Each winter, I use part of my holiday break for various projects I don’t normally have time to do, including stocking my freezer with homemade meals, running batches of errands that require a car (which I don’t own), and performing maintenance and upgrades (beyond the basic security updates, which I do throughout the year) for websites that live in my personal web space. This year my major project was two-fold: migrate from one webhost to another, and upgrade several sites to the newest version of WordPress. As a result I needed to do a lot of pre- and post-upgrade testing, coordination of downtime, and checking (and re-checking) with the various groups affected to make sure they would have everything they needed when the move was complete.
Everything has gone well so far (knock wood), and I’ve enjoyed the process; I started doing server and web administration while working at Oberlin and am appreciative of the continued opportunities to keep those skills sharp. I also like having time to find new or evolved tools that might enable me to do things more easily. At the end of 2009, for example, I started using the WP-Hive plugin to provide hosting for several websites with different themes and plugins while only having to maintain one copy of the WordPress backend. (WPMu didn’t provide quite what I needed in this respect, and anyway my host wasn’t particularly WPMu-friendly.)
This year my plans were twofold: moving from the soon-to-be-dead WP-Hive to WordPress 3.0 MultiSite, and finally moving the 24 LLU podcast audio files from my webspace to the cloud. The issue with this second goal wasn’t storage space, or even bandwidth, as even the most affordable webhosts nowadays offer more than enough of both for my needs. It was the principle of the matter; it’s 2011, and I should be able to find a quality host that allows me to 1) make audio files available for either download or streaming and 2) display some basic metadata (i.e. a title and description) for each file. When I say “quality” I mean “won’t disappear or start charging a crapton after a year or two” … and of course, free would be really nice.
Initial searching brought up several sites, but the “free” plans were teensy (100 MB storage space? really? i don’t even roll out of bed for 100 MB) and the paid plans offered similarly measly amounts of space at rates more expensive than my webhost. See for yourself:
My phone stores 16GB in a card smaller than my fingernail, but somebody’s charging $75 A MONTH for a gig and a half of storage. WTF. These rates haven’t changed much in the past two or three years, so at the beginning of this week I wasn’t particularly hopeful of finding a new solution.
HOWEVER! Earlier in the year a couple of retweets resulted in my following GOOD on Twitter, which led to me reading an article referring to the really brilliant “Ask culture / Guess culture” posting on MetaFilter. Since then I’ve come to rely on MeFites (as users of the site are called) when I want to gather information and advice on what shoes to buy, which webhost to use, or really any other question that Amazon.com reviews just don’t cover adequately. MeFites put a lot of time and effort into the site, and though it can sometimes be heavy on relationship, family, exercise, and diet questions, moderators are thoughtful and don’t hesitate to take down things down that are inappropriate, not helpful, or simply off-topic. It helps that registering for a MeFi account (which you need to ask or respond but not to read or search) requires a one-time $5 fee; this seems to keep ne’er-do-wells away.
So this year when I sat down to look once again for podcast storage, I turned to AskMeFi, and hallelujah! Even way back in 2006, the Internet Archive (best known for its WayBack Machine) was providing unlimited free media file storage, integrated Creative Commons licensing, auto-generation of the HTML needed to embed your files into your website for streaming playback, and the ability to upload multiple files (audio, video, text, PPT, whatever) for each episode.
I’m proud to say that all of LLU’s podcasts are now hosted on Archive.org; if you’d like to see this in action, check out this LLU post, the page for an individual podcast episode (with podcast chat log attached), or our public bookmark page (complete with RSS feed). Also check out OurMedia, a project supported by the Internet Archive — either of these sites would be a GREAT location for multimedia projects that wouldn’t otherwise have a permanent home (including work your students have done for class projects), or that you just want to make publicly available with the license terms of your choosing. If you’re wondering about quality? Well, the Internet Archive “is officially recognized by the state of California as a library,” and Ourmedia has on its Advisory Board such big-hitters as Lawrence Lessig, Howard Rheingold, and the one and only Bryan Alexander. I’m not sure how much more quality you can get.
So, if you do one thing in the new year? Create something, anything. If you do two things? Create something and share it with other people. Three? Create, share, and patronize the places that help you connect with others who create and share. You never know when your little 140-character message on a social networking site is going to lead months later to someone finding exactly what they needed. My resolution for this year is to do just that, whether here on LLU, over at my newly-established personal blog, via DS106, or through the 250-words-a-day project that Barbara and I have both decided to try.
What’s your new year’s resolution?