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The American Caliban

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A thing I fear. [Nov. 11th, 2005|02:03 pm]
The American Caliban
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Podcasting is bad. I've bitched about it already. Mouth-breathing geeks droning about technology. Even the ones who are good writers (0.1%) are unlistenable like bad college professors. Fire it into the sun.

But something worse looms. The video iPod and its cousins, and the ease of making small downloadable portable video magazines, offers a future of what I'm sure they're calling vodcasting. This unfortunately does not provide vodka, but may require it. The thought of tapping on my handheld video device and seeing Dave Winer or some person who has the best blog about Babylon 5 talk at me is, frankly, emetic.

My opinion is that mumbling, whiny, unsightly geeks who insist on being media personalities should restrict themselves to text like the other mumbling, whiny, unsightly geeks over the last 10,000 years and stay out of the public eye and ear. The reason we're not all on the radio and the TV is not just that access to media is limited. It's also that very few people have either the skills or the charisma to do either of those things without making others dizzy with loathing.

But I can deal with that just by not watching any of it. The second part of this is worse. Right now, blogging is a text medium, and I love it. I have maybe 200 RSS subscriptions to personal and institutional weblogs and weblog-like things and I get a lot out of it. I make fun of the bozosphere, but mostly it's great.

Video may not kill it, but it'll be a huge kick in the stomach. Video is seductive. It's immediate and TV-like. It's visual. It makes people feel like stars to be in videos. It's dumbed down and easy. And it's made for ad insertion. Video podcasting, when it gets to a certain point, will be adopted by just about all the commercially-run weblogs and a huge portion of the homebrew ones. And I see it as having an unpleasantly TV-like effect on the web. You might not think a three-paragraph blog update on one of the Weblogs Inc. or Gawker sites is a heavy chunk of ideas, but it'll get smaller and dumber in a video. Instead of a galaxy of smart little snide magazine article squibs, we'll have huge numbers of local news quality "segments" with stock footage and maybe 200 words of idea in them. Inevitably the commercial blogs will be done by prettier and prettier faces. And because there's less money in blogging than in actual TV, the use of stock provided footage from commercial sources will be universal.

With luck, we'll keep a core of text-based weblogging that has actual ideas in it, the way we kept an intelligent chunk of the Web after the flashmonsters and marketing droids ate most of it. But it's not a good thing, not at all.

I hate video.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: kineticfactory
2005-11-11 10:12 pm (UTC)
The only vodcasts that will survive and get a following will be the ones read out by young female exhibitionists. There'll be a generation of young women learning that, if they dress (or undress) provocatively, lots of people will tune in to hear them go on about their otherwise unexceptional lives. It'll be like JenniCam all over again.

This may have the good effect of culling the britneyblogs, as flesh-showing vodcasts suck the oxygen out of that segment of the blogosphere.
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[User Picture]From: seriesfinale
2005-11-11 10:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, all the evidence I need to agree with you is that "Voice Posts" on LJ are rarely as cogent, witty, or informative as those particular persons' usual entries.

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[User Picture]From: scromp
2005-11-11 10:45 pm (UTC)
There is still only one sometimes decent podcast, and it is decent because it is just an internet radio show that happens to be encapsulated in xml. nyub.net
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2005-11-11 10:47 pm (UTC)
I'll take a look. I tried a couple of those but it just gave me flashbacks to being a college radio program director and listening to bad DJs breathe on the mike and say "umm" between songs :) But there were also good ones.
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[User Picture]From: scromp
2005-11-11 11:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, he doesn't talk much. Sometimes it is still hokey, and some times he breaks the "don't talk" rule, but I like it ok usually. And when he talks he's from New Zealand, so he doesn't sound like Mike from Poughkeepsie.

Standard disclaimer, of course: I was never a music critic.
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[User Picture]From: brianenigma
2005-11-11 11:16 pm (UTC)
I have to differ with you on the whole Podcasting being bad thing. I am subscribed to about 45 feeds, only 2 or 3 of which are people talking about technology. I actually don't listen to the radio any more. The only thing I *did* listen to on the radio previously was the local NPR station, and now I can get both local news and national NPR shows on the iPod to listen to on my own schedule. Most of the podcasts that I have subscribed to are traditional NPR radio, music (PDXBands, Northwest Noise, Industrial Radio, Extra-Super Action Show, Coverville, etc.) and drama-type things (The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, The Seanachai, Satancast, the Ancestor podcast novel, etc.) Everything is quite professional sounding. The whiny geek podcasts are listened to by other whiny geeks, but podcasting is going mainstream (for better or for worse) and the mainstream frankly just doesn't care what Whiner or Curry have to say.

None of these things encroach into the world of blogs. None of them make text journals any less compelling or any less relevant. They do seem to be taking the place of radio, as people are wising up to the ways of the ClearChannel mothership and are finding alternatives (be it trendy-high-tech like listening to podcasts or just listing to their own music collection on a portable device.)

Blogs are here to stay because none of us want to go through the trouble of producing a high-production-quality audio file of every day/week of our lives--with proper microphones, sound levels, intro/outro music, interstitials, and all that stuff people expect from audio.... and nobody wants to listen to crappy audio that doesn't have any of the above. Besides: you can't skim, nor can Google index the content of, an audio file. Most shows with technical content (and even many without) have "show notes" blogs, which are text-only blogs that complement the audio versions. You can always subscribe to one without paying attention to the other.

