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