So thank the matrix for Podcasts and RSS feeds. Your loyal podcatcher (whether it is Itunes, Juice or good old Bashpodder) is subscribed to the RSS feed of your favorite show and downloads the episodes you want to listen to. Just punch in your Ipod (or whatever mp3 player you have) and you are off to listen to whatever stuff interests you, whenever you feel like it.
That is , until you run out of juice ( no pun intended, I do mean battery power), until you FORGET your Ipod somewhere (Lets say you leave it behind on a plane) or you run out of content to listen to before you have a chance to ‘resync’. All your subscriptions (and your content) are on your podcatching computer (at home) while you are craving for the next episode of your favorite show.
Or what if you just got this awesome link of some new podcast about airbrushing antarctic penguins and you really want its next episode to be there when you sync up next time ? You’re podcatching pc is miles away and you happen to be stuck at work .
All of the above where issues that brought me to the a simple question : Is there a way to manage my podcast consumption online ? More specifically : Is there a way to manage my podcasts even if I’m away from my mac. And does that service also help me in listening to the podcasts I’m subscribed to, In effect: have an “online” version of my ipod ?
The answer is : Yes there is. After some Googling I found PODNOVA.COM This web-based service lets you search and subscribe to podcasts online. All the podcasts you subscribe to are listed up in your account and you can browse through various episodes and listen using their built in flash player. Its like having your “podcast” directory that you have in your podcatcher (or in Itunes) online. The big bonus here is that you can access the podcasts you subscribe to, from any computer. Whether I’m at work and want to listen to some chills from the Spacemusic podcast, or I’m at a friends place and want to tell him about such-and-such podcast I listened to. I always have access to every show i listen to, using podnova.
Podnova lets you search ‘their’ directory of podcasts for whatever you want to listen to, but I have found the RSS feeds Podnova mirrors, to be anything but fresh. Sometimes “their” feeds of a certain show are several episodes behind on the “original” podcast feed”. So whenever I want to add a show, i just copy and paste the RSS feed into Podnova to make sure its all “fresh”.
The other awesome feature they have is their “snippets” feature. Lets say you just want to listen to one specific episode of a podcast. What if you feel like cherry-picking certain episodes from various shows ? Just “add them” to your snippets and all the different episodes from different podcasts are dropped into one RSS feed you are automatically subscribed to. Next time you pop in the ipod .. all those episodes are right on there.
As their website states : ‘As a web 2.0 service, it provides a method for not only subscribing to podcasts but also sharing those subscriptions via a RSS feed and an OPML file via a web-based interface.’ So of course you can share your collection of podcasts you subcribe to ( this collention of RSS Feeds is your OPML file ) with others OR export the entire OPML file to a podcatcher on your computer.’
In order for this link between your podcatcher ( ok, lets just call it Itunes ) to work you need to have some way of moving Podnova’s OPML to your podcatcher OR import your podcatchers OPML file to Podnova. For this, Podnova comes with a client that does just that.. and unfortunately .. more. As mentioned, the client gives you the ability to “sync’ podnova’s OPML file to your podcatcher. This, on its own, is a priceless functionality for me. I just go online, add and remove podcast subscriptions, and when I get home i fire up the Podnova client, sync the OPML file into my Itunes and I have all the podcasts i require.
But, the downside to the Podnova client is , that it also tries to be its own podcatcher and offers you the ability to also DOWNLOAD all the podcasts you subscribed to. That is nice if you don’t have a podcatcher of your own.. but as with much software that is not fantastically developed, it doesn’t do it very well.
So in all i’m pretty pleased with Podnova. The way I use it everyday is to add and remove podcast subscriptions (if i hear about a great podcast, or get fed up with one while listening to it in the car) and about once every week i’ll sync up the OPML list. The other functionality is that I can “listen ahead” to podcasts (or podio book episod
es like 7th Son) even if i don’t have them on my Ipod. But one of the coolest functions is the snipped function. The RSS feed filled up with all kinds of stuff that you mig
ht find interesting.
What would make it perfect : Quite frankly it would be awesome to be able to sync your ipod using the podnova web interface. That way you could “charge up” on content where-ever you are. Might be a nice idea for the developers over there.
The screen in front of me is a plain black slate with bright green letters popping into existence as i run my fingers along the keyboard. My mouse sits aimlessly besides my computer and the gigantic touch pad of the Macbook pro sobs gently as it has been deprived of strokes and taps for too long. My digital experience takes me through an ocean of utter simplicity as toolbars, pop ups, right clicks, tabs and what have you just do not exist in this realm. This epihany of simplicity that lets me focus on converting my thoughts to the web.. is called the command line. Instead of burning through processer cycles or bandwith blocks using higly advanced web 2.0 tools.. I’m just using a simple text editor. It is quite ironic, that in a time where our communications grid is lighting up like a virtual Christmas tree, where multitasking, social-web interaction, Virtual machines, Multiple desktops and tabbed browsing rule.. I grasp back to the total and utter simplicity of computing.. Using tools compatible with a 386 computer.
