Announcing Huffduffer

Back in April, I wrote:

I’ve been thinking about maybe putting together a podcast — just an RSS feed — that points to interesting inspirational talks, sort of like Jon’s Found Sounds podcasts but for spoken word instead of music.

Well, as soon as I started trying to do that I discovered that, contrary to what Tim Bray says, creating an RSS feed by hand is a pain in the ass. So I decided that I would automate the task of creating an RSS feed complete with enclosures. Then I realised that if this was going to be useful to me, it might well be useful to other people looking to create podcasts of found sounds. So I made a website:

Huffduffer

The term derives from the abbreviation HF/DF. It refers to a technique, widely employed during World War II, to triangulate the position of radio transmissions. I thought that was a suitable term to revive for the practice of finding interesting MP3 files on the web.

Using the service is pretty straightforward. First of all, you have to sign up. No, I haven’t implemented OpenID support. Sorry. I hope to get around to it at some stage.

Secondly, you find MP3 files out there on the web. Using either a bookmarklet, or a form on the site itself, you “huffduff” the file: give it a title, description, and tags.

That’s pretty much it. People can subscribe to your podcast and you can subscribe to other people’s podcasts. You can also subscribe to a podcast of files with a certain tag or a combination of files from a particular person with a particular tag. Basically, if there’s a page for it on the site, there’s probably a corresponding podcast you can subscribe to.

So if you’ve ever fancied curating your own podcast, head on over to huffduffer.com and sign up for an account. If you’re interested in the kind of audio I find interesting, you can subscribe to my podcast.

By its nature, this will never be a popular, mass-market site. But, as is the case with most things built to scratch a particular itch, I hope it will turn out to be useful for some other people. If other people do end up using the site, that will open some opportunities for bubbling up some interesting stuff: popular MP3s, popular tags, recommendations of files from users who share similar interests with you.

I had quite a lot of fun building Huffduffer. It’s been a while since I’ve done any back-end programming so I used this as an opportunity to get intimate with the whole MVC idea. I thought about building the site in Django or Ruby on Rails, but in the end I decided to stick with PHP. I investigated some of the PHP frameworks out there and, while they all had parts that I liked, I decided to roll my own code …my own framework, really.

On the front end, the site is built in HTML5. I did this partly for the heck of it, and partly to show that HTML5 is not some future technology but something that you can use right now. The validator by Henri Sivonen proved invaluable.

The visual design of the site is very minimal, as most of my sites tend to be. On the plus side, this means the site is lean and fast-loading. On the minus side, it’s monochrome to point of boredom. But I spent quite a while crafting the typography just the way I want it in the belief that, if you’re going to concentrate on one aspect of visual design, the typography is probably the best place to start.

I’ll be iterating on Huffduffer over time. It’ll be interesting to see how the site gets used (if at all) and react accordingly.

Check it for yourself and see if it’s something you might like to use. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about the site, feel free to chime in on Get Satisfaction.

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