Saturday, April 4, 2009

$13USD Podcasting Gizmo

The biggest obstacle to a torrent of citizen journalism in podcast form is gathering content. A good podcast needs a lot of volunteers out there collecting material and sending it on to the editing/production team.

The available pools of volunteers for progressive podcasts are usually enthused about an issue and involved for that reason. Not because they are all geeked-out over the technical aspects of production and such.

With a little coaching anyone can learn to do a reasonable interview and it doesn't take much experience to record a rally or a speech or a talk. So the barriers to greater participation are almost always tech and/or financial.

The threshold on both has been high. Getting lower, but not fast enough.

This little gizmo is one of several now available that allows anyone with a recent release iPod to get out there and start recording. Making anyone with an iPod in a potential citizen journalist.

By 'anyone with an iPod' I mean everyone in my family from the grandkids on up the age ladder, plus everyone at my local Y, plus everyone I work with, plus everyone on every flight I take or bus I ride on, plus...

There are some reviews out on the Thumbtack mic already. I first heard about it from some Italian comrades at CGIL who were very enthused, but have yet to receive mine. But soon, very soon.


Bob Chandler said...

There's just one big problem with this. You have to buy an iPod...something I will never do. (I own a Cowon iAudio 7 that I love...amongst other things it plays free media audio codecs like ogg vorbis and flac..something an iPod can't do without cracking the firmware.)

I absolutely hate devices that are designed to work with a single proprietary device. Once your iPod goes "kaput" so does your need for this mic...or else you've got to buy another iPod.

For the price of this thing, I can buy two or three PC microphones that will work with any device.

Derek Blackadder said...

Two or three for $13???

Bob Chandler said...

Gotta keep in mind that I live in Toronto...and we have this thing called the "College Street Computer Alley"...I've paid as little as $4.00 for PC microphones.

Derek Blackadder said...

Mmmm..I'll avoid my instictive 'Centre of the Universe' comments and move to the iPod subject.

Yeah, but iPods are kinda like Facebbook: I gotta recognize that they are ubiquitous. If people already have iPods (which, as I said, is true of most of the people I run into who have a MP3 player) a mic like this would be a cheap and easy way to turn them into recorders and the owners into someone who can make contributions to something like The Labour Show.

Derek Blackadder said...

Bob: sorry, not enough coffee yet this morning.

Can you recommend a mic or two that work with other MPs players?

Bob Chandler said...

There are lots of them around made by companies like Labtec. Usually they're larger and have a bit of a plastic base/stand, so you can set it on a table to do your interviews or whatever. Your hands are free to have a coffee or a beer ;) I like that idea better.

It's true we have this cool "computer alley" here in the "centre of the universe"...but my general rule of thumb is to stay away from the "big box" and buy from the smaller dealers. Prices are usually better and I'd rather support a hard working (usually immigrant) mom and pop shop than the big box.

Lot's of things are "ubiquitous" Micro$oft Windows...but this particular middle-aged propeller head avoids them!

If we can't toss the mega-monopoly corporations off of our computers, how are we gonna toss them out of anywhere else?

Derek Blackadder said...

I'll leave most of that and focus on the important bit: the beer hand issue. :-)

Good point, though what I liked about the Thumbtack was that you could wave it around. And that it was so small you could have it with you all times, ready to use. No planning involved.

Derek Blackadder said...

OK, I can't resist.

Priorities or, can't resist, identifying the primary contradiction...

Do we create an army of citizen journos by convincing them first to dump their iPods and then get a generic MP3 player and then a mic and then start reporting?

Or do we make it as simple and easy as possible, work on the brand(ing) issue when next we all go shopping for a player?

Bob Chandler said...

Obviously people end up making their own decisions on things. But sometimes one can influence those decisions by making folks aware of the "politics of technology".

Technology, like anything isn't neutral.

Alot of portable music players are delivery vehicles for fundamentally evil technologies like DRM (digital restrictions management) or will only "talk" to certain proprietary software like Apple iTunes and/or Windows Media Player (through the "Media Transfer Protocol" MTP)

These are all types of software that place handcuffs on your digital devices...restrict what you can do...and sometimes even attack you as user.

As we move into an increasingly digital society, I think that it's important for folks to maintain some level of control over this digital world...and not totally hand over that control to the mega-corporations.

So I won't encourage anyone to buy an iPod or a Zune...or any player that requires you to use MTP (Creative Zen's do this). Some devices that use MTP allow you to turn it off and use "mass storage device". "Mass storage device mode" allows you to connect to any computer using any operating system.

And BTW, if you want to "liberate" your iPod...and many other portable media players...there's "Rockbox" software firmware that will allow your portable players to play free media formats like ogg vorbis and all kinds of cool things with menus...etc.

Derek Blackadder said...

Well said.