Yesterday I did my first audio blogging post. I think audio has the potential to be a key part of the so-called Social Web, or Social Media as it's being called now. And I like the term 'Social Media', over the more tradional term 'Social Software'. It emphasizes that the current revolution of the Two-Way Web is all about multimedia. That is, publishing on the Web in whatever form of media most suits you. For a lot of folks it's weblogging, predominantly a textual media but increasingly photos and audio. For other folks it's music, using tools such as Garageband to publish their compositions on the Web. There's also video, which will become increasingly viable as broadband becomes a ubiquitous and cheap commodity (it's still a ways away). And of course mixing all those medias together is where the real excitement is.
Which brings me back to audio blogging and how it complements textual blogging. The reason I published an audio recording of myself was to connect a little more intimately with my audience. I've only heard a few other bloggers in audio format - Dave Winer, Jason Kottke, the Gillmor Gang, plus Andrew Chen did a test audio post recently. In all those cases I've felt I've got to know a little more about those people, just by hearing their voices. And isn't that what the Social Web is all about - getting to know people better?
Audio blogging hasn't really taken off yet. Dave Winer and Steve Gillmor are the only two of my subscriptions that I can think of who audio blog regularly. I can't help feeling that it would be great if more of my loosely-joined community published audio recordings. I'd like to hear all those accents - French, English, American (and all the sub-accents - West Coast, East Coast, etc), Italian, Russian, Indian, Canadian, etc. Heck, even Australian ;-) It would increase my appreciation I think of the truly international flavour of blogging. It still amazes me that someone from a little country on the wrong side of the world, New Zealand, can connect to so many people in other countries - just by publishing a weblog. Hearing your voices would add an extra dimension to the virtual community we're all part of (btw I'm reading Howard Rheingold's classic early 90's book The Virtual Community at the moment).
Having said that, there are still technical barriers with audio blogging. For one thing, the file size of each audio post will be measured in megabytes instead of kilobytes. I don't know about you, but I'd have to upgrade my current web server package if I want to continue audio blogging. I only have 16MB of space left right now (enough for about 6-7 audio posts) and my bandwidth transfer allowance would need bumping up. There are potential bandwidth-saving solutions out there - e.g. Freecache, which I'll be looking into.
The other major obstacle for bloggers to overcome is the actual recording. I'm still finding my way in this regard. I recorded yesterday's post on the built-in Voice Memo software on my Palm PDA, which only records in .wav format. I understand MP3 provides a more compact file, plus it is far and away the preferred format of Web users (hat tip to Lucas Gonze for that bit of info). I've yet to discover how to record in MP3 on my PDA, which I'd prefer to keep using as my recording device. And I haven't found a decent software app that converts wav to MP3 on my PC. So I've got a lot to learn before I get to grips with audio blogging.
But technical issues aside, audio blogging is a good way to get to know more about a person. Textual blogging is still the best way to outline ideas and structure your thoughts. And of course you can't link to people (yet!) in an audio post. So text blogging is and will continue to be the foundation of the Social Web, which is good news for people like me who love to write! But text blogging can be augmented by audio blogging and photos (which is something I also intend to do at some point). In the future maybe even video.
Don't take my word for it... I'd like to hear your feedback. Did my audio post last night help you get to know me better as a blogger? When you heard my kiwi accent reading The Fractal Blogosphere article, did it alter your perception of me as a blogger - or of the article itself (assuming you'd read it before)? I'm interested to know your thoughts on audio blogging and whether you will take it up.