Monthly Archives: October 2005

Production Quality or Content? 2

The other day. the NY Times had good piece on podcasting. There was a great quote from Dave Winer (one of the creators of podcasting), “I love podcasting because it turns us all into investigative journalists of our own lives.”. Here is Dave’s elaboration on the statement. One of the main things in the piece is the spectrum of investment people make into equipment for podcasting. There has been a bit of discussion going on online about production quality in podcasts. Dave Slusher has also written about it in response to to this piece posted by Steven Hill on Steve Gillmor’s blog.

Essentially a lot of traditional radio types are saying podcasting sucks because of bad production quality. This is bullshit. Production quality is not irrelevant, after all if you can’t understand what is being said, the content doesn’t mean much. But regular radio generally has what most would consider great production quality. But 90% of what you here on radio is shit content. I believe that the quality of the content is vastly more important than the production quality. I don’t care how good something sounds if there is nothing worthwhile to hear. As long as I can hear what is being said, I am fine with some background or ambient noise or the occasional umh, ahh or cough as long as the podcaster has something interesting/funny or relevant to say. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of podcasts out their with awesome production quality, check out Digital Flotsam, Bob and AJ, the Zedcast and Accident Hash for just a few examples. But there are plenty of podcasts with what many pro’s would consider poor production quality that are vastly more listenable than almost anything on the radio. Morning Coffee Notes, Evil Genius Chronicles and Dawn and Drew all qualify here. None of these are edited, all contain what would be considered flaws and I listen to all of them because they are real and have something to say to me. I have heard quite a few podcasters over the past year buy more elaborate gear to try get better sound quality. Frankly once they reach a certain point, the extra tweaks are only marginal improvements at best if they are even noticable. In many cases I have heard people talk about new mikes or mixers and frankly can’t tell any difference from the previous shows.

You don’t need a lot of expensive studio gear to make a great podcast. But you do need good content. If I can hear the content, that is what counts. Entertain me, inform me, make me think, make me laugh, introduce me to new music. This is what counts. the rest is just icing on the cake.

Which fork is the dead end! 2

This morning Mark Maynard has a good post over here about selling evolution. The question that scares me is which human development fork is the evoulationary dead end? Is it the faith-based unintelligent designers or the reality based community? A recent poll by CBS news shows the majority of Americans reject evolution:

cbs news evolution poll

It appears that the rational person is headed for extinction at least in the United States. On the other hand, looking at the bigger picture of what is happening in the US economy and the US place in the world, maybe a more accurate assessment would be that the US as a whole or at least as a powerful country is the evolutionary dead end. Clearly with the religous right and corporate America continually pushing for the dumbing down of Americans at every turn, America will quickly turn into a third world country with a third world standard of living. Unless we make some radical changes in the direction that this country is going and quickly, America’s best days are behind it!

New Ypsi school bus facility 12

There was a Ypsilanti School Board Meeting last night that Jules attended, the big subject being a proposed new school bus maintenance facility. The current facility is just north of Depot Town and apparently in need of of a lot of upgrades. The proposal being put forward is to setup a new bus maintenance and storage facility off Congress St where the RCTC facility is now. This property is just south of West Middle School and the school district already owns the property. There are some logical economic reasons why this would be a good location. There are also a lot of issues with putting the bus garage here, not least of which that Congress is a 2 lane road here with gravel shoulders. A lot of kids walk to West along this road and it would get quite dangerous with the extra bus traffic there. There are also issues with extra diesel fumes and noise from all the extra bus traffic in the area. The diesel exhaust is a particularly an issue for a facility that would sit right in the middle of a residential area, particularly one where a lot of kids suffer from asthma. Eric Touchberry who is a strong supporter of the School district and Board, (for the record I am also a strong supporter of the Ypsilanti schools) sent an e-mail the other day to a number of people trying to justify the move and it was forwarded to me. One point in particular struck me as very flawed:

First, we’re a poor school district. Poor school districts can’t afford to throw good money after bad on the current us maintenance facility. Why don’t we fix it right and clean it up? Because school districts aren’t eligible for federal brownfield leanup funds. We can’t afford to fix it up right, but we *can* sell the property to the city, which *is* eligible for cleanup funding. After the certified cleanup, the city can sell the property for some extra cash. That’s a winning scenario for the city and the school district. But even if the city doesn’t buy the property, it would be fiscally irresponsible of the district to retain the current bus facility.

