E-Publishing Explosion

Blog Audio: Odiogo, FeedForAll, and TextAloud

iTunes decreases my blog consumption

After all this time, I'm finally blogging again. I think the issue has been the lack of time (other things are more important?) and the lack of motivation (i.e., burning desire).

Oddly enough, I think podcasts have taken me away from blogging. Since I no longer use NewsGator and FeedStation to download podcasts (I use iTunes instead), I spend less time in my news aggregator. Oh, I still consume blogs, and I think that they're still a great innovation, but I'm not using them like I used to.

A twist on blog consumption: Text-to-Speech conversion

One new product that puts a twist on consuming blogs is Odiogo. It's software that will "audify" RSS content to create MP3 audio consumable by your media player or portable audio device.

This is similar in concept to a combination of products I saw a while back: mixing FeedForAll, an RSS publisher, with TextAloud from NextUp.com. This combo allows you to create a "podcast" version of your blog. TextAloud also has other uses for text-to-speech conversion as a stand-alone product.

Odiogo, on the other hand, combines an RSS aggregator with a text-to-speech converter in one product. The price is fairly accessible at $29.99. I may try it. There are some sample audio clips of Odiogo available.

One thing I noticed is that Odiogo seems to offer only one voice (male). TextAloud, on the other hand, offers multiple voice options with a range of sampling rates from vendors including AT&T (Natural Voices), NeoSpeech, Cepstral, and ScanSoft (RealSpeak). TextAloud comes only in a Windows version and costs $29.95.

FeedForAll costs $39.95 and is available for Windows and Mac. They have an interesting set of partners offering complimentary products related to RSS feed consumption, RSS-friendly web hosting, and podcast creation.

Conclusion

I may try the audio blog content option. Unfortunately, most of my podcast solutions involve a lot of manual labor to put it onto my player (my Palm Zire 72 with an SD card). The other downside is that the text-to-speech output can sound somewhat bland, causing me to zone out instead of actively listening. I'll put it on my Someday/Maybe list (GTD).

Don't like "Podcast?" How about "Syndicast?"

Some people are confused about what the term "podcast" really means. While it originally involved a reference to Apple's iPod, the term has expanded to mean much, much more. I heard somewhere that Microsoft was trying to find a way to refer to a "podcast" without calling it a "Pod-cast." "Blogcast" was the substitute I heard offered. However, that was only a rumor.

I think there's a better word, still: syndicast. Syndication and broadcast combined. Jason Dunn of PocketPC Thoughts describes several alternative names for podcasts in his article on Microsoft's site.

The problem with coining a new term and supplanting the old term is difficult. "Podcast" is already a powerful meme. I don't suspect that it will make much difference proposing it, but I couldn't keep a clever idea to myself.

And for another perspective, Chris Pirillo says some people think it's "not important": "This is Simply Smarter Broadcasting."

It's nothing more than Internet radio at its core, folks. It's audio, on-demand, that's easily synchronized with your computer system / portable media device...

Podcasting, or syndicated downloadable content, by whatever name, is definitely here to stay.

Podcasting Peeves

Michael Lehman's BuzzCast kept the music loop for the running for an entire ten minutes while talking to Jeremy Mazner about Microsoft's PDC 2005! Dude, kill the music! It's sooo distracting!

Even worse than that, MSMobiles.com released an hour-and-a-half podcast rambling about cellphone news, with opera-style music playing in the background almost the whole time! Dude, the music has to go, and I'm not going to listen for an hour and a half. Sorry.

Michael Lehman and NewsGator podcast filtering

I searched for Michael Lehman today, after listening to the first Buzz Cast on MSDN's Channel 9. I found his Radio weblog. After browsing his list of podcasts I came across this one and left a comment about a typo. As I was typing, I decided to throw in this tip (reposted here for the benefit of readers):

I filter podcasts through NewsGator Online Edition. I subscribe to podcast feeds via NG online and review them occasionally. I pick the ones I like and save them to a My Clippings feed for podcasts. I am subscribed to that feed on my home PC via Radio Userland's news aggregator.

Radio Userland downloads enclosures in the background at a configurable number of hours after midnight. The next day, the podcasts I selected are cached on my PC.

This allows me to selectively download podcasts instead of wholesale downloading anything that comes across in the feed. Of course this technique means that the downloads are a little time-delayed, but I like the control.

Michael Lehman has a pretty cool radio voice. He can read fast too. Just listen to him give the contest information for the PDC event in the Buzz Cast!

