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Podcasts - The Art of Modern Storytelling

Thomas Topp - Saturday, September 09, 2017

Podcasts: The Art of Modern Storytelling

By TC Topp

Today, podcasts are one of the most popular forms of mass media with more than 115,000 shows in English alone. The term was coined in 2004 my a BBC journalist Ben Hammersley as a combination of the brand name “iPod” and the noun “broadcast.” Though the term net casting has also been put forward to avoid any affiliation with Apple Inc., “Podcast” was solidified into modern parlance when the company released the Podcast App in 2005.

This was a turning point not only for the popularity of the medium, but also the role podcasts fulfilled. During their infancy, podcasts had been created and promoted as a way for people to share their ideas without radio regulations, airtimes, or sponsorship. Apple’s Podcast App somewhat removed this freedom, by only carrying certain “amateur” shows and rebroadcasts of radio shows.

Today, podcasts are part of the milieu of streaming platforms easily consumed due to their 24/7 accessibility and ability to binge multiple episodes at a time. Podcasts have the added advantage of being mobile, listened to while exercising or commuting, when other forms of media are inaccessible.

Podcasts can still be created by amateur broadcasters, but many are affiliated with news outlets or major networks. The vast array of shows allows them to have a fairly niche focus, more refined in topic than regular radio shows, which means they often have a smaller audience.

Some podcasts are incredibly popular, however; for example, perhaps the most well-known podcast today is Serial, a single story told over the course of several episodes, examining a murder trial from various angles and perspectives throughout. The podcast was perhaps the first to bring Podcasts into a similar realm as television, in that listeners were anxiously awaiting new episodes and discussing their theories and opinions with each other between release dates.

        Podcasts are a good way to entertain yourself or get educated on a particular topic while doing something else. In an era of multitasking, it’s no surprise that podcasts have become so popular, but on a deeper level humans have always been obsessed with stories and podcasting is, in some ways, reconnecting us with the lost art of audio storytelling.  Whether looking for an entertaining distraction, a way to learn, or a just someone else’s opinion, there’s a podcast for you.


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A Game Of Likes

Thomas Topp - Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Game Of “Likes”

You might think that teenagers are the demographic that is the most concerned with the number of “Likes” on their social media posts, but the average adolescent has little more than an ego-boost to gain from a popular post; however, those with a specific agenda, such as businesses, public figures and professional bloggers, can use platforms like Instagram and Twitter to reach hundreds of millions of people.

This obsession with “engagement” -- the technical term for how much a post is viewed, commented on and/or liked -- has led to a variety of news stories and even studies examining why certain posts fare better than others.

The poster’s tactic is going to vary depending on their objective and account type. For example, a personal account may focus more heavily on hashtags, so that those outside their ‘Followers’ are more likely to see it, while a business account may be more regimented in scheduling their posts and consistently use similar filters and hashtags. While using a popular hashtag increases the likelihood of people outside one’s network seeing the post, it also means the post is likely to get buried quickly.

Regardless of the goal, one of the most effective ways to boost Likes is to engage with the audience. Whether that means asking questions and encouraging Followers to comment, tagging other users, or commenting on another accounts’ posts, viewers seem to be more interested when the account is personable and not solely focused on content.

Deciding when to post can be tricky, there are studies and meta-analyses that break down when the best times to post during a given day or time of year; however, many social media outlets are no longer sorted chronologically. For example, Instagram now uses an algorithm sort posted content, meaning that the more interaction a post receives the more it will be shown on viewers’ timelines.


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Wireless Charging

Thomas Topp - Saturday, June 10, 2017

Most technology users are all too familiar with the problem of having to charge mobile devices on a nearly daily basis, whether scrambling to reach an outlet before a phone dies or searching in vain for the right charger.  Some tech companies are attempting to resolve all these problems with the promise of wireless charging.

 

While some devices on the market today claim to be capable of charging wirelessly, this is somewhat of a misnomer. This method, known as the Qi inductive standard, is one of two main wireless charging standards in use today involving power mats and was pioneered by the Wireless Power Consortium. These power mats still need to be plugged in though and  sometimes phone cases can interfere with method. As Stephen Rizzone, CEO of Energous, puts it “If you have to drop your mobile device… onto a charging surface then it’s really no longer mobile.”

 

Energous and other companies like Ossia and uBeam are seeking “uncoupled” power solutions. Hatem Zeine, founder of Ossia explains: “The way we look at this is that wireless power should be like Wi-Fi. You go into your home, your phone will charge in your pocket, you don’t need to place it somewhere or orient it somewhere or even know where the power transmitter is.” uBeam is addressing this issue by transmitting targeted power through inaudible high frequency ultrasonic technology.

 

Unfortunately, while each company (and others not mentioned) is making strides, their technologies and prototypes are incompatible with one another, slowing down overall progress. Additionally, their individual aims are different and are being developed for disparate corners of the market.

 

A room with truly wireless charging does exist; it’s a prototypical 16-by-16-foot room in which the walls, ceiling and floors are aluminum panels and a copper pole with capacitors transferred power to almost any location in the room. The prototype was developed by Disney Research and was able to charge phones, toys and lamps, though it isn’t being further explored for commercial use. Alanson Sample, an Associate Lab Director with Disney Research, said “The real tradeoff here in some ways is the amount of deliverable power you can get to a device versus how safe it is…and how much mobile freedom you get.”

 

One issue is that the transmitter in any of these methods must be strong enough to charge devices, ideally without direct contact or line-of-sight, but not interfere with other electronics. Most importantly though, the wireless energy must be safe and approved by the US Federal Communications Commission.

 

Researchers and visionaries are attempting to expand this technology beyond a single room to whole houses, or even cities. All sorts of mobile devices, such as hearing aids, electric scooters and even cars may be continuously charged wirelessly; if the technology proves possible, infrastructures like street lamps, traffic lights and trolleys may all become independent of physical electric connections.


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