As part of Harvard's 375th anniversary, the Gazette is writing about the things that happened first there. And I was very pleased to have podcasting be one of the things they wrote about.
Harvard's role, embodied by John Palfrey, was to provide an excellent cauldron for brewing something that took a bunch of iterating to make happen. The technical concoction was well-understood very early. But the human element, that was what we had to entice. We know how podcasting will work, now how do we get people to start doing it! Having the ability to call to us the resources we needed, with the power of the Harvard name, was a huge boost.
At the same time, Palfrey deserves a lot of the credit, though he's far too humble to say so (I was glad they put his picture on the article). He was able to marshall the resources of the university for us, to make our meetups (called BloggerCons) possible. Without which, there wouldn't have been podcasting.
This is something I think universities, if they ever knew it, forgot. That they have a unique role to play in the advancement of technology. The flow of students, with their fresh perspectives and hope for the future is just part of it. It's also the ethical standards that, if respected, help guide open technology into a market infested with predators. Podcasting was born in a safe estuary, before having to survive in the competitive market. That it survives today in the same form it was launched in, in 2004, is testimony to the good parenting it got in its early life.
This, if you recall, is how the Internet came to be. It was a non-commercial collaboration among academics. I want to do this again and again, and now that the podcasting bootstrap is documented, I have something to show the people I have to convince to make this happen.