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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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:
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.
Simple but Effective Podcasting Overview
Found an 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!
UPDATE 4/10/2019: The video is gone so please visit Common Craft’s podcast page to view the video.
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.