- Tested.com / This is only a test – a few San Francisco geek (one hipster… PLEASE Will, get rid of the beard!) with GREAT experience in the technology world, having worked at computer and game magazines. These guys talk about video games, software, mobile devices, websites, movies, music, live shows, quadcopters, travel, food and just tons of stuff. It’s a long show, but I love every minute of it – even the Apple fanboi stuff!
- FreakonomicsRadio – An economics view of “The hidden side of everything”. They talk about and break down many interesting things about life and money and interesting stuff, into measurable units to try to understand those things better.
- Planet Money – Fantastic shows about things related to money and how that stuff affects our lives. A really great show, well produced, interesting topics.
- StartUp – Former This American Life producer starts his own network, and this show started as a weekly documentary on how he raised money and put together a team. This is now focused on other startup businesses.
- Adam Savage: Still Untitled – From Tested.com, this is a great show with Adam Savage (from MythBusters) talking about technology, science, model making, movies and props. I love Adam :)
- Reply All – A show about the internet. Not always well-formatted, but it’s short and usually fun info about popular (or little known) things on the internet.
- Serial – The super-popular show that brought back the ‘weekly serial radio show’. Season 1 knocked it out of the park with a real-life whodunit murder case.
- Peculiar Podcast – Seattle. If you’re from (or lived in) Seattle in the 90s, you know who Pat Cashman and Lisa Foster are. This is their new digital radio show. Fun, light and wonderful :)
- This Week in Google – Leo Laporte’s Google show. Long and pretty good. They know a lot and cover a lot.
- Here’s the Thing – Really interesting interviews with big names by none other than Alec Baldwin! He interrupts a bit too much, but the show works. At the very least, look for past shows and pick the people you find interested. There’s some great surprises here.
Archive for the ‘Podcasting’ Category
With smartphones being a regular part of most people’s lives and podcasts becoming more popular as in-car entertainment, advertising needs to catch up with the technology a bit. I often hear ads that are interesting enough to want to look up, but if I’m driving I can’t pull up a website or even take a note, so I need to really want to remember what the ad was about to recall it later. So instead, what about an app that would listen for audio cues and pull up those websites for you?
In the 1990s there was this thing call the “CueCat”. It was a peripheral for the serious computer geeks that was really just a simple barcode scanner. You could scan barcodes in magazines or on the back of everyday products you bought form the store and their software would either search their database for the custom barcode or search the web for the product you scanned so you can get more information. A great idea that was literally 20 years ahead of its time. Today everyone should have a barcode scanner app on their mobile devices (Android | iOS).
Fast forward to today… your smartphone is on the magnetic mount in your car, playing your favorite podcast and they read an ad or just talk about a product they like. If that content creator wants to get even more revenue (just like they do when they tell you to use a special code during checkout on one of their sponsor’s websites), they’ll add a quick audio cue that is hardly noticeable by the listener, but that is long enough for a mobile app to pickup. The app stores the cue so the next time you look at your phone, you can pull up the topics that had cues.
Something like this… notice the modem-like sound at the beginning:
Good podcast player apps could even incorporate this ‘listener’ into their app to help the user (and track clicks on ads that listeners pulled up later.)
As an avid podcast listener and business & technology fan, I began developing this idea a few years ago. I’ve called it "PodNet", short for Podcast Network. Here’s the quick-version of what it is; Combine the old Napster / file sharing idea with an affiliate program and the SETI program. There are a few pieces to the plan, but for those who don’t understand how podcasts work in general, here are simplified explanations for how a content consumer and a content creator use podcasts:
Note: A podcast is nothing more than an MP3 file (or MPG for video podcasts). 1 hour of (spoken word) audio can be about 50mb.
User with portable audio devices (smartphone, Android, iPod, Zune, MP3 player, etc.) use a download manager (iTunes, Google Listen, gPodder, etc.) on their PC to automatically retrieve content that is frequently updated. For example, if they subscribe to the Adam Carolla podcast, the download manager reads an XML file to see what the current episode is, then downloads it and copies the file to their PC. The download manager is scheduled to check that XML file on a regular basis for new episodes and downloads as they become available. Then, when the portable audio device is connected to the computer, that downloaded content gets copied to the device for playback.
