Public Radio Exchange – Jake Shapiro & Steve Schultze

Intro from Jay Allison: The idea for the PRX was born on Transom and we are proud to feature its premiere now. Along with the Station Resource Group and Atlantic Public Media, Jake and Steve shepherded this project through the mazes of online rights management, to the creation of a virtual economy, to software design in St. Petersburg, Russia. If you believe in destiny, they were supposed to have these jobs. Read of their journeys to this point, and then help us refine this new tool for shaping the future of public radio.

Download this document in PDF

Jake Shapiro

We haven’t exactly spelled out a Public Radio Exchange “declaration of principles” but we recently came up with a pretty good tag line:

“What do you want to hear on the radio?”

It’s got a little cheese in it like any tag line inevitably does. But it has that sense of openness – an invitation to help shape the sound coming over the airwaves. The PRX brings together that democratic impulse of the Internet and the far reach of broadcast radio.

That’s one of the strengths of the PRX idea. That locally-run noncommercial radio stations can be allies in the effort to find new voices, new ideas, and new ways to connect in a diverse and complex world. It’s one thing to put up a website and say you’ve now established a global media presence. It’s another to engage hundreds of stations in communities across the country, and the world, and help them find new and important work to bring to their audiences on the radio and on their own sites and streams.

Now, you have to be a bit of an optimist to see the public radio system as a bold partner, eager for risk-taking and pushing the envelope in this endeavor. But I believe there is indeed a critical mass of people who get it, and who will use the PRX to make a difference. I guess I’m an optimist, which is probably one reason they hired me.

I think we’re on to something big with this PRX thing. It is sort of revolutionary and it is happening at just the right media moment. Public radio is strong and growing but it needs a kick. It needs new talent, new voices, new ideas, new models, new ways to connect its listeners to the world. It needs to stand out in a competitive and converging media marketplace, and it needs to figure out what public service media means in a commercialized consumer culture. It needs the PRX!
I’m eager to tap into the collective wit and wisdom of Transom talk, because everyone has a stake in the PRX. Weigh in and help us make it better.

Eddie Van Halen

I signed on to this adventure a little over a year ago in August 2002. It is a great job, uncannily capturing just about all the things I’m interested in doing and somehow drawing on the random skills and experiences I’ve acquired along the way. Prior to this I had been working at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, where I am still a Fellow (I am not a lawyer, but I play one on the radio). The Berkman Center is “a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development”. It’s a place where they try to figure out what the heck is going on in the shifting sands of technology, law, and policy. There’s a ton of projects at the Berkman Center, many having to do with developing countries, intellectual property and digital media, as well as teaching and advocacy in the field of Internet law. Some things worth checking out include: Chilling Effects, Creative Commons, H20, IXPs.

Prior to that I had been a producer on The Connection with Christopher Lydon, a daily call-in talk show from WBUR Boston, distributed by PRI for a while and then NPR. That experience was my trial-by-fire introduction to public radio. First and foremost, it was an absolutely wonderful show. The best of its kind on public radio then and since. It had a great team of producers led by the dynamic duo of senior producer Mary McGrath and host Christopher Lydon, and together we created two hours a day of really riveting stuff. Then in February 2001 it all exploded in a flaming ball of craziness and the rest is history. If you really want to hear the stories buy me a drink at the next public radio conferenceā€¦.

Prior to thatā€¦. Well, no need to dig back too far. Some other relevant stuff is that I’ve been a musician all my life, playing guitar and cello, singing a bit, messing around on drums. I’ve been in various independent rock bands continuously since age 12, when I thought I might have a shot at being Eddie Van Halen some day. With this last band, Two Ton Shoe, we jumped into the web world way back in 1995 with help from a friend at the MIT Media Lab, and we’ve had some success on MP3.com (140,000 downloads and counting). The indie musician perspective and the Internet-driven upheaval in the music business got me thinking about new models for connecting artists to audiences, and to each other (a friend and I have been playing around with a site called GigSwap).

So when the Exchange idea came along and there was a job opening to help build and run the thing, I just had to be involved somehow. It’s a perfect gig and I’m sort of strangely qualified for it!

There is a fabulous team of people working on this project. There’s Tom Thomas and Terry Clifford, co-CEOs of the Station Resource Group (SRG) “a strategy-focused consortium of leading public radio stations.” Tom and Terry have been movers and shakers in public radio for a very long time — they started the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, among other accomplishments. Tom and Terry bring a great insiders’ sense of how the system as a whole operates and how stations are navigating through it these days.

Then there is this guy Jay Allison, who knows a thing or two about public radio, the internet, and so on. I can’t say enough about Jay, so I won’t. And then there is the “new guy” Steve Schultze. He’s the PRX Technical Manager and has been a linchpin of the entire project; from the early research looking at software options, audio standards, and existing technology; to drawing up the first blueprint for building the PRX; to overseeing the development process with our team of Russian programmers; to writing his own bits of code and various scripts to make the thing work; to devising the custom PRX audio encoder and uploader tools; to burning much midnight oil in the last several months to get the whole shebang up and running. Steve comes to the PRX with a shockingly recent degree in Philosophy and Computer Science, most of which is being put to good use these days. We haven’t had much need for his landscaping expertise, but who knows what PRX version 2.0 might offer in the way of tools and services…

Steve Schultze

Jake & Steve

I was running away from technology.

I’d worked with computers since I was a kid, so it was inevitable that at some point I would try to escape into nature. It ended up being mostly just overgrown lawns, but my summer landscaping job was Emersonian as far as I was concerned. My boss said it would be good for me to “get a little air between my ears.” I planted flowers, spread mulch, and pulled weeds. And it was good.
One time we were at a house where the soil had been beaten down so hard that we couldn’t get anything to grow. Water would run off and roots wouldn’t take hold. We had to get a roto-tiller and a gas-powered auger to drill holes in the ground. I realized that sometimes you have to get out the heavy technology to carve out space for new life.

Near the end of the summer, my boss assigned me to a job at a neglected old mansion. The property had just been bought by a new owner who was fixing it up and dividing it into smaller living spaces, mostly rented to younger people like myself. There was a garden surrounding it that clearly hadn’t been cared for in recent history. My responsibility was to clean it out, remove the vines that choked the good plants, decide where to make new flower beds, and prune overgrown bushes.

It took weeks. I would sometimes talk to the carpenters who were replacing broken banisters and fixing transoms that had swollen shut. We would bump into the new residents as they carried in their couches and tables and paintings. Some parts of the garden just needed to be weeded and spruced up a little bit. In other areas, I discovered that when I cleaned them up there was room for new plants. Sometimes I didn’t know what to do, and now I wish I’d asked the new residents.

I first heard about the budding PRX project after a long day of digging at hard clay. I’d never heard of Transom or Atlantic Public Media or Public Radio Core Values. I did have an undying love for public radio, spawned (like so many of my peers) by This American Life. When Jay described his vision for an Internet technology that would help bring new voices to public radio, I was intrigued but skeptical. I was running from computers. On the other hand, my back was sore.

A year later, I find myself landscaping again, with another fantastic crew. We try to make the best use of the technology we have, but in the end it’s about carving out space for new life, watering, fertilizing, and a little TLC. This time I want to enlist the new and old residents of this public radio estate. Tell us where you’d like the rhododendron, and whether you like violets you think they’re a weed. Remind us if we’re not watering enough. Make sure we’re helping you to protect your interests and promote your work. If something is being crowded out by bushes, tell us so we can move it right up front. If you’d like, you can even care for one of the flower beds.

Jake Shapiro

About
Jake Shapiro

Jake Shapiro came to the Public Radio Exchange after serving as Associate Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, where he oversaw multiple projects related to intellectual property, distance learning, digital media, and Internet architecture, as well as holding responsibility for core strategic and administrative duties. He remains a Berkman Center Fellow. Jake has been producer and director of business development for Lydon McGrath Inc.; he was a producer for "The Connection with Christopher Lydon"--a nationally syndicated call-in talk show from WBUR. He worked in research and web development at Harvard; among other endeavors, Jake developed web resources for the Davis Center for Russian Studies, the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies, and the Harvard Central Asia Forum. He also spent two years in Moscow, Russia as program coordinator of the Moscow Institute for Advanced Studies. Jake is co-founder of L-Shaped Records, guitarist for the local rock band Two Ton Shoe, and studio cellist on many independent and major label recordings. Jake graduated from Harvard in 1993, majoring in History and Literature; he is a fluent Russian speaker, plays guitar and cello, and lives in Brighton with his wife Elena Gorodenskaya. As an only child of a musicologist mother and psychiatrist father Jake wonders if he was genetically predisposed to end up in public radio, and he remembers listening to ATC since about 1975 on the way to daycare...

Steve Schultze

About
Steve Schultze

Steve Schultze comes to PRX from the great outdoors of western Michigan. Before landscaping, he developed and deployed Internet services for non-profit and educational institutions. He is a contributor to several open-source projects. In 2002, he graduated from Calvin College, majoring in Philosophy and Computer Science and publishing on the role of community and collaboration on the web. Steve has dabbled in radio production and hopes someday to produce longer documentaries. He lives in a geek house in Cambridge, MA.

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  • Jay Allison

    10.21.03

    Reply

    Public Radio Exchange
    Intro from Jay Allison

    The idea for the PRX was born on Transom (here and then here), and we are proud to feature its premiere now.

    Along with the Station Resource Group and Atlantic Public Media, Jake Shapiro and Steve Schultze shepherded this project through the mazes of online rights management, to the creation of a virtual economy, to software design in St. Petersburg, Russia. If you believe in destiny, they were supposed to have these jobs.

    Read of their journeys to this point, and then help us refine this new tool for shaping the future of public radio.

  • Jake Shapiro

    10.21.03

    Reply

    The PRX Manifes-doh!
    From Jake Shapiro & Steve Schultze

    We haven’t exactly spelled out a Public Radio Exchange “declaration of principles” but we recently came up with a pretty good tag line:

    "What do you want to hear on the radio?"

    It’s got a little cheese in it like any tag line inevitably does. But it has that sense of openness – an invitation to help shape the sound coming over the airwaves. The PRX brings together that democratic impulse of the Internet and the far reach of broadcast radio.

    That’s one of the strengths of the PRX idea – that locally-run noncommercial radio stations can be allies in the effort to find new voices, new ideas, and new ways to connect in a diverse and complex world. It’s one thing to put up a website and say you’ve now established a global media presence. It’s another to engage hundreds of stations in communities across the country, and the world, and help them find new and important work to bring to their audiences on the radio and on their own sites and streams.

    Now, you have to be a bit of an optimist to see the public radio system as a bold partner, eager for risk-taking and pushing the envelope in this endeavor. But I believe there is indeed a critical mass of people who get it, and who will use the PRX to make a difference. I guess I’m an optimist, which is probably one reason they hired me.

    I think we’re on to something big with this PRX thing. It is sort of revolutionary and it is happening at just the right media moment. Public radio is strong and growing but it needs a kick. It needs new talent, new voices, new ideas, new models, new ways to connect its listeners to the world. It needs to stand out in a competitive and converging media marketplace, and it needs to figure out what public service media means in a commercialized consumer culture. It needs the PRX!

    I’m eager to tap into the collective wit and wisdom of Transom talk, because everyone has a stake in the PRX. Weigh in and help us make it better.

  • Jake Shapiro

    10.21.03

    Reply
    Van Halen

    I signed on to this adventure a little over a year ago in August 2002. It is a great job, uncannily capturing just about all the things I’m interested in doing and somehow drawing on the random skills and experiences I’ve acquired along the way. Prior to this I had been working at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, where I am still a Fellow (I am not a lawyer, but I play one on the radio). The Berkman Center is “a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development”. It’s a place where they try to figure out what the heck is going on in the shifting sands of technology, law, and policy. There’s a ton of projects at the Berkman Center, many having to do with developing countries, intellectual property and digital media, as well as teaching and advocacy in the field of Internet law. Some things worth checking out include: Chilling Effects, Creative Commons, H20, IXPs.

    Prior to that I had been a producer on The Connection with Christopher Lydon – a daily call-in talk show from WBUR Boston, distributed by PRI for a while and then NPR. That experience was my trial-by-fire introduction to public radio. First and foremost, it was an absolutely wonderful show – the best of its kind on public radio then and since. It had a great team of producers led by the dynamic duo of senior producer Mary McGrath and host Christopher Lydon, and together we created two hours a day of really riveting stuff. Then in February 2001 it all exploded in a flaming ball of craziness and the rest is history. If you really want to hear the stories buy me a drink at the next public radio conference….

    Prior to that…. Well, no need to dig back too far. Some other relevant stuff is that I’ve been a musician all my life, playing guitar and cello, singing a bit, messing around on drums. I’ve been in various independent rock bands continuously since age 12, when I thought I might have a shot at being Eddie Van Halen some day. With this last band, Two Ton Shoe, we jumped into the web world way back in 1995 with help from a friend at the MIT Media Lab, and we’ve had some success on MP3.com (140,000 downloads and counting). The indie musician perspective and the Internet-driven upheaval in the music business got me thinking about new models for connecting artists to audiences, and to each other (a friend and I have been playing around with a site called GigSwap).

