Trevor Cook and Lee Hopkins explain social media

Trevor Cook (Australia-based PR man with common sense) has teamed up with online communications whizz, Lee Hopkins to write an eBook (free) on social media.

Since I trust Trevor, through his blogging, I recommend the book. I have scanned it and it runs through blogging, podcasting, RSS from the communications (not surprisingly) perspective. If you are in any doubt about what this is all about, then do read it. It explains everything clearly, provides masses of useful links, provides good advice and illustrates with case studies.

Keith Collins: big company insight + marketing + strategic social media

Keith Collins is a relative newcomer to active blogging but he has a lot of big-company marketing experience. (Dell, Xerox…)

To keep things simple, let’s call him a strategic blogging evangelist. That’s not to say that he thinks a blog is the answer to every company’s communication prayers. It’s not. But if he thinks it is, he will explain the whys and wherefores in business terms.

Since we both live slightly to the west of London, we met for a chat yesterday morning. Turns out we had lots of business acquaintances in common and, having met online anyway, our get-together got off to a fast start. The meeting made me think hard about my own role in life. As we left each other, I said "we’re complementary. My interest is in the use of social software inside the firewall and yours is in its use outside."

Driving home I realised that, while true, that only related to my journalistic focus. My training/mentoring focus is entirely about companies communicating effectively with the outside world – whether that’s the press, venture capitalists, the blogosphere or anyone else. In that sense, Keith and I are a lot closer. The big difference is that I’m coming principally from a media perspective and he’s coming from a big company/marketing perspective. Instead of being back-to-back at the edge of the enterprise, we find ourselves face-to-face.

I’ve met loads of social media evangelists but this is the first one I’ve met who also has an intimate practical understanding from the marketing and business perspective. (I hope the many PR and marcomms people I know will understand why I’ve excluded them from that statement.)

I have no idea whether Keith and I will meet again, or work together. Anything is possible. But I thought I’d tip you off about his existence.

Dragon’s latest speech recognition

Ever wanted a podcast transcription? Or maybe a transcription of a conference call? Well, speech recognition software is getting really good. Take a look at this post for the low-down on Nuance‘s Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9.

It worked better before I trained it than after. This suggests that the latest line from Nuance: "No training required" is true.

The blog post also talks about Voice Perfect, an Australian company which has a system which will transcribe and colour-code and time-stamp speakers’ contributions during a meeting. Even if they’re speaking at the same time. (Clue: a recording channel per speaker.)

12 months on, Tebbutt and Hobson catch up on social media

Had lunch with Neville Hobson a couple of weeks ago. We see each other from time to time, but rarely get the chance for a good chinwag. Oddly, the previous session had been in the same restaurant about a year earlier. Since we both spend most of our time in the social computing space, we thought we’d examine how our thinking has changed/refined over this time.

Neville had just read my blog post about how Robert Angel uses BrainStorm to prepare for podcasts, so he thought it would be a good idea to interview me on the subject.

Since I’d already planned to interview him about his podcasting and new media life, we decided to make a single recording of  (some of our) post-lunch conversation.

Neville has blogged about it and provides professional links to the podcast. Please go there, especially if you want to listen to the podcast online.

If you download the MP3, this playlist will help you jump to the bits of interest. Assuming, of course, there are any.

00:00 Scene setting
00:37 A lot’s changed in a year
01:04 Death of fanaticism
01:40 Ethics/Journalism
02:24 Guardian blogger – for free
02:58 Podcasting – noise cancelling headphones
04.29 BrainStorm for podcasting
09:36 Perspective on what’s valuable in social computing
12:18 Screencasts starts (interrupted)
12:48 Low cost video, daughter records Alan Shearer, recording industry issues
15:33 Screencasts continued – Camtasia & BB FlashBack
16:17 Neville’s life changes – how to exploit new tools for organisational benefit
17:23 Life/Work threaded – attention to family etc needed
18:43 New life: opportunities from FIR & conf
19:27 Level of engagement high, met people couldn’t have before
21:31 Closing remarks and plug for the Sipson Tandoori

ReadSpeaker turns International Herald Tribune into podcasts

Earlier this year, I was honoured to be chosen by Chris Shipley to be a mentor to some startups at Innovate!Europe. I worked with some excellent fellow mentors and met a whole bunch of innovators during the event. One of the companies was Sweden’s ReadSpeaker.

Well, it’s now turned up as the engine behind International Herald Tribune’s news podcasts. Text to speech really, but made easy to stream or download to an iPod or whatever.

The job is done automatically, so you get an English (well, I did – maybe it depends on the subscriber’s country) voice reading the news with curious intonation. It seems to guess at where the voice should rise, fall and stress and, a lot of the time, gets it wrong. But that’s computers for you. Quite brainless really, compared with humans.

However, if you want to enjoy the news on your daily commute, you can subscribe to the newspaper departments of interest, jump in the car, bus, train or aeroplane and arrive at your destination all newsed up.

