How About FreeDebate08?

Behind the scenes, I’ve had some involvement with the issue of public rights to recordings of presidential and other election debates. The subject has been well covered by Lawrence Lessig, Jeff Jarvis and others. Larry has posted open letters to the heads of the RNC and DNC requesting they “ensure that all video footage from [the] debates is able to be shared, re-used, and freely blogged about without the uploader of the video being deemed a lawbreaker.”

In the spirit of Dave Winer’s unconference concept, why don’t we (the blog/podosphere) produce our own debates and publish them in the public domain?

Here are my ideas for

  • It’s a time-shifted “event” that continues between now and November 2008. (ie, This is not a live event.)
  • We organize a multi-partisan group to referee the questions. (This is the hard part, but not impossible. It would be an open process.)
  • We publish the questions one-by-one (perhaps monthly).
  • Each candidate is requested to submit a video of up to five minutes responding to the question. The video must be placed in the public domain.
  • We (perhaps The Conversations Network, perhaps someone else) publish all of the videos received, encouraging re-use, mashups, whatever.
  • Candidates would not have advance access to the videos submitted by others. They would all arrive and be published on the same day.
  • One week later, each candidate would be asked to submit a video rebuttal, again five minutes or less, which we would also publish.

There are no technical or financial barriers to a project such as this. The only challenge is the get the support of the blog/podosphere, which in turn will make it more likely that the candidates will participate.

The Algebra of Quality (Part 1)

I’m as fanatical about quality as anyone, but having published spoken-word events now for four years, I’ve developed a sort of algebraic view. The absolute need for quality is inversely proportional to the underlying value of that content. For example, if we had the only recording of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, I’m sure we’d publish it regardless of the quality. We would tolerate distortion, noise, etc., because the message is so compelling. But not every presentation is quite as powerful, and as the content trends towards the mundane, our tolerance for poor audio or video rapidly decreases.

Ultimately, it’s market driven: If the quality is inadequate, fewer people will listen. All we need to do is to provide (a) the marketplace where higher quality can compete, (b) the tools to allow quality to be measured by the community, and (c) a support system that allows stringers to improve the quality of their work by learning from one another.

I want to hear everyone’s ideas on this. My instinct is to implement something similar to the Loomia-based rating system we’re using on IT Conversations and Social Innovation Conversations. It’s essentially the same as is used by Amazon or Netflix: a five-star rating. One thought is to apply one rating to content and a second to the technical quality. The latter would be tied to the stringer who would then develop a reputation the same was as buyers and sellers have reputations on eBay.

[Republished from the forums.]

When we started The Conversations Network in 2005 we had a two-part mission in mind: our curated podcast channels, and a grassroots effort to record spoken-word events by connecting podcasters with events near them. Today, we’re launching that grassroots effort as

I urge every podcaster and videocaster to register at Tell us where you live and how you can help capture, preserve and publish those important spoken-word events that would otherwise evaporate forever. Can you record audio or video? How about post-production, graphics or copyrighting? Just check the boxes in your profile.

This is your chance to use your podcasting skills to give back to your community. How cool is that? Podcasting as a public service! At the same time, you’ll be able to share with and learn from other members of

Again, that’s — a place that should be part of every podcaster’s life.

First blog post: Jon Udell, who is particularly intrigued with the concepts of visible demand and lightweight service integration using tags.

Lunch with Dave

Too-long delayed since his return to the Bay Area, I had a chance to visit with Dave Winer on Monday in Berkeley. Over lunch, we caught up on all sorts of stuff and discovered some surprising things and similarities in our backgrounds. As always, Dave is working on some exciting new projects.

Glad to see he enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s Mememto, which is one of my ten all-time favorite films. I wonder if he noticed the giveaway shot. Did you?

Help! — Fix My Audio!

At this year’s Podcast and New Media Expo, I will lead an audio-repair workshop session entitled “Help — Fix My Audio!” (Saturday, September 29 at 3:15pm). During this session, I’ll demonstrate how to solve real-world audio problems submitted by Expo attendees. Tools and techniques I will demonstrate include noise reduction, normalization and equalization.

I’m looking for the best (or worst) examples of podcast audio for this session. If you have an audio problem you’d like me to solve live at the Expo, please email the file to Here are the guidelines:

  • Send your BEST-quality version. That usually means WAV or AIFF, *NOT* MP3.
  • Just send a small sample, not an entire podcast. If you keep your sample to 20 seconds or less, a stereo WAV/AIFF version will be less than 4mb and therefore get through most email routers.
  • Describe how it was recorded and what *you* think is wrong with it.
  • Email your comments and the audio-file attachment to

Ze Frank: The (Audio) Archives

Like everyone else, I’ve been working my way through Ze Frank’s archives. As someone else blogged or said — was it Leo? — Ze is perhaps the best videoblogger around. I thought I’d seen nearly all of his posts, but it seems I only remember about half of them.

For those of you who have only recently (within the last two years) discovered Ze Frank, here are two of his great presentations we recorded at Pop!Tech in 2004 and 2005. As good as the videos. Ze is the real deal.