Help Wanted: More Audio Engineers

Our open-source production model here at IT Conversations seems to be working. Not perfectly, mind you, but we’re learning by doing, and we’re managing to get over most of the confusion and other obstacles fairly well. We’ve published two shows by Team ITC so far, and I expect we’ll have 2-3 more each week, and ramp up our production from there.

I think we can now take on anohter audio-engineering volunteer, so if you’re interested, take a look at the wiki page. Two things we’ve learned so far are (1) you’d better be very comfortable with your audio tools, and (2) you should have a good idea of the difference between peak and RMS normalization. If you know what I’m talking about and are interested, let me know..

Yes, we can take on more producer/editors, too, but at the moment some of the current writers are waiting for audio folks to work with.

Streaming Music: Not Worth It

John Buckman of Magnatune explains why he’s discontinuing the Magnatune Shoutcast radio stream:

It appears to me that most people who are listening to Internet radio run it all the time (the average listener time is 3h 20m, so that most who stay around are actually listening about 8h at a time, since 50% leave right away) and are not often motivated to purchase what they hear. Rather, they listen to it as background music…We don’t see a plausible business model for Internet radio at this time, at least not one where one has to actually pay for the bandwidth used.

IT Conversations News: April 1, 2005

(Hear the MP3, which contains far more detail.)

New Shows

  • Deborah Rudacille – Tech Nation (rated 3.6 by listeners). Last week on Tech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn spoke with Johns- Hopkins’ Dr. Deborah Rudacille about scientific definitions — science now shows us that tens of millions of people do not fall into the physiological definition of either male and female. They talked about her new book: “The Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism, and Transgender Rights.”
  • Bill Hayes – Tech Nation (3.8). Moira also spoke with Bill Hayes. You might remember him from “Sleep Demons: An Insomniac’s Memoir.” He’s back with his signature mixture of science and life experience — this time it’s all about blood.
  • Carolyn Givens – Biotech Nation (3.4). And in last week’s BioTech Nation segment, Moira interviewed Dr. Carolyn Givens, the Associate Medical Director of the Pacific Fertility Center, who tells us where In Vitro Fertilization meets stem cell research.
  • Non Profits Blogging – True Voice (2.6). Stowe Boyd talks with Peter Kaminski (Socialtext) and Peter Quintas (Silkroad Technology), at the American Cancer Society Innovation Summit about social networking and social media. They discuss the growing adoption of blogs and other social media, as well as coming features planned for the two technology companies’ products.
  • The Future of Music – Voices in Your Head (3.9). Music-industry incumbents are threatened by new technologies of distribution. How are they reacting, and how are musicians using the Internet on their own to make more money for themselves? In this interview with two music-industry insiders, Dave Slusher discovers the current state of digital music and possible courses for the future.
  • From the Labs – Web 2.0 (3.0). Hear some of the most intriguing new developments from three of the biggest R&D shops in the world: IBM, Google and Microsoft. The panel includes John Battelle (Battelle Media), Peter Norvig (Google) Richard F. Rashid (Microsoft) and Jim Spohrer (IBM). From the Web 2.0 conference.
  • Jimmy Wales – Wikipedia (3.6). Rob and Dana Greelnee of Web Talk Radio interview Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.org, the online free-content encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Started in 2001, the site is currently working on more than 500,000 articles in the English version alone. In 22 other langauages there are at least 10,000 articles.
  • Ray Lane – Software: To Infinity and Beyond (too late for review). In this keynote address from the Software 2004 conference, venture capitalist Ray Lane takes a high-level but thorough view of the software industry. What’s next? Is there a new economy after all? What about the claims that IT doesn’t matter and that innovation is dead? Perhaps this is a rare period of normalcy.

From the Archives

  • MGM v. Grokster – The Law and IT (3.6). This week the US Supreme Court heard arguments in this landmark case, so we’re bringing back this great show from the archives. In August, the US Court of Appeals decided that distributors of peer-to-peer filesharing software, such as Grokster and StreamCast, could not be held liable for the copyright infringements of their users. Ernest Miller discusses the decision with four leading legal analysts, including Fred von Lohmann of the EFF, who argued the case.

Other News

  • Open-Source Audio Production. I think we’re onto something exciting: You might call it open- source audio production, as there are many similarities to open-source software development. It began when IT Conversations listeners pressured me into creating a tip jar on the site… [more]
  • IT Conversations Sells Out. Gee, I hope not! But with being SlashDotted and BoingBoinged on the same day — more than once — we do have real expenses on the infrastructure side. Luckily it’s not just Team ITC and our community of listeners who are passionate about what we’re doing. So are a few companies with checkbooks. [more]
  • Basecamp Established. Team ITC has been evaluating a whole slew of collaboration tools to manage our projects. One that grabbed our attention is Basecamp, a hosted service which we’re using in addition to our secure wiki. [more]
  • Software 2005. As if this week hasn’t been busy enough, we also signed a contract to bring you the keynote presentations from one of the biggest and best conferences of the year: Software 2005. [more]
  • Audio IDs. It has come to my attention that with the popularity of devices like the iPod Shuffle, there are some listeners that don’t have a display on their MP3 players or otherwise can’t easily tell which show is which…As of today, therefore, we’re now including a brief ID at the *very* start of each file. [more]

Software 2005

As if this week hasn’t been busy enough, we also signed a contract to bring you the keynote presentations from one of the biggest and best conferences of the year: Software 2005. The list of presidents, CEOs and chairmen includes Scott Cook (Intuit), Jim Goodnight (SAS), Scott Kriens (Juniper Networks), and Charles Phillips (Oracle).

