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Experiments in Skypecasting

Earlier today, I posted the first Global Voices , an interview with friend, fellow WorldChanging contributor, and all around terrific person, Dina Mehta. Dina was kind enough to serve as guinea pig as I fiddled with the various technology that make this sort of broadcast possible. I hope it was a useful warmup for her – she’s on Chris Lydon’s inaugural radio show on WGBH Boston this evening…

I’m posting the audio for our interview here (30 minutes, 17MB, mp3) in part because it’s a good piece and I want you to hear it, and in part because I’m still debugging WordPress and RSS enclosures. WordPress is supposed to automatically sense that a post contains a link to an audio file and create an enclosure of that mp3 that can be read by a podcast aggregator like iPodder. The WordPress installation on Global Voices didn’t do that – I’m hoping it will work here.

Two things that are very attractive about podcasts:

  • It’s wonderful to hear someone else’s voice… especially Dina, who I would listen to if she was reading the phonebook. It bridges distances in a way that text often can’t. The ability to call someone over Skype and talk for half an hour at almost zero cost is clearly something that is – slowly, but inexorably – going to change the world.
  • Skypecasting is really fast. It took about an hour from initial set-up this morning to a final edit of our piece. It helps that we’re trying to go “live to tape” – in other words, I’m lopping off the chatter we have before and after the interview, but I’m not doing any editing in the interview itself. For a slow writer like me, producing good content in an hour is a huge step forward.

    Two bad things:

  • No transcript. I find myself wanting to quote things Dina said in our interview, but that would require finding the quotes at the appropriate interval and transcribing them. In the spirit of blogging, I’d probably need to find a way to link to the audio in the right place to given reference to the “source text”. Plus, no transcript equals no searchability.
  • Who has the time to listen to podcasts? I drive seven hours a week to and from Harvard, but I suspect most of my readers don’t have as much quality time with their iPods or audio devices of choice. Does podcasting neccesarily mean a smaller audience?

    Anyway, I think skypecasting is going to be hugely important to Global Voices and I’m thrilled that we’re doing it. Now if I can just get the damned enclosures to work…!

  • 2 thoughts on “Experiments in Skypecasting”

    1. I enjoyed this new feature to Global Voices and look forward to see how it develops in the future. I think shorter podcasting might be more effective to reach a wider audience. Nevertheless, great work!

      Thanks for including my blog in the Latin American roundup.

    2. During my time living in Dallas, I became aware of the value of audio books in taking the edge off a commute or turning it into quality time. In those days I would take books on tape out from my local library; I know audible.com has moved the industry forward. I wonder if podcasting efforts could benefit from their lessons learned, including information on demographics.

      Also I see a trend today where people in New York use their iPods on the subway, as a substitute for a newspaper or book.

      I do think people are comfortable with pausing longer audio segments and returning to them later, just as one does with a written novel or lengthy magazine article.

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