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2008-04-15 13:04
by Will Carroll
So in the midst of doing a BP chat today, I mentioned that I'd played around with the idea of doing an audio chat. I'm glad I didn't mention that I've also considered doing video chats, since the reaction was immediate.

"How do you expect me to alt-tab and check the chat at work if it's audio?" was one response. "There's no sound card on my work computer," said another. Aside from the concept that people are surfing the net during their jobs rather than, you know, working, it surprises me that people resist new technologies.

When I got my first computer, it had a friggin' cassette tape drive. Seriously -- cassettes, just like what you play music on. It was a TRS-80, Model 3, if I remember correctly. It worked in BASIC and had 16k of memory. 16k! I had a Commodore Vic-20 later and even once I got into Macs, my first one had the expensive and unthinkably huge 40 megabyte harddrive. Earlier today, I was listening to a lecture on Buddhism that was just over 40 megs.

Before broadband, YouTube wasn't possible. Today, I'm not sure what the next step is, though I'm still unconvinced by lifecasting, though I enjoy the work of Justine Ezarik and Robert Scoble. So why do baseball fans, or at least BP readers, resist something as low-tech as sound?

Simple. Convenience and comfort.

Sound doesn't work for most because they don't think they can use it and it's a bit outside their comfort range. The problem is that until you work out the kinks of something, there's no way to get it comfortable for people. Video is the same as sound in this way, but to me, besides the impulse to innovate and push forward things, I think it's the choice. I doubt that people would listen to a chat in the same numbers that they read chats today, but I'm not sure that it wouldn't end up being 50-50, especially if we could get more questions in and get better answers. If there was a way to do both the audio chat and a transcription in near-real-time, all the better, but I don't have a way to do that, let alone a cost-effective way to do it.

At the leading edge of "new" technologies, there's a resistance that's difficult to overcome, both internal and external. Why do you resist? Discuss in comments ...

UPDATE: Rights issues are something that I often run into. It's illegal to do secondary comments, even post-broadcast, and to run videos using MLB property. Yes, I know a lot of people are doing it, but they tend to be too small to attract notice.

2008-04-15 13:30:16
1.   Josh Wilker
This is the answer of a luddite by choice and (moreso) stupidity, so take it with a grain of salt: I resist because one way or another most "upgrades" I've submitted to have ended up confusing me and/or costing me money. Often I'm too stupid to change things anyway, such as yesterday when I tried to upgrade my computer so I could watch Pete Maravich clips. I had to just keep imagining his moves.
2008-04-15 13:52:15
2.   Ken Arneson
That's a good point, Josh. Youtube works because it's built on a technology (Flash) that most people have installed on their computers anyway. It's embedded in web browsers and doesn't require any extra downloads and installations and such. It's simple, it works.

Real Networks blew it when kept making you upgrade their software for the sole purpose of filling their players with ads and other crap in an effort to monetize their product.

2008-04-15 13:53:44
3.   Ken Arneson
Oh, and my first computer, a TI 99/4, also used cassette tapes for storage. Floppy disks were an amazing technology.
2008-04-15 13:57:59
4.   Ken Arneson
Also, I find I usually only partake in audio/video when I'm alone. Two reasons: (1) I don't want to interrupt other people with the noise, and (2) when I'm exploring something on the web, I don't always know what I'm going to get. If I happen to click on something embarrassing, now I've shared that with everyone around me.

I could use headphones when browsing the web, I suppose, but who does that?

2008-04-15 14:09:52
5.   Josh Wilker
2 : "Youtube works because it's built on a technology (Flash) that most people have installed on their computers anyway. It's embedded in web browsers and doesn't require any extra downloads and installations and such. It's simple, it works."

How humiliating! A newer version of Flash was exactly the thing I was trying and failing to install.

2008-04-15 14:29:34
6.   dianagramr
My first computer was a Commodore 64, with cassette drive.

Ah, those were the days ...

2008-04-15 14:39:24
7.   kirbyk
Listening to an audio chat, or watching youtube, is a much more active activity. I have to pay attention, at least somewhat, and it's a pain (especially a live chat) to backtrack and go 'Wait, who did he just say ate a live chicken?'

A text chat, on the other hand, I can work while letting it scroll by, glancing over every few minutes. The slowness is a feature! And I can read the log later, at my leisure.