    So when the Exchange idea came along and there was a job opening to help build and run the thing, I just had to be involved somehow. It’s a perfect gig and I’m sort of strangely qualified for it!

  • Jake Shapiro

    10.21.03

    Reply

    There is a fabulous team of people working on this project. There’s Tom Thomas and Terry Clifford, co-CEOs of the Station Resource Group (SRG) "a strategy-focused consortium of leading public radio stations." Tom and Terry have been movers and shakers in public radio for a very long time — they started the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, among other accomplishments. Tom and Terry bring a great insiders’ sense of how the system as a whole operates and how stations are navigating through it these days.

    Then there is this guy Jay Allison, who knows a thing or two about public radio, the internet, and so on. I can’t say enough about Jay, so I won’t.

    And then there is the "new guy" Steve Schultze. He’s the PRX Technical Manager and has been a linchpin of the entire project; from the early research looking at software options, audio standards, and existing technology; to drawing up the first blueprint for building the PRX; to overseeing the development process with our team of Russian programmers; to writing his own bits of code and various scripts to make the thing work; to devising the custom PRX audio encoder and uploader tools; to burning much midnight oil in the last several months to get the whole shebang up and running.

    Steve comes to the PRX with a shockingly recent degree in Philosophy and Computer Science, most of which is being put to good use these days. We haven’t had much need for his landscaping expertise, but who knows what PRX version 2.0 might offer in the way of tools and services…

  • Steve Schultze

    10.22.03

    Reply
    Landscaping

    I was running away from technology.

    I’d worked with computers since I was a kid, so it was inevitable that at some point I would try to escape into nature. It ended up being mostly just overgrown lawns, but my summer landscaping job was Emersonian as far as I was concerned. My boss said it would be good for me to “get a little air between my ears.” I planted flowers, spread mulch, and pulled weeds. And it was good.

    One time we were at a house where the soil had been beaten down so hard that we couldn’t get anything to grow. Water would run off and roots wouldn’t take hold. We had to get a roto-tiller and a gas-powered auger to drill holes in the ground. I realized that sometimes you have to get out the heavy technology to carve out space for new life.

    Near the end of the summer, my boss assigned me to a job at a neglected old mansion. The property had just been bought by a new owner who was fixing it up and dividing it into smaller living spaces, mostly rented to younger people like myself. There was a garden surrounding it that clearly hadn’t been cared for in recent history. My responsibility was to clean it out, remove the vines that choked the good plants, decide where to make new flower beds, and prune overgrown bushes.

    It took weeks. I would sometimes talk to the carpenters who were replacing broken banisters and fixing transoms that had swollen shut. We would bump into the new residents as they carried in their couches and tables and paintings. Some parts of the garden just needed to be weeded and spruced up a little bit. In other areas, I discovered that when I cleaned them up there was room for new plants. Sometimes I didn’t know what to do, and now I wish I’d asked the new residents.

    I first heard about the budding PRX project after a long day of digging at hard clay. I’d never heard of Transom or Atlantic Public Media or Public Radio Core Values. I did have an undying love for public radio, spawned (like so many of my peers) by This American Life. When Jay described his vision for an Internet technology that would help bring new voices to public radio, I was intrigued but skeptical. I was running from computers. On the other hand, my back was sore.

    A year later, I find myself landscaping again, with another fantastic crew. We try to make the best use of the technology we have, but in the end it’s about carving out space for new life, watering, fertilizing, and a little TLC. This time I want to enlist the new and old residents of this public radio estate. Tell us where you’d like the rhododendron, and whether you like violets you think they’re a weed. Remind us if we’re not watering enough. Make sure we’re helping you to protect your interests and promote your work. If something is being crowded out by bushes, tell us so we can move it right up front. If you’d like, you can even care for one of the flower beds.

  • Mary McGrath

    10.22.03

    Reply
    Spell it out

    You guys have been in the trenches for more than a year now working out every imaginable detail of this thing. I can imagine a way that PRX could begin to transform public radio but there’s obstacles here too. What are your best hopes and your worst fears?

  • jake

    10.23.03

    Reply
    Spelling

    As it turns out there are a few spelling mistakes scattered throughout the PRX site, leftover from valiant efforts by our Russian programmers. Someone just pointed one out to me today!

    But we did indeed spend the better part of a year thinking the Exchange through in as many dimensions as possible, in countless conversations and focuses business planning excercises.

    Hopes. Well, we are unabashedly ambitious about how the PRX could take wing and really make a difference in and beyond the public radio world. We are taking the Transom aim of "channeling new work and voices to public radio through the Internet" to a new level, and partnering with stations is a critical piece. More on that later.

    Fears. When we wrote our business plan we included a section on "risks and challenges" that took the obstacles head on. It’s never fun writing that kind of stuff, because you want to believe everything will work in your favor with an idea like this.

    But of course there’s the risk that stations will be too slow to adopt PRX as a source of programming, that they will not find content that is compelling enough to keep them involved, that the Internet model will prove too disruptive to their tried-and-true work habits and behavior.

    There’s the risk that the PRX open-door policy and review system will not surface the best work and bring it to stations’ attention effectively. No one wants a collection of mediocre pieces – we need the brilliant stuff (and it’s out there) to shine through.

    Then there are financial and legal obstacles, and the myriad challenges that face any start-up in an established industry.

    So if you’re wondering if any of these fears keep me up at night, yes, they do! But then all of the promise, the potential, and the excitement of getting this project off the ground take over and get me out of bed in the morning and right back to work. Net result: not a lot of sleep these days…

  • Justin Grotelueschen

    10.24.03

    Reply
    Spreading the love

    The PRX is surprisingly unique with its potential energy to at least initiate a more democratic approach to airing content on public radio. In the past year I worked a bit with Jake and Steve in my graduate studies and in projects originating at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. By the time my studies culminated, I was working to further understand how the PRX could impact other kinds of radio, namely college-based. We know Public Radio is in the name and should be the primary focus as the PRX picks up steam. But I see no reason why other audiences wouldn’t appreciate the broad range of compelling content the PRX could provide. Unique categories of radio available on the PRX will continuously populate and most any radio station could have access to material to satisfy their niche audiences.

    Most people think of college radio stations as music-only because they’re still the best place to hear new music due to the low barrier to entry. But it’s presumptuous, and I would even say incorrect, to say that CR audiences wouldn’t enjoy the news, issues, narratives, art, and incategorizable radio that the PRX database is already entertaining. And CR could serve as a unique testing ground for producers to hone and get feedback on their work before they hit the big time pub.radio affiliates. You could also think of it as an incubator to get college students and teachers thinking about using stations to jumpstart more radio producers to provide material to the PRX, thusly creating this cyclical creative distribution process that serves the ultimate goal of the PRX: to transmit a greater variety of compelling radio to the listener! Developing a model for the PRX to work closely with financially challenged college radio stations could prove to be an insurmountable challenge and may prevent the PRX from becoming ubiquitous within the industry, but the thought certainly gets me wondering how the PRX enigma can take over the radio world.

    Kudos to Jake and Steve for climbing the mountain of work to get this thing up and going. Now it’s all in how people use it. Public radio first, then college and community – then the world! Exciting stuff.

  • Jackson

    10.26.03

    Reply
    Ab Fab!

    The PRX website is a wonder — a credit to ingenuity and brain power. Many thanks.

    A couple of questions for PRXers out there: do you see (conceive? imagine? believe?) the work posted there as final cuts, or are there others out there who imagine PRX as a potential critique domain?

    I guess I am following a thought that Scott Carrier raised on one of the pages here at Transom: A piece is done once it airs. Does posting a piece on PRX constitute airing or is the site another workshop? Some longtime favorite works are there and it’s great to be able to get them so it’s obviously more than that.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    10.26.03

    Reply

    Could you go over how PRX was born or conceived here?

  • jake

    10.27.03

    Reply

    Thanks, Jackson! And great question.

    This first incarnation of the PRX is definitely aimed at work that is "radio ready". It’s set up as a marketplace for stations to acquire work for broadcast, so it wouldn’t make sense to introduce unfinished pieces or works-in-progress into the system at the moment.

    However, the uploading/describing/auditioning/reviewing/searching tools are very well suited to training and mentoring, so we envision other versions of the PRX with separate but connected "training facilities" for various groups or projects to use.

    There may be some intermediate step we can take, like creating a "works in progress" category reserved exclusively for this purpose.

  • Jay Allison

    10.27.03

    Reply
    Reviewing and Birth

    Transom, more than PRX, is the place for the constructive producer criticism. Work here is often unfinished and can benefit from good ideas. We welcome "I would have done it this way" postings.

    PRX reviews, on the other hand, serve a different audience. They aren’t meant to instruct producers, but to advise programmers. They should help station curators in their decisions. Should I take this? How will it fit best with other programming? What are its strengths/weaknesses? At PRX, the goal of reviewing is to surface good work. We aren’t interested in pans, or even much of the "I would have done it this way" stuff.

    As for Transom’s role in the birth of PRX… The PRX was originally an idea of mine dubbed the "Interested Stations Group" which grew from a local "documentary DJ" show I host at our local stations and the interface of public radio and the Internet that occurs here on Transom. I began writing about the idea here in topics on Transom (here and then here), and it gathered some momentum, especially when Terry Clifford and Tom Thomas of SRG joined up. Laura Welsh of the NEA and Jeff Ramirez and Kay Tuttle of CPB were also very helpful in getting the idea off the ground and making it real.

    Interestingly, we are now pondering ways that Transom and PRX can combine energies and grow together. We’d be interested in anyone’s thoughts on that.

  • Jackson

    10.28.03

    Reply
    The funnel vs. the sieve

    Jay: many thanks for the clarification. The middling ground between Transom and PRX seems to be a domain where many of us lurk. For example, I have no notion about how many pieces are submitted over the transom, but there is — and this is no comment on the fabulous ed board at Transom (overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated, anyone?) — precious little comes back to the producer who has been hacking away enthusiastically at tape for several years in the editorial void.

    To me, Transom has come to resemble a funnel in which a fair amount of content enters, but only a small bit appears at the other end. In other critiquing circles I’ve experienced, this phenomenon leads to a curiously formative element in the creative process where doubt-ridden producers see what has managed to appear in the discussion realm of Transom and then find themselves imitating the bits that got through to the home page.

    On the other hand, I have gotten a wide variety of useful comments on the pieces I have posted on PRX — comment that I would not have been able to find anywhere else in my limited awareness of the pubrad audio world. Now, I will admit that I would not use PRX as a place to hoist any old piece; I will not post something I don’t feel some measure of pride over. The different comments have been really helpful about how peers listen.

    Yes, these are not critiques on PRX — but they are incredibly helpful, because they seem to capture how people hear pieces. And until I’ve walked a mile in another man’s ears… I’ve gotten a clearer sense from the PRX comments where my own voice is going. PRX has allowed me to sift my vocational attributes. (Hence, the sieve)

    So, I am delighted to see the potential cross fruits of Transom and PRX’s labors. For my two cents, I would say an ongoing critique/workshop space would be great. By last count, there are 590 people signed up, many of whom are dwelling in the same netherworld as I. I’m sure others would interested in pursuing the workshop/critique process.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    10.29.03

    Reply

    I like the comparison with landscape design

    could you talk further about the design of the website in geographical or landscape terms?

    the first thing that comes to mind for me is how landscapers wait to pave paths until after people show how they want to travel among buildings… is there an equivalent here?

    OR, if easier, leave geography behind and please just talk about the design decisions any old way you want…

    A number of people, including Barry Rueger, just now on the Assn of Independents in Radio (AIR) list serve, have commented on the quality of the design. I’m assuming they mean navigation and general organization.

  • hal

    10.30.03

    Reply
    Transom & PRX

    Jackson,

    It’s my understanding that Transom spends the bulk of their funding doing exactly what you seek, offering criticism. It takes a maddening amount of time to review submissions, I would think. When a story is pitched to NPR or other outlets it’s rare to get good solid constructive criticism. Jay, etal. at Transom are here specifically to offer us, the independent producers living in a vacuum, an opportunity to try new things.

    PRX is a great idea that is in the formative stages, still. Transom is a fully functioning, highly useful, wealth of information. I use this site almost every day. Sure, the content may funnel in in bulk and spew out in small bits. But what does not make it to this web site goes directly to the producer in the form of critique, advice, direction, etc.

    Jay and crew, thanks for the fabulous forum. Jake, I’m really excited about PRX. I remember your talk last year at 3rd Coast and found it interesting. This year, it seems, things are happening for PRX, how exciting.

    It was great to see you guys in Chicago this year.

    Them’s the thoughts of a slow minded, very hairy, red neck from Tennessee.

