Good friend and author, Scott Roche, is also a rather ambitious fellow. He’s recently launched an effort to catalogue the podcasts and podcasters out there, as an independent, community-driven effort. I’ve signed up, and maybe I can help — maybe you can too!

This effort is sparse, at the moment, but could grow, with effort and participation. It is the Internet Podcast Database (IPDB). (Scott has suggested that things will be moving soon to, so I’ll include that link as well.)

I’ve lamented continuously about the lack of real discovery and management tools we have for podcasts, so I won’t rehash that topic. Sadly, despite the break I’ve taken from publishing here, nothing really dramatic seems to have happened.

One thing I’ve never really talked about here is Stitcher, or the various other on-device podcatchers. Mostly, that’s out of ignorance and a lack of time to remedy it, but also because I confess a certain aversion to the concept of end-device podcast management. Some are quite happy to separate the collection of podcasts from their central home computer or laptop — mostly, I suspect, because it frees you from using the stagnated singular leading product in the market, iTunes. Given the growth in processor power and storage on portable devices, as well as their role in day-to-day activities formerly associated with desktop computer use growing (email, web browsing, messaging, gaming, etc), it’s a trend that’s likely to continue.

But it leaves power-users like myself a bit in the dust. I can’t possibly store the unheard episodes of the podcasts I’m already subscribed to on any portable devices on the market, nor would I want to subject myself to podcast playlist management on a screen barely big enough to handle my sausage fingers.

(Side note: bring back physical buttons, dammit!)

I also wonder about the history of a podcast being appreciated when you put in on a compressed device. There are podcasts I’ve collected for a “rainy day” of listening. Others which had their run, podfaded, and have now become complete volumes on my “podshelf”, to be brought down, dusted off, and enjoyed when I have a lull in other programs, much like I will pick up a book from my bookshelf that hasn’t yet been written. There are other podcasts which I will complete but not delete; rather, I put them back on the podshelf to enjoy again at a later date. This is particularly true of fiction podcasts, but there is a class of “timeless” podcast which includes non-fiction as well.

And finally, there is the biggest problem of all: podcasting silos, otherwise known (crudely) as the creation of a vertical marketplace. Each of these end-device applications has it’s own database of podcasts, which is created either through the googlescraping of podcasts and defunct directories, or must be submitted to by overworked podcast producters who have to somehow keep on top of every nickel-and-dime-store podcasting application creator’s product release.

So, instead of really solving a problem, for example, the issue of iTunes being a “walled garden”, you have, instead, the creation of a panoply of walled gardens, or the creation of the “podcasting walled garden” as a category of thing, and instances replicated throughout these applications.

So, I laud Scott’s effort for an independent body of knowledge, free of individual applications. It’s form is that of a wiki at present, and it is a community-driven effort, but I suspect it may transform into a form of directory at some point. With luck, it will survive the transformation with the lessons of the past failed and faded directories, and provide a resource that can automatable connections to software. With luck, we’ll see the offspring of such a project be the podcast directory service equivalent of what RSS is to podcasts; that is, an organizing principle which is metaphorically accessible and machine-readable.

« »