Monday, October 03, 2005

Why Odeo

Folks have been asking: Why Odeo?

Short Answer: It turns out that I have always been doing what Odeo does, and now is the right time to do it all day.

Long Answer: A story.

When I was four, I made a tape of music from the radio. That tape, and the dictaphone stories that my dad would leave us when he went on business trips, were my first Odeos.

What are Odeos? No, not breakfast cereal. (Although, that does sound delicious...) Biz coined the term over on the Odeo blog. I'm anachronistically using it to describe "bits of treasured audio." Something you can share. Because sharing is good! Sharing stories and music is especially good.

My Odeo Channel I'm not sure if you know, but I'm heavily into music. I was first into trombone, then trumpet, and then piano all in one year, and piano finally stuck. That same year (the 4th grade), I programmed my first Apple computer using LOGO. Apples didn't make Odeos back then, but they made pictures, and every day was magic.

When I was 13, I taught myself to sing and play the guitar at the same time. I made many Odeos on tape. Then, I learned how to tape Odeos with more than one track. Again, life was magical.

I left for Swarthmore with a Macintosh SE/30. It couldn't make Odeos very well, but it could play them. I collected a bunch on our tri-college network. The next year, I bargained with my dad for a Power Macintosh. It had much more space, and could easily record things. I learned to program in Lisp, C++, and HTML on that machine. Of these, the most interesting and useful to me was HTML, which I could use to share my Odeos on the Internet's World Wide Web.

I graduated with two CDs of Odeos that I had made with my friends, a radio show concept, and countless live tapes that I made and physically traded. I went to work for a big ol' corporation as the Web was being born. I spent much of my free time making Odeos, mostly on tape. Then came Napster the First, and the Odeos that I'd made in college started coming up in searches. Anything seemed possible.

Now, years of deep-cover research in the corporations of the Valley taught me many things. The chief lesson for me was this: technological authority can be just as powerful as political authority. Therefore, the interesting question isn't What can be done with technology, but What should be done?

The answer for me is: Promote democracy, sharing, and sustainable development. I soon realized that the way to promote democracy is to promote education, and that my way to promote education is to teach people to program. As a teacher, you've got to have a hook, and I decided that my hook was Music. I took a three-month sabbatical to explore this theory, and landed in Cambridge for a while. I decided that it would be good to go back to school there.

I went to the graduate school of education, and learned that information can be free in a Creative Commons. I studied the brain, and how emotionally meaningful artifacts can help people learn. I started building the Future of Learning, using version 3 of a program called Dreamweaver. The year was 2000, and Mac OS version 10 was released. Again, the world was magical.

Circa Now: I've helped shape three versions of Dreamweaver, the world's best tool for learning HTML and code for the Web. I've learned the Way of QA. An agile little start-up down the street wants me to use this Way to help people make and share Odeos. As it turns out, this company is run by a bunch of my friends, and they also believe what I believe about power and responsibility.

Again, I've been feeling that every day is magic. Interesting devices are popping up, and writing software is fun again. The laptop has shrunk to the palmtop, and for a while now, I've been wondering what the killer app will be for this new era of devices. Right now, I think it's Odeo.

Why Odeo? Because they are small, fast, and they have a history of success. Because they are Open. Because they make audio publishing easy, and they are here in my town, so I can still bike to work. I mean, why not?

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