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NMH: PodBytes

Disclaimer, I don't listen to podcasts and I'm only peripherally interested in them as another form of sociable media on the Web. This post was inspired by some observations by Ernest Miller on the scannability of podcasts.

Linkblogging is the equivalent of television soundbites for the Web. An exclusive diet of soundbites is obviously not good, but they do serve a useful purpose when done well, transmitting useful information in a condensed fashion. It's when they get completely divorced from their original context that soundbites get dangerous.

Mechanisms to support what I'm terming podbytes (probably too cute by half but hang with me), could help amplify the impact of podcasts. If users had a cheap and easy way to select, snip, and link to chunks of podcasts a.ka. podbytes, serious podcast listeners could more easily spread the word about the highlights of good podcasts. Less hardcore users could ride the collective intelligence of the core podcast audiences by keeping track of podbyte blogs (podbyting?) through webfeeds or WebJay playlists. This would probably be a much more effective means of scanning than having to play the podcast at double time. Podbytes would also make podcasts much more of the Web than they are now.

There are two thorny issues as I see it. One, is convenient interfaces for selecting and snipping podbytes. On the desktop, I don't see this as insurmountable, but on other podcast listening devices such as iPods, there'd need to be careful physical design. I'm not holding my breath waiting for a soundbite marking mechanism to come to these devices. Plus, who needs to be podbyting when they're driving or running on the treadmill!

Two, linking into regions of MP3s, the common podcast file format as far as I know, isn't particularly natural. Jon Udell has been exploring many of these issues, but as recently as January of this year, linking to podcast samples wasn't peachy and I haven't heard anything to change that picture.

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