New MP2 Encoders Available From PRX and Hindenburg

I’m pleased to announce that Hindenburg Systems has created the next generation of PRX MP2 audio encoding software, for immediate download and use, for free, by all broadcast radio producers.

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“Supporting great audio storytellers is our biggest passion. When we met PRX, we knew we had found a kindred spirit. Since then we have worked hand-in-hand to create solutions that make the technical side of storytelling via PRX as easy as possible. This free MP2 encoder is one example, and there are loads more in our apps on our website”, said Chris Mottes, CEO of Hindenburg Systems.

Like Hindenburg, our goal at PRX has always been to help producers connect with their best audience. When we first started, we faced challenges that have largely disappeared, like will a producer have enough bandwidth to upload their audio files, or even be able to play an mp3 on our site? Other challenges have persisted, like correctly encoding audio to public radio’s broadcast standard: the beautiful, exotic, but esoteric MP2.

While widely used in broadcast for its balance of brevity and accuracy, the MP2 format is not otherwise well known. When PRX launched in 2002, the public radio system lacked an affordable solution to encode MP2s. To clear this roadblock preventing producers from uploading to PRX, we built and gave away MP2 encoders for Mac and PC.

Fast forward a bit, we are now lucky to have HindenburgĀ as a partner. Hindenburg is focused not just on music or audio editing in general, but on radio production, and specifically on journalists, storytellers, and podcasters. This is the same community PRX is dedicated to serving. It makes perfect sense for these masters of production software to create the successors to the PRX encoders, and it’s consistent with their ongoing commitment and generosity to public radio to offer them up for free.

When I first met Chris, Preben and Nick (I think at a Third Coast years ago), I could tell we’d get along. Their small but focused team was working to take the pain out of audio production, just as ours was working on removing the pain of distribution. The Hindenburg team boasts some of the most forward-thinking and creative technologists I’ve worked with. They are good partners who have supported a multitude of projects like Radiotopia’s Podquest, not to mention excellent company and storytellers in their own right.

With their successful track record of creating audio tools, and making complex editing simple, I trust them to make software that transforms every audio file in public radio.

I look forward to PRX working on more projects with Hindenburg, but in the meantime, get ’em while they’re hot! Head over and download the new MP2 encoders now.

PRX is Hiring

It turns out that the more we do (i.e. rewriting prx.org, creating the next version of the Public Radio Tuner iPhone app, managing top notch podcasts, audio streams, and a satellite radio channel), the more help we need.

I know, I’m as surprised as you are; I thought we would just drink more coffee (or maybe stronger coffee?).
Instead, we’re looking to hire another full-time technologist to make PRX go whiz bang.

If you think PRX might be right for you, consult your physician, or just send a resume or CV to prxdeveloperjob AT prx DOT org. Not right for you? Maybe next time, but please pass this along.

Here’s the full job description:



You: Live on planet earth, are human, creative and a motivated developer.
Us: Super cool nonprofit public media company in Harvard Square. Yes – we said super cool AND public media.

Job posting: Web/Rails Application Developer
Location: Harvard Square – Cambridge, MA
Type of Position: Full-time with benefits
Start date: Immediately
Telecommute: No

Required Education, Experience and Skills

  • BSCS (or equivalent experience) hands-on software engineering experience required.
  • We’ll ask you for your opinion and expect you to have one.
  • You have the ability to pick up new technologies in days and weeks not months and years.

  • We’ll have you write code with the language that best matches the job.
  • You’ll query and tune databases with millions of records.
  • We’ve got great sysadmin support, but if you can build packages from source, all the better.
  • Occasionally the phone will ring, you’ll pick it up and talk to our users in a calm and sensitive manner.
  • Contribute ideas, suggestions, observations to operations and strategies as a whole.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and creative engineer with a passion for building robust, scalable applications with simple, powerful interfaces, and who is comfortable working in a dynamic, changing environment.

You’ll work closely with our other developers and staff on all phases of the development cycle including planning, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance.
This position reports to the Technical Director, Andrew Kuklewicz.

Our development stack

We work with Ruby on Rails (ActiveMessaging, acts_as_solr), develop and drive the #2 application in the iTunes App Store (Public Radio Tuner), PHP (WordPress), and a smattering of Java running on dedicated and cloud hardware.

Environment

  • Think internet start up but without annoying buzz words and we actually have a service our users love.
  • We have high ceilings, large windows, bright walls and exposed wood beams, now mix in public radio and oh yeah a foosball table.
  • We share office space with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society
  • PRX received the 2008 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions – the “genius” award for organizations
  • There are three accomplished cellists in the office.
  • We host cool parties like Information Superhighway 1..3
  • Candidates with interest and experience in open source, audio engineering, social software, public media, and community sites are encouraged to apply.

To Apply for this Opportunity

Please email a resume and cover letter to prxdeveloperjob AT prx DOT org.

  • Job location is Cambridge, MA
  • The Public Radio Exchange (PRX) is a fast-paced entrepreneurial environment, and the Web Application Developer will need to be adaptable, flexible and persistent, with the ability to manage multiple tasks and communicate with the team about timelines and development priorities. It requires a person who is able to successfully maintain a complex suite of web applications for high uptime and reliability. The position requires technical and organizational skills, a commitment to the vision and mission of the Public Radio Exchange, and an understanding of its dynamic role as an emerging service in the public media field.

