Podcast Roundup: Before the Beginning

I hope to make this a regular feature: each week, I’ll write up a few gaming-related podcasts I’ve been enjoying, with info on how to get them. But first, two introductory matters.

#1: So What’s a Podcast?

The term is thrown around a lot, and often in various flavors of “oh, of course everyone knows about this” tone. But not everyone does. So…

A podcast is a file containing, well, whatever anyone wants to share with the world. It might be reviews, or commentary, or humor, or rants, or all of those, or something else. I’ll be focusing on audio podcasts for the time being, but there are video podcasts too, and if I ever get around to getting something like an iPod Touch, I’ll start reviewing them too. Podcasting is the art and craft of preparing and publishing one or more such files. Successful podcasters put out episodes at whatever pace works for them—I’ve seen good ones done every few days, weekly, and biweekly.

It’s possible to subscribe to a podcast in much the way you can subscribe to a weblog, with syndication protocols like RSS and Atom. The Wikipedia article on aggregation software is pretty good. iTunes is set up to automate a lot of that for you, including syncing to portable devices; I load up podcasts when I’m doing household chores.

So in practical terms, what I’ll be reviewing are programs from ten minutes to an hour and a half or so long, distributed at varying frequencies, with one or more contributors talking about things you may wish to know more about.

#2: Standards and Practices

I got into some controversy when I mentioned this part on my LiveJournal, so of course I’m going to do it again. Remember, fans are smarter than other people. :)

The world of podcasting is not a regulated one, and individual standards of taste, production values, and the like, are all over the map. I am not attempting to cover everything out there. If, for instance, someone sets their recording volume so low that I just can’t hear them, they go to the bottom of the pile for review selection.

I’m also making some selections based on taste. I’m not much offended by a lot of bad language, and it can be really entertaining. But I will mark podcasts with what I consider funny scatology, so that those of you with other tastes can know what you’re getting into. In addition, I’m also not recommending podcasts with what I consider just plain bad taste, or worse. One evening I was listening to a bunch of different podcasts, and three in a row had casual rape jokes. None of those will be in my recommendation list for now, because I have friends who are rape survivors and all of them find casual rape jokes deeply distressing. Nothing in the podcasts struck me as so enormously valuable that I’d ask my friends to stick their heads in the moral and emotional blender for them. Likewise with other kinds of bigotry and just general nastiness.

So far I’ve been accused of sabotaging free speech and wanting to turn the world into North Korea because of this, among other things. Obviously I don’t think I am, but others are welcome to disagree. For now, at least, I’m focusing on podcasts that seem to me unlikely to add an extra burden of misery or distraction to listeners, because I think life gives enough of that already. If by chance I were to encounter a podcast that seemed tremendously worthy despite having such things in it, I’d mark it very carefully and clearly.

Next up, some reviews.

[Picture taken by Flickr user Stefan Powell, used here via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]


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