Friday, May 8, 2009

Podcasts - let me control, and let me scrobble

I am not trendy, so I'm not making a regular habit of watching videocasts at this stage, but I'm definitely listening to audio podcasts more than previously. And the technology is, at times, making me batty.

Before continuing, I should explain the three ways in which I listen to podcasts:
  • On my (admittedly old) Windows Mobile smartphone, using Windows Media Player.

  • On various Windows XP computers, using Windows Media Player.

  • In the way that the podcaster forces me to listen to the podcast. More on this later.
I've already talked ad nauseum about my love of scrobbling. This option is (for me) only available when listening to a file via Windows Media Player on one of my Windows XP machines, My Windows Mobile phone doesn't have a scrobbler, and to my knowledge no Windows Mobile phone has a scrobbler. And, of course, if you don't let me listen to your podcast via Windows Mobile, I can't scrobble it.

In my admittedly warped view of the world, scrobble capability should be a win-win for everyone involved. I get to record everything that I listen to for my own purposes, should I need to refer back for some reason. And the fact that I listened to your podcast can be shared with everyone, either by looking at my profile or by looking at an outside source such as the FriendFeed lastfmfeeds group. More publicity for you, more insane recordkeeping for me - sounds like a plan, doesn't it?

For example, I scrobbled Episode 27 of Ffundercats, and since it had proper ID3 tags, my scrobble was exposed to the world.

And, of course, I have selfish reasons to encourage this.

But scrobbling isn't the only benefit of giving me some control over playback in Windows Media Player. Some other podcast playback mechanisms (and, for that matter, the mobile version of Windows Media Player that I have) give you no control over playback, other than starting and stopping. No rewind, no fast forward, no nothing.

This isn't really a problem for most of the short podcasts that I hear, but can be an issue for the longer ones. I normally don't listen to long podcasts (my only drive-time podcast listening mechanism, the aforementioned ancient phone, doesn't have a lot of storage space), but I will listen to them on occasion.

So this morning I got around to listening to the latest Cynical Bastards podcast, which promised wonderful riches:

* The Kindle DX … it’s not pretty
* Gillmor and his silly idea that Twitter killed RSS … we’ve invented a new verb for the cleansing of the InterWeb pipes
* The mess that is RSS readers
* The background advertising experiment over at The Inquisitr
* Apple buying Twitter
* Microsoft buying Twitter
* CNN buying Twitter
* YouTube trying out an extortion business plan

The first thing I did was try to download the podcast. Failing to find a way to do that, I went to the podcast's embedded play mechanism, which has a play button and a volume control. So I'm listening away, and I enjoyed the first half so much that I posted a comment:

All we are saying is give chicken a chance! Still listening...I'm at the RSS is dead segment.

But before I could hear about background advertising, everyone buying Twitter, or YouTube extortion...the playback just stopped.

I went to my tab, and saw that the counter was back at 00:00.

So, with no fast forward mechanism, am I going to listen to all the stuff that I already listened to, just to get to the new content?

Being cranky, I moved on to something else.

Now I don't necessarily blame Hodson, Hopkins, et al for this, since they didn't create the play button. Their podcasts are hosted by Talkshoe, and perhaps that podcast player is all that they offer.

Now perhaps there are valid reasons to not allow download of a particular podcast. But if podcast hosts are going to mount such restrictions, then they need to make sure that their playback mechanism gives me sufficient control over the podcast so that if the podcast gets interrupted, I can resume from the point of interruption.

As for my scrobbling mania, that's a personal issue. Hey, I like things in FriendFeed and Facebook, so I like to like you (baby) in too. But podcast playback should be addressed.
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