Video casts (vodcasts or whatever people are calling them now) are just dumb. The cost of entry (both in equipment and technical knowhow) for producing them is high. If you try to go cheap on the video production, nobody will watch. The audience has to carve out a piece of time to watch. With audio files, you can listen to them on the daily commute or while doing other work. With video, your undivided attention is required. Video is also much more difficult for the average person to comfortably hook up. Anyone can plug their iPod into a stereo, either with a Y-splitter or a cassette tape adapter. With video, you can crowd around a laptop and now a little iPod, but viewing it on a computer takes some string-and-sealing-wax that only the geekiest of the geeks are willing to put up with.

I see video casting, maybe eventually, doing to Big Television(tm) what Podcasting is just barely starting to kinda-sorta do to Big Radio(tm). You'll be able to download Survivor:Afghanistan and Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire and the entire back-catalog of Saved By The Bell. The BBC will offer a lot of content. There will be a few PBS-type shows, both produced by PBS itself and produced by film students as a senior project. The average person and blog won't do it for the same reason we don't have videophones, even though the technology is easily obtainable. The big blogs won't go all video for most of the above reasons (viewers have to carve out time; it costs money, equipment, time, and bandwidth to produce; video browser plugins suck; text is a good common denominator baseline with perhaps video to enhance a few entries.)

Video podcasting is a great novelty, but it isn't going to be taking anything over any time soon. Except for maybe broadcast TV. Some day.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2005-11-11 11:36 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we've different all along on podcasts. I really can't stand them, even the ones you like. The whole medium does nothing for me.

I hope you're right about vodka casting. Small screen video seems very attractive to the gameboy generation, though!
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[User Picture]From: brianenigma
2005-11-11 11:44 pm (UTC)
The Gameboy Generation will eventually have to grow up. They won't be able to fit staring-at-a-small-screen in between commuting, flipping burgers, and drinking 40oz'ers with their friends. ;-)
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[User Picture]From: citizenx
2005-11-11 11:17 pm (UTC)

I hate video

I hate how video is being pushed on all of us as well by the people who insist this is what we're supposed to be interested in.

I mostly don't bother with podcasting/radio shows/whatever because I prefer to read and take things in at that pace I choose instead of pausing/stopping/rewinding/fast forwarding audio. And actually looking at these low-budget (and obviously so) productions? No thanks.
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[User Picture]From: vanmojo
2005-11-12 12:02 am (UTC)

But Andy Warhol Said I Could...

/whining=on!

But Conrad... Andy Warhol promised I could be famous... he said I could be in the show... hesaidIcould, hesaidIcould, hesaidIcould...

Joshua
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[User Picture]From: torgo_x
2005-11-12 12:48 am (UTC)

Re: But Andy Warhol Said I Could...

ANDY WAS JUST TRYING TO GET YOUR PANTS OFF!
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[User Picture]From: torgo_x
2005-11-12 12:49 am (UTC)

HURR

I'm VRML blogging!!!

One day I will blog in the form of PostScript connect-the-dot puzzles.

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From: yoscott
2005-11-12 01:11 am (UTC)
I propose a boycott on the term "Podcasting" as it's ultimately just a term some dumbass Apple marketer came up with. If it wasn't by an Apple Marketer, it should have been. Podcasting has been around for as long as any idiot has recorded his voice and rebroadcasted it. Something I was doing in 1981. Hey lets give every tom dick an harry the tools to spew whatever he wants to the entire world. Completely and totally worthless.

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[User Picture]From: rpkrajewski
2005-11-12 06:03 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure it wasn't an Apple 'troid that came up with the pod term “podcasting” – it was probably one of the A-list people in the bozosphere.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2005-11-12 06:09 pm (UTC)
Didn't Adam Curry and Dave Winer have some hilarious geek slap-fight over which one of them came up with it?
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[User Picture]From: rpkrajewski
2005-11-12 06:13 pm (UTC)

Almost inevitability true

Now that's something I'd pay to see !
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[User Picture]From: flipzagging
2005-11-12 04:22 am (UTC)
It's arguable whether video is inherently stupid. Video does have many disadvantages as a medium, which physically limit how much information it can convey (try putting a blueprint on TV). And for most of its history, it has been astronomically expensive to produce, but distribution networks were very wide. Hence: Saturday morning cartoons based on action figures.

Now the economics are changing. So I'm more of an optimist about video. Look at digital cameras -- almost anybody can go into their backyard and shoot images of flowers that just ten years ago would have been magazine-quality.

Internet video right now comes in two flavors: low-budget talking-head video blogging and network TV downloads. But there's a vast space in between that's never been explored.

In some eras, we would be having this argument about painting. That was a medium of high costs, and the only paintings which were seen by many people were underwritten by the church and gentry, to amaze and cow the public. Who could have foreseen a more personal and expressive style of painting was possible?
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[User Picture]From: rpkrajewski
2005-11-12 06:08 pm (UTC)
Since I don't even have an iPod, my curmugeonliess has more credibilty than that of people who do them !

Seriously, I subscribe to just one or two podcasts of the “here's an interesting MP3” variety. I'd rather read than listen.

I could image cool video podcasts, but not of the talking head variety. Maybe short (> 2 minute) “slice of life” videos with no dialog and maybe just a text track, that sort of thing. Talking heads and things are trying to be TV shows are probably not going to work.
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