The Conversations Network: Mission Accomplished

(The following letter was sent to all members of The Conversations Network earlier today, Sunday, August 16, 2012.)

Hello, Members of The Conversations Network!

It’s been a long time since I’ve sent out a Newsletter, but we’ve been working behind the scenes on some important changes here at The Conversations Network. We’ve been discussing these plans for the past two months with our Board of Directors, Executive Producers and Senior Managers. Channel-by-channel and site-by-site, here’s what we’re going to do.

  • Social Innovations Conversations will continue at the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. All existing programs will be migrated to CSI’s website, which is where all new episodes will appear.
  • CHI Conversations will return to its original home on the BayCHI web site.
  • IT Conversations production of new programs will cease around December 1.
  • SpokenWord.org will be shut down around December 1.

The remaining assets of the Conversations Network (cash and intellectual property) will be acquired by the Internet Archive, another U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All existing programs will be moved to the Internet Archive where the world will be able to continue to listen to them for free.

Trying to anticipate some of the questions you may have:

  • We hope to preserve all existing URLs by running a “redirection server” for many years if not permanently.
  • We will stop accepting new and renewal membership dues and donations within 48 hours.
  • All monthly subscriptions will be canceled via PayPal within the next 48 hours.
  • Dues and donations already received will be used to help preserve the content (audio files and webpages) we’ve published over the past 9+ years.

So why are we doing this? A bit of history will help explain.

Our flagship channel, IT Conversations, was the second podcast ever published and today is still the longest running of all podcasts. In The Conversations Network’s nearly ten years we’ve published more than 3,300 programs on our three primary channels.

When we started this project, no one else was publishing free audio from conferences or other events. We were the first to stream live tech-conference audio and the first to offer recordings of conference sessions as free podcasts.

We created the Levelator software to standardize audio levels. It’s now in common use by podcasters and broadcasters worldwide and has been downloaded more than 350,000 times.

SpokenWord.org, our a metadata/search site for all audio and video recordings of spoken-word content, has cataloged more than 1.5 million audio and video programs.

Most significantly, we pioneered the concept of a worldwide distributed team of part-time (essentially volunteer) writers, audio engineers and producers to publish broadcast-quality programs. Since 2003, 215 people in all corners of the planet have been members of TeamITC. They are the real force behind what you see and hear on The Conversations Network.

And we’ve done it all on a shoestring budget thanks to our contributing members, content providers, underwriters and Limelight Networks, our long-time content-delivery partner.

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. Much of what we’ve pioneered in the past ten years is now commonplace. Our goal was to make it easy for others to produce audio recordings of events and make them available to the world for free. That’s now the norm. We have succeeded.

We’ve helped event producers and podcasters to create and publish programs themselves, and increasingly that’s what they’re doing. There simply isn’t as great a need for a service like The Conversations Network. So we’ve decided to complete our mission by helping our remaining partners continue their podcasts on their own websites.

If you have any questions about these changes, feel free to reply publicly or privately. The best place for your public comments is here on my personal blog.

Thanks again for listening and for your support of The Conversations Network.

…doug

Doug Kaye, Executive Director
The Conversations Network
A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit
doug@rds.com
twitter (DougKaye)
facebook (doug.kaye)
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51 thoughts on “The Conversations Network: Mission Accomplished

  1. Wow – what a surprise – my first thought – what’s happening to The Levelator?
    I use and recommend it all the time – will it continue to be developed? I’m not particularly thinking in terms of new features, but maintaining it to be compatible with new OS versions and such…

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  2. Hi Doug, IT Conversations was one of the first podcasts I listened to, and no doubt one of the inspirations behind starting my own programme. I don’t know what your next thing is, but I wish you well.

    Cheers,
    Morgan

    Like

  3. Well, dang. That’s going to leave a hole.

    Doug, I would like to thank you and all of your volunteers for all of work that you have put in to IT Conversations over the years. I have to say that I have learned a lot from the material that you published, and regret that I failed to be a better supporter and booster of your works.

