If you’ve never heard of Huffduffer before, you’re in for a treat. If maybe you’ve played around with it before but never quite grokked it, this may help shift your thinking a bit. Simply put, Huffduffer helps you publish an RSS feed of audio files you find online. Once published, this “podcast” can then be subscribed to via iTunes and its “episodes” synced to your iPod for later enjoyment. Its real value though, comes not from the ease with which it lets you get podcasts onto your iPod, but rather from how effectively the Huffduffer community works together to find and organize great audio content on a wide variety of topics from across the web.
When I first started playing with Huffduffer I thought of it simply as a personal bookmarking site for audio content that happened to be online. This made perfect sense to me as it’s how I’ve been using sites like Delicious for years. Always aware of the community/network aspect of the service for surfacing content, but being more interested in the service’s ability to keep my bookmarks organized in a central place and accessible through an API.
So, I grabbed the bookmarklet, threw it in my bookmarks bar and waited to stumble across some great audio content to save for future use..and waited..and waited. The thing is, I don’t really happen across interesting audio content all that often. It’s not like the blog posts that get shoveled my way all day long via Twitter and Google Reader or the quirky images I get pointed to on TwitPic and Flickr or for that matter the latest LOL video on YouTube or hipster mockumentary on Vimeo. I see those types of links all day long. For some reason though, people don’t seem to share long form audio content in the same way. So the bookmarklet sat in my bookmarks bar, largely unused.
It wasn’t until I ran across Give Me Something To Read that I had my “aha moment” and realized that I should be using the main Huffduffer site in the same way. If you’re not familiar with Give Me Something To Read, it’s essentially a curated list of popular articles being bookmarked across Instapaper. If for some bizarre reason you don’t actually have anything to read, go there and you’ll find great stuff.
Huffduffer provides a number of options for discovering content in this same way. You can browse through tags, look over what’s popular across the service, and follow people who share your interests. Just like you can subscribe to your own Huffduffer podcast in iTunes, you can also subscribe to any of these feeds as well. Once in iTunes you can then obviously sync the podcast to your iPod and listen at your leisure. I’ve been able to find really great content this way. Things I would have otherwise never come across. Anything and everything from a BBC story about the role Douglas Adams played in classic Dr. Who episodes, to an Explanation of Dark Matter, to all the 2010 SXSW panels I missed, and everything in between.
I’ve been using this approach to fill up my iPod for a couple of months now and it makes all the difference in my daily commute; which can range from about an hour to almost two hours depending on how idiotic my fellow DC drivers decide to be. The only thing keeping me sane during this daily marathon of stop and go traffic in a stick shift is having my iPhone loaded up with great podcasts.
I have to admit though, that I do end up feeling like a bit of a drain on the community because the stuff I’m huffduffing for my own podcast is stuff that’s already been hufduffed by someone else. I’d love to be able to supply fresh content to the community but other than trolling through the iTunes store I’m at a bit of a loss for where to locate it. If you’ve got your own secret for finding great audio online please share it in the comments.