The other night at dinner, I was reflecting on the somewhat disappointing results to date of my family’s experiment to create a PC-based home media centre upstairs in our living room. So far we’ve mostly been plagued by hardware problems, network connectivity problems, TV resolution problems, yada yada. The whole goal of the exercise had been to give my family internet access upstairs in the house without having to have an additional computer station setup, and in so doing introduce them to the joys of user generated content. But since the experiment started after Christmas it has mostly been Dad, me, diddling around with cables and replacement parts.
This started to change recently – now my wife has a queue of requests for, ahem, Bittorrent, and for my birthday on Monday I entertained the crowd with some amusing clips from Youtube. But we really turned the corner last night with Democracy, an open source vodcast player by the brilliant folks at the Participatory Culture Foundation.
In brief, Democracy does for vodcasts what GReader does for blogs – makes it dead simple to subscribe and consume RSS fed video clips, and downloads them in the background so that if you set up the feeds correctly and leave it running, you can have a TV-like experience (except without all the crappy channels and the advertising.) Which I did last night, watching a bunch of episodes from the Jetset show (wow, do I feel old) MediaBerkman and Awakened Voice Learning Centre, who produce a series of screencasts on using various social software tools.
Yeah, I know, nothing that revolutionary here; the Mac guys are all scratching their heads and wondering “iTunes?” I hate iTunes, refuse to use it. So for me, this is the first time a really usable interface for finding and consuming vodcasts on a consumer device has presented itself to me. It’s free. It’s cross platform. It allows you to search Google video, Youtube, Blip.tv and revver directly from the interface, and, if you swing that way, will handle your torrents for you as well. Looks like the dream of tuning out the mass media without totally forsaking the upstairs TV may not be as dead as it first seemed. – SWL