Asking the Wrong Questions

Even though we have a fake feud going on (or at least we did, I think we’ve mutually dropped it for fear of a joke running on too long), I do like WebTalk Radio. It does seems like Rob Greenlee is torn and simultaneously understands why this new world of podcasting is exciting but is kind of bugged by it. That’s a natural enough reaction – he and Dana spent a long time and lots of effort (and I presume money) climbing over the gates of the media system, only to find that they were swung wide open after they are already through. I like the guy and I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he’s one of the guys in the “this isn’t really an innovation camp.” I’ve been talking against that outlook, and now I’m going to be as blunt as I can be about it.

In this article, Rob says a lot of things that make a lot of sense (including expressing admiration for the podcasts of Brother Curry and myself, which is always nice, and the admiration is mutual). Like I did the other day, he also credits the catchy term as giving the spark to this meme-driven brushfire. He also says this:

We are only seeing the very beginning of this time-shifting of audio movement. The truth is that most of this Podcasting news is new “old news” as many radio shows like WebTalk and KenRadio have been offering mp3 downloads for years.

The content pioneers of downloadable spoken word content are and as they have been offering content for many years.

Yes, as I’ve said 1.7 gazillion times, podcasting has no technical innovation whatsover. Trying to figure out why the old-timers in internet audio are not getting their props is asking the wrong question. The correct question is “What have all the old-timers been doing so wrong for so long that a couple-dozen dumbasses writing open source aggregators in their evening and weekends and recording amateur audioblogs have created an excitement in the space of two months that these companies with far greater stakes in the game and far more resources to devote to the problem have failed to do in years of work?”

The pioneers are missing the point if they are indignant about the situation. They should be trying to figure out how this motley group of enthused amateurs ate their lunch, and work very quickly about trying to come up with a new lunch. Rob is doing this, by podcasting their shows. The others he cites ought to be paying attention fast, or risk watching the landscape shift underneath them. This is all straight out of what Hugh MacLeod has been on a tear about lately.

Update: To make this clearer, despite the blunt wording above I don’t blame any of the old-timers for not having created podcasting or something like it previously. Like I’ve been saying, until recently it wasn’t “steam engine time” and now it is. However, appealing to seniority ain’t going to cut it . Despite the injustice of people newer to the party getting the attention, that’s the way it is. Time to learn the new dance steps,

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

2 thoughts on “Asking the Wrong Questions”

  1. Mark Topham says:

    You have to let it go.

    Synergy – The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

    Discussions of evolution discuss emergent behaviour. It seems to appear from nowhere, the environment has changed and allowed a combination of traits to have a beneficial effect, something unexpected and new.

    Podcasting is the synergistic collection of easy synching audio players, automation of content collection, and availability of the bandwidth required to do it right. (Wait till video is -easy- to do.)

    The ones who see podcasting as nothing new are blinded by the fact they saw all the pieces, but failed to grasp the whole.
    It wasn’t time. Now it is.

    I was on the Internet in 1993 within weeks of it being available to the public in Manitoba, Canada. A friend of mine heard the local university was allowing the public to get accounts. I had a user id of 97. I spent the next 2 years talking to my friends, and classmates about the Internet and having them shake their head thinking I was talking gibberish.

    They treat me the same way when I evangelize my Tivo. My GF bought a Tivo and expected her mother to use it for all her shows she currently records to VHS. (She records them, watches them and recycles the tape). She’s had it for several weeks and only last week did she event attempt to use it.

    People hate change. They will do 10 times more work just to keep things the same.

    (For the curious, yes it is possible to get a Tivo to work in Canada on a Canadian provider.)

  2. When anyone asks what podcasting is, we can easily find technical definitions and short histories of it online (e.g. via Wikipedia). I believe that the harder concept to grasp is really how it is different from existing online media, such as audioblogs…

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