August 13, 2005 – 12:36 pm
Hugh followed up with a link to his Close Up story about podcasting, but I had a few (extremely frustrating) problems accessing it from the TVNZ website. What follows is primarily geekspeak, but it underlines for me how easy it is to get these things wrong – and why it’s so important for major media outlets to get it right.
I ended up having to hack the code on the TVNZ link in order to grab the file and watch the stream. It turns out somebody’s put an extra space in the URL line so just clicking on the link does nothing.
Hugh gave me this link:
First of all, how hard would it be for them to come up with a more intuitive directory structure with ‘natural language’ filenames? Surely that would require very little effort and scare off far fewer potential site visitors.
I really wanted to watch the piece, so I looked at the sourcecode of that popup window to get the file’s URL, so that I could play it in an external player. Popup windows with embedded video are notoriously flakey.
That URL was:
That link didn’t work in an external player, so I went further. I removed the file name from the end of the url to see if I could get at the directory (which, to my surprise, I could). I went here:
…which I’d have thought would normally be inaccessible to the public under ordinary circumstances. Then, since I have broadband – and since the 56k version didn’t seem to work, I clicked on the link to:
That gave me what looked like a blank browser window. So I tried it in the external player. Again, nothing. Then I went back to that browser window and looked at the source, which gave me the multimedia stream url that the .asx file links to… and there was the problem. It included the following entry:
ref href =” mms://media.tvnz.co.nz/tvone/
Note that extra press of the spacebar between the opening quotes and the url. That shouldn’t be there. So… I cut and paste that url (without the space) into an external Media player – and I was finally able to watch the story about podcasting… and how simple and accessible it all is.
It was actually a superb bit of telly. Well, the prerecord segment that Hugh put together was superb. Just as an aside, the live studio link was patronising nonsense. Whoever wrote that dreadful Pinocchio reference and the ‘Oh, dopey me…’ bit about being unable to set the clock on the video should be ashamed of themselves.
Someone needs to tell them that Close Up’s core demo is neither 8 years old, nor retired. You shouldn’t assume specialist knowledge, of course, but you should be able to expect a modicum of intelligence from that audience.
Anyway, Hugh explained the technology beautifully (assuming intelligence, but not prior knowledge). He picked exactly the right people to talk to, they used some of the best metaphors (newspaper/magazine delivery is a favourite of mine) and stressed that it was easy. It looked good and gave a little bit of knowledge at a time, then built on that with each successive piece.
It even went the extra mile and told us about RSS, the invisible force behind podcasting that makes it such a great distribution method. That’s hard to explain succinctly without good writing. Thumbs up.
The only problem was… I had to operate at a fairly advanced level of computer geekery in order to watch it at all. Anybody less obsessive about podcasting would have given up immediately.
Unless you’d caught the story on telly, it would have missed you entirely – which undermines the entire purpose of putting this stuff online in the first place.
This isn’t a matter of IT incompetence. Simple mistake, could have happened to anyone. I’m not a fan of the TVNZ web design, but the people who run it know what they’re doing. But a simple space in a piece of code completely borked it.
This is not proofreading for the staff newsletter. It’s either absolutely right, or it’s a complete waste of time.
TV and video are really good at explaining things in a ‘show-and-tell’ manner and Hugh’s piece on podcasting made that work exactly as it should. The web component could have enhanced that further with links, extra text, more interviews, or whatever – but just making it so that we could watch it would have been a great start.
Incidentally, as much as I don’t like it, TVNZ’s site is light years ahead of the frankly embarrassing effort of RNZ. They’ve ostensibly been building that bloody website since the late 90s. What the hell are they still doing?
I’m still really cross about that.
PS: My own meagre contribution to a similar BBC story about podcasting can be found on the Dubber and Spoons podcast…
PPS: For the benefit of those to whom I’d promised to try and swear off puns, I couldn’t resist the title of this post. It was just sitting there, goading me…