A recent innovation involving RSS feeds is the podcast. Not just for text-based information, RSS can also handle embedded media. With the addition of the Google video player and del.icio.us’ PlayTagger audio component, I can experience both without leaving my web-based RSS aggregator.
Normally, I simply don’t have time for listening to people natter on for an hour on a topic that might take up a single paragraph elsewhere. However, the day Yahoo brought out their podcasting service, I came across one that immediately intrigued me. Since I have tried a number of times to learn Mandarin, ChinesePod.com seemed like it could be a surprisingly educational source in a sea of inanity.
I still use a Creative Zen Xtra 40GB player, so I needed something that could support it – that ruled out iTunes, which has its own podcasting support. Juice, formerly iPodder, is a nice little podcasting client I’ve found for Windows that easily handles multiple feeds and doesn’t use up a lot of memory as it works in the background. I have it set to sync when I start my system and once it is done, I edit the files’ metadata with ID3-TagIt, and then transfer the MP3 audio files to my music player for listening on the drive to work. Performed almost like a radio show, the laid back style of presenters Ken and Jenny is a sharp contrast to the rigid and often boring Pimsleur tapes I fruitlessly struggled with. Starting with very basic words and building up comprehension within a handful of lessons, they inspire confidence in students while keeping the material relevant, often drawing on current events.
As the year of the Rooster (that’s me!) goes out, the year of the Dog comes in. Make your New Year’s resolution to actively search for diamonds in the rough. Web services can only improve if you demand the most out of them rather than accepting the common output.
Update 2007-11-07: Check out this site on learning to speak languages….