Taking To The Air

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The Beeblecast icon

Well, that's the Beeblecast completed. I could use this article to bang on for ages about what terribly hard work it was and how grateful I am to everyone for their help, but I'm sure you don't want to hear that. I'd like to look to the future, and I think you probably do too.

The Beeblecast is uploading as I type and, as uploading tends to use most of my computer's resources, I'm not typing on my usual PC. I'm writing on a laptop.

It's not just any laptop. It's a very old one; so old, in fact, that it won't take any operating system later than Windows 98. It serves the purpose well enough, as I'm proving right now, but it lacks some of the bells and whistles of newer machines. I can't watch videos on it or connect directly to a network, and it doesn't even have any USB ports. So while it's useful and it has a kind of retro appeal, I don't tend to use it because my home PC does so much more.

Of course, I'm also using it for an analogy. In the modern world of the Internet, to most people h2g2 must look a bit like my old laptop. There are few images or animations, no video or music. What we do very well, of course, is write, as well as having an incredibly strong and friendly community; but to an outsider our scope must appear very limited. We're almost like Windows 98 enthusiasts in a Vista world.

We can't change many of our fundamental limitations. All we can do is try to find ways around them. The Aviators were, of course, set up to do just this, to become pioneers. I think we'd all love to see more AV created for our Entries and, slowly but surely, we've found ways to do just that.

We've been talking a lot recently about what we can do with the Aviators. There have been a whole load of suggestions - RSS feeds, audio-only clips, music hosting and so on. These have all been interesting suggestions, but we've always been limited by the fact that we're based on YouTube. So for a really good audio site, we'd need an account on Podango. For good music hosting, we'd need a MySpace. For photo galleries, we'd need a Picasa or Flickr account. We'd need to make our RSS feeds on file-sharing sites linked to 'borrowed' space on free sites. And so we go on.

Now for us this is less than ideal. For a start, we'd need a whole host of accounts for various purposes - setting them up and keeping track of them would be an absolute nightmare. Furthermore, it would be against the spirit of h2g2, as we'd effectively be promoting commercial sites by hosting our content there. But there isn't a site anywhere that will host our creations ad-free and let us do what we want with them. We can't, for example, put AV on Podango or RSS feeds on YouTube.

So we decided to make that site ourselves.

Unbeknown to the rest of the Aviators, or even the Eds, TRiG and I have been working for a few weeks on a new site where we can do all this. We're now ready to officially unveil it. h2g2aviators.com is the Aviators' new home.

Clearly, we're not planning to be any kind of a replacement for h2g2. We're very definitely a sub-site, and one that is run by volunteers - there is no official involvement in the project. Our remit is quite simple; we provide audio and audio-visual content for h2g2.

Take a look around and you'll see some interesting stuff. For a start, you'll see three 'feeds' which contain our content. The Guidecast contains clips that have been made for h2g2 Edited Guide Entries. The Beeblecast is everything else, and consists of one lonely Beeblecast at the moment. Finally we have h2gTunes for our musicians. Not only can you watch and listen to our content, but you can download it and even subscribe to it through one-click RSS subscription buttons. It's all very impressive, and I can say that without appearing immodest because TRiG wrote all the clever coding. I was largely responsible for typing things and deleting TRiG's test files before he finished with them.

All of the limitations we had on AV content in the past have now been removed. So we want to know what you want to do with it.

We could run regular audio versions of The Post, complete with jingles and music – a kind of h2g2 radio show. How about radio plays? After all, it was a radio play that started the whole thing off, a few days over thirty years ago. Meet reports, online beerfests, poetry collections. We could expand some of the Beeblecast ideas and do whole recipe books, music collections and short features. All this is possible now because we really are free, in vogonpoet's words, to broadcast ourselves.

In all this, though, we need your ideas and contributions to make it work – to become something really special. We've done the hard work. We've set everything up and given you the tools to do this. It could become something completely revolutionary for the site.

I've always thought that if I was the only person making AV, it would be pretty dull. You'd all be watching my clips made to complement the entries I feel like Aviating. In a way, the Beeblecast has reinforced this belief. Yes, I put together the Beeblecast and did most of the leg-work, but look at the credits and see how many people were involved. It only works because so many people chipped in; some with lots of work, others with a little bit here and there. It's that whole mish-mash that makes it a really community piece. If we can take that spirit onto h2g2aviators.com, I have absolutely no doubt we're on to a winner.

Let us know your ideas below. Help us make this the start of something very, very beautiful.

Watch the h2g2 Beeblecast!

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