ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

All The Podcasts: It Continues —

It was 4 months ago that I announced I was collecting all the podcasts. I figured we were about due for a further update.

The main reason I mentioned this project on my weblog was because it was something around the tenth time I’d set off on a major collecting project, and it made sense to really explain the urge and the process and the ups and downs. In this way, maybe I’d be helping other growing collectors understand themselves or at least know they weren’t alone. I generally toil in silence, so this was actually rather unusual; nobody hears essays of the process of running textfiles.com or my other little hobbies.

I should have known that putting the phrase “all of the podcasts” in an announcement would sent the pundit/reporting sharks into the water, smelling tasty verbiage to bring to screen and paper. As a result, I got a little attention.

OK, I got a LOT of attention.

BoingBoing took an interest.
Wired did a story on me.
Weblogs really took an interest.

I even got a nice little amount of whining from the wings.

But the high point was getting on NPR, not just once but twice. It is my dream to one day be interviewed by Terry Gross about the BBS Documentary, but sitting down in a studio to shoot the moon with Christopher Lydon is a real close second in those quarters.

All of this stemming not from the documentary project, but the fact that I was now basically downloading an amazing amount of crap. Such is the way it goes. Salvador Dali first got attention when he threw a bathtub through a museum window; we do what we have to.

…but that’s the thing. I really don’t have to, in the sense of commitment or need or job status or anything else. I am collecting all these podcasts because I want to. And that’s important, because we’re now at the critical 4 month period.

I find that a lot of projects die in the 4th month. In the case of high school bands or novels or other real-world projects, they just disappear. Websites and online projects are more sticky, because they don’t really go away as easily. They just kind of drift, untouched, unwanted, but accessible at any time from around the world. It’s like the world has ensured that the Junk Drawer will follow us as a race to the end of time.

That fourth month is critical to a collector; as I suggested earlier, I now have a metric assload of podcasts, yet it is not complete and it is not comprehensive. It is just a metric assload. It would be easy for me to go “no, no I shall never have them all, what am I doing, I should delete these and get my hardware back”, but I’m not doing that. I’m plowing ahead, knowing that a big something is better than a big nothing.

How big are we? Well, people saw the quote of 340gb from the Wired article but that was sorely out of date by the time it showed up on their site; I am somewhere in the 700gb range and growing by gigabytes every day as I run my discoverer on various directories and sites. I just did some rough checks and found that I have 35,000 mp3 files.

This is somewhere in the range of nearly two years of talking. Roughly.

TWO YEARS.

That’s a lot of shows. I am pretty sure I’m past 2,000 shows, but I don’t rightly know. And this is something important to explain, as well.

I have now totally forgotten which interviewer asked me this, but he wanted to know how many hours a week I spend with this collecting hobby. He was audibly unhappy when I said “Well, none.”

There’s a machine downstairs. It is in a nice red case (I bought the case for $50) and has a relatively OK FreeBSD-running AMD box (I bought it for $200) connected up with five hard drives; four of them are 250 gigabytes and the system disk is 40 gigabytes. So it has about a terabyte of disk space or so available.

All it does is download podcasts. 24 hours a day. And when it’s done, it downloads more. It’s scripted. Completely scripted, and just jams through the RSS feeds, pulls a copy of the .XML file (and stores it, for later historians) and then yanks every mp3 file it can find in that feed that it doesn’t already have. This whole process takes none of my time. So really, it is less than an hour a week. I think the last time I spent any time with that box downstairs was to check the number of files and the disk space. I’ll probably automate that as well, soon. “Hey, Jason, here’s how much crap I downloaded today, here’s what you’ve got on me. Thank you.”

If I was more emotionally invested in the output, I might spend my days happily glancing over my downloads, eyeing the best and the brightest, listening in to the spoken words of a thousand podcasts with glee. But that’s not what I’m doing right now; I’m just collecting. I’m pretty busy with the documentary promotion and sales and distribution and all that, and while fleshing that work out, I don’t have time to listen to radio.

Well, unless I’m on it. Then I make a little time.

A few people have made little whiny noises about the project, comparing it to their monetized business models and works; but that’s completely apples and oranges, comparing Tower Records or HMV to a guy who’s just buying out old vinyl collections at estate sales or going through bargain bins in the basement of older record stores. It’s just not the same thing! We’re not going to see a “Jason Scott’s Podcast Emporium” opening up anytime soon, although I might make a way to download a list of what I’ve grabbed, so people can tell me of ones I’m missing. I’m all for being corrected on that line, as opposed to “where’s your business model”.

So I am continuing, plowing through hundreds of mp3s a day and downloading them to a bunch of hard drives that are filling quite noticably as I track down RSS feeds everywhere. These hard drives are being syncronized to other removable hard drives that are being burned to DVD-ROMs, by the way, in case you’re wondering if an errant spark is going to blow my collection to smithereens. I wouldn’t mind a situation where a few people were trading hard drives with me, so I could rsync copies of the collection for them. Libraries, where are you?

While we’re here, I’ll throw in a few more impressions I’ve gotten glancing over the collection and the processing that’s been going on to make it:

I stand firm on my belief that the turnaround on podcasts makes my project still realistic. People just can’t keep this stuff up for months and months on end; they do it for a while and then they stop. They just do. There is now a company/program about to come out called Odeo that wants to be for podcasts what Livejournal and the like are for weblogging. What they are going to end up producing are not going to be podcasts, really; they’re going to produce one-sided telephone conversations, not unlike what you’d find on an answering machine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s a difference between post-it-notes and essays (and books), and there’s a difference between “E-Z-Make” podcasts and what I’m concerned with collecting at the moment.

There is a company called libsyn that is hosting a ton of podcasts, and are functioning as a sink for all of this data. I have no idea if they’re keeping the podcasts long term, but they should, it’d be great.

Finally…. I’m having a blast. This was a great idea, and I don’t regret it a bit.

And I was serious about Terry Gross.


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7 Comments

  1. remove says:

    i’ll be interested to see where this leads, jason. are you planning another website based on podcasts?

  2. Mark says:

    > I wouldn’t mind a situation where a few people were trading hard drives with me

    What sort of hard drives? Besides the obvious answer, “really big ones.” I mean what brand of hard drives do you personally buy for this sort of thing, and what ports does your podcast-slurping computer have?

  3. Jason Scott says:

    I buy whatever hard drives make the most economic sense. This often means Maxtors, which explode quite dependably: I’ve lost 15 hard drives in 2 years. I use a site called Sales Circular (www.salescircular.com) and buy whatever’s on special.

    I am confused what you mean by ports in this context.

  4. Yves says:

    Thank you for posting your scripts for how you are doing this. How are you dealing with same filename issues? For instance, you mention earlier that some are saving their podcasts “barbie.mp3″, what if there are two of these?

  5. Gunnar Wolf says:

    BBS!

    Some months ago, I (as well as some other old-time friends) was contacted by my friend [friend]Nopal[/friend] to help Jason Scott translate to Spanish his project of the last couple of years: The translate to Spanish his project of the last couple of years: The

  6. I am assuming you mean within the same directory, which makes sense.

    At the moment, I am letting wget handle it, which means they are automatically appending “.1″, “.2″, and so on.

    A place that is doing this is already a nightmare in terms of naming conventions; I’m finding the vast majority of mp3 naming is going on relatively well, with names like “digitalplaypen-20050511″ or “therock-011″ or so on. But some of these sites are definitely going to be hairballs.

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