    Hal

  • Jackson

    10.30.03

    Reply
    Let’s put it another way…

    Hal: Please don’t get me wrong. I love Transom; I love what I hear here and what I have learned. I admire the patience and enthusiasm of all who participate here. I have sent hundreds of links to everything from K Mart to dog hair to Germans on lawn mowers.

    But everything we encounter in the discussion area here has already overcome a series of editorial hurdles. The work has already been found "good" by a number of people whose taste and opinions we admire and respect. The critique process, or so it seems to me under such circumstances, is generally how to make the good even better.

    Perhaps Transom is not the medium for the group grope approach to the critique where all work and all players are fair game. And it is probably true that PRX should not provide that environment, either. Maybe it should be something at AIR — though they don’t seem to have the kind of storage facilities PRX offers.

    I guess what I am arguing for is some kind of environment with fewer filters. For 1%, 2% or 5% of material submitted to Transom, there is the 95% that we don’t see from outside the editorial board. I am not arguing against the excellence of the Transom editorial process, but I cannot help but wonder what is missing or wrong in that other 95%.

    Believe me, I know the labor intensity of editorial work and I have valued the comments I have gotten from Transom. But I have learned in the course of other critique circles the value of simply hearing lots of stuff — good, bad, and otherwise. Sure, let’s continue to highlight pieces for discussion, but whether it’s at Transom or PRX or AIR, let’s have a place where people can simply drop their wares to the floor and ask:

    Whaddya think?

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    10.31.03

    Reply

    It’s grown to 622 members already! How many potential members do you suppose there are?

  • Jake Warga

    11.01.03

    Reply
    Good Job!

    Guys-
    Being a Transom graduate, I’m impressed with PRX, it’s like a Transom that everyone can post to! I’m a bit daft with computers, but you guys made it real easy. Now I can post stuff, even just for myself (non-public) and have access to it where ever I go. A private and public showcase. I can’t think of any recommendations really, maybe a guest reviewer like Transom does?

  • Jay Allison

    11.04.03

    Reply
    try it out

    Guest Reviewer is an idea we’re playing with, and might be a good cross-over between Transom and PRX.

    The thing I always say about PRX is that it’s a tool. It’s not an end in itself, it’s a way to make things happen. Practically every day someone comes up with a new application — e.g. groups of stations comparing airchecks, a nexus for stations sharing an affinity in place or style, private "function rooms" for training, producer teams offering "offshore editing" to stations or fellow producers.

    This weekend, with Dave Isay, we started developing the idea of using the PRX to coordinate station involvement in upload/download of the StoryCorps project. Same with youth radio groups and others.

    Have people here signed up for your free accounts? Go try it out and tell us how it works for you. http://www.prx.org Create your profile page. Grab the free encoder/uploader tools (they’re drag & drop) and put something up. If you’re at a station, try downloading something. Audition a piece and write a review. Was it simple? Where was it confusing? Along with discussing the larger implications here, we’re hoping this topic might serve to iron out some wrinkles.

  • Jay Allison

    11.04.03

    Reply
    The Public Radio Collaboration

    Also, the entire Public Radio Collaboration project is now housed at the PRX. This is a system-wide special look at the question, "Whose Democracy Is It?" which will be airing in the coming weeks. There are lots of good pieces in there, and you can audition them in RealAudio.

    You all can help by going to prx.org and finding good pieces and reviewing them. The PRX motto is: "What do you want to hear on the radio." It’s up to you to surface the good work.

    …kind of like Democracy. You have to vote.

  • Mary McGrath

    11.04.03

    Reply
    Reviewing the Reviews

    PRX represents a sample of what’s out there in pub radioland at any given time. Unlinke Transom, the pieces haven’t been screened so the content is uneven as one would expect. The reviews, though, aren’t reviews the way we usually think of them. My understanding is that they’re meant to let stations know roughly what the pieces are about and how they might creatively be used. You don’t want reviewers to "pan" pieces or to provide criticism the way book reviewers or movie reviewers do. If so, in the effort at desnarkification (see "The Believer") is anything lost? Or do you have a different editorial "voice" in mind?

  • Jay Allison

    11.04.03

    Reply
    Snark Filter

    Snarkiness, as much fun as it is, doesn’t seem to serve a useful purpose in the PRX context, which is not so much a forum for critique, but for getting good work to air.

    Adventurous work and new voices have a hard enough time getting to national media without ambushes along the way.

    Think of the PRX Reviews more as "Recommendations" with qualifications.

    That said, public radio, like any creative enterprise, can benefit from full-on, even snarky critique, somewhere.

    (by the way, Jake is on his way to Toronto to talk about the PRX to the CBC, which is why I’m piping up here.)

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    11.04.03

    Reply
    Onward, Inward and Outward

    Exciting to see PRX involve youth groups and Story Corp to broaden the reach inside this country.

    And I’m glad to see there’s contact with Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
    I wonder about how far international and cross-cultural involvement could go?

    maybe there could eventually be some translation links or arrangements…

  • Amy O’Leary

    11.04.03

    Reply
    PRX Reviews

    Mary raises a good point which reminded me of a question/suggestion I had about PRX.

    b What is the intent of the reviews?

    It was my understanding that the reviews were supposed to tell station managers whether or not I would like to hear that particular piece on the air or not – I was kind of taking the tag line at it’s word: "What do you want to hear on the radio?"

    But when I look at the reviews it seems like there’s a lot of cheerleading. This is perfectly understandable, given the fact that most of the reviewers on PRX are people who love radio, and are interested in supporting the medium as well as new work — however I wonder if there’s not something structural about the PRX system that might be at play here.

    HERE’S THE THING: I love that PRX makes it so easy to connect with the PRX community. You can see who’s looking at what stuff, you can see who’s looking at you. All these connectivity tools (so well thought out!) populate a virtual space in a way that most other online communities don’t do nearly as well. HOWEVER, does this close connectivity make it difficult for people to be as candid as they might like to be?

    Thoughts on this?

    Amy

  • Jay Allison

    11.04.03

    Reply
    reviewing

    This is useful discussion because we’re shaking down the review policies as we speak. Regarding intent of the reviews, there are some answers in earlier postings and on the site itself.

    We have three constituencies – Uploaders (people who make the programs), Downloaders (stations) and Listeners. Finally, the point of the PRX is to get more good programs on stations for listeners to hear.

    Okay, so how does reviewing fit in? It helps producers get their good stuff in front of stations and have it recognized. It gives stations some help in weeding through material and selecting stuff they want. It not only delivers good stuff to listeners on the radio, but it allows them to take part in the selection.

    Judgments about programming can be both useful and painful. We are trying to get the benefits without too much pain. At present, we ask that if you don’t like something, you just don’t write about it. We feel pans don’t help surface good work. That phrase, to surface good work, is the main intent of the reviews and our policies. If you notice mostly good reviews, it’s probably a function of that policy. It’s not supposed to be about cheerleading exactly, but it is supposed to flag the good stuff. And candidness is encouraged, but, I suppose, just not beneath a certain level.

    Think about the constituencies we’re serving and see if you can help refine our system. What do you think of the various levels of the review structure — Editorial Board, Sounding Board, and Vox Pop? Do you think the five-point rating is a good idea? Again, it’s a "recommendation" because the points answer the question, "How much do you want to hear this on the radio?" but no matter how much we try to sweeten it, low is low and high is high. Life is tough. We recognize that, and we recognize that judgements are being made in this context that can have a real effect on people’s work, so we want to ensure that our policies make the effect as constructive as possible.

    Please keep your thoughts coming on this.

  • Jackson

    11.04.03

    Reply
    Reviewers not by title, but by use…

    "Editorial board," "sounding board," "vox pop" are not particularly communicative terms if one is not neck-deep in the structure of PRX.

    And yet they might have greater meaning than we imagine. The terms just need to be spelt out: Editorial, to my ear, clearly refers to the Transom crew. Vox Pop, on the other hand, seems to embrace the curiously large number of just plain (and good and kind) listeners out there who have stumbled onto the site because they follow the diverse voices of pubrad.

    "Sounding board," on the other hand, leads me to a point Jay makes somewhere above — the notion that PRX is a tool. And that it certainly is, but in the course of off-site discussions with others involved in PRX, I’ve found that regardless of the original intent behind the design of the tool, people are going to find their own ways of making use of this tool. After all, the Fanta bottle in Africa became a percussion instrument, the telephone answering machine became a device to screen calls, the PowerPoint presentation is becoming a self-sustaining work of art.

    Can we keep our sense of PRX open enough only to say that we can use the site this way or that way? It seems to me that it is the duty of all of us to let PRX respond and adapt to the customs and habits of diverse users without falling into the trap of saying no, you shouldn’t use it like that.

  • Jackson

    11.04.03

    Reply
    As for Surfacing Good Work

    I like this phrase a lot and I admire the struggle being undertaken at PRX to bring as much good work to the surface as possible.

    I wonder about the five-point rating system in combination with the comment. Because it involves what we say and how we score a story, many of us are liberal enough, I’m sure, that we will frequently use the one rating system — the actual comments we write — in dynamic opposition to the other — the five-point score. Give with one, take with the other. How will I show my (fill in the blank) about this piece? I will give with a kind word, but I will take away a dot to convey some intangible sense of reservation about the work. Something I can’t or won’t say because many of the people foisting their wares here are as nervy as I.

    My guess, if one were to tally up all the reviews and average them out, we would probably end up with a typical score somewhere between the very high 3s and the low 4s here in the PRX Lounge. As Bill Murray would say, there’s a lot of love in this room.

    One solution would be to let only LISTENERS and CHOOSERS do the reviewing. Is there a way we could get Cartalk gift certs to give to LISTENERS who venture here and want to contribute to our work through their comments? What incentives are there to encourage station users to comment? Not that they need encouragement, but as the primary target audience for PRX submitters, it would be occupationally helpful to get a sense of how they think about particular examples of the craft. Knowing that some jealously guard their points, maybe they could get additional points for comments posted on the site, and then they wouldn’t be so jittery participating in this science project.

    I have other thoughts about producers and commentary, but I’ll save that for another post.

  • Noah Miller

    11.05.03

    Reply
    Surfacing Good Cheerleaders

    I agree with Jackson that the reviewing system is currently awash in a surfeit of love. We all want to support each other and see each other do well. The world of public radio is so small and so full of nice people that none of us really wants to vote anyone off the island.

    Which is why, as Jay says, the emphasis is on surfacing the
    i good
    work, rather than panning the rest. Jay, you suggest if we don’t like a piece, we should simply leave it unreviewed. But don’t you think that’s a bit dishonest, or at least ambiguous? How are downloaders supposed to distinguish between a lousy piece that’s been listened to 20 times and left unreviewed, and a great piece that no one has ever had the time to listen to? It seems to me that there has to be some way to indicate that a piece has been kept
    i below
    the surface. If all us pubrad folks are too protective of our relationships to openly admit not liking a colleague’s piece, then there needs to be someone else who can tell it like it is. The Editorial Board has the advantage of posessing both anonymity and authority, so it should be able to do this. But so far, in a climate where panning is disallowed, the Editorial Board seems to be all love. If the E.B. has
    b not
    liked any pieces, how are we to know?

    All that said, I think the PRX is the best thing since sliced bread. Or has the potential to be, anyway. Already it’s got a beautiful interface, easily-understood structure, and significant participants.

    Perhaps, PRX gurus, you shouldn’t shy away from the idea of PRX as a real "sounding board" — something like a more do-it-yourself Transom. The masses apparently want it. I certainly do. As much as I’m interested in selling my work as-is to stations, I’m also very interested in what my colleagues and the gal on the street have to say about it. I’m a young producer, and I can use feedback — "we liked your piece and we’ll buy it" is a good kind of feedback, but more important to me at the moment is "here’s what we liked, here’s what we didn’t like, and why".

    So how about leaving the reviewing to a selected (impartial?) group, and creating a means for everyone else to simply discuss the work openly — through Transomesque threaded discussions, for example. Then maybe I’d get feedback my work which would lead me to make changes which would make stations more eager to air it! Now that seems like a win-win situation.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    11.05.03

    Reply

    Does the editorial board rotate?

  • hal

    11.05.03

    Reply
    Rights???

    Here’s a question. One I’m very curious about. Does the producer have to get clearance from the purchasing entity to post a story to PRX that has previously aired? I’ve noticed several stories on PRX that have aired on public radio magazine shows, local stations, and NPR.

    So, who owns what? If I post a story produced for a magazine show, do they have to okay my posting it to PRX? (I’m assuming they do.)

    Has this been a problem for anyone? Could this be a problem? Living in a world where I have to pay the mortgage every month, I typically don’t do stories without having some sort of agreement to produce for a specific show, magazine, etc. so, I’m still trying to figure out how best to use PRX.

    Any thoughts on rights?

    Hal-

  • Jackson

    11.06.03

    Reply
    Whose Life Is It, Anyway?

