My ideal podcast app/service

Much has been discussed among Windows Phone (and Windows 8/RT) circles about lack of podcast features in the phone and lack of a native app on big Windows.

I am a big podcast listener. Not huge, but I do listen to a few podcasts regularly. In fact, so regularly, that I have formed a nice list of things I would want in an ideal podcast app/service. The reason I put app/service is because we are now no longer in a single device world.

  • Native apps for my devices: I use Windows Phone, Windows 8/RT and Windows 7. I would like native apps for at least phone and “Windows Store”.
  • Catalog: Big enough, and fresh enough catalog so that I don’t have to add podcasts by URL.
  • Easy subscribe settings: Options during subscribe should include auto downloads, number of episodes to keep, episode delete settings, etc.
  • Remember played position: For each podcast, for each episode.
  • Cloud: Sync settings, subscriptions and played positions to the cloud. Configurable setting for syncing on-device episodes to the cloud as well.
  • Refresh/check for new episodes: Check for new episodes when app is opened, automatically. Also, check on a schedule that can be configured and have a default. So if the default is 3am and 3pm every day, I know when I get up and am ready for my commute, there may be some fresh episodes waiting for me. Same, with a 3pm check for the commute home.
  • Playback speed adjustment: Must-have for me, at least 1.5x.

Some bonus territory items:

  • Playback in the cloud: If my subscriptions, settings and on-device episodes are synced to the cloud, I suppose I should be able to play those episodes from the web too. That would take care of machines which don’t have native apps, for example Windows 7 or Macs/iPads/iPhone/iPod.
  • Discovery: Based on what I have subscribed to, and perhaps extending it to my social networks, suggest other podcasts.
  • Live tiles: I don’t care much about getting notified of new episodes, so I put this in the bonus territory. Live tile notifications of new episodes.
  • Usage notifications: Notify (via live tile or otherwise) me about space used being above a certain threshold, or unplayed episodes going above a certain threshold.

Things I don’t care about but I have seen in some apps:

  • Visual niceties: Like the tape player in the iOS app. Don’t care about it since I always lock the phone screen anyway.
  • Social sharing: I don’t share either while listening or otherwise, so I don’t care about that feature.

Too much to ask? Is there any podcast app/service that does this already? I think Downcast on iOS comes very close in terms of functionality but they are only on iOS so far, but have expressed that they may look at WP with no real commitment provided. The iOS Podcasts app does not seem to delete episodes after they are finished which is a bummer (either a bug or a feature, but either way, a bummer for me).

None of the Windows Phone 3rd party apps do auto-download yet. There are some in the process of getting released with promised functionality but none generally available yet.

The native Windows Phone feature does not have a manual check for new episodes, and there is no clear understanding when exactly it checks for new episodes. Besides, there is no corresponding app on Windows 8, and of course, there is no playback speed adjustment.

Let me know if you find any compatible apps 🙂

Simplifying

I recently wrote a post about how I was a bit frustrated with the various types of backlogs created by an unexplained need to consume information. This is a follow up to the post. I took immediate action and here’s what I have done so far to make life a bit easier:

  • Unsubscribed to all but 4 podcasts. Also, changed podcast subscription settings to keep only 2 episodes. If I don’t listen to an old one and it happens to be a good one, I will go find it, rather than let it pile up.
  • Unsubscribed from many high-volume RSS feeds. Most of these feeds were from tech blogs where there is much incentive to keep posting “fresh” content for a variety of reasons (well, no, for one reason – pageviews). I have noticed my “pending” stuff has gone down dramatically as a result.
  • DVR pain has been eased by the fact that we are in summer and therefore, it is off-peak for most primetime shows. I am sure I will cut down on the shows after seeing what gets cancelled this Fall.

The result of this simplification? The wife and I were able to watch two movies 🙂 I know, it was also one of the complaints, but it was nice that we were actually able to make a choice about what we want to do rather than letting something else choose for us.

I strongly suggest you take a look at your information consumption habits too, and see where you can trim and enjoy life as it should be enjoyed. 🙂

Playing catch up

This morning, as I was looking through my unplayed podcasts list, I realized I am (as I am sure many others are) living in a world where we are consuming so much “stuff”. There is always a tendency to catch up on things. Some of my pending items to “catch up on”:

  • Unplayed podcasts: I subscribe to 8-9 podcasts of which 2-3 are daily and the rest are weekly. In the end, if I don’t keep listening to these every day, they pile up and I have to “catch up on”.
  • Readability: I come across a lot of interesting articles and videos and links in general. I simply add them to Readability to read later. So there is the Readability list to “catch up on”.
  • RSS Reader: I subscribe to *many* RSS feeds, some of which are extremely high-volume (like some tech blogs). There is always a ton of feeds to “catch up on”.
  • Personal email: Bills, statements, friends pinging for meetups, etc. Personal inbox to “catch up on”.
  • Work email: Freaking nightmare. Email flows in faster than I can clean up, despite several filters I have set up on the server. Work inbox to “catch up on”.
  • DVR: We almost never watch anything on TV live (except sports). Anytime we see something interested to watch on the TV, it gets added to the DVR. So we end up having a DVR list to “catch up on”.
  • Movies and music: So many new movies and music is being released. A lot of these are worth the watch, but they end up going into a to do list to “catch up on” sometime.
  • Books (audio or otherwise): Same as movies and music, so many good books to read. Goes to a list to “catch up on”.
  • Hobbies: Not really a catch up item, but with all the stuff to catch up on, there is no time left for hobbies. This includes side projects, travel, etc.

There is of course a tendency to declare bankruptcy on one or more of these things. I frequently mark my RSS feeds as read, or my delete my podcast queue, but that’s only a temporary solution. Perhaps simplifying our digital lives by cutting out many of the above (newsletters, podcasts, feeds, notifications on the phone, etc.) would help.

I am going to give that a shot as I prepare for a simpler, more “offline” life. 🙂