Michael's podcast, the Manic Minute is available on his Radio weblog via this feed.

Podcasting expands my mind

Ready or not, Microsoft is podcasting. ";->"

[Scripting News]

This is exciting. I've said for a long time, that if I could get someone to read a computer book onto audio, that I would listen to it. Sure code samples don't translate to audio well, but a lot of the content could work.

Podcasting (not just Microsoft's stuff) is a nice substitute, plus you get personality and flavor. You get to hear experts talk about technical topics and provide insights that you might not otherwise get to absorb quickly by reading blogs.

I'm not trying to pigeon-hole podcasting to technical topics, but this is a great use of it for me.

Make Magazine Podcasts

After my rants about podcast content, I thought it might be good to point to O'Reilly's Make magazine's online blog, complete with an audio show podcast feed and del.icio.us links.

I'm not that much of a geek (electronic construction is beyond me), but Make seems to have a lot of coverage on trends in electronics and technology. You can sneak a peek at how to run Linux on an iPod or a Greasemonkey script that reminds you to "get back to work you surfmonkey!"

Here's another post about running Linux on an iPod.

And here's a Make post on running DOS games under Windows XP.

Thanks to Grady Booch for the Make link. Be sure to read the bit (and watch the video) of the Morse code vs. SMS text messaging contest on the Tonight Show. L-O-L.

Stephen, thanks for the mention, even under the circumstances

It was interesting to hear my name called out on your podcast. I wasn't trying to troll, that's for sure. I also thought it was interesting to hear how the topic came up--almost accidentally, as a side reference related to the very topic I wrote about.

Radio Mike was mentioning Adam Curry's podcast content where "every ten or so words, he says 'F-you' or something...and it's like 'aaannnhh.'" That last word was as close as I could get to the spelling of the sound you make when you are unsure of whether you like something--you know, the so-so sound. In other words, Radio Mike's reaction seemed mixed as to the appropriateness of the language.

Here's my point: I'm not saying that people can't say those words. All I'm saying is that some people don't like to hear them, thus taking away from their enjoyment of the content. And, since podcasts are, in most ways, public content, we should keep in mind how we would speak if we were in front of our grandmothers.

Maybe the grandmother example doesn't totally fit, but I hope the picture is there.

By the way, it sounded like you weren't clear on the part of the podcast I was referencing. The bit that I was referring to was the "Connection is down" song with "Holy S*** Batman! [garbled--Connection is down?]" and, later, "F***ing 404!" I have to say, the song was clever, but...well, you already know how I felt about it.

At least I am listening.

I heard a quote that says:

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

--Oscar Wilde?

You could probably change that to say "The only thing worse than being listened to is not being listened to." Well, it doesn't have the same ring, does it?

But, again, I am listening. And I'm also learning: about podcasting, music licensing, and bluegrass music. So, when I do my first podcast, I'll have you to thank as an early example (not a negative one either).

By the way, while I'm kissing up, I'll use this opportunity to plug a product that Stephen first informed me about, FMRadioStation (a.k.a FMRadio) for Radio Userland. Check out the FAQ.

FMRadio does a good job of putting a friendly face on Radio, an application that is powerful and feature-rich, but not always friendly to users that want just a little more than the basic experience. Digging around in the outliner in Radio is not exactly the interactive experience I'm looking for.

One of the features that I like about the product is that, similar to other news aggregators, it allows you to group news by source--something that Radio's web version of the news aggregator does not do by default. With Radio's news aggregator, you get exactly that: news. You know, like "Here's the latest headlines from all your subscriptions." But it's all mixed up. FMRadio does better at this without replacing Radio Userland--it's a good complement.

Stephen was wondering how he made my "blogging short list." I added his blog, Blogging Alone, to my blogroll in June 2003 when he sent me an email message about FMRadio. I've been reading off and on since then. You can now find his podcasts (the Word of Mouth show) with Radio Mike at the Austin Podcasting Network.

IT Conversations, .NET Rocks!, and the F-list

IT Conversations is a set of interviews and recordings featuring well-known technologists on today's hot topics. The shows are often hosted by Doug Kaye from RDS Strategies. It's good stuff. Here are just a few of the featured personalities:

  • Steve McConnell
  • Jon Udell
  • Tim O'Reilly
  • Rasmus Lerdorf

I also enjoy .NET Rocks, which is syndicated (but not officially endorsed) by Microsoft Corporation.