    Good question, Hal. My general sense is that if we have been commissioned to create a work for hire and the contract does not specify that we as creators actually own the copyright to the piece, then said work is probably owned by the organism who hired us. I only put it this way because I own the copyright to a whole bunch of CD liner notes that will never have existence outside the domain of liner notes so I don’t imagine anyone will be mad-dashing to license them.

    No doubt there will be those who frame the question in terms of: Well, of course, you own the work. Here at PRX, you’re simply agreeing to licenses to users of your work.

    Allowing as how we producers, through no foresight of our own, might actually own the copyright to what we have wrought, I wonder how the business model of PRX addresses the needs of producers as rent-paying individuals.

    A 1:32 story garners 8 points. I hope and trust that someone at PRX will explicate the dollar value of a point and explain to me, once we have sorted all that out, why I should not wonder why I garner as much as $12.00 from PRX for a story that might have earned me over $500.00 elsewhere.

  • Steve Schultze

    11.06.03

    Reply
    Reply to Nannette – Landscaping as Site Design

    I’m very interested in Nannette’s comments, and I’ll try unsuccessfully to restrain myself from writing too much. She said:

    the first thing that comes to mind for me is how landscapers wait to pave paths until after people show how they want to travel among buildings… is there an equivalent here?

    Absolutely! At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. I’ve been influenced quite a bit by the folks at Adaptive Path, who focus on practical user-focused web design. I think they take their name from that practice exactly. My college campus was actually laid out this way, so it’s the way I tend to walk and the way I tend to do things. I’m a hopeless jaywalker. There has been some interesting research involving footprints and web navigation, and you probably know that we have something related called "footprints" in PRX. For us, all this means listening to the users and building the tools to work the way that humans (and more specifically, producers, stations, and reviewers) expect them to work. Even further, we can ask ourselves: What would the landscape of public radio look like if it was structured entirely by our collective footsteps? Mayhem? A "global conversation"? All transmission but no reception? Democracy?

    We could get very nerdy and talk about emergence theory, dialogue, or affordances but I’ll leave that to another forum.

    Instead, let’s talk about architecture. Specifically, Christopher Alexander. I like when he says "the city is a receptacle for life" (The City Is Not A Tree, 1965). Alexander takes an approach to architecture that focuses on space as something lived-in, not as something humans fit into after the fact. Alexander’s city (which includes large-scale urban planning and individual rooms) consists of patterns of human task or activity which can be combined to form various structures in which humans act and interact. As one person observed, "the adoption of patterns in the software design community is merely about expressing knowledge in a convenient format, where Alexander has the ambition to change the world." Whether the situation is arranging the location of houses or designing how web users interact, the messages are the same:

      watch how people live
      community is key

    I suppose the architecture metaphor from my first post works here as well. As new tenants of the public radio estate inherit rooms and courtyards, a certain amount of remodeling is natural.

    We certainly need help doing this with PRX. We’ve had to make decisions along the way… impose structure in order to make sense of things (see slides 19-28 of the presentation from the Adaptive Path 2002 Workshop). We don’t think that this is the perfect structure, and we need you to tell us where it’s getting muddy and we should pave.

  • Mary McGrath

    11.06.03

    Reply
    More on Reviews

    I think you should continue to air this discussion out. You don’t want the vibe here to be — PRX is great but the reviews are a joke. My own thoughts are that the reviewers should be honest (in a friendly and helpful way…by the way are these meant to serve as feedback to producers at all?) and that the system can take it. No snarkitude but there should be a way to signal that a piece isn’t ready for prime time. Maybe the key is in the star ratings. Is there a review on PRX now that you see as a good template?

  • Christine McKenna

    11.06.03

    Reply
    More on Reviews

    Hi there,
    I just want to thank all you folks for putting both Transom and PRX together. They are fabulous resources for the radio wanna-be’s like myself.

    In terms of the RRX review process, I think everything the Editorial Board listens to should be scored. Submitters then have the choice if they see a poor review online to take their own submission down and rework it and resubmit it. Or they can leave it up there.

    As a teacher, I’ve found that the more specific I can be about expectations, the better students do and the more accepting they are of their grades. So I’d suggest a more explicit set of criteria for how the pieces are reviewed. You should ask submitters to select from a list of potential purposes for their piece: to entertain, to describe an event, to explain a debate/controversy, to present a case study, to give instruction, to advocate a cause. Maybe you could condense your "category" feature down and have submitters choose the closest fit. And then you would show specific criteria for each category. If they are intending to entertain, on a scale of one to five how original are they, how humorous, how thought-provoking? If they are explaining a controversy, how balanced are they, how comprehensive is the report? Have maybe 4-5 specific criteria and then give an overall ranking.

    I think you also should have a separate ranking for sound quality. Several of the reviews I saw were very positive about the content but unhappy with the quality of the recording (e.g. phone interview). One might be easier to deal with than the other for stations, so it seems unfair to condense them both into one single rating.

    Good luck with the project!

  • Christine McKenna

    11.06.03

    Reply
    Timely Pieces

    I think the option of claiming that your submission is "timely" is fabulous! But I think you should have submitters either choose up to two calendar months or choose that the submission could be aired anytime. One story suggests airing in June for Father’s Day – perfect. Another was about men’s uneasiness wandering into lingerie stores. The submitter suggested airing it at Christmas, and the reviewer suggested Valentine’s Day. It only appears on the calendar in December, as intended by the submitter. Could you figure out a way for reviewers also to get their suggested air times into the calendar? Or maybe the Editorial Board can over-rule submitters because they know what would work best for the stations? [BTW, you also have some entrepreneurial folks who’ve listed their story in every month of the year, which is not particularly helpful.]

    Maybe you could add a "Hot Right Now" choice as well. You have several election stories listed under November and December, because that’s when your collaboration is happening. But they’re really not December-specific. Maybe you could enable folks to claim something as "Hot Right Now" and then revert back to "air anytime" status?

    For instance, my anytime story about homeless families might be just perfect to air now if I find out that Congress is voting next week on some major housing policy. It would be great to have a way to attach a PDF file with a scripted intro to the piece that local stations could adapt after a little fact-checking of their own. The "press release" could contain the basic info stations would want to share with listeners about the upcoming vote with little time investment on the station’s part.

  • Jay Allison

    11.06.03

    Reply
    thanks…

    These User Notes are really helpful, exactly the kind of muddy paths we’re looking for. Keep ’em coming.

  • Jackson

    11.06.03

    Reply
    There’s "timely" and then there’s "time-specific"

    That’s a good point, Christine. And as any old fan of Robert J. Lurtsema will remind you, after first telling you how wonderful it was to wake up to the birds (even in the dead of winter), the calendar can be a good tool to program by.

    As for the "Hot Right Now" — are there people out there who are seeing PRX as a potential news as opposed to, ummm, non-news delivery system?

    The notion really hadn’t crossed my mind.

  • Noah Miller

    11.07.03

    Reply
    Success stories?

    Steve, Jake & Jay: How well has PRX been working so far from your point of view? Are you surprised at how people are using it? And here’s my itchiest question: have any stations bought pieces yet? Any bites?

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    11.08.03

    Reply

    I like the way Christine McKenna’s ideas about getting specific within type of show. that would take away from concerns about reviews being too positive or negative. It would be about being helpful and effective for the buyers.

    Meanwhile, within free-form, general comments, stating things positively can be just as honest and effective as more terse or negative language. e.g. one can say "the piece leaves me curious to know more about the character " versus. "characters are superficially developed."

    Positive tone serves the producers and the entire community. Part of what draws people here is a common desire for civility.

    There could be a separate category for "ready for broadcast for …X categories of audience. "

    And what would audience/stations or other categories be?
    Prime time weekday national magazines, regional… , documentary dj hours… weekend…

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    11.08.03

    Reply
    about those footprints…

    Did I dream it?I thought I remembered seeing a spot where "recent visitors" were recorded within a show page at PRX.

    I thought that was potentially a problem because sometimes someone might just want to poke around without inadvertently making a statement by not reviewing or not buying…

    And Steve, CAN one talk too much about the geography angle??… uh-oh…
    I’m finally going to post about microgeography and interactions at 3rd Coast (the first year the set up was more conducive to strangers meeting on the curved stairs, a set up as effective as a Latin promenade…)

    you might have something to say over there.

  • Jackson Braider

    11.08.03

    Reply
    Geography vs. Microgeography vs. Travel

    Now here’s either a goldmine or a minefield.

    I have lurking in my head a series of stories about the 400 some-odd bells cast by Paul Revere and Sons still in active service. Now, bells don’t travel, and there are some extremely excitable types who will travel to see (and hear) bells.

    Now, a travel writer would take one approach; a local interest producer would surely take another. And a sonic ID type might do something else entirely. It’s not the bell, it’s the ringer kind of thing.

    I know PRX offers a variety of different categories that the user chooses to "define" the work. But sometimes — as the three examples in the heading suggest — predetermined categories aren’t always the best.

    Maybe part of the review process should be another set of categories as defined by the reviewers.

  • jake

    11.09.03

    Reply
    …billions served…

    (after a busy week of travel I’m responding to various posts up above. this is in response to nanette’s post #18)
    It’s been exciting to see the member numbers go up every day, especially since we haven’t really started marketing the site! As of this minute it’s a 673 and climbing. Certainly it could reach into the thousands, when you consider how many independent producers, stations, station producers and other employees, public radio professionals of various stripes, and, of course, listeners. There’s a big question about how directly we want to pitch the site the public at large. You could imagine a thousands of listeners weighing in as peer reviewers, and if we started some on-air promotion of the site as a place for listeners to help decide what gets on the radio it could be a whole new phenomenon. On the other hand, it might get unmanageable without some changes in the site structure. Anyway, there’s lots of room to grow…

  • jake

    11.09.03

    Reply
    re: rights

    (responding to hal #31)
    "Who owns what" is indeed a pertinent question these days. PRX requires and assumes that the uploader of the piece owns all necessary rights for using PRX services, namely, distribution to radio stations. Since the producer isn’t always the rights holder we call you the "licensor" to make the distinction.

    The short answer to your question about whether the producer needs clearance to post to PRX is "it depends". It depends on the contract/agreement you have that governs the distribution and broadcast rights for a piece you’ve created. Many agreements are non-exclusive and let you retain rights to distribute for broadcast, perhaps after a certain window. Others in the past may have grabbed all those rights from you "in perpetuity" and legally you can’t post the piece to PRX. Unfortunately we can’t sort that out on your behalf and have to require you to state that you have the rights and clearances squared away.

    We intend to develop a more expansive legal guide in our help documentation to give producers more information about rights issues. I wrote a bit about this in the "Gearing Up" piece for AIRspace (posted here on PRX.org.

  • jake

    11.09.03

    Reply
    re: Whose Life

    (response to Jackson, #32)

    Jackson’s got it right on the rights stuff…
    PRX is very much intending to address "the needs of producers as rent-paying individuals." When we were first planning the service one option was to leave prices and rates out of the equation entirely, and let producers and stations negotiate directly as they do now. We realized early on that that was missing a big opportunity to create a new marketplace and revenue stream where one does not currenty exist.

    For the most part, the going rate for distributing work directly to noncommercial radio stations is $0/minute. We’re not talking about established national network shows with carriage fees, or the few independent productions that have carved out a niche in paid distribution. Nor are we talking about the one-to-one relationship of a station and a freelancer for a given work-for-hire. But if you have a 1:32 story or a one-hour documentary and try to get 50 stations to cough up a couple hundred dollars each to acquire it, you are not likely to get an encouraging response.

    The PRX payment pool addresses this by creating a royalty system: stations pay an annual fee and can license about 120 hours of work; a payment pool is set aside to pay producers whose work has been licensed; a per-minute rate is set based on the amount of money in the pool and the amount of usage over the entire payment period.

    At the current rates subscribing stations pay PRX approximately between $0.20 to $1.00 per point, depending on the station size/budget. PRX, in turn, pays producers at a flat point/dollar ratio. In January 2004 we will tally up the results of the first full quarter of PRX usage and only then will we know what the per-point amount will be. For example, if we have $10,000 in the pool and 10,000 points were used by stations, the rate would be $1 per point.

    In answer to the question "why I should not wonder why I garner as much as $12.00 from PRX for a story that might have earned me over $500.00 elsewhere", I would say that you should wonder, and you should probably go for the $500 elsewhere, and then put the piece up on PRX! Of course, if 50 stations licensed your piece on PRX at $12 each you’d get $600, but it’s no sure thing. You should think of the PRX payment pool as an ancillary royalty payment, not as an acquisition fee that a national show might pay. BTW, I’m sure many producers would like to know who is paying $500 for a 1:32 piece these days!

    I’m eager for more questions on the PRX economy, because it’s a new idea that is just getting started and it needs poking and prodding by the people we are hoping to pay.

  • Jackson Braider

    11.10.03

    Reply
    They call it "compensating differentials"

    At least, this is what an old pal and employment economist calls it. Just as there are compensating differentials for those who work in circumstances that no wise person would typically work in (1000 feet up structural steel) and so receive more pay per hour, so do compensating differentials figure in what air- and radioheads do when the work is both enjoyable and not life-threatening.

