From time-shifting to media-shifting

It's great to be able to time-shift media, but more and more lately I wish I could media-shift as well. Consider this fifty-minute interview1 with Jim Gray, on MSDN's Channel 9. Why haven't I watched it yet? Not because I lack interest, or time, but because the content isn't available in a format that suits the kind of time I have. In this case, the format would be audio, and the kind of time would be walking-, jogging-, or driving-time.

Months ago, on a long drive, I listened to this ITConversations podcast of Jim Gray's SDForum talk on the economics of distributed computing. It was one of the most productive drive-time experiences I've ever had. If I could queue up MP3s of Jim's Channel 9 appearances, I'd use them the same way.

Same thing with the talks on CSPAN's BookTV. I can time-shift them, but I can't media-shift them -- at least, not easily. While it's entertaining to see the authors, and while the visuals -- slides, photos -- are sometimes important, a surprising number of these shows would work just fine as audio. And in that format, I'd be able to consume a lot more of them.

Visuals aren't always optional, of course. The Jeffrey Snover and Jim Truher demonstration of Monad wouldn't work as audio, you've got to see the live action onscreen. So it's a judgement call, but my sense is that CSPAN, MSDN, and others are missing a big audio opportunity.

Note that in some cases, audio presentations could adapted for missing visuals. While out walking yesterday, for example, I listened to Clay Shirky's excellent ontology talk from ETech 2005. The absence of slides was mostly not a problem, but there was one glaring exception. A reference to a slide that presented "Sentence A" and "Sentence B" was indecipherable. It'd be cool if one of Doug Kaye's production interns had broken in at that point and recited the sentences.

1 The fact that I found it with this Google search rather than this MSDN search or this MSN search says something about Microsoft's ongoing failure to internalize the dynamics of search.

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