    Best wishes for the future!

    Jeff;

    Like

  4. What a shocker. I was just listening to IT Conversations tonight before I saw the e-mail. Thank you very much for all you’ve done. I’ll miss you.

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  5. Doug – you and your team were an inspiration to me in the early days (met you at the 2nd podcast expo I think). Since then I’ve created just under 400 episodes of the NosillaCast and I use Levelator every time (and recommend it to others). Thank you for your great work over the years. one question – is anything happening to Levelator?

    Nice to see you on TWiT this week too.

    Allison Sheridan
    NosillaCast Mac Podcast at http://podfeet.com
    A technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias!
    Follow me at http://twitter.com/podfeet

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  6. What a shame. I must give a big thank you to you and your team for all the hard work put in. I’ll miss this, many hours clocked up already. All the best. Paul

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  7. Mission accomplished indeed! Over last few years podcasts have replaced radio and TV as the medium of choice for me. Thanks for having been a big part of that development.

    I am going to miss Spokenword.org, which has been my go-to place to discover new content. Any recommendations for a friendly podcast directory that might be up to the task to replace it?

    Like

  8. Dear Doug,

    I am very sorry to hear that. Thanks a lot for the terrific work you have done!

    Wishing you all the best for future projects!

    Kind regards,

    Alex

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  9. Doug,
    It was an amazing moment when I found that I could listen to these conference speeches (Tim O’Reilly, Clayton Christensen..) while on the London Underground commute from Brixton. Truly grateful for your innovation in breaking open access to expert speeches and for educating a new generation in how to produce professional audio programmes.

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  10. You certainly leave a big hole. I’ve been subscribed to your IT Conversations podcast for so long now, I have resent and recommended it to many people… mission accomplished? really? I have the impression I still have a lot to learn from your podcasts…

    Thank you and your team,

    Pedro.

    Like

  11. Doug:

    IT Conversations was one of the inspirations for “The New Influencers” and you were one of the pioneers who got me interested in social media in the first place way back when. I have spent so many hours over the last five years listening to speeches from O’Reilly conferences, Churchill Club discussions and Moira Gunn’s great interviews thanks to CN. However, I suppose all good things must come to an end.

    You provided a great service that helped make podcasting mainstream. Thanks for all your dedication and effort.

    Like

  12. Doug: you’ve been an inspiration to many and the father of podcasting because of the lives you’re impacted with IT Conversations. More importantly the historic aspect of those documented words will be evergreen.

    Thanks and lets meetup soon.

    Best
    John

    Like

  13. Doug and everyone else on the team,

    Thank you for all you’ve done these past 10 years. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to IT Conversations, and I’ll miss it. Thanks for building something great and helping make the world a better place.

    Best wishes for the future!
    Steve

    Like

  14. Doug:
    Thank you (and the team) for ITConversations, which has been a source of learning in the last years.
    If we ever have a Silicon Valley street of stars (as Hollywood does for actors), I’m sure you deserve a star.

    Best wishes and hope to continue seeing your great photos on Google+
    -Aleman

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  15. Doug, wow, has it been 10 years already that our small group with Adam, Dave and the rest of us started developing this phenomenon? Well, I have personally enjoyed hundreds of ITC podcasts; mission accomplished indeed! I hope you will open-source the code behind the websites too. And Archive.org is a perfect new home, congratulations.

    Like

  16. It’s been great writing for The Conversations Network for the past nearly three years! I learned so much delving into all the new technology presented in the over 50 podcasts I’ve written about. Thank you for the opportunity!

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  17. Doug, when I saw Phil Windley’s blog post, I could not believe it. But sadly it is true. ITC will end.

    I have listened to numerous episodes in the past years. Often they have inspired new ideas and thoughts in me. I enjoyed being able to listen to some of O’Reilly’s conferences… great speakers.

    I would like to express my deepest thanks to you and all those who contributed to the Conversation Network. It is amazing what you have achieved – especially with the many “essentially volunteers”. I will miss you and keep fond memories of your channels… especially when running the Levelator on my own podcast episodes.