    I might argue with Jared Bernstein on the point that there is no direct correlation (or countercorrelation) between danger and satisfaction. Just because I like what I do, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to receive little or even pay people to allow me to pursue the kind of work I want to do.

    BTW, Jake, no one has paid me $500 for 92 seconds of tape. I used the $500 figure only as an example of what one can earn creating a relatively short piece (4:23) for radio.

    And thanks to "compensating differentials," I am willing to accept a solid $8.00 for each exploitation of my 92 second piece (why! That almost averages out to $1.00 for every 5 seconds of my finishing piece!)

    But it does raise an interesting series of other questions: Sarah Chayes doing what she does in Afghanistan, for example, is going to give us a lot more 92 seconds than I might from the Berkshires.

    I guess what I am wondering here is this: is length a real measure of value, or is it only a strange compromise the audio world has arrived it for lack of anything better?

    Not to enhance the value of my humble 92 seconds — roughly the length of that great hit single, "The Letter," by The Boxtops, from 1967 — but maybe the ASCAP model is an appropriate one: anything up to 4:00 is worth such an amount; the rest, above and beyond that length, is considered in increments.

    Or, to put it another way — and in a question I will throw out to the entire class — I am perfectly willing to get less than subsistence rates from PRX; the question is this: if we all do, what is there to stop stations from saying, but I can get it for less at PRX?

  • jake

    11.12.03

    Reply
    differing compensations

    For a while in the early days of planning PRX we tried to think of fair and manageable ways to account for the vastly different levels of effort, experience, quality, and value that each piece on PRX has. There may be a 10 minute interview that took an afternoon in one location to put together all told, and a 10 minute feature that took 10 weeks and lots of travel and expense to create. How can they be considered equal? What about increasing the price of the highest rated pieces?

    We stayed out of that can of worms and settled on a flat per-minute rate, because trying to weigh the myriad factors that go into a production is an impossible task in the 1s and 0s of a web application. And from a straight broadcast schedule point of view a minute is a concrete and universal unit of measurement. So, yes, length is exactly the strange compromise you describe….

    We did however leave room for the producer to add a premium or a discount to the suggested PRX per-minute point rate, which allows the producer to reflect whatever added value the producer thinks the piece should get, at least to a certain extent.

    The ASCAP 4-minute idea is also one we considered, and may take up. There’s sense in a "set-up" charge of X points no matter how short the piece is.

    We may learn in time that there is a better way to structure the PRX economy, but it’s a start. And don’t hold us to that $8 figure!

  • Steve Schultze

    11.12.03

    Reply
    Reply to Nannete (#41) Re: hiding footprints

    We decided early on to let users turn off footprints if they wish. It’s a personal setting that any user can change. PD’s are especially leery of leaving tracks.

    Any thoughts on other footprint-like ways of tying together the different things on the site? Early on we threw around ideas about "reccommended if you like" or that sort of thing. Anything from other web sites that we should pay attention to?

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    11.14.03

    Reply

    you mean just "recommended" or
    "recommended if you like ________blank?"

    as in "recommended if you like westerns" or
    "recommended if you liked _______such and such production."

    or "people who bought this or recommended this also liked ________such and such productions."

    Taking some of the parameters the teacher mentioned some posts back and expanding on them…
    I wonder if you would want a check-off matrix

    describing characteristics and contents (not only jumping ahead to conclusions about audience)

    What sort of dream data would stations and producers want to have down the road?

    would it be in an excel-type chart or other format

    that could eventually spit out scads of data for PRX and individual stations about what was available, covered, included? E.g., What kind of voices were included? how many old women in Nebraska were interviewed? How many billionaires in Wisconsin, etc. How many producers in Montana? How many shows went to how many places?

    How will content and producers change over the course of the next decade and beyond?

    There are probably some sociologists and media researchers who’d love to collaborate or suggest demographic categories.

    Probably the little media research that is done is very simple content analysis of shows involving rough guesses after the fact. But if producers could simply tick off categories of ages, places and topics included in their stories, that info could be helpful down the road for many editorial, scholarly and fundraising purposes.

  • Jackson

    11.15.03

    Reply
    Hmmm… It does fall back to the Reviews question

    Framing the description of the piece in terms of other pieces is a handy thumbnail — "If you liked _______, you’ll loathe ________" (inspired p’raps by Amazon?).

    The difficulty, from a purely aesthetic standpoint — and we already have this on PRX with the "TAL-like" category — is that we are potentially blinkering the listener’s response. Sure, the thumbnail provides a frame of reference, but it can only work if we are sharing the same frame of reference. One man’s TAL is a story on a curious subject; another person’s TAL is the personal experience narrative.

    Going back to Jay’s point that the intentional purpose at PRX is to help the good work surface, the purpose of the review might be, well, not a matter of whether one likes the story or not, but whether one thinks it is a good piece of work.

    And what constitutes "good"? Technical skill and editing? Fine sound quality? What about writing, voicing? Choice of music?

    And all that leads us back to whom we would trust as REVIEWERS. And that leads us to wonder what we in our various ways want from our reviewers.

    I guess what I am wondering is how open-ended we want PRX to be?

  • Jay Allison

    11.15.03

    Reply
    policies and reviewing

    The PRX team had a very good meeting this week in Woods Hole to refine editorial policies. Our conversation was based on a lot of the questions raised in this topic and from our experience in the short time the landscape has been traversed.

    Jake and Steve will be posting our decisions, some of which will be incorporated soon; others will take a while. The PRX is a dynamic tool and will be refined, customized and improved many times during its life.

  • Jackson

    11.19.03

    Reply
    Search functions

    As we accumulate more and more work at PRX, the efficacy of the various Search functions is going to become increasingly important — whether it’s in terms of Whose Democracy Is It? to someone searching out Ratboy’s exploration of a certain type of DC character.

    Web folk may bitch and groan about the sheer amount of info on the home page — I suspect a series of seminars will help users make better sense of the tool — but presenters in particular may wail at trying to find the likes of, say, Roots of Religion and Faith in Democracy. Don’t take this too harshly, but trying to search things out here is like trying to find something on my desk. In sum, I have to know already where it is.

    And if, as one speaker-upper here suggested, PRX becomes a source of timely stuff, the search components on the site will need to be a thousand-fold better.

  • Jackson

    11.23.03

    Reply
    The PRX Payment Pool

    The PRX Payment Pool: What is this, exactly?

  • jake

    11.23.03

    Reply
    payment pool

    The PRX Payment Pool is the set-aside of funds that PRX gathers from member subscriptions and other revenue, dedicated to paying producers for licensed uses of their work on PRX.

    We will be announcing the pool amount and the point/dollar rate for the first quarter of PRX operations in January, 2004. So, for example, if there is $5,000 in the Payment Pool and 10,000 points were accumlated by various producers when stations licensed their pieces, the point/dollar rate would be 2:1 ($0.50 per point). If you had 500 points in your account from activity over the previous quarter (Oct, Nov, Dec 2003), we would pay you $250.00.

    Since this is the first time around for this system we can’t yet predict the various values or level of activity. And we’re still gathering funds from station subscriptions and other funding sources.

    But in 2004 we plan to post ongoing information about the size of the pool and the rates.

  • jake

    11.23.03

    Reply
    re: search functions

    You’re absolutely right that as the PRX listings grow and grow the search and navigation features become ever more important. We have plans to improve them, and will be asking users for further ideas when we do a larger site update next year.

    Keyword searching gets you pretty far. If you type "faith in democracy" into the PRX search box you will indeed find "Speaking of Faith : The Religious Roots of American Democracy" (http://www.prx.org/piece/93).

    We also plan to improve the usability and "look and feel" to make sure information overload is not the common experience.

    It’s a challenge information-rich sites have faced for a long time and there is some expertise out there we can tap into. How do you efficiently present thousands of bits of info in a usable and interesting way?

  • jake

    11.23.03

    Reply
    reviewing policies

    Some highlights of our recent decisions and discussions on PRX reviewing:

    "Notes to Producer". We will include a separate box on the reviewing page that allows the reviewer to send private notes to the producer about the piece. The idea is that often a reviewer wants to give some technical or editorial advice or comment that wouldn’t necessarily be helpful or interesting in context of a general public review. But it can be feedback that is very important to the producer. So the "notes to the producer" box provides a kind of back channel, without the pressure or publicity of the public view.

    "Ratings: average to great". Currently we have a 5-point ratings scale that answers the question "How much would you like to hear this piece on the radio?" with 1 being "a little" and 5 being "very much". We decided to try a new 4-point ratings scale that answers the question: "How is this piece compared to what you typically hear on public radio?” “1=Average”, “2=Good”, “3=Very Good”, and “4=Great”. There will also be an option for “no rating”. Fewer levels will make lower ratings more likely (in an effort to avoid the “cheerleader effect”).

    We will also sharpen up our reviewing and rating guidelines to make the criteria and purpose of reviewing clearer. We still want to avoid pans and slams, ad hominen, nasty or dismissive reviews. But there must be room for real critique and honest comments about quality and content. If the primary audience for reviews is programming decision-makers shopping for work, then open opinions are the only way to go.

  • Jackson

    11.25.03

    Reply
    Many thanks for the responses, with further suggestions…

    I like the "Notes to Producer"; it would be interesting if programmers posted their playlists, esp. if they began making use of shorter works available on PRX. Wouldn’t a "Notes to Programmer" be an intriguing bit on content?

    I am somewhat less enthralled with the proposed semantic differential as far as the revised grading system goes: the smallest size at Starbuck’s is a grande. If the lowest point on the scale is average, then nothing can be below average. Still, as American high-schoolers constantly prove in their awareness of world geography, there definitely is such a thing as "below average."

    True, we don’t need slams and bits of skull tissue lining the site, but the integrity of the system is the thing that needs to be established and maintained, not the nerves of users. Transom scored it best with that wonderful piece on rejection — God knows I had written enough of those letters myself.

    Perhaps it can be a separate grieving page. I’m not sure what the navigation would be, but the point would be this: Producers are perfectly free to withdraw any piece of their work from consideration on PRX any time they want.

    Part of what drives PRX is the whole matter of choice — not just the choice of material by the programmer but the choice of producers putting their work out there. They can always pull pieces that haven’t garnered critical acclaim.

  • Jackson

    11.25.03

    Reply
    And what of the critiques?

    Clearly, this is not what the reviewing process as conveyed above was supposed to do. But I know there are numerous PRX users out there who are using the Review system to get suggestions and editorial comment.

    I suspect that a "critique" area would actually free up space on the proverbial main floor. And it would not be a blood-spattered environmentm either. Note the earlier comments of the peer reviews as love-fests. The submission of works to the main floor suggests that the producer feels confident enough to offer the work for broadcast.

    Nobody wants to hurt anyone else here, but we all know not everything is ready for air. And many producers also know that not all their stuff is publishable quite yet.

    PRX needs to build a brightly marked door that doesn’t say "Exit." It says "Critique" instead.

  • Jay Allison

    11.25.03

    Reply
    in process

    I’m sure Jake will be along soon with more details of the new reviewing plan, but critique is encouraged. The "stars" go from average to great, but there is also an option for "no rating" this gives people a chance to show they listened but did not rate, and include their comments too. Some can be for public consumption, others direct to the producer.

    We think this gives us a rating system that encourages a full range of marks to separate and surface the decent stuff, plus an option for "below average" by not marking. A producer can always take the critique and come back for re-marking.

  • Barrett Golding

    11.25.03

    Reply
    it’s the stations (aka, buyer’s market)

    my $.02: the way i view PRX, the most important reviews are those from station-programming staff. all other reviewers’ opinions are interesting but not central to, what i see as, the main function of PRX: getting shows to stations. w/o station dialog, input and use, prx cannot succeed at this task. so, as to reviews, i think those from station folk should be prominent, and those from listeners/producers should be posted, but, i would suggest, with far less visibility.

    producers’ support for PRX was quick and enthusiastic, as evidenced by the amount of programming available. i suspect this will always be the case, cuz producers are always dying to get their work heard.

    stations however are always inundated from good free programming (sent right to them on satellite and CD). PRX asks stations to pay and to go get programming. i think they will; i think the PRX model of on-demand pick&choose/audition&download is something stations will want and will come to depend on. but they’re not there yet. and anything PRX can do to get them there is mission-central. (i know station-members now number well above 100, but i suspect the amount of programming licensed by stations so far is not, how can i say this subtly, beyond projections.)

    stations, i believe, will tend to trust reviews by other station folk more than by general listeners and producers. to rate station reviews higher than others makes it easier for stations to see what there colleagues think, and may make it feel like PRX is geared toward them, and encourage more station reviewing and licensing.

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    11.25.03

    Reply

    does station programming staff have time to do reviews? what’s their incentive? are they likely to take time to listen to stuff that might look unlikely from the outside?