(Disclosure 1: I sold International Herald Tribune and New York Times International on the streets of Paris in 1965.)

(Disclosure 2: While true, the previous disclosure was meant light-heartedly.)

We’re all cyborgs now

Yesterday I had lunch with Neville Hobson of For Immediate Release fame. By an amusing (but maybe not surprising) coincidence we’d each had the idea of interviewing each other after the meal. I brought my iRiver and he brought his Microtrack.

We settled for him recording on behalf of both of us. One or other, or maybe both, of us may create a podcast from it next week.

The reason for this blog post is to note that I have got into the habit over many years of not trying to remember stuff when I know I can easily lay my hands on it. But, these days, this laying on of hands requires a computer, probably one which is connected to the internet.

When I’m away from the connection there’s a chance that a subject will crop up on which I can wax lyrical, but completely forget company, product or people names. It’s not the end of the world, but it can sound fairly dreadful in the middle of a podcast, conversational or not.

Here are my three failures from yesterday:

I couldn’t remember the band O-Zone or their song "Dragostea Din Tei" when I was talking about the funny fat Dutchman‘s (he turned out not to be Dutch)  lipsynch video. If you haven’t seen it, play it at least until you see the dancing eyebrow.

Then I had a feeling that the RIAA was going after him for illicit use of O-Zone’s soundtrack. Took me a while to figure out why I thought that. It was mentioned as a possibility only in this report on June 22.

Then I couldn’t remember the name of the software I use to create screencasts. I remembered it was published by Blueberry Consultants. Well, they’ve changed their name to Blueberry Software and the product is called BB FlashBack.

The point here is that when we’re researching and writing stuff, we assemble all the material. Our grey matter changes as we learn but it would be pointless to try and remember every detail. It’s when we’re stranded, away from our informational umbilical cord that we can get into trouble.

This links to something I was writing about a couple of weeks ago. I’d been to a "moving learning" seminar. Crudely-stated, the idea is that it’s pointless getting people on a course to learn about how to do their job because much of the course material would never be needed, it would likely be out of date anyway but the time you needed it and, anyway, that’s not how we learn most of what we do. Better for a sort of just-in-time learning at the workplace itself.

In this case, if you remove the computer connection then the memory, however dim, doesn’t even exist.

It strikes me that we’re already turning into cyborgs.

Podcasting preparation tools

Professor Robert Angel, of the University of South Carolina, creates a weekly podcast of analysis and commentary on Japan's domestic politics and foreign relations. Quite a commitment and, I believe, much valued by its listeners. It goes under the project name Japan Considered.

He’s often mentioned to me how he uses BrainStorm (something I invented years ago and which is programmed by Marck D Pearlstone these days) during the preparation for his podcasts.

Recently, he blogged and recorded how he uses BrainStorm and other programs. If you’re an aspiring podcaster (or communicator generally), I thought you might find his insights interesting.

Here’s the bit about preparation software (and it’s not just BrainStorm, by the way):

Some of you have asked about the software and hardware required to
create the program. The combination of cost and limited technical
expertise keeps my setup here barebones simple. I use a regular desktop
IBM-PC linked to the University network for all information collection
and production.

In addition to regular English and Japanese
language-capable web browsers, two software programs work together to
simplify the process of categorizing and sorting the information
collected. The first is "Brainstorm."
I'll put a link to their site in the transcript and in the show notes.
Brainstorm is hard to describe. It's deceptively simple — by design.
Sort of an electronic outliner on steroids. It allows me to make lists
of promising topics, and then to put notes to sources of information
about the topics under the headings created. The program is very
efficient. So it's easy to keep many notes for dozens of topics on the
same page, so to speak. And to keep them available for future

The second program is somewhat more  complex. Not better or worse. Just more complex. It is MindManager 6 Pro,
produced by the Mindjet Corporation of California. MindManager is a
graphical "mapper" I use to map out themes for each program. Hyperlinks
to accompanying files, and text notes right on the page make it easy to
use. This program too is hard to explain without pictures, so I'll add
a link to their website in the show notes and the transcript. Text
files downloaded through the week are just noted and added to the
electronic archive for indexing and retrieval when needed.

The final recording process is quite  simple. I record the audio file directly into Adobe Audition 2.0,
using only an Altec Lansing headset for the microphone. No complex
audio chain with pre-amplifiers, mixers, vocal strips, or the like. The
Adobe Audition program makes it easy to edit out most of the sighs,
grunts, and embarrassing pauses before putting the file up on the
University server for distribution. Finally, Dreamweaver and Photoshop are the programs I use to create the podcast web  pages, and to maintain the whole Japan Considered website.

So, there you have it. Not at all complex  or sophisticated. But it gets the job done.

Thank you, Robert, for giving permission to share this with teblog readers. Appreciated.