Someone asked me several months ago about the easiest way to podcast the daily announcements from a school. Podcasting tools have proliferated since then and there are a huge menu of tools to choose from now. But the problem back then wasn’t so much recording and producing the podcasts. After all, recording a 1-minute series of announcements doesn’t exactly require a fancy recording studio. The problem was publishing the podcast feed itself in the simplest possible way.
One of the best options at the time was to using one of the several blogging platforms that supported RSS enclosures. That’s probably overkill for doing a simple little podcast. RapidWeaver is a really cool piece of software for OS X that makes publishing Web pages, blogs, and podcasts really easy, but even then it may be to much complexity for that daily announcement podcast. (I should say that using a tool like WordPress or RapidWeaver would have other benefits like making a searchable text archive of the announcement available and providing for listener/reader comments and feedback.)
I just discovered the simplest solution yet. DirCaster is a free PHP script that you drop into a folder on your Web server. Once in place it generates a podcast feed on the fly for whatever content gets put in the folder. There are settings you can configure to control how many podcasts are included in the feed and to set values for various elements of the RSS (e.g., copyright, email address of author, etc). It does not support Apple’s iTunes-specific RSS tags, but you can always use FeedBurner to add those automatically if you’d like to get the podcast added to the iTunes Music Store. Updating your podcast, then, becomes a simple matter of uploading a new audio file. DirCaster takes care of everything else. I’m not sure generating a podcast feed can get much easier.
I’d also like to point out that Dan Bricklin’s ListGarden product has been updated to support podcasting. ListGarden is a tool that makes it pretty easy to manually create RSS feeds. It works on Linux, OS X, and Windows or can be installed on a Web server and accessed as a CGI program. It has a slightly more complicated install, but once in place on a Web server it might be an excellent solution for a group of teachers who all want to publish their own RSS feeds without the extra overhead of installing a full-blown blogging tool.
So many tools, so little time.