Priorities for podcasting
A first batch of personal takeways and rants from the Unplugged Soul conference at Columbia this weekend.
by Dave Winer Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some takeaways from this weekend's podcasting conference at Columbia.

  • Primarily this conference was by and for producers of podcasts. I was the only developer who spoke, and not in any detail about how podcasting works, other than to say it's open and not dominated by silos and that's where the freedom comes from. 
  • As far as I can tell there is not much awareness of the technology of podcasting among producers. 
  • I had a podcast-listening glitch earlier today, walking around town. I thought I had Chapter VI of Shit-town on my iPhone, but I didn't. It took me five minutes of navigating through confusing sites, the app store, iTunes, who knows what, to get to a place where I could just click a link to listen. The state of the UX for podcasting is awful. Unacceptable for a technology that's 14 years old.
  • The lack of improvement imho is due to a fog of companies and developers who think they dominate or expect/plan to, and won't talk with others. 
  • Podcasting should be a pleasure. Finding new great stuff to listen to should be easy and instant. And you should be able to get that without giving up the freedom. 
  • I have to figure out how to cut through the fog and plot a course and ignore the people who refuse to talk, and just fucking go.
  • There are always silos trying to start up. I really doubt any of them will gain traction. 
  • I'm going to keep building with Electric-River as the base. Next up I want to teach it to download podcasts to a user-accessible folder on a desktop. If you have MP3s on your disk, you can control where the shows are and don't have to have so many connectivity surprises when you're out and about. 
  • Shit-town is great. Here's the star of the show on where we're at in America and what Putin can do to help us out of our misery. I'm writing this post in the style of John B, if you're wondering why I sound so pissy and uppity.
  • Tim Berners-Lee is on the right track, preaching that users should control their own data. I'm concerned that this is going to come with another prescription that we all use RDF. We get a lot of interop from OPML and RSS, both of which are variants of XML, a format developed by his W3C. 
  • I wrote an open letter to Evan Williams in 2012 suggesting that we make history by helping to undo the siloisity that was creeping into the blogosphere. No response. 
  • It's very likely there would be no podcasting today if we had not gotten early and steady support from NPR. That's because in 2003, Tony Kahn at WGBH listened, and thought podcasting was a good idea, and spread the gospel throughout NPR land. We got lucky, we found the guy at NPR that everyone there listened to, and he believed. Tech should have more people like Tony. 
  • BTW, Martin Nisenholtz at the NYT played the same role for RSS. Without the support of the NYT, it's likely that the RSS community would have melted down into many competing incompatible standards, neither reaching critical mass. 

Moral of the story: Don't ever doubt that technology users can have enormous power. And as a technologist, don't be shy about searching for these people and listening to them and trying to help them win. Be careful about the first impulse to dismiss. Great things can result from these collaborations. The myth of the lone inventor dreaming up the future ensconced in a lab isn't how it works.