First of all, the city of Ypsilanti is facing financial problems probably even more serious than the school district. The chances of the city coming up with the money to buy the current bus garage property seems very slim at best. Also very close to the current bus garage is the site of the old Motor Wheel plant. This plant has been shut down for several years and no seems to to be very interested in cleaning up and developing that. If an existing facility in the same area is available with no interest, what makes Eric think that there would be any more interest in the bus garage? I agree that we need to take a look at any an all possible ways for the school district to cut costs. This is especially true given that as long as the republicans control the Michigan legisilature, we are unlikely to see any policy changes that will result in public schools getting even enough funds to keep up with inflation much less grow. They seem to be obsessed more with charter schools than funding public schools. With companies like Delphi and Visteon shrinking fast, the situation is only going to get worse. But this does not appear to be the right answer at this time.

Ratings for TV commercials 4

It occured to me today that we need ratings for ads on tv. They have ratings on all the shows. With these I can use the digital cable box to block programming by rating, by channel or by title. But unfortunately there is no way for me to preemptively block ads that I don’t want my kids to see. For example, I let my 10 year old son watch King of the Hill. This is a very funny show, that amazingly is made by the same guy who created Beavis and Buthead. They show re-runs of older episodes on F/X on weeknights at 6 and 6:30 pm. For some reason, they run commercials for a male-enhancement dietary supplement called enzyte during this time. They also run ads for another F/X show called nip-tuck. Nip-tuck is a really lame “drama” that runs after 10pm and is totally inappropriate for young kids. The promo is almost inappropriate. I watched about 10 minutes of one episode once. I am not a prude, but I won’t watch this show. It is just plain lame. I don’t want my kids watching it and I have it blocked. But there is no way for me to block the commercials. Another example is ads for movies. I don’t really want my kids seeing ads for crap like Doom and Saw II. These movies have absolutely no redeeming qaulities and neither one should be advertised on prime time or earlier tv. If there were ratings for ads I could readilly block this crap, but of course the networks will never allow this because it would destroy their revenue stream. But frankly I don’t care. As much as I pay for cable every month, I wan’t some way around this.

The Ownership Society

When shrub talks about wanting America to be an “ownership society”, this is what he is talking about:

Non Sequiter: ownership society

This cartoon pretty much sums up what is happening to working class people in this country today. The executives and their media spinners sail off into the sunset with their golden parachutes while all the working stiffs and engineers and low-mid level managers get fucked. While senior executives give themselves a 50% increase in severance packages, the people who have gone to work all these years see their pensions go up in smoke, their health care probably disappearing and demands from management for a 63% cut in pay. This stuff is going to hurt all of us. When those thousands of people lose their jobs, and a great many of them will, they will lose their houses, they won’t be buying cars, they won’t be going to restaurants. That means that others trying to sell their houses won’t get as much for them if they can sell at all. Those of us still working in the auto industry (including oems, suppliers, dealers, etc) will be pinched even harder. People running small businesses will se revenue dry up. We will all pay for the loss of companies like Delphi and Visteon and Collins and Aikmen.

No matter what you think of unions (and I agree there have been problems associated with them) you have to acknowledge that if a lot of our predecessors hadn’t organized and fought for better working conditions and pay and benefits, most of us wouldn’t be living anywhere near as good today as we are. This is truly a case of a rising tide lifting all boats. When large numbers of people are working at better paying jobs they buy more stuff and that leads to more jobs. A limited number of rich people with extra disposable income only has a limited effect on the economy. A person can only buy so much stuff. But lots of middle class people can buy a lot of stuff, food, houses, clothes etc. That’s what makes economies grow. But the middle class is shrinking and most of them are sliding downward. If we don’t focus on growing the middle and helping the lower classes move up, America will shrivel up into a third world country. The bush cabal needs to be stopped now. America needs new leadership with a real vision. I just don’t know where that is coming from right now. Somebody please step forward.