My one complaint is that the interviews are not edited for language. I would certainly appreciate the occasional <bleep> over the F-word (with Adam Curry for example on IT Conversations) and the S-word.

I'm all for free speech. And I can understand the want to reproduce content in its truest, rawest form. But still, if you want to pretend that you're on par with real broadcast journalism, a little more professionalism is warranted.

Sure, the Internet allows more freedom of expression than other media. That is to be appreciated in some ways, but in other ways it can be detrimental.

Here's my F-list (those who have used the F-word or some other vulgarity in print or in podcast):

  • Dave Winer
  • Adam Curry
  • Stephen Dulaney (I didn't hear him say it, but he syndicated audio content with it in his "Daily Audio Browse")
    I did, however, enjoy his podcast about SXSW with the bluegrass music samples.
    Update: Stephen picked up on my rant, and, to my surprise, he mentioned it on his podcast. It's always scary when someone picks up on your criticism. But then, that's another reason why this medium is so great.
  • Mark Miller via .NET Rocks
  • Rory Blythe via .NET Rocks (not the F-word, but he did call Mark Miller a d***-less ignoramous)
  • and, surprisingly? (or not), Dick Cheney, here and here.

    Dave Winer complained about people questioning his professionalism and responded with this graphic from Mike Donnelan "demonstrating it."

    I won't pretend that I have never used those words. I have. But I make a point of keeping them to myself, rather than, as some Christians are accused of, "forcing my views [or language] upon someone else."

    I have a hard time enjoying content from the above list because of the reason I mentioned. Yes, I know--if I don't like it, I can always go away. I will keep that option open.

  • Microsoft: Where's the feed?

    Microsoft has certainly joined the blogosphere in a big way, whether it's the famous Scobleizer or a host of developers (onsite and offsite). Much of the MSDN content is available via RSS.

    Ironically, however, a visit to the MSDN Blogs page, which lists the most recent blog posts from the MSDN Microsoft clan, fails to turn up the famous XML () or RSS () images. In fact, I have yet to find a master list of RSS feeds on Microsoft's website, although this FAQ about blogging and RSS/Atom points to some helpful feeds and resources. A Google search turns up a page of Microsoft PressPass RSS feeds and a Security Updates page with this feed.

    I did find a couple of RSS feeds on the Architecture page and a link to a list of architecture-related blogs, but again without a group RSS feed for the list of blogs altogether. You have to visit each blog to find the RSS link. Simon Guest's black-on-blue RSS link is hard to see, demonstrating the disadvantage of diversity in weblog layout. My best guess is that the URLs just map to the blog software of choice for each author (ain't the web grand?).

    I did unearth a very cool gem while digging through the MSDN blogs, though. Jack Greenfield's blog pointed to a blog by Grady Booch! Talk about cool! I'd only heard legends about the guy, you know, Booch Notation, the "Three Amigos," UML, Rational, etc. He has a blog--how cool is that? And he also has a picture, which I think I will add to my mugroll.

    Then there's also Martin Fowler's "bliki", or in his words:

    A cross between a blog and wiki of my partly-formed ideas on software development

    I need to come back to absorb the essence of his bliki approach to publishing. Fortunately, his hybrid approach still offers an RSS feed. And, of course, Martin has a picture too.

    Bottom line: Microsoft should make it easy to find RSS feeds on their site, including a link on their site map.

    Update: I found (after much searching) a page which lets you search the Microsoft site blogs. It serves up RSS feeds and OPML for categories of blogs.

    Mugroll

    I was thinking--wouldn't it be neat to display small pictures (when available) of the persons listed on your blogroll.

    We could call it a "mugroll".

    It would be a similar concept to the custom icon displayed for the website and/or bookmark for a website.

    Now, there's always the question of how to standardize and automate such a project. Would you force a specific filename on a website like /robots.txt does for search engines and bots? Maybe a standard-sized (what dimensions?) PNG, GIF, or JPG file called /aboutme.png. I think requiring a specific path could help automate harvesting, but it might be too restrictive for more complex scenarios than a single-author website.

    Or maybe we could add an optional <authorpic> element to the various syndication feeds.

    And what about a multi-author blog? Could you have an OPML file with authorpic entries, one for each author? Just rambling here.

    Would it be OK to reference graphics on the author's site? Or should we snarf it and host it ourselves to save the author's bandwidth?

    Maybe we could add some kind of new HTML META or LINK tag that points to the picture.

    Oh, and by the way, to get the "mug" rolling, here's my mug (in no standard dimensions):

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