EDIT: 2019 --> 🎉 I'm reviving this project. My work on Quirk is hitting a much more stable point which lets me come back to this. Feel free to read it though. 🎉
I normally like to write stories that teach some technical subject; if you like those as much as I do, then this article may not be for you. It's not particularly polished and not meant to be anything more than a call for maintainers. 📺 Regularly scheduled programming will return shortly.
Over the last year, I realized that there's plenty of things that I would like to build, but I probably won't get to.
In order to better maintain balance in my life, I limit myself to two types of programming attire:
- A single core project (currently Segment)
- Individual learning
Although a side project can fit into individual learning, the purpose is self growth, not the product itself. At the moment, becoming a better writer and researcher is my current individual learning theme.
There's a number of projects I would love to see built, both because I think they're insanely valuable for the world and also because I think they'd be fun to work on.
If you're looking for a large meaty project, will these into existence for me, wontcha?
Podcasts are having a bit of a moment. Listenership is way up as better and better podcasts are released and more folks learn that they too can fill every waking moment of their life with two dudes talking.
At the same time, the technology that podcasts are built off of, RSS, is slowly dying. The death of RSS in a single graph at andrewchen
Many larger players have noticed this, mainly Spotify and have swooped in to try and fill this need. Within the next 5 years, Spotify could take it’s place as the “YouTube of Podcasts.”
But that begs the question, why, after many years of podcasting success, has there not already been a YouTube of Podcasts?
However, it’s very easy to predict a future in which a larger player like Spotify comes in to give Podcasters both more features than RSS can provide but also less control; potentially for the detriment of the medium.
We’ve actually already seen this exact situation play out with blogs. As RSS readers died out, bloggers had a harder and harder time connecting with an audience and were forced to either implement their own subscription service or hop on an existing platform like Medium.
Yet, this now means that Medium is in charge of who sees what. Their algorithms are the ones deciding what’s popular and seen rather than a user’s individual choices. We left Medium. Here’s why. – Latterly – Medium
At the same time, YouTubers suffer from a similar problem because they have no real way to connect with their audience in a world where youtube shows you what it thinks you want instead of what people actually want.
Because as it stands now, a centralized system can offer podcasters significantly better tooling and features than RSS.
Spotify can offer you up to date, accurate metrics on who listens to your podcasts. They likely could offer you exactly when people stop listening and metrics about your audience. These are all serious business concerns for podcasters who survive off advertising. A lack of knowledge puts them at a disadvantage as having a bigger audience and not knowing it will lose you leverage in a sponsorship negotiation.
Plus, Spotify can give a more clear and understandable rating system for listeners, unlike the existing one that’s “somehow” based on Apple iTunes ratings.
And Spotify has a huge network and can pitch new listeners on shows they might not already know about. For podcasters, this means a whole new audience!
These advantages come at the cost of losing ownership over your audience though. Yet, once podcasts move to Spotify, it’s hard to go back. Spotify has the money and influence to advertise itself to a growing podcasting market as THE place for podcasts.
It’s likely that in 5 years, many lay people will associate podcasting with Spotify.
What we need is a new, open and distributed standard. RSS succeeded because anyone could setup something.
However, it’s very difficult to create a new standard and instantly acquire adoption.
So instead, let’s look to standards that already exist.
At the moment, there exists a federated twitter clone that’s gaining steam. It’s got roughly a million and a half active users.
Mastodon is based on a network protocol called ActivityPub. ActivityPub lets several different websites talk to each other.
That’s how a single mastodon instance can talk to another mastodon instance.
But also, it’s how Mastodon can talk to other sites based on ActivityPub. A weird quirk of this system is that someone on Mastodon can subscribe to the feed of someone on PeerTube, a youtube clone based on ActivityPub.
That provides a ridiculous advantage.
We need to put the pub in public radio. (Sorry Laugantias).
ActivityPub would allow anyone to spin up a podcast without ownership by a centralized authority, but with all the benefits of one.
ActivityPub is extensible enough that we can make our own features on top of it, just like how mastodon does, but interoperable enough that we can instantly plug-in to a large audience of people (the fediverse).
We should build a Mastodon for Podcasts.
If open source doesn't get funding it can die due to burnout.
ActivityPub servers have to be hosted and someone's gotta pay for it. Many podcasters already pay for media hosting; they might as well pay for one where they get better insights into their audience.