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.


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.

Palm Zire 72 camera review

Here's a picture from the camera on my new Palm Zire 72.

What I like about the camera:

  • I can capture pictures when I need to (sort of).
  • I can moblog (sort of).
  • I can take short videos (sort of).
  • I say "sort of" on the above items because the quality is not so great.

    What I don't like about the camera:

  • Taking pictures is slow. You have to be very steady with the camera and wait several seconds for a shot to "take." If your hand isn't totally steady, your pictures blur easily
  • Low light situations cause poor picture quality. The camera doesn't have a light or a flash, so taking a picture inside can be difficult.
  • Sunlight washes out pictures taken outside. Yeah, that cuts down on your optimal picture taking conditions, doesn't it?
  • It's a feature I was convinced I had to have. It was either the Palm Zire 72 with a camera and no WiFi or a HP RX3115 Mobile Media Companion with WiFi and no camera. Now, I think I might have opted for the WiFi instead with all other things being equal (which they never are).

    With WiFi, you can sync wirelessly over the network, surf the Web, and check email. The Palm Zire 72 only has Bluetooth. You can sync over Bluetooth, but I haven't tried it yet because my desktop doesn't have it. The problem that I see is the physical range that is required with Bluetooth. I don't have the specs, but Bluetooth is definitely more localized than 802.11b. My computer is in the basement, and I like the idea of charging and syncing without ever going down there. Oh well, that's opportunity cost, right?


    Richard Hall over at connexions has started BlogWiki, a wiki about, what else, blogging. There are some interesting tidbits in the works, but much more can be done. Let's help out and contribute to the effort. I've already edited a page, DesktopBloggingClients. Here's a thought, how about some external links to the software mentioned on the wiki?

    I like his comment:

    This wiki has been set up to enable bloggers to share information and advice and provide a forum for the discussion of blogging issues. Of course, this already goes on in blogs themselves, but it's in the nature of a blog that discussions quickly "drop out of sight". On a wiki this doesn't happen.

    (emphasis mine)

    On wikis, the discussion is maintained in the "Perpetual Now" where a conversation is fluid, evolving, and represents the current state of affairs.

    Cool Upcoming.org features

    Upcoming.org has some interesting features:

  • US "Metros"--cities with events
  • Most popular events and metros
  • Browse Venues by Metro (Columbus, Ohio)

    It also offers some interesting syndication formats including RSS (Columbus, Ohio) and iCal (Columbus, Ohio).

  • Upcoming.org's limiting policy

    Upcoming.org has some interesting features, but by its own words, its use is limited:

    Upcoming.org is not for self-promotion, either by a single organization (e.g. a political candidate, artist, or band) or a single venue.

    Also, Upcoming.org is not for personal events (e.g. birthday parties, weddings, Little League games). If your event isn't of interest to the public, please don't add it.

    I would love to use functionality like that of Upcoming.org for syndication of themed events, but its policy prohibits that. And, as far as I know, its functionality is not available in other forms. Well, its feature set is compelling and worth imitating for a calendar syndication application.

    Response to OpenEvents

    I know I'm following an old, cold trail, but here are some comments I found on the OpenEvents [standard?]

    I have never heard of it, seen it in action, or seen any kind of spec on what it is or what you think it should be.

    [Christopher Schmidt]

    Anything to solve the current calendaring hell. I'm all for the "conversations" that blogs are enabling, but at the end of the day, sometimes I just want to meet people face-to-face. It's a higher bandwidth form of communication, plain and simple. We definitely need something akin to web RSS syndication for events (whatever happened to RDF calendaring?) - assembling centralized event sites make no sense.

    [Brendon J. Wilson]

    Hmmm...centralized event sites? Well, they have their place, as long as they are well-themed and focused. But I think Brendan would agree that we should have lots of them--select the ones we want. My goal is to have a centralized event site that offers a standardized client or clients. I want Outlook integration, web accessibility, and extensibility. Is this possible?

    ESF - the Nonexistent Format?

    ESF seems to have fallen off the radar. Or has it? The real question is, has it been adopted? And the next question is, what ESF clients/tools exist? There was some discussion by Jeff Julian and John Bristowe of a NewsGator extension, but it seems to be MIA.

    Then there is another XML format of unknown weight--the RDF Schedule format.

    My goal is to integrate syndicated event information into Microsoft Outlook. Is there an existing way to do this?

    There is the vCal format for sharing appointments, and its cousin, iCal. But these solutions all involve a multi-step pull operation via email. This is where RSS excels. You don't have to sign up on an email list. No spam!

    ESF gets a few hits on Google (around 67,000 as of today). I still need to research more to find tools for ESF. But if ESF is as obscure as some reports, maybe ESF is not right for the job. Is anybody still working on it? Here are the sponsors of the standard:

  • Jeff Julian
  • Devin Rader
  • Kirk Allen Evans
  • Steven Smith
  • We'll see. I left a comment on John's blog with a question about the status of the briefly-celebrated NewsGator extension. I first got excited about it when I saw Jeff Julian present it in Columbus, Ohio at an INETA user group meeting. It had me drueling! Well, maybe not drueling, but certainly excited.

    Update: Jeff Julian says this is the "Year of the Event." He points to an updated ESF/ESS spec. The other competitor for event syndication is the OpenEvent specification.

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