Packet Rat: Rat writes off podcasting as ready to push up daisies

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

'OK, Web logging is now officially pass',' the Rat announced recently to the members of his technology support star chamber.

'Well, duh,' one of his henchpersons replied. 'But what led to that pronouncement?'

'According to my sources, Boeing is negotiating to buy 10,000 licenses for Movable Type blogging software from Six Apart Ltd. of San Francisco,' the cyberrodent said. 'Blogging is about to go full-bore corporate.'

By the Rat's reckoning, the best judge of when a particular Internet technology has jumped the shark is its mass acceptance by the corporate world.

'Remember how great e-mail was before everybody had an e-mail account? Like when you had to either be a .mil or .edu, or have an MCIMail account? Same thing. Now that every worker drone will have a blog to keep his or her boss informed of progress on daily tasks, the thrill will be gone.'

But the whiskered one wasn't done counting the dead yet. 'By that same token, podcasting is ready to start pushing up daisies. Clear Channel Communications is taking up podcasting,' the Rat carped. 'Heck, the company has sucked the life out of everything else it's touched.'

A podcast is a collection of audio files, usually MP3s, which are published via RSS, an Extensible Mark-up Language syndication format. Users automatically download and listen to the files on their iPod, other mobile device, or desktop computer, using software such as iPodder, iPodderX or PrimeTime.

Technophiles around the world who have dreamed of having their own radio show have flocked to podcasting, occasionally also known as audio blogging.

In Germany, ambitious podcasters have found a way to podcast by dialing up into a server and leaving a voice message that then gets syndicated.

The problem, of course, is finding a podcast worth downloading. Some podcasts are recorded while would-be Web radio personalities are engaged in such thrilling audio events as washing the evening dishes.

Others, such as erstwhile technology columnist Steve Gillmor and his 'Gillmor Gang,' gather together a group of digerati for hour-long ego-boosting sessions.

In general, podcasts are a lot like the Columbia Record and Tape Club: You never know what you're going to get, and usually you can't wait to get rid of it.

That's exactly why the Rat finds the phenomenon so puzzling. 'I used to do something like podcasting back in the day,' he reflected. 'I'd cobble together some personal messages and music and record them. But they were called mix tapes back then.'

Fortunately, the whiskered one has already caught the first wave of the next big thing: pad-casting. Instead of syndicating audio files, he's using RSS to publish the original form of journal technology: hand-written en- tries in a notebook.

'Check it out, guys,' he said, displaying his ring-bound personal analog assistant. 'It's even its own offline backup!'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at

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