I just listened to my first audio blog entry. There was a convoluted path that led me from my referrer log to this page so I’m not going to try and reproduce it.
The content of the audo blog was an conversation between Adam Curry and Christopher Lydon at Bloggercon. I’m new to both of these people, but apparently Christopher has done a number of interviews and is exploring an audio form of blogging. Adam comes from a media background being a former MTV VJ and doing a number of web related projects. Their discussion is one of blog-spection, talking about blogging and media in the new world.
I had a number of interesting thoughts while listening to the conversation.
First I don’t think “audio blogging” will work. But that is by my definition. To me blogging is at least partially defined by its format. It is a website where new entries are posted on a regular basis and others can read them and comment on them. So to me an audio-blog would have to have regular audio entries posted and people would have to be able to comment on them.
Christopher is very interested in making a human voiced conversation, but, in my opinion, posting blog entries in audo format isn’t going to create a human voiced conversation. To have effective communication I think both sided of the conversation have to be talking at the same speed. So in the case of text blogging both the blogger and their readers communicate via the written word. That means each of them have unlimited time to collect, produce, edit and release their thoughts.
In audio communication there is little editing. It is possible to say what you are thinking and then go back and cut some or re-record parts. But the ability to edit is a much more specialized and technical skill. Even in its simplist form, where you just re-record the whole message, it is hard. How many times did you record the 20 second message on your voice mail? Can you imagine doing that every time you post or comment on a blog? Most every literate person can edit their writing in a word processor.
Contemplating this my technical mind comes up with ways to shoe horn audio into blogging. You could maybe write some kind of application that would let people record audio comments. You’d have to get over the platform hurdle. Also you might want to allow people to link their comment to a particular point in an entry. Or allow quoting.
Adam and Christopher mention talk radio as being a conversation and a community builder. They are right, but the reason it is that people are using two equal communication mediums, radio broadcasting and the telephone. Both sides have no ability to edit. They also both have the same limits. They can’t show pictures, they can only use words.
How many times have you been listening to talk radio and the host gets stumped by a caller, but you know the appropriate response? Often you even know the host does, but they are distracted or caught off guard. You know that give time, they would make a logical argument. But that a limitation of audio conversations.
Why isn’t there talk TV? Its been attempted, but hasn’t really worked. I think this is because the people don’t have the ability to communicate via video. If there were video phones it might work better. TechTV does some of this their Netcam network. But part of the reason is that video is most powerful when edited. And it takes a lot of time to edit video. Too much time for a conversation.
The closest to a video blog I’ve seen is Evan Coyne Maloney’s Brain Terminal. Again it a broadcast, one that gained nation media attention during the lead up to the war in Iraq for his coverage of anti-war protests.
So to me the ability to have a conversation requires an equal communication channel between the participants. There are two ways bloggers communicate with each other that are different from how other people communicate. First they post to their blog. Second they comment on each other’s posts. There’s a hybrid of these two where you read an entry and write a response on your blog. This hybrid only works if you let the other party know you did it. That is what Trackback was invented to do. Also you can use a comment with a link to let the other party know you are talking about them. Referrer logs are a poor man’s trackback.
There really isn’t a way to do the above in the current state of the art for blogging.
I don’t think of blogging as a broadcast medium, though it is. All of my thoughts are based on my belief a blog has to have comments or at least Trackback. If you postulate that comments aren’t required to define a blog, these comments don’t matter as much. But Christopher said he wanted a conversation in the human void.
At one point Adam tells about how he uses Christopher’s audio interviews. It was here I learned how blogging could be integrated with audio content. Adam said his newsreader automatically downloaded Christopher’s content and put it on his iPod so he could listen to it anywhere. That works. It makes this a form on non-linear broadcasting. It is communication, but not conversation.
There is another drawback to audio blogging. You can’t scan. You have to listen to the whole thing. Writing is visual and lets you scan. It is kind of possible to scan an audio recording, but you are likely to miss the most important parts because there is no indication of what part is important.
You could also make “bookmark” headings which a person could read and the go directly to that point in an audio entry. Like adding bold titles in a blog entry.
Another problem is linking. How do you hyperlink in and audio file? You can’t. Again you could find a technical solution. You’d have to write specialized software which would be used to display a link for a specified part of audio playback.
This entry has easily taken me an hour to write and edit. If I was doing audio I probably never would have gotten done. I’d have lost interest after an hour of re-recording and editing. Video would have taken even longer. I’ve redrafted and rewritten hundreds of words in this essay.
I think the idea of people creating their own audio and video content is great. I’m just not sure it is bloggging. And I know it often lacks the things I value in blogging.