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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Tuesday September 21 2010

A basic criticism of internet “radio” and “television” performers on the internet (i.e. people who record sound files and video files and shove them up on the www) is that they (we) go on too long compared to how significant they (we) are.

Do you really want to listen to these guys talking for over an hour? Well, you almost certainly don’t.  (That it went on so long is why it took me so long to make myself put it up.) But if about one dozen people, worldwide, do listen, then something is accomplished.  Maybe one of them will get a point he otherwise might not have, and then write about it or talk about it, not at offputting length, or in a longer thing that people actually want to listen to or read in decent numbers.

Don’t compare it only with Newsnight.  Compare it with a conversation in a pub.  Slightly more people get to hear it than that.  It’s slightly more coherent than that.  It’s recorded slightly better than that, what with it being recorded.  The internet is improved pub conversation, not just “worse BBC” so to speak.  And in many ways, of course, if the BBC is biased, the internet is “improved BBC”, even if it does go on rather.

All of which was provoked by this bit of YouTubery (which I found a link to here).  It’s Hitchens telling (some of) a television audience that they are unthinking morons.  My point being not so much the splendour of Hitchens’s little put-down of his putdownees; it is that clicking and watching and listening will only take you somewhat more than one minute.  Here is a man many would want to watch and listen to at length, yet this is but a tasty little snippet of him.

Going back to how the internet is improved pub conversation, rather than just bad broadcasting:  Public smoking is already illegal.  Any decade now, public drinking will probably follow.  So therefore pubs are now in the process of being made illegal.  Lucky the internet came along, just in time, wasn’t it?

Or, was it merely lucky?  Maybe, now there’s the internet, the people who might have fought the illegalisation of pubs to the death now don’t feel the need.  The internet caused smoking and drinking bans, by diverting the opposition to them.  Discuss.  But not in a pub.

The pub lives. I have proof, having just returned from The Schooner, darkest Northumberland, where, amongst other joys, the barmaid called a taxi for a tipsy octogenarian at 9pm, the ladies darts team lost again, and a Lincolnshire contractor to Barclays complained about having to be in Ludlow tomorrow. And my brother told our host of pubs in the posher neighbourhood charging £2.60 a pint. The gaffer was amazed (£4.50 for a pint of bitter and a pint of Guiness, if you must know).
“The people who might have fought the illegalisation of pubs to the death” are not on the internet. They are in the pub.
I did like “putdownees”. It sounds Kiplingesque. Congratulations if it is newly coined.

Posted by Tony Hewson on 21 September 2010

Tony

Thanks.

And good luck keeping the drinking in public legal.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 22 September 2010

That’s never been my criticism of audio/videoblogging.

Mine’s that I’d rather just read it.

Not only is that faster and easier for the consumer (rather than for the producer, who might find it more work to type), but it lets it be searched.

Can’t find a pithy quote later in a videoblog with anything like the facility of text.

(And being a much larger file relative to the text content, it’s that much more fragile.

YouTube or audioblog content just doesn’t have the robustness plain text does.)

Posted by Sigivald on 23 September 2010

I am one of these Internet “radio” people of whom you speak, and I used to have significant political/ideological content in my show.
Over time however I came to the conclusion that such things were better expressed in text form, and long winded debates were putting listeners off. Nowadays I/we do discuss politics but only in bite size snippets; outlining the general crux of the arguments and our opinions on them, with ample signposting to the blogs etc where interested listeners may read more.
The big problem with any broadcast medium is linearity, if for example a radio listener hears something of interest it is difficult (in most circumstances, podcasts are an obvious exception) to rewind and hear it again. In text form of course someone may re-read a sentence or paragraph as often as they desire very easily.

Posted by Friday Night Smoke on 24 September 2010

I generally like your podcasts Brian, and even though I don’t always get around to listening to them (e.g. Toby Baxendale), if anything I sometimes wish they were longer, e.g. two hours. If I’m going to set aside an hour to listen to a podcast, rather than a minute or two, I’m quite likely to think - sod it - why not two or three hours?

Over the last couple of months I’ve been occasionally sat at the bar of a new pub in my area until 3 or 4 in the morning - trying to win the owner (a U.S. citizen) round to a broadly libertarian point of view. I have some sense that I may be winning, but, as pub conversations tend to go, one problem is the interruptions whilst another problem is that statements get made containing several contentious presuppositions such that the conversation tends to get longer and longer and then it’s 4am and his wife is on the phone.

I keep meaning to get around to laying the arguments out to him on email, but that somehow doesn’t seem right. He says he’d prefer facebook, but I find facebook to be utterly useless for that kind of debate with its very limited comment space. Blogs work do it very well.

On Hitchens, I think he brings a lot of value to youtube viewers learning how to debate (or to do so more effectively) via his choice of very vivid examples, the phrasing of his objections and his clear command of a broad range of facts in some detail. He sets a good example.

Posted by mike on 27 September 2010

mike

You would perhaps be surprised to learn “how much it means to me” that you like some of my podcasts.  After all, they are not that expensive and difficult to do, even for techno-dolt me.  So it only needs a few people to like them for it to be worthwhile.  And when one person actually says he likes them, that has to mean that at least a few others might be liking them too.

Plus, I think your point about how you haven’t yet got around to listening to my TobyB interviews illustrates another point, which is that these things hang around, and have a kind of slow burn influence.  An effect magnified if it takes me a while to get around to shoving it up in the first place.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 September 2010

Although Friday Night Smoke’s point about how podcasts are unsearchable is obviously a real drawback.

A few thoughts on that:

Such things as my TobyB things are, as the saying goes, preaching to the choir, i.e. mike.  But this is not such a bad thing.  Choirs need preaching to.  To get literal, people who have already read stuff about Baxendale may appreciate learning more by hearing him talk.

Talk being a different medium from writing.  As Anthony J Evans (another of the Cobden Centre heavyweights) when I sounded him out about doing one with him said: “Change the medium and fight the tedium”.  Just changing how you say something makes people wake up and keep on noticing who might have been switching off. 

Getting back to searchability, is it not possible that sound files will in due course become searchable, and that google (or whatever) may take you straight to sound files where your words are mentioned, just before the point of mention, so to speak?  Can’t do that now, unless the title of the file is very vivid, and well tagged.  One day, sound itself might be searchable.  I’m sure that technically this is already well on the way to possible.  All sorts must now be working on this.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 28 September 2010

"is it not possible that sound files will in due course become searchable”

It is being attempted. No idea how well that works. I’d imagine you don’t need 100% accuracy to get reasonably useful search results.

Posted by Rob Fisher on 28 September 2010
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