcasting Versus…”: articles comparing and contrasting podcasting to other things, most particular other forms of media. Unlike the “… Is Not” articles, there is a focus on looking at all of the aspects of the other media, rather than just picking on one. Example include “radio”, “TV”, “blogging”, “newspapers”, “YouTube”, “uStream”, “MP3 music”.
  • “Podcasting Should…”: articles which look at the potential of podcasting, both from examining the things that it is doing wrong or badly now (and how they might be fixed) and from dreaming a bit about what changes can make the medium stronger. Examples include “podcatchers as proprietary software”, “organizing podcasts”, “podcast interactivity”, “closing the feedback loop”.
  • “Under the Hood”: articles discussing the mechanics of podcasting. The focus of this site is not about the mechanics — there are plenty of books and web sites which cover that. Sometimes, however, it might be useful to discuss these things and not force people to go searching for background on their own. Examples include “RSS”, “MP3 format”, “M4A format”, “routing feeds”, “tagging”.
  • “Bad Podcaster Habits”: articles describing what appears to be bad habits that podcasters fall in to, why they might not be good, and what you can do about them. This began as a series of Twitter comments borne out of my listening to thousands of podcast episodes, and people seemed to appreciate them.
  • “Good Podcaster Habits”: articles which give praise where it’s due, that point out what habits that podcasters might have which are really good — even if they aren’t conscious of doing them.
  • “News”: articles related to any news articles, statements, blog posts or related goings-on in the podcasting community. Examples include conference notifications, changes in relevant specifications.
  • “Links”: articles describing an existing or new website, mailing list/forum, blog post, podcast directory, individual podcast or something else that seems worth mentioning. This is not meant to be exhaustive, but hopefully useful and illustrative.
  • “Bookshelf”: articles discussing books about podcasts. There are a number of books on podcasting that already exist, and new ones will (hopefully!) continue to come out. I won’t necessarily be offering in-depth reviews, and my book purchasing budget is small, but I want to make sure to acknowledge them.
  • “Interview”: articles which either describe or transcribe part of an interview I’ve done, or describe and discuss interviews that others have done.
  • “Op Ed”: articles which present particular opinions. Now, this entire site can be considered my opinion, really, but I welcome dissenting and otherwise alternative points of view. I hope to invite others to participate with their own articles, and this section is meant to include them.
  • “Meta”: articles about the running of the site itself. Example include warnings of upcoming outage or delays, notice of changes to structure, answering complaints.
  • “Rant”: articles which present a highly emotional response to something, usually negative (but not necessarily always). Sometimes, there are current features or activities that just drive me nuts in this crazy podcasting world, or things which just earn from me some unmitigated praise. Rants are likely to be less structured, less cultured, more raw, less thought out, pure expression.

You might notice that these all describe articles, but not podcast episodes. I haven’t worked out any sort of podcasting schedule (if there is to be one), but in reality any of these articles might be presented as a podcast episode, or part of one. I want both the site and the podcast to be useful on their own, and when integrated together. It just so happens that, at the moment at least, it’s easier for me to type articles than it is for me to record episodes.

Some things we learn because someone told us what they are. Other things we learn from experience, and we give that experience a name — in fact, the people who told us what things are might have learned them this way.

The question at hand, of course, is “what is podcasting”? What do I mean when I ask that question? Why does it seem even interesting?

First attempts at answering this question are usually something like what Wikipedia currently cites (and the first definition I cited in my presentation):

A podcast is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication.

A later section cites work that I’ll look into further where a four-part definition of podcast is used:

A podcast is a digital audio or video file that is episodic; downloadable; programme-driven, mainly with a host and/or theme; and convenient, usually via an automated feed with computer software.

I have a problem with these definitions: they don’t actually answer the question — except in a very surface way.

Or, as I have come to call it: these things are the mechanic definitions of podcasting.

It’s understandable, really; from what I’ve learned about learning styles and the process of cognition, humans generally move from the more concrete descriptions of the world to the symbolic and abstract. It speaks not to the skills of the definer that these definitions lack any sort of real meaning, but rather to the newness of podcasting itself.

But this mechanical definition really gets us very little, and it’s not the question I’m asking anyway. One could have made a similar description about a car, describing the elegant dance of hardware, instrumentation and control that gives this hunk of plastic, metal and chemicals its forward mobility. It would be accurate, at least for a while — when the technology changes, this mechanical description either gets broader, changes, or simply gets abandoned.

But the “real” meaning of “car” is far more than the particular make and model, the parts and the construction, the history and the price. A car means providing vast mobility in a world previously ruled by rail and horses. A car means transforming cities to wrap them in ribbons of concrete towers to allow traffic to flow in a semi-orderly manner. A car means giving independence to millions who would have otherwise depended on the services of others to provide them with goods, and choices of where goods and services can be bought. A car means an increase in the use of and reliance on fossil fuels — or at least some energy supply. A car means having a portable office to some, a mobile house to others.

I could go on, but I think my point becomes clear: it’s much more than simple mechanical definitions that I’m after here: it’s that deeper meaning that I’m curious about. What is the impact of podcasting? How has this very young medium already shaped things (if at all)? How can it continue to do so? What should we seek to do with it, and how can we bring about such a future? Does podcasting deserve a seat at the big table with older, more established media, or is it resigned to the kid’s table alongside Youtube, flickr and Twitter?

That said, I will probably cover the mechanics of podcasting, both in a basic way (“here’s how a podcast is created, delivered, consumed”) and in a more explorative way (“how can we deliver podcasts differently?”).

But I see podcasting as much more — or at least, potentially so. Podcasting has, for me, entirely changed my pattern of media consumption. Podcasts are probably close to 80% of my media intake on any given day. (That’s a rough guesstimate; I’ll try to actually work out a proper number later.)

Have I answered my own question? Probably not. 😉 You may find that my inquisitive nature tends to raise more questions than it answers…

What is this?

Hi there!

This is a blog dedicated to understanding the media of podcasting. (Ok, that was the obvious part..)

I am interested in getting beyond the mere mechanics of podcasting and into the deeper meaning behind this emerging medium. I want to explore what makes the medium unique, what makes it the same, what it does well and what it does badly. I want to raise and attempt to answer questions like “What is so important about this podcasting thing, anyway?” and “What should the future of podcasting look like?” and “Is podcasting dying?”.

The inspiration for this site is two-fold: first, it’s simply one of my fascinations that I keep talking about and wondering about, so I figured I’d try to do something about. Second, I’ve been taking a course on teaching, and it mandates that we teach a 20 minute session about something we’re passionate about. I’ve always found that when you combine your strong interests, you tend to perform better and get something more satisfying as a result, so here we go!

I have been a podcaster for a few years now (go see my main solo show, The WEIRD Show, or my occasional show and blog, Encaffeinated!; I’m also elsewhere) and have been a massive podcast consumer as well. I have been known to subscribe to over 300 shows, and podcasts are my main media to consume.

I have been in volunteer radio for over a dozen years as well, which gives me another perspective to throw in..

I am planning to produce occasional audio podcasts on this topic, which will be found here. I don’t know exactly what those are going to be on, just yet, so suggestions about topics to cover are welcome.

Oh.. and yeah, the base design has got to go.. Suggestions about that are welcome as well! 😉

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