For me, it's not a technology problem at all, but a different kind of choice. It's a much bigger decision to say, "I'll dedicate the next half hour to this goofing off" vs. "I'll work at half speed for the next half hour for this goofing off." (Assuming these happen during working hours, and being on the West Coast, they usually do.)

That said, don't let this stop you - I'm sure some people will really like it. But the reason people like text chats isn't clinging to the old nearly so much as the format fitting in better with a multitasking environment.

2008-04-15 14:54:44
8.   Cliff Corcoran
Sounds to me like you're not listening to the feedback you already got, Will. Most people read things like Toaster and BP at work and, for a variety of reasons, can't employ sound (and thus video), either because they don't have a sound card, out of respect to those in the neighboring work spaces, or because they simply don't want to make it obvious that they're doing something other than work.

I know the traffic at Bronx Banter spikes in the morning, when folks get to the office and check the news and such before beginning their work, at mid-day, when folks do some browsing with their lunch, and during games. The third similarly argues against multi-media. You can scan a chat or an article while keeping one eye and both ears on the game, but you can't watch or listen to two things at once (at least I can't).

Speaking of scanning, I think that's the other argument against audio or video chats/blogging. With all of the content out there, a lot of people will scan your text for items that might interest them, but you can't effectively scan an audio or video file for mentions of Jorge Posada's shoulder or Scott Kazmir's elbow. You have to listen to the entire thing, and that can be a slow and tedious process if you're only interested in that core piece of information.

Thus I think that it's ultimately a time issue for a lot of people. I can read a post or a chat faster than you can read it to me, even without scanning the sections that don't interest me. As nifty as audio and video files can be, they're not the most effective technology for fast and efficient communication. Nothing beats the written word for allowing readers to quickly and efficiently cram as much information and as many points of view into their heads as they want. Audio and video are better for entertainment, and there's room for entertainment in baseball coverage to be sure, but the games themselves generally have the entertainment side of things covered. We who cover them are in the information business.

To oversimplify--audio and video blogs:text blogs::Segways:walking. Sometimes the older technology is simply better.

2008-04-15 14:57:30
9.   Jon Weisman
8 - Yep.

But I do remember Trash-80 computers!

2008-04-15 15:12:46
10.   ABreck
I don't know if I'm a Luddite, but I'm definitely a resister. I didn't get a cell phone until 1.5 years ago when my son got one - they snookered me with the "Hey, it's only another $10/mo and the phone is free" deals. And I don't wear a watch either. Or an iPod.

It's not a "fear" of technology, but it is an attempt to maintain my space. I've seen how the crackberries and the like have speeded things up... and then overrun people. I like having some choice in when people can reach me and haivng others realize that I'm not accessible 24/7. Most things can wait half an hour.

With all that though, I don't think your idea is crazy. Many years ago I took a communications class and they said people tend to learn 2 of 3 ways - audio, video, and kinesitic (touch). It put my school into perspective - I really don't remember much of lectures. But if I take notes (touch), it's amazing how much of it I remember, even without re-reading the notes. Sight is still my primary method, but hearing doesn't work well (as my wife can attest to).

Anyway, the purpose of this was that it does make sense to get the message out to people in different media.

Thanks for all you've done.

2008-04-15 15:20:38
11.   Schteeve
8 Well said Cliff. One other thing, unless one is using headphones, computer speakers tend to accentuate the mid-range, and make voices sound nasally and pinched.

I can barely stand to listen to music on computer speakers, I certainly don't want to hear some blogger droning on even if that blogger is as talented as Cliff or Will.

Finally, while I realize that blogs are inherently attention whoreish, I think the desire to audio-blog is very much on the pretentious, self indulgent side.

There's a good looking female Yankee blogger who does video blogs on her site, and they frankly make me want to claw my eyes out because they seem so transparently self aggrandizing.