    Good luck for whatever you plan to do next!

    Like

  18. It is sad to say goodbye but as Kevin Kelly says, you need to let go at the top. You have been a fixed feature of my iGoogle page and my iPod for a long time, I do not remember when I first started. Thank you for those wonderful IT conversations.

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  19. I am sorry to hear, that IT Conversations goes down. You have said “mission accomplished”, that is true, but not in all aspects — not all podcasts series which have found place on IT Conversations are to be available in the future in podcast formfactor.

    It would be really helpful if you could create a list of ALL (sub-)channels with the pointer to future continuation, that is where are future podcasts to be found if any. You have already mentioned some channels, but not all of them. I would be really interested what happens with TechNation (as Podcast).

    Like

  20. I am sorry to hear that IT Conversations is going away. You said “mission accomplished” but I think the primary goal of any company should first be to make a profit to further its endeavors. If a company doesn’t make a profit, then it can’t stay in business and continue to offers its customers great products. This seems to be the elephant in the room and I would like to hear more on why IT Conversations wasn’t a success in this regard.

    Like

  21. To Doug, Phil, and the many volunteers and contributors.
    What a loss. I feel privileged having enjoyed the many, many fantastic recordings you produced and podcasted. You and the work you’ve done have been an inspiration to many. I can only respect your decision to close shop and thank you for everything you’ve done!
    Best of luck for your future endeavors.

    Like

  22. Thanks for making commuting in the Seattle area easy and informative. How many times have I said at work: “I was just listening to a podcast that said…”

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  23. What a shame. IT conversations was one of the first podcast series I ever came across and along with Social Innovations it has provided me with entertainment and food for thought ever since. The value for me was a single source for a wide ange of programming that I would otherwise probably not have thought to listen to. It’s really opened my eyes and I’ll miss that. Thanks for everything and hoping that you’ll reconsider 🙂

    Like

  24. Thanks for all the knowledge! IT Conversations has been one of the first podcasts I turn to after syncing. Will miss the diverse range of programming.

    Like

  25. Is there a list of the sub-feeds that the content was pulled from anywhere? It’s a real shame to lose this valuable resource but thank you for the fish!

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  26. Doug – thanks to you and your team for many hours of commuting entertainment and education. It was truly groundbreaking when you started and paved the way for many “followers”.

    Like

  27. Just listened to the last IT Conversations podcast: your interview with Phil Windley. Mission Accomplished indeed. ITC has been an educative companion on miles of running trail, road trips and more than the odd bath!

    You’re quite right about the ubiquity of the format now but the quality, both content and audio, is rarely matched elsewhere. Thanks for setting the bar so high.

    Like

  28. It was an amazing journey to listent to all those any podcasts though the years. It was one of the first channels I’ve subscribed and from the bottom of my heart I loved each single episode. I’ll miss it very much – so let me thank you for your wonderful work, the technical/intellectual quality you’ve been providing. Thank you all!

    Like

  29. I got my first iPod in 2005 in a conference raffle. At the time I haven’t even heard of podcasts. IT Conversations was the first one I listened to and the first feed I had in my newsfeed. I used to head people to it whenever I tried to tell them what this “podcast thing” was about.

    I remember having listened to several superb speaches and interviews. Some that have had significant impact in my career and that changed my interests.

    Nowadays I listen to more than a dozen podcasts and IT Conversations still has its place as a unique source of good speaches.

    I’m sad to know that you’re going to shut it down. I’d like to thank you all for the extremely good service you’ve provided along those years. Good luck with your future enterprises!


    Gustavo Chaves
    Brazil

    Like

  30. Doug –

    IT Conversations was a long running inspiration for many of us in the dawn of Podcasting in the Fall of 2004. Levelator was a tremendous contribution to the entire community. On a personal note, it’s seldom that I don’t set levels at -6 that I don’t think of your recommendation the first time I met you in person, I believe at Gnomedex Lake Tahoe. Good luck on your future ventures.

