Category Archives for Rant
First time on the train in a few years. And people think our train system is bad… Welcome to Cityrail!
Some of my pet peeves are stupid designers and developers, bad usability, and projects going public before they’re supposed to, thus turning users into beta testers. OurMedia.org pretty much has them all. Welcome to my longest ever blog post. It’s a rant, so feel free to skip it.
Here’s the original post that I had ready to go last week, but decided not to post at the last minute.
It is somewhat ironic that the announcement and opening of ourmedia.org
was their first lesson in communication. The self proclaimed “free,
not-for-profit effort to create a global home for grassroots media”, hit
the blogosphere sounding like just one of many recent media storage
sites, which is probably why even today, a week after the fact, there’s
only one story on it in Google News.
The announcement focussed more on them being free, the problems with
bandwidth, them being free, content longevity and them being free, than
it did on explaining their goals, backers and relationship with other
organisations. It’s not rocket science to understand that geeks tend to
catch on to the technology pretty quick, and it is the business side of
the enterprise that is usually their initial concern. In fact the thing
about “grass roots media” tends to be their anti establishment stance.
Yet OurMedia’s tone seemed patronising and vague when discussing
anything but the few and quite common benefits they’re actually offering
on their site. OurMedia launch day plus one, and TheirMedia seems like a
more appropriate name.
References to the Internet Archive hosting some of the content, without
explaining their real connection with the project, and several for
profit organisations providing support and infrastructure, certainly
didn’t help improve the situation. Many were asking why they’d bother
moving away from Internet Archive which already provides media hosting,
and with Marc Canter involved, what is their future business model,
what’s the catch?
Eventually the story was slashdotted, bringing OurMedia’s servers to
their knees, which simply added to the negativity that it had already
received in the slashdot forums, and various content related email
groups around the Internet. With the day’s catch phrases being “how free
is free?”, “how long is forever?”, and “how can you possibly out archive
the Internet Archive?”, you have to ask, did anyone at OurMedia actually
think through how the message would be received in the blogosphere, and
how it should have been delivered?
When the smoke started to clear, the OurMedia folks tried to clarify
some of the statements they’d made including the role of Internet
Archive. To be fair, they have personally come out to various forums on
the ‘net to try to clarify the message, but with answers ranging from
OurMedia being part of IA, through to IA simply hosting the content,
which is what they do with every other web site on the Internet anyway,
the message from OurMedia still seems quite vague.
You could argue that any discussion is good for OurMedia, and with Marc
Canter involved, the principles behind Marquee may well be behind
their lack of concern for a clearer message. I for one don’t buy that,
but I’m not going to go into differences here and now.
Ultimately, I’m sure in the short term OurMedia will provide a useful
service for “grass roots media”, but the question still remains: for an
organisation that found it difficult to communicate with their audience
about the most significant announcement they’ll ever make, their own
existence, if you’re grass roots media, would you let them host and
manage your content? Time will tell.
I thought it was a nice insightful yet somewhat devil’s advocate kind of piece, something appropriate for my blog. But at the last minute, something popped up on the videoblogging email group, which instead made me post the following:
I think I’m about to get myself into trouble, but this is why we’re here. So I’ll just come out and say it, and then get back in my hole and I won’t say anything else about it, OK? 🙂
IA is slow loading… maybe a vlog clog courtesy of ourmedia 😉
You know, I don’t want to put a downer on the whole OurMedia thing, because the people on here that are a part of that project seem to be nice folks, but…
I’m really sorry, but I just don’t get why OurMedia is so great. I already drink the citizen media Kool Aid, I already use the Internet Archive, and I already understand a lot about social networking and microcontent. What’s in it for me? (don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical)
They come riding in on their self appointed white horse of citizen media, claiming all these things that are slightly condescending distortions of the truth, and expect us to just blindly jump on board. OK, that’s too harsh, but that’s exactly what big media expect, and one of things that we’re trying to fight against.
