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Chapter 12. Advanced Authoring Techniques > Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

In the early and unbelievably rapid expansion of the World Wide Web, people put up various wacky representations of their work, their interests, their music, and yes, even themselves. Some of the sites evolved into places where Web surfers returned again and again. Following is a partial list of things these people didn’t do. You can learn from their experiences.

  • Ignoring your listeners— Don’t do it! Word of mouth is the best way to grow grass-roots community. Put the input of your core listener base, both positive and negative, to good use. Your listening audience will be all too happy to tell you whether your chosen format works for them, whether additional formats are wanted, and whether your encoding talents need significant improvement. Their critique is a priceless resource, and an unhappy listener can often become your biggest supporter. Remember to provide an obvious link for your listeners to send you e-mail.

  • Not testing your audio— Many have sheepishly hung their heads in shameful sorrow when, after proudly announcing their new audio streams to the world, they got messages suggesting playback sounds like the noise under the refrigerator. Always check your encoded audio before uploading it, and spot-check a few files after uploading. The upload process can occasionally garble clean audio streams.

  • Not providing a link to a player for the format you are using— If potential listeners want to hear your streaming audio but don’t have the correct player and don’t see a link from your site to get one, they’ll probably give up. They might give up anyway, but why lay down now? You’ve come so far. Give them a link. Check these links periodically to make sure they still work—other people’s sites may change without notice.

  • Streaming audio for which you have no rights— This is a no-brainer. If you don’t have the publishing and copyright permission to legally stream the audio, don’t stream it—unless, of course, you want a lot of new (and rabid) legal friends. See the Appendix for online legal resources.

  • Failing to use a metafile— Many sites still link directly to their encoded audio instead of using a metafile. As you now know, that means the audio won’t stream in real time, and potential listeners must wait for the download to finish before they hear anything. Even if you don’t have access to a full-featured real-time streaming server, all formats allow some capability for HTTP/Progressive streaming through a Web server (see Chapter 7 for more information).

  • Failing to include media attributes with your audio— What was that great song you just heard? You don’t know because the stream’s author failed to include this information. Bad author, no donut!

  • Only offering your streaming media via embedded plug-ins— Some people are using older browsers or new ones that simply don’t support certain plug-ins. Alternatively, they might even want to listen to your audio while surfing to other pages. If you must embed your audio, offer a link to play the audio in an external player.

  • Only encoding your audio in high bit rates— Unless you’re 110% certain that your audience is on a broadband connection or an intranet LAN, always include lower bit rate streams. Broadband users often listen to lower bit rate streams anyway, using remaining bandwidth for other tasks.

  • Playing your audio automatically from your home page— Don’t do this unless you’re entirely certain your listeners want sound blaring out of their speakers without warning. Many people browse at the office, and it’s a potentially embarrassing situation when audio explodes suddenly out of their cubicle. If you really want to provide background audio, consider having a link to another version of the same page that includes your background audio rather than starting it the moment visitors arrive. If you simply must have audio play automatically, show good netiquette by providing a link to turn it off.

  • Serving more streams than you can handle— Be aware of how many concurrent listeners are tuning into your streams at any given moment. Too many listeners can cause the server to dump the stream and everyone listening along with it (for more information, see Chapter 2, “Preparing Yourself”).

  • Not allowing enough bandwidth to send your live stream to your streaming server (related to the previous bullet)— Woe is the streamer who tries to send a live 128Kbps stream over a 128Kbps ISDN line across 20 network hops. It gets ugly really fast. Make sure you have plenty of network headroom when sending your live streams out for server redistribution to your listeners. Whenever possible, minimize the number of networks the stream must traverse to get to the server.

  • Failing to configure the correct MIME type— There’s nothing worse (well, maybe a few things) than preparing streaming audio only to discover that much of the audience can’t listen. Why? The MIME type is set incorrectly; therefore, the audience’s browser didn’t launch the player application (see Chapter 7 for information on MIME types).



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