Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Had breakfast with Noah Glass. He's the guy who made audblog. Audblog allows you to post voice/sound blog postings to Blogger from a cell phone. I told him that I WANT IT FOR MOVABLE TYPE. He's working on it. ;-) It's a great idea. Here is a192K .wav file of him explaining why he thinks it's cool.

We agreed that a lot of people were knocking it without trying it and that it had huge potential in markets like Japan where the cellphone penetration greatly exceeded PC penetration.

Noah seemed like a great guy, focused, vision. Another great member of the Society of Open Standards Tool Builders...


Sorry to say this will probably (and hopefully!) remain a niche application. At least for linguistic niches. I downloaded the .wav file and listened to it several times. On headphones. Overall I understood maybe 50% of what was said, and at the end I decided it wasn't worth my time to insist. I could have read and understood completely 10 times as much textual information in the same time, and have it in a copyable, excerptable, and quotable form.
So, unless you're a native speaker of whatever language the audblogger is using, have either a quiet environment or good headphones, and/or are dyslexic (just kidding here...), audblogging isn't rally useful... subtitles would be the way to go, but I can't see anyone typing in subtitles to audio on that dinky cellphone keypad...

Actually, the .wav file is from my little casio digital camera with sound recording. Not audblog. I wasn't very clear about that... Audblog, I hear (no pun intended) is quite clear and easy to understand.

Hi, Here is an audblog audio post...for those of you who have yet to try it. It sounds good...ummm, pun intended.

I suppose that this is general response to the skeptics ...or maybe it is a manifesto.
audblog audio post of the following text.
Did painters hope that early photography would remain a niche art from despite the burgeoning artists who felt compelled to express themselves in this new and exciting way? Did the photographers hope that filmmaking would remain a niche medium for expression despite the obvious impact conveyed by those who could use it skillfully? We as a community are multi-media-lingual…but we are like so many of my Latino friends that I grew up with who could understand Spanish perfectly but could not speak a word of it. Maybe we haven’t been able to become multimedia fluent because the barrier of entry was too high…The tools to cumbersome and isolating. Well, the barrier has just been reduced to almost nothing…and in the process of learning to use these new tools we are going to be self conscious…and we are going to stutter, and we are going fumble with our words as we learn to communicate in this new way. BUT, there will be those among us who will become multi-media-fluent. And they will be able to express themselves in the mass arena in ways we haven’t even begun to explore yet.

Noah, it seems like you're contradicting yourself a bit in your statement above. You mention your Latino friends, who could understand Spanish fluently, but not speak a word of it. What was the barrier to entry there? Certainly not technology. There are no cumbersome tools involved in learning a language from the people around you. Nonetheless, it's difficult. And most importantly, you need to have a reason to learn it--a problem that will only be solved by gaining the new skills.

So if your friends didn't learn Spanish, despite the complete lack of technological barriers, what makes you think that computer users will suddenly become "fluent" in multimedia simply because the tools are available? Obviously, I'm skeptical--but willing to be convinced.

I think that often enthusiasts forget that not everyone wants to become "fluent" in all media. Cameras are cheap and easy to use, for example, but not everyone does photography. Even written language is difficult for many, and not because of "barriers."

The fact that something is a "niche" tool doesn't have to be perceived as negative. But I do think that audio content, regardless of how easy to create it becomes, will be less widely adopted and used than text (at least in our lifetime, if ever). Why? Plenty of reasons. Accessibility is one--there's a very large Deaf and hard-of-hearing community out there who won't have access to audio-only content. Language is another--real-time translation of audio content is far more difficult than translation of written content, and that's going to be true for quite some time.

I don't know about audblogging, but I see this as something that could really bring some value to moblogs. As the other commenters pointed out, there are some problems with having a post as voice only. (Am I wrong, or would it be impossible for any government funded sites in the US to utilize this based on section 508 of The Americans with Disabilities Act?) But if everything the caller says can some day be accurately digitally transcribed, and posted along with (or instead of) the sound, it would overcome the tiny pain-in-the-butt key pad barrier, allowing mobloggers to efficiently post more than photos. When that happens, I may even get myself a mobile! :-)

Four points on input formats vs. output formats:

1. Audio is inconvenient to the hearing-impaired, but text is inconvenient to the visually-impaired. Yes, one can argue that text-to-speech technology is more advanced than speech-to-text, but demand must precede implementation. Transcription technology continues to advance.

2. Tone of voice carries more information than the semantic content of text.

3. The effective communication bandwidth of content that is never created (due to input format restrictions) is zero. Our senses are neither interchangeable nor superfluous.

4. Visual and auditory cognition use distinct regions of the brain. You can read text and listen to audio at the same time, especially if you avoid sub-vocalizing the written text. You can't read two blog entries at the same time.

I am sadly having a "been there, done that" moment. A little over two years ago - my, how time flies - I was president of a little start-up company called "PersonaMedia" that had a cute application called "MySpeak." MySpeak allowed a person to dial a toll-free phone number, say his or her piece, and it would be instantly transformed into a compressed audio format (Real, WinMedia, MP3) and posted on a web site. No human intervention required. We even had a host of real business applications designed for it, including the "personal diary." Most of the investment angels we approached at the time loved the idea, loved our conservative business plan (that did indeed lead to profitability based on conservative estimates of revenue growth), loved the maturity of our production operation, and begged off investing, having recently lost their investment capital in the dot-com meltdown. Naturally, we could run for only so long with a shoestring budget and shut down. The only thing I got out of it was a great case study in how to design a business using Marshall McLuhan's thinking tools, that found its way into my book, "McLuhan for Managers."

I wish you the best of luck, Noah. Sometimes timing is everything!

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I'm not sure what to think of Audblog. Everyone seems taken and excited by it. Joi can't wait for a Read More