- There are other media hosting sites, otherwise we wouldn’t all be here
- They cannot guarantee they’ll stay around forever, as they’re donation and sponsorship based
- They cannot guarantee to always be free, as they’re donation and sponsorship based
- They can’t seem to present a common message about their actual relationship with Internet Archive
- Their release announcements were slammed and slashdotted (and by some of the sane ones), making me question whether any thought was given to how they were going to deliver their message to their target audience: us
- They outsourced their development to India, not that that worries me, being in Australia, but it may affect U.S. folks in some way
- The focus of their announcement seems to be “it’s free, and these Internet celebrities are involved”, instead of “this is the new media, this is why it is important, this is why we’re here”
- Internet Archive seems to have made no announcement at all, or at least I haven’t seen it
- Their upload and display problems are ongoing (but I do realise that they’re teething problems)
- Internet Archive slurps up everything anyway, so to say “most of our content is stored on the Internet Archive” is pretty silly, because most of every web site is stored on the Internet Archive. Seems more like a way to give the impression it is an IA project, when it is not.
I will comment on one particular post. (Sorry about this, because I do love your work JD)
5) The Archive is a fairly static experience. Ourmedia has completely new content on the front page every week, free member blogs, and new ways to slice and dice content:
IA also highlights new content, free member blogs aren’t exactly a big draw card, and IA being a static experience is actually it’s biggest draw card. We’re talking about the new media, distributed, long tail, markets are conversations, choice of tools, citizen journalism, we are the media. Arguably, one single site trying to be everything to everyone, goes against so many of these ideals, and on the business side historically is a proven plan for failure.
Not only that, but I think I have a problem with people being singled out and highlighted on a home page. Who makes that decision? When there’s millions of videobloggers amongst us, who gets to decide which few get publicity? Who decides what is “good” and “worth a watch”? The whole point of citizen media is that we no longer have false idols presenting us with their interpretation of what is news, what is good and bad, and continually propping up the evil power law. I know “ways to slice and dice” is a solution, but it too has problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying OurMedia are evil, or won’t succeed, because I do believe they’ll be a useful tool for the future. But the message needs to be managed better, by people who understand who “we” are and talk in our language.
For my content though, Internet Archive is still the best bet. After all, everything’s going to end up there anyway.
I got a couple fo replies, which were all nice, a couple hinted at issues they had, but most just tried to reassure that the guys behind it are really working hard to make things right. I don’t doubt they are.
So with Internet Archive currently not accepting uploads via the ccPublisher tool, and with two videos to upload, I decided to give OurMedia a go. I’ve heard it is much easier that Internet Archive, so what the heck. The ccPublisher tool is fairly buggy, but for the last few days has been crashing at the end of an upload with a “meta data: none” error, whatever that means.
Here’s my follow up post to the videoblogging email list, on my experience using OurMedia.org.
IA is currently burping with meta errors, so I thought I’d try OurMedia. So I went there and clicked on register, typed in my account name, password and my name, and clicked on the whatever the button was. There was text at the bottom of the form explaining that my name would be used on the site, and not my account name.
The site then came back with another form with an error, telling me that my archive.org account is invalid. What the? Then it prompts me for my Internet Archive account details. Stupidly I entered them, and clicked the button.
I was then popped into three tabbed forms, one with strange embedded three half tabbed forms, prompting me for personal information. So I entered some of this, and clicked on save. All good, I’m registered.
So then I see that my archive.org account name (one of my many email addresses) is displayed on the site, even when the form said it wouldn’t be. This worried me, so I logged out from the site, then as an anonymous user did a search for me. It came up yet again with my email address as my account, which is very upsetting.
I decided to change my account name, so that my email address wouldn’t be displayed, so I logged in again, and changed that to another account name that I use, clicked save and it came back and said that account name is already in use. It’s fairly obscure, so that was strange. I logged out again and ran a search for my original account name, and it came up with my details. So obviously my first registration worked, but bounced me out into my archive.org account for some reason.
So I try to log in as the original account name instead of the second, but the password has been trashed for some reason, and there’s no way that I can see to ask OurMedia to send me a copy of the password.
So now, in summary, I have one account with a password that I don’t know, and I have another account as my email address, which I don’t want people to see. And I can’t send an email to the admins to fix it, because there isn’t one on the site.
I’m not making this up, I really was trying to use and appreciate OurMedia, but to be honest I don’t think it is anywhere near ready for primetime. Have the registration use cases been tested and QAed for example?