To stick to the Adam Carolla example, Adam creates a new episode every day (for the most part), and uploads that 30mb to 60mb file to a web server, then updates the podcast XML file (the file is like a catalog that gives the title, length, description, filename, etc. of the episode). As podcast management software reads the podcast.xml file, it downloads the file from a web server.
Web servers are the computers on the internet that "serve" a webpage or file. As each podcast (MP3) file is downloaded by a user’s podcast manager, the web server keeps track of how many megabytes it serves to users. If you’re Adam Carolla or NPR, you could be paying for thousands of gigabytes of transfers (also called bandwidth) each month – 1 podcast @ 50mb x 100,000 downloads in a month = approx. 5,000,000mb (~4.7terabytes). Web hosts usually charge the content creator by the amount of bandwidth they use, so the more popular your podcast is, the more it could cost you.
Adam Carolla, Kevin Smith, NPR, Ricky Gervais – these are some of the most downloaded podcasts on the web, so they’re paying a lot of money to get their content out there. In the television world, the cost of producing and broadcasting a TV show is offset by selling commercials. Most podcasts have few (if any) commercials, so the content creator has to foot the bill.
Okay – almost… but before explaining PodNet, review these two distributed systems:
File-sharing services from years ago (or torrents from today) would take a single file – a video, mp3, game or program file – and break it up into smaller pieces. So let’s say a 50mb MP3 file is broken into ten 5mb pieces. Each of those pieces would get downloaded by the file-sharing software on various users’ computers then reassembled to the original 50mb file. Then those user’s computers would in turn serve several of the 5mb pieces to other file-sharing users on the web. Repeat that millions of times, and the load on the original web-server is reduced to almost nothing (assuming enough people are downloading the files.)
SETI@home is a distributed system that utilizes the "unused" processing power of computers that are connected to the internet, but which aren’t doing anything (like your home computer that is on while you’re at work or sleeping.) You install the SETI software on your PC, and it downloads a file containing a chunk of data collected from radio-telescopes, then analyzes the data for patterns. The software then sends any significant data back to the scientists for detailed analysis.
PodNet would combine some of these and other elements to create a new distribution system for podcasts. What makes PodNet different from normal file-sharing software is the affiliate payment aspect.
PodNet Problem Statements
- Content Creators must pay high monthly costs for bandwidth to serve their content.
- Non-commercial internet users (Home and small businesses) generally do not use the bandwidth they are paying for each month.
- Computers that are always connected to the internet, but which aren’t being actively used have great potential for distributed systems.
The PodNet service redirects requests for downloads to "PodNet Mini-Servers" located all over the internet, rather than the Content Creator’s web servers, thus minimizing their bandwidth costs.
PodNet Redirection Service
When download manager software initiates a request for an updated XML file to check for updated content, the Redirection service returns a dynamic file which changes minute-by-minute, based on various data points. A master status database stores continuous status information as reported by Mini-Servers. The Redirection Service builds the dynamic file based on the content requested and which Mini-Server would provide the best access to that content at that moment.
PodNet Affiliate Program
Affiliate programs generally allow members to get small payments for referring a product or service. The PodNet Affiliate Program would pay participating members for serving podcast content from their PCs. The most content they serve, the more money they make.
The PodNet Mini-server is a very small application that runs in the background and communicates with the PodNet Redirection Service to coordinate serving content. The user has control over what hours content can be served, how much bandwidth to use by day/week/month and which content they want to serve. The Redirection Service reports overall usage which is used to calculate Affiliate payments (if the user has chosen to join the Affiliate Program.) The Mini-Server reports what the available connection speed is, what content is available, how many files have been served, how much time each transfer has taken, what IP address downloaded the content, start and end-times and other technical data to insure that content has not been tampered with before being served.
Obviously security, transfer rates, file sizes, throughput, tracking, usage and many other details are not included here, but that’s the basic idea. And yes, this idea could be akin to torrents, but on a “legal” and more automated scale. I’ve also looked around at ISPs to see what restrictions there are to running file servers over your home internet connection, and the main thing I find are rules against pirated content. In the case of PodNet, all the content is legally distributed.
As more media channels move to “anytime content”, the need for legal, lower-cost, distributed file-sharing is going to grow. PodNet may be one way to reduce costs while increasing availability.