Filling an iPod & what is podcasting anyway?

I recently upgraded my aging and rather temperamental iPod, a 20GB G3, to a spiffy new color 60GB. My 20GB wasn’t full and my 60GB was positively bare. What can I put on it?

More music

I’ve loaded every audio CD I own and spent over £100 at the iTMS and while there’s a few tracks I want they’re not in iTMS and I’m not buying an album full of junk for a single track. The few bands I enjoy whole albums of aren’t very prolific.

Audio books

I enjoyed Red Dwarf on tape and The Second Coming of Steve Jobs from Audible but I find it difficult to listen to a strong American accent for several hours. Perhaps this is because I’m not acclimatized to the twang after I ceased TV viewing at the start of 2001 (the year, not Kubrick’s space-out space-trip).

Then there is the cost – most titles costing much more than the books themselves. While there is a little extra cost in recording the audio track surely once that’s done the files must be cheaper than their dead-tree cousins. I can only assume Audible have their hands tied by scared book publishers.

Radio shows

I just love the Hitchhiker’s Guide radio show, all 13 CD’s worth. The problem here seems to be trying to get hold of the shows. The BBC releases very few on audio CD, perhaps they could register with Audible/iTMS and provide some via that. The BBC web site uses the rather iPod-unfriendly Real Audio although they are experimenting with MP3 and podcasting.

Podcasts

Perhaps podcasting could fill the unused sectors now iTunes makes finding and downloading them simplicity itself. Tens of podcasts and a couple of weeks later I was left rather disappointed. You can break down what’s available into two types:

Professional podcasts, “The future of radio”

I ran through several professional podcasts, normally edited chunks from radio or TV productions hosted by presenters who’ve proven themselves in the commercial world of being able to talk and at least jot down a page of points and topics before a show.

Sandi Toksvig – The Best Of

The only podcast I’ve listened to daily since I subscribed. Often funny with interesting stories, Sandi’s observations and guests including ex-Python travel-writer Michael Palin.

Best of Moyles

BBC Radio 1’s popular breakfast show presenter could have a shot here if it wasn’t for the fact the BBC are only putting up 20 minutes a week of “highlights” that aren’t capturing the best of the show at all.

Amateur podcasts, “Blogs gone wrong”

Blogging is similar to the early days of DTP where technology gave enabled anyone with a computer to produce a newsletter. While the bar to production was lowered people quickly discovered software can’t create interesting well-written material.

Even the best blogs vary in quality and topic but it’s painless to skip over uninteresting subjects and select individual categories and blogs for aggregation. Blogs you read often uncover other interesting blogs or a Google search might lead you to a new blogs you may also want to keep an eye on. Technical information, diagrams and supplemental material is easily linked and downloaded.

Amateur podcasting has sprung from blogging but looses almost all these redeeming features despite some attempt at addressing these some with chapters and show notes.

Podcasts are much longer than blog posts but the presenters seem to spend little time putting a basic plan together. Often they start by talking about podcasting, their shows rank in iTMS, why they weren’t here last Wednesday and other off-topic stuff that is of little interest to anyone but themselves.

Even good content can loose an audience after a few minutes if the speaker lacks audio communication skills. Anyone who’s been to a seminar, presentation or lecture can vouch for the importance of a speaker with an interesting tone of voice and being able to deliver a talk that just flows naturally.

Such a flow is usually the result of solid preparation and pod-casters have the luxury of a little post-show editing. Perhaps if they edited and relied less on group-chats to avoiding develop material at all something good might emerge. Instead we are often treated to a group of people chatting about a subject with little to say – like overhearing a conversation in a coffee shop. At least everybody in a coffee shop is there and not talking over a poor quality phone or IP telephony solution.

I couldn’t bring myself to review most of the podcasts I came across for the reasons already explained but here’s a few I wanted to like.

Daily Source Code

Both this and PodFinder are hosted by the self-proclaimed “Podfather” Adam Curry (no, not my friend from the Toaster Files with the same name).

I tried three different DSC shows before I gave up. Curry actually has a good radio voice and technical ability but his lack of material preparation leads to an uncountable number of errs, umms and uhhs interspersed between talking about his cat, podcasting, new headphones and whatever else he feels like.

PodFinder

A great idea – review new and interesting podcasts! Curry has spent a time preparing and editing so his delivery is much more professional. On the downside is the show takes wholesale chunks of other people’s podcasts with little commentary so it’s not much better than preview the podcasts in the iTunes directory itself.

Both Curry’s shows have seen serous iTMS rank slippage but I think there is still hope for this one.

MyMac.com

These two guys chat about various Mac and iPod things, none in much depth. They loose credibility when they claim IBM’s 2.0GHz to 2.7GHz G5 speed increase in a year was abysmal (it’s a much bigger increase than Intel in the same period). If they are going to discuss a subject without knowing it….

They talked about getting permission from their wives to travel an hour to a new Apple Store and told each other what buttons to press I decided that listening to uninformed Apple fanatics chatting to each other, virtual or otherwise, wasn’t for me.

There is hope for podcasts yet providing they can polish up before the hyped-up audiences give up for good. I’d recommend starting with Mastering Communication by Nicky Stanton.

Here is one guy who can blog, write, act, deliver a talk, make people laugh and podcast. I just wish he would do it more regularly.

[)amien

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