Archive for January 2007

Listening in a Visual World

January 18, 2007

UPDATE:  The mp3 player is the greatest aid to exercise since the invention of spandex and Gaterade.  I’ve started going to the rec center to get those pesky HDL levels up and I believe that the only thing that makes it possible is having an iPod.  Without a portable listening device I’m not sure I could stand 5 minutes much less 50 of repetitive, mindless activity.

Here we have the first Techview blog of 2007. I’m aiming for a minimum of one a month, by me that is, though I hope to do more writing this year. I hear you learn to write by writing. I may have to apply pressure to get the other library technologists posting.

I spent some time over the holidays collecting and sorting family photographs and that triggered the memories that led to this blog. So, it is mostly personal, but there will be some obligatory work related references and possibly a point somewhere toward the end.

When I was a lad in shorts and sandals (see the image below and, yes, this is me on the first day of school in 1952)Schoolboy in south africa, 1952 my father was posted to the Air Attache in the U. S. Embassy in South Africa. This was 1952 and I’d seen television once before leaving the U.S. We were driving back east from Montana and spent Christmas in a travel lodge where my father fed quarters into a coin operated TV while I watched a Catholic Mass, the only show on at the time. Even then I would watch anything that moved. I’m slightly more discriminating now.

There was no television in ZA at that time so my media experiences consisted of books, comic books (some of which were black and white), movies, and radio. I don’t remember movies playing a large part in my entertainment but I did have a shortwave receiver in my room and I spent many hours listening to police and science fiction serials, comedy, and variety shows. I still remember the excitement of the cliff hanger endings. We returned to the States in 1956 and radio disappeared as a source of entertainment for me and television took over.

Jump ahead to 2006 when I received a 60 Gb iPod for a milestone birthday and found myself with the incentive to start exploring podcasts. I started by plugging keywords into iTunes and quickly discovered an amazing number of fiction podcasts. The podcast community is very generous about telling listeners about other podcasts and it hasn’t taken long to build a substantial library of stories into which I dip daily.

Before going any further, I should point out that podcast technically refers to delivery via iPod but that an iPod isn’t necessary to listen to anything I mention. iTunes and iPods just make it easier to manage acquiring these files. These are mp3 files and they are compatible with any mp3 player including the software that comes with your PC or Mac. Bring in some headphones and relax at lunch by listening to a story or listen to a library or technology related podcast as part of your professional development.

In addition to searching iTunes and tracing references within podcasts, there are sites that publish podcasts by many authors. Three that I use and recommend are

  • Podcast Pickle
  • Digg.com has added a podcast tab. The way Digg works, the community submits and votes. So someone can post a link to and description of a podcast and other readers of Digg can vote on it. This is a great source for serendipitous discovery. You might not otherwise have found French Maid TV, a how-to video podcast presented by French maids. They have a nice vodcast on how to find music you like.

54 years later and listening has once again moved ahead of the visual as a source of entertainment for me. I confess that one of the features that attracted me to the 2007 Subaru Forrester is that it has an aux input jack that allows me to play the iPod through the car speakers.

Podcasts are not all fluff and entertainment. There are professional ones as well.

Far and above my favorite is Talking with Talis. Talis is a technology company in the U.K. that delivers software and services for information management. Their podcasts are high in content. Generally the discussion is among the Library 2.0 Gang and moderated by Paul Miller. The topics of the three most recent podcasts are

  • Changing Library Buildings
  • Mellon Foundation’s recogintion of Cassey Bisson’s WPOpac
  • Search Thresher and the Semantec Web

Library Geeks is another good podcast where you can keep up with the latest in library trends, technology, issues. Recently they have covered

  • Meeting of Electronic Information for Libraries eIFL.net discussing open source software solutions for libraries
  • FRBR and OpenFRBR
  • Improving bibliographic management for scholars

Here are some others that I have just started exploring:

Podcasts provide a means of engaging your mind no matter where you are. Well, I suppose you wouldn’t want to listen during your evaluation but working in the yard, exercising, driving, taking a break at work, wherever. Next time you are near a Circuit City or Best Buy, take a look at the mp3 players. You can get one as cheap as $60. Be careful though, they can be addictive when you discover just how much there is out there.

I almost forgot that that I was supposed to make some work related point in this post. Technically, podcasting isn’t difficult. At its most simple, you can do it at your desk. All you need is a microphone and free audio editing/recording software like Audacity. Our Media Center is available if you need higher production values. As an experiment, several of us took a issue of The Throne and made a podcast of it using the Media Center facilities and it wasn’t difficult.

Aside from thinking of something to say, there really are no impediments to making our own podcasts. Now that William and Mary is part of iTunes University, we even have a centralized distribution for our productions.

Why would we want to get into podcasting? Increasing our visibility/publicity is one possibility — book reviews, library news and events, The Throne, lectures presented in the library, video tour of the library, lots of opportunities here. Instructional podcasting is another use to consider.

I encourage my colleagues to consider the possibilities that podcasting from Swem could offer. we have the means, let’s work on content.

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