The one awesome power this approach has is that it gives me solitude. It gives me the peace to focus, to sit down and to type out my thoughts without interruptions. I’ve been finding it harder and harder in these hectic days to find my own "mare Tranquilatis" (sea of tranquility) where i can slow down and let my creative urges take over. The reason for that is not only the hectic lifestyle I (and many among us) live, but also the overflow of well … "overflow". What I mean by that is that, being part of a digital community, one CONSTANTLY gets bombarded with new information. RSS feeds, Chatrooms, email, pop-ups, tweets, Facebook messages ..
Connecting myself up to the net and "plugging in" to my digital grid is great (that is, for the most part, where I live online) yet upon doing so it seems that my attention span AND productivity are shredded into a million little pieces. With a busy daytime job and some "projects" for friends ( read : please mr Knightwise, Fix my computer) its hard enough to find the time to sit down behind the sceen and do some "creative stuff". Whenever I "plug in" the flow of information and interaction just overwhelms me. I see a massive shift in the way I compute when I compare it to a few years ago. It used to be about gathering as much information as possible, communicating as effeciently as possible. being as "digital as you could be" . But that has changed.
Because there is just too much out there. You’ve all been there, squandering an entire evening behind your computer away without having the feigntest idea of "what you did". Having your attention (and your time) divided up into a million little pieces (website here, chatwindow there, rss feed over there etc) It results in spending hours online, your attention divided between 20 different conversations and following up links in Tweets. There are plenty of distractions to keep you entertained.
How about the digital attention shredder nr1 : Twitter. Links, conversations, replies, a slew of unfocused information that nags and gnaws at your curiousity and sends you of clicking and surfing away in 50 different directions. Where twitter can sometimes be a nice source of information, it mostly is a slew of nonsence and half-conversations as you can only see replies of people you follow. Facebook is kinda the same deal. Never mind the stupid games, how about those pesky pictures of your friends that send you snooping through their lives ? Without noticing you spend a few minutes flipping through the digital photobook of some user.. and then the next "update" of one of your friends comes in .. and it starts all over again.
And then i’m not even counting the IM clients that ping and pong. The conversation in the chatroom you are trying to follow, your RSS reader stating that you have 193898 unread headers to get through.. Whoever gets even the slightest sliver of blogging or writing done in THIS mayhem must also be capable to build a house of cards during an earthquake.
And i’m only talking about the constant "attention distortion effect" that some of these services result in. The other annoying (and more destructive factor) of things like Twitter and Facebook is what i call "content deflation". Say you have something to say, or you have a rant, or a good link. Usually i would jump behind my word processor and write up a nice post. Why bother.. you can just post a "micro blogging" post on twitter, or blab about it on Facebook. The "good idea" you have for an article is instantly killed of because "tweeting" about is just too darn easy and quick. Your "incentive" to blog gets deflated and buried under the 4000 layers of information that come next. Blogging in this day and age can be compared to writing a book in a busy train station. A train station where everybody passing by is talking to you, bringing you idea"s and asking you "whats up ? ".. Good luck with chapter one JK ROwling !
So i’m trying to work out a schedule where I give mysellf the time (and the tools) to "go dark" and focus on what I want to say. Not only for the blogging part, but also for my other digital activities. Using the command line ( logging into my Linux server over SSH) has been a lot of help. Having one application open per "screen" instead of several windows at the same time, helps me focus on what i’m doing. The clutter free interface is great for sitting down and writing an email without being distracted by "whatever is on the next tab".
I know what you are going to say: "Focus is about dicipline." And that is true. But this "fragmentation" of both attention and inspiration is something that is a result of the ever growing flow of information. And we have to find a way to deal with this. When I look at my "analog" social life (or meatspace) I see that I have sufficiently "firewalled" my interaction-flows to give me some hind of a private life. (turning off my cellphone etc etc). So it is obvious I should do the same for the (ever growing) digital part of my life.
The time has come where we need to find the ZEN in our digital life where we "go dark" and focus on whatever WE want to do. Write a post ,create a podcast, read an article .. Its all about teaching yoursellf to focus on the task at hand AND letting technology help you to achieve this. Is going back to the command line a step back ? Is typing up a blogpost in a text editor that is based on a 20 year old program a form of regression ? I don’t know. But .. you’re reading this post .. So it means it worked :