Podcast Idea: Annual Archive Feed

I’ve discovered more podcasts that I enjoy enough that I want to listen to the early episodes. Some are ongoing courses, other are just interesting.

Sometimes, usually with podcasters who “rolled their own” and didn’t do it quite right, it’s easy. The feed has every episode they ever created. (Fortunately, iTunes’s default is to list them all in grey but only download the most current — I like to sample a few before downloading more.)

[Observation: Firefox’s spell-check doesn’t recognize “iTunes”.]

Others, though, who knew more or hired someone who did, only have 10 or 25 episodes. This is the intent of a feed — don’t waste our time with old stuff.

I propose a compromise, for those who can do it.

Keep the current feed showing the last 3 months or so.

Create separate “Annual Archive Feeds”, with maybe 25-50 episodes per feed. This way, if I like your latest episodes enough that I want to start from the beginning, I can do so easily. Engineering Works (iTunesU) does this. Also, once I grab the year I can unsubscribe. If your feed gets rebuilt, only the current episodes get repeated.

This is my favourite method. I can use one program (currently iTunes) to keep track of which ones are available, downloaded, on my player, and listened-to.

Some podcasters create zip files for the archives. This also works, but please number them somehow. For one, I have to go back through the archives to see which title corresponds to which date. Yes, there’s just enough continuity that it’s worth the effort. It doesn’t synch as well with iTunes, but I can deal.

Others, though, make me go back through their entire blog and download each one individually. Blech.

In WordPress, the link https://cricketb.wordpress.com/2010/feed/ gives you a feed for all posts in 2010.

Just something to consider.


More Engineering Thinking

Several months ago I realized that I use a set of 12 folders named with the months of the year in several places on my computer. Pictures, drafts, podcasts, todo lists, all sorts of stuff. So I created an empty set and stuffed it into a folder called “template folders”.

That’s engineering thinking. See something that annoys you and do something about it.

I’m way behind in my podcast listening. For “current” podcasts, I like to listen in the order they were released, both within the series (so I don’t get spoilers) and between shows (it mixes my listening experience up nicely). Many of my favourite podcasts don’t include the episode number or release date in the file name. It’s a pain to edit each file name as I copy them to the player. (No, it’s not an iPod. I got a Sansa Fuze, similar to a Nano, and saved $100.)

I now have another set of template folders labeled “short weeks”. 1-5, 6-10,…,30-35 .

The original plan was to sort by weeks, but I got tired of looking up the date each week starts on. This way is just as easy to use. A weekly podcast will have one episode in most, but not all, folders. Yes, I might listen to Friday’s episode titled “Anything about Distraction” before Monday’s “Xtreme Procrastination”, but it’s close enough.

Why not daily folders? I don’t have any daily podcasts. The only 2/week podcast doesn’t need to be heard in exact order (although it’s easier to keep track if I don’t skip around to much). The player goes nicely between files within a folder, but I have to stop (and dry the dishwater off my hands, or clean the garden dirt off, or dig around in my pocket for the player) between folders.

Why 30-35? The column of alternating 0’s and 5’s is aesthetically pleasing.

Truly an Engineer — Template for Computer Directories

You may already know that I’m a third generation engineer, and half of the forth generation has proudly proclaimed that he will follow in our footsteps.

The hallmark of a true engineer, as opposed to someone with an engineering degree or who manages engineers, is that, while they accept that little annoyances will always exist, they routinely annoy their acquaintances by fixing them. (The annoyances, that is. True engineers often lack the social skills required to fix a person, and are sometimes smart enough to know it.) That’s one of the things that attracted me to my husband. His house was filled with little things that worked. Squeaky doors were oiled. The door the dog used had a weight that closed it — not too fast, not too slow, and it worked reliably. The furniture was solid, as were the few repairs that had been needed over the years. Opa might not have been able to do the math for a degree, but he’s one of those I always hoped to find on a workterm, someone who knew where the screwdrivers were and never quite figured out why others didn’t think this information important.

Yesterday I was organizing a year’s worth of podcast backissues, to feed my addiction. My player doesn’t sort files well. I use sub-directories to organize them and help me listen to them in order. You guessed it, I created 12 folders per year, and 0 to 4 folders within each of them, depending on how many episodes were created that month. The goal is between 2 and 10 choices at each level.

Today I started the annual camera download, in preparation for the Christmas calendar. I have this unreasonable fear that if I don’t check all the pictures on all three cameras I’ll miss the perfect picture and horrid things will happen. Once again, organizing by date was quick, easy, and useful.

So, being an engineer, I’ve now created a template. It’s a folder, labeled 2009 (yeah, I know, bad timing) and containing 12 properly labeled folders.

