Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Your Own Personal Queue Podcast

The blogging revolution didn't start because of what was being said or who was saying it. The most important thing to come out of blogging was that it lowered the publishing bar so that anybody who had an opinion could voice it. No longer did you have to create your own web site just to say something. Now with just the click of a mouse you could get a text box, type some words, and instant publish. Often you could go one better and simply leave an audio file or a picture from your mobile phone.

Likewise, the revolution behind podcasting is not in the content, nor in the "lowering the production bar". Because let's face it, actually recording a tolerable audio file, producing and hosting it all take more work than they should.

No, the genius of podcasting lies in the delivery mechanism. Podcasting is what it is because the files just automatically show up on your ipod. And by extension, if we assume that you take your ipod with you when you walk away from the computer, that the files go with you to wherever you want them. That's the brilliant bit. "Audio blogging" has been around forever. But you either had to go to each individual site and get the file, or, even if you were using an RSS aggregator, you'd have to either listen at your computer or manually move files down. Podcasting makes that all invisible. Subscribe, and content is magically just there.

What I find most intriguing right now is that everybody only talks about podcasting one way -- you produce some content, and then you make it available, and people subscribe. In the messaging terms this is known as the "publish/subscribe" (or pub/sub) model. One publisher, many subscribers - usually anonymous. The goal seems to be to publish a feed and then build up a huge audience so that you can preach gospel or sell ads or do whatever you want to do with those eyeballs.

But there is another model known as the "message queue" (or sometimes "private or personal" message queue) which is very different. In the queue model, a message is intended for one recipient, to be received once, and read once. Email is a good example. You don't subscribe to email - email is sent to your address. If a message goes to many people it is because it was addressed that way.

As I sit in my car listening to the current crop of podcasts I wonder how this model could work to my advantage. There's no rule that says all my content has to be of the pub/sub variety. What if there was a way that I could take all of my voice mail, turn that into mp3, and drop that into my own personal queue podcast? On the way to work I could catch up on my messages. What about my appointments for the day? There's plenty of podcasts out there now that take a generic text news feed and pipe it through a text to speech converter. So why not do the same thing with my daily appointments and todo's? What better way to make use of the time driving to the office than to take care of all these tasks before you ever get there?
True, you could use the cell phone and call in to your voice mail, and I'm sure lots of people do. I also know what happens when everybody on their morning commute is too busy talking on the phone to pay attention to the road.

What else works in audio format ... actors and singers could use the time to rehearse. Go to rehearsal, record what you sound like, then listen back to it at your leisure. You could practice for business presentations. Plenty of people do that into tape recorders now. Why not into a personal podcast for yourself so that you can take advantage of the "invisibly delivered wherever you want to go" model?

As a programmer myself I wish I had the resources to get something like this working so that I could point to a prototype instead of a blogpost. But in lieu of that, better to throw the idea out there and see if maybe somebody else can run with it and I can be a beta tester.

I was thinking of this this morning as Adam Curry went through his audio comments for the Daily Source Code. Why doesn't he just pipe those as a personal podcast to himself? Does he really sit at a computer with gmail open and double click on the little attachments? Does he see the irony in that, I wonder? :)

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