If you missed the aerogel I perpetrated on scaling, you might want to start there but this is the bit that hangs off the end, after UNLESS IT NETWORKS.
Because net content is weightless, networking maintains the momentum of what I create as other people take up the load of ensuring distribution; naturally because it supports some of their contentions, prejudices or obsessions, but the network guarantees that I will get better distribution of what I produce than I could alone. In that way networking is a gift economy, you lend me some of your credibility and donate access to your network for our mutual benefit and I donate my production to your uses. For example, Gary at Teledyn republishes this blog as a feed and I'm all in favour
But what matters here is the fact that networking tools let me link bits of information so that others can navigate among those bits to see what I'm using to get where I am in that field of knowledge. Some of the bits are "mine" in the sense that I have constructed the artefact (document, image, table, graph, audio track etc) and some of them are constructed by other people. On a network, especially the much discussed Web 2.0, it doesn't matter. The reciever can use the same tools to create similar and equally connected fields of information that include, dip into or extend what I have done.
Fundamentally networking is a kind of Velcro at the edges of bits that encourage them to stick to other bits guided by people. It is certainly a loosening of the idea of ownership that leads to a mindset and a practice that eventually comes into conflict with ideas of copyright and exclusion.
Lets look at some tools that try to do it. Email for example. You send me an email, I can choose to quote part of it, respond to that part, add some more ideas of my own and then redistribute it, back to you, back to the CC's who already saw the original or on to my own list of contacts and colleagues. Its not great because, very quickly the original idea gets fragmented, it can be distorted and, above all, detached from the original idea and the group of people who had an interest in it. The content hives off in multiple directions and there is no way to assemble everything that the original has become. Since part of my definition of networking is that it is isotropic, email tries, but fails.
Web pages are better in one way because they allow me to read what you say, quote it, add to it etc like an email, but also to point a reader to the whole original artefact so they can make up their own mind about whether I am right or not. Problem is that most web pages are one way linkers. While I can call attention to your work, you are not obligated in any way to acknowledge that attention or to engage in any discussion. Again, not isotropic, not a network in my book.
Blogs have changed that by enabling both comments and, the jewel in the blogging crown, trackbacks; they are acts of generosity in support of open discourse. Unlike emails and web pages, blogs really do network in the sense that I'm after.
Which brings me to my original problem with podcasting; that it doesn't network. I can quote a podcast, but I can't link to it from within my own podcast and I can't track back from it, as you listen to it you are not aware of any other part of the discourse that surrounds its topic
The tools for bookmarking. quoting and abstracting from a podcast will surely be created as podcasters take to re-using parts of other people's podcasts in their own, but that makes it more like email where the quotes still get detached from the original and I have to make significant effort to find that original and reassure myself that you are not quoting selectively or out of context etc.
For podcasts to network we would need a pod-back tool that allowed you to link to my podcast with access to a second track that drops a ping into the main track to alert listeners that you have ideas about this or that part of what I'm saying.
And a control in the iPod that lists the people who have referred to this podcast, select the ones I'm interested in and have iPodder etc then download their material when it connects next time, at least until we achieve universal connectivity. Even better, I'd like you to have a customised list of podcasters who, if they ping something I say, automatically get downloaded as well.
I'd bet that Awasu (new alpha version out now) would be one of the tools to do that, Taka has now enabled the archiving not only of the RSS feed, but the whole item to which it refers so we can read the whole thing offline, all it would need is for me to be able to say, "download trackbacks to the post as well" and we have the delivery half of the thing done.
Now Mark Bradley keeps pushing my "Think Earl" button about this stuff and I'm doing my best to figure out what role podcasts have to play in the information sharing landscape, maybe even a business model that will propagate. Let me know if I manage it.