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We are Media

If you are not working on your skills in communication—or mentoring others like your kids, staff, spouse and colleagues so their skills improve—you should probably quit now and get a job with zero human interaction.

Why? Because right now being media literate is not just the skill to critically thinking about the media you’re consuming, but today (and going forward) media literacy will be primarily how good you are at discovering great content from others; aggregating it in a way for you to keep it handy; and curating that content so you’ll be able to deliver the essence of your pitch, argument, point of view, opinion, set of facts, or whatever needs to be communicated to one or more human beings.

I’ve always loved an audience, starting from the time I was a little kid. The photo above is of my older sister Nancy and I hamming it up for my Mom so that she could have a photo with us incredibly enthused by this magnificent gift (cool…but not magnificent). I remember charging other kids admission for shows, being the emcee, and loving it.

In fact, I began blogging in 2004 and podcasting in 2005 to scratch that itch. I had A LOT to learn about being an effective writer, all about microphone technique, and how to pull together a show others would find interesting and worth their time to give it a listen. Having done some on-camera work I was comfortable with that, though never felt compelled to do much of that other than inside the occasional screencast with me introducing the content with a brief talking head introduction.

Though I was teased good-naturedly by other executives when I ran strategic alliances at Lawson Software about my podcast specifically (and one exec played mine before a big meeting started and got lots of chuckles from others in attendance), I’ve since coached and mentored several of them on how to effectively leverage video, podcasting, blogging and social media in general.

What I find is those who cannot effectively communicate with media are already at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace, especially if one is in a leadership position or aspires to become a leader. One woman I know was so nervous about “being seen” that she would dig her fingernails in to her palms so that the pain would keep her focused on the interview and not how she felt! Kudos to her for sticking with it as she’s incredibly comfortable now being interviewed on TV, via webcasts and on podcasts. These skills she honed in a year and is still surprised today how her communicating with new media has become such an imperative in her job in marketing and her focus on social media.

NOT becoming media literate with creating content will be (and maybe already is) as important a skill as knowing how to use a computer is for most jobs today. If you’re not literate, people will automatically assume that “you don’t get it” and are somehow a bit of a dolt, not savvy and clearly behind the times.

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My 1st Podcast: Conjuring Mr. X

It seems like a lifetime ago, but in May of 2005 there was thing called “podcasting” that was still quite new and I decided to fulfill a passion I’d had since interviewing at Brown Institute (now Brown College) more than two decades prior for their program in radio & TV broadcasting. I never followed up on that passion since I was working my way through the University of Minnesota toward a business degree and my tuition, books, room and board for a year at the “U” was $1,000 less than one year at Brown….and that was a grand I just didn’t have at the time nor was I willing to give up my studies at that major university.

Deciding to break in to podcasting and dabble on the side while running strategic alliances at Lawson Software as its VP, I’d purchased a good microphone, computer interface and software and gave it a go that April of 2005.

My first effort was this story reading for my son and daughter and I published it on the web in May of 2005, complete with sound effects. Perhaps it’s the spooky, hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck subject matter or that it’s only 3.5 minutes long, but there have been nearly 10,000 downloads of this short story reading with the inevitable spikes in downloads around Halloween.

Give a listen…but do so only in the daylight or with others if it’s nighttime.

Download the show “Conjuring Mr. X”

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iTunes & The Paradox of iPhone App Choice

In a book that I read two years ago, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, psychology professor Barry Schwartz’ premise is that in today’s producing and consuming world, too many choices do the opposite of what you might think (that a staggering array of choices in every category would actually meet everyone’s needs and increase consumption) but rather that too many choices created a paralysis in people about making a decision and decreased consumption! (You can watch him explain the essence of his premise in this 19 minute July 2005 TED video).

In this post at GigaOM, 7 Real Reasons Why iPhone is a Smash Hit, Om Malik mentions this statistic (in bold) which I wasn’t aware of, “Apple says that in 102 days since the iPhone Apps store opened, nearly 200 million iPhone apps have been downloaded. There are about 5,500 apps available on the iPhone Apps store.

Sigh….5,500! I get weary even thinking about trying to sift through that many applications!

My personal paradox (and a problem experienced by developers I know as they try to sell their apps), when I’m seeking an app in the Photography category, for example, it isn’t the information presented for me to determine the value of the 114 iPhone apps available in that category, but rather it’s the laborious and time consuming way I have to click through iTunes and view each one, trying to make a decision about buying it by looking at a few screenshots or jumping out to the developer website in order to get more info.

