Communicate Like a Pro
Regardless of your occupation, having great communicator skills are “table stakes” to be in the work game today. Especially if you host webinars, record screencasts, podcasts or videos, or even chat with a friend over Skype.
National Public Radio (NPR) has this very useful NPR Training website where you can learn the techniques NPR has honed over many, many decades.
As someone who has done all of the above for communicating with others, the subtleties and nuances of properly delivering what you want to get across is something easy to learn…but you do need to learn it. Too often I’ve attended webinars with the host taking the first five minutes to “um” and “hang on a second” as they futz around getting everything ready. Then they talk like they simply do not care about what they’re saying, you as an attendee, or that they’re bored out of their mind.
Come across as the real you. Not the “DJ” you or what you think you should sound or look like. This training will really help you communicate like a professional so check it out.
Net Neutrality is B.S. and John Oliver Calls It Out
Humor is a great way to point out why net neutrality is such bullshit and John Oliver does it better than anyone.
Do you like the internet? Or would you rather have it “owned” by corporations (e.g., Comcast, Verizon)? If you care to comment and let your views known, use Oliver’s custom URL to go directly to the page where you can make a comment: http://gofccyourself.com
UPDATE at 10:12am CDT
Here is the text I just submitted to the FCC comment form here:
The global internetwork is one of the most important advances in all of human history. As someone who has worked in the internet space since the 1990s (e.g., Vignette) and covered startups and innovators in Minnesota (e.g., Minnov8.com), as well as building dozens upon dozens of websites with one of our businesses (Innov8Press.com), it is clear net neutrality must remain and be enhanced, not deregulated to the point where ISPs are free to turn it in to a metaphorical toll road with incredible analytical and tracking capabilities built-in.
I believe that internet service providers (ISPs) and governments regulating the internet should treat ALL data on the Internet the same. They should not discriminate or charge differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.
ISPs, like all corporations do and should, work in their own self-interest. While leaders within those organizations live and work in their communities, they have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders and thus work toward outcomes that maximize their competitive advantage and shareholder value over all other considerations. In short, they must focus strategically on their company instead of any other greater good while the FCC must focus on the latter and mitigate unintended consequences.
Consumer privacy *must* be protected. Entrepreneurs and innovators must be completely free to invent, disrupt, and even replace existing methods, processes, services and other areas that ISPs would inherently block in order to preserve and defend their businesses.
Unless compelled to do so through regulation, ISPs will erode a neutral internet, slowly-but-surely infringe upon the private online behaviors of consumers, and sway internet usage toward their paid services. It is in their best interest to do so and it will happen.
I urge the FCC to reclassify internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Title II classification would allow the FCC to protect net neutrality by regulating against paid prioritization and other self-interest behaviors that are not in the best interest of America.
Why is Skype’s Audio Quality Suddenly So Bad?
So why not just bag Skype and use Google Hangouts instead? The issue for us using Hangouts for recording is being able to feed various audio sources into that recording and also isolate each track. With Skype and two computers (my iMac and Macbook Pro) connected to a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 it was easy to do so AND record in real-time in Logic Pro (which really minimizes my time having to do a bunch of post-production on the audio). People were always amazed when they heard the quality we could achieve from a few people doing home recording, but we’re all geeks and know what we’re doing to achieve professional results.
Our ongoing question these last few months has been, “What the hell is going on with Skype and why does it sound like sh*t?” We suspect that it is due to Microsoft’s continual mucking around with the once-effective peer-to-peer audio routing to accommodate web and mobile calling, along with all of their other Skype-related initiatives. Here are just a few of the things they’ve rolled out in just the last couple of years:
- Skype for Computer, Mobile, Tablet, Home phones, TV and more devices
- Skype for Web
- Skype TX for Media Companies
- Skype for Business (replacing Microsoft Linc)
- Project Rigel (merging Skype with Surface Pro)
While none of that explains what has happened to the audio quality in peer-to-peer group calls, perhaps it’s no surprise that the computer-based desktop client—or Skype’s underlying, and formerly great, SILK-codec‘s audio quality—has taken a backseat to just entering a bunch of new markets and supporting a bunch of devices?
Or maybe they’ve widened the ‘backdoor’ for the NSA? Whatever the reason we’re intending to quit Skype forever because the quality of the audio is what matters to us and to our listeners! It’s just so bad that we are unwilling to continue wrestling with Skype.
