February 9, 2006

Barack Obama takes home Best Spoken Word Album Grammy


Beating out the likes of actors and comedians such as Garrison Keillor, Al Franken, George Carlin, and Sean Penn, Illinois Senator Barack Obama took home the Best Spoken Word Album Grammy last night for his audio book Dreams from My Father which he authored and narrated. Mr. Obama joked in a recent podcast that he was going to now change his name to The Artist Formerly Known as Barack.

I haven’t listened to the audio book yet but I plan to very soon. It’s a memoir of Mr. Obama’s search for the truth about his father and his familial roots in Africa, after his father died in car crash.

I’ve been a subscriber to the Barack Obama Podcast since it’s inception. Regardless of political affiliation, I think Mr. Obama is an excellent speaker and his podcasts are very entertaining and informative. And he mixes up the format of how they are delivered as well. Sometimes he’s at his home in Chicago, sometimes it’s a speech he gave, sometimes it’s him on a cell phone from the Middle East (which he recently traveled to), and there’s also one of him on the Al Franken show. Mr. Obama is no dry, square politician and he’s not always talking politics. He frequently talked about the Chicago White Sox as they were approaching the World Series.

So it was not surprising to me that his audio book and his narration were Grammy worthy. With this win, I’ll have to make his audio book my next purchase.

February 6, 2006

New Discoveries in New Guinea


It’s amazing how the reticular activating system works. Just yesterday I’m watching the excellent National Geographic documentary Guns, Germs and Steel based UCLA professor Dr. Jared Diamond’s book of the same name. In it he discusses at length the people of New Guinea and the reasons for their lack of material wealth when compared with those in North America and Europe.

Then today I’m scanning my blogs and see a post from 37signals pointing me too an article in The Independent entitled “Scientists hail discovery of hundreds of new species in remote New Guinea” with the following quote:

An astonishing mist-shrouded “lost world” of previously unknown and rare animals and plants high in the mountain rainforests of New Guinea has been uncovered by an international team of scientists… The scientists are the first outsiders to see it. They could only reach the remote mountainous area by helicopter, which they described it as akin to finding a “Garden of Eden”… In a jungle camp site, surrounded by giant flowers and unknown plants, the researchers watched rare bowerbirds perform elaborate courtship rituals. The surrounding forest was full of strange mammals, such as tree kangaroos and spiny anteaters, which appeared totally unafraid, suggesting no previous contact with humans.

How cool is that?

I’d highly recommend checking out the documentary or listening to Diamond’s book on audio.

What a fascinating world we live in huh?

February 6, 2006

webcast.berkeley Courses Podcasted

webcastberkeleycoursesproduct.jpgI was very excited this semester to see what Berkeley was going to unveil for their webcast.berkeley courses. We were told at the podcasting expo that some of their courses were going to be podcasted and that they had a sweet set up. Well they most certainly do. The audio quality it great, the courses look fascinating, and we just entered in all the ones they’re offering this semester:


And here’s the ones they are currently podcasting:

Operating Systems and System Programming
Economic Analysis – Microeconomics
European Civilization from the Renaissance to the Present
US Foreign Policy After 9/11
Animal Behavior
Introduction to Computers
Introduction to Human Nutrition
Descriptive Introduction to Physics
Introductory Physics
Undergraduate Colloquium on Political Science

And throughout the month of February they’ll be offering more of them as podcasts. For the ones that aren’t currently being podcasted they can be listened to or viewed as streaming audio & video. Let us all offer our thanks to UC-Berkeley and start learning.

January 30, 2006

Monday Round-up

Wow, tomorrow’s the last day of January already? This month has flown by…

1. We crossed the 2,000 member mark last weekend. It took us about 11 months to get our first thousand members…and only 45 days to get our next thousand. Fun to see the growth. Thanks to all of you who just recently signed on!

2. Saw some cool buzz over the weekend about our Free Audiobook of the Month club. Several people blogged about it and I wanted to say thanks to Wynn, Phil, BK and Gary for the mentions (as well as anyone else out there who’s linked to us). We appreciate it!

3. Our 1st Anniversary promotion ends at the end of the day tomorrow. If you didn’t catch it in this blog post, we’re giving away $12 gift certificates to promote our first twelve months in business. So if you’ve been itching to buy an audio book or two there’s no time like the present. 🙂

January 28, 2006

My Goal? To Bring TED to You


Twice a year there’s an amazing conference called the that takes place. It’s an astounding collection of people and speakers. In the past it has featured such speakers as Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Frank Gehry, Jane Goodall, Billy Graham. Here’s a short introduction. And here’s a list of just a few of the people who will be speaking this year:

Nicholas Negroponte – Founder and Director of MIT’s Media Lab
Al Gore – Former Vice President
Tony Robbins – Motivational Speaker Extraordinaire
Rick Warren – Author of Mega-Best Seller The Purpose-Driven Life
Bill Joy – Co-Founder of Sun Microsystem

It’s an amazing line-up. I love everything about it. And plan to attend one day.

