17 September 2008

Podcast issues

Since looking at podcasts I have seen quite a few that could be useful for answering reference questions. Often students need different formats of information for their projects. Podcasts can give them both visual and audio formats. I'm thinking about interviews with authors, commentaries on science and technology, social & political commentaries and podcasts on historical events/eras. But, to be able to incorporate podcasts in our arsenal of sources there are a few technical issues to consider.

The first one is content. We are so used to have access to an overwhelming amount of information and recreation sites in text format that podcasts seems a fairly paltry offering in comparison. That means it is harder to find a good podcast that appeals to you or that you will find useful.

The audio/visual format of podcasts makes it harder to search for them. So far the web is primarily geared towards text searching. The full content of the text can be searched and it is much easier to find relevant items. The search for podcast content relies mostly on the description and written reviews. There is a video search engine Blinx that claims it "uses a unique combination of patented conceptual search, speech recognition and video analysis software to efficiently, automatically and accurately find and qualify online video." Will have to play around with the different search engines to compare the results.

Another issue about the text based web is that you can quickly skim through text to get an indication of its relevancy/appeal. That's not the case with audio and video formats. First of all it is much slower to download, then you have to listen/watch it before you really can decide whether this is what you are looking for. So it requires much more in terms of time and patience, which are in short supply at times. That is maybe why a large percentage of podcasts is about music.

Then there is the technical issue of different file formats that need to be played in different podcatchers. And also feeds that may or may not have been created and hunting for the feed link on the page which doesn't use the conventional feed icon - it all caused a lot of confusion. It was so easy to subscribe to some podcasts, others were so difficult to finally be able to subscribe to, and there were quite a few that looked interesting but were impossible to subscribe to for some known/unknown reason(s).

Now that I have subscribed to a few podcasts, it will require a lifestyle change to make use of them. I thought that the best way to do it is to download them once a week from my Bloglines account onto my mp3 player and then listen to the podcasts while driving in the car or doing boring housework. (Learning to use my mp3 player is another skill I still have to master - once I can remember to charge it and take it with me.) These are my thoughts on podcasts written down so now my mind can let it go and concentrate on the next thing.

1 comment:

NSL Learning 2.0 team said...

You put so much effort into your exercises and this one is no exception. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and thoughts.