  • Jackson

    11.25.03

    Reply
    PRX Terminology, Question #1

    On the "My Pieces" page, what’s the diff between "views" and "previews"?

  • Christine McKenna

    11.26.03

    Reply
    A rose by any other name…

    Hi again,
    Love the "Notes to Producer" idea. But you’re thinking about a new rating system where the option "no rating" = "below average"? I’m seeing a side to public radio that I never imagined after listening all these years! Somehow I pictured a tougher crowd, with all that dodging bullets in war-torn countries, asking the tough questions, and self-confident pitching for donations from tight-fisted listeners. Would it really hurt people’s feelings that much to read that editors think their work isn’t quite ready for broadcast? Even if it did, is protecting submitters’ feelings your mission here?

    Building on Barrett’s point above, the PRX user you need to be most interested in is the station programmer. To make it easier for them to navigate the site and to keep the tone positive online (if that’s a priority), I think you should consider a policy by which the editorial board removes below average pieces from the site. Instead of giving something a "no rating", you could trigger an email to a colleague on the editorial board to ask for a second opinion on something you think should be removed from the site. If that person agrees, s/he simply takes the submission down and contacts the submitter (or moves it to Jackson’s "Critique" room). The only appeal would be to revise and resubmit. On the other hand, if that second reviewer likes the piece, they both go public with their reviews and wait for the next listener to weigh in.

  • Jackson

    11.26.03

    Reply
    I don’t think the site can drop pieces

    If I have understood the principles underlying the creation of PRX, some of them (though I can’t remember reading this anywhere in or around here) must turn on the freedom of speech. Obviously, hate works should be droppable by the site masters.

    But dropping shouldn’t have anything to do with quality. Bad and mediocre material will find its own mud; the lurking question is how the review process at PRX will reveal the good.

  • Jay Allison

    11.30.03

    Reply
    guest shift

    We’re about to welcome a new guest on the site, but Jake and Steve have said they’ll continue to check in here to answer questions and describe what we’re doing at PRX.

    Thanks to all of you for your ideas.

  • Jackson

    12.14.03

    Reply
    PTTTT PTTTTTTT Is this mic still on?

    There on the "My PRX" page is a line in the nav bar to the left that speaks of "Views" — as opposed to "previews" — " of my pieces". I note zero activity. Am I doing something wrong?

  • Steve Schultze

    12.15.03

    Reply
    Reply To Jackson

    >"There on the "My PRX" page is a line in the nav bar to the left that speaks of "Views" — as opposed to "previews" — " of my pieces". I note zero activity. Am I doing something wrong?"

    Thanks for the heads-up. "Views" his number of times someone has looked at the page that describes your piece. It’s showing "0" due to a bug which is currently being fixed.

    Keep em coming.

  • P.W. Fenton

    12.15.03

    Reply
    Ratings… Do they make sense?

    I’m spending a little more time than usual exploring the PRX site, and I’m beginning to question the value of the "review" system. When I read a review and then listen to the piece it refers to, it occurs to me that I rarely agree with the review and/or the rating. That makes me wonder what the reviews, and the ratings are doing to the pieces, and if any of the reviews can be taken seriously. I’ve read glowing reviews of poorly produced pieces that could only have been written by the producer’s parents. I’ve read negative reviews of quality pieces. I’ve read positive reviews, full of nothing but praise, but with a rating of just 2 dots… and so on.

    I don’t buy programming for a station, but I do know that when I first started exploring PRX , I had a tendency to check out the higher rated pieces, skipping the low rated ones. I realize now that those ratings are not a reliable indication of anything. Perhaps this is only because there aren’t that many revues of a given piece. But on the other hand I feel like if a piece had 200 reviews the rating would be inevitably be two and a half dots… telling you nothing.

    More and more I feel like the only rating that has any weight behind it would be the one that would show how many licenses have been bought for a piece. That is what all the producers are after… no? Otherwise I feel like the reviews, especially of pieces not yet licensed, serve as more of a distraction than a reliable gauge.

    I am also surprised that you don’t have a "forum" where members can discuss such issues and perhaps reveal a consensus and therefore some guidance for the organization.

  • Jackson

    12.15.03

    Reply
    Further discussion of reviewing process

    I realize that there are arguments going on as to what can be done about the reviews. As far as I understand PRX, the purpose is "to surface good work" — that’s what it says, at any event, on the site.

    P.W. Fenton is right, of course, that the reviewing system at PRX is somewhat half-cocked. Part of it may turn on the reviewer’s chosen role: PDs are going to be thinking of air-freshness; others are simply going to be using whatever skillsets and ideas that brought them to PRX in the first place.

    But between the different types of user/visitor coming to PRX and the many different ways in which people comment on and respond to the pieces, the basic problem, to my mind, is this: PRX will not function adequately until there are at least as many reviews as there are pieces — ideally, there should be at least five or even ten times as many reviews as there are pieces if the whole reviewing thing is going to work.

    Right now, the reviews at PRX are like taking a poll and trying to arrive at conclusions when you have interviewed only five or six respondents.

    For better or worse, there are some 825 members of PRX — individual producers, dedicated reviewers and stations alike. But even if we look at the total number of reviews — 291 — in the most optimistic light, that means that only a little over a third of the stakeholders in PRX might have written one review about one piece. Take it one step further: Even if all 291 reviews were devoted to 291 individual pieces, that still means that a full quarter of the work — 388 — posted on PRX has not been reviewed. Or it has, only because of the deafening silence (the review not written), we’ll never know…

    Of course, none of this is an accurate reflection of the facts: In ways, it’s much worse. it seems that the Editorial Board on their own have posted some 160 reviews. That means that the other 824 entities on PRX have collectively posted at best 131 reviews.

    Now, maybe it is not as bad as all that: I know that I have posted several reviews only to remove them later on — so the remaining 824 participants on PRX would have contributed a grand total of 133 reviews if I had left them up. Any other soft-touches out there?

    Like five or six hundred other people at PRX, I have posted work there to license it — the fact is, sniff, that, sniff, I will do whatever it takes to get my mother that cardiac bypass she needs for Christmas. And like the other 500 or 600, I am perfectly willing to lobb $50 at PRX to buy my five-hour booth at the bazaar.

    Here’s the rub: PRX is a community that will not thrive on silence. Simply put, part of the price of any membership is going to be reviewing. It can be messy; it can be ugly. But if participants in PRX aren’t willing to help make the good work surface, then that $50 we each throw into the pot isn’t really worth $50. And the stations that lavish tens, even twenties of dollars on PRX might as well be wasting those bucks on Fung shue consultants.

    The nonjudgmental process of posting work on PRX doesn’t mean that everything on PRX is airworthy. It is our task as members of the PRX community to give the reviewing process meaning and credibility. Regardless of the tweaking the rating system and evaluation process will go through in the coming months, the only law that will give immediate substance to the reviewing system at PRX is the law of averages — and with the law of averages, the more, the merrier.

  • Jay Allison

    12.15.03

    Reply
    reviews and ratings

    We’re steadily refining our approach to reviews and ratings. In fact, we’ll keep doing so as the site evolves. We’re glad for this feedback; it helps. Soon, we’ll post about our latest refinements. In the meantime, Jackson is right… the site will benefit from your participation.

  • Jackson

    12.16.03

    Reply
    And another thing…

    If a reviewer has made a good suggestion about a piece and the reviewee incorporates that suggestion, then the review itself is no longer current.

    What if there is no way to contact the reviewer to let him/her know that the context for the comments has changed?

  • P.W. Fenton

    1.10.04

    Reply
    And another another thing…

    My feelings that the review system needs reform hasn’t changed. But I’m beginning to get clearer feelings about what those reforms need to be. First I think the dots should go.

    As the amount of work on PRX available for licensing increases, buyers will increasingly depend on those dots for guidance on how to budget their time. If I’m looking for programming for my station I am not going to listen to a piece with 2 dots. Nor will I waste my time even reading the accompanying review. Two dots out of five tells me to simply move on to something more promising… I don’t have time to read or listen to every review or piece on PRX. The trouble with this is that the number of dots doesn’t always jive with the narrative review. Jackson referred to a possible cause for this earlier when he suggested that there may be a tendency to be honest with one, and kind with the other. I think there is another possibility which I will touch on more in my second suggestion. Regardless of the cause, I have read reviews that were totally positive that were attached to a 2 dot rating that will effectively cause that piece to be passed over by folks who need to budget their time. I would like the dots to either disappear completely thereby forcing shoppers to at least READ the reviews, or be replaced with a simple recommended/not recommended check box similar to the now familiar "thumbs up/thumbs down" used by a pair of popular movie reviewers. What should then show next to a piece’s title, instead of adot rating, is a tally of recommended/not recommended votes. I really feel this would work better than the dots psychologically. Being forced to say one way or the other, as a reviewer, would tend to cut more to the point, and perhaps force the narrative review to better support the assigned rating.

    The other suggestion I’d like to make is to eliminate producers from the reviewing process. It just doesn’t make sense. Every producer’s goal is to sell his or her work. It is not every producer’s goal to sell the other guy’s or gal’s work. That should be obvious. Producers may be friendly, helpful, and supportive of one another. But ultimately, they are competitors in a quest for the same nickels and dimes.

    Buyers, on the other hand, are looking for something of quality to put on their radio station. Competition between public radio stations is more likely in the area of obtaining funding rather than effecting the success of individual producers.

    I think that radio BUYERS and independent REVIEWERS (who are not producers) should be the only ones allowed to review and rate pieces offered up on PRX.

    I am a producer myself. Of course, I believe in my own work. Without mentioning any names, one day I received a rather bad review for one of my pieces. The reviewer was another independent producer. I went to that person’s profile and listened to several of their pieces. I didn’t think they were very good at all, which made their review of my piece sting even more than it had in the first place. The thought of revenge actually crossed my mind. Why not write bad reviews of all their pieces in return for what they did to mine? Fortunately, I long ago formed a general life policy for myself, to never screw with the bread and butter of another person. So the evil thoughts remained just a fantasy. But my point is that the potential is there.

    Think of it this way… Recently, New York City held a competition among landscape artists to submit their designs for a September 11th memorial for the site of the fallen World Trade Towers. Would it have made any sense at all to allow those artists to make the selection? Of course not.

    Competitors should not be judging each others work on PRX either. That method is, at the very least, unreliable.

  • Jackson

    1.10.04

    Reply
    But are producers competitors?

    Perhaps I am just optimistic — not a distinguishing feature in radioland, given the tens and tens of dollars out there awaiting our labors — but I don’t see us on a par with med school candidates spitting in each other’s test tubes — or failing candidates in the primaries.

    And then, there are producers and then there are producers. What if Sarah Vowell, for example, were to comment? I would value whatever she had to say.

    I agree that if we were all aiming for exactly the same target — a program, say, or a particular slot on a magazine — that we might then perhaps be competitors. But just look at the sheer range of stuff on PRX: a half hour about the boy militia in Zimbabwe is not going to compete with a story about garbage, for example. There just isn’t that much conflict on the site.

    Apparently, the nice folks at PRX are contemplating the whole scoring system — PW’s dots. Until that happens, the law of averages to my mind still stands. And maybe even afterwards as well.

  • P.W. Fenton

    1.10.04

    Reply
    Competition

    While I agree that there isn’t much conflict in terms of the breadth of what is offered on PRX, the conflict will increasingly come from the sheer volume of possible choices. A single two dot review will soon have the potential of preventing any consideration from the "buyers" who won’t have the time to browse it.

    If a station manager shopping to fill a half hour space in his programming has only an hour or two to spare browsing PRX wouldn’t you, as one of 1000 producers trying to sell their work, like that manager spend his time considering your work rather than all the other producers work?

    If you answer that question in the affirmative, and I can’t conceive of you not, what would be your motivation to rave about your peers?

    I am not suggesting that any particular producer would give a less than honest appraisal of a fellow producer. Nor am I suggesting that individual producers would never try to gain an advantage over their peers. I AM suggesting that the nature of the PRX process suggests we really shouldn’t have a system that includes the reviews of competitors. I think that simply… makes good sense.

    While, as you say, a story about the boy militia in Zimbabwe doesn’t really compete with a story about garbage, they DO however compete for mere attention. If I was a busy station manager, shopping for pieces, I’m not even going to know that the "garbage" story that shows a 2 dot rating comes from only one review written by another producer who is also offering a piece about "garbage". I won’t know, because I won’t even waste my time reading the review.

    Eliminating producers reviewing each other would eliminate that possibility.

    No subjective process is perfect, but some processes can be designed to prevent some imperfections from arising.

  • Noah Miller

    2.16.04

    Reply
    (a)synchronicity

    Jackson (Jackson, "PRX – Shapiro & Schultze" #71, 16 Dec 2003 1:16 pm) wrote:

    > If a reviewer has made a good suggestion about a piece and the reviewee incorporates that suggestion, then the review itself is no longer current.

