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December 15, 2005

An Audioblogging Manifesto

AN AUDIOBLOGGING MANIFESTO

Transcribed from http://www.idlewords.com/audio/manifesto.mp3.

As broadband expands and as blogging tools become easier to use, a world
of temptations has opened up to the online writer. The latest of these has
been audioblogging, or posting snippets of speech. Videoblogging is
following on its heels.

At first blush, audioblogging sounds like a natural extension of online
writing. What better way to convey your own ideas than through your
own words, spoken in your own voice? Bloggers like Halley Suitt
(http://halleyscomment.blogspot.com), Dave Winer
(http://www.scripting.com), and Adam Curry (http://live.curry.com) have
taken this idea and run with it, mixing frequent audio posts with their
text content. In the highest-profile audio blog post to date, Winer
even announced the cancellation of a blog hosting service - affecting
hundreds of users - in a ten minute audio file (you can hear it at
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/blogs/gems/crimson1/aboutWeblogsComHosting.mp3).

But before you jump on the audioblogging bandwagon, remember this - the
power of the Web is the power to choose. You make your own trails, and
your own links. You read what you like and skip the boring bits. And
audioblogging takes that power of choice away. Your listeners become a
passive audience - they have no power to skim, they can't skip the
boring parts, they can't link or excerpt your post effectively. Your
post becomes invisible to Google and other search engines. And anyone
who has a hearing problem, or a dialup account, or doesn't speak your
language too well, anyone who is trying to surf your site from the office,
or from an Internet cafe - well, they're just plain out of luck.

Consider also this - the average person speaks at one hundred, perhaps
one hundred fifty words per minute. Meanwhile, an accomplished reader
can read ten times faster - up to a thousand words a minute, and that's
straight-up reading, not even skimming. You're forcing people to listen
to you at a speed that's barely faster than the speed at which they can
type. Why are you wasting their time? Is your voice really that
beautiful?

From the invention of the alphabet, to movable metal type, to the advent of
cheap paper, universal mandatory public education, universal literacy,
the Internet - the modern world has built on the back of text! This is
not by accident! This is not a mistake!

Ask yourself - is the key to making your site more interesting really to
add rich media? Or is it possible that if you took more care in your
writing, said something passionate, grammatical, interesting, and pleasant to
read, it would actually make more of a difference?

Henry David Thoreau said "Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which
distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means
to an unimproved end... We are in great haste to construct a magnetic
telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have
nothing important to communicate"

So what do you have to communicate?

Thoreau may not have been a big fan of technology, but we can still read
him one and a half centuries later and be pulled in by his beautiful
prose style. Is your audio post going to stand the test of time?

Brothers and sisters, we deserve better than this, and those whom we write for
deserve better. This is not what we built the web for! For the first
time in human history, you can have anything you write read by millions
of people, whether within days or within hours, and all it takes is
talent, imagination and the discipline to put up something worth
reading. There are no obstacles anymore - so why must we create new
ones? Just because you're going to be able to do a real-time three
dimensional high-definition interactive virtual reality fly-through of
the inside of your cat - does that mean you should? Does that mean it
belongs on your website? This is not the legacy we want to leave!
So stop the ridiculous self indulgence, and shut up and write.

And if you want a copy of this without having to listen through it, by God
you can find one at http://www.idlewords.com/audio-manifesto.txt.

August 31, 2004

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