Listening to podcasts at double speed will take you places you’ve never seen, never seen. Start me up.

I’ve long maintained that the scariest message I can see on my computer is a notice asking me if I want to install a new version of iTunes. Well, the message about installing a new version of the iPod/iPhone OS might be a little scarier.
It amazes how often when I update iTunes some basic aspect of my user experience that I rely on gets changed. And I simply adjust.Thanks to Tom Mighell, I now click on the live updating for my “recently added” playlist to make sure that new podcast episodes get added to the list and then click off “live updating” before I synch my iPod to make sure that the podcasts get moved over to my iPod. It’s now a habit and I can’t imagine how I could have lived without this feature before.
But, I’m not here to complain about iTunes tonight.
In my most recnt round of updates, I saw that certain podcasts on my iPod now come with a little button that allows you to play them in regular speed, half speed, and double speed. My podcast world has changed dramatically.
First, a little story.
In the ancient first days of podcasting (and I mean really early), I had a phone conversation with Ernest Miller about podcasting. This was early enough in the history of lawyer blogging that with Ernest Miller and Ernest “Ernie the Attorney” Svenson as “blawggers,” “Ernest” was actually the most common name of blawggers. I believe there were no other duplicate names of bloggers at the time. But I digress.
Ernest Miller thought that podcasting had a lot of potential in the legal world and he went on to create one of the first legal podcasts, The Law and IT with Ernest Miller. If you want to see a snapshot of the early days of legal podcasts, see the Strongest Links column Tom MIghell and I wrote for the ABA’s Law Practice Today webzine in July 2005.
In our phone call, Ernest and I shared similar views about the potential for podcasting and had some similar reservations. Ernest’s great enthusiasm moved him quickly past the reservations – it took me longer to get started with a regular podcast.
What I remember most about the call, however, was my main reservation about podcasts: that they would be another “silo” of information that would be limited by your habits and environments where you listened to audio. In other words, they made sense to me if you commuted, especially if you had a long commute. I had listened to books on tapes, audio courses, Teaching Company courses and the like on my commute for many years. At the birth of podcasting (at least for me), I was working from my house and, as a result, listening to less audio.
As we explored that idea, I raised the point that audio, being essentially a “real-time” medium, did not give you the easy ability to skim and jump around in audio, especially at that time. As a result, the podcast silo of information, being real-time, was measured in time of listening, not number of pages. That is, it’s less formidable to face 100 pages to read (or skim) than 100 minutes of audio.
iTunes also conveniently tallied up the total of your unplayed audio and let you know how many days of material you had if you were to listen to it. My argument/feeling was that seeing that you had several months worth of audio as you accumulated podcasts would be demotivating and demoralizing. As I recall, we talked about ways that “tagging” podcasts so a listener could move easily to new sections, effectively “skimming” the content, might be a good thing. I also mentioned the idea of speeding up the play of the audio to reduce time so long as you could still understand and follow the audio.
When Tom and I re-started The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast on the Legal Talk Network, one of our specific goals was to keep the episodes to 20 minutes – the more or less perfect time for a podcast because it fits most commutes and workouts. OK, we haven’t quite made it there yet, but we’re close.
I also like to listen to some long podcasts – 40 minutes and up. I can do that with a long commute, but it’s actually difficult to start those podcasts, no matter how interested I might be in them, whne I know I don’t have the time to finish them.
One of my favorite podcasts is the BBC’s In Our Time podcast. An episode showed up in my “Recently Added” playlist the other day (because I learned how to use the new check/uncheck feature in iTunes). The episode was on the Egyptian pharoah Akhenaten. I wanted to listen to it, but I knew I couldn’t finish it before I got home. However, it had the speed buttons and I could finish it if I played it at double speed. I went for it and the rest is history.
Now, I’m a huge double speed fan.Although it takes some adjustment, I find it pretty easy to follow at the higher speed. I’ll note that if your attention wanders, you do miss twice as much. I’ve discovered that it’s easier to use double speed with podcasts where you are not as familiar with the voices. Familiar voices sound funny and distracting at the higher speed.
A word of warning, you might find yourself looking for the 2x button on conference calls or live presentations.
For more details and few more suggestions, see MIchael Rose’s excellent post, Inside iPhone 3.0: Enhanced controls for podcast & audiobook playback.
A few conclusions.
Your mileage may vary, but I’m curious what others are thinking about this approach to podcast listening.
I believe that the iPod has long had some ability to “overclock” audio playback, but the ease and ready availability to do so makes an enormous difference tome.
This gives you one fewer reason not to become a regular listener to The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast – there will be a bew episode out very soon.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (]
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