    PRX is an equal Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Salary based on experience.

    Introducing the PRX campaign curators

    Contact: Jake Shapiro, Executive Director
    617 576-5455
    jake@prx.org

    PRX is pleased to introduce two Campaign Curators who will help lead PRX’s contribution to the recently announced Public Media Election Collaboration.

    Campaign Audio Curator
    Charles Lane is a freelance radio and print reporter who files frequently with WSHU, NPR new magazines such as Justice Talking, Here & Now, as well as VOA, Radio Netherlands, and Soundprint. He also writes for the Religion News Service, Catholic World Report, and Penthouse (!) among others. His fourth full-length radio documentary will be distributed by Soundprint this spring, and his fifth will be distributed on PRX in mid-March 2008.

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    Charles’s reporting has been funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, and the PRX/NEA Reversioning Fund. He studied Patristic History at Oklahoma State University. He now lives in Harlem with his wife and her cat.

    As Campaign Audio Curator Charles will work with PRX to find, select, annotate, and promote public radio and other audio material on Campaign ’08 and related issues. The collection will include produced pieces, interviews, raw audio from campaign appearances, issue-based and local or regional stories that can be edited or excerpted for re-use by stations and other project partners. An initial campaign collection is underway and located here: http://www.prx.org/articles/905

    Social Media Curator
    Katherine Bidwell is a producer and writer who most recently worked for Open Source, the pioneering public radio program that actively integrated blogging and “web 2.0” approaches in the production, presentation and promotion of the show. She was also a producer for NPR’s “The Connection” and has worked for a number of environmental nonprofits and as a freelance editor. Katherine lives in Watertown, Massachusetts.

    As Social Media Curator Katherine will work with PRX to discover, review and promote citizen media and “user-generated content” from blogs, YouTube, podcasts and other sources. Selected content will be showcased on local and national public media websites.
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    About the project

    Public media has a unique opportunity to cover Campaign 2008 and elevate public engagement around critical issues at stake nationally and locally.

    The democratization of the tools for creating and distributing media has resulted in an explosion of conversation, connection and content. This in turn creates a critical need for ways to sift, filter and find value amidst irrelevant or even harmful expression.

    One important role is to use public media’s presence and journalistic values to showcase and highlight examples of the diverse range of content and conversation already taking place online.

    While the CNN/YouTube debates are the highest profile attempt so far to incorporate participatory media into coverage of Campaign 2008, there are few focused efforts to help audiences navigate the growing ocean of “user-generated content” to find relevant, important and revealing voices and perspectives.

    This social media curating project is an experiment to explore approaches to this task, in the context of a critical national moment of a presidential election.

    For the election audio project, we will help bubble up stories that otherwise might get lost in the shuffle, create an collection for timely use during the campaign season as well as a helpful archive for further evergreen and “long tail” opportunities in the future.

    With the proliferation of audio on-air and online there’s a critical role to play in sifting, sorting, curating and promoting the best of what’s available. The PRX campaign collection will be a vital resource for public broadcasting stations, partners and the public.

    About PRX

    The Public Radio Exchange is an online marketplace for distribution, review, and licensing of public radio programming. PRX is also a growing social network and community of listeners, producers, and stations collaborating to reshape public radio. The mission of PRX is to create more opportunities for diverse programming of exceptional quality, interest, and importance to reach more listeners.

    Read more about PRX here http://about.prx.org

    PRX is a collaboration of the Station Resource Group and Atlantic Public Media, with support from public radio stations and producers, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Surdna Foundation, and Google Grants.

    Behind the New Audio Processing Tech

    Hello, this is my first PRX blog post, I’m Andrew Kuklewicz, the newest member of the PRX tech team.

    Matt wrote awhile ago about the big changes to audio processing at PRX, now I’m going to let you in on some of the tech we used to make this work.

    We made a big shift in the audio processing to a message based system. Instead of polling for changes periodically, now we act instantly to kick off processing of audio. To make this work, we send messages between our systems when you users do things like create a new piece, or add a new audio file to your drop box. All these messages end up going to a Ruby on Rails application running in the background. The rails app processes the messages, and does lovely things like validate the mp2 files to make sure they are kosher for broadcast, encode the mp2 files to mp3 so we can use them with the flash player, and upload the audio to Amazon S3. That’s why we no longer have to worry about running out of storage space, using S3, we have as much as we can use and more at our fingertips.

    As audio is processed, this new rails app sends messages back to the user, usually as email, to let them know the system is crunching away, and when it completes, or there is a probem that needs their attention.

    We call this lurkling rails application our ‘audiomonster’ (anyone want to make a cool graphic for that?), and we presented some of this recently at the IMA conference:

    One major piece of what makes this work is being able to message between our main Java application, and the Ruby audiomonster. To do this we use the open source project ActiveMessaging, about which I recently published an introductory article.

    The good news is if you too need to integrate a Rails application with some other system, be it Java, COBOL, or practically anything, ActiveMessaging is avaliable, and production worthy. So go learn about it, and get started using Rails and messaging. You can also get in touch with me personally, and I’d be happy to help or advise, but I bet you can figure it out without me.