I have set up a new site, audio.orbific.com, which contains a feed for audio recordings. Basically, it’s a podcast, but without the consistency people expect from podcasts nowadays. It will contain stories, voice messages, field recordings, interviews and so on. The first couple of recordings are up. You can follow them there, or watch here for mentions of significant ones.
The first recording is a simple voice message:
I want to spend the rest of this post talking about the technical details of setting up a podcast. One of the joys about podcasting when it first emerged around 2004 was that it was a clever hack, built on the RSS file format, enabling people to automatically download files onto an iPod. It’s worth reading Warren Ellis’s evangelical 2004 piece where he tries explaining why this is important. About 15 years later, podcasts are now huge, with Spotify signing a reported $100 million deal with Joe Rogan – but it’s taken a long, long time to reach that point.
One of the initial attractions of podcasting was its grass roots nature. They were made by hobbyists, and there was little way of capturing analytics to sell advertising. Now there are various platforms available which will set up a podcast. Some of these are free, but make their money from advertising (such as Spotify’s anchor platform); others take a fee for hosting.
Setting up a podcast is now easy, compared to the instructions in Ellis’s 2004 piece. But I faced three main issues:
- I wanted to maintain control of feed’s address on a domain I owned.
- I didn’t want to pay large monthly fees for hosting the podcast
- I didn’t want to be part of a surveillance mechanism designed to sell advertising.
I considered a WordPress plugin, but that was a little more complicated than I wanted. In the end, the ideal set up was a Jeckyll static site with audio files hosted on Amazon S3. There was a template for this on GitHub that I could adapt. In the end, it took me a couple of hours to get working, and was relatively simple, although the work would be too much hassle for a lot of people:
- I needed to fork a GitHub project. The GitHub tools means the site can be directly edited on the web without knowing about git, so it was not as hard as it might have been
- The post files are edited in markdown
- I had to edit the DNS for my domain to create a subdomain, and then point that to Github pages
- I am using Amazon’s S3 to store the files. Setting this up was a drag, involving lots of forbidding warnings about making S3 buckets public.
- I set up a Plausible analytics script to track visit. This was something I heard about from James Stanier, and allows site users to be logged without infringing their privacy (it doesn’t even require a GDPR opt-in).
If, after reading the above, you’re interested in doing something similar and want my help, get in touch. For me, the most difficult bit was finding the toolset I needed. That, and dealing with Amazon Web Services configuration, but that bit would be easy to swap out.If you want to follow what I'm up to, sign up to my mailing list