I love spoken-word audio. I've been listening to seminars, lectures, and books on tape for years.
I love downloadable audio. Missed that teleseminar you signed up for? Just download the MP3 (or Real Media, or Windows Media, or QuickTime) file and it's almost as good as being there--maybe better.
But I really dislike streaming audio of the kind you can't download, and I find the new trend to use Macromedia Flash to provide audio clips online particularly irritating.
Why? Because I don't want to have to sit in front of my computer screen to listen to something. The only time I might want to do that would be if I were taking notes, or if the recording were a set of instructions on how to do something with a computer program. When I'm at my computer, I'm usually busy doing something that requires concentration (like writing).
I want to do my listening when I'm away from my computer and doing something that occupies my hands but not my full attention. In my case, that's primarily when I'm driving and when I'm cooking. And while I could theoretically prop my laptop on the passenger seat while I drive, I can't (yet, anyway) get a connection to the Internet while going 65 miles an hour. Besides, the car stereo has much better speakers than the laptop does.
The whole point of podcasting, after all, is to allow people to download and listen at their leisure, the same way RSS news aggregators let you collect blog headlines and other news at your own convenience. These streaming-only audio clips (.ram as well as Flash) don't give you that option. And that snarks me off.
And yes, I do realize that people want to protect their intellectual property and that's one reason they use non-downloadable streaming audio. I respect that. But I don't want to sell or otherwise redistribute their material. I just want to listen to it on my time. To users of streaming audio I pose the question: would you rather I just didn't listen? Would you really prefer that I just miss your marketing message altogether?
Because that's what was happening before I thought of a way around the Flash barrier.
In May I made one of my best investments of 2005 and bought a $10 mini-stereo audio cable. I plug one end into the laptop's headphone socket and one end into the cassette recorder's microphone port. Or I plug the other end of the cable into the microphone port on the laptop and record it onto my computer to play on my new MP3 player. (My current preferred recording software is the freeware program Audacity, available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/ in versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux.)
It works like a charm. I now have access to all kinds of things I never would have listened to before, all thanks to a simple cable.
Now all I need is one of those car stereos with an MP3 player built in.
© 2006Sallie Goetsch
"Author-izer" Sallie Goetsch started helping other people with their writing at the age of nine. Before going into business for herself, she translated, directed, produced, and was sometimes forced to act in Greek and Roman plays, as well as founding an electronic journal. Her FileSlinger(TM) Backup Blog (http://www.fileslinger.com/blog) was recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle. Visit http://authorizer.fileslinger.com to learn how to become an author whether or not you can write.