I think I’ll just wait for ccPublisher to start working again. But in the meantime, who do I speak to about getting my email address removed from the site?
I went to bed shaking my head, mumbling to myself that I should have trusted my instincts.
So anyway, I got up this morning, determined to get my uploads into the archive somehow. So I went back to OurMedia.org, in the hope that a fresh start would help me work out the problem. With a couple of helpful tips from the videoblogging list, including a pointer to the smallest of small site footers where you can only just read the words “report a bug”, I went back to the original account I created, and saw a “forgotten my password” hyperlink that I swear wasn’t there last night. I clicked on that and was asked for my account and email address, which I entered, and waited.
Luckily, my domain admin saw the email come in with a bad mailbox name, and forwarded me the email. That gave me the password for the first account, so I logged in to that and found that the email address was wrong. So I fixed the email address and also entered the password for my Internet Archive account password, and clicked save. The form is so bad, nowhere does it ask for your Internet Archive account, and only now do I know that the email address you enter also has to be your IA account. So the only email address you can use on OurMedia, is the one you use to log into IA. Stupid.
So then the page comes back with an error, saying the email address is already taken. What? This must be the second account, but what if I wanted to create two OurMedia users, and just use the same email address? You mean I can’t do that? That’s just stupid.
So I logged out of the original account, logged into the new account with the IA email address, and changed the email address to something else. The problem though is that OurMedia allows account names which contain spaces, thus confusing the whole account name vs. user name issue. You never know which one you’re changing, and because you can inline change your account name, it’s doubly confusing.
Finally, after jumping through a few more hoops which I’ll spare you from, I managed to get the original account set up correctly, and the second one sitting there in some hopefully soon to be deleted (when the admins decide to get back to me) mangled state.
Right, so I have an account on OurMedia, which only took the best part of 3 hours across two easter holidays, which I consider valuable because it’s supposed to be downtime for me from the usual tech stuff I do at work. Grr…
Next step is to download their Internet Archive publishing tool, which from the description sounded awfully familiar. The download says they don’t create any desktop or tray icons, which is supposed to be a positive thing. But I’m guessing they say this because they simply haven’t bothered to do this yet, because after downloading and running the install, it hides itself inside the Program Files directory (yes I know, I’m doing this from my PC, just deal with it), without adding itself to the Start/Programs menu.
Now inside the directory, are about 38 files, including 4 applications with obscure names. Which to run? Oh look, two of them are called cd.exe and cct.exe, looking a lot like the ccPublisher tools. So I decide to run ompub.exe, and up it comes, basically ccPublisher with some extra information. As I click through each dialog in the wizard, it is obvious that this is in fact ccPublisher (and written by the same guy), but with extra meta data fields added. It even has the same known bugs as ccPublisher.
So my question is: is this why ccPublisher has been languishing, and not having it’s bugs fixed? Because OurMedia wanted their own tool, and wasted the developer’s time when he could have been fixing ccPublisher for Creative Commons? And I’m gussing here that the extra meta data errors on Internet Archive are now caused by the extended API requirements from OurMedia.
With the upload finally complete, it ends up with an OurMedia URL. The tool very clearly saying that it has been sent to both OurMedia and Internet Archive, which isn’t actually true, it only goes to Internet Archive.
As at the time of this post, I’m waiting for the supposed hour it takes for my video to clear OurMedia and get published. So fingers crossed, my next post will contain an OurMedia enclosure.
As for OurMedia? It’s way too early to open this site to the public. It needs extensive testing, well any testing would have been good. The graphic design looks OK, but the usability and help texts are shocking, and whoever designed those should never work in the industry again. I’m really pissed off that they’ve taken valuable development time away from ccPublisher, and I’m still worried that my email address and account password might be in view on the site in some way.
When Internet Archive starts working again, I’ll definitely be moving this upload back across to there, and leaving OurMedia for at least six months before taking another look. I would advise that you do the same.