Baden Guild of Storytellers

A friend’s site is way too low on Google. Events from last year are still rating higher than her very active group. This is my contribution.

http://thestorybarn.ca/ is run by Mary-Eileen McClear, and located just west of Kitchener-Waterloo. She is an awesome storyteller. She also leads (as much as we can be led) the Baden Storytellers’ Guild.

The first Friday of every month, except summer, tellers and listeners gather for an open telling. The guild meets the third Friday. Members range from beginners to well-known national tellers. Great group to try it out and to hone your skills.

My Favourite Podcasts

I admit it, ever since I got an mp3 player at Christmas, I’ve been hooked — even to the point of learning a bit of Python (a programming language).

Why the programming language? My player’s back button is flaky, and I often walk on noisy roads, or listen with kids in the house. It can take five seconds to go back just 10 words, more if I have to dry my hands first. It only took an hour or so to find a free program (mp3splt) that will split by time. Most mp3 splitters split at silence — good for dividing a CD into songs, but not so good for my needs. The interface only did one file at a time, but it worked.

(A note about mp3pslt: If you want the nice interface, use Mp3splt-gtk. For the command line, use Mp3splt . The Windows builds are at the end of the list. The installer.exe files work fine with Vista. Since Wonderful Husband wrote the multiple file program for me, mp3splt has added support for multiple files to the nice interface.)

It also came with a command line for the actual splitter. Cue wonderful husband, who used his favourite programming language, Python, to write a program that automates the entire process. Then, of course, I wanted to play with some of the options. To do that, I had to edit the Python source. At one time or another, I’ve done the equivalent of a first year course in five different languages (five? Basic, C, C++, Pascal, Fortran, Prolog, and Forth. Also Ladder Logic (ugh!). Several versions of most of those, and some serious projects in a few.) So, after he gave me a quick “key differences” heads-up (whitespace counts!), I could edit it. (He still helped me a bit — the instructions for the splitter’s command line interface was poorly written, and Husband’s experience helped decipher it.)

So now I load up a folder with mp3s, run the splitter, and throw them onto my player.

At the moment, I use ThunderBird (yes, the email reader) to catch the latest episodes, but I’m experimenting with iTunes. I also use Firefox and DownloadThemAll to get older episodes — go to a “past episodes” page, then tell DownloadThemAll to filter for audio files. Castroller is also nice, combined with DownloadThemAll.

I try to keep up with current episodes of friends’ podcasts. Strangers’ recent episodes come next. Then archives from the beginning. I try to rotate them, so I don’t listen to five episodes of one podcast back-to-back.

Which leads to the next part of the post: Podcasts I regularly listen to. The episode length is for 90% of the episodes. The occasional one goes over — sometimes way over.


Knit Spirit
Ivy Reisner discusses knitting and spirituality. She doesn’t confine herself — so long as it’s about knitting or spirituality, it’s fair game. I love seeing how the two topics merge. Episodes are usually 15 to 30 minutes long, unless there’s an interview.

Knit Picks (And a more convenient site for this one, for archive grabbing.)
You’d expect a podcast from the owner of a very large online knitting supply store to talk about how wonderful the products are, but Kelly’s a true knitter and spinner. She has faith in her products, but it’s not a sales pitch. She often suggests home-made alternatives, and she often talks about products they don’t even offer, like some specialty fibres. Maybe she’s just far-sighted — get us hooked on the craft with the cheap equipment, then we’ll want to upgrade. Her technical information is awesome, like the structure of wool fibre and tips for colour pooling. She interviews members of the Knit Picks staff, and all sorts of knitters and spinners. There’s also a great books section — enough that I can’t decide which book to get next. Episodes are reliably 20-30 minutes long.


The Writing Cast
Another by Ivy Reisner, about writing. She covers writing and publishing information. Episodes are 15-20 minutes long, or up to an hour if there’s an interview. My interview is episode 79, July 18, 2009.

I Should Be Writing
Mur Lafferty is a writer who is trying very hard to be published, and I expect she’ll make it. She gives advice, interviews a variety of guests, answers listeners’ questions, and talks about recent events in the field of writing. Early episodes are under 20 minutes. Later ones are about an hour.


The Seanachai
“Seanachai” is Irish / Gaelic for “storyteller”. The site’s “about” page has a bit of historical information about seanachais. Impressive people! Patrick McLean presents absolutely awesome short stories and essays, written by himself and others. Some stories are in series. The written background notes are also worth reading. Each episode is 5-10 minutes, but one interview was an hour.

Vinyl Cafe
I grew up listening to CBC radio. Stuart McLean keeps the tradition alive. He tours all over Canada, telling stories and featuring guest musicians. His most famous stories are about Dave and Morley. If you want to understand what it’s like to be a Canadian, this is a must-listen show. Each episode is an hour.

The Moth
I just discovered this one. It’s a group in New York that encourages storytelling. I’m not sure how long the episodes are.


