Podcasting with Open Source

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been posting podcasts to the Sourceforge blog. (You can subscribe to our podcast HERE or in the iTunes store.)

Almost everything that I do in the process relies on Open Source software developed at Sourceforge, so I wanted to take a moment to thank those projects.

Recording and editing: Audacity

I record with a Blue Snowball with a shock mount, which is a USB mic that I can plug directly into my laptop. If you’re looking for a mic to get started with, I recommend this one. It’s easy to use, and gives excellent sound quality.

Usually I record the calls using Skype and Call Recorder. This is the one piece of non-free software that I use in the process. It’s free, in the sense that I didn’t pay for it, but it is closed-source. While there are alternatives, it’s not always reasonable to expect the person that I’m calling to install and configure new software just so that they can talk with me for ten minutes. Pragmatism has its place.

The editing is all done in Audacity. I’ve long been a big fan of Audacity. I have other recording programs, including some commercial ones, but haven’t yet found anything that beats Audacity for either functionality or ease of use. Some of the commercial apps do more, but so far it hasn’t been anything that I needed to do. Also, their documentation is simply wonderful, including detailed explanations of even simple features. Additionally, there are numerous community-created howto videos showing how to do various tasks.

Until recently, I was using GarageBand for one particular part of the podcast creation process involving merging several different tracks seamlessly, and found a video showing me how to do this in Audacity.

So, I use Audacity to clip out the smalltalk, the um’s and ah’s, and try to edit the conversation down to the essentials, so that you’re not forced to listen to a lot of extras. I know that I have trouble finding the time to listen to the few podcasts I follow, and if it’s much more than 10 minutes, I tend to move on. I try to respect your time in the same way.

Audacity exports in MP3 and Ogg Vorbis formats, which many commercial tools don’t do.

Editing ID3 tags: kid3

When necessary, I use Kid3 to update the ID3 tags on the MP3 and Ogg files. This is a final sanity check to make sure that the files we push out all have consistent tagging, so that they’ll show up in the same place in your various audio programs. Kid3 is one of those delightful pieces of software that just works. No unnecessary extras. It’s small and fast and efficient, and gets the job done.

Uploading: Filezilla

Yes, I could just use command-line scp, and often I do. But Filezilla integrates well into my workflow, so I use it sometimes to copy these resulting audio files up to the staging area so that the folks I’ve been interviewing can review the recording before I push it out to the blog. Filezilla is another piece of software that just works. It is intuitive and doesn’t require a great deal of setup or explanation in order to get it to do what you need.

That’s all

Sure, it’s not a big toolchain for this task. And I continue to look for ways that I can replace non-free components of it with Open Source software. I have, for example, come across a few references to projects that were presumably Open Source implementations of the Skype protocol. Unfortunately, they all seem to be abandoned projects, which was sad. However, as I said above, pragmatism has its place, and one has to get the job done.