R U a footy fanatic? Get the latest scores sent 2 yr mobile free from vodafone for 4 weeks. Reply 2 this TXT b4 25/03/05 with NRL AFL or Rugby. Call 1509 4 info
So let’s just get this straight. Ten abuses of the English language must be close to a record: R U; 2 yr; shortening of “mobile phone” to “mobile”; no comma after “mobile”; no capitalised Vodafone; 2; b4; missing comma after NRL; 4; and no full stop after “info”. Not to mention the unsolicited SMS, and use of the term “TXT”. My reply:
I hate football. Stop sending me this marketing bullshit.
You’ve pulled a hamstring so you’re retiring frm footy TXT alerts. U will no longer receive footy updates.For sports results see the Vodafone menu on yr mobile
The English language just isn’t want it used to be, thanks to corporations like Vodafone. For starters they’ve already identified that I’m not a “footy fanatic”, so why continue using the “footy” analogy? Isn’t that just going to annoy me even more? Moving on, we have the “frm” misspelling; the “U”; the missing space after the second full stop; and the “yr”. Inconsistently they now have Vodafone capitalised, but consistently are still missing a closing full stop. My reply, in an equally creative use of the English language:
Fuck off you idiots.
Whoops, that was a wrong code. Please reply 2 this TXT with either NRL, AFL or Rugby. U can only choose one. Call 1509 for more information.
Right, so having already proven that an unintelligible reply from me means that I’m not interested, why have they considered my second unintelligible reply an invalid code instead of a “no”? Plus we’ve continued with the abuse of English with “2” and “U”, although this time inconsistently they’ve included the comma after “NRL” and have finally put a poor little full stop at the end.
I have no problem with inconsistency, so long as it is a genuine mistake or typo. After all, we’re all human. But when it goes beyond that, you need to seriously question whether this is the kind of person you need in a marketing department, dealing directly with customers.
Vodafone continues to reinforce the now Internet wide opinion that they do not understand their customers, do not understand quality (see my branded phone post), do not understand that markets are conversations, and continue to patronise the very people who keep them in business (see my ring tone conspiracy post), their customers. Get on the clue train.
You should all know about MovieLens, the sight that makes film recommendations for you, based on collaborative filtering. It did the rounds of the web a few years back, and I regularly use it as a double check on films I should probably see. In about 95% of cases (yep, 19 out of 20), it is pretty dead on. If you’ve not used it, check it out.
So today I decided to see one of the top recommendations for me. Amongst the first 10 films in the list, most of which were foreign or arthouse films, out jumped Ocean’s Twelve, showing at the local, and at the end of it’s run so I was expecting a nice empty cinema. Well done MovieLens, you just made 1 out of 20, and Hoyts, you’re next on my list.
I admit it, I enjoyed Ocean’s Eleven, and Steven Soderbergh is one of my favourite hollywood directors, with Sex, Lies, and Videotape being one of my favourite films of all time, and him probably one of the few people who could possibly remake Solaris and make it different yet just as good as the original.
However, after the first 15 minutes of Ocean’s Twelve, it is obvious that there’s no real story here, just a linear and very obvious narrative, with no real twists or turns, no even remotely interesting heist, a bunch of wasted movie business in-jokes, and a final 10 minutes that attempts to reframe the entire narrative, effectively sticking two fingers up to an up to this point faithful audience, who just sat through 115 minutes of padding, waiting for the twist.
The Sixth Sense this aint, and you’ve got to ask whether writer George Nolfi actually understands the difference. With Ocean’s Twelve, the wrong story is more believable and understandable than the 10 minute correction at the end, if of course you can see past all the glitches and physical impossibilities. Moving LASER alarms? Get outa here. But then what would you expect from a writer whose only other public credit seems to be the co-writing, and subsequent ruining, of the screenplay of the Michael Crichton novel Timeline.
Product placement, flawed story, impossible physics, incorrect technical details, bad acting, and patronising the audience. Enough of Ocean’s Twelve, I could go on all day but it still wouldn’t get my AUD$14.50 and the 125 minutes of my life back. Which brings me to Hoyts.
Now on to their fourth generation web site, and still failing miserably to understand even the basics of user interface design, you’ve got to wonder whether being under the MSN banner is any better than the previous sites built in-house. Marginally.
