Loss of the UC Berkeley Podcasts – updated (x2)


Loss of the UC Berkeley Podcasts – update (Wayback link now works)

Update: am starting a repository on archive org to try to recover any audio that’s out there.  Share and receive!

The University of California at Berkeley had, so far as I could determine, the best repository of online lectures and lecture series in the world.  Its repository spanned many many years, had podcasts for hundreds of (UCB) courses and literally thousands of individual lectures.  What set the UCB podcasts apart was that they were really truly podcasts of lectures.  Not the useless baloney that you typically get from University podcasts – ie from 3-15 minutes of some teaser.  They were fantastic – were being the operative word because now they’re gone.

This happened on 1 July (and I quote):

Thank you for your interest in webcast.berkeley. Please note that we launched a new site on June 30, 2011. As part of the launch, much of our back catalog of courses that we were unable to migrate out of a proprietary format which we no longer support are now unavailable. More information on the new site is available in our announcement: http://webcast.berkeley.edu/info#news,2949

The new site links to Youtube (or, <shudder>, iTunes) to get a download.  The main criteria that they seem to have applied is that the recording be a video.   I’d be very grateful if this was not the case (anyone know any differently?), but apparently all the mp3 only material has simply disappeared into the ether. What a senseless waste.  Why not just put them up somewhere, unsupported and let people download them (like they did pre-30 June 2011)?

Update 3 July: I have received an email from their support people to say that some audio is available through iTunes – which is great for you people who don’t run Linux.  Alas for me, though, as I can’t get to them (so also can’t verify whether it is true or false).  Also, of course, if you’ve an Android phone – currently the most popular selling smartphone operating system – you can’t get the iTunes versions either.  Can you let them know that an iTunes only solution is a problem – webcast (at) media (dot) berkeley (dot) edu.  I am going to see if I can set something up on archive.org.

The move means that file sizes, instead of being on the order of 20 Mb for an hour of podcast are now like 120-200 MB (!!) because of the inclusion of video.  Thus, a course of say 25 lectures which previously took up maybe 500MB (so you could fit many lecture series onto a portable device), now a single course will blow 3-5GB.   Mobile devices? Ahem…

The good news is that the Wayback Machine apparently has at least some of the material for the desperate. How long they will be available there is an open question.  The bad news is that UCB seem first to be on hiatus from further podcasting, and second to be now only doing video going forward, so future courses will still be prohibitively large.  If they were to offer an audio-only stream this would ease the pain somewhat.

The other mildly good news is that they’ve apparently received something of an outcry, so perhaps common sense will prevail.

I would like to note here that, having had to jettison its old podcasts because they were “unable to migrate out of a proprietary format” they have chosen mp4 as the target format (eh?!)

8 Responses to “Loss of the UC Berkeley Podcasts – updated (x2)”


  1. 1 Rdk 4 July 2011 at 9:53 am

    I couldn’t believe it when I found out that it no longer works. I planned to download tens of lectures for ages now, but I stalled (damned procrastination). Now, I’m stranded with one Heidegger course I’m about to finish. And the worst thing is that apparently nothing can be done about it. Server is out of use and they’ll bother to convert and upload only a tiny fraction of this ample collection. Maybe they could give all the people the green light to exchange the courses via p2p? They could put up the courses for some time and than other people would seed them (cause I believe that sadly it’s the cost of storing all the courses that’s the real issue here…)That could work, perhaps…

  2. 2 brendanscott 4 July 2011 at 10:47 am

    The courses are creative commons licensed, so I can’t see a problem with p2p-ing them. BTW: have a look at archive.org as they seem to have some in the wayback machine.

  3. 4 brendanscott 4 July 2011 at 11:52 am

    Ooops. Link didn’t work. Have updated it. Just click WayBack link in third last paragraph.

  4. 5 Rdk 4 July 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Unfortunately it seems that the wayback machine captured only the interface. All the links to audio or video files are dead, as far as I checked. If you found some available usable material, please do send me the links. If you know how to customize the search for usable material, it would have been even more appreciated.

  5. 6 brendanscott 20 July 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Am starting a repository on archive.org to try to recover existing copies of these lectures, see: https://brendanscott.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/restoring-uc-berkeley-podcasts-help-wanted/

  6. 7 Phil Lembo 21 February 2012 at 5:31 am

    Just came across your site while checking to see where others might be able to access some of the course audio I had already downloaded. I’ve got at least 1 full class that isn’t in your repo that I’d be willing to upload if anyone’s interested. Bio IA / Fall 2008.

  7. 8 Anonymous 14 December 2012 at 11:40 am

    What a pity… I liked their podcasts… :(


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