Tech Tip – Podcasting

In his recent WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs referred to podcasting as “the hottest thing going in radio.” He also announced podcasting coming soon to iTunes. So, having been a fan of podcasting for half a year now, I felt it was time to chime in on the subject.

If you know what RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is, then you’re half way to the world of podcasting; and you can skip this paragraph. Simply put, an RSS “feed” is an XML file, with links and descriptions to web pages, that sits on a server. The purpose of RSS is to keep viewers updated on the contents of a web site, without having to go to the web site. Users “subscribe” to RSS feeds through an RSS reader application. I use my email program, Thunderbird, to read RSS feeds. The reader scans all of the feeds for updates and informs the user when a particular web site has a new article.

Podcasting takes this one step further. Instead of linking to web pages a podcast RSS feed links to audio files. An RSS reader that supports podcasting will download the audio files and, in many cases update the library of your favorite audio player. As you may have guessed, podcasting got its name from the Apple iPod. However, you don’t need an iPod or even a portable player to listen to podcasts. All you need is an internet connection, and a way to play mp3s. I prefer the iPodder Lemon podcast client, and I hear that iPodderX is great on the mac.

The advantage of podcasting over traditional internet audio is that you don’t have to be connected to listen. The mp3 files are downloaded in full, and can be listened to anytime. You’re also not confined to a schedule, as with radio broadcasts, since most podcasts are available on the feed for a week or two. As long as you run your podcast receiving software every few days, you’ll always be up to date.

So what is there to listen to? For the most part, lots of independent people talking about what they enjoy. There are podcasts on everything from music to computers to knitting. Traditional radio personalities are beginning to jump on the band wagon and it won’t be long before most radio shows are simulcast on a podcast.

Here’s a list of the podcasts I listen to, in order of how often:

  • Adam Curry: The Daily Source Code – This is my morning commute. Adam Curry, formerly of MTV mixes together indie music, promos for other podcasts, and some fun conversations. Adam was one of the inventors of podcasting and his show is a great one to start out with.
  • Dawn and Drew: The Dawn and Drew Show – This is my evening commute. A young married couple talk about whatever is on their minds. This show is my personal favorite. It isn’t kid safe though due to strong language.
  • TWiT [This Week in Tech] – Leo Laporte and the former cast of TechTV get together to talk about anything tech. I was a TechTV nut before G4TV bought the network and destroyed its programming (I’m not bitter). This show is great if you’re a tech geek.
  • Area 51 – A very high quality sketch comedy show. Area 51 is as weird as it is funny. I won’t say any more, just give it a listen. It’s one of those things that you either love or hate.
  • Terrance Young: Kobe Beef – A Japanese-American now living in Kobe Japan, Terrance talks about whatever is on his mind, as well as answering questions about Japan. My favorite part is “Nihongo Time” where he teaches listeners some of the more colorful Japanese words.
  • Scott Sigler: Earth Core – The world’s first podcast only novel. This is a full fledged audio book, read by the author. Earth Core is about mining company that finds the world’s largest platinum deposit in the Utah badlands. Along with it, is evidence of an ancient civilization, and something still alive that that has murdered previous expeditions in the area.
  • Evan Schaeffer: The Legal Underground – A trial attorney who doesn’t take himself too seriously. The best part of his production is the “Law Related Thing That Sucks”, a short light hearted segment about things such as, frivolous lawsuits, the Michael Jackson trial, and bad lawyer jokes.

There are a few more, but those are the main ones. Adam Curry and Dawn and Drew are the only shows in my list that are produced once a day. The rest are usually once a week so there’s plenty of time to hear them all. If you’re in to podcasting post your fav shows in the comments section.

— Matt

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