Stuttering is Cool
Daniele Rossi challenged himself: Stop letting his stuttering get in the way of his life, and also create a place where other stutterers can feel less alone. He has succeeded. He started with ordering a moccacino at StarBucks, and now does presentations at PodCamp. Tons of interviews and listener questions. Some interesting interviews, too. Episodes range from 5 to 70 minutes.

A super-short podcast by a speech and language professor who stutters. He discusses whatever’s on his mind, as it relates to stuttering, from the latest research and therapy methods (good, bad and criminal) to books about personal finance — and how the lessons therein can be applied to stuttering. Episodes are exactly 8.5 minutes long, including intro and outro music.


Not quite a podcast, but you can make it one. Free audiobooks, both classics (i.e., out of copyright) and new (i.e., copyright owner puts it up, the author herself). You can download as many chapters as you like immediately, or you can create an account and have it create a podcast feed for you — tell it how often to send you episodes, and it gives you a feed for you podcatcher.

Murder at Avedon Hill
The audiobook I just finished listening to. It started as the author reading the story, but over two years it evolved to a full-featured, multiple-voice combination of narration and audio-drama. For this one, I went directly to the author’s site, so got a lot of extras. You can get just the audiobook at podiobooks.com.

That’s it for now. It’s enough to keep me busy knitting and doing housework.

To Split mp3 Files for my player

Not necessarily of much use to anyone else, but here it is for posterity.

Problem: It is difficult to rewind a short time in my (admittedly cheap) mp3 player. [1] I need to do this often, since I walk along busy roads, and have kids.

[1] A note on cheap: It was a gift. It was within my son’s Christmas budget. He now regrets buying it, because I tell them to be less noisy a lot more than I used to.

Solution, Part 1: Split long podcasts into smaller files. It’s easy to go back an entire file. Audacity will do it, with use of Labels and Export Multiple. The Regular Intervals addon is very nice.

Problem: Audacity takes forever. It converts the file into raw data, then back to mp3. Audacity is designed to do a lot of manipulation that works best on raw data, but is not the right tool for this job.

Solution, Part 2: Try several other mp3 splitters. Discover the usual mix of good, bad and indifferent. My first favourite, Splice, also installed several other programs.

Final winner: mp3splt-gtk, which is an open source project on Source Forge. It takes some menu-diving, but it will split the files into equal parts. (The other options are “where I say” and “where there is silence”, as in between songs.) As with many Source Forge projects, it can run on most platforms. (Well, not the -gtk version, but other versions of the project.)

Problem: The files don’t always end up in order on the player. Without proper tags on the tracks, I have to back out two layers of menu to find the next. Most of the programs, including Splice, don’t preserve the tags, at least not in a way my player can display properly.

Solution, Part 3: More menu-diving and experimenting. Use ID3v1 tags, not v2. Also, before splitting the file, edit the tags / properties on the desktop.

There. That works, and that’s how I’ll do it for a while.

They Don’t Want Groups

First MSN decides to close their group service, and recommends a site using the new, user-centric model. User is central, has own website, and messages are sent between him and groups of friends. Groups added as after though. (They may have done a good job of it by now, but the growing pains were rough.)

Now I learn Yahoo has had a problem for two weeks with new members who have Broadband. Actually, even old members. Near as I can tell (from other things that came up when I searched "new profile", they changed the profile system. All the info on your old profile will soon be toast. Group managers are up in arms that new profiles show nothing.

I’m not sure if Yahoo warned us about this or not. I don’t mind my profile being empty, so may have ignored it.

They als changed what they call things. There are now aliases and identities. No clue how yahoo 360 fits with the new model

I’ve been unhappy with the local storytellers using the mailing list based on my private server, even though I recommended it. Several members are happy, but a few would like to share photos and such.

So, I recommended Yahoo groups. I really like(d) Yahoo groups. I opened the group today and told people to sign up and try it out, and official change in two weeks.

Ten minutes later, I get a call. She’s a good reader, not one of the many seniors. It turns out that last month she tried to join Yahoo for another group, and had the same problem. (I think she even mentioned it when I suggested Yahoo, but I didn’t quite register it.)

More research.

There is a work-around. You have to go to another link separately to break a cycle. You also have to read the entire official post. The first link they give doesn’t work. The one listed way down in the update does.

There’s a difference between removing historical informarion, and correcting things. If they didn’t want to totally erase evidence of their typo, they should have stroked it out and said "correction". As is, I (and I assume everyone else) followed the first link and got even more frustrated. (Personally, I’d have corrected it in the text, said "corrected on", and removed the wrong one.)

The day started well. Son’s special dental Xrays showed 3/4 of the suspected problems will be fine, but one will need a quick bit of help in a bit. Much better than we feared. Errands for rest of the morning. Then Twitter. Then opened the new group and wrote a letter dealing with the usual concerns when moving to Yahoo groups. Then this problem sucked up the rest of the day.


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