So I wait in line outside the cinema, due to “cleaning” apparently, and when we are finally let in 15 minutes late, there’s still stray bits of popcorn and lolly wrappers over most of the seats. Luckily enough, most of the sheep tended to sit up the back as per usual, which meant I had a choice of about three different clean seats in the centre. It makes you wonder why cinema’s bother installing surround sound and the movie studios bother spending so much time on the production and the technology, when most people just sit behind the back speakers anyway. No matter, better seats for me I guess.
Finally we get to the end of this laborious film, the sheep all file out when the very first line of credit comes up, and then the lights come on. Hello? Then Cecilia and Tim enter the theatre with their trusty brooms and buckets, intending most likely to repeat the most excellent job they did last time. But do they apologise and turn the lights back off? Of course not. I’m not saying that everyone should stay for the credits, but I could give a dozen good reasons why people may wish to see them, and it makes me wonder why these ignoramuses have never asked themselves why hollywood even bothers spending money to put them there.
Welcome yet again to the dumbing down of society. While the information and personal publishing revolution is about it explode into the mainstream, it is good to see that hollywood still fails to understand that we are intelligent beings who deserve better. Copy their films for all I care, maybe it will help them get a clue.
On the other hand, a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to see the amazing A Very Long Engagement, by the fabulous Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and the experience was better by a degree of magnitude. Clean seats, good focus, courteous and intelligent staff (The Cremorne Orpheum), great story, twists and turns, clever deceptions, and believable characters. Upon checking with MovieLens… Ahh that’s better, 4.5 almost dead on. 18 more films to look forward to…
What is it with the little dog in Windows XP file search? Dogs fetch sticks. So I’m guessing that when I want to search for a file, the analogy is that of throwing it away somewhere into my hard drive, and I want a dog to run after it, slobber all over it, and hand it back to me? And supposedly I need a 3D animated animal to remind me that searching for a file will do this? OK, that sort of works I guess.
So what about the fact that dogs don’t always return the stick, they sometimes get bored and run off, or they grab the stick and just sit down somewhere off in the distance? At times they’ll grab the stick and give it to someone else, who will then throw it somewhere else. These are the memories I have of playing fetch. Are they really the ones I want associated with my important files? Well, perhaps it’s OK because they’re sort of man’s best friend.
What if I’m a woman? Well, Google unfortunately toes the sexist line if you’re feeling lucky, but I guess they’re hoping the dog analogy is gender neutral. So yeah, forget diamond rings, the supposed woman’s best friend, and let’s just go with a gender neutral dog analogy for now.
So umm… what if I just plain hate dogs?
Right, well if you click on the configuration button, you can change the animation to other 2D cartoon style drawings, or you can even turn it off.
Great! So where’s the 3D cat? Oh, there’s only a characterisation, a cartoon image of a cat? That sort of sucks. I guess cats don’t fetch sticks, so in theory, there was no point spending time doing a 3D cat. OK, that sort of works I guess.
So why bother including a cat at all? As a cat lover, I’d probably have preferred a dog fetching a file, and having no cat option whatsoever. A 2D cat just makes me pissed off. Even more pissed off than a fucking 3D dog slobbering over my files, and optionally, at the dog’s discretion, not returning the file at all!
Microsoft. Just when you think they start to get it… They don’t.
At the risk of doing the Vodafone thing to death…
There is a conspiracy in the mobile phone world, using DRM as an excuse for content lock in, and the public haven’t yet noticed.
There was a time, not 10 years ago, when the latest piece of geek gear would open up a world of hacks and extensions. In the Apple II world at least, we’d spend much of our time writing drivers, or coding hacks to get 3rd party gear to work on the Apple II. Floptical drives, personal organiser (now called PDAs) interfaces, printers, tape drives, industrial strength scanners, all had published APIs or protocols, and companies actively promoted technical documentation for hackers to use their gear. Some would require a little hardware hacking, others just software, but in general, the manufacturer didnt care. And in most cases, approaching them about the driver you’d just written would get you a “with our compliments” letter, and they’d start directing other interested users to your code. This has all changed due to DRM.
I’ve written previously about Vodafone’s disgusting attitude towards users, and how key features of my Sony Ericsson K700i have been disabled unless I pay Vodafone for the privilege, but the conspiracy doesn’t end there. It continues with Sony Ericsson, the manufacturer of the phone, and countless other network operators who also rebrand these phones.