    I came up against this issue recently. Someone wrote a detailed review of a piece I uploaded, with some praise and mostly criticism. Following some of the reviewer’s suggestions, I made changes to the piece and to the way it was presented on PRX. Now the original review is out of date, and still turning people off from the piece. The reviewer kindly promised to reappraise the piece, but hasn’t had the time to do so. The out-of-date review is still there.

    I’m not too concerned about this particular piece — in fact I’m glad this reviewer motivated me to present the piece differently. But Jackson’s question remains: what remedy is there for this kind of asynchronicity?

  • Phil Easley

    2.17.04

    Reply
    a synchronous city

    I’ve recently started writing reviews at PRX, and read all the guidelines. I thought I read somewhere that it is assumed the pieces are ‘ready for air’, or at least as much as the producer feels at the time they upload the thing. Then reviewers, who "think it ought to be on the radio" say so, and give their reasons.

    If a reviewer feels the need to critique and advise, why not do that privately? Then the producer and critic can hash it out all they want, without coloring anyone else’s opinion.
    You know, if you wanted to tell a painter at an art fair why you were not interested in buying their work, wouldn’t it be more polite (and useful for all parties) to do it privately, rather than get up on the podium and use the PA system?

  • Jackson

    2.17.04

    Reply
    Well, yes, but…

    PRX serves numerous functions. It’s a place to offer work, it’s a place to find stories. It’s also a place where individuals promote what they do.

    And I have argued here and elsewhere that, until we actually have a venue devoted to critiquing work, PRX by default has come to serve that function as well.

    So, while we all might hope that everything that lands on PRX is ready for air, we all know it isn’t. Some post works in progress, for example — "This is going to be longer," they say, or shorter or whatever. My sense in such cases is that our task is to provide as constructive and meaningful a critique of said work as possible.

    As for the danger of "coloring anyone else’s opinion" — I don’t quite see that as a problem. I know that my perception of a piece is not going to be swayed simply by someone’s opinion. More to the point is how they argue their point. And that just might teach me something.

    One of the other functions I would add to PRX — another unintended consequence — is its place as a learning environment. What we all bring to our discussion of pieces are our values as both listeners and producers. People who craft exquisite noiseless stuff are bringing in one set of values, people who charge around with microphones and as much enthusiasm as Animal from the Muppet Show are going to bring in other ideas and sensibilities.

    Radio needs to accomodate all types of values — far beyond the on-the-hand/on-the-other fair play reporting model. Open critiques have the potential, at least, of bringing all those values into the light of day.

    So, yeah, we can all be polite, but when we post stories, we are putting them before the public. We have to own them; we are responsible for their being there. It’s not our fault if someone doesn’t respond well to our work, but the more we say out in the open, the greater the rate of exchange of ideas and thoughts and feelings about the specifics of pieces and the generalities of our feelings about radio, surely we will all profit in the grander sense of the word.

  • Jay Allison

    2.17.04

    Reply
    New Feature

    We recently added a new feature to PRX which gives reviewers a box for emailing producers directly with comments they may not wish to post in reviews. Check it out. We hoped it would address exactly the concerns above.

    As for revising out-of-date reviews, it seems you have two options — 1) asking the reviewer if they would kindly re-listen and re-post/revise their reviews, 2) killing the old PIECE PAGE and starting a new one, linking in the new audio.

    Jake and Steve may have more thoughts on this.

  • Phil Easley

    2.17.04

    Reply
    But I’m thinkin’…

    …isn’t the point to bring good work to the attention of program shoppers? Because they don’t have the time to wade through all the offerings?

    If there’s only one review of a piece, and if it’s negative, the shoppers may not even bother listening to it. That just ain’t right! That’s too much power for the reviewer, which can only be cancelled out by some favorable reviews, which then turns PRX into a critique session that debates the pros and cons of all these pieces. And I don’t think the program shoppers are interested in all that. They just want to hear the best sales pitches for the pieces they think are appropriate for their station, and then they’ll go listen and decide for themselves anyway.

    And the critiques and advice and constructive criticism and pros and cons and elevation of the art and craft and all that can simply be done more privately. Or in a different venue.

    That’s what I’m thinkin’…

  • Phil Easley

    2.17.04

    Reply
    Okay, Easley, You’re out of order!

    Whoa, my thoughts above were typed and sent BEFORE I saw Jay’s post, but now appears after. So I was referring to post #77, BEFORE Jay’s message, not to Jay’s message… well, you know what I mean.

  • Jackson

    2.17.04

    Reply
    The discussion that won’t die…

    Thanks for the heads-up, Jay. Any thoughts on doing a second, expanded edition of the review?

    Phil, I do understand what you mean. But there’s an old adage that goes, when you’ve got a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

    PRX is more than just a hammer, obviously. But the sheer scale of what it does — marketing and distribution — is only overshadowed by what we are constantly finding we can do with it, above and beyond what the makers originally imagined.

    Think of Jake, Steve, Jay and the gang as the McGivers of pubrad.

  • P.W. Fenton

    2.17.04

    Reply
    Like I was thinkin’…

    I agree with you, Phil. That’s why I suggested that, if you are going to have reviews, folks who are selling their work, should not be reviewing other folks work. There is a distinct conflict of interest there. Why would I give Phil Easley’s piece 5 dots, if my pieces are sitting there with 3 dots. Whose piece is going to get listened to by shoppers?

    I think it would be much more informative to everyone, producers and shoppers alike, if a piece’s profile showed how many times it’s been licensed. I’m not much interested that John Doe thought my piece was "ponderous" and gave it two dots. I wouldn’t have put it on PRX if I had thought so. But I AM interested in knowing what kinds of things are actually selling. That would be more important information to me than anyones adjectives.

  • Jackson

    2.18.04

    Reply
    Camel straights in a filtered society

    At the moment, there are 676 pieces available on PRX, for which there have been 559 reviews written. Even if each review were dedicated to a different piece, a little under 20% of all the pieces on PRX would not be reviewed. Now, knowing that at least some pieces have received more than one review, that suggests that at least one-fifth of the stories posted on PRX have not been reviewed.

    Or have they? I would argue that silence does not breed consent on PRX. Indeed, in the wash of statistics available to us on PRX, the visit that generates neither footprint nor review is tormenting, frustrating in ways that a lacklustre comment could never be. How does one know where one stands amidst silent visitors? It’s like someone coming to a party you’ve thrown and no one seems to have laid a finger on the cake you spent all afternoon baking.

    But let’s look at this another way. Some here have said there is an inherent conflict of interest between posting work on PRX and reviewing work on PRX. After all, or so the logic goes, we are competing for a limited number of parking spaces. It’s possible, I guess, if I am assuming my 3-min story about food, say, is running head to head with a half-hour of radio theater.

    Okay, but what if someone writes a whole batch of fave reviews on pieces he or she really doesn’t like? Think of this as the anti-competitive edge on PRX. I note, for example, that I visit the public profile pages of everyone newly signed to PRX. Part of it is curiosity — who are they? But part of it, I confess, is an unasked invitation to visit my page. A little less — hmmm — sycophantic than the tirelessly happy reviewer, but a very low grade attempt at engratiating, nonetheless. There are any number of ways in which we can cheapen the value of what we say and do on PRX

    So what if we ask what pieces are being licensed — perhaps a kind of Casey Kasum and Clear Channel top ten? No, no, no, and no.

    The real tension point on PRX is that we have a bunch of producers who post their work for profit. And because of the way the site is structured, there are none of the filters screaming out that each and every thing posted on PRX is ready for air.

    Okay. The purpose of PRX is to surface the good pieces. And the way we typically submerge (or drown) the bad (or not so good) on PRX is to say nothing — if the 20% silence is anything to go by. I wonder how many PRXers lurk around the site like so many Miss Havishams.

    I don’t know the resolution of the PRX reviewing system, but I would like to suggest this: there really isn’t competition at PRX. That is a myth that ranks with the pre-meds of the 80s spitting into test tubes. It might happen, but never on the scale one imagines.

    Look at it this way: If a PRX user devoted time and energy to listening and reviewing a story when they could be doing something else (like earning money), be thankful that for a moment, an instant, someone was at least paying attention to the work at hand.

  • Jackson

    2.19.04

    Reply
    Another dynamic tension…

    Simultaneous posting on both PRX and Transom. Is this an effort at exploring the synergistic possibilities of the two sites? I can’t quite explain, but something is nagging me about this: perhaps it’s the Levi-Straussian "raw/cooked" thing. Maybe if someone were to offer the rationale, I might understand better.

  • P.W. Fenton

    2.19.04

    Reply
    I’d hate to miss some tension…

    What are you talking about, Jackson. What simultaneous posting?

  • Jackson

    2.19.04

    Reply
    On the Home Pages…

    of both Transom and PRX is featured the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies

  • P.W. Fenton

    2.19.04

    Reply
    Simultaneous Gratification

    Thanks… I once was lost… but now I’m found.

  • Gregory Warner

    2.23.04

    Reply
    what do you think about footprints?

    I like the footprints feature, because it helps me see who was interested in my pieces and check out theirs. It’s a way of finding common ground in a cyberworld.

    On the other hand I admit i turned my ‘view footprints’ feature off. Just because I felt bad if I viewed something and didn’t comment, I didn’t want people to think I didn’t like it.

    On the whole, though, i’d like to see the footprints feature expanded so I could see more than just the last 5. what do you think?

  • P.W. Fenton

    2.23.04

    Reply
    Cover my tracks

    It’s an interesting contradiction.

    Up until a week or so ago, you could look at a history of the traffic for your own pieces… who read… who listened… who reviewed. That’s all been removed. It kind of deflates the statistics a bit. I’d like to know, for instance, if one person plays my stuff, or several different people have each played something, etc. Now all you know is that someone viewed your profile, or that someone played a piece. It might have even been me listening to my own piece. No way to tell. It’s been rendered meaningless.

  • Gregory Warner

    2.24.04

    Reply
    another system for knowing how our pieces fare

    P.W. – thanks for that information. I didn’t know about that change. That’s interesting. I’m sorry that feature’s gone.

    It would be nice to know how one’s piece is faring in the general pool. It’s like, I don’t know, testing out yr boat before you sail it in open water. Do other people think so? I was thinking about a system that gives us the info we need about how our pieces are being responded too, and still preserves some anonymity.

    Like, how about a feature that would say:

    Your piece has been viewed 83 times by 54 different users. 35 users listened to your piece. 23 users surfed ebay while your piece was playing.

    OK the last bit was a joke, but how about the rest – would this be very hard to code? Then we’d know how much real traffic our pieces are getting. good stuff to help us understand how we seem to others, which is an important function of a peer network, and one not to be forgotten in the face of the other mission to "let good work surface".

    After all, the information is obviously tracked, its just a matter of how much we get to see.

    Would people find such a feature useful?

  • Jay Allison

    2.24.04

    Reply
    Transom/PRX synergy

    To go back to the Transom/PRX feature synergy, this is a question we’re thinking about a lot. We are interested in synergy at PRX with all sorts of existing entities, including Transom. The point is to drive traffic, and particularly to drive station usage. From the beginning, Transom has had requests from stations for rights to air work we post here, and, in fact, PRX was conceived partly in response to that demand. So, it seems to make sense to form a practical linkage.

    This is also part of a larger question about the Future of Transom, v. 2.0. I’ll be opening a topic on this soon, asking about what is most useful here, what needs to change, how we can generate revenue, etc. Our next version will be designed with the existence of PRX in mind. We’ll look forward to your counsel.

  • John Barth

    2.24.04

    Reply
    station collaboration manager

    Hi Noah: this is a very legit concern–can you contact me off this board and let’s address this. If you have taken the time to update a piece based on feedback–a tremendous commitment to the rate/review process on PRX–then the least that should be done is making that clear on PRX. Thanks–John

  • Viki Merrick

    2.25.04

    Reply
    couple of hats

    I am a Transom editor here and on PRX and I am also a programmer in that I produce a 4 hour weekly "wild cat " show. I need content. I can’t get enough. So since no PD’s seem to be chiming in here about reviews, I will.
    DOTS – we all have our idiosyncracies (like looking at footprints even though we don’t want to be seen – it’s like rubbernecking or peeping …) I tend to look at what has few dots – I want to know why. BUt more than anything I read the summary and the review. I am not interested in long-winded overly detailed critiques – I’m looking for content. Hence my delight as reviewer/programmer with the "contact me" button for "notes to the producer". This doesn’t mean you don’t signal your opinion or trouble while reviewing – reviews are subjective. You can say: while I’m not a big fan of radio musicals….there were moments of bla bla bla. BINGO we know you don’t like the genre. (those of us assigned to review, often need to use this approach since we can’t pick everything we’d like). And as Phil said, PRX is a marketplace, we don’t pulverize something right out there in front of GOD – it’s a marketplace, not a critiqueplace. That is the word of this programmer.
    I do think that a possible child of some liason between Transom and PRX would more comfortably allow for that sort of discussion and critique of work for sale that Jackson is eager for. I think it is useful, extremely – to all of us. This has been the beauty of discussing work on the Transom.
    I have not yet run across any work on PRX that has openly suggested it was a work in progress. I find that strange and somewhat disorienting – again because of the marketplace concept. Unless we are doing this Michelangelo style where you are teased with a glistening thigh rising out of a piece of marble, the emerging promise of something to come (see his Prigionieri). We as reviewers are asked to surface the work, direct PD’s to it, recommending advantageous moments for air – so incomplete work is superfluous to the site, I would think. I guess John Barth might address this.

