Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Podcast Review: Rocketboom

I've been a fan of Rocketboom for some time -- through the tenures of both hosts, in fact. Amanda Congdon initially hosted the program, and many thought the video podcast would fold with her departure in 2006. But Joanne Colan took over, and while the character of the show changed, the quality of the content didn't.

So what is Rocketboom? It's a daily video podcast produced by Andrew Baron that looks at everything going on around the Internet, and beyond. A typical program will have five or six things fired at you in rapid succession. The quick cuts and unusual juxapositions remind me of Tom Chapin's "Make a Wish," or James Burke's "Connections." The pacing is quick, the commentary tart, and the information almost always useful.

Rocketboom doesn't just cover Internet news, however. They also have a variety of contributers that give the program added dimension. Ruud Elmendorp, a Dutch reporter in Kenya, for example, regularly files stories on conditions in that part of Africa. His reports involve a lot of native interviews, and he focuses on stories -- both negative and positive -- that somehow never get covered by mainstream media, but give the viewer a more accurate idea of everyday life.

There have also been reports from Iraq, which again present a different face of the country and the conflict than those we're used to seeing over here. Primarily Iraqis do the reporting, and the stories aren't political -- they're simply focussed on the day-to-day lives of the people.

Rocketboom's most recent innovation has been their "Know Your Meme" segment. This takes a familiar piece of Internet pop culture, like Star Wars Kid, or the phrase "All Your Base Are Belong to Us." the segment then traces the meme back to its origin. The segment also examines how the meme spreads throughout pop culture and takes on the significance it has today.

Rocketboom's a breezy, informative, seemingly stream-of-consciousness (carefully planned to seem so) program that keeps me up to date in five minutes or less.

Thanks, Rocketboom!

And remember: you don't need an iPod to view a video podcast. Just download to your computer and enjoy. You can even watch it right on the podcaster's site.

- Ralph

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