Warren Ellis (mistersleepless) wrote,
Warren Ellis
mistersleepless

DIY Mind Gangsterism 2: Podcasting

Podcasting is new. Not even six months old. But, for audio and video
artists, this could be important. You'll need access to your own hosting
for this one.

It works off RSS, the syndication system that allows you to aggregate many
blogs in a single window or program. The LJ friends list is a version of
syndication/aggregation. Don't worry if you don't understand RSS. I
don't. We have a way around this. Read on.

The idea behind aggregators is that you plug in the URL of a blog you like,
and the thing collects new updates to that blog while you're not looking.
It presumes you have an always-on connection, or at least a connection you
leave running for long periods of time. Aggregators sneak around in the
background, and silently hunt and download updates without you having to do
anything but, one time, plug in that URL.

Now, RSS 2.0 has a thing called "enclosures". You load a file into your
update and it downloads out to whomever has your blog on their aggregator.
I have no idea how you make your RSS feed do that, but there's a shortcut
for us stupid people, so read on. Do not be afraid.

Now, a guy called Adam Curry, who used to be on MTV in the States, devised
something called iPodder. Here's how it works:

You've got the URL of someone who puts audio enclosures in their blog's
RSS. You plug it into iPodder, and tell it to look at that URL overnight,
leaving your computer and net connection running and sleeping the sleep of
the just. In the middle of the night, iPodder downloads that audio file.
If you have iTunes and an iPod, then you leave your iPod plugged in. And
all the little machines talk to each other and shove that mp3 out of your
computer into the iPod, automatically.

I have an Archos, not an iPod, so all I do is plug in the Archos and
drag-and-drop the "My Received Podcasts" folder into it.

Adam Curry calls it "a filling station for your iPod."

And that's a podcast. Subscriber-only microcasting from your computer to
their mp3 player, fully automated. You just download iPodder or another
podcast-catching thing, and it's very nearly as simple as adding an LJ user
to your friends list.

How do you podcast an mp3? Well, I said there was an easy way. Google for
"dircaster". It's a PHP file. The site has it zipped using TAR, so you
might want to get a Mac friend to unzip it if you're on PC. You just want
the dircaster.php file.

Create a directory on your website -- say, http://www.mysite.com/podcast/.

Open up dircaster.php in Notepad or similar and add the personal bits it
asks you for. Very simple. Save it as dircaster.php again (keep the
original file somewhere you won't lose it, just in case) and drop it into
the directory you created. Chuck your mp3 in the same directory.

Then tell people your podcast is at
http://www.mysite.com/podcast/dircaster.php. That's the URL they'll plug
into their iPodder.

And that's it. Seriously. You're done.

If you feel up to it, then before you drop your mp3 in, open it in WinAmp
or whatever, select it and choose "File Info" or similar from its options
menu. That shows you its ID3 tags, the data mp3 players look for to tell
you what the mp3's about. Fill out the fields, save, and then drop the mp3
into your podcast directory.

Do all that, and you've made a way to push your sound from your website
into the computer of anyone who's subscribed to you.

What has this to do with Mind Gangsterism? Well, obviously, it's about
building an audience, cult of personality and all that. But also, you've
made a way for anyone with an mp3 player to experience your work away from
the computer, automagically. Now, without them even thinking about it,
you've put yourself in their cars, offices, walkabouts, gyms, wherever.

And here's what I find interesting -- so far, 99% of podcasts are crap.
It's like the first six months of blogging -- it's techie guys talking
about techie stuff, podcasting about podcasting, bad rants by basement
dwellers and cubicle monkeys. It's the youngest content delivery system on
the web, and the early adopters are almost all boys who do code. There are
a couple of podcasts of music by unsigned bands, one sex-info podcast, a
lot of live blues and bluegrass recordings, a little experimental audio,
and that's about it for diversity.

And it's JUST AUDIO. It holds all the potential of radio -- real radio,
not the Clear Channel shit and talkshow bollocks they have in the States.
Anything you can do with audio, you can do in a podcast if you have the
tools. If actual artists get hold of this, then, in the next six months,
we should start getting monologues, dramatic readings, ensemble audio
drama, lectures, rhetorical word/sound presentations, more and richer
indie-music playlists, mad noise...whatever you can think of.

Oh, and this: enclosures will take any file.

I got a few people to hack the Dircaster PHP last night. Before I went to
bed, just for my own education and amusement, I podcasted a short video I
shot with my cameraphone a couple of weeks ago.

You can push video through podcast. You can probably also push Flash files
through podcast.

Obviously, a long mp3 or .avi is going to be a big file. But iPodder's
going to be grabbing it while you're in bed, so who cares? New content
there in the morning, and you weren't even thinking about it.

In hosting these things, bandwidth will inevitably become an issue. There
are ways around that, from donations to a Bit Torrent hack, but that's
complicated and messy and I'm trying to keep this simple. Podcasting is
still small enough that you're unlikely to hit that trouble straight away.
Use Google, keep abreast of things, develop some friends who understand
intarweb stuff.

It's small. It's young. Right now, a dozen committed audio/video artists
could turn podcasting right around. You could probably relate podcasting
to the Combat Media Hub idea (go back a few posts for the contents listing,
the essay's in there). It is ripe for Mind Gangsterism -- for reaching
into someone's head and seducing and menacing their brain.

You think radio and TV are shit and dead? Make your own.

-- W


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