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To get up and running with what the best vloggers and podcasters are putting out -- without putting yourself out -- it's best to start by installing a pair of free programs that do all the work of searching and downloading for you.
Start with a "podcatching" client, like iPodder (ipodder.org), available for Mac or PC, or Podcast Tuner (thenowhereman.com), from the Valley's own Chris Hagedorn. For once, this is a Mac-driven thing -- "It makes sense, because the Mac has always been the platform of choice for creative people," says Hagedorn -- so it might also be a good time to snag one of those $499 Mac Minis, or that cool looking iMac you keep seeing on The O.C.
Next, for vlog catching, get ANT (vipodder.org), available now for the Mac and coming soon for Windows. Again, this is a Mac thing, but to keep up on any new software developments, check with Me-TV.org, the central info clearinghouse for the videoblogging community.
The podcatcher and vlogcatcher basically run the same way. Open them up and browse the directories that automatically load for a brief TV Guide-style description of what's available today. iPodder includes "Top Picks" and "Most Popular" directories that provide an excellent place to start. ANT loads with default picks of its developer, Jay Dedman, a Manhattan community TV guy very active in the East Coast vlog scene. That's a good starting point, too -- Dedman seems to have very cool taste.
Click the "subscribe" button beside each of the top picks in iPodder and ANT (relax, subscriptions don't cost anything, they're just the way of telling the media-catcher what to keep fetching for you), check that "Auto Check" is on in the Preferences panel, and leave the computer running overnight. "The media-catcher is like a trained monkey," says podcaster Evo Terra. "It basically goes and gets whatever you tell it to."
Bam! The next morning, you'll have an iTunes playlist full of new podcasts and a long list of fresh clips showing below ANT's built-in viewing screen. Click and watch the cavalcade of quick 'n' quirky vlogs in the morning's ANT pile (New York vlogger Charlene Rule calls them "art pills"), while you plug in your MP3 player and automatically add the latest content to a new "Podcasts" playlist.
At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, all the leading tech visionaries prophesied that the equivalent of the iPod for video is coming soon -- most likely in the form of a cell phone, which will also be able to record and transmit both podcasts and vlogs on the go.
For now, though, give your eyes their morning art pill on the desktop computer and feast your ears on new voices and lives on your MP3 player as you drive to work.
Vlogging and podcasting may not change the world, as its most fired-up practitioners are predicting. But it will surely change the talk around the water cooler -- where somebody in the office may already be recording their daily show.