The Pilcrow

A WordPress developer's thoughts on professional and personal development. Written by Karin Taliga

Six uses for Huffduffer

I keep thinking of new and creative ways to use Huffduffer. If you haven’t heard of it, or used it, let me explain what it does.

It’s a service that creates a personal podcast feed out of audio links you add to it.

It’s very simple to use:

  • You sign up on the website to create an account, and then add a bookmarklet to your browser bookmarks.
  • Whenever you come across an audio you want to listen to later, you click that bookmarklet. This will grab the link to the audio file and add it to your personal podcast feed.
  • Add your personal podcast feed url to the podcast player of your choice, and now you can listen to what you saved at your convenience.

So what is the benefit of doing this? Isn’t this a duplication of content? Can’t you just subscribe to the podcasts directly?

Well sometimes you get a podcast episode recommended to you, or you stumble upon an older episode of a podcast you’re not currently subscribing to. To find that podcast in your player catalogue, subscribe to it, and then scroll through the archives to find the episode you want is a hassle. 

And even if some podcast players let you listen to an episode without subscribing to the whole podcast, other players require you to subscribe to access the archives. This might be undesirable for you.

But what’s great about this service is that it can take any file – any audio file publicly accessible on the internet – and add that to a personal customised podcast feed.

This means you can add recordings of lectures, personal interviews, and basically anything you like into a custom playlist.

And there’s a social aspect to it as well. You can tag your audio and other users can choose to subscribe to any tag, or any other user’s feed or feed+tag combination.

This is all possible because in essence, a podcast feed is only a text file sitting on a server. There’s no hosting involved for the service, that’s up to each audio file’s provider.

What’s important to remember is that the feed is public. Anyone can subscribe to your feed. So if you don’t want other’s to be able to see what you listen too, this is not for you.

But while the public aspect makes it unsuitable for private listening, it opens up for other use cases. And like I said in the beginning, I keep thinking of new ways to use Huffduffer.

As an Instapaper but for audio

The first use case is that I kept encountering podcast episodes or interviews to listen to, but where I didn’t want the whole podcast feed. I started adding them to my own Huffduffer, as a list of “listen later”. I think this was the original reason for creating the service in the first place.

Listen to own recordings in a podcast player

If you have interviews or lectures you recorded yourself, you can upload them to Dropbox and share those publicly. Add the public dropbox link to Huffduffer, and you can listen to those files in your podcast player.

This is useful because the podcast player often has superior playback features. And you might not want to add long audio interviews manually to your music library, taking up device space and needing to sync etc.

Create a podcast feed from youtube videos

There are already several projects that do this. One is huffduff-video (github page) that extracts audio files from youtube and stores them temporarily for a month in Amazon S3 for you to listen to. There’s also different iOS workflows around to do the same thing locally on your phone, hosting the files on your own dropbox or S3 instance. 

Gather your podcast guest appearances in one place

If you are one of those who get interviewed on other podcasts or make podcast tours, add each episode to a Huffduff feed when it’s published. You now have a single spot with all your interviews and appearances gathered. Handy for your own memory, and helpful for your audience in case they are interested and want to keep track of you.

Share a custom curated playlist

You can create a specific topic-based playlist to share. Like a “best-of” list on any interest you have. Curate a list from many different podcasts and content creators in one place and share under a specific tag or account.

It’s like the old fashioned mixtape on steroids, but for other things than music.

Share supplemental material to an online course you have

You can make a podcast feed out of material that belongs to an online course or any other product or service you are offering. Make an easy 5-episode instructional series – without the hassle of having to create a podcast feed yourself, submit it to podcast libraries and aggregators, and hope that your feed can be found in their catalogue by your students.

This is especially suitable if you don’t plan on constant creation of new episodes, but a single series on a specific topic. Upload audio files to a public server, add them to a specific Huffduff account or tag, and share the feed link to your audience.

Any public server will do, even your own website server if you have the bandwidth for it and your web host can handle it. But if you suspect a bit of traffic (perhaps your intended audience is large), then external hosting like Amazon S3 or even Dropbox links is a good idea.

Remember, it’s the one hosting the files that pays for the traffic. (This also means that if you link to a file and it goes away, there’s nothing you can to about it.)

Wishes and hiccups

I’d love to get an API for the service. Right now, the only way to add files is manually through the bookmarklet. And you need to be logged in to the site in order for it to work, because it relies on an authentication cookie.

Essentially you call this url, replacing the values of $URL and $TITLE with the link and title of your audio file: 

https://huffduffer.com/add?popup=true&bookmark[url]=$URL&bookmark[title]=$TITLE

Something that would be awesome is to get an API endpoint to post links to, with authentication possibilities, so one could add files to a feed programmatically. There are iOS workflows around to huffduff a link from your phone, but they also rely on you being logged in to Huffduffer on your browser.

I’ve also been thinking about whether there are any copyright infringement problems here. Linking to publicly available files should not be a problem whatsoever. 

It’s when you publish and host files yourself you need to be mindful of any copyright issues. When in doubt, asking is always the best approach. I do think spreading already freely available public material should be ok, but I’m not a lawyer.

The bookmarklet also relies on markup auto-detection to find audio files on the page you visit. This works most of the time but not always, depending on the markup of the podcast player on the page. Some podcast players are better in this regard than others.

There have been a couple of times where I’ve had to “View Source” or click a button to find and copy the direct url to the audio file that Huffduffer needs. This is not a fault of the bookmarklet. If a player has bad markup semantics or hides the audio file url behind javascript, there’s nothing it can do.

Long-standing service

This service have been around for quite some time. It was created in 2008 by Jeremy Keith (whom you probably have heard of if you have worked in the web space for a while).

I only discovered it last year, a bit late to the party. I have grown to appreciate it and all the different ways it can be used. I hope you’ll enjoy it too and find even more great uses for it.

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