Maciej Ceglowski on Audioblogs

Cory Doctorow posted this link to an MP3 of Maciej Ceglowski parodying audioblogs. My capsule review – cute in a full of shit, stacked-deck-argument sort of way. He did get all the tropes in this new medium in there pretty well, but his arguments are ludicrous. The “we don’t need this, we already have another way to do it” is the utility infielder of rhetorical devices, always waiting to be used against something new. Textual weblogs are a former recipient of this device but tag, audioblogs, you’re it! He also calls recording audioblogs “self-indulgent”, which also used to be the criticism against text blogs. Tag! Trying new things is to be discouraged, so knock it off.

I had been enjoying listening to audioblogs and enjoying creating audioblogs. From the feedback I was getting, other people had been enjoying listening to mine as well. Little did we all suspect, we’re all a pack of dumbasses and shouldn’t all be enjoying this. If we were all literate, we’d be writing all this down. Maciej actually says that, instead of recording audioblogs we should be focusing on writing better. It’s hard to tell how much of that is sincere and how much is trolling. I’m assuming that mostly it is the latter. If you don’t like them, how fricking hard is it to not listen to them?

Update: Here is a link to some of Maciej’s paintings. I’m not sure why he thinks this rich media makes his website more interesting. If he were more literate, he would work on writing better descriptions of those scenes instead of wasting his time painting them. After all, “the internet was built on text,” right?

Update #2: I see the genesis of the manifesto in this comment that Maciej left on Suw Charman’s weblog. People tell me that he meant the manifesto ironically, but he’s saying the same thing here and it seems straight up.

Audioblog for August 31, 2004

Here is the audioblog for August 31, 2004. I discuss Paul Graham’s talk for IT Conversations with a brief digression into my checkered past with Lisp (and why programming language snobs are really tedious), the term “bundles of passion”, still more on enclosures and the imminent return of Reality Break to the radio airwaves.

Links mentioned this episode:
Paul Graham’s talk on IT Conversations
Reality Break – my old radio show
Hurricane Frances

Diebold Election Chicanery

From the “Holy Shit” Department comes this story from Black Box Voting. They have found a “flaw” in the Diebold central tabulator systems. By entering a two digit code, you are able to create a second set of votes. This second set of votes can be manipulated and changed, after which the second set will be what is reported. This appears to be less of a security hole, and more of a purposeful back door to allow for fraud. I’m trying to suppress my hot head tendencies, but I’m thinking at the very least this should be enough to get Diebold machines de-certified all across the country, and it seems reasonable to me to begin investigations as to why the company has built in such functionality. Other than creating fraud, what is the use of this? Is this what he was talking about when Walden O’Dell promised to deliver the election to Bush?

Link via Boing Boing

get_enclosures 0.2

Here’s an updated 0.2 release of the get_enclosures script. Added is the more robust caching mechanism based on the dates in the RSS item tag. This release will write out two M3U playlists in every directory that it downloads new files for, one alphabetical and one in reverse chronological order. This allows for ease of use with WinAmp or XMMS. Note that the M3U playlists will be based on everything that is in the directory at the time, so new files will be added to the existing ones. If you have deleted a file, it will not be reflected in the playlists.

You can also comment out a feed by preceding a line with #, which will keep it from being downloaded but without needing to be deleted from the file. This release should also fix issues with duplicates being added to the playlists.

If you are upgrading from a previous release, be sure not to overwrite your feeds.txt file when you unzip this. Either unzip it elsewhere or make a backup copy of feeds.txt so you don’t clobber it. Y’all probably already know this, but I just thought I’d remind.

Update: Thanks to Gordon for pointing out the boned URL. I really need to learn to not push out these things after midnight.

Audioblog for August 30, 2004

Here is the audioblog for August 30, 2004. I discuss different ways of assembling audioblogs, of how the myth of effortless brilliance impedes success, of the short stories of Theodore Sturgeon and the oddness of XM Radio cracking down on Time Trax.

Links mentioned in this episode:
Hugh MacLeod’s Gaping Void
XM Radio Leans on Time Trax
Lucas Gonze on Enclosures
The first volume of the Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon – The Ultimate Egoist

iMic

It’s been suggested to me that what I really need for getting audio into this Mac is an iMic. After looking at the page, I have to say that I agree with that. It would be great to actually hook up my real microphones and mike stands and use them to record the audioblogs. I’d like that better than speaking generally towards the screen. For example, I could do things on the computer while recording without each click and keystroke being such resounding thud. Being able to accept both mic level and line level inputs is awesome, so I might just hook this up. Thanks for the suggestion, y’all!

