Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Week 7: Podcasting


Podcasting is another term that you're probably sick of hearing of, even though it's only been around for five years or so. Just like Apple's iMac appearance in 1998 led to thousands of products being called iSomething, Apple's iPod product name has been applied to a vast range of audio and video files that don't actually require an iPod to work.

A podcast is just a broadcast of music or spoken word (and sometimes video) that can be accessed at any time and played back on your computer or portable music player (iPod, Zune, Zen etc.). The extra feature that takes this concept from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is the ability to subscribe to podcasts, and automatically download new episodes as they become available. Very similar to our RSS feeds from a few weeks ago.

Just like the RSS feeds, the range and quality of podcasts is vast and ever-changing. Some podcasts are updated daily, some weekly, and some once every six months. Many are very short, like KEXP's Song of the Day, while others can stretch to hours in length, like The Economist's word for word recording of all articles in each week's issue of the magazine. Some are a variation on an existing web site or publication, while others exist as podcasts and little else. A prime example of this later trend is CBC Radio 3, which can only be listened to via podcasts, streaming audio from their website, or satellite radio. Say goodbye to AM and FM.

And of course, in the spirit of Web 2.0, it doesn't take a huge amount of time or equipment to become a podcaster yourself, and let the world hear your voice.

To manage all these podcasts, you need some software assistance. The reigning champ is iTunes, which not only organizes your thousands of MP3 files, but will also subscribe to, update, and synchronize your RSS feeds with you iPod. We're going to keep things simple, and continue to use our Bloglines accounts.

Please do the following:

1. Go to Bloglines and log in to the account you created for the assignment in Week 3.

2. Open a new browser window, and go to Podcast Alley which is a large directory of podcasts.

3. Browse the site using the drop down "Pick a Podcast Genre" menu in the upper left and locate a subject and podcast that interest you.

4. Click on the title of the podcast to get more information, and then click on the Subscribe link. Highlight and copy the address that appears in the box below "Podcast Feed For:"

5. Go back to your open Bloglines window and under the Feeds tab, click Add. Paste the copied address from Podcast Alley and click on Subscribe.

6. Tick the box at the top of the next screen under Available Feeds (if it isn't ticked already) and then click on Subscribe again.

7. Your newly subscribed podcasts will be listed in Bloglines along with your existng RSS feeds. To listen to a podcast, click on it and the window on the right will display all the current episodes. Click on the blue play button of an episode to listen, and adjust the volume on your PC as needed.

8. Add two more podcasts to your Bloglines account, either by using Podcast Alley or by subscribing directly from other websites that interest you. Make a new post to your 23 Things blog, listing your new subscriptions and describing your experiences.

Please send an e-mail to 23things@torontopubliclibrary.ca when you've completed the assignment.

See you next week.