bestkungfu weblog

How to help a podcaster

Filed in: accessibility, media, SXSW2005, Web, Wed, Mar 16 2005 12:06 PT

Eric Rice interviews me on his audioblog, from a hallway at SXSW. I talk about the accessibility issues with podcasting, as well as a new concept designed to help the situation, which I will explain in some more detail here.

I have done thirteen-ish episodes of Staccato, and while I have tried to find time to transcribe the spoken parts of my show, I am, it seems, hopelessly in arrears. Right now, ten of them remain untranscribed.

This leaves me with a dilemma. I have a limited number of waking hours available to things like the show, eating, and talking with people. So, given the time I have to allocate to Staccato, my choices are to continue to produce the show untranscribed, or stop production of the show while I transcribe two or three old episodes per week. I know I’m not the only one in this position: it’s usually the number one issue that’s brought up when I talk about transcription.

Transcripts are good, and not just for accessibility. They have other attractive properties, such as the possibility of searching and scanning, and the ability to deep-link and cite what is going on. I think a lot of what is out there (most notably what is on IT Conversations) would be able to reach many more users with a searchable transcript, without losing those users who, like Steve Gillmor, prefer the human voice and its untranslatable properties.

So I have a request that I think would help any podcaster in a similar situation to mine. Staccato has several hundred listeners per episode (not bad for a fifty-meg file). What I’d like to ask is for just of those listeners to get in touch with me. Here’s what I ask of you: I’d like you each to volunteer to transcribe one episode every three months. In exchange, I will credit you with a link of your choice in the transcript, and thank you in the following show. You can email me at (my username is mattmay) or put your email address in the comment area. (Only I will be able to see it if you also enter a URL.)

I’m calling this concept fanscription. (Yay. My first neologism.) This would be a great way to support your favorite podcasters by doing something that helps increase their visibility, while also making their work accessible to users who can’t hear them. And I think it would work for any podcaster with more than, say, fifty regular listeners. But there’s really only one way to be sure. I would estimate that a show like mine, which really has only five to ten minutes of talking, would take about a half-hour to transcribe. Shows with interviews are likely to take longer. (Music lyrics don’t need to be transcribed.) And it doesn’t really require an expert to do — just a text editor and a good MP3 player. Once I have a few fanscribers, I will post some tips on how to do it.

This interview cut out about 30 seconds before the end (reason: dropped phone connection), but I did say this to him before we realized it was lost:

So, you’re going to be transcribing this, right?

It shouldn’t be that bad for his first experiment. 🙂

10 responses to “How to help a podcaster”

  1. […] 46 pm  General

    Matt May talks with Eric Rice and floats what he calls fanscription.

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  2. Sgn me up. I’m only a beginning listener, but I’d be happy to help out

  3. Uri says:

    Just heard Eric’s interview, and jumped here for further reading.
    The concept is interesting, still Transcriptions seem to be a bit overflood of content.

    Is there a way to tag an audio file? I mean to set tags for chunks within the audio file? similar to what flickr does for pictures.

    This way the user can navigate through bookmarks in the podcast, and authors can create a more attractive form of content.

  4. Ryan Shaw says:

    Uri: check out They have developed a system that allows temporally indexed tagging/annotation of audio and video content.

  5. Uri says:

    Thanks Ryan! looks interesting. I wonder if it’s the only tool that’s available. Seems that media contect annotation is a must.

  6. A wiki might suit this exercise well

  7. Jay Fienberg says:

    A wiki is a good idea. Matt, if you do already, or if you would write up a brief outline of what you plan to say, post that to a wiki, then listeners could go in and fill out the details.

    I think your approach is correct though: you should get volunteers signed-up and the volunteer for each episode should be responsible for producing a final transcript. But, the wiki could help collect notes (and, in fact, perhaps listener annotations would be an interesting addition to the actual transcript–you could choose to publish them!).

    Also, having a playlist such that someone can cue-up just your comments would help.

    (Oh, and I’ll volunteer to transcribe.)

  8. Uri says:

    If volunteered multilingual translations work ( fanscribing should also work for podcasters.

  9. […] Joe Clark has posted another couple of interesting articles today Abandon All Hope which links to an interview with Tim Berners-Lee on OUT-LAW and Matt May’s idea of fanscription. Also he calls on the Web Standards Project (WaSP) to respond. […]

  10. Barrie Segal says:

    A really interesting concept. Have you tried recording the podcast and then transcribing it using voice recognition software?

    Barrie Segal – Founder of and also

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