When Doug Kaye first told me about the idea that was launched today as PodCorps, he had me at hello. Every day there are events somewhere that might usefully be audio-recorded and published on the Internet: lectures, meetings, political rallies. In many cases the participants would be happy to have their spoken words recorded and published, but wouldn’t have a clue about the mechanics of digital audio recording and Internet publishing.
Doug’s idea is to create a corps of volunteer stringers who can show up at these events with their digital recorders, process the digital audio, and then publish it — typically at the Internet Archive.
To ask a PodCorps volunteer to show up at an event, the event producer posts the event on Eventful.com with the tag podcorps. This is a lovely example of a technique that Esther Dyson calls visible demand. It’s also an illustration of another key idea: that most people will achieve lightweight service integration by simply using agreed-upon tags. I explore this idea at my own experimental community information site, elmcity.info, which hosts nothing directly but instead gathers tagged items from elsewhere. That idea has, to be honest, gotten very little traction so far. In particular, I’ve had no success getting people in my community on board with eventful.com or upcoming.org or any other online event service. But now that PodCorps reinforces the idea, I’ve got another arrow in my quiver and another chance to make the case.
There’s a huge opportunity here to transform communication patterns in a fundamental way. Checking my local events calendar, for example, I see that the following event is scheduled for tonight at the local college:
Mon., Apr. 16
7 to 8:30pm
Pond Side 2 located on Bruder St – Keene State College
Building Smart – Highlighting Local Best Practices
Come and join us in discussing the challenges and successes of implementing innovative building materials, technologies, and design solutions into the built environment.
The information exchanged at that meeting, and at countless meetings like it, has historically been available only to those who attend. There are a million reasons why local folks who might want to attend nevertheless cannot: no babysitter, schedule conflict, etc. And of course remote folks have no opportunity to attend, even though the information exchanged might be highly relevant to them.
In the same way that blogging can help you make optimal use of your keystrokes, podcasting can help you make optimal use of your spoken words.
Of course even if tonight’s smart building discussion were recorded and published, it would be unlikely to attract many listeners. But so what? If it only benefits a few, that’s fine. This isn’t podcasting to build audiences and “monetize” downloads. It’s podcasting to expand access to public discussion. And that’s just an inherently good idea. A few listeners who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend an event, multiplied by lots of events, adds up to a big collective benefit.