This post is something of an experiment. I won’t flatter it by calling it a "noble" experiment - as that would mischaracterize the amount of time/energy I’ve spent doing this.
What it is, is an attempt to show how little (how very, very little) you have to invest to be able to do digital podcasting.
First, the background: on March 25, 2006, I went to a presentation on podcasting at the Apple store at the Grove (which looks rather like the operating room that Box used in "Logan's Run" where he chose to recreate the perpetually puzzled Michael York as an ice sculpture, for reasons that passeth understanding, even for a mid-70s cheesy sci-fi movie Robot Gone Berserk). For reasons that will hopefully become clearer, I decided to make my attendance at this event a sort of experiment in podcasting using the materials at hand. Sort of like a kindergarten class project, where the teacher finally snaps and decides to use the children’s eager hands to build a Formula 1 race car, using old mimeograph paper and boogers.
The presentation was by Dan Klass, who produces a show called "The Bitterest Pill" and Lance Anderson, who does a show called "Verge of the Fringe." They spent an hour trying to describe the indescribable, since the whole podcast space is moving so damn fast, and in so many directions, that you would need to devote the resources of a company the size of GM to try to track what's going on. I shouted out a few questions here and there, and they had the good grace to try to give me decent, well-thought-out answers.
My tools were my very outdated Creative Labs MuVo Slim MP3 player, which includes a teeny-tiny built-in condenser microphone. I have experimented with this in the past - it continues to astound me that Apple doesn’t include functionality like this on the iPod, which for all its glamor, is just a hard drive with a headphone jack. It doesn’t even get FM radio.
[Aside: the iPod is one of the few examples of inferior technology winning out just because it was first to market. The succeeding waves of MP3 players have been far, far more useful - but apparently the whole iPod meme has so tidalwaved the global consciousness that iPod continues to sell, despite it’s glaring drawbacks. Thus, the whole nomenclature for this experimentation: "podcasting."]
Anyway, I perched the MuVo on my upraised knee and used the little widget to scroll to the "Microphone" setting. Hit the Play/Pause button, and hey, we’re in business.
I recorded about 45 minutes of the rambling presentation immortalized below. I was surprised to find that the MuVo records everything in uncompressed .wav format. The .wav file is about 11.5 megs.
I bought the "Podcast Solutions" book (click here or see the "Books I’m Reading" category over on the left sidebar). Included in the book was a CD full of demo versions of various audio editing programs. I first tried the Propaganda program.
Warning: Do not try to install this Program if you buy this book.
I tried it four times. Each time it totally crashed my computer. Finally, I tried to uninstall. This brought up a warning message that the program was trying to install a Trojan Horse virus on my hard drive.
I am not sure if Propaganda is a legitimate program, or if they are some kind of heinous keystroke logger/identity theft/Trojan Horse zombie virus outfit. Until I hear differently, DO NOT USE PROPAGANDA unless you want Russian Mafia criminals draining your bank accounts and using your identity to buy real estate in Minsk.
I did finally manage to install the much better behaved SoundForge software from Sony. Converting the .wav file to an .mp3 couldn’t be simpler. I connected my MuVo to my computer with the USB cable and copied the recording to my desktop.
I then used File>Open in SoundForge to open the .wav file. I did use Tools>Normalize to try to cut down on loud audio spikes and dropouts (hey, with such a cheap-ass microphone, I figure your speakers deserve at least a fighting shot at not blowing out when I jiggle my knee).
Then I did a File>Save As and chose "MP3" format. It took a second.
However, I now also have an MP3.sfk file on my desktop. I’m not sure what this is for. Which means that I’m probably going to have to RTFM.
This blog is constructed in Typepad - and according to the directions Typepad gives me, all I have to do is to Insert File and choose the MP3 file. The directions for making this a Feed are slightly more arcane - something about putting the right kind of tags on each and every file that you upload so that the computers of your listeners will recognize the files as being the types of files that they want to subscribe to, which makes some other program on their computers kick in and start downloading your audio (or video) file from your website ... and Jesus Christ, that sounds like pure propellor-head bullshit to me. Can’t a dancing clown just come out on the screen and point to the thing that I’m supposed to click on?