If you can be there, you’ll be able to get the whole show in two days. But if you can’t make it, you’ll be able to hear the highlights over the weeks that follow the conference. Here’s an example from last year’s show: the keynote by Ray Lane.

Basecamp Established

Team ITC has been evaluating a whole slew of collaboration tools to manage our projects. One that grabbed our attention is Basecamp, a hosted service which we’re using in addition to our secure wiki. It’s a new service, and there are still some kinks to work out, but I’ve been very impressed with how easy it has been to setup and use as well as the responsiveness of their customer support. Check it out.

Audio IDs

It has come to my attention that with the popularity of devices like the iPod Shuffle, there are some listeners that don’t have a display on their MP3 players or otherwise can’t easily tell which show is which. And soon, thanks to Team ITC, we’ll be publishing more than a dozen programs each week, thereby making it even harder to identify our shows. You can just hit the Play button and wait, but with the addition of our underwriters’ messages in the intros to the shows, this has become a bit more difficult.

As of today, therefore, we’re now including a brief ID at the *very* start of each file. The ID includes the title of the show and a bit more that will help you decide whether a show is what you want to hear at that moment.

IT Conversations Sells Out

Gee, I hope not! But with being SlashDotted and BoingBoinged on the same day — more than once — we do have real expenses on the infrastructure side. Luckily it’s not just Team ITC and our community of listeners who are passionate about what we’re doing. So are a few companies with checkbooks.

Starting today you’ll hear public-radio style acknowledgments in the intros and outros of our programs to thank those underwriters who help us cover our costs. In addition to SilkWare and nooked, who are underwriting Stowe Boyd’s True Voice series, I’m glad to welcome GoToMeeting, who is sponsoring all of the sessions from the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, which (not too coincidentally) also launches today with the publication of Clay Shirky’s terrific presentation on Ontologies.

But most of all, I’d like to extend a special thanks to Limelight Networks who delivers all of our audio files from a content-delivery network of hundreds of servers around the world. Given that we’re delivering close to 7 terrabytes of data each month, this is no small undertaking, and in the year we’ve depended on Limelight Networks, they’ve never once let us down. Our own servers may get overloaded or even crash, but we’ve never had so much as a glitch from the Limelight CDN.

Open-Source Audio Production at IT Conversations

I think we’re onto something exciting: You might call it open-source audio production, as there are many similarities to open-source software development.

It began when IT Conversations listeners pressured me into creating a tip jar on the site, which I did a few months ago, and the tips have trickled in steadily ever since. Next, other producers started to submit audio recordings, hoping they’d be published on IT Conversations. Most weren’t good enough due to poor content or audio quality, but some shows like Stowe Boyd’s True Voice and Rob Greenlee’s Web Talk made the cut and have proven to be very popular on the site. Then I put out the word for help on the software-development side — to date, I’ve written all the code myself — and immediately heard from three top-notch programmers that wanted to help.

But it didn’t stop there because I also had audio experts and writers who got in touch and said they wanted to help, too. It finally occurred to me that this is what listener-supported audio is all about. I had added that tag line to the web site when I created the tip jar, but I’ve since learned that among the nearly 80,000 unique IT Conversations listeners each month, there are hundreds who not only enjoy what we’ve done, but are downright passionate about it. In other words, IT Conversations has become a community of people whose lives it has affected.

Today I’m proud to announce a major change here at IT Conversations. After nearly two years of doing everything myself, I’m now getting help from a team of experts from amont the community of IT Conversations listeners. In addition to the hosts you already know (Halley, Dave, Moira, Denise, Ernest, Stowe, Rob, Phil and Scott), we’ve got a team of three developers and 11 producers (audio engineers and writer/editors) who are just now ramping up and learning how to work together to improve IT Conversations and bring you even more great content.

I’ve published the list of the Team ITC members — they’re from such exotic places as Ireland, India and Kentucky — and over time you’ll be able to learn more about them, what they do in their real lives, and so forth.

But you can do more than just check them out…

Starting today (April 1, 2005) 100% of the donations to the tip jar will go to Team ITC. This is what I think a listener-supported service is all about: people’s passions. Team ITC cares enough about IT Conversations that they want to give some of their time, skills and reputations to make it even better. And if you’re just as passionate about IT Conversations, you can say “thank you” to Team ITC by putting your money where your ears are.

None of us are in this to make a lot of money. We’re in it because we believe in the mission of bringing great programs to tens of thousands of people around the world for free. I think we have a real business model here. It’s not one that a Harvard Business School MBA would appreciate, and none of us will be able to quit our day jobs anytime soon — wait, this *is* my day job! — but I think it will work. I believe that we’re creating enough value that our community will pay enough to support a small team of developers and producers contributing
their skills part time.

Think of how the great open-source projects like Apache were built. Apache didn’t begin with an infusion of cash. It was started and has grown due to the passions of some very talented people who want to make the world a better place by doing what turns them on for an audience of their peers. That’s what a community is all about.

So please donate to Team ITC to keep the audio flowing.

Note: If you’re wondering about the IT Conversations hosts, they’re going to receive portions of the sponsorship revenues, which begin officially today as well. The tip-jar funds will go only to the team of developers, engineers and writer/editors.