A couple of hours after I posted on Odeo yesterday, I got a mail from David Janes at BlogMatrix suggesting I try out his new tool Sparks! (not my exclamation mark!) which is an integrated podcatcher, rss aggregator, blogging tool, media player and podcast creation tool (at least those are the elements that I could discern, there may be even more…) and which is going for an official launch next week.
For these tools, it’s early days and the field’s wide open, and as AC keeps saying on the DSC they can only compete on quality and time to market. Well my initial reaction to the BlogMatrix offering is congratulations on getting to market quickly – and engaging in the conversation with little guys like me – not quite full marks yet on the quality of the product. So quick to market with a product like this isn’t quite kicking someone in the nuts.
I found it straightforward, but I’m not good at thinking out of my own experience. I couldn’t get my head around the podcast recording/mixing bit. Your file gets posted in .torrent format – which is fine if you know what it is and you’ve figured out how to get bittorrent to work efficiently behind your firewall etc. etc. I think overall the missing bit is documentation – David tells me there is a support page up now, but it’s still very bare.
This is what I said to David by e-mail:
“1. Easy to set up and get going – I understood most of the things
that i needed to do, but I’m used to aggregators and I’ve been
podcasting already for ooooh a couple of months! I liked that I
didn’t have to give you gazillions of bits of information in order to
register – free hosting doesn’t hurt any either…!.
2. So far I have recorded all of my podcasts on minidisc, transferred
them to PC and then done some post-production in audacity which I’ve
also used for mp3 encoding. With sparks! I just tried uploading a
previously published file of around 3 megs – went up very easily,
though I could have done with a status bar to see how far it had got.
I also mixed something from scratch, but I don’t have a good mic with
me and I don’t really think in that mixing way – dunno need to play
with it a bit more – I kind of worked out what I was supposed to do,
and I could see it working for a daily source code type show, but for
me it was too complicated.
3. Not sure about the .torrent format – I can understand the
rationale, but it’s still a bit bleeding edge for me and it shuts out
a lot of my listeners many of whom have taken a long time to get used
to downloading mp3s! I also sit behind a variety of firewalls myself
and so I don’t always get the full benefit. I think it’s a risky
strategy is all – I’m sure you’ve thought about it.
4. I struggled to find my blog page to download and listen without
sparks! I’m sure I’ll find it again… but this was the only annoying
moment – perhaps it could be signposted or put in the registration
confirmation email – “once you’ve published something it will show up
at http: //www. etc” that kind of thing.”
This morning Doc points out that it’s currently only available as a Windows .exe, which is the kind of thing that Doc notices but I don’t. I think though that I would like it better if the UI were simpler – perhaps browser based or if it has to be a client-app, then as with Ipodder Lemon 2.0 a bunch of tabbed sub-screens.
Doc also hints that we might see something from Odeo soon – I’m sure there’ll be some more detailed Podshow announcement as well, so then perhaps we can start comparing real features rather than going on about what we haven’t heard yet.