I’m still not sure about this Internet time thing, but I think it was yesterday morning that Patrick asked me if I saw Cole’s post about mobile podcasting in regards to Penn State’s iTunesU setup. Since then I’ve gone from light-bulb going off, to frustration and the cursing of Atom feeds, to scaring Jim Groom that FeedWordPress was being broken (more about FWP later), to jubilation that the complete instant mobile blogging solution exists with an iPhone and UMW Blogs!
Sound intriguing? I think it’s a pretty big deal. As Cole says the “iTunes ecosystem” is coming together nicely, however, we at UMW do things in a “small pieces loosely joined” kind of way. This “ecosystem” is no exception. The epicenter of this instant mobile blogging system is a service called AudioBoo. They host the audio files, which are up to 5 minutes in length (so complete hour-long lectures are not feasible here). The other component of the AudioBoo service is the iPhone App (link is to the iTunes store). Essentially you start the app, hit the record button then hit Start, record your audio then hit Pause and then Publish. You have the option to include a single picture and the app will also geo-locate where you are recording from. After a short wait you have a page in your My Boos page that contains all those elements – recording, picture, and map.
Now we could just call it a day right here, because anyone can subscribe to the iTunes feed by clicking the button on the page where the recording lives. There is also an RSS feed button (actually an Atom feed) associated with the recordings as well. Now I need to do some additional research to see how many podcatchers out there support Atom feeds, or at least AudioBoo’s Atom feed, but I could not get it to work with Juice, nor could I get it to work with my favorite podcatcher on the iPhone, RSS Player ($0.99 from the iPhone App store). There are then several reasons to press on. One reason is that it would be nice to get a feed working with the RSS Player app because it will allow you to subscribe, with your iPhone, to a podcast feed that isn’t already in the iTunes universe. Yes, the regular desktop version of iTunes lets you subscribe to a podcast by clicking an icon, or pasting in a feed manually. However, the iPhone version of iTunes does not let you do this. Safari on the iPhone does not recognize URLs that begin with itpc:// and there is no place you can paste in a manual feed. RSS Player allows you to enter a feed manually, and if you create a feed with the prefix rssplayer:// you can create a link (or a linked image/button) to start the RSS Player app automatically from the iPhone’s Safari web browser.
The other reason we want to go a bit further is to re-publish the audio files in a space (or spaces) of our choosing, like say UMW Blogs. This is where Mr. Groom’s bestest, most favoritest WordPress plugin, FeedWordPress comes in. What we do with FeedWordPress is syndicate the Atom feed from AudioBoo into a WordPress blog. That will pass to the blog the author information, the picture, and the audio file. A nice Flash audio player allows the visitor to play the file from the blog. Setting FeedWordPress to publish “automatically” and “ASAP” allows us instantaneous (or virtually instant) podcasting. There is also a link to the nice AudioBoo page where you can see the map associated with the recording.
Now we take the RSS feed from the blog and plug that into the RSS Player app, and viola, we again have virtually instantaneous podcast publishing AND receiving. The great thing about the RSS Player approach is that there is no iTunes sync-with-your-desktop step to worry about. Once you refresh RSS Player, the file begins to download directly to the iPhone.
Now is where the imagining begins. For example imagine a class that goes out in the field (Geology, Geography, Biology, History, Historic Preservation, etc.,etc.) and does several recordings, and by the time they get back to class their podcasts are uploaded, published (in two, or more, places), and about to be/already received. This has the obvious side benefit of being drop-dead EASY. There isn’t much of a learning curve here, as long as you don’t need additional editing of the audio files. If you do there are several other audio recording programs available to the iPhone. I’ll be putting some screencasts together of all this stuff, but for now you can enter your weekend knowing that it all works right now, and it’s all very exciting thinking about the possibilities. Stay tuned!
UPDATE: The screencast, Produce an Instant Podcast from an iPhone, is up!
I think Brian lamb said it best, “How can I trust an application that you can’t link to?” [Full disclosure, I am making this question up.] And there in lies the deep horror of iTunesU, what are you going to do with a series of files that you can’t link to on the internet? It’s virtually useless when you think about the power of the web and small pieces. Whereas UMW Blogs, well that’s a different story all together 🙂