Audioblog for August 29, 2004

I’m caught back up, so here is the audioblog for August 29, 2004. There are two posted today, but really the first was yesterday’s. I discuss swearing on the audioblog and how I can recite George Carlin’s “7 dirty words” with as much or better ease as the Pledge of Allegiance (complete with demonstration), discuss an email exchange with IT Conversations producer Doug Kaye, and tell an anecdote from the Reality Break days about how getting underwriting caused me a minor ethical crisis.

Links mentioned in this episode:
IT Conversations

Comment Spammers Walk the Earth

I was sitting here working on the laptop when I got a big wad of email. It was the writeback system here telling me I got a comment, 6 of them. By examing them, I could see they were all comment spam. Since I had installed the Blosxom port of the MT anti-spam plugin I hadn’t had a problem but then hadn’t weathered many attempts either. My first thought was that my cron job that updates the blacklist had failed. I checked the blacklist and sure enough, the url in question was in the list. Curious, I thought. However, even as I examined it spam was coming in at the pace of one a minute (hilarious, a comment spammer that obeys netiquette about robot accesses of a web page.) I temporarily blocked the IP address via .htaccess while I tried to sort this out.

I went to my comments page and tried to duplicate the spammers comments, ones that should have been caught. They went through! Damn. I put some print statments into the plugin to write to STDERR what was happening, and I kept loading the page. I could see that it did correctly load the lines from the blacklist, and that it should have been caught. However, I noticed that the printout was double spaced. That ain’t right. I ended my print with a newline, but that implied that their was a newline in the actual variable. I looked at the routine that loaded the list, and sure enough he did not chomp the newline off the end. Since this value was then passed to be the pattern of a regular expression, it was only going to catch the spam if the values it was matching against had a newline after the occurrence of the url in question. I added the chomp line in the routine so that the newline disappeard, and tried to spam it again. Voila, it was caught! Since the spammer was still running amok despite being forbidden, I unblocked him via .htaccess to let the spam fighter try again. Double viola! I began getting the “we rejected comment spam” mails immediately. I don’t know if this bug has been caught in the main line of this plugin, but it certainly needs to be fixed. I’ll be contacting Doug Alcorn shortly.

Enclosures in Atom

In a comment Pete Prodoehl mentioned how he also hasn’t found anything definitive about enclosures or similar functionality in Atom. I went digging about and found this link to a relatively recent blog posting about it. One of the commentors had several links to other discussions of the subject, and I want to talk about one of them.

Lucas Gonze wrote a post about why he was removing enclosure support from Webjay playlists. I’m assuming that his arguments against the enclosure tags are colored by that project, and maybe not necessarily about the tag in general. Dunno, I’ll track him back and if he’d like to respond and clarify here he is welcome to. (Unlike a certain person in the enclosure world, I won’t get mad about it.) The bottom two points on his list, about not needing the filesize and MIME type in the enclosure tag I’m not going into because I don’t disagree with them. I actually do use the MIME type attribute in get_enclosures but if it didn’t exist there I would just use the one from the HTTP response. In fact, I probably should anyway, just in case the value in the enclosure is wrong.

Here are his arguments:

It causes users to download big files that they will never listen to or watch, creating pointless overload on web hosts.

This might be an issue in the Webjay situation or other meta-feeds that are collections of other RSS feeds. This is not a criticism of enclosures per se but of using aggregating enclosures on a feed where you don’t want all the files. I’m aggregating 8 feeds now with get_enclosures, and all of them are ones with a high probability that I want to listen to everything. There might be an individual item on IT Conversations that I download and after listening to a little bit decide not to finish, but that is a rarity. Almost everything I am aggregating are feeds that I want to listen to every single item. This argument strikes me as less a statement about enclosures and more another way of stating the common sense notion “Don’t automatically get enclosures on a feed unless you are pretty sure you are going to want them.”

It doesn’t allow us to credit the MP3 host, so we can’t satisfy the netiquette of always linking back.

I don’t understand this. I’m not sure what kind of aggregator he’s using where he can’t tell what feed the MP3 came from. I certainly can, because they end up in a playlist and directory based on what feed they came from. Even if someone adds an enclosure tag to a site not their own, that will show up as coming from the feed where the tag originated. If you want to credit it, you can always look at the HTML or RSS from that feed to find out what it was. In the case where a desktop aggregator is automatically doing it, the aggregator should know this information as well.