What’s your experience?
Podcasting in Minnesota
Podcasting first began in earnest around mid-2005, driven in large part by a guy named Adam Curry. Curry has often been cited as the “godfather of podcasting”—at least from the promotional side while a guy named Dave Winer figured out and delivered the technical capabilities to make podcasting actually work—and at least Curry is still active with his No Agenda podcast.
During 2005, Curry would often play promos from podcasters around the world. One local Minnesota tech visionary, Garrick Van Buren, had started up a podcast group called PodcastMN (site is gone but here is a link to an archived version). Van Buren graciously managed the show feeds, set up the meetups, and was the guiding light of the group. At one of our meetups he suggested that the group record a short promo and send it to Curry.
Curry never played it, but many of us forgot all about it (and mostly about Curry himself) and went on with our respective podcasting adventures. Some of us stopped our original shows, some morphed in to others, but I’ll bet everyone still listens to a lot of podcasts themselves!
The PodcastMN folks at this particular meetup were (in order of appearance):
- Garrick Van Buren – at the time he recorded the First Crack Podcast. Now defunct, he did record Open Loop podcast with a local tech legend, Jamie Thingelstad, but Jamie is now CTO at SPSCommerce and may be why the last show was a year ago.
- Cayenne Chris Conroy – he is still recording his humorous Teknikal Diffikulties show
- Joel Anderson – A Klingon Word from the Word podcast which he is also still publishing
- Sue Grandys – Uncomfortable Questions was a show I always enjoyed — it’s been said ‘everyone’ has a story and Sue always pulled it out of people — but her last show was in 2012
- Steve Borsch – Connecting the Dots podcast was one I wrapped up in 2007 in favor of the Minnov8 Gang podcast, a show that is now in its 269th episode
- Mike O’Connor – His show Sex and Podcasting was done as an experiment, one leveraging his background in community radio. He stopped in 2005 but then started up again with GeezerCast, an effort that entailed, “Podcasting to my unborn grandchildren.“
- Eric Larson – EricCast is his show and he’s been recording virtually non-stop since the beginning
- Tim Elliott – Winecast was his show and Tim blogs at this site too. He is also a co-collaborator and co-host (with Graeme Thickins, Phil Wilson and me) on the Minnov8 Gang podcast.
It’s been nearly 8 years since we were at that meetup and podcasting is still alive and well in Minnesota as well as nationally and internationally (see Remember podcasting? It’s back – and booming). How many podcasts are out there? Stitcher, a podcast listening service and mobile app, states that they are, “… the easiest way to discover the best of over 20,000+ radio shows, live radio stations and podcasts.” More shows, and video podcasts, are coming online every day as well so this medium is still in its toddler phase. It will be interesting to see where this goes when it becomes easier for listeners (or video podcast watchers) to discover and stream new shows.
Give a listen to this short ‘promo’ to Adam Curry recorded in October of 2005 so you can hear just a handful of we early podcasters here in Minnesota, and how we positioned our shows:
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
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.
Will Your Photos & Digital Media Survive?
My father-in-law’s passing this month has seen my wife (and her six sisters) realizing that there might be only one of a specific family photo. Since my bride had built a collage of photos when she was a young girl living at home, I offered to scan and retouch them so everyone could have a copy.
The issue? There are hundreds more where those came from and how do we create them digitally so 50, 100 or more years from now some offspring of ours can even see them?
Most of us have hundreds (if not thousands or like me, 20,000+) digital photos sitting on hard drives, at Flickr, or on some old and obsolete media? In my home office closet I have Syquest, Jaz, Zip, Mac OS 7 formatted CD’s, DOS CDs, and other media I can’t read NOW…and it’s been less than 15 years. My grandchildren or great-grandchildren will pick up a Jaz cartridge and say, “What the heck is this!?!” Viewing the photos on that cartridge? Not a chance.
But it gets worse since most of the digital media we’re creating today may not survive the media it’s on, let alone if it’s in a proprietary format. Read More
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”
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Flash is a Reality, is HTML5 Only a Promise?
There is a debate underway over the proprietary nature of Adobe’s Flash vs. the open standard, HTML5 (see, “HTML5: Could it kill Flash and Silverlight”). On the one side, Adobe has positioned their platform as being quite open and yet proprietary enough to “provide everything you need to create and deliver the most compelling applications, content, and video to the widest possible audience“. HTML5 is an open standard that will, in part, deliver audio, video and interactivity and is a specification which promises to deliver the core functionality of Flash.
