On Technometria

My most in-depth discussion yet about SpokenWord.org has just been published on Technometria with Phil Windley and Scott Lemon. As the show’s description below suggests, we also got into a discussion of many of the programming challenges of this project.

Doug Kaye joins Phil and Scott to discuss the recently launched SpokenWord.org, a free service that helps you find, manage and share audio and video spoken-word recordings. In addition to giving a basic description of the site, Doug also discusses the technical aspects of the project, including how it was developed and what kind of challenges he is facing now that it is operational.

SpokenWord.org: Open to the Public

The day is finally here. No more excuses. No more alpha or beta. It’s time to open the doors. SpokenWord.org is ready for prime time and ready for you.

If you’re a regular reader of Blogarithms, you’re probably tired of hearing about SpokenWord.org, but if you’re a newcomer, here’s a portion of the press release:

There are perhaps millions of audio and video spoken-word recordings on the Internet. Think of all those lectures, interviews, speeches, conferences, meetings, radio and TV programs and podcasts. No matter how obscure the topic, someone has recorded and published it on line.

But how do you find it?

SpokenWord.org is a new free on-line service that helps you find, manage and share audio and video spoken-word recordings, regardless of who produced them or where they’re published. All of the recordings in the SpokenWord.org database are discovered on the Internet and submitted to our database by members like you.

SpokenWord.org has been ten months in the making, and like any such undertaking there are many people who contributed to its successful launch. I’d like to use this opportunity to thank just some of them and tell a bit of the story behind SpokenWord.org.

In April 2008 we held meetings of our Board of Advisors and Board of Directors in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was approaching the fifth anniversary of IT Conversations, and hence a good opportunity to review our mission. In the early days (more than a year before the birth of podcasting) we had no choice but to do everything ourselves — recording, post-production and publishing — and we were virtually alone on the Web. But today there are tens of thousands of podcasts, and it’s now de rigueur for conferences to post their audio and video recordings on line. Add to that the podcasts from public radio and universities, and it’s clear that anyone can now be a publisher. Looking at the big picture of spoken-word content on the Internet, the greatest need (and hence the potential for the greatest public benefit) has shifted from production and publishing to helping people find, organize and share the programs published by others. That is why we created SpokenWord.org.

Present at that seminal meeting were directors Jake Shapiro, Jon Udell, David Weinberger and advisors Dan Bricklin and Bob Lyons. The big Aha! came from Jon, who has continued to be an incredible inspiration to the project. Jon also introduced me to Lucas Gonze and Hugh McGuire, both of whom have graciously given me the benefit of their been-there/done-that experience.

Finally, I want to thank the active alpha testers who not only succeeded in breaking everything I wrote, but were also kind enough to provide the constructive criticism that got us to the version 1.0 release. Most notable among the nearly 100 active testers were David Marks, Bruce Sharpe, Steve Williams, Ken Kennedy, Joel Tscherne, Rashmi Sinha and Thilo Planz. (I feel like I’m delivering an Oscar acceptance speech and they’re trying to get me off the stage.)

Working with this awesome team of advisors has made this project one of tremendous personal satisfaction. I hope you enjoy the results of our efforts.

Republicans vs. Hollywood and the Arts

The Republican party has a long history of voting against support for the arts, and it’s my understanding that Senate Republicans have succeeded in removing funding for the arts (NEA in particular) and film production. Their message is clear. “Jobs in the arts aren’t real jobs.” Regardless of how you feel about the arts, from a financial stimulus perspective these politicians simply couldn’t be more wrong.

If a carpenter helps build a home in Kansas, that’s a real job. Would anyone argue against that point? He’s an American earning an income and spending some of that income to make jobs for others. But what about a carpenter building sets in Hollywood, for example? Not only does he earn an income with the same ripple effect as the construction carpenter in Kansas, I suggest he provides even more stimulus to the country’s economy. Unlike the housing industry, films and other arts are major American exports, hence improving our balance of trade, generating income for even more people and generating tax revenues. Furthermore, when a film is shot on location here in the U.S., millions of dollars are injected into local economies. That’s why cities fight for the opportunity to host film production. And it’s not just the film industry. Music, dance and the fine arts are also significant contributors to our economy. Just think of the tourism revenues generated by our theatres and museums.

I have a hunch about this. Perhaps it’s not liberals vs. conservatives. Maybe it really comes down to urban vs. rural, which tends to correlate with the former segmentation. Could it be that Hollywood and the arts benefit our cities far more than they benefit the more rural parts of the country? Is that the reason why the Republicans don’t support the arts? I’d like to think it’s more out of selfishness (which politicians are allowed to represent, up to a point) than stupidity and dogma.

[In a previous life I was proud to be a member of IATSE Local 16 in San Francisco, where I spent much of my apprenticeship as a carpenter building sets for the S.F. Opera before moving into film production.]