February 16, 2005  ·  Lessig

So because I only understand things by tinkering with them, I’ve decided to tinker with podcasting. I am convinced from an intellectual perspective that this one of the most important net-related developments in a long time. But I need to understand it more than intellectually. Thus, with thanks to Dave Winer and Adam Curry for start-up advice, an experiment in podcasting begins.

I have started, however, exactly where they said I should not — reading written texts. Wired has encouraged me to podcast readings of my columns, and as that was an easy and deadline-related reason to get going, I’ve made that the beginning. The best of podcasting, I am told and have seen, is not read, but written. Writing in mp3 is something I hope to experiment with soon.

Until then, here is 050201 (the first, maybe the only, podcast from February, 2005): A reading of my March column in Wired, read with a very bad cold.

(Geeknote: I’m using Brandon Fuller’s very cool MT-enclosures, I hope properly.)

  • http://jonhenshaw.com/blog/ Jon Henshaw

    Great podcast. However, the digital voice that introduced you with the acoustic music in the background was creepy.

  • Jeremy Tunnell

    Just FYI. There is no reason you need to encode your podcast at 192k/44khz. It just wastes bandwidth.

    If the human voice is all you are recording, you can get away with encoding at 64k/22khz or perhaps even less.

    That would make the download less than 1 meg instead of 9.

  • Bruce Schierstedt

    Ditch the digital voice at the beginning. Otherwise was great to be able to listen and do other things at the same time. Look forward to more podcasts.

  • http://www.evilgeniuschronicles.org/ Dave

    I tried to track you back but kept getting a “403 throttled” error. When you start doing original material, I’d like to put in a request that you discuss music licensing issues, what the legality is of using music, of paying ASCAP or not, and so on. This is an abstruse subject that thousands of people are struggling with and that you have a unique speciality in knowing what you are talking about.

    Welcome to the lifeboat!

  • http://www.DavidJRitchie.com/ David J. Ritchie

    I do like the way you got Stephen Hawking to introduce your first audio podcast! I have heard him speak on other occasions on more abstruse subjects but this is the first I have heard him do podcast introductions. That was really cool.

  • http://www.perfectpath.co.uk/ Lloyd

    Funny how we’re only talking here so far about how you said it and how you’ve distributed this, rather than what you actually said/wrote.

    I think an important dynamic to remember here is that it’s not just the threat of direct competition for people to use their pipes, it’s also the threat to telecom companies telephone revenues from free VoIP that is facilitated by freely available broadband.

    I’d rather hear you thinking aloud than reading what you thunk and polished. But it sure beats my first attempt, which was entitled “The first post always sucks” and lived up to its name 100%.

  • http://www.evilgeniuschronicles.org/ Dave


    My podcatching client is not getting your feed. By examining it, it looks like it is malformed. The enclosure object is not contained inside an actual item tag, but is outside of them. Depending on the client, this isn’t going to work with them because while it is valid XML, it is not valid RSS.

    Let me try to paste in the affected piece of code and see if it comes through the comment – this is what you have:

    <enclosure url=”http://www.lessig.org/blog/archives/050201.mp3″ length=”3129667″
    type=”audio/mpeg” />

    when it should be:

    <enclosure url=”http://www.lessig.org/blog/archives/050201.mp3″ length=”3129667″
    type=”audio/mpeg” />



  • http://superstition.blogspot.com/ David

    I appreciate most of your work but I think you may be a little off track on this particular topic.

    You make an analogy between public services (street lights and water) and free wi-fi internet access provided by municipalities. But how about letting city governments get into the hamburger business? The city could sell great hamburgers for fifty cents each or heck, why not give the hamburgers away for free? Of course, our tax dollars would be paying for the hamburgers in reality and vegetarians who don’t agree with government hamburger stands would have no choice but to pay their fair share since they are in the minority. Think of all the good free hamburgers would do!

    Clearly, there are two issues here: 1) Doing “good” with tax dollars is not the correct measuring tape; doing “right” is more important than doing “good”. 2) It may be appropriate for government to compete with private enterprise in some limited areas but the debate should be about which areas and why, not simply about how much “good” can be accomplished by government.

    I believe a business is evil when they compete unfairly or unethically. A business is not evil simply because it is successful. I don’t know if the telecom companies are evil. Have they successfully lobbied for laws that prevent other private companies from competing with them?

  • http://www.jointheconversation.org Scott Chacon

    Great job for a first podcast, it sounds good – I can’t wait to hear an off the cuff one. If you still want to do a computer generated voice, and you don’t like that engine, you can try Festival, they have some pretty good diphone synth voices.

  • http://htmlfixit.com Don

    Larry (or is it Professor Lessig to me?),

    I really fail to see the value of a podcast that merely reads that which is written. To be honest, unless it clarifies or explains further, or somehow brings to life that which is already in the written text, I can read it faster, I can use a screen reader to make my own “podcast” without sucking down either your bandwidth or mine, and I can skip backwards and forwards scanning as rapidly as I want. It may well be the latest trend, but wouldn’t I do better to set something up to convert all interesting content into a spoken format so that I can listen if I prefer that over reading, perhaps while engaged in some leisure time or down time that cannot be avoided?