  • Viki Merrick

    2.25.04

    Reply
    selling a thigh

    I think I would be less inclined to go back to a producer’s work that had been put up for review rather than air, unless it was unforgettably spectacular.

    Maybe there should be a room for work in progress – you’d still have to pay to occupy space though – but still it might be worth it – if you had other work up for sale.
    I like that idea – the best of both worlds. I think this is part of the synchronicity between Transom and PRX that Jay was speaking of. hurumph. so it’s not a new idea. but I’d like to design the room !

  • Jackson

    2.26.04

    Reply
    Selling a Thigh??!!! Why not a Wing and a Prayer??!!

    Nice Michelangelo image, the thigh thing: Others will remember the immortal line from the artistic pictograph, The Agony and the Ecstasy: "And you know, Michelangelo, you smell."

    In answer to Viki’s question about material available (will build to suit) I am more than willing to present my own material as evidence. When somebody (I will not say who) suggests something really good for changes (I will not say what), who am I to argue?

    In terms of your other questions, I cannot speak directly for Sean Cole, but the supplementary copy for his piece on PRX as part of the Third Coast Festival thingee about thirt, X-Town, suggests "work in progress."

  • Gregory Warner

    2.26.04

    Reply
    should some pieces have an expiration date?

    love you for not looking at the dots, Viki, and even seeking out! the underdotted – it’s nice to know that you focus on the summary and the review. I have a love/hate relationship with the dots (part of my bugaboo as a newbie still seeking validation in this field) – I despise the dots but secretly lust after them. But enough about dots.

    2 things I wanted to ask. First, you mentioned that some people are assigned to review. I guess those are the EB reviewers, but how do those assignments get made?

    Second, for those of us VoX pOp reviewers that want to help out, what sort of reviews are most helpful for programmers? The other day I reviewed Helen Borten’s "The Prison Cure." But I had peers in mind not programmers when I wrote it, because I’m pretty sure that’s not available for stations to buy. Actually, now I’m not sure. I just mean that it’s a half-hour self-contained documentary -already broadcast on "A Sense of Place." Is that something programmers are looking for? Can programmers rebroadcast stuff like that?

    Knowing this – and knowing whether a lot of the news-pegged pieces are up for sale or just for peer interest (maybe stories should have an Expiration Date?) would help me greatly as a reviewer.

  • Jay Allison

    2.27.04

    Reply
    More on Transom – PRX synergy

    For this part of the discussion–how the next Version of Transom will look, feel, and interact with PRX–please drop by the new topic, What’s Next For Transom?

  • jake

    2.28.04

    Reply
    about footprints

    (catching up on posts from last week, sorry if they’re out of sync a bit)

    I remember debating the footprints feature, and wondering if we let people opt out who would leave them on. It is supposed to create opportunities for serendipity and horizontal paths through the site: here’s someone who was on my page, let’s see who was on their page.

    We could lengthen the footprint history, but I sort of like that you have to keep checking back to keep up!

  • jake

    2.28.04

    Reply
    loving & hating the dots

    It’s a feature we still debate, and will likely change in our next site revision later this year. At a minimum we are thinking of a "dot threshold" so that you won’t see a piece’s "average" rating until 3 or 4 or 5 ratings have accumulated. You could still see each reviewers dots, but the summary view which is on the Reviews page for now wouldn’t show them until the threshold had been reached.

  • Jackson

    3.01.04

    Reply
    Regarding reviews…

    If someone is posting a story on PRX — like, f’rinstance, The Ring and I — how can anyone do a review of a 59:00 program when only a 3’10 preview is posted?

    Sorry. Is that picky?

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    3.02.04

    Reply

    I share Jackson’s concern about reviewing from fragments.

    IF access is an issue in some cases, could you give further access to people who agree to do a review?

    (It’s also an eye-opener to realize that reviewers aren’t always interested in listening to that particular piece or kind of work. I appreciate that Vicki puts in a disclaimer.)

  • jake

    3.04.04

    Reply
    regarding reviews…

    "how can anyone do a review of a 59:00 program when only a 3’10 preview is posted?"
    You should wait until the full piece is posted, which in this case should be soon!
    It brings up a good point, which is how PRX should handle previews, excerpts, promos, or works-in-progress. The general policy is that only complete pieces that are ready for broadcast should be uploaded to PRX, but there have been some exceptions and will probably continue to be.

  • Phil Easley

    3.04.04

    Reply

    Any thoughts about revealing which pieces have been used by stations so far? Or just an idea of what kind of stuff is selling? It would be nice for producers to know which genres, topics, lengths, etc. stations are tending to buy…and I’d think reviewers would be encouraged to find out that stations are taking them seriously. But maybe there’s a downside…?

  • jake

    3.04.04

    Reply
    what’s being licensed

    Yes, we’ve been planning to do this all along and are will be introducing a couple of different views in on this activity. We held off at first because we weren’t sure how much licensing acitivity there would be, and it’s still too early to really talk about general trends in terms of genres or topics.

    We will post a list of "Most Recently Licensed Pieces" that continuously updates as work is used by stations. We are also planning to create a section of the site devoted to the "Showcase Stations" that have carved out room on their schedules for introducing new work, such as WNYC’s "RadioLab", WYSO Weekend, WNPR’s "Essential Radio", etc. We’ll get the station folks to talk about what they are looking for and post "playlists" of work they’ve used.

    If you have other suggestions for how to display or use the site data about what is "popular" please send them along. Perhaps another list of most frequently previewed pieces?

  • Nannette Drake Oldenbourg

    3.04.04

    Reply

    Before they might be dismissed altogether, I’ll mention that short previews (or sections) are handy first passes for people with slow conections (listeners?) to get a quick idea of things before they commit to a complete download and review.

  • Jackson

    3.04.04

    Reply
    Yeah, but…

    maybe that demands we have a preview area, quite distinct from the reviewing area.

    Another thought: have a random select feature offering different producers on each visit to the home page. There are, after all, 1278 members in PRX — at a rough guess, a good number of them are producers.

    Seeing the same mugs and stories day after day over a week or two does not encourage me to pay much attention when I log in.

  • ben harvey

    3.05.04

    Reply
    top rated reviews..

    I’m confused about the method for calculating the top rated reviews, which is a sidebar that i see on the main page of the Review tab.
    First of all, none of the ‘top rated’ reviews, upon my investigation, seem to have any user votes for them!
    Secondly, they are all one line long, the very kind of review that i’d like to see less of on PRX.
    Is there something wrong with the internal calculus for generating this list?
    I think modelling good, thoughtful and balanced reviews for other users is a necessary part of fostering a productive critical environment. Now I’ve gone back and read the above threads, and I feel even more strongly that this is the case.

  • Jackson

    3.06.04

    Reply
    Keeping reviews while archiving pieces

    Hello, brothers and sisters:

    In the current PRX, say you delete a piece. You remove not only the audio but all the reviews associated with the piece.

    It would be interesting to maintain all reviews, even if associated pieces have been removed from the site. The member’s site should include all reviews of pieces — a feature that the member can turn off or on like footprints.

    Another thing: what about archiving stories — especially timely features that one can always use again next year?

  • Steve Schultze

    3.07.04

    Reply
    re: top rated reviews

    ben harvey wrote:
    "I’m confused about the method for calculating the top rated reviews, which is a sidebar that i see on the main page of the Review tab.
    First of all, none of the ‘top rated’ reviews, upon my investigation, seem to have any user votes for them!
    Secondly, they are all one line long, the very kind of review that i’d like to see less of on PRX."

    You’re right that this feature is not yet as helpful as it could be. The reviews mostly have been rated "helpful" by more than one user, but the calculus isn’t quite right yet and we haven’t completely set user expecations for what makes something "helpful." I’m working on modifying it so that it’s mostly based on average "helpfulness" of the review, plus a small factor for number of total number of "helpfulness" ratings under the assumption that more "helpfulness" ratings mean that we’re more certain that it’s accurate. When there are "ties" for helpfulness we would list the newer reviews first.

    Regardless, you’re right, this needs some refinement.

  • Steve Schultze

    3.07.04

    Reply
    re: Keeping reviews while archiving pieces

    "It would be interesting to maintain all reviews, even if associated pieces have been removed from the site."
    This is a very interesting idea. In some cases this might be helpful and in others it might frustrate members who can’t listen to the piece. One of our most important considerations is whether it helps station staff members that are looking for programming. There is a whole series of similar questions that we had to answer (and can reconsider if need be). For example, what if the member who wrote the review is deleted? What if the member whose piece was reviewed is deleted? In general, we do not list things for which the supporting elements are not available.

    "Another thing: what about archiving stories — especially timely features that one can always use again next year?"
    Members certainly can keep their pieces listed for a year or more, or they can put them back up when they are timely again. Also, if pieces are listed as "timely" for a given date, they will show up in the "timely pieces" list every year at the appropriate time. We prefer to leave the control of pieces in the hands of the members, and it’s entirely within their power to do what you describe (if I’m reading you right).

  • Jay Allison

    3.07.04

    Reply
    keeping old reviews

    If a producer is uploading a new version of a piece, I’d think he/she could copy the old reviews first and maybe quote from them in the program description (or even in a new anthologized review?), explaining that a new version exists now, perhaps addressing concerns in the old reviews.

  • Jackson

    3.07.04

    Reply
    Good idea…

    but clearly there’s a lot of dynamic databasing going around. Here’s what I was originally hoping for: When I asked about keeping reviews was a button on an uploader’s site that would go to a page where all of the producer’s PRX reviews might be found.

    Click on, say, Hans Anderson — can someone give that man a t-shirt or a baseball cap or diskspace or something for all the reviews he’s written? — and there you’d find a button going to a page containing all of the reviews posted about his work.

    But say Hans wants to rest a few pieces for a while: If he flat out deletes the piece, he loses everything around it — most particularly the one thing he has no control over: the reviews. Would it be possible to offer the opportunity to save reviews in the deletion process. A little note can be attached to the piece in the system — no longer available on PRX — but presenters interested in getting a broad overview of the producer’s work without actually leaping into the individual piece pages could do worse.

  • Jackson

    3.09.04

    Reply
    How about hiding pieces?

    Here’s a thought: what about being able to hide pieces? I don’t know if it’s the same thing as hiding footprints, but I do know when March 18 comes around, I would hate to lose the reviews for St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Jackson

    3.09.04

    Reply
    Posting in bulk…

    A curious thing: post a new work in the morning, and less than eight hours later, no one will ever know the piece was posted because of a bulk posting by one member — four stories occupying four of the five spots devoted to the latest postings.

    Any ideas?

  • P.W. Fenton

    3.09.04

    Reply
    Posting in bulk? That ain’t nothing

    That’s nothing Jackson. You got almost 8 hours. I thought I had it figured out. I had watched PRX for weeks. I was pretty sure I had figured out when uploads were the slowest. I’d upload my new piece then and maybe it would have a chance to stay up for a day or two. I uploaded the piece, filled out all the info, and clicked on "make public". I immediately went to the front page to see the results of my efforts. My piece wasn’t there. Neither were all the pieces I had seen 30 minutes ago. It was all new, and no me.
    As fate would have it, 5 other people chose that same "ideal" time to make their pieces public. I was unfortunately the first person to click. They rolled me off the front page before I even had a chance to see it up there.
    Them’s the breaks. PRX ain’t perfect… it just is what it is.

  • Jackson

    3.10.04

    Reply
    Fortunately…

    the "more…" link at the end of the latest five leads to something other than just the "pieces" page.

    You’re right, of course, P.W.: them’s the breaks. But I find it assuring how quickly PRX learns when people voice their concerns. For instance, that "more…" button once led simply to the pieces page; now, it leads to a listing of the most recent postings.

    Far more intriguing is the question of the editorial practices that determine what stories, producers, and organizations get featured on the PRX homepage. It’s probably one of those tormenting details no one should ask about — and yet, how many hits does an item featured on the home page actually score about and beyond the PRX average.

  • Phil Easley

    3.10.04

    Reply
    another idea

    Responding to message #104 from Jake:

    >If you have other suggestions for how to display or use the site data about what is "popular" please send them along. Perhaps another list of most frequently previewed pieces?

    I’d be interested in a list of "not yet reviewed". That would help me, as a reviewer, find work that may have slipped through the cracks.

  • Jackson

    5.20.04

    Reply
    Not yet reviewed…

    Great idea, Phil!

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