For broadband users, MP3s are not big enough to need advance caching in the first place.

Here’s the biggest miss of all, not understanding what we like so much about the “iPod platform.” It’s not that I need advance caching because it takes so long to get down the pipe for me (it doesn’t), it’s that I want automatic handling of items of (highly probable) interest to me. The thing we are trying to conserve here isn’t optimizing bandwidth throughput, it’s my scarce time and attention. I don’t want to have to think about checking Adam Curry’s feed or IT Conversations to see if new MP3s are up, I want them to magically appear on my hard disk and in my iTunes playlist. If I had an iPod, I’d want them synced up automatically so they were there when I left the house, whether I knew they were there or not. It’s why people like TiVos, it’s why people like RSS aggregators, and it’s why I like the “iPod platform.” Defining up front what my interests are and then letting the robot deliver me goodies that match without further effort on my part is highly appealing to me. I do this with RadioLover for radio streams, I do this with get_enclosures for RSS enclosure feeds. In both cases, I’m deliriously happy with my results.

There you have my reasoning why I think these arguments are not applicable in explaining why we don’t need enclosures or enclosure-like functionality in Atom. From that top link, it looks like the Atom link tag and its “rel” attribute are what they are planning on possibly using for this kind of feature. I can’t tell from the discussion on this blog post where in the process it is. The deal is that whatever the mechanism, a link tag with rel=”enclosure” or with rel=”related” or whatever they do, it just needs to be defined and supported. It sounds like the Atom community is still divided on whether this even is of value, much less what the definition is. That’s not great news to me if true, so I hope I am misreading the situation.

Gaston

I can’t say that I’m that wild about, in our third weekend here, going through our second hurricane/tropical storm. I guess we knew this is part of what we signed up for when we moved to the coast, but wow. Welcome to the area! Gaston is looking to make landfill almost directly toward us, [Update: freudian slip, of course I meant “landfall” but the original is funny so I am leaving it] although it is not nearly as strong a storm as Charley was. I’ve been working on the laptop in the living room all morning and I just decided to plug it up in case we lose power and I want to kill time working during a blackout. If I go offline, that will be why.

Audioblog for August 28, 2004

Here is the audioblog for August 28, 2004. Once again, I recorded this yesterday but didn’t get it assembled until today. I discuss my terminology for “bundles of passion” (and why I completely hate the term “content” in this arena), the IT conversations panel “Living the Broadband Life”, my enclosures plugin, blosxom, and the radio show Sound and Spirit. If you listen, this photo will make perfect sense.

Links mentioned in this episode:
Supernova 2004 Panel – Broadband Life
Sound and Spirit – great radio show (Ellen Kushner is my radio saint)
Blosxom – the weblogging tool that runs this site
Buy Paul Melancon’s album!

Renko

Pete Prodoehl has done a script much like get_enclosures called renko. I downloaded it and it worked well. It’s easier to install than mine because he includes all the modules you need in his distribution, so if that’s an issue with you by all means go get renko.

He also points out in a post that the correct place for all this stuff to be happening is in the desktop aggregators like NetNewsWire and Shrook. It shouldn’t be too hard – have an enclosure preferences that lets you decide to download all enclosures automatically, only ones of specific MIME types, none, ask every time, etc. Set up a directory where you want them to go, click a check button if you want them automatically added to iTunes and away you go. For me, the only big issue here would be if NetNewsWire added this support. I’m already paid up on Shrook and I like it, but if this functionality gets added to a competitive product then I might switch.

This kind of thinking has occurred to me as well, which is why there is an upper limit to how much effort I’ll ultimately put into get_enclosures. The best script in the world pales to mediocre support in the desktop aggregators. There are one or two additional things I’d like to add to it, and then I’m probably going to slow or stop work, only fixing bugs as they are brought to my attention. We’ve now done our work in validating the proof of concept further, and it is time for the aggregator developers to step up next.

Interesting Audioblogging Experiment

Gordon Smith came to my attention from comments he left on this weblog. He emailed me about his site, where I see he is doing a really interesting experiment with audioblogging. He has a photoblog of his environs in Australia, which in and of itself is quite cool. What he is doing is also recording audio commentaries to describe the photos, explain where and why you are looking at what you are looking at. It is like a DVD commentary track for his photos. Check it out, it is really cool use of audio.

Scenes from an Office

Ever wonder what it looks like when you live in Conway, South Carolina and you telecommute to a software development job elsewhere? It looks a lot like this. Now if I only had an audio clip of the sighing and snoring sounds, you’d really get a good feel for my days.

