Podcast Academy 3: Sunnyvale, June 15-16

The official announcement will be forthcoming shortly, but I’m currently putting together the curriculum for Podcast Academy 3, which we’ll hold June 15-16 in Sunnyvale, California. Take a look at the curriculum for PA2, coming in two weeks at Boston University, and tell me what’s missing. What classes would you like to see? What particularly dynamic speakers would you like to have as instructors?

Update
: Registration ($275) is now open, and if our experience with PA2 in Boston is any indication, PA3 will sell out early. Details and more info.

CN Update Podcast

Now that Phil Windley has take over the reigns of IT Conversations, we need to reorg our podcasts, blogs and newsletters.

  • Phil publishes the newsletter for members of The Conversations Network. (Registration is free!)
  • Phil now posts info re IT Conversations on his blog.
  • My weekly podcast has shifted its focus from IT Conversations to The Conversations Network at large. Here’s today’s edition.
  • For now, there’s no newsletter for The Conversations Network, and there’s no podcast for IT Conversations. But let us know what’s important to you.

Help Wanted: Website Editors/Producers

When we last opened the doors for new members of the production team at The Conversations Network, we got the usual flood of applications and quickly had to close the door. That was about two months ago, and we’re once again ready to hire. We’re now accepting applications for apprentice Website Editors, the people who write the show descriptions and bios, and track down and process the photos. To qualify, you must be capable of writing *good* English and have the ability and tools to crop and resize jpegs. After a two-show apprenticeship, you’ll receive $15-$30 per show, depending upon whether you’re getting the help of a Series Producer or not. For more info and to sign up for the program, go here.

Boot Camp

Lot’s of discussion and debate surrounding Apple’s beta of Boot Camp, which allows dual booting of Windows and OS X on the new Intel-based Macs. There are many opinions from people way smarter than I am, but here’s a pragmatic and personal example. I need to buy a new laptop to run a specialized application that captures video through via a USB device. This particular application runs only on Windows, and I will only need to run it on rare occasions: perhaps once a month. I’d prefer not to travel with both my Power Book and a Windows laptop, so as Doc Searls suggests, Boot Camp and a new MacBook Pro might fit the bill just fine.

Amazon S3 as a CDN?

As Jon Udell pointed out, Amazon’s S3 service is filled with potential. But I’m looking for an enhancement, which if they implemented it would add instant scalability and reliability to hundreds of thousands of applications. I didn’t invent caching or CDNs, but I’ve been a huge fan of this architecure for many years, and I wish it was more common in the web-hosting industry. Here’s a copy of a post I just left on the Amazon Web Services Developer Connection forum:

I wonder if there’s a way to use S3 as a cache or content-delivery network (CDN)?

We, like others, have an application containing a large number large objects. The challenge is that while each of them may be modified each day, relatively few of them are downloaded by the public on any given day. Pushing new versions of each object to S3 each day would be very wasteful of bandwidth, since most of the updated versions won’t be accessed.

This is why we like caching/CDN architectures, and it’s something I’d love to see S3 support. It’s an extraordinarily cool architecture that painlessly gives small-server apps large-server scalability. Here’s how I imagine it working:

  • We (the S3 customer) upload an object using the APIs.
  • Along with this upload, we specify an “Origin Server URL” on our own servers where we have stored the original copy of the object.
  • We publish the S3 public URL of the object for external access by the public.
  • When S3 receives a request for the registered object, it first sends an HTTP HEAD request to our origin server to see whether the object has changed.
  • If the object has not changed since the most-recently uploaded version, or if the origin server doesn’t respond promptly for whatever reason, S3 delivers the object to the public requester.
  • However, if the object on the origin server is newer than S3’s copy, S3 fetches the new copy from the origin server and, while doing so, delivers that version to the requester.

If you’ve ever used a CDN or even a standard cache (like Squid) you know how brilliant this architecture can be. As I mentioned above, it *instantly* adds scalability and reliability to a small-server application. (If S3’s HEAD request fails for whatever reason, it returns its most-recent version of the object to the requester.)

An app developer can then simply write new or modified objects to his local low-capacity, low-cost server then use the APIs to upload to S3. That’s it. Done. Got an update or new version? Just write it to the origin server. Your local server goes down? No problem. The S3 infrastructure keeps on ticking.

S3’s pricing of $0.20 (USD) per GB of traffic is actually very good. It’s extremely good as compared to commercial CDNs. If you have to upload all your objects every day, even if they’re not downloaded by your visitors, however, the economics rapidly deteriorate. Caching solves all of that.

Pimping Moira

[My wife came up with that phrase, and I just haven’t been able to come up with a better title for this blog post, even though she pleaded with me to drop it. ]

One week from today, on April 11, we will start an auction on eBay for the sponsorship of the podcast edition of Tech Nation, featuring Dr. Moira Gunn. It’s a cool idea. The bidding will start at $12,000 when the auction opens at 1 PM PDT on April 11. The auction will run for 10 days, closing on April 21. Check here for details.

Passing the Baton

After running IT Conversations for nearly three years, it’s time for me to hand it over to a new Executive Producer as I focus my attention on growing The Conversations Network. Having worked with him on a variety of project, I knew who the best candidate for the EP role would be, and I’m thrilled to announce that he accepted my offer.

Effective today, Phil Windley is the new Executive Producer of IT Conversations. You probably know Phil through his blog, his program on IT Conversations (Technometria) and his articles for InfoWorld. Welcome to the team, Phil. It’s an honor to be working with you.

Phil will be publishing the IT Conversations Newsletter, and I will be starting a new one for The Conversations Network. The content of my weekly podcast (MP3) will focus more on the network and less on topics unique to The Conversations Network.

Podcast Academy Goes Video

As presentations become increasingly visual, and as presenters learn to get away from just reading their bullet-point PowerPoint slides, The Conversations Network will be experimenting with video in addition to audio. We’ve just released our first such experiment: a video version of Michael Geohegan’s Podcast Academy class: Making Money Beyond Podcasting. The MPEG-4 video has been formatted for iPods and also plays well on desktops using the QuickTime player. We’re looking for any and all feedback. Just leave a comment here. (Special thanks go to Paul Figgiani for all the post-production video work that went into this one.)