  • Isaac

    I really enjoyed your first podcast. It’s a nice change up from the hundreds of pages worth of reading that I do in a day. If you continued to simply read your latest work, I would gladly listen in. I think I’d ditch the electronic voice, but that’s just a personal preference. Keep up the good work!

  • http://jfcarter.blogspot.com Jean-Fr�d�ric Carter

    Thank you, this is is a very pleasant initiative.
    The fact that I could listen to your podcast while doing something else at the same time was really interesting.

    Although I have to say I don’t agree with you on this topic.
    David is right when he says that this way of thinking the competition and the market is flawed.

    You’re right on one thing: WiFi in public places would definitely be a positive thing for municipalities.

    But instead of making the government a new competitor, wouldn’t it be better to urge city governments to pass incentive measures to equip public places with WiFi?

    The government, in fact, does not pay attention to one very important aspect of the fair and equitable competition: efficiency. Private companies do, as it is a matter of survival for them.

    Putting the Government into the competition would disrupt the balance of the market, and, I believe, would weaken the position of private companies.

    These conclusions were drawn from what we experience here in France where some areas are yet to be open to free competition (electricity, gaz, and to a certain extent, communication networks).

  • Dan Costello

    It was a real pleasure to hear this podcast — personally, I don’t share the objections of some of the posters that complained about the fact that you’re “only” reading something you’ve already written. Hearing the human inflections in the delivery (bad cold aside) enriches the content, in my opinion. Plus, it’s nice to be able to get some of my “daily feed” in the car. So, thank you, professor, for this experiment, and please keep it up!

    Also: David, the government is in the free hamburger business, in a limited way, in the form of food stamps. And personally, I do not object to my tax dollars being used to subsidize the food budgets of my poorest neighbors, as it benefits the entire society when its poorest members are not desperate to feed their starving kids. The point behind programs like food stamps, health subsidies, public education, and yes, municipal street lamps and highways, is explicitly that they are in the interest of the “public good”. Any concept of “right” simply does not enter into it — “right” is a moral term, reserved for philosophy and religion, and while it may well apply here, it’s irrelevant. For similar reasons, Jean-Fr�d�ric’s comments about “efficiencies” may well be valid, but in my opinion high-speed internet access is too important a resource to be concerned with such matters. While it’s undoubtedly true that the government would not be the most efficient provider of net access, it would be the most uniform provider, and that’s the point. Our society has been, and continues to be, so radically transformed by the net that it’s too important to leave to the market, which is by no means guaranteed to act in the interest of the public good. As a former EU citizen, I can tell you that they are currently eating our lunch in this area (as Prof. Lessig mentions in his ‘cast), and it is benefitting their societies and economies in countless ways. In short, screw the private companies — there are plenty of ways for them to make money that don’t critically impact our society.

  • http://litterature.canalblog.com tom_gab

    Great Podcast !

    If there are some French blogger here, you can visit my blog where I talk about podcasting and litterature ! See you there !


  • mrsungo

    The experiment definitely worked. The vocal presentation was nice because of the way your performance conveys some of the intent behind it in a way that written word might not.

    Also, as a Philly expat – it is always nice to see someone provide a “critical” assessment of Ed Rendell.

  • http://boycott-riaa.com independentmusician

    Great! Hope you do more of these Lawrence. BTW, linked this blog and your podcast over at our site.

    Shmoo, aka independentmusician
    Boycott-Riaa admin

  • Ryan Clark

    Great. To be honest, this post got me started on podcasting. I’ve been meaning try it out for a while, but never had a real reason to. I hope you make this a regular feature of your blog!

  • http://www.DavidJRitchie.com/ David Ritchie

    A couple of comments on the content of the podcast and the arguments about whether or not it is legitimate for public bodies to provide WiFi, Cable, and technical methods of communication along side of commerical outfits.

    When it comes to cities who have put efforts into establishing
    healthy communities of people, who should benefit from the harvesting of that spirit of a healthy community?

    Consider the baseline expense (and income) to be derived from that same number of people were they to all be spreadout from each other as in a rural setting. The usual argument of companies which provide cable and WiFi and internet and so on is that there is no profit to be made in it. So they don’t do it.

    When a confluence of interests occurs to cause people to congregate in more densely populated fashion, the same companies find it profitable to provide such services–harvesting the benefits of higher population density. But why should it be an axiom that they (who in many cases have done little to bring such communities together) and only they have the right to take the harvest. Why shouldn’t alternate economic geometries be considered where the axioms are different and the universe be one in which it is considered legitimate for some of the providers of cable and wifi and broadband be the cities who have worked so hard to establish the communities.

    Cities provide police and fire protection in order that economic market places can flourish. Why can they not also provide ways for their citizens to communicate?

    In most television today, you can see the effects of the “advertisement-push” economic model of delivering program content. You see almost certainly that the program content selected by such an economic driver is that of the lowest common denominator of interest or the most far out expression — when coupled with cheapness of production — you get what we have now in commercial television and radio (talk radio and survivor tv).

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