Christopher Lydon RSS

Speaking of Christopher Lydon, one of the feeds I’ve been using on get_enclosures as a test is his enclosure feed of his interviews. It looks like they were retroactively adding interviews to it, but sometime around January that all stopped. If any of you who read this have Mr. Lydon’s or Dave Winer’s ear, could you ask them politely, on my behalf, to resume filling out that feed? By default, everyone that installs get_enclosures is trying to aggregate that feed (it is one of the examples in the default feeds.txt) so it would be awesome if it were to become useful again. It would be a shame for Lydon, one of the proto-audiobloggers, to miss the boat just as everyone is catching on to the importance of it and building out the infrastructure.

Support Your Local Metadata

Brian Tol pounds on a drum I also hit hard: fill out the ID tags of your MP3s if you put them up for distribution. Brian wants people doing audioblogs to go further and include the date in the filename for ease of sorting. It all makes sense to me. Remember that when you are doing an audioblog, an increasingly common use case is that your file will be one of many that a listener finds in a pile. Do what you can to make it easy on them while listening, for managing this, to find you again if they like your MP3, etc. If it automatically gets added to playlists like all these scripts do, make it easy for someone with iTunes or WinAmp to figure out what this is.

Brian points to the same example I do for how NOT to do it, Christopher Lydon. This guy does interviews I care about, and dealing with the files that you get are a nightmare. The tags are never filled out, the filenames are never dated. If he interviews someone twice, you never know which is which unless you listen, etc etc etc. Make it easy on the poor schmucks you want to listen to your stuff, please.

I’m trying to fill out the tags completely every time and name the files consistently for all the audioblog MP3s. A friend pointed out that I should also consistently include my name and URL spoken in the audioblogs, both in the signon and the signoff, so that if someone is hearing it, they can hear me say who I am and what blog this came from. That also makes sense to me, so I’ll be doing that every time from here on out.

iPod – “Closed Platform”

A correspondent named Joshua forwarded me this link to a discussion about Microsoft asking Apple to “open the iPod”. The most striking thing about this discussion is that most of the people really have no idea what they are talking about, and don’t understand what open and closed mean (I mean, it is a forum of Windows users …) They seem to think that because the iPod doesn’t support WMA with Microsoft DRM, it is closed. If the only way you could get music on an iPod was to buy it from the Apple music store, that would be a closed platform. This is the nonsense Gemstar pulled with the Rocket eBook which completely killed the business – that was a closed platform. When you can load up an iPod with your own music in the (at present) most popular compressed audio format in the world, it isn’t closed. That’s it.

Open does not mean “supports all audio formats”, it means “able to put things on there not purchased from Apple”. You can do that. The fact that Real or Microsoft can’t sell music in their proprietary format with their proprietary DRM on it and have it work on an iPod doesn’t make it closed. Should that support be there, it wouldn’t make the iPod any more “open”, it would just have broader support for proprietary formats. Microsoft or Real want to be on the iPod, let them sell music without DRM, ala Magnatune. Otherwise, let them come up with their own device and own store and own user experience. If they think it is so fricking easy to make one that will explode at the same rate as the iPod, then they should just do it, compete in this game and win.

Audioblog for August 27, 2004

Here is the newest entry in the annals of the audioblog. In this episode, I discuss the reactions to my big “iPod platform” entry of previous days, discuss how the audioblog is becoming the first draft for the big “manifestos” on here, and I play a Paul Melancon song. All that, in about 15 minutes, as I actually make an effort to keep these things from sprawling out to half an hour.

Links mentioned in this installment:
Paul Melancon or his new band The Arts and Sciences
Audacity – open source audio editing package (new release is out!)

Experimental WREK RSS Feeds

The experiment begins. I have two feeds of WREK radio shows as RSS with enclosure tags that point to the component files in the WREK weekly archive. I subscribed to both with get_enclosures and it worked great. During my scheduled run, the whole of each show automagically appeared in my iTunes. The next test will be this weekend, when my cron job should overwrite the current files with ones updated to new timestamps, and my get_enclosures should get them all over again.

Feed for Personality Crisis

Feed for the Hour of Slack and Bob’s Slacktime Funhouse, the two Subgenius programs

Anyone who is interested in this experiment, feel free to play along at home. The former is punk/post-punk madness that is hard to describe but fantastic to listen to, and the later is sheer unqualified madness, Subgenius style. Yowsa yowsa.