Adobe’s John Dowdell (JD) had an interesting post about this debate and reinforced Adobe’s positioning that their approach with Flash is rich, robust and focused on the delivery outcomes customers want and that HTML5 is immature and, as Adobe’s CEO pointed out on their analyst call, “…it might be a decade before HTML 5 sees standardization across the number of browsers…“. Wow…talk about an insertion of major FUD in to the analyst call.
What strikes me about this entire discourse is the words of Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, who I heard giving a talk at an open source conference several years ago. Describing the phases any new or disruptive technology goes through (and specifically open source) is first it’s “crappy” — and no incumbent pays attention to it — then it’s “less crappy” — and early adopters take to it — and when it’s “good enough” the tipping point occurs and it’s widely adopted.
One could argue that HTML5 is in the crappy-about-to-be-less-crappy phase and Adobe isn’t paying much attention since publicly they don’t perceive it as much of a threat (except Google and Apple are behind it 100%), but I think it matters less “when” HTML5 appears (and what the adoption curve looks like), or even a “proprietary vs. open source” argument. I think what matters is which vendor of tools is going to embrace the standard and empower the ecosystem. Read More
Broadband Providers: “Let’s cut ’em off at the pass!”
Even the most naive and casual observer can see that the threat from services like Hulu; both Apple’s TV and movie offerings within iTunes; Joost; and the accelerating number of media center software offerings (providing access to ANY video on the internet), pose a huge threat to the cable companies and other broadband providers.
They are all clearly trying to get out ahead of the user market (and the maturity of video provider business models as well as the open source media center software) and put caps in place before wider adoption occurs.
As a tail-end baby boomer with enough of a geek nature to be involved far too deeply in the ‘net, web and social media in my business, I realize I’m atypical within my demographic on how I, and as a result my family, use our Comcast broadband connection. With Comcast’s 50mbps down/10mbps up DOCSIS 3 setup in my office (Note: we were one of two companies in their Minnesota rollout of this new technology) and 16mbps down/2mbps up at home, I’m dealing daily in video, photos, moving around large Zip files, screensharing, personal publishing, and numerous other online activities. These activities are mission critical to our small business, my wife’s and my client interactions, as well as family activities and connecting with others.
Comcast, one of the largest providers in this space, directly affects all aspects of our digital lives. With my family and my current and increasing use of the internet for an every expanding array of online activities (Skype calling; my son’s video gaming; Flickr and Vimeo for photo/video sharing; online backup of our computers; use of our new Mac mini media center), we are certain to end up violating Comcast’s draconian 250GB bandwidth caps (er, I mean, Network Management Policy).
The kicker? According to Comcast’s executive escalation group, I can’t even pay them more for higher tiers of service with no cap or, as one representative told me in March, “…the cap is the cap, regardless of the tier of service.“
Did you know that, in Comcast’s case, they can simply cut you off for exceeding that 250GB cap with no warning and that their promised metering tools are still missing in action?
Then I read this recently about Time Warner’s laughingly low caps and realized that, if Time Warner gains traction with this approach, Comcast will follow suit and we’ll all have to watch and do whatever these providers allow us to do online.
Memories in Your Browser: Southdale Center, Edina MN
level in Southdale Regional Shopping Center, the first enclosed shopping mall.”
Color transparency by Grey Villet, Life magazine photo archive (click for larger view)
One of the fun sites I follow in my RSS reader is Shorpy’s Historical Photographs. Several images come through each day, and I often click “full size” to view ones that intrigue me. When I saw this one above, a flood of memories came back and this is one reason why I’m increasingly loving how more and more of our books, videos, and other content is being digitized, indexed and available to us at-our-fingertips.
These memories are bitter-sweet right now as we find ourselves in a time of economic meltdown. The optimism of the 1950’s, and the emergence of more efficient capitalism (e.g., advertising mediums, rating systems like Nielsen, national retail chains), helped create a time when building an enclosed, climate controlled shopping mall made it much more pleasant in harsh climates like those here in Minnesota, and obviously created a more efficient and often used place to buy goods.
Though this photo was taken before I was a year old, Southdale shopping mall has played an integral part in my life. Dozens of trips each year were made to shop and buy (though often we had to shop in less expensive stores elsewhere) and I have so many recollections both good and bad that I had to do this post.