2008-04-15 16:52:46
12.   David Arnott
Commenting on the Update... I would love to see audio/video done well by "the masses". If we were talking about the NHL, it might have a chance of happening, but MLB is pricklier about such things. Not having rights is the biggest reason not to do audio/video, I think, since there's no use going to those media unless you cannot get across your message in the written word medium. If it's merely repurposed text into audio, sure that's nice for that segment of the population with a clear audio preference over text, but the rest of us will probably find it more aggravating than interesting, for all the reasons laid out above. If you're playing primary audio or doing a physical demonstration or performing a song or skit, audio-visual makes sense, but otherwise, sticking with straight text and flat illustrations is probably the more attractive option.
2008-04-15 19:21:08
13.   Dangerous Bri
re: the update. MLB while looking like it has its act together in new media really doesn't. They need to let people do 30-60 clips on youtube or wherever. A great example is the Clayton Kershaw clip from spring training. Jon posted it the Wall Street Journal posted a link and a site called usemycomputer posted it. There you have Dodger site, a business site and a site with have naked girls on it all posted the video of a PITCH!! ONE Pitch and what does MLB do? They forced it off of Youtube. That clip had 750,000-900,000 views before it was taken down. What kind of free press did the Dodgers Kershaw and Scully get? After it was taken down I went to the Dodgers site to try and find a clip and it was nowhere to be found!!
2008-04-15 20:22:30
14.   Cliff Corcoran
13 Infuriatingly stupid. Have they learned nothing from the idiocy of the music industry?
2008-04-16 05:15:22
15.   williamnyy23
8 Exactly.

14 It may be infuriating, but I am not sure it's stupid. MLB has been very aggressive policing its brand of late, and while the actions might be annoying to some of us, you can't argue with its astronomical economic success.

Youtube is such a force because of the number of eyeballs on the site. MLB isn't really gaining much by having a million people head to YouTube to watch a clip. It would, however, gain significantly if it can force those eyeballs to one if its owned sites. Traffic is king on the internet, so I don't blame MLB for wanting to steer it their way.

I think we are past the age of sports leagues needing "free press". With the advent of things like, an MLB cable channel, regionally owned sports networks, etc., baseball has the ability to create its own "free press".

2008-04-16 06:19:35
16.   Will Carroll
I've seen Viddler (a YouTube knockoff) with "tags" -- basically, there's dots along the video timeline where things can be tagged. Mostly used for comments, it could be more useful than this example - - though you do get to see Justine dance.

My bigger question is - is 10% that like video enough for the effort? Won't that grow and some percentage of "readers" become watchers over the longer term?

2008-04-16 07:43:07
17.   Schteeve
16 Most likely.
2008-04-16 08:04:28
18.   StolenMonkey86
The first computer I used, around when I was 2, was a Sanyo with a green screen and two floppy drives. No hard drive. That was quite a joy.
2008-04-16 09:04:02
19.   P Bu
I can print off a chat transcript and take it into the restroom with me. Despite the size of my laptop and availability of wi-fi, I'm reasonably certain I can't bring my computer in with me. I recognize that's less a reason not to have audio/video than it is a reason to keep written chats, but it's my two cents.
2008-04-16 11:37:08
20.   Cliff Corcoran
16 Ah, now we're talking about new and better technology. Sure, if you could do a video UTK with tags for each player discussed, then you'd be closer to the utility of text. That said, a talking head is pointless. Use the video to show rather than tell (footage of injuries or bad mechanics, or simply pointing to where it hurts) and use tags and you're really onto something.
2008-04-16 11:50:09
21.   Shaun P
I know at my office (we're a small company, less than 15 people), if I listen to any streaming audio online that's longer than 1 minute or two, it occasionally starts to eat up enough bandwidth to slow down our staff's connections, so they complain. I like the idea of an audio chat, but it wouldn't work for me at work.

3 To bring this full circle, my first computer was the TI 99/4A, with the cassette drive, and the speech synthesizer. That thing, at the time, was awesome.

2008-04-17 14:17:07
22.   George Y
There's another problem with audio chat. I assume you have a moment or two to pick a question, think about it, and write something worthwhile in a "traditional" chat. With an audio chat you sort of have to stay on the whole time as dead air is hard to listen to, which means you have less time to think, less time to craft. It's one reason I hate Q&A interviews in print magazines, as you know they're just a product of a tape recorder, not a thinking interviewer. Or, as Gay Talese called it "the first draft drift of my mind."

As for old computers, if you want a terrific overview of them, check out the book "Core Memory: A Visual Survey of Vintage Computers." Beautiful photos and well-written copy.

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