But here’s the problem with the TED Conference. They cap registrations for each conference at about 1,000 people and it costs $4,400 to attend. And while I totally understand why it’s so expensive and exclusive the fact of the matter is that it leaves the other 6.5 billion of us out in the cold.

What do I propose?

Record the TED conference on digital audio and high-definition video and give it away for free.

Crazy you say? Yup, just crazy enough that it might work. It’s one of those ridiculous goals that I think would get a lot of people fired up.

But wouldn’t this destroy the market for TED tickets? Nope, it would work just the opposite. The Super Bowl is televised for free. Does that prevent people from paying a ton of money to go to the game? Hardly. Music from the most popular rock stars can be found for free on all the file sharing sites. What’s happened to the demand for tickets to rock and roll shows?

Consistently throughout time it’s been shown that when you give content that has a corresponding live event the demand for the live event almost always increases. My guess is that if you gave away the audio and video from TED you’d find that you could command $10,000 or more for a ticket due to the increased popularity and buzz that the conference would receive.

And imagine the difference it would make in the world.

Imagine firing up a speech from James Watson (you know, the guy who discovered the structure of DNA) or Craig Venter (the guy who mapped the human genome) on your way into work in the morning. Or sinking into your couch after a long day and watching a presentation from Jimmy Wales (The Founder of Wikipedia), Steven Levitt (Author of Freakonomics) or Bono (actually you can do that last one here). All past TED speakers. All with a mission to push the world forward.

Can you imagine a child in Africa being able to sit down in front of a computer and learning from all these people? Or a person in the midst of sorrow or depression being so inspired by these intellectual and philosphical giants that they decide to change their lives for the better? It’s possible. More than that, it’s necessary.

We need millions of people tuning into TED in the morning on the way to work instead of Howard Stern.

We need those same people replacing some of their daily diet of mind-numbing television programming with TED or something like it.

TED represents the best of what’s out there when it comes to content.

And sadly only 1,000 people will experience that next month.

I want to change that. Help me in my goal to bring TED to the masses. Send an e-mail to tedfeedback@macromedia.com (the only e-mail that I have for them, if you’ve got a better one let me know!). Join in on a conversation about this over at or in our forums (link below). Or drop me an e-mail at jon@learnoutloud.com and tell me how you think we can do this.

The impact this could have is tremendous. The technology is ready and willing to make this a reality. The need for this type of infomration to be disseminated to the world is real.

Let’s make this happen.

January 26, 2006

A Microsoft “iPod” in the works?

Business Week reports that Microsoft just might have its own version of the iPod in the works.

The Bug in Microsoft’s Ear

January 26, 2006

Our First Anniversary!

It’s hard to believe that we launched LearnOutLoud.com only a year ago. We’ve been working our tails off here to try to find you the best in audio and video content that’s both educational and inspirational and we’re really excited about a lot of the things that we have in the works for 2006.

We’ve been working very hard on a new service called TeachOutLoud which is currently in private beta. You’ll be hearing more about that soon. Our Free Audio and Video Directory is expanding rapidly (638 titles at last count). And traffic to our forums is starting to pick up.

To kick off our second year right and celebrate the last 12 months we’re running a promotion between now and the end of the month. If you place an order of $30 or more between now and the end of January we’ll send you a $12 gift certificate for a future order. If you’ve never ordered from us before this is a great opportunity to give it a try. We have over 2,000 audio titles on CD and cassette and an ever-expanding number of titles available for download. To check out what we’ve got go to the following link:


We’ll send out the gift certificates
automatically so it’s super easy. Thanks for
helping celebrate our first anniversary with us! We look forward to what the rest of 2006 will hold!

January 23, 2006

600+ Free Audio and Video Titles!

We crossed another century mark over the weekend as we now have 600+ titles up in our Free Audio and Video Directory. It’s quickly becoming a really cool collection of content. One of the things that I like best about it is that it’s hand-picked by the staff here at LearnOutLoud. We don’t guarantee that there won’t be any sub-standard content (after all it is a free directory) but we think we’ve done a pretty good job of filtering out the garbage.

Here are a few titles that we’ve added recently:

-A professionally narrated production of Siddhartha which is the first release in our new Free Audiobook of the Month club. More on that later…

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visits Grace Cathedral and The New Negro, a couple of rare online videos of Martin Luther King, Jr. that we put up as part of our MLK Out Loud page.

