Archive for podcast

Podcast and Screencast Results / Justification

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , on September 29, 2011 by Lance Strzok

So I looked over some stats with respect to the podcast and screencast work that I have been doing.

Why podcast and screencast?

Podcast – The driving factor on the podcast was primarily in understanding that there was a lot of command information coming in from across various channels. Newsletter, email, email, and announcements, internal portal, did I mention email? And to stay informed meant checking in a lot of places. The bulk of them were unclassified in nature, and could be aggregated in one location (the podcast). So why then a podcast? Part two of that question was a matter of time. Even if I knew where to look, how much time did I have to read the content of all that information? Once at work, time is usually somewhat limited, so in my quest for free time, I realized that my 1.4 hour commute was some time that I might consider sharing. As it is, I listen to a couple of stations, but for the most part, the weather, news, and market are quick, so I ended up listening to podcasts on technology and science. The point is that I gladly listened to more information because driving time was usually something I could and would easily share. Thinking this could be true for others, (average commute in DC per NPR news article is about 45 minutes each way every day), I wanted to see if people would get past the small technology barrier of getting the information from the network, onto a device that they could listen to in the car on the way to work or heading home. In this way, if we could aggregate the information for employees, and make it easy to access and listen to on time they have, they may choose to do so.

Screencast – The primary driver on the screencast was reusability. If there was a question or procedure that could be shared or demonstrated once, then people to use it to learn new skills, or be reminded of how to do it if they forget. I started to think of it as self help that people could get too before heading to the actual help desk. One of the reasons behind this was to reduce the number of classroom demonstrations I was doing, but also so I could spend my time making new content about plenty of other worthwhile topics and demonstrations. In addition to this, people could get it on demand, during their lunch break when they want to sit back in their chair and watch a “howto” video on “searching SharePoint” or one of several topics. I like to do this at home, watch a Youtube video on how to derive equations of motion while eating fried chicken. You get the point.

As for the results – just the numbers.

Over the time period of March to October;

I created roughly 21 podcasts with approximately 3445 downloads, and

I created roughly 45 screencasts, with a total of 3972 views.

On the surface, it is not apparent that I am getting the results I was looking for, and so I began to speculate about what some of the factors might be. This being driven by a recent question with regard to continuing to create them or not.

I have done a weekly podcast since about May of this year, and to date, across all the locations that I made it available, I think roughly 3200 downloads have been recorded. I have a few folks from time to time thank me for an article or two, but for the most part, those are the only numbers I can get.

I have been asking for more ideas/desired stories, in the emails that I send out with the weekly contents and to date, I have had only one person respond with a suggestion.

So what do I think were some of the challenges?

Marketing – When I asked people if they knew about it, if they were not on the weekly email list, then they did not. So I am not sure that they were being forwarded to anyone else beyond the people on the immediate list of recipients. I did not do any other marketing of my own, but in retrospect, I could have made fliers, and discussed the merits of how to effectively use it.

Accessibility – I think that having to have it on a network that required a user log in and password was a hurdle because many people just don’t want to create an account for what they view will be one benefit. Too many passwords already, and I can relate. A recommendation on this would be to grow our NIPRNET presence to allow for one log in that grants you access to email, and a few key services – one of which could be the aggregated weekly podcast.

Re-posted – I was asked to post it on a different network, and as soon as I did that, more people viewed it on the new network, but it totally defeated the premise for putting it on the original network in the first place.

Consistent – I think I lost some followership when I did not post for a week or another because I was on leave or unable to do so. This may have also been a factor.

Content – As much as I ask for ideas, I received only one in the 6 months I was making the podcasts. So the content was all original in terms of what I shared, discussed, or posted. Most of the content was stuff that employees would get in email and across disparate mechanisms, but aggregating it in the podcast seemed like a good idea.

