Welcome back to those of you who follow the blog via RSS feed. Some very odd things were happenin, but we should be back to good. Here’s what you missed in November.
Early this morning, our feedburner badge flipped to over 100. That means there are 102 people out there who have nothing better to do with their lives than sign up to get our pithy social commentary delivered to their news readers every … single … day. I’m guessing it’s the same 102 people who made Clerks II such a box office hit.
By the way, I’d appreciate it if one of you could unsubscribe, so that I can get down to number 101. 101 is maybe the most perfect number in the world:
- It is prime
- It contains a prime number of digits (3)
- It is a twin prime (along with 103), and of course, therefore also …
- It is a Chen Prime
- It is the binary expression of a prime number (101 in binary = 5 in decimal)
- If you add the digits together, the sum is prime (1 + 0 + 1 = 2)
- It is a numerical palindrome
- Chuck Norris can defeat 101 ninjas in simultaneous hand-to-hand combat
In September of 2005, I started a little side project called The Bible Podcast. The idea is pretty simple. I flip on a microphone, and record myself reading a chapter a day from the bible. Then, I upload it to a website where people can download it and listen. Then, sometimes, other people record themselves reading chapters, and I upload them. The website is www.thebiblepodcast.org, if you want to check it out.
Today, this little side project passed a major milestone. It passed 1,000 daily subscribers – people who set iTunes to go fetch the podcasts every single day. In fact, it pretty much blew right through that number, from 800 or so on Monday, to 900 on Tuesday, and today, I logged on to see this:
I’m a numbers guy. I love seeing the numbers creep higher and higher, and to break them down in as many ways as possible. Things like:
get me all fancy up with my bad self. I go to the site and refresh the statistics every few hours to see how much bandwidth people are burning through. In December, the server spit out 300 gigs of data. In January, it’s been burning at a rate of about 30 gigs per day. Matthew 11, which was just posted yesterday, has been downloaded 1500 times.
I know that these kinds of numbers are hardly a blip on the radar for the big dogs in the new media, but in the little world of podcasts about the bible, it’s a pretty big deal.
Gretchen has a theory about the rapid acceleration of subscribers. She thinks everybody got an iPod for Christmas, and then they made a New Year’s resolution to read the bible more. So, they go poking around in iTunes for a way to get their daily bread in tastee little no-hassle packages, like a Twinkee. I think Gretchen is pretty smart.
So, I’m a numbers guy, but I love reading emails from people who listen. There’s a Catholic priest who lives in the northern most tip of Japan, who sat around listening to the Gospel of John with a family who had just lost their young wife and mother. They just put it on repeat and listened over and over again.
There are students in South America who get together to listen to the podcast, and read along with the text, in order to improve their English. Thing about how scary that is, for just a second. You might be walking through Brazil someday and bump into some kid who speaks English with a Mike Lee accent.
There’s a guy who is fairly agnostic about God, but was curious about the bible, so he subscribed to see what all the fuss was about. His email was hilarious. He just wanted to let me know that he enjoyed it, and concluded by saying, “Please don’t send me any tracts or religious crap.” I was tempted to forward him every Chick tract in one ginormous email, but I restrained myself.
There are the people who want to argue about the translation that I’m using (New English Translation, pretty good, in my humble opinion), or they take issue with the fact that I let Catholics into the club (sheesh), or they are upset that I’m reading the Bible “Out of Order” (I’m guessing they think the thing was handed down out of Heaven in a neatly stacked set of galleys, ready for publishing). I get an equal number of emails from people who love the bumper music, and can’t stand the bumper music. I smile a little bit, because I think there are people who just love to pick a fight, and they like it even more if they can call it “contending for the faith once delivered”. Mostly, I just hit “delete” on those. Life’s too short.
A few have just floored me. There are people in countries that block access to sites having anything to do with the bible, but they are able to subscribe to a podcast feed. They listen. Two people have approached me about expanding the podcast into other languages that will reach areas where it is dangerous to distribute bibles. One wants to do a version in Farsi, the language spoken in parts of Iran and Afghanistan. Another wants to do a version in Mandarin Chinese. We’re still working through the logistics, but I’m hopeful that this will come together.
So, the Story of God advances. 500 years ago, they burned the bones of those who suggested that the Bible could be read and understood by the common people in their own language. Today, a 12-year-old kid in Taiwan can log on to iTunes, and download it.
