Podcasts: Cliff or Runway?

podcast_iconI’ve been a fan and active consumer of podcasts for many years.  Over the past eight months, I’ve spent a lot of time on the road and so my interest in podcasts, especially as a free way to enjoy content from some smart and funny people, has grown.  They can really help a 5-hour drive fly by.

For the sake of clarity, when I refer to podcasts I’m talking about audio programs hosted on the internet that are automatically kept current on your device.  Using a podcasts app (my favorite is Castro, but Pocket Casts and Instacast are pretty snazzy), you can subscribe to a show (or discover one that fits your interests) and new episodes magically show up in the app.  It’s like custom radio with no commercials*.

(I know that some folks will point out that there are video podcasts (vodcasts?) available, too.  But for me those are useless.  I need something to listen to while driving, walking the dog, or doing the grocery shopping.  Any content that requires me to look at the screen is not solving any problem for me.)

But, the thing that I keep thinking about is that podcasts have been around for awhile, and yet most people (outside of a nerdy core of users) don’t listen to them.  Despite their great content, convenient availability, and more widespread knowledge of their existence, they have not taken off with the non-techie crowd.  I often compare podcasts to RSS feeds in this regard.  That’s another tool that I use to consume content, and one that has been around for years.  Yet, very few people make use of them.  That scares me a bit because lack of adoption sometimes leads to services and products disappearing.

So, naturally, I felt some measure of hope when I listened to the latest episode of “The Talk Show” in which the guest host was Mike Monteiro who leads the Mule Radio Syndicate of podcasters.  His take, which is obviously biased toward a positive fate for podcasts, was that we are on the cusp of something great.  As soon as the hardware and software evolve to the make consumption easier and more seamless–they used the example of Apple’s new CarPlay in-dash interface–people will begin enjoying this form of entertainment in huge numbers.

So, which is it?  Are podcasts getting set to take off?  Or, are they heading toward a drop-off?  What do you think?

*Commercials in podcasts are similar to public radio: short promotions for products that usually appeal to me.  When they appear, they are less than a minute long and happen only 1-2 times per hour.

BONUS:  Here are my favorite podcasts right now


Reading keeps getting better

I’ve written before about the way that my personal technology, including my iPhone and the Instapaper web service, have changed the way I read. I now have a simple method for gathering text (RSS, the Reeder app), a straightforward system for reading those items that show promise (Instapaper), and the ability to share what I like through email or social networks.

This week, however, things changed dramatically. My wonderful and beautiful (and patient and tolerant) wife gave me an iPad for my birthday. As a hardcore Apple fanboy, I know everything there is to know about these devices. I can recite their specs and troubleshoot their problems even though I’ve never owned one until now. I thought that I understood the draw of the tablet over the laptop or smartphone, but I didn’t really appreciate it until this week.

While I expected to continue using Reeder and Instapaper through their iPad versions, I did not anticipate how much I would enjoy reading with one other application: Flipboard. I had heard about it from others and knew that it could pull in your RSS feeds, Facebook news feed, and Twitter timeline. But that’s just the beginning.

Flipboard (free app, iTunes store link) takes these feeds, along with recommended reading from the likes of The Atlantic, National Geographic, Geekologie, and MANY others, and puts them into a gorgeous magazine interface. The reader flips through pages of articles with bright color photos. One tap on an article and it feels the screen in an animation that must be seen to be appreciated. There one can read the entire article, post to Twitter, send to Instapaper, or email a link. In short, everything that I might want to do with it.

The end result is a powerfully engaging reading experience that I find myself coming back to several times a day.  While my kids keep trying to borrow the iPad to play games and watch YouTube videos, I slip away to a quiet place and read for hours.  I get lost in the experience, similar to the way we all surfed the Internet for hours in the early days of web browsing when hyperlinks would take you down a rabbit hole that you would never have imagined.  I see this as the future of twenty-first century reading, and I think that it has tremendous potential for bringing young people back to the page, albeit a digital one.

I’m still exploring some of the amazing things that a tablet can do, and I’m sure to have more thoughts and questions to share here in the near future.  In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of reading to do.

What’s your favorite use for your iPad?



Will Facebook kill RSS?

I’m a admittedly a huge RSS fan. I use my newsreader, Google Reader (and Reeder on my iPhone), on a daily basis to pore over hundreds of news items, blog posts, YouTube recommendations, and student work.  I find that it keeps me in the know without taking up too much of my time.  It also makes it easy for me to find topics to blog about and pass along to friends and colleagues.

It has always bewildered me that so few of the folks that I work with make use of this technology.  New teachers, fresh from education programs, have often heard about RSS but don’t see the benefit for them.  Veteran teachers, even those who consider themselves techies, frequently think of it as “something extra” that they don’t have time for.

I also use Facebook actively, but only on a personal basis.  I almost never interact with colleagues or companies/brands that I like through Facebook.  Lately, however, I’ve noticed more and more that organizations are creating Facebook pages to allow users to “follow” their updates and news.  While this isn’t something that I enjoy doing, it seems to be becoming more and more popular.

Which leads me to the question: Will Facebook’s increasingly aptly named News Feed surplant RSS as the mode of choice for consumers (of products and information) to stay up-to-date?  Will Facebook mean the end of RSS?

What do you think?


My iPhone Feedreader

I’ve made no mystery of my love for RSS and my dismay over its slow adoption by the masses.  I do most of my reading in a given week by means of my feedreader, and it is how I satisfy my inner news junkie.  I find myself trusting mainstream news sources less and less as their biases become more apparent and their propensity toward sensationalism becomes more irritating.  I prefer do-it-yourself news aggregation, especially when I can read it on my portable device of choice: my iPhone.

A couple of years ago, I purchased Byline to read my RSS feeds on my iPhone.  I liked that it syncs to Google Reader so that anything I read on the mobile device is marked read online.  It’s basic features met my needs at the time, especially since I considered my news habit to be very personal.  It was (as most things in my life seem to be) all about me.

In the months that have followed, my PLN has grown and matured and I now appreciate the social potential of RSS feeds.  We all follow some of the same news sources, but our individual interests and experiences (mine are comic books and marine sciences) lead us to read different things.  I make use of Google Reader’s sharing features much more now to pass along and comment on news that I discover.

And so, this week I went searching for a new iPhone app to access and share my RSS feeds.  After some research and suggestions from friends, I discovered Reeder.  I couldn’t be more impressed with an application.  It has all of the visual goodies of my preferred Twitter client, Tweetie, with all of the RSS reading/sharing features I would ever want. Continue reading


Wave Can Do For Wikis What RSS Needs

SuperWaveLike many in my PLN, I lusted over Google Wave invites for weeks and finally received one of my own.  Unlike some, however, I have begun to see the great potential that this tool has to bring positive change into my classroom.  I have seen its drawbacks and missing features and I am ignoring them (for now).  Instead I am focused on the ways in which this tool (a “multimodal wiki” in the words of a colleague) could push wikis over the hump into widespread usage.
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