Timing – I am not sure that our workforce today is as active in the media environment as we could be, or in my humble opinion, should be. There is also not a drive to move in that direction present, so there is only personal initiative or interest to explore alternative sharing mechanisms. Put another way, it is my belief that not many in our workforce use their smartphones to download and sync podcasts that they can listen to while they are at home. If we made this easier – it would help to demonstrate the value. I believe that over time, as more people get used to using the technology for information on demand, that this will change – but we’re just not there yet.

Now, all that being said, the question posed to me was – what kind of followership did I build up, and should this production effort be sustained?

I am afraid that I cannot answer that at this time. There is too little information to make a decision. I think the next question should be – do we market this from a leadership position, and present it as one way to aggregate information, with the option of those other mechanisms staying in place and simply using a unique identifier with those other items that would allow someone that chooses to listen to the podcast, to sort into a folder, those items that would normally end up in their input streams so that they don’t end up having to read or listen to them more than once.

As for content, the challenges that remain are getting people in those various channels of production to modify what they do only slightly to share what they are already doing, and minimize redundancy in information.

My recommendations:

With workforce input, develop a clear plan on what kind of content you want to aggregate, (added benefit of advertising this cooperatively developed product).

Host the content on the NIPRNET behind the same login as email to remove the need for separate login, and find ways to make syncing the content as easy as possible for both phone and desk/lap-top computers.

After aggregating it, tag the initial source location and products in a way that will allow people that choose to listen to the podcast to not have the information come again through the original channel – or if it does – can be auto-foldered into a location out of the workflow, (this is an effort to reduce duplication.

Revisit the content discussion on a quarterly basis, and make sure that there is a mechanism that is collocated with the download that allows for feedback and input (like – link to the podcast from a blog).

Try to get to more of an interview style podcast, not just a news podcast of someone reading the headlines. Different voices, debated views, etc… That will develop more interest and followership. In addition, if you have a section that reviews pertinent comments from the commenting mechanism – that will allow users to see how their input can effect the process and their voice can be heard.

I enjoyed the opportunity to run this experiment. I thank Jack Gumtow (CIO) for the opportunity to do this, and learn from it in doing so. I hope my sharing some of this information helps others, and I am open for questions or comments.

I would happily help anyone interested in starting or maintaining an effort similar to this one.

Cheers,

Lance Strzok

Why Podcast?

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , on March 10, 2011 by Lance Strzok

So the question of “why podcast?” has come up, and I thought I would share some of the reasoning behind the decision to give the podcast medium a run.

A little background
I recall hearing that the average commute time in DC was over a half an hour. I commute about an hour and fifteen minutes a day, each way. So I usually check NPR news headlines, and about a half hour of 103.5 to catch the main stories, weather, traffic etc…

So how do I use/engage my brain for the rest of the commute? I turned to podcasts. And in doing so, I found many good sources of relevant information and news I could use to maintain situational awareness with regard to issues I am involved with at work. I am aware of the latest developments in the areas I am most concerned with, and I hear varying viewpoints on those issues from several sources over the course of a few days. I have subscribed to individual podcasts, and I use a podcast streaming service called Stitcher for some of the broader interest areas and what others in my field are sharing and talking about.

Thoughts
As I started to think more about it, I realized that if I were to compare the costs of my minutes – the minutes in the commute were pretty cheap. Cost here being the cost of what do I give up to listen to a podcast on my way to work vs what is the cost of the time I would spend reading all of that information while at work. Or put another way, what can I not do while I am locating and reading these articles or bits of information?

It dawned on me that most people are interested in the information that our communications committees are putting out across several formats and publications that include a newsletter, emails, banners, signs, internal web page, etc… But, when I thought about it, what I wanted was one source, and I wanted to move that source to less expensive minutes, otherwise – I was not likely to digest all of those different resources, and I am missing out on useful information.

Motivation
So there is was. I wanted to know those things, but they were spread out, and using expensive work minutes instead of cheap commuting minutes. (Commuter minutes, gym minutes, elevator minutes, lunch minutes etc…)

That is the motivation for consolidating those bits of information into a podcast and allowing the workforce to access the information from home, download the mp3 files to a smartphone, or mp3 player, and listen to the issues that might otherwise go unknown.

