De-Flashing The AudioShocker

My friend Cole just got an iPad. It's pretty neat. We quote Phil Dunphy ruthlessly everytime we pick it up. We've affectionally named it 'game changer' and flight control is a mezmerizing game. And for all you comics fanatics - even the Marvel app is pretty spiffy. It lets you view comics panel by panel or in full view.

Of course, the first thing I did when I got my hands on the game changer was to fire up audioshocker.com, and some other websites under the AS umbrella. Here is what I found:

nealshyam.com - looking good in the neighborhood (pure html)
stoutandporter.com - not bad baby. (WP, custom theme)
nickmarino.net - hot tranny mess (WP, customized theme)
audioshocker.com - 50% functional. (WP, customized theme)

75% of these sites run WP, and that alone should qualify them to run fairly well on the iPad - and they do. You can definitely navigate, view posts, read the main page, etc. However, without Flash the AudioShocker page is robbed of its most critical, longest running, and eponymous feature: the podcast!

I did a bit of searching for flash alternative mp3 players - and you know what - there really isn't a comprehensive alternative. The main 1pixel out player we use is simply fantastic, but that's clearly a no go. Next, up was the JW player we used to have in the sidebar. Again, no go. How about these newfangled HTML5 elements? The entire world is up in arms about streaming video from Hulu / Netflix, so clearly there must be a simple solution for audio, right? Wrong.

While there are a few javascript based options that use the new HTML5  audio tags, it just raises the latent format war between webkit browsers and Firefox. This article at html5doctor sums it up:

The most significant issue is the cross-browser implementation, where lack of a common supported audio format among browsers causes complications. If developers want to take full advantage of all browsers that support HTML 5 audio, they’ll need to create both MP3 and Ogg (and in Opera’s case, WAV) versions of the audio file they want to stream!

Funny isn't it? I usually bash Flash for being a waste of bandwidth and a crutch for lazy web designers, but perhaps I should revise my statements. Flash is still terrible for plenty of reasons, but it does allow coders to effectively write out browser incompatibility problems. I have never had to worry about the podcast player not working on someone's computer. Further, I challenge anyone to tell me, with a straight face, that they use ogg files.

There is no way on earth I am going to create (actually, there is no way Nick is going to create) three separate audio files, post them to the page using some hacked together css/html that prioritizes/uses fallbacks to trick your browser into playing the correct audio. That goes against everything the Internet stands for (easy info sharing).

Nope. WWC, Adobe, Mozilla, WebKit -- get your shit together! Either standardize rendering engines to recognize multiple formats in the audio tag, or offload all of the necessary hackery to a simple js library. I want to make the AS website HTML5 compliant as soon as possible, and this is holding me up.

4 Responses to “De-Flashing The AudioShocker”


  1. 1 nick marino

    OH NO!! seriously, how did my site look? i just took it out of straight HTML recently and put it into WP... maybe i shoulda left it!

    as for the audio issue, i've always struggled with this. even the old player i used on nm.net was a flash player. there's just not a good solution otherwise except for putting up a link to the file and letting people handle it manually (which they can still do with our podcasts).

    oh, and since they're on the iPad, they can just listen to us through iTunes, right?

  2. 2 neal

    nick, your site looks a lot like the AS site, 50% functional or so. You do have some cleaning up to do html wise, but overall it's the flash elements that break render the site little more than an rss feed.

    you are of course correct about users being able to use iTunes - but in a general sense, non-flash tablets, or other OS microcosms will continue to mess with the simplicity of a single website.

    and perhaps that's just the issue - why are we so intent on a full browsing experience on tablets/iPad? Is it a neccesity? Perhaps when someone hands you a full color device it is - but after a few years of feed based news consumption, fully compliant websites are a lot less important than fully viewable/watchable/listenable posts.

  3. 3 nealllllllllllll

    so. looks like this is less of an issue today than it was a year ago. podpress now defaults to an integrated html 5 player in chrome (hey nick, is it doing the transcoding to ogg too? or is actually plays mp3s? because i was pretty sure html5 still didnt support native mp3 audio)

    of course, none of this is going to get people to listen to your podcast if it sucks. a problem that nick and i have yet to solve. but at least you can listen to us across platforms and devices. we might not have much to say - but you can hear it almost everywhere you go.

  4. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    The Illiterate Badger webcomics


  5. 4 nick marino

    hahaha our show isn't that bad! i have no idea regarding the ogg thing. i was pretty sure it plays the mp3.

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