Open standards lower the barriers to innovation. This principle continues to prove itself in the real world. With the open standardization of the PC in the early eighties, many new concepts, technologies and ways of communicating sprung up and flourished. Open standards and open source have done the same thing for the Linux operating system, allowing many new players to contribute and innovate in a way that was previously not possible. Leveraging the open standards of TCP/IP and UDP, the Internet itself has given life to a host of new technologies and paradigms for collaborating and communicating.
Out of this primordial, open-standards soup, a number of new technologies have emerged. Among them are Voice over IP, real-time chat, blogs and podcasting. Building on RSS, BitTorrent and other open standards, podcasting delivers true time-shifted, channel-based content to users. Podcasting has effectively lowered the barriers of both who can produce and consume audio, video and other content.
First appearing in 2003, the growth of podcasting is unprecedented. Today, iTunes lists more than 38,000 podcasts in a variety of categories, while the estimate for terrestrial radio stations is about 36,000 worldwide. The number of new podcasts is growing at the rate of 800 per week (siliconrepublic.com/news/news.nv?storyid=single6194). For more information, see the following four sites:
Novell Open Audio is a podcast that started in early 2006 under the direction of longtime Novell technology enthusiast Ted Haeger. Novell Connection magazine interviewed Ted Haeger about Novell Open Audio and what other projects he is currently working on.
Ted, let's start by having you tell us what Novell Open Audio is.
Novell Open Audio is essentially an audio program about Novell and SUSE Linux technology. We produce the program for people who want to get past the press releases and product announcements and find out more about what Novell is doing from the people who actually set the direction for and create Novell software. We offer it through the Novell Web site (novell.com/openaudio), but also as a subscribable podcast through the iTunes Podcasts directory or other podcast subscription portal. So people who want to take the program on the road with them, like on their commute or to the gym, they can easily have the show delivered to whatever portable audio player they use.
We also post upcoming interview topics, dates and people on the site. That way, if someone has a burning question they want to ask one of our guests, they can send us the question. We send out a Novell Open Audio t-shirt to people who give us questions. It's kind of a cool shirt. On the front it says "I ask tough questions." It's a great one to wear at BrainShare's "Meet the Experts" night.
What topics do you cover on the show?
A lot of the show's content focuses on Linux. That's partly because of Novell's strategic direction, but also because Linux is my current technology fascination. Linux is peculiar because it's technology that is heavily intertwined with a really strong culture. I think the culture is contagious. Somehow I've become one of the people who really believes that open source, centered around Linux, is fundamentally changing the whole IT industry.
For me, desktop Linux is where the rubber meets the road. I use Linux as my primary operating platform, and I'm amazed by the speed at which desktop Linux is technically advancing. That's why probably a third or more of the show's content covers stuff happening with the Linux desktop. It's my personal interest creeping in and influencing the show.
But Novell still has a huge portfolio of technology, and our listeners request topics from across the board. They keep me on track by constantly reminding me of what they want to hear.
How did the idea for Novell Open Audio come about?
The idea wasn't originally mine, I just inherited it. (That's how I get most of my good ideas.) A sharp guy whom I worked with when I was on the Novell Linux Desktop team told me, "We have to launch a podcast show, and you're going to host it." When he went off to another role, I inherited the project. So I get undue credit for the idea.
If you don't have a portable audio player and don't want to shell out a couple hundred bucks to get one, don't worry. You're not left out in the cold. Just listen to any podcast on your computer.
What background do you bring to the show?
I've always been a techie. Before working at Novell–was it really nine years ago?–I was a Certified Novell Instructor and Microsoft Certified Trainer. I pretty much was a geek who was lucky enough to find a job that allowed me to become an expert in some cool technology. In 1997, I joined Novell as a technical sales guy in the San Francisco Bay Area, and eventually moved into the Novell ZENworks product line, and later on to Novell eDirectory. Then some Novell executive thought I would make a good marketing guy–which I didn't–and put me on the Novell Linux Desktop marketing team. Eventually, one of our current executives realized the mistake and moved me into a role as "Director of User Communities," which allows me to spearhead cool programs like Novell Open Audio, and get back to my geek roots. So, really this is my dream job: I get to talk to all the cool people who are driving Novell forward, and try to be something of a "technology ambassador" for the Novell User Community.
