Thursday, June 21, 2007

Something a little different

OK, so I've had this idea for a podcast germinating in my brain for a while now. Inspired by the folks doing TWiT, I wanted to start something of a roundtable discussion about current events in librarianship. The concept was to get a regular group together, where each person brings a story or two to the discussion, introduces it and we bandy it about for a bit. Great plan, but it proved hard to do. Other priorities surfaced and the project never got off the ground.

Fast forward almost two years. The podcasting environment has changed some and there are many new tools available. One show I listen to regularly is Windows Weekly (part of the TWiT network of shows). In a recent episode, the hosts took live calls using a platform called TalkShoe. I was really excited by the prospect of unscripted live participation of the community at large and thought it would translate well to my vision of a casual regular conversation about library news. Participation, conversation, community, all the right 2.0 buzzwords!

Intrigued and inspired to dig further, I found that TalkShoe does two noteworthy things:

1. It provides a teleconference bridge for having multi-person live conversations, also providing audio streaming of that conversation along with a chat interface, so people have a variety of ways to participate.
2. It makes recording, publishing and podcasting of the audio conversations very easy.

Admittedly, as easy as it makes it for the host to produce and publish a live interactive show, it does present some obstacles for the participant. But you're all bright folks who can make magic happen, right?

Live participation in the show requires creating an account with TalkShoe. Why? Well, it allows you to download the TalkShoe client app and it provides you with a PIN number to use when calling into a show. You can participate live either by phoning in or in the text chat environment (or both).

In order to participate in the voice conversation, you have to make a phone call to Pittsburgh, so phone charges do apply. At this point, you can use a SIP phone client (such as Gizmo Project - Skype does not currently support SIP) to call for free, but this approach might not remain free. Of course, if you have a cell phone with free nights and weekends, this might not be such a problem.

The TalkShoe app that you download, which you do not actually need for calling into a show, allows you to follow the text and see who else is participating, both by voice and chatting. Voice callers can also use the interface to indicate a desire to chat and/or mute themselves. The chat is a little disorienting as it follows a horizontal model with which I must profess a lack of proficiency. See this screenshot. (The TalkShoe Live! app should work on Windows and Macs, but there is no official Linux support yet. I've seen mention on the forums of workarounds.)

It's really hard to describe the whole experience without checking it out for yourself.

It's not the only game in town. I also considered SkypeCasts and BlogTalkRadio, but found reasons to prefer TalkShoe despite its limitations.

So that's the deal. I'm putting together a just-about-weekly TalkCast (as TalkShoe shows are called) where we can chat about all things librarianship. My plan is to have some of the big "stories of the week" ready to talk about and leave things pretty open from there. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to join in and play along. I'll be announcing the first episode soon and I hope that some of you reading this post will be interested enough to listen along and ultimately join the conversation. Oh, by the way, if you didn't notice the blog title, the show is called Uncontrolled Vocabulary.

In the meantime, anyone with questions about TalkShoe or who's really interested in taking a more active role in planning and participating is welcome to contact me (try greg and then try schwartz @ Thanks for your interest.

Note: I should also note that TalkShoe has a dynamic ad placement technology and a sophisticated approach to sharing revenue with hosts. So I do expect some ads (they don't have many advertisers at this point, but I think they will), but with the trade-off of possibly recouping the costs of phone calls, equipment, etc. Not something I plan to apologize for, but that I do want to be upfront about.


Infosciphi said...

sweet. I am glad things are settling down enough for you so that you can get back into this. Count me in bud.

Chad said...

I don't think I'll be free during that timeslot to call in, but I'll definitely listen to the finished product.