I bought the K700i so that I could write Java apps for it, particularly the Apple II emulator that I’ve already written. Nothing special about that, most people learn Java these days at school, whether it be a simple Hello World or something more extensive. And what a great hack to get your own code running on these babies? After all, that’s one of the features marketed by Sony Ericsson, the ability to run J2ME MIDP applications, as is MP3 files as ring tones. Silly me assumed that because the phone supported it, that I’d be actually able to use it. Is it possible to copy J2ME apps directly to the phone and have them run? No it is not.
At least Sony Ericsson have a free developers’ site, where they provide all the technical specifications for writing applications. But the first thing you’re hit with is that the phone is completely managed by DRM. Even free applications need to be wrapped in a DRM package before they will run on the phone. And MP3s? Vodafone won’t allow you to use MP3 files as ring tones, unless they are DRMed. Of course Sony Ericsson provide the developer application that allows you to illegally DRM any content, which rather stupidly defeats the purpose, but still, all these companies are conspiring to make usable content only available for subscription download from the network provider.
And the man on the street apparently has no idea. They’ll happily download that MP3 ring tone or wallpaper from their network provider, for almost a third of what it costs for their monthly rental, and which for the network provider is almost 100% profit.
What if I happen to draw my own wallpaper? Record my girlfriend saying “Ring ring”, or even dare write my own Java application? Can I easily download it to the phone? Of course not.
These phones should be open to everyone, to do what they are technically able to do. If the phone runs J2ME apps, then let me run any J2ME app, and make it easy for me to do so. If I want to use MP3s as ring tones, because it is one of the phone’s key features, then let me do so.
There is a conspiracy in the mobile phone world, where our access to phone technology is being restricted by network providers wanting to make money for downloads. Don’t believe the bullshit that they are protecting copyrighted works, the DRM is there to lock you into paying for downloads. It’s a con, its a conspiracy, and it has to stop.
I stupidly braved the sales today, looking for the elusive pink, red, blue and green socks. Since the Sock Shop franchise closed down (well, was bought out and shut down), wearing mismatched single coloured socks, almost a trademark of mine, has been difficult to say the least, but I figured if anything, stores would most likely be tossing out their old fluoro socks into the bargain bins. No such luck.
It was at that moment, finding myself in the middle of the menswear section of a well known up market retailer, that I noticed I was awash in pastels, particularly baby pink. Under the fluorescent lights, you’d be forgiven for being blinded by aisle upon aisle of almost identikit shirts, if it weren’t for the mostly incomprehensible writing which seems to adorn all modern hip fashion, in an infinite array of fonts, styles and colours.
Yes folks, pink, with gibberish annotations, is the new brown. Born from the world of Euro courture several years ago, and finally making it’s way into the design houses of modern middle class pseudo-fashion, we say goodbye once and for all to the browns and earthy tones which subdued us for many a year.
Walking around the mall today was like being embedded in virtual reality advertising, and I felt strangely compelled to try reading every fragment of script worn by the endless pairs of testosteroned half surf culture half club culture male hipsters, with hair sprayed natural coloured limp mohawks. Sorry guys, but mohawks need to have colour and need to be spiked up, otherwise they just look like a half arsed lopsided business cut. I guess that’s Chatswood for you.
So anyway, I’m rambling now. The point is that the whole day reminded me why I don’t usually hit the Christmas sales. Many a year ago I was teased for wearing pink socks, strange considering my hair colour, but now that fashion and the mighty dollar dictate that pink is OK, calling all macho guys, this year it is swell to wear pink. Hmm, maybe I should switch to yellow…
Podcasting. I’m still underwhelmed.
I’ve tried, I really have, to try to understand what all the fuss is about, giving the odd A-lister the benefit of the doubt. The radio killer, the next big thing, the future of the media. Sorry, still not ringing any of my bells.
A few months back I added enclosures to one of the Sacrament Radio RSS feeds, and after the hour of coding it took to write and test, I sat back waiting for the metaphoric penny to drop. Not even the podcasted recording of a penny dropping, metaphoric or otherwise, I think would change the situation much either. Here we are podcasting, big deal.