Artificial Life?

I just watched Nova Science Now with Max. The first segment was about creating articial life from scratch. They talked to various scientists about what it would take to create life from basic elements. They showed how it might be done. They described how life is defined. The host asked the various scientists what might be learned from creating new life from scratch.

The thing that really disturbed me about the whole segment was that at point in the entire 20 minute segment did anyone ask “Is this a good idea?” I personally believe that we are playing a very dangerous game here. If they do create new life (and I have little doubt that they can) what might ultimately result? Do we create something and then destroy it? What if we create something dangerous? Is this really ethical? I think human’s technical capabilities have vastly outstripped the species’ development of sufficient wisdom about how best to use those capabilities. I believe that we need to slow down and think more about why we are doing things before we do them.

Slashdot | Video iPod Apple’s First Bad Move?

Slashdot had a piece today pointing to a NY times article about whether the new 5th gen iPod
5G iPod may have been a mistake. The basic premise is one that many in the press have repeated in recent days that the video capability of the new ipod is in adequate. Frankly I think the whole discusion of the ipod’s video feature is pointless. Prior to this past Wednesday when he announced an ipod that could play video, when asked about it Steve Jobs always said it was a bad idea. He said that the experience of watching video on such a small screen would not be enjoyable. He was right. I also don’t think that very many people will be willing to pay $2 an episode to watch tv re-runs and music videos (actually who would want to pay any price to watch music videos?). In the first few weeks some curious people will surely buy them just to check it out. However, I think that sales will quickly wane. Watching video is a distintcly different experience from listening to audio. You actually have to WATCH the screen. When you are watching video, you generally can’t do anything else. I listen to my ipod in the car when I am commuting to work, when I am sitting at my desk writing code, walking at lunch, reading blogs, cleaning the kitchen after dinner, working in the garden, you get the picture. There have been a variety of digital video players on the market for well over a year. None of them have sold very well. The only portable device that plays video that has sold in any significant numbers is the playstation portable, and that is mainly because it is a great game machine. There have also been portable tvs around for well over a decade, none of which has been particularly succesful, certainly nothing that has done as well as the ipod.

There is also the issue of the copy protection. No big media company will allow their stuff to be sold without some stupid drm scheme. So that means that videos you buy from itunes cannot be burned to dvds (although you can back up the files to dvd for archiving, you just can’t play them on any dvd player). The only place you can watch them is on the computer or ipod. Who the hell wants to pay for video you can’t watch on your tv? This will I think be the deal breaker.

Over time there have been three commercially succesful classes of portable media devices that have sold in huge numbers. The first was the Sony walkman tape player ( and the countless clones). The second was the portable cd player. In both of these cases, the generic clones generally sold quite well because there wasn’t much to distinguish any of the players. Because of the limited capacity, the user interface was not very critical and they were all pretty much the same. The case styling varied a bit but functionally, they were indistinguishable. Then came the mp3 player. They did OK when the first Rio players came out but it wasn’t until the ipod that really high capacity players started to sell in huge numbers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think the 5G ipod will be a failure. Not by a long shot. I think it will sell like gangbusters. It just won’t be because of video. Video is really a non-issue. Video will be one of those features like all the other “extra features” (think fm tuners, voice recording, etc) that most of the other competing players have but that hardly anyone uses. The ipod will sell for the same reason it has always sold. It is just the best digital audio player. The scroll wheel gives it the best control interface of any audio device. For high capacity players you need a interface that lets you easily scroll through long lists of audio files. The scroll wheel works because you can scroll through the list with your thumb without lifting. With the linear touch pads of devices like the creative and iriver players, you have to lift your thumb repeatedly to go through a long list. It just doesn’t work as well. The new version of the ipod has all the virtues of the previous generations (except for the faster firewire interface, now usb only) in an even thinner, better looking package. By making such a big deal about the video stuff, complainers are just whining about something that ultimately I feel will be irrelevant.