Are there any challenges in running a corporate podcast?
Do you want the whole list or just the top ten? Seriously, I find it's like walking a tightrope. To be credible in the medium, you have to keep the program real and fresh. Podcast listeners don't want to hear preplanned talking points and scripted dialogs. Novell has been really good at allowing me a huge amount of freedom in producing the show. I get to choose which topics to cover and how to cover them.
Balancing professionalism with keeping the show informal is a constant bugaboo for me. That and keeping the right level of technical content to satisfy listeners.
Also, a corporate podcast has certain constraints on being critical; that puts us in a weird position of sometimes sounding too much like we're doing rote marketing. Which is surprising, because of the heavy emphasis we put on talking to the people who make the software, not market it. (You can't do much "how-to" instruction in an audio program.)
How has the show been received?
It's the most gratifying thing I have ever done at Novell. The listener feedback has been very positive–it's what keeps me going on the project. That's not to say that it's all positive, though. You have to have a pretty thick skin to weather some comments. Sometimes we release what we think is a really solid technical show, and someone will drop us a comment that they thought the show was just marketing fluff. Unfortunately, not enough of those comments include advice on "Here's what I wanted to hear about and what you can do to make it better next time." But overall, the show has gotten accolades from all over the world. A few listeners have even become unofficial coproducers–they send me news articles as fun items for us to cover on the show.
Are you actually able to incorporate input like that? How much control over the show's content do you actually have?
That's one of the coolest things for me. I've been given pretty much complete editorial control over what goes in and what stays out, what topics we cover, and who we interview. That means however good or bad the show is, it's my fault.
Of course, I don't do it all by myself. Some Novell people have stepped up to act as correspondents for a lot of our interviews. Lee Howarth, Caitlin Jans and Erin Quill have been essential in giving life to the show. In fact, I bounce most of my ideas for the show off Erin. He's been instrumental in setting some of the direction of Novell Open Audio. Mike Pearson, our audio technician, also plays a big role. When something we do crosses the "way too dorky" line, Mike lets us know.
We want Novell Open Audio listeners and enthusiasts to get involved. We're eager to play some listener voice mails on the air. Leaving a voice mail is the easiest way to get a Novell Open Audio t-shirt right now.
What do you mean?
Well, Mike will stop an interview and make us start again if the dialog sounds too stiff. Also, I tend to goof around a lot. Mike is a good judge of what's going to be funny and what's going to sound forced. He also tells us when we lose him on a topic–like, if it sounds boring and needs to be pared down to keep it "listenable." Mike also clips out a lot of the dead air, ums and uhs–that kind of stuff–to keep the dialog crisp and keep the pace engaging. He helps us keep the technology talk interesting.
What's next for Novell Open Audio?
We're looking into launching a "Novell Open Video" site. I've been talking with Russ Dastrup, who makes the videos for Novell events like BrainShare, about vodcasting (video podcasting) various technology topics so we can actually show some of Novell's cool wares. I hope to have some of that online this Fall.
What would you say to current and potential Novell Open Audio listeners?
The biggest thing we want for Novell Open Audio is for it to be a program in which our listeners and enthusiasts can get involved. The one thing I have not gotten much of and that I really would really like to have is voice mails. We're eager to play some listener voice mails on the air, but so far everyone seems to want to keep it at the e-mail level. Maybe it's the threat of airplay that scares people away. But leaving a voice mail is the easiest way to get a Novell Open Audio t-shirt from us right now.
Voice mail or not, we're reading every comment and every e-mail we get from our listeners. Send more, and tell us what you want to hear about.