Podcasting? Hmm… All I did was drop a URL to an mp3 file into an RSS feed via an enclosure. Enclosure? That’s a bit of a misnomer. It’s not like the file is actually stored within the feed, just the URL is. The file still needs to be stored on a server somewhere, and pulled down by software that knows it is there. I think “external media reference” is a more accurate term to be honest.
I’m an Apple nut, and have been since that fateful day in 1979, so I’d be the last to suggest dropping the pod from podcast, but sitting here seeing an RSS feed containing a reference URL to an mp3 file, I’m thinking perhaps feedcast is a more accurate and appropriate term. Podcast? Pah! Cute iTunes scripts to download files to the iPod, but buddy, it’s still just a URL to a file.
So while I’m taking pot shots at the technology, why don’t I finish up by firing a few broadsides at podcasters themselves. Of course to call yourself a podcaster, would imply that your listeners are downloading to iPods, which is a bit presumptuous if you ask me. You’re a feedcaster, so just deal with it, ok?
So that brings us to the content itself. Most of course are mp3 files, now a substantially old technology, that only still exists because bandwidth hasn’t increased as fast as we’d hoped it would. Where is the interesting experimentation with other kinds of media?
And listening to some of these podcasts is a enlightening experience I must say. Most tend to be amateur umm and ahh merchants who think they’re either experts in their domain or professional stand up comedians, presenting content which would be way quicker to consume by reading it instead of having to hear it, all interspersed with various musical tracks, which if I was interested in listening to, I’d probably have running in the background via iTunes or the radio anyway.
I’ve said it before, in Podcasting: The little brother of RSS, or the future of community radio? and Podcasting — a speed limiter for information flow, podcasting is an interesting hack for delivery of audio content, but it is not like traditional radio isn’t progressing either. XM and Sirius are expanding their satellite options, and terrestrial broadcasters are also raising their game. To then say that podcasting will take over from traditional media, is the same blinkered thinking that took us into the bubble in the first place.
Radio and Internet audio (in some form or another) will converge at some point on personal devices such as phones and PDAs, which are effectively just portable radios anyway. The podcasters’ challenge is to wake up and realise that all they’ve re-invented is community radio, and then take it to the next level.
I’m sorry, but a URL inside an RSS feed, which points to an mp3 file of some guy reading a news story I can read elsewhere, with illegally recorded music spliced in that I have no interest in listening to, isn’t going to impress me. Show me the delivery of high quality time shifted content which feeds me knowledge faster than I can read it, and then I’ll get excited!
You know, Baker’s Delight, our local franchised gourmet baker, are single handedly responsible for bringing the bread making profession into the modern era. Well, them and other businesses like them.
Not twenty years ago, a baker was, along with the candlestick makers, a middle ages profession and a pretty bad career move for the modern upwardly mobile job seeker. Or at least that’s the impression I had as a youngster. Men in funny white hats, big wooden spatulas in hand, pushing balls of freshly kneeded dough into a hot clay oven, as knights on horseback ride past, jousting lances in hand.
Then the supermarkets got into the act, with their plastic wrapped chemically treated and almost clinically sliced bread, with all the taste of plasterboard. For all intents, you’d assume there was no longer such a thing as a baker.
Anyway, gourmet bakers have done wonders for a new generation of McDonalds workers looking for a better career experience. You can’t get more traditional than a baker.
I visited our local a few days ago, and carefully analysed the various loaves they had under the fluorescent “make it look fresher” trick lighting, when I was served by one of the actual bakers:
Baker: What can I get you?
R: Well, I’d love a twisted delight, but they’re all a bit burnt today.
Baker: Burnt?! That’s not burnt, that’s caramelised!
R: Fine, well I’ll have a not burnt twisted delight thanks, and make it caramelised will you.
I can tell you, there’s a pretty fine line between caramelised and, well… burnt. But then we’re pretty pedantic in software as well.
User: The program crashed.
Support: OK, can you be a little more specific? Did it hang, loop, break, abort, quit, reboot, not launch, exit, fail, slow down, or just not give you the results you were expecting?
User: Umm… I don’t know, it just doesn’t work.
I’m probably the most pedantic person I know when it comes to the use of language, perhaps tied with a few notable exceptions, and I’m telling you, that twisted delight was burnt.