-An audio version of The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, one of many titles from Librivox that we recently added to the site. A note of caution: While some of the Librivox titles are good others are harder to listen to. Since this often varies on a per-chapter basis (different chapters often have different narrators) we’ve decided to include them for now.

We hope you enjoy and look forward to reaching the 700/800/900/1,000 mark soon!

January 20, 2006

More Reasons for Being


I recently returned from a three week stay in Ghana, West Africa, where I trained several non-profit organizations how to build websites. Over and over again I was reminded how much we in the West take our wealth for granted.

This is the start of an inspiring blog post from Rob who writes the Software By Rob. It’s a highly interesting account of his stay and well worth reading. And while I wouldn’t disagree with anything he has to say I would offer one addendum: I also think that we in the West take our education for granted.

Consider this story Rob relates about one of the gentlemen that he worked with and to whom he recommended a $15 computer training book.

15 bucks. The guy works 40 hours a week at an IT training facility and can’t afford a $15 computer book. He’s not starving. He’s not living in a mud hut on the side of the road scraping to feed his family. But $15 is probably a week’s salary for him, maybe more. At 83 times the minimum wage this book would cost $427 in the U.S., and the book was actually an old edition (from 2001), which as most of us know is almost worthless in the world of computer programming. If he wanted a current edition he would have to pay three times that if he could find it at all.

Rob then asks the question “Does this seem wrong to anyone else?”

Yup. It does to me. It should to most everybody.

He goes on to say:

For destitute poverty, providing food, clean water, shelter, and medical care are the most critical needs. There are many organizations that provide these services to the poor, and they help remedy a dire need in the world. But once these needs are met, the person’s information poverty must be addressed.

The phrase “information poverty” has now been added to my vocabulary. At the end of the day I think it is information poverty that lies at the heart of Africa’s problem. Until you attempt to solve that all of the money being spent on all of the other things won’t have the impact they could have. I won’t spoil much more of the article (go read it!) but Rob talks about Africans could help to climb out of poverty if they had the technology to sell their goods on the global market. He uses the example of Ghanian drum-makers selling their wares through eBay or Yahoo! Not that far-fetched in today’s age of technology…and a lot more fulfilling than buying some crap trinket from some faceless department store.

At the end of the day the twin potential powers of education and technology offer an incredible opportunity to make a real and lasting difference in the world. As I blogged about before, Technology + Education = Productivity = Progress. And I tip my hat to everyone else who sees the potential here for technology and education to empower people.

To Doug Kaye for his tireless work on the which will Change the World by bringing cutting-edge, innovative conversations to your headphones.

To Jimmy Wales for his vision and dedication to , the online encyclopedia and services that Change the World by providing increased access to information. (Note: In his personal appeal for donations to the Wikimedia Foundation, he lists he reason for being as “the child in Africa who is going to use free textbooks and reference works produced by our community and find a solution to the crushing poverty that surrounds him.”)

To Wynn at the Stingy Scholar blog and Tyler at Textbook Revolution for their passion for Changing the World through increased access to educational materials (join our conversation on that very subject here).

To Brian Johnson and the rest of the gang at who are creating social networking tools that will connect people serious about Changing the World and empower them with the technology to actually do it.

And to the many others out there who want to leave a brighter, more hopeful and more educated world to the generation to follow.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone and if you feel the urge please take a few minutes this weekend to appreciate the access you have to technology and education. It’s an incredible blessing but one that most of us (myself included) rarely acknowledge.

January 19, 2006

The end of boredom

Was cleaning out the ol’ Bloglines tonight and remembered that I wanted to blog a Cuban post from last week. Here it is:

The end of boredom

A snippet:

Portable media devices, whether Ipods, portable gaming devices, phones with all their features, or whatever have solved what has been a generations old nuisance for all of us, boredom.

We have our little devices and now we are never bored. We dont find ourselves staring off into space unoccupied, wondering what to do. We dont find ourselves muttering about how bored we are sitting on the train, or on a plane, trying to do anything to make the time go by more quickly.

Our little mobile devices are so popular because they are the ultimate, continuous distraction. They are the easiest cure for boredom.

Interesting ramifications for portable audio and video no doubt. I think the shift of content away from big devices (TVs, PCs, etc.) and towards little devices (iPods, PSPs, mobile phones, etc.) will be one of the most sigificant, or perhaps the most significant development this decade. By the year 2010 I think we’ll have the equivalent of VOD and AOD (audio-on-demand) on our mobile phone/PDA devcies.

That will change the game entirely.

The end of boredom is near. 🙂