    Like

  31. I haven’t been in frequent contact with IT Conversations or the Conversations Network, and this is the first I heard of the shutdown. But I have subscribed, and listed to scores of podcasts over the last couple of years. It was a great service that I’m sure lots of folks have and will echo.

    But waht I really want to commend you on is the attitude and spirit that you always conveyed. It was more than just crowdsourced editorial support. It conveyed to me a sense of respect and mutual exploration of this evolving medium. And I think that that has affected me positively at least as much as the content.

    The medium is the message.

    Thank you for doing this. Thank you for inspiring me and others. And best of luck in the future.

    Like

  32. Why not just hand it off to someone else rather than just end everything?

    This all seems selfish to me. But maybe I don’t have all the facts, and should not judge. I dunno.

    It just seems unnecessary; and so is all the more tragic.

    _______________________________
    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    Like

  33. I’m afraid Doug &/or Conversation Network has succumbed to fadism. Financial constraints or lack of volunteers I can grasp as key issues in operation decisions, but do you believe this is a zero-sum game? “Well, we’ve made it easy for audio buffs to play around on the web, we’re done.”

    Can you imagine if the 35 Million Deaf and Hard of Hearing U.S. citizens I try to serve were told – well, Google created automated captioning, you now have Equal Access under the ADA law.” ?

    Did you or the board even consider an informal effort to recruit new or replacements for yourselves? To make Conversations Network a “platform” development “space”/service? A permanent audio-happy-hackathon learning service? Have you attempted to make it international? Wouldn’t your board be a little bit more proud if you provided the tools that helped Haiti become a core source of audio programmers, and help it bootstrap itself out of impovershment?

    Have you considered partnering with DotSub.com or Wistia or 3PlayMedia to develop commercial customers for your “non-profit” org?

    Oh, well. Never mind. I guess it doesn’t matter. You’ve swept up the shop. No innovation needed here. There are no more horses in the world, so why should we make buggy whips, saddles, shoe horses & tack? There are no more blind people in the world, so who needs audio tools for text & language. Those silly Europeans, with all their multiple languages, across overlapping broadcast areas – why do they still bother with Tele-text and multi-channel multi-language option TV captioning. There is no American market for digital audio, right? We only speak English in U.S., right? (2042 is year caucasians become numerical minority for first time in history, just one among many ethnic groups – some of whom only have English as second language.) Screw the facts and foresight, huh?!

    I am glad that at least one non-profit organization has taken to heart the concept of “putting oneself out of business” as the goal its services. I’m not happy to see it was you and Conversation Networks.

    There are an estimated 300 Million to 600 Million Deaf and hard of hearing around globe. There are over 52 million U.S. citizens identified by gov’t as Disabled – millions of blind. Blind and Deaf have been kept out America’s main cultural activity, outside the home – seeing movies-in-theaters. Services like Conversations Networks has a vast “market” or field of service yet to touch.

    Skip it.

    Greg

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  34. Thanks for sharing so much with us over the years.
    Im sad about itc.
    You should be proud of what all of you have accomplished on this way of thinking.
    Gracias desde la ciudad de Mexico

    Like

  35. Doug (Paul, Phil, et. al),
    THANK YOU so very much for the great resource you created. My words could not properly express the tremendous impact your efforts with ITC have made on my life and so many others. Your words and the management of others words have been such a fixture in my past 9 years of podcast listing. It will be sorely missed.

    As I finish listening to your final episode, I nearly teared up thinking what this broadcast meant for my listening future. Your broadcasts have so enriched my IT career and opened my mind to fantastic new ideas, I’m at a a loss as to how to back-fill for this content. I will have to relisten to this episode once my head has cleared from the disturbing news. I guess my email filter snagged the notification back in August, since I only discovered this today.

    I can appreciate going out on a high note, better to manage the resources to a smooth closure rather than just a podfade into oblivion.

    Here’s wishing each of you the very best in your future endeavors. Thank you again for your dedication and commitment over these past many years.

    Tim

    Like

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