After my initial enthusiasm with the explosion of apps for the iPhone and buying a bunch and downloading numerous free ones, I’ve found myself paralyzed with the volume of apps. But it’s the crappy and sloooow shopping experience (whether it’s in the somewhat slow iTunes browsing or the horrendously slow App Store browsing on the iPhone itself) that’s my biggest issue so guess what? My purchasing of apps has slowed way, way down (as has my browsing for and downloading free apps).

Apple’s iTunes shopping experience is pretty bad overall, whether it’s buying music, movies, TV shows or iPhone apps, or the one that has agitated me for a couple of years, subscribing to free podcasts (and with ~25,000 of them, finding good or new ones is too daunting to bother). There is just too much content and it’s too difficult and time consuming to make a choice.

Time to overhaul iTunes, Apple, and give us a Genius on steroids for iPhone apps.

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TapeDeck: Easy Audio Recording on Mac OS X Leopard

Nearly every day, I come across something someone has created that I find delightful and useful. Today was no exception as I read DaringFireball, a blog I follow, and was led astray by a link that simply said this:

The Road to TapeDeck 1.0

Chris Liscio on the development of TapeDeck.

Intrigued, I followed that link, read the post, downloaded the application, and was instantly aware that they’d done what so many developers struggle with: cut to the core essence of what an application needs to do and deliver just that.

As we all know too well, Apple has mastered this and famously leaves out many, many features usually packed into applications, operating systems or — in the best example to date — from a smartphone. Rather than try to boil-the-ocean, Apple takes a thimble full of seawater, puts a candle under it, and it’s boiling in no time since the mass market demands ease-of-use with those “ahh…that’s just right” set of features and functions that don’t overwhelm the user.

I’ve added the video below to whet your appetite for TapeDeck and encourage you to go download (and maybe buy) this fun application:

 

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Minnov8: Showcasing Minnesota Innovation in Internet & Web Technology

If you’re out in the Bay area or on the other coast in New York or Boston, it’s pretty easy to be smug about your culture of risk-taking, pool of top talent, and strings of successful, world-changing innovations. But as the world continues its acceleration to one that’s increasingly connected and ways of collaborating make distance irrelevant, smart people will pop up everywhere and I’m convinced we’ll see a flattening of the geographic advantages these pockets of innovation represent.

Six of us were bugged that there was so much going on in Internet and Web technology innovation right here in Minnesota, that when I suggested we start our own blog to showcase that innovation, there were nods of agreement and a willingness to dive in and make it real.

The biggest reason we were all interested in this blog is that these showcases and interviews are what we wanted to read and there wasn’t anything like it out there.

The result is Minnov8: Minnesota Innovation in Internet & Web Technology. This past weekend was the biggest Barcamp yet, Minnebar, and over 400 people showed up to present, learn and participate. Rather than recreate everything on this blog, why not take a peek at Minnov8? This and this post are ones that will recap what took place.

Wherever you live and whatever space you care about (e.g., technology, education, greentech, etc.) and where there are a critical mass of people willing to leap in and work together as multiple authors, I’d encourage you to start one of these…it’s pretty simple to do and fun to boot.

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Simple but Effective Podcasting Overview

Found this easy to understand podcasting overview on LaughingSquid (from Common Craft) and thought you might like it. Not because you need to know about podcasting perhaps, but rather how concise and fun it is to watch. More of our communication needs to be this way!

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Sprout: A mashup & application tool for the masses

Our pals at Techcrunch just posted about a new company that debuted today at DEMO called Sprout and thought I’d attempt to get in on the private beta and lo-and-behold…I got in.

The ‘sprout’ (their term vs. ‘widget’) you see below is one I created in 15 minutes. It took me longer to open Photoshop, reduce the size of the Connecting the Dots header and to type in the pathnames to my podcasts (yes I know…they’re OLD) then it did to create the sprout!

I just grinned and shook my head in disbelief as I used it since Sprout has delivered on my pent up desire to have just such a mashup and creation tool which begs the question: why the hell didn’t Adobe do this with their rich internet application (i.e., RIA or Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR)) strategy? To date mere mortals — who are savvy enough to use InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and the like — can’t truly deliver on AIR, Microsoft Silverlight or even Webkit apps unless the propeller on their beanie is fairly large.

There are a few nits (the words “Click on any playlist…” were bolded and italicized which didn’t publish) but they’re so few compared to the power Sprout has unleashed they’re easily overlooked. I also want to understand what they’ll charge for the service — or those I direct to Sprout to create — before I get too fired up about recommending people leap on the tool and deliver mission-critical products.

I also noticed a slight latency as my ‘sprout’ loads which you might notice also. I’ve been a broken record on the topic of the “dirty little secret
— that Internetwork latency is already affecting mashups, Web/Enterprise 2.0 applications, video delivery and essentially everything we do over the Internet — but this latency won’t likely slow down the creation and delivery of mashed up applications. I hope, really hope, that this latency doesn’t crush the spirit of those of us truly wanting to create and deliver significantly higher value on the Web with tools like Sprout.

Using this tool for 30 minutes tonight has sparked about 25 ideas for how I’d use it. From completely self-contained multimedia slideshows to a different sort of ebook to a poor man’s RIA, I suspect many others will have exactly the same reaction and start building these things like mad.

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Are you suffering from attention overload?

In my work it’s imperative I stay abreast of new technologies, approaches and how social media startups are figuring out how to increase our capability to connect to one another in more interesting and meaningful ways.

But how many places can we focus our attention?

I blog. Follow and skim 138 blogs and dozens of news feeds in Google Reader. Deal with dozens of emails per day. Scan Techmeme and Blogrunner. Post and follow people on Twitter and now Pownce. Barely use Facebook but feel compelled since so many people I know are using it. Just joined Seesmic (in private alpha) which is a social network for participatory video (see what your friends post, you can post, and a ‘conversation’ can carry forward). Scroll through Digg‘s feed and often click on an article.

Oh….and I have work to do for my clients and business!

Since one my strengths is “input” (collecting information is something I love to do), I thought my scattered focus and partial attention was atypical until I talked to dozens of other people. Nearly everyone I talk to is feeling the effects of traditional media clamoring for our attention, more coverage and news with less analysis than ever before, and thousands of new media methods (some which I mentioned above) that are connecting us in ways that making it very challenging to think, mull it over and breathe.

Many business leaders feel that this continuous partial attention is a Millenials or kids phenomena, but my own anecdotal research shows that this is increasingly cutting across all age groups, demographics and cultures (Linda Stone has the seminal thoughts on the topic).

Anyone with a computer and internet connection is now a mini-media mogul since it’s trivial to publish, create radio and TV (even live streams ala uStream, Qik, Stickam), deliver screencasts and learning content, and stake a claim in the micro-blogging arena (e.g., Twitter, Pownce) and snag followers tuning into your thought stream.

With all of these sources coming at us (or those we choose feeling compelled or pressured to stay abreast of their content) while we pay continuous partial attention to each, what happens to these attention traffic jams in our brains? How can we discern what is worthy of our attention since not all of it is?

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Skype Interview Recording How-To Video

If there are interviews you want to do and record them as podcasts — or use high quality audio for any purpose when interviewees or conference callers are in multiple geographical locations — it’s been challenging to do over phone lines or any other means…until Skype arrived.

For years I’ve followed everything Doug Kaye delivers since he’s a long-time radio guy who “gets” podcasting and user generated content. He created IT Conversations which allowed me to access and listen to thought leaders in information technologies which first got me hooked on following him. He’s done much more and you can read about (and listen to an interview with him) here.

But Kaye has always danced around his Gold stamp of approval for Skype interview recording…until now as you’ll see and hear when you watch the video below.

A cohort of his, Paul Figgiani who runs Podcast Academy for Gigavox Media (Kaye’s firm) joins Kaye in this video and he’s an accomplished audio guy too. I also owe this guy. Why? Because when I was struggling with audio gear — and had bought and returned several devices — this guy took the time to record audio for me and emailed me (after I had sent him a note). This was WAY beyond the call of duty and thus have always had a soft spot for him and what he delivers and I’ll bet you’ll appreciate what he and Kaye have given.

Kaye and Figgiani just released a VERY well done “how-to” video on how to record Skype interviews in high quality. It moves along very fast so you’ll want to pause it as you try what they recommend. But for these two guys to place their blessings on Skype interview recording is huge.

I went through a lot of time and pain (and money) over many months in 2005 and 2006 to learn what they’ve synthesized and have delivered in this video. This is a wealth of knowledge packaged up for your use and is quite a gift. Thanks guys!

 

 

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So many podcasts…so little time

On a conference call yesterday with a client we were discussing the many forms of new media (e.g., blogging, podcasting, vlogging) they might use and I was asked point-blank, “So Steve, you had a nice podcast. If podcasting is so great, why did you stop?

I did the obligatory humma-humma dance and recovered by stating that it no longer met my communication goals. Totally true, but it made me step back and ponder a bit more deeply about why I stopped.

Part of the reason was lukewarm feedback. Though I had a few dozen hardcore fans (many of whom were vocal and emailed me often), my base of podcast listeners pales in comparison to my blog efforts and audience size. My monetary return on investment for blogging is huge (many clients come to me specifically due to my blog) compared to primarily personal satisfaction I felt with podcasting which was nice, but the few hour investment of time to perform, edit and deliver a podcast wasn’t worth the effort.

The other reason?

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