Thursday, 19 May 2011

Podcasts for everyone

Have you ever listened to a podcast?  Most people seem still to be shying away from learning to enjoy the range of listening or viewing opportunities available to them.  I'm hoping to convince you that it is easy and that you might be missing out on a world of entertaining and informative programming.

Perhaps you have tried your favorite TV station's web based player to watch a TV programme that you have missed?  It is as simple as that to listen to a podcast.  If you don't mind sitting at your computer or using your mobile phone's web app you can often just go to the website of a podcast and listen or watch it there.  There is actually no need to wrestle with new software or learn how to transfer it to your MP3 player (or i-pod if that is your preference - although it definitely isn't mine).  I'll come back to that later.

The only trouble is . . . how to find out what is available out there, and where

A year ago I had not taken the plunge into the ocean of podcasts, but now I am surfing the waves and hardly ever listen to the radio.  This is not just my annoyance with the BBC showing through again.  Radio 4 actually does host some interesting, intelligent and informative programmes.  But there are not enough of them, and the overpowering political correctness sometimes forces them to 'teach the controversy' even if there really isn't one to teach.  Most independent podcasts do not feel compelled to follow the same restrictive guidelines and they can take the risk of causing offence without upsetting their directors (or the government).They do not have to present a fully balanced argument, although most of them do.

To be perfectly honest, I can't remember what made me look for the first podcast, let alone which one of my current twenty I found first.  But these days I look forward to day of publication of several independently produced programmes.  Some others are there as gap fillers, and I even listen to one  religious offering about 'Intelligent Design' - and hate it!  My own preference, as you will have noticed from the topics of this blog, is currently for scientific and skeptical subjects, and I am not averse to a regular dose of atheism.  If you are one of my regular readers - yes there are a few of you and I appreciate you all very much - you could enjoy the same.  I think over the next few weeks I might venture to review some of the good (and the bad).  I am just trying to decide how to categorise my comments.

I have deliberately avoided getting into the question of how to download podcasts onto your mobile device.  If you find yourself drawn to this type of media I am sure that you will find a way.  It is of little use to explain that I personally use a programme called 'gpodder' to manage my podcasts and transfer them to my Sony Walkman 16GB MP3 player.  Those of you with Macs will find that it is all intuitive (or at least you will tell us that until your dying day) and those on Windows can probably use media player or something similar.   (I might have mentioned before that I don't use Windows or a Mac at home, but run Ubuntu linux instead.) 

As a taster - try these, in no particular order but all excellent!

by Brian Dunning. 
Short accurately researched weekly episodes about the mysteries of the world.  Click the picture for a link to the home page containing recent episodes (or transcripts if you prefer to read instead of listening).

Skeptics Guide to the Universe 
from the New England Skeptical Society. 
Intelligently and entertainingly looking at subjects of interest to skeptics.  I think this embedded code for the following picture will play the latest episode for you, but failing that you will at least find their web site here.  There are two options: the regular weekly hour long programme or the '5 x 5' podcasts which are more like those from Skeptoid.

The Pod Delusion
UK based, (clever name too), taking 'sceptical angles on topical politics and pseudo-science'.  Many interesting reports from interesting reporters and now apparently very high on the list of favorites on i-tunes (not that I know anything about i-tunes).  They also publish special recordings of specific UK events from time to time.  All being well you can listen to the embedded object here or you can visit their web site.

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