So, I’ve been mulling over the results from the blog survey, and thinking about how many people come here who don’t normally travel in the circles of the blogosphere. I thought about writing a thesis sized overview of what the New Media is all about, and how participation in content creation and remix is irreversibly changing the roles of media producers and consumers. After all, I have to do something while I procrastinate on writing that sermon and designing that new APU course. But, I got bored with that almost as soon as I finished writing that introductory sentence.
I don’t want to explain it. I think you should just jump in and experience it for yourself. Let me give you some tools to get started.
First, let’s get you something that will let you grab information more quickly, without having to go to a million pages first thing in the morning. We’re going to use two pieces of software to do this: one for text (blogs), and one for media (podcasts, vidcasts). Again, I’m just going to ignore the fact that some of you use Windows, because I don’t want to encourage that kind of behavior. I think most new media stuff works on PC’s, I just don’t know how. And, also, the content creators can see what system you logged on with, and they kind of laugh at you behind your back.
It’s a website and a piece of software. The website is free, and you can use it without the software. It works like this: you type in the address of a website you like …
and it goes there every morning to check for new content. Then, instead of you going to all 50 websites you like, you go instead to the NewsGator site, and all the updated stuff is there waiting for you.
The software option lets you sync to the website, repost your own blog, and do a bunch of other cool stuff. It looks like this:
Show Me the Content!
So, now that you have that all dialed in, what should you feed into it? Here are a few suggestions to get you started. The sites are linked, and the feed address is in parenthesis. This is the thing you should copy into your aggregator.
jesuscreed.org (http://www.jesuscreed.org/wp-rss2_full.php) – the blog of Scot McKnight. Great writing, great ideas, great links out to other blogs. Pretty much daily updates of serious content.
Dilbert (http://www.tapestrycomics.com/dilbert.xml) I like the comic Dilbert. I don’t like buying a newspaper. Instead, I use this link to have the daily comic strip delivered to my feed aggregator. Actually, there are a ton of comic strips that I like, so I’ve grabbed a lot of feeds from this site: tapestrycomics.com. Enjoy!
Free in LA (http://freeinla.blogspot.com/atom.xml). I like Los Angeles. There’s like, culture and stuff. This blog lists free things happening in this beautiful city, daily.
Google News custom search. Ok, this one is a bit tweaky, and a bit cool. You all know about the site Google News. You probably also know that you can do a custom search at Google News. What you might not know is that you can get an RSS feed of that custom search, and load it into your aggregator. After you’ve done your seach, check the left sidebar, where is says “RSS Feed”. Grab that link, add it to your aggregator, and you’re off to go!
With my custom search RSS feed, I can follow the news of how my LA Angels are crushing the rest of the league. Hoozah!
Text is great, but what if we want sound, or even moving pictures? Let me recommend to you the fabulous iTunes. Yes, you can use it to rip and download a lifetimes worth of music, but it’s also a very simple-to-use feed aggregator for podcasts. Since it’s Apple, it’s pretty intuitively obvious how to subscribe to podcasts that they have in their directory, but you can also use it to grab feeds that may not be in their vast library. All you need to do is go to the “Advanced” menu, hit “Subscribe to podcast”, and put in that fancy RSS feed we’ve been so hot on lately.
So … what should you subscribe to? Here are some of my favorites. If you have itunes installed, the links should open the podcast in itunes for you.
TEDTalks. These are pretty much all amazing. You especially need to watch Majora Carter. These are video, so you’ll need a fat pipe before you start to download them. If you want some background on what TED is all about, here’s the site.
The Bible Podcast. Almost 1,000 daily subscribers. Get a little bit o’ word with your daily intake.
Ask a Ninja. There are no words for how funny this is. It’s the New Jersey Jewish accent that kills me. I love this kind of “Theatre of the Absurd”, and the Ninja is the master of it. I AM NINJA!
Center for Internet and Society. Got a long commute? These shows range from 45 minutes to an hour, and are produced by Stanford Law School. This is the kind of thing that you would normally pay $5,000 per unit to be a part of, but you get to listen in for free because of the internets.
rocketboom. Do you like your news delivered with poor production, awkward pauses, and unfathomable nonsequiters? You’ll love Joanne Colan and Rocketboom.
And now …
So, those are some things to get you started. Jump in … the water’s warm, mainly because Chad keeps letting his kids pee in the pool. I know several of our regular readers have their favorites, sites that they keep up with on a daily basis. Feel free to list them in the comments. Don’t just dump your list on us, but give us two or three that you think are gems, and make the case for us.
Up the Revolution!