Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Self-Hosting Oral History Audio (or Lectures) with Free Podcast Generator Software

Radio shows and audiobooks are wonderful resources for learning, particularly for people with commutes or who like to walk / jog / exercise regularly. There is a “texture” and communicative power to the spoken word which isn’t captured fully in written texts. Pre-recorded (asynchronous) audio recordings provide fantastic flexibility for listeners, who can start and restart their learning at will. Before audio podcasting platforms like Spreaker, AudioBoo, and Soundcloud, the process of creating and sharing an audio recording online “took more clicks.” (Or in our day of touch tablets and smarphones, it “took more touches.” Apps and the interactive web (web 2.0) define our “modern” computing era where “the ethic of minimal clicks” can radically streamline the process of publishing for a global audience. In this post, I’ll introduce and recap a screencast tutorial I created yesterday explaining how to migrate a radio show channel published with Podcast Generator (free, open source software) to a different website.

I’ve been in love with podcasting since it became possible to “subscribe” to channels of audio content using a portable music player. In the early and mid-2000s I “virtually met” educational technology leaders like David Warlick and Bob Sprankle thanks to the ideas they shared in their podcasts and their student podcasts. Access to these ideas had a HUGE impact on my thinking and development as a teacher, and audio podcasts and audiobooks (via Pocketcasts and Audible) remain an important part of my weekly learning habits today. The educational audio and video podcasts on the EdReach Network alone are immense and fantastic. If you’re not learning via audio podcasts like these on a regular basis as an educator, it’s time to start!

While I love the convenience and speed of radio show / audio podcast creation using apps and web tools, one significant disadvantage of these platforms is also their biggest benefit: Someone else provides the hosting and storage of your audio files. This isn’t a problem (and is a huge benefit) as long as that company and website remains online and in business, but things can get ugly if (for some reason) their website goes dark. I’ve personally lost important audio recordings because I failed to download them offline and back them up, when the websites and Gabcast closed for business. This can be a painful experience, and is one BIG reason to consider hosting your own audio podcast content with a free platform like Podcast Generator.

If you want to use a self-hosted web platform like Podcast Generator, WordPress, Yourls, or anything else that runs on PHP code (and often mySQL databases) you need to pay for access to a web hosting account. Prices for web hosting vary considerably, I’ve used multiple hosts since the mid-2000s, and this holiday break I’ve again had to go through the painful process of migrating my sites and content to a different server. My current web host (as of 31 Dec 2013) is Site5, and I’m very pleased with their features, service and pricing relative to other web hosts I’ve used. One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to using web hosts is the benefit of registering your domains SEPARATELY with a different registrar, so you can remain independent / flexible when (and if) the time comes to move to a different host. I use GoDaddy for my domain registrations. When you move a site to a different web host, you have to change the DNS information for your sites so they “point” to your new web hosting account.

In the course of doing research for my dissertation, which focused on an undergraduate phonecasting study, I learned about the open source software project, Podcast Generator. As I do with many different web tools, apps, and software programs, I found some ways to use Podcast Generator in “sandbox” sites where I could play with it and learn how it worked. One of these sandbox sites I started circa 2007 was “Stories of Christian Faith.” I worked with youth deacons at our church to interview and record stories about church members’ journeys of faith, using battery-operated audio recorders. Another sandbox site powered by Podcast Generator was “Lecturecasts by Wesley Fryer,” where I posted audio recordings for undergrad classes for pre-service teachers on technology integration I taught at the University of North Texas and the University of Central Oklahoma.

I don’t anticipate many folks will visit and listen to any of those audio lectures, but I think this site is still valuable as an example of what instructors, professors, and K-12 classroom teachers CAN do with respect to making audio versions of classroom lectures available FREE to students and others. The “Stories of Christian Faith” website is one I’m more excited to preserve because of the content it includes. There are some priceless audio interviews with members of our church who are now in their 90s and 80s, as well as other younger members. It’s HUGELY beneficial that these audio recordings are not simply hosted on a third-party website for free, but instead are hosted on a web server I maintain and pay for. This gives me direct control over these media assets, and permits me to (hopefully) make them freely and openly available forever. (That’s a long time, and this raises interesting issues about “Preserving Your Digital Afterlife,” but this becomes realistically possible with self-hosted media assets).

I was elated to learn this week that Podcast Generator software authors released a 2.0 version at the end of November 2013. Podcast Generator is very easy to use, and a very unique open source project. It’s certainly possible to create self-hosted podcasts using WordPress, and I continue to do that with the PodLove project, but Podcast Generator has a simplicity I love and now an updated version with several important, new features.

In the course of migrating my websites to a new host this holiday, I recorded a 9 minute video screencast explaining how to use the CPanel file manager to migrate an older Podcast Generator installation to a new web server / web host.

I hope this post and screencast will pique your interest in Podcast Generator, if you’re not already using it, as well as your interest in oral history and radio shows / audio podcasting!

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