If you are interested in the mechanics of how I am creating the podcast, the previous blog entry to this covers that pretty well, and I may add another when I get to the point where I am interviewing instead of just reading the news.

Question for you – where are your cheapest minutes? I don’t think my list is big enough, and I would like to know when you listen or might listen to a podcast.

If you have any comments, or questions – please leave them below in the comments, I will respond to them and thanks for reading.

My Podcast Process and Thoughts

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by Lance Strzok

So here are some lessons learned from my recent podcast.

Content gathering
– Gathered from various sources, and be sure to get the source information for each part
* Official Emails
* Company portal highlights
* Interviews with people
* Newsletters (internal and external)
* Questions
* Ask for content from Social Media sources
* Send email request for input with links to pages
* Make some phone calls to personally invite someone to interview with you
* RSS feed for items that matter to everyone
– I put all of the content into a shownotes page on a wiki for the production end of things and invite (encourage) others to begin to edit there, otherwise I just put the content in myself from email, or whatever source they are sending it to me from
– After writing it all down and smoothing it over for speaking it aloud, I am ready to record
– Create a section at the beginning in which you mention the contents of the episode, and the date so that listeners may choose to listen or skip that particular podcast (thank you readers for that feedback)

Recording
– I started to record them as mp3 files with a Zoom H1 hand held recorder, but now under lessons learned, I will save them as wave files since the Levelator tool provided by the Conversations Network takes that as an input later in the process and I want to reduce the number of conversions (which only add noise as evidenced in the first podcast). I use the 48khz sample rate with 16 bit because it is the best that can be converted by the Levelator or converted to mp3. I also use the autolevel setting on the back, as well as the low cut on.

During Recording
– Have a glass of something you like to drink near by
– I don’t mind making a long recording, just make sure that if you make a mistake while recording, to pause, regain composure, pick the spot you wan to redo, and after a noticeably long enough time start the section over. In this way when editing, you will clearly see a long pause that will indicate the location of the edit. (Thanks to that tip from Robert and Tiffany Rapplean from their podcast – Intellectual Icebergs)
– Find a quite place, and give some thought to the room you are in with regard to sound waves and how they will arrive at the microphone as well as materials that will absorb sound

Save Raw Recording
– Save the raw recording before doing anything else and store in a folder

Levelator
– You can use the Levelator tool to even out the different levels in the sound file and bring it to a consistent output sound level so that episodes are generally equal from show to show
Editing
– I use Audacity to Edit the wave files, (again, switching to wave files to reduce the number of conversions that reduce sound quality)
– Edit out the bad sections and shorten up long pauses
– Add intro and extro music or words as desired
– Insert commercials as desired (I don’t do this – yet)
– There are other resources within Audacity to do more editing
– Save this file as an edited wave file so that if you have to add sections (insert additional entries), that will be easy


Convert
– Now using Audacity export the edited file as an mp3 file for upload to the server

Last Listen
– Give the show the last listen while following along with the shownotes
– Make sure all the content that is in the show notes is represented (I forgot a section in my first podcast)
– Make time hacks in the shownotes so that if people want to skip to a section, they can do so

Upload Link and Market
– Upload the file to the host server
– Copy the show notes and time hacks from the wiki page where they were created into a blog post and email for linking and feedback
– Make links wherever possible in the shownotes to sources and important nouns
– Link to the podcast, shownotes, and feedback from various locations
– Include a link to subscribe to the podcast or updates when possible
– Post the blog, and verify that all the links work – if not, fix them
– Let your users know that there is a new podcast available with a link to automatically download the mp3 file

– email the podcast distro list you may have and include in the email the time hacks and topics for the show

Follow up on Feedback
– Make sure you stay engaged and follow up on feedback that comes back to you on the blog

If you have additional thoughts on improving this process, please let me know, I aim to make it better as I go, and thanks for your thoughts in advance.