Radio Killed The Podcasting Star

August 6th, 2012

Radio Killed The Podcasting Star, according to Richard McManus:

Podcasters are to radio what bloggers are to newspapers: independent voices taking attention away from mainstream media. At least that was the theory, when professional podcasts and blogs were getting started in the 2000s. But unlike blogs, podcasts by indie voices have not gone on to seriously challenge the mainstream media incumbents. Where is the Ariana Huffington of podcasting? Can you name a political podcaster who's had the same impact as Josh Marshall and his Talking Points Memo blog? Sadly, there are no podcasting stars – and it's all radio's fault. […]

His thesis is that because so many of the most popular podcasts are derived from public radio shows or semi-celebrities who brought an audience with them to podcasting, this demonstrates that podcasting has somehow failed to break through the way blogging has. I think there's a parallel with blogging, but it's not the one McManus is thinking of.

To my mind, the point of blogging (or of podcasting) was never to displace established media, but to provide a publishing platform that meant that you didn't have to have a wide audience to survive. It's true that a fair chunk of my podcast listening is of BBC radio shows that produce a podcast version, but there are also plenty of shows produced by enthusiastic amateurs1 that I'd never find on my radio dial.2 The point, as Dave Winder notes in the post that led me to the ReadWriteWeb post, "was to get access to the distribution channel for anyone who wanted it, and that certainly has been accomplished." If you want to use podcasts as a way to listen to your favourite BBC radio programs on your schedule then go for it. If you want to hear from people who'll never have a BBC radio show in a million years, that's out there too. The success of the one doesn't deprive me of access to the other, any more that the existence of the Huffington Post prevents me from reading Feeling Listless. They share a distribution medium, but not much else.

[Via Scripting News]

  1. I mean that term in the old-fashioned sense of people who are primarily enthusiasts for their chosen subject and who are happy to share their thoughts with anyone who's inclined to listen.
  2. OK, that's an outdated metaphor. I think you know what I mean.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

April 3rd, 2012

Another old time UK Blog bites the dust. It's undoubtedly best to recognise when the blogging urge has gone, but it's still a shame. Thanks for sharing, Jon.


Haters gonna Hate, Hat-Tippers gonna Tip their Hats

March 21st, 2012

Following on from the flurry of comment on the Curator's Code the other week1, the Code's creator Maria Popova has responded. In a manner of speaking.

Unfortunately, Popova has responded not so much by addressing the points people have made – be they about why the term 'curation' is inappropriate or about how unsuitable obscure Unicode symbols are as substitutes for the phrases 'Hat Tip' or 'Via' at the end of a post – but by spending three quarters of her post quoting paragraph-long passages from the essays of Albert Einstein on 'the ties of sympathy', 'public opinion', 'our interconnectedness, interdependency, and shared existence', 'good and evil, creative bravery, and human value', and 'life's highest ideals' before alluding to the way that some commenters have responded to her suggestion with 'venom and mean-spirited derision' before pivoting away from the substance of the arguments being made about her project and talking instead about how unacceptable cruelty is and how disappointed she is in many of those who have criticised her suggestion.

To be clear: Maria Popova is perfectly entitled to be offended and upset at criticism she feels to be other than 'constructive' and to call out the community accordingly.2 For what it's worth, I don't think that most of the commentary she linked to (or that I've seen for myself elsewhere) was particularly aggressive or derogatory or bullying. Sceptical as to the benefits of her suggested approach? For sure. Put off by what they saw as the misapplication of the term 'curation'? Absolutely. But with one exception3 they weren't particularly personal or bullying, let alone 'sinister'. But I also recognise that I've almost certainly seen only a small portion of the total response, and in any case it's not my call to make; if Popova felt attacked then of course it's for her to respond as she sees fit. I'm just finding it really hard to square the discussion that I saw going on in various corners of the web with the vicious debate Popova is describing.

It's a shame that she devotes so much space in her post to inspirational quotations and so little to addressing the arguments people made in response to her suggestion, given that she's making a post on the same site where she announced the launch of the Code? Why accuse critics of factual inaccuracies but not address them right there?

To be fair, Popova does mention and link to one site where there's some discussion of the pros and cons of her idea, but it's mostly commentary from third parties and the comments from her that they cite only addresses the issues to the extent that she argues that the Curator's Code site (which, remember, offers bookmarklets for download, all set for users to install so that bloggers content curators can easily insert appropriately-formatted links including her chosen Unicode symbols to their posts) wasn't really about the Unicode symbols or even about her site, it was about 'the bigger point' of why 'curation' matters. If you make specific proposals with accompanying blocks of Javascript code, I think it's incumbent upon you to address issues people raise in detail, not just lament the incivility of those who raise questions about your proposal and airily refer to notions about how now the details aren't important.

[Via swissmiss. Given the context, I can't believe that I forgot to add a 'Via' block to my first draft of this post!]

  1. See my post on the subject here, and a trio of posts at Pop Loser including links to some of the commentary elsewhere here, here and here.
  2. And, to clarify still further, I'm not writing this because I feel that she's directly, or even implicitly, criticising what I wrote about her proposal. First because I'm approximately 99.753% certain that she'll never have noticed what I wrote, and second because I don't think I was in any way venomous or mean-spirited in my post. If you think otherwise, please tell me so.
  3. A tweet linking to an extremely juvenile animated .GIF. Which is at best an impolite but snarky comment on the amount of intellectual masturbation going on over this topic – to which I plead guilty to adding my portion right here in this post! – and is not anyone's idea of a civil contribution to the debate. But it's also atypical of the level of commentary out there.

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[Via Pop Loser, H/T The Curator's Code]

March 11th, 2012

I've read Introducing The Curator's Code: A Standard for Honoring Attribution of Discovery Across the Web three times now and I still don't see what it accomplishes.

Part of the problem, I'll admit, is that I just don't like the use of the word "curation" to describe the process of writing a linklog. I've been posting links and adding a 'Via' link showing where I got the main link from for twelve years now,1 but I'd never dream of suggesting that I've been 'curating' a collection. It seems to me that the term 'curation' implies a distinctly strategic approach, putting together collections of objects that are somehow related to one another, or which comment on one another in some respect. The only conscious strategy I've applied is that of posting links to the things I've found interesting/amusing online. I don't doubt that looking at my 'body of work' will reveal some clues as to what sort of subject matter I'm interested in, and probably also some shifts over time in what I post about, but I'm under no illusions that my interests are different to those of dozens hundreds thousands millions of ageing English-speaking geeks out there. I do this not because I'm trying to build up a coherent collection, but because sharing links is, at some level, what the World Wide Web was made for. I don't want to just be reading the web without giving something back, and both writing a weblog and attributing my sources are part of that.

Anyway, setting aside my doubts about the use of the term 'curation', I don't see what the use of a special Unicode symbol to mark a 'Via' or a 'Hat Tip' link adds to the web. Those Unicode symbols presumably have other uses, so you can't rely on them a semantic indicators: they're just a text decoration that will mean absolutely nothing to anyone unfamiliar with the concept of the Curator's Code. It'd be immensely helpful if there was a <via> HTML tag that denoted the source of an item and could be used both to style the text on a web page and to allow web tools to latch onto 'Via' links and make some use of them, but really all this is it's a side issue.

The important principle is the question of a weblog author's willingness to attribute the source of a post. Most people who write linklogs (or post to Tumblr, or maintain publicly accessible lists of links at Pinboard or Delicious or wherever) decided a long time ago whether they wanted to go to the trouble of attributing the source of the items they found. I suspect that their decision had very little to do with whether there was a universally recognised Unicode character to use to tag their 'Via' links.

[Via Pop Loser]

  1. Whatever you do, don't be surprised if some of the internal links on those pages don't work. I really should have put to some other use once I migrated the weblog to years ago now, but somehow I've repeatedly got to the stage of installing a new CMS but then not knowing what I want to use it to publish.

Comments Off on [Via Pop Loser, H/T The Curator's Code]


August 24th, 2011

Congratulations to Kris on reaching 10,000 posts. Here's to the next 10,000!

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