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Archive for the ‘RSCDS’ Category

The podcasts I listen to and how BusinessWeek got it wrong

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on December 3, 2006

Is Podcasting revolution over before it began? BusinessWeek seems to think so and quotes Pew Internet & American Life Project’s statistics. The topic is also generating some buzz in the blogosphere, with BusinessWeek’s interpretation being gleefully accepted by some and thoughtfully rejected by others.

I believe into podcasting‘s future because it is here already for me. I have a 40 minute walk to work each day, so I have over six hours of content a week I can consume. And being quite busy during days, nights and weekends, I try to use that walk time constructively as well. I have been listening to the podcasts from before they were called that and, so, had some time to get my bearings. And they are basically aligned with what the concept of Long Tail teaches us.

Strangely enough, BusinessWeek did not even mention any of the concepts that are important for me and my podcast consumption. That’s how I know the article is missing many points. It is not really unexpected, as it takes a while to get past the beginner’s understanding and actually see the real depth of the concept.

My current collection is at 25 podcasts and I have discarded over time probably twice that number. Less than a third of the podcasts on the list would be considered even vaguely popular by normal measures, the rest are plainly hyper-specialized to my needs and interests.

Over time, I had dutifully sampled and eventually discarded Adam Curry, Dave Winer and Gillmor Gang podcasts. They sporadically have some interesting content, but so infrequently that I find myself frustrated with all the filler. Gillmor Gang specifically I have given 3 or 4 tries over years, but I think they were most interesting during their ITConversations’ days.

I also don’t have any popular radio podcasts. I find the latest news to be easiest to consume in an aggregated or RSS format on my computer. That way if a news item is interesting, I can follow up on its references or setup keywords alert for the future notifications. Podcasts, in my mind, are much more suitable for content that has already undergone some thought process by its producer. I know that for some people, the reasoning is different but just as valid (for them).

I break my subscriptions into roughly 5 categories:

  • Technical News – In my industry (IT) it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. Without these podcasts I feel that I would not notice what is coming down the line until it would be too late and I would be stuck maintaining Cobol-equivalent systems forevermore.
  • Trend watching – Many interesting things are happening in the world if one just happens to be in the right place at the right time. These podcasts put me into that place and do it very early in the ideas’ lifecycles: somewhere between a cutting edge and an early adoption stage. I may not have time to participate, but sometimes the knowledge I get allows me to leapfrog the conventional process. For example, I have been on a cheap Voice-over-IP service (Lingo) for nearly two years and saved myself money and hustle of dealing with Verizon and its ilk.
  • Learning new skills in a background – I may not have time to allocate several active hours a week on a useful, but not currently essential skill, but podcasts in these category allow me to learn something through osmosis over time. Later, when I would need those skills, I would have already absorbed enough to be a very quick learner.
  • Language learning – I am studying Spanish now and before that I was learning French and Esperanto and there is always some improvement I could do to my English. These podcasts provide additional learning (or meta-learning) material. Some of them are also good edutainment.
  • Entertainment – Some podcasts are just funny or interesting or have my friends in them. They round up the collection nicely.

My full list is available publically, but here is the breakdown by the categories as I see it:

Are there more podcasts I would have liked to listen to? Certainly. I would love a podcast on computational linguistics. At the moment, even the bloggers on the topics are extremely rare.

I would also love a podcast on Scottish Country Dancing. There is just so much one could do with that. I know that at least one person have thought of it and given up as unsustainable, which is a real pity. I am tempted to start one myself just to prove her wrong.

Finally, I think there is a way to make a better language-learning podcast/video cast than the ones I found so far. I have mentioned some of the ideas to at least one person in a position to do that. Nothing happened yet, but such things take time. I will wait a while and, if nothing happens, will blog it here instead. I don’t mind prividing competitive advantage to a company that deserves it through good service, but will not sit on the ideas forever either.

To summarise the long post, I think that podcasting has legs and will succeed in the content niches that appeal to people based on their individual interests and needs. There is a lot of fluff and junk podcasts on the web at the moment, but it is getting better and, as with blogging, the absolute number of interesting podcasts is growing fast. It takes some time to find good content, but it really pays off in a long run.


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RSCDS website refresh

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on November 7, 2006

The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society has updated their website. It now looks prettier, runs on more modern technological base and promises better up-to-date information.

This is the next step after the redesign of the society magazine to move forward in times, while preserving the original goals of the Society.

It is good to see the society recognising that internet is worth putting time and effort into, especially with members and branches all over the world.

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Scottish Country Dancing in Houston

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on July 12, 2006

Scottish Country Dancing is danced everywhere. It is certainly danced in Houston (Texas). The website of the group run by Dianna Shipman looks friendly and inviting. While some links are dead, the explanations of figures are quite interesting and have cute hand-drawn diagrams.

Worth a browse.

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On equal footing: Scottish Country Dancing and Football

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on July 5, 2006

In Lisbon, they know a good sport when they see one. During their annual Fun and Games Day, people can compete in many sports including Football, Touch rugby and Scottish Dancing.

While the rules for normal sports are easy to find, the ones used for two team competitive Scottish Country Dancing are somewhat harder to come by. Fortunately, I have the description here, courtesy of Roger Picken:

Two teams at a time are taught a simple dance (like Dunnet Head) during each “match” and the winner is the team which performs it best.

Apparently, this is a very popular activity. And, as described, capable of demonstrating that even a simple dance can present challenges by drawing upon one’s pattern memory, one’s sense of timing and distance and above all one’s ability to apologize after stomping on the partner’s foot during one of those advance and retire figures.

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RSCDS dancing at United Nations

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on June 29, 2006

New York branch of RSCDS organizes a dance event at United Nations every year. All money collected go to UNICEF. This year we collected 1500$.

The floors at United Nations are not all that good to dance on (marble), but it is for a good cause. And it certainly gets a lot of attention from the UN visitors, as Saturday is an open day and we dance right in the main